(2009 July Newsletter)
Parents have the notion that being a good parent means getting our kids into the best schools, taking them to sport activities, and getting them music lessons. We think it is natural for our kids to continue going to church and to live godly, moral lives.
However, when we look at our culture today, we realize that parenting requires much more. In the past, our culture generally reinforced the same values that we teach our children at home. But it is no longer true. While we teach our children modesty, the malls are selling tight sweaters and ultra low rise pants. While we teach our children abstinence from sex until marriage, the media shows premarital sex as common as dinner at Denny’s. While we teach our children to respect authority, TV shows depict adults as the brunt of humor. Our children are constantly and subtly being influenced by the media and even by the schools, with an anti-Christian worldview.
In order to raise up our children to follow Jesus instead of the world, parents must be intentional in passing on Biblical spiritual values. The home remains the strongest influence in the moral and spiritual development of children. While you may attend an excellent church, church can not and does not replace the parent’s role.
Here are 3 basic ways to teach our children to live for God:
1. Teach our children to pursue God’s plan for their lives.
I recently spoke to a mother at church, who told me she didn’t want her son to be a missionary. “Being a missionary is a hard life. I told my son to get a good job first, save some money, then he can serve God later.” What value is this mother teaching her son? No doubt parents want the best for their children. But is the best thing in life merely to live comfortably?
From childhood, my parents who impressed upon me these values, “Get a good job, buy a big house, and save up for retirement”.
As I turn 50 and reflect back on my life, I realize more and more the futility of treasures on earth. The riddle goes, “How much money did Howard Hughes leave when he died?” The answer is, “ALL of it!”
Not all our children will be missionaries. But they can certainly be challenged to pursue God’s plan for them and to live for God wherever they are. Instead of telling my children to study hard and get a good job, I remind my children that God has a greater purpose for them. They are to do their best in school and work in order to bring glory to God, not to gain a comfortable life for themselves.
Teaching our children to invest in the Kingdom of God as a priority is ultimately teaching them to get the best in life. For what can be a better life than to live for God?
2. Model the Christian values we preach.
I’ve heard many young people complain about their Christian parents. “My dad is a Christian at church, but at home, he just works and watches TV.”
“Do as I say, not as I do” sounds good, but unfortunately it doesn’t work! Values are caught, not taught. This puts the burden on parents to live out the values that we want our children to have. If we condemn lying, then we ourselves must not lie. If we wish our children to be polite, then we must show courtesy in the home, to our spouse and even to our young children.
I read an article about a mom who was appalled when her 2-year-old toddler used a bad word. “Where did she learn it from?” she asked. It didn’t take long to realize that her child sat in the car seat behind her and heard every cuss word that the mom spewed out at other drivers on the road! The mom vowed never to cuss again.
There is mutual accountability in the parenting process. We hold our children accountable to us, but they also hold us accountable to them. Our responsibility to be good role models for our children forces us to grow in own spiritual lives. As we teach our children good values, we are also becoming more godly in the process.
3. Don’t neglect prayer.
When the demands of a parent are 24/7, prayer is pushed to last place on the priority list. But when my son entered college, I realized the urgency of prayer. Stripped of all moral and spiritual support from home, church, and a familiar protected environment, I saw how vulnerable my child was. I regretted that I didn’t pray for him more when he was young, for God to shore up his faith as he was growing up so that he would be better prepared for this launch into the world.
When our children are young and living at home, we have a false sense of security that “nothing bad” will happen. So we let down our guard and neglect prayer. In reality, the young formative years require even more prayer. By the age of nine, most of the moral and spiritual foundations of a child are set. Merely being a good parent will not guarantee success. Prayer releases God’s power to mold the lives of our young children better than we can.
Think about who may be praying for your children. Their Sunday School teacher, your pastor, or a relative may pray for them occasionally, or perhaps even once a week. But only the parents would have burden to pray for their own children everyday. I encourage you to make it a habit to pray for each of your children daily, just five minutes a day. If you don’t, chances are no one else will.
Of all the challenges that parents face today, the one of greatest consequence is passing on Biblical spiritual values to our children. It has been said that Christianity in the nation can be lost in one generation. Let’s do our part to raise the next generation for the Kingdom of God.