As Christian parents our desire has been to raise our children spiritually so they would choose to follow Jesus. Today our children are all married. We are grateful to God that they ARE Christ-followers as are their spouses.
There are no guarantees in parenting, though. As a parent, you can do everything right and your child may start on the right path and then choose to be a “prodigal” and go their own way. Or they might reject Christianity altogether.
As we look back on our seasons of parenting, there are some specific, intentional things we did that prepared the way for our childrens’ spiritual development. In this four-part blog we’re going to highlight some of the positive things we did (though there are plenty of negative things we regret!) to help our children grow spiritually. In this post, we’re going to look at four foundational things you can do as a couple:
1. Pursue Jesus yourselves
When Dr. Howard Hendricks was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, he asked his professor why he was up studying the Bible so early every morning. His professor answered, “I’d rather have my students drinking from a running stream than a stagnant pond.” It’s the same way as parents. The vibrancy of your relationship with Jesus will spill over into helping your children grow spiritually. You can’t give what you don’t have.
No matter what age your children are today, make decisions together that you will be intentional about your own relationship with Jesus. Have a daily discipline of reading a portion of the Bible and praying.
For your children to be grounded, they will need a local church with good Bible teaching. Determine together that you are going to not only find one, but you’ll make a dedicated commitment to attending faithfully. As a couple you need the regular infusion of worship and teaching to further your relationship with Christ.
From your church community, find a small group you can join. Having Christians friends is not only a support to you as a parent, but it is also a life-long example to your children of what Christian community is all about.
2. Pray daily for your children
Certainly you pray on your own for your children, but we believe it’s important as parents to pray together for them. As husband and wife, God honors your agreement together in prayer. Praying together unites your hearts in purpose.
Even before our children were conceived, we prayed for them.
- We want God’s blessings and favor to be upon our children—so we ask for that.
- We know Satan is going to come against them to keep them from Jesus—so we pray against that.
- We know they will have to make a decision for Jesus—so we have committed that to God as well.
Think about it: if the two of you aren’t praying for your children, who is? You are the most called and equipped people to be interceding for your children. Make it your practice daily as a couple.
3. Model what you want them to become
Keep in mind that from the earliest years on into adulthood, your children are watching you and listening to you. They have a front row seat to your life, values, and beliefs. They see the imperfections, experience your impatience, and observe your victories as individuals and as a couple.
Live with the mindfulness that your life is being watched. So while you carry a high standard to pursue Jesus and reflect him, you know you aren’t perfect. When you sin or fall short with your children or each other, admit it to your children. Let them see humility and repentance lived out. As a couple you can show them what it means to forgive someone you love when they have hurt you. And if you wrong your children (and we all do), ask for their forgiveness.
4. Share with them
The first three action items are about personal devotion, prayer, and example. Our children need to hear from us as well. Through the centuries the Jewish people have had a prayer they pray in the morning and evening called the Shema, which is the Hebrew word for “hear” and is the first word of the prayer. A portion of that prayer comes from Deuteronomy and reads:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
Those words of instruction are vital for every Christian parent today. As you go through your days with your children, you look for life experiences where you can teach them about God and about Jesus.
- When God provides for your family, you can point to God as the provider.
- When your child is protected from harm or healed, remind them that Jesus is the Great Physician.
- When your child sins, remind them of God’s love…and discipline…to make us the righteous people he desires.
- When you have “the talk” about sex, teach them how sex is God’s idea and he created it as good. It’s to be enjoyed in the context of marriage.
- When you learn something in your Bible reading or a sermon, share that with them and why it is important to you.
As husbands and wives we have been given the privilege of partnering together to raise the next generation of godly, Christ-following people. As the two of you unite in this purpose, God blesses your efforts and along the way you build your marriage.