Being a Christian parent and parenting Christianly are two different things. The Bible is replete with stories of notably faithful people who have notoriously unfaithful children. So, what does it mean to parent Christianly? That is, what is the Biblical pattern in parenting?
More books have been written to answer that question than any mom or dad could read in a lifetime. They range from the practical to the theoretical, from the philosophical to the psychological. And yet, with each curveball our kids throw at us, it seems like another one needs to be written.
Whatever the approach, a book on parenting Christianly is only as good as it is Biblical, and the more Biblical it is the more there seems to be a dominant theme:
Christian parenting means discipleship.
Chap Bettis makes the case this way in his book The Disciple-Making Parent:
What method did Jesus use to develop his disciples? For three years, he lived with them, taught them, trained them, tested them, and quizzed them. They matured by observing his life, his preaching, and his miracles. After his resurrection, it was time for them to go and do the same. Does that not sound like the job of a parent? He has given us little ones. We live together and learn together so that one day, they too will go out from us as humble, lifelong learners and followers of the risen Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.
On top of whatever is involved in raising a child into an adult, for Christian parents, there is the added eternal weight of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)
Throughout the Bible, we see this intentional development of children has always been God’s intended pattern.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-6 God expresses the foundational doxology of his relationship with his people. He commands his words to be instilled in their hearts. The very next verse, God with the type of “thou shalt” insistence that only God can claim, he commands:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
The goal of Christian parenting is to produce followers of Christ. We are disciples making disciples. We say to our biological children what Paul said to his spiritual children, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
So, here’s the thing…
What about this summer? For many, summer is a great opportunity to spend more time with family than other busier seasons of life. We Christian parents ought to capitalize on that time. Here are some suggestions on how to do so.
1. Make sure everyone spends time with everyone.
Through the year, schedules often take control and daily ruts and weekly patterns develop. It is typical for certain members of the family to see one parent more frequently than they see the other. The summer presents opportunities for the less available parent to make up for lost time.
Daughters need time with dads, but so do sons. Sons need time with mom, but so do daughters. Children learn lessons from moms that dads could not teach, and vice versa. That is the beauty of the family: everyone needs everyone. So, this summer make sure everyone spends time with everyone.
2. Read with them.
Let your kids reap the rewards of all the “work” reading they did during the school year, not just take a break from it. I am convinced that the reason for the aversion to reading in many young people (especially in boys), is the fact that most of the reading they do in life is forced upon them. However, in the summer they get to dive into a story or a subject of their choice that they enjoy.
Reading to your kids and reading with your kids allows for quality time spent, but it also presents opportunities to discuss content. As the reading level increases so does the depth of the conversation. Help them to see the story behind the story, looking for “any virtue” or “any praise” and “think on these things.” Help them develop a taste for good stories.
We are shaped by stories. So, shape your kids with stories.
3. Work on a project.
Work is the one thing that most kids do not want out of their summer. However, the kind of work they do not usually do could be an opportunity to learn something they did not expect to learn. They have been sitting and writing all year long. Summer is an opportunity to use their hands in a way they have not been allowed to or that part of their brain they do not usually need.
Summer is also an opportunity for them to learn the value that God intended work to be in our lives. When we work, we create. We bring order out of disorder. We make functional what was dysfunctional. In other words, we bear God’s image.
Teach your kids the joy that work brings them by allowing them to bear God’s image in that way. Don’t buy new toys; build them. Don’t replace broken things; repair them. God does not make new things; He makes things new. So, should we.
4. Go to church.
Church attendance typically wanes during the summer as people travel and excuses become more abundant. Our kids take note of what we allow to keep us from church. If we let recreation, vacation, or hibernation keep us from attending, whether we admit it or not, it sends a message. However, by prioritizing church, finding a way to get your family there and to keep them plugged in, you are teaching your children a vital lesson—church is important.
Remember your pastor’s favorite verse:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the [summer] approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25, annotation courtesy of pastors everywhere)
Sure, duty-driven church attendance can lead to robotic compliance or worse, legalistic compulsion. But, habitually allowing things to get in the way of going to church can lead to worse. As the saying goes: Parents who do not take church seriously should not be surprised when their children do not take God seriously.
Church is important even when it’s not easy—especially when it’s not easy. Don’t let summer disconnect your family from your church.
5. Get better at family devotions.
If you do not have a regular time to sit down with your family, read the Bible together, and pray together, summer is a great time to start. Plan it. Make it regular. Make it normal. Before long your kids will start holding you to it. Determine the details by whatever works best for your family, but by all means, make it happen.
If you already have such a time, summer is a great time to get better at it.
If you have younger kids, focus on the stories of the Bible. Pick a Biblical figure and read through their life, beginning to end. Our kids often get all the headlines from Sunday school but never see the major characters in the Bible as the flesh-and-blood people they were. Family devotions is an ideal opportunity for this.
As you read, ask questions:
- What are some words you would use to describe this person? (e.g. brave, wise, etc.)
- How would you react if you were in this person’s situation?
- How is this person acting (or not acting) like Jesus?
If you have older kids, just dive in. It might be helpful to commit to reading through a given amount of Scripture. But, take your time and think your way through it together. Teach them to meditate on God’s Word and not just dutifully get through it. You do not need all the answers. In fact, few things will open conversations and draw you together more than when you grow together in God’s Word.
As you study, ask questions:
- How did this passage apply to the original audience? (Intention)
- What is the eternal truth being taught? (Interpretation)
- How does this passage apply to us? (Application)
Quality time comes from quantity time.
The best-laid plans of moms and dads often go awry. We want those magical moments when we have our kids’ undivided attention and wisdom pours from our hearts and minds into theirs. However, it often seems like the more we plan for those moments, the more unlikely they are to happen.
The fact is, we cannot plan those moments. However, we can make them more likely.
This summer grasp at every opportunity to have your kids with you. Have an errand to run? Pull them away from the screen they are stuck to and bring them with you. Have a chore to do? Make it a two-person job and teach them the value of elbow grease.
The more frequent the mundane moments are, the more likely the meaningful moments will be.
Conversation is key.
To quote a former student of mine, “Talking is, like, for old people.” Sure, meaningful conversation is rare among young people today. But, it is not as rare as we think. Nor is it as unwanted as we think.
We can gripe all we want about how the kids “these days” don’t know how to carry on a conversation. But, what are we parents doing to change that?
Our kids want to hear and be heard. We as parents should work hard at opening lines of communication. It may take a few awkward car rides. There may be some arguing. Nevertheless, let’s dig in, dig deep, and take heart. The conversations we have with them will be worth the effort. Our kids are worth the effort.
The more we say to our kids, the more they will say to us.
In everything you have going on this summer, “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,” disciple your kids.
What are some of the ways you plan on discipling your kids this summer?
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