Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World
Taking Your Children to the Mountaintop so They can Live in the Valley
Raising Godly children is a human impossibility; however, if you are a Christian parent, you have been called to this impossible task. The good news is that God does not call you to a job without providing the tools to do that job. This content is designed to give support as you join in the God-sized task of raising children who love God in a world that doesn’t.
About 30 years ago, as a young mother with both elementary and preschool age children, I participated in a course called “Experiencing God.” One of the premises of the course is that as God-followers, we are called to “God-sized tasks.” When we look at a job and say, “Yeah, I’ve got that. I am equipped and fully capable of doing that job,” then we operate in our own power. Operating in our own power opens us up to both self-doubt and self-pride. Self-doubt when things don’t go well and self-pride when they do.
Being a stay at home mom and child care provider at the time, I started asking what God-sized task could possibly be open to me in the midst of my circumstances. True to Himself and His Word in Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” God showed me that parenting children who grew to fully commit their lives to Him was impossible, directly in line with his call on my life, and my heart’s desire.
Today I want to share with you four principles God has shown me, then look at some nuts and bolts realities of family life.
The 4 principles are
- This is a God-sized task.
- You can’t give what you don’t have.
- God intends us to live in community.
- Parents are a child’s first teachers.
This is a God-Sized Task
The first principle is the one I’ve already mentioned. Raising children who love God in a world that doesn’t is a God-sized task. Raising godly children is impossible. As a matter of fact, being a person who loves God is impossible, as Jesus told his followers in Matthew 19:26. After explaining that it was harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus looked at his incredulous disciples and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of us are called to a saving relationship with Jesus, and that is how it is with our children as well. Let God do HIS part through the power of the Holy Spirit, trust Him to show you how to do your part, and obey what He shows you! (If this first principle sounds foreign to you, please, talk to me or one of the others on the women’s ministry team before you leave today!)
You Can't Give What You Don't Have
Principle 2 is that YOU CAN’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE. Before you make a commitment to raising your children with Christian values, you first have to commit yourself. Start your journey to the impossible with humble prayer. God does not give you a job and then expect you to figure it out on your own. James 1:5 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ On the path to raising Christ-followers, first, seek wisdom from the Author. Ask God for wisdom often and always. Conventional wisdom tells us that as women and mothers, we have to take care of ourselves first. Godly wisdom says that we put our relationship with Jesus first. Susannah Wesley, mother of 10, including John & Charles Wesley who are associated with starting the Methodist church, was said to daily pull her apron over her head and spend time in prayer and bible study while her children worked on school tasks all around her.
Make an intentional decision to grow in your own spiritual life. If you exercise once a month, don’t expect to become physically fit. If you have a healthy meal once a week, you can’t be adequately nourished. Your own spiritual growth has far more eternal and practical consequences than either of those physical disciplines. You can grow spiritually in different ways, but having a consistent daily time to read scripture and pray tops the list both for your own growth and as an example to your children.
As important as it is to know what you believe, I want you to hear this clearly, YOU DO NOT NEED ALL THE ANSWERS! Children come to us as infants so that we can grow with them. As the questions get harder, don’t make up answers. Let your preteens and teenagers hear you say the words, “Let’s see what the Bible says about that.” Go to the source. There has never been a time when answers to biblical questions have been more accessible. Use technology, but find what the Bible says about the hard topics rather than what someone says about the Bible. One of the most important things we can teach our children is that God is big enough for our questions and that answers are not automatic. Let your children know it is okay to ask hard questions and to struggle through to the answers.
God Intends Us to Live in Community
The thought of tough questions leads us to the third principle: GOD INTENDS FOR US TO LIVE IN COMMUNITY. There are two institutions established by God. The first is the family. The second is the church.
In Luke 2, our only record of Jesus’ childhood, we get the great story of Jesus being left at church. “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” A 12 year old did not get that understanding and those answers only from his parents. Mary and Joseph raised Jesus in a culture that depended on the local synagogue to support family in religious training.
Many of my earliest Christian experiences happened in a sanctuary. Ms. Evelyn Anderson on the piano and Ms. Jinx Pollard leading children’s choir before Sunday School, Ms. Edith Collins teaching GAs and pushing us to memorize scripture, year after year of Vacation Bible School until I finally got old enough to help lead, and best of all, the safety and security of sitting between my parents and hearing sermons that always started with scripture reading and prayer.
Every family needs the support of a church that loves their children.
Especially if your spouse is not a believer or if you are raising children as a single parent, you NEED a family of faith that supports you and supports your children.
I have heard mothers say something like, “I think Satan must camp on my front porch on Saturday night, because getting out the door to church on Sunday morning is the hardest time of the week.” Of course, he does, because the last thing Satan wants is families committing their time to coming together to worship God.
My daughter, Jessie described it this way, “For us church was never a chore, but it was also never a choice.” God intends us to live in community. If raising godly children is your priority, then being in and regularly attending a church that glorifies God is not a choice.
Parents Are a Child's First Teachers
For better or worse, parents are a child’s first teachers. In fact, I have read that a parent’s face is a child’s first image of God. Before she hears a bible story, a whispered prayer, or a praise chorus your child looks into your face with absolute dependence and relies on her parents the way we are called to rely on God.
Discipling your children is not optional, and you are doing it whether you made the choice or not. Discipling the people who are in your care happens every day. If you love art, you are teaching your children to love art. If your passion is cleaning, you are sending messages about a spotless house every time you lift a mop. If sports, or science, or math, or cooking or storytelling is your passion, you disciple your children in that vein either consciously or subconsciously from the moment they are born.
In the same way, your spiritual belief system is transmitted to your children. The Bible gives several direct injunctions about a parents’ responsibilities. In the book of Deuteronomy, right after the Ten Commandments are stated in chapter 5 and the Greatest Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” in chapter 6 verse 5, we get this direct commandment: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
The Best "How To"
If you involve your children in what you love, and what you love is God’s word, service to others, or corporate worship that is what they will love, too. My daughter’s boyfriend said that his dad’s enthusiasm for reciting scripture and applying it to daily situations has had a great impact on his spiritual development. My oldest daughter and her husband both love music and have made it a practice to sing a hymn at bedtime every night since their eldest was a baby. The lyrics and theology of those songs have been woven into their children’s preschool years.
I love storytelling and drama, so my girls made up stories and acted out plays from the time they could talk. A regular part of our Christmas tradition was the Christmas play they would make up and then act out for us during Christmas break. Sometimes it was a Christmas legend, sometimes an invented story, but always involved the true meaning of Christmas because that was the focus of Christmas in our home.
The best “how to” advice on raising children who love God comes straight from scripture. Look again at Deuteronomy 6. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” We live in a world that wants to divorce the spiritual realm from daily life. It is time to live in opposition to culture. If we want our children to learn to love God we have got to practice the spiritual in the daily! And for that to happen we have to talk about God and his word at home, in the school and workplace, at meals, at playtime, and at bedtime. When we have to make a decision, our children have to see us praying about it. When they have a problem, we have to lead them to do the same thing.