“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”- EPHESIANS 6:4 (NASB)
As students begin to graduate high school and move on to working towards their career in college, I have had the opportunity to speak with several parents about who their kids have become. I have been able to encourage parents with words and prayers together about the future of their students and their continued faith journey. This is possibly one of the most enjoyable times with parents that I have doing youth ministry.
In youth ministry, there are always those kids that you run into that you know are going to be alright. They are going to continue walking with God, they will stumble, but they will continue to stay focused and move forward in their faith. They will do wonderful things for the glory of God and, who knows, might even take your position in the church someday.
The attributes they have are strong and connected with Christ. Ultimately, we know it’s because God has done a mighty work in their heart and mind and is guiding them through His Spirit. In the majority of the cases, we need to also give credit to the parents God has given to these students. The parents have done many things right along the way as well to set their kids up for success in the faith and world.
As I think over my 15+ years in youth ministry, there are four common characteristics of the parents that I believe will help myself, and others, with young children as we parent to instill a continued value of faith in Christ.
Many of the Parents:
1) PRACTICED THEIR FAITH PUBLICLY: They did not hide their faith in Jesus. They would serve when they could in the name of Christ. They would openly pray for other people.They would openly pray for each other. They weren’t overbearing about their connection with Jesus, but they did not hold back their witness. They would even have their kids practice with them in prayer, serving, etc. This public profession was a way to show who they are in Christ, but also empowered their child to know Who they belonged to as well.
2) PRACTICED THEIR FAITH PRIVATELY: Prayer was not just a meal time activity, but a time their mom and/or dad would practice in solitude. They would spend time in a room, on a walk, or outside; in fact, I actually knew someone who would go to their attic and pray. They would read scripture in their house regularly. They set the example set by Jesus to retreat for a little while to gain focus. They also set the example for their child that it was not a show to put on for the world, but a lifestyle we are to live out for ourselves to influence the world.
3) PRACTICED VALUING EACH OTHER: I witnessed parents who lived well with each other. They would get frustrated and argue with each other, many times away from the kid, but when it happened they practiced the art of apologizing. They loved each other well. They would serve each other. When a husband and wife show their love for each other in front of their kids, their kids then learn how to biblically love. I also witnessed divorced Christian parents learn how to continue valuing each other with their kids. They never belittled the other one, at least not in front of me or their kid, and they supported each other. They loved when the other found another person and they were welcoming when they were together. They knew their limits and would be willing to explain their struggles with the child, in moderation obviously, and would encourage the relationship between the other parent and child. I’m sure it was hard, but that example was set. Not that divorce was a good thing, but it can be manageable and parents can still be friendly.
4) PRACTICED VALUING THEIR KIDS: Many of the kids I had little struggle over often times had parents who would support and value their decisions. They would encourage them to think on their own. They would not undermine or devalue their choices, but coach them along in their walk. Although, at times, I would see parents step in when necessary, they sometimes allowed hard things to happen in order to teach their kids a different way or reveal a truth in their life. It wasn’t about being a “free range parent”, but a parent willing to show that they respected their kid’s ability to think for their self. Parents recognized that their children were at an age to make decisions and the parent’s role was to help guide them. They rarely said anything discouraging or hateful to their child and always made sure to say “I love you” when they saw their kid and “I’m sorry” when they were wrong. They also encouraged their kid to believe in who God had created them to be in His image as His workmanship.
I value these parenting traits. As I look at my little ones and imagine the day I have to watch them cross the stage to receive their diploma and head off to their journey into adulthood, I pray that Natasha and I have set an example of practicing our faith publicly and privately, we have shown them how to love their future spouse, and have given them a sense of value in order to shape them to influence the world for God’s glory.
This is not an end all list of parenting characteristics to keep faith relevant in the lives of our kids nor is it a guarantee that our kids will remain faithful, but it is a great place to start and we must continue to pray for them throughout our lives.
If you’re a parent of young children, may you seek wisdom from those who have gone before you as parents being faithful to Christ.
If you’re not a parent yet, but someday you may want to be, may you seek wisdom now and prepare yourself for what is to come. Begin practicing these things now in order to have it as a habit for your children to see.
May we love all children and set this example for them, no matter if they are our children or if they belong to someone else. May they see Christ in our actions.
Peace and blessings friends.
QUESTION: What are some parenting traits you have seen that you admire or strive to obtain in your life?