Here are eight things we’ve learned about raising spiritually healthy kids. Being a spiritual leader does not automatically make us better parents, in fact it brings with it challenges that other parents sometimes do not have, but hose challenges are more blessings than they are curses. It is a blessing for a child to have parents (or a parent) who loves God and does their best to fulfill their spiritual calling to love, lead, and lift their children.
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Eight Commitments for Raising Spiritually Healthy Kids
In episodes 107 and 108 we discussed marriage. In this episode we are going to talk about raising spiritually healthy kids. We are now grandparents, all of our kids are grown, and one of the questions that young moms and young dads sometimes ask us is… how did you do it.
Our kids turned out pretty good, if we do say so ourselves. It was by the grace of God, and for that we are thankful. As we look back over the wonders, the joys, and the challenges of raising kids, there are a few things that stand out in our minds as things that probably helped.
There are a couple of things we want to say up front. First, neither of us really likes talking a lot about how we raised our kids, because there are a lot of things we probably would have done differently, and sometimes we aren’t sure we did a really great job. I think every parent feels that way after the fact. The fact that our kids turned out has more to do with the grace of God and the awesome people they are, and positive influences in their lives, more so than something we did.
But, they are our kids, and this is our story, and we are sticking to it!
As you ponder and discuss this topic, keep in mind the many stages of our relationships with our children: as small children, adolescents, and adults.
So, here’s eight commitments we made in spiritually leading our kids. Since this podcast is directed toward spiritual leaders, your kids sometimes face unique challenges created by your leadership roles, so we approach this subject from that angle.
Commitment #1: Favor Your Children
“Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalm 5.12, NIV)
Everybody ought to be special to someone. It is important to make our children feel special because they are our children. One of the mistakes I made early on in ministry was trying to be objective and treat my children the same as the other children in the church. In trying to do so I sometimes found myself treating them with less favor than I did other children.
There were times that I disciplined or corrected them in the context of who I was rather than in the context of who they were to be.
It is true that all of the children needed a pastor, but my children need both a father and a pastor. There have to be times when you favor your children as their father or mother.
Commitment #2: Authentically Model for Your Children
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” (Philippians 3.17, NIV)
Since we have flaws and imperfections would it not be better to acknowledge our need for grace than to pretend we have it all together when we do not. The problem with being a model is when we know people ought not imitate us, particularly our children. We need to be who we should be before God that we might authentically model God’s grace.
First, we need to live lives worthy of imitation. I have spent the better part of my adult life overcoming things my dad modeled to me. Some things are obvious, but I can only wonder at all of the things my adult children are working out in their lives because of my example. No excuses – if you model inappropriate behavior, submit to the cross.
Children of spiritual leaders need their parents to acknowledge imperfection. When you fail, admit it. When you err, apologize. When you overreact, make it right. When our children see us grow from our struggles, we authentically model God’s grace.
Commitment #3: Give them Grace and Accountability
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…” (I Corinthians 15.10, NIV)
We teach our children about God’s grace by appropriately showing grace to them. We teach our children responsibility by holding them accountable to established and agreed upon standards.
When children transgress standards, and they will, they are in need of restoration, redemption, and forgiveness. My first concern, as a parent who is a leader, is not how I will look or how their actions reflect upon my leadership or influence, my first (if not only) concern is the balance of restoration, redemption, and forgiveness.
Commitment #4: Understand and Nurture their Gifts
“I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God: one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7.7, NIV)
When our children are small, we entertain the dream that they will have the same gifts and strengths we do. As they grow older, we find out how different they are from us. Understanding God’s unique design for our children requires a good bit of prayer, observation, and spiritual insight.
God has a purpose for every child and it is your responsibility to help them discover God’s purpose for their lives and their unique strengths and gifts. A parent cannot impose or force gifts and calling.
We must celebrate and encourage what God is doing in our children.
Society has impressed a generic timetable of expectations upon our children; we need to lift that timetable in favor of one in keeping with God’s design and plan for our child.
Commitment #5: Dialogue with Them
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3.3, NIV)
Communication is the transference of information; dialogue is a conversation.
There comes a time when telling is no longer sufficient. Dialogue is “an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue….” When a child is two years old, you tell them, but as the child grows, you must have conversations with them. Jesus taught his disciples by revealing the will of the Father, asking them questions, having them state their observations, and expounding upon the scriptures.
As a leader, you may be used to leading a certain way at your business, church, or organization. Your fifteen year old is not your staff member, your employee, or your congregation; they are someone in need of exploring realities in the light of God’s Word. A parent who assumes they have nothing to learn from their child, especially an adult child, will eventually lose influence in that child’s life.
Commitment #6: Protect Them
“Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (Psalm 112.8, NIV)
We constantly see the best of people and the worst of people. If we are not careful, the worst will be our focus, we will lose sight of the good things God is doing, and the good in our lives. Our children should not only hear from us the bad or difficult things happening. We need to shield our children from as much of the garbage as we can. As they get older we need to give them windows into reality as we prepare them for life and ministry, but along with that we should leave the impression that the positive far outweighs the negative. When we, as spiritual leaders, maintain a positive attitude of dependence upon God, our children will be more inclined to adopt such a worldview.
We endeavored that home would be a safe place for our children. You might go to school and be belittled, you might be put down by others and made to feel small, you might even have conflicts with the kids at church, but when you walk into your home, you are in a safety zone. Your family believes in you, will champion your cause, will encourage you, and will unconditionally love you.
Be a safe person for your child. Don’t criticize their ideas or their dreams. Be honest about their abilities, but encourage them to excel. Be a safe person who can help them distinguish between fantasies and realities without feeling threatened, belittled, or rejected.
Do not assume that your children will experience the same things you have. Because of what you’ve poured into their lives they have a better starting place than you did. They had better mentors and examples than you did – you were their mentors. We have to believe that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can think or ask for our children.
My kids are different than I am because I raised them. Things that did not mature in me will mature in them because I nurtured them. I should expect that they will reach higher than I could have.
Sacrifice to be a safety net for your child when they are accomplishing great things for God. One of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me was a safety net. I didn’t need it very often, but I knew that I could boldly pursue God’s call upon my life, while exercising faith and risk, because I knew that if I slipped off of the high wire I could always come home to regroup under his roof and at his table. When I learned to successfully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit across the high wires of life, I no longer needed my dad’s net.
Commitment #7: Contend for the Presence of the Lord
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6.4)
We understand that our homes should be a refuge and a place conducive to experiencing the Presence of God. As spiritual leaders, we are to make our home a place of the Presence of God, and we should do everything we can to assure that the church we raise them in, whether led by us or someone else, is a place of the Presence of God.
Do not watch their children spiritually die on the vine because the church they attend is a place of death rather than a place of life. Contend for the Presence of God in your home, in your ministry, and in your church.
Our children must experience God. It should be happening in both the home and the church, but if not so in the church, at least it should be so in the home. When I directed children’s camps I was both thrilled and distressed with the numbers of children receiving deep spiritual works in their life. Thrilled because it was a remarkable sight and distressed because they were not experiencing this in their church or in their home.
Commitment #8: Love Them
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8, NIV)
Jesus loved me while I was a sinner. I must unconditionally love my children. I will love them if they serve Jesus I will love them if they do not serve Jesus—I will be devastated and heartbroken, but I will still love them.
- I will be patient with my child
- I will be kind to my child
- I will rejoice in and celebrate my child’s victories
- I will honor my child
- I will put my children before myself
- I will not be easily angered with my child
- I will allow them to move on from their failures
- I will encourage my children in truth
- I will always protect my children
- I will always give my children the benefit of the doubt and trust them
- I will always persevere and contend for the souls and spirits of my children
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Corinthians 13).
The same love I owe to others I also owe to my children. Because I love them more…
- I should be more patient with them than with others,
- I should be kinder to them than I am to anyone else,
- I should always rejoice in their successes.
- I should honor my children.
- I am not easily angered at them.
- When they do wrong I do not write it down and remind them of it.
- Even though they are my children I will not support the evil they do, but I will rejoice at the light of the truth evident in their lives.
- Because I love them I will always protect them,
- I will always give them the benefit of the doubt and trust God’s good deposit in their lives.
- I will always hope with them and will always persevere for them and with them.
I believe that when God gives us the responsibility of a call, he will also empower and anoint us to accomplish that task. When we became parents, we received a divine call to raise and spiritually lead our children. The mantle of this leadership rests upon us and God will give us wisdom and empowerment for the task.
Being a spiritual leader does not automatically make us better parents, in fact it brings with it challenges that other parents sometimes do not have. We must not count challenges as curses when, in fact, they are actually blessings. It should be a blessing for a child to have parents who love God and do their best to fulfill their spiritual calling to love, lead, and lift their children.
“I will strengthen them in the Lord and in his name they will love securely, declares the Lord.” (Zechariah 10.12, NIV)