A few weeks ago a friend asked me if I would go on her social media page for moms and share through live video what I’ve learned about raising kids that love the Lord. I was hesitant at first because I don’t do videos of myself!
That part was almost enough for me to turn it down, yet I felt that little nudge that I should say yes. Preparing what to say to those moms and connecting with them online was a good thing for me. It was good to think through how we are trying to be intentional and a reminder to stay the course and do the hard work of raising disciples in our home.
I thought I would share those principles through my blog as well, but before I do, there is a HUGE disclaimer! The disclaimer is this: We are not perfect parents, we do not have perfect children, we do not have it all together, and we are still learning as we go. Daily I lack what it takes to be the mom I need to be to lead my children to Jesus, but I am teachable and always want to learn and grow as a parent.
First, to raise kids that love the Lord, they need to know the Lord. And even before that, you need to know the Lord.
We can’t lead our children to a place where we haven’t been. It is easy to read the children’s Bible story books and drive them to church, and those things are good, but that is not how a person knows God. Knowing about God is different than knowing God as your Savior, Lord, and Friend. The latter is what causes transformation in your heart as well as your children’s.
Knowing God is simply realizing that you are a sinner and missed the mark of perfection, deserving punishment for your sin (Romans 3:23). That sin has separated you from a perfect God with no hope of ever knowing or reaching him. (Romans 6:23) But God, in His goodness, gave you a solution in his son, Jesus.
Jesus, having never sinned, willingly took the punishment we deserve and earned because of our sin and died in our place. He was buried and resurrected to prove His promises are true and now simply invites us to believe in Him and to know Him (John 3:16). No extra good deeds, no ritual, no traditions, just faith that Jesus will rescue you and change you. Once we know and love God ourselves, THEN we can lead our kids to do the same.
Secondly, parent with the end in mind. Ask yourself, what result do I hope to see in my children in the future and how can we get there? As parents, we need to focus on more than behavior modification. We need to focus on heart transformation. Short sighted parenting focusing on only behavioral changes. Parenting with the end in mind seeks heart transformation.
I want to see pride transformed into humility. Strong wills transformed into surrender. Selfishness transformed into selflessness. Greed transformed into generosity. Disrespect transformed into respect. You see, I can teach a child to change a behavior and their heart never be changed. It takes more time and more intentionality, but I want their hearts to look more and more like Jesus.
When I see an attitude or behavior in our children when they are young, I think, “What will this look like when they are teenagers or adults?” For example, a child that pitches a fit when they don’t get their way will grow up to be a teenager that does the same (talking back, slamming doors, etc.) and then become an adult that will do whatever it takes at any expense to get what they want. Parent with the end in mind.
How can I work on heart transformation with my children? I have thought of 5 ways in no particular order…
Let Jesus transform your heart and then be an authentic model to your children. Are you allowing God and His Word to change you and make you more like him? This side of heaven we will never be perfect or parent perfectly, but our children will know if we are living authentically.
Kids can spot a fake! Share with your family areas where you struggle and how God is changing you. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (NIV) Be a parent that doesn’t just tell with words, but leads by example.
Teaching God’s truth should start in our homes. Church is important and necessary, but is not to take the place of your teaching at home.
Early on in the Scriptures, Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us to teach our children as we sit at home, as we go places, when we are going to bed, basically all the time! In other words, incorporate godly principles into your daily life. Here are some things we can be teaching our children:
- teach them how to read and apply God’s word for themselves
- teach them God’s faithfulness to people in the Bible and how God has been faithful to you
- teach practical wisdom like what is found in Proverbs, wisdom for every day life
- teach how to go to God’s Word for answers about decisions or any question in life
- teach them how to pray and talk to God
- teach them that God’s word is relevant to YOU as well as them
- teach them to have a heart for lost people around them and how to share the Gospel with them.
What we teach at our house boils down to three short statements that get repeated over and over and often at our home: Love God, Love People, Share the Gospel. We tell our children that we don’t care about athletic performance, academic performance, future plans, and careers. We care about them doing those three things and God will take care of all of the rest.
Teaching at our house doesn’t take place by my preacher husband standing up and preaching a sermon. It takes place by asking questions like, “What is God teaching you in your Bible study?” Then we all share, parents included. We ask frequently, “Who do you know that doesn’t know Jesus? How can you share with them?” Then we pray for those people by name. We may choose a book to read along with one of our kids and just check in with them from time to time asking, “What have you learned in the book I gave you? What do you think about it?” We have seen growth in our children from teaching and accountability as we approach it in an authentic way.
Our children are never too young to serve. Don’t make service an “event” in your family, but a part of who you are as a family. Do ministry together as a family and support others who are doing ministry. Explain to your children how and why you support them. As a family, think about who you can serve, expecting nothing in return.
You can take meals, serve together in a local ministry, keep other kids to offer a date night to a couple, let your family think of things to do for others. Lead them to be aware of needs and opportunities to serve all around them. We seek to let our kids be involved in ministry as much as possible. They have been on mission trips with us, helped us and prayed for us as we have gone on mission trips, and raised money for missions. We have partnered with other ministries as a family to serve and look for needs around us that we can help with. We teach them to serve to not only do a good thing for others, but to serve with the goal of showing and telling the love of Jesus.
Pray with and for your children. Pray intentionally and specifically for them and let them know you are doing so.
I shared the story with moms that I used to pray for them as I folded socks. In a family of six, there were approximately 84 socks a week to wash, turn right side out, and match together! I was so tired of socks until I began to use that time to pray for each family member as I pulled out their socks (Praise the Lord, most of them are doing their own laundry now!).
Find what works for you – a time to be intentional about praying for each person in your family. Pray out loud, regularly, and specifically for your children and what’s going on with them. Pray over their struggles, decisions, praises, accomplishments, and do it with them. Praying out loud over our children teaches them to talk to Jesus about those things as well.
Awkward? Sometimes. Effective? Always.
Give your children room and opportunities to grow. When our children are babies, we spoon feed them, but then we expect them to eventually feed themselves. The same goes for our children in other areas – we help feed them spiritually when they are young and eventually teach them to feed themselves.
A quote we picked up a long time ago from a Bible study said, “Don’t do anything for your kids they can do for themselves.” We have applied this to many things from doing dishes to laundry to yardwork to having hard conversations, but also in their walk with Jesus. Let them serve where they are gifted and position them to do so. Let them study the Bible and share what it means to them. Let them lead prayer times with family and pray for others. Let them be a part of missions and give them opportunities to be involved. Let them fail and learn from it.
That one hurts my mama heart! That’s a hard one, but so necessary. We try to leave room for them to grow, offer help as needed, and affirmation when it’s done.
We still have a long way to go in raising our children and we know it will not all be smooth sailing. We want to be parents that seek God in our own lives and try to lead our children to do the same.