When Kristen and I were young parents we’d look around at some empty nesters who raised great kids and wondered what they did right.
Now we are those empty nesters and by the grace of God we couldn’t be prouder of our kids. They certainly aren’t perfect or without challenges and struggles, but one of the questions we get on occasion these days is:
What did you do to get three kids out of their teenage years with their faith intact?
These are some of our thoughts related to that question.
- It takes God to raise Godly kids. God has always been central in our lives and we weren’t shy about being dependent on Him for strength and forgiveness and parenting strategies and graces and patience. We prayed with them every day. Every day I sent them to school and told them to have a “good and Godly day.” One million times each I told them about the wide and the narrow road.
- Being faithful to God is the best gift you can give to your spouse. Being faithful to your spouse is the best gift you can give to your kids. Faithfulness in these two areas is far more important than anything else you could give or say to your kids, including spending time with them.
- Always remember, even God has prodigal children and He is the perfect parent.
- Every kid has free will and is unique. Their bad choices were on them, not us. We tried not to compare our kids with other kids.
- Every day brought temptation and attack. The devil wants our kids and spiritual warfare is daily for parents. We still war over our kids DAILY, over their health, their minds, their emotions, their DRIVING, their finances and choices, their hearts before the Lord, their futures and callings, and their (future) spouses.
- Every season passes. We went though rebellious seasons, a seizure disorder, debt and extra jobs with different shifts, bad grades, loss of grandparents, etc. Parenting is a marathon not a sprint. I remember Caleb getting suspended in GRADE SCHOOL for taking a scissors apart and making a sword. I thought he was showing his brilliance as a young warrior. His teacher in a conference with us couldn’t think of one thing to say when Kristen asked her to tell us something positive about our child. We were glad when next year came. Next year comes.
- Every “gate” has to be monitored – let the good in, keep the bad out; eye gate, ear gate, etc. We didn’t let darkness in our home; posters, video games, music, movies.
- Every Dad has a leading role to play in raising Godly kids. Parents today abdicate the Christian instruction of their kids to an hour with a Sunday school teacher each week, or to a Christian school. Not good.
- Every Mom has an intercessory authority. This I believe was our secret weapon for raising Godly kids.
- Every chance we talked about God and the Bible. We talked about big circle and little circle issues. Little circle is something the little brother did to them. Big circle are things like kids in war zones, human trafficking, suicide on the Rez. We tried to raise them in the big circle. When they’d fight about something insignificant, all I had to do was draw big circle in the air with my finger and it worked.
- Every trip we took at least one of them with us (mission trips take kids out of their little world and introduce them to God’s world. I’ve seen kids come home and even rebuke their parent’s materialism.) We still don’t do vacations. We do mission trips with our kids (they usually pay their own way). We have a ten-acre place which would be a great place for a ATV four-wheeler. Every time I wonder why we still don’t have one I remember it’s because we put our money into our mission trips together. If you can afford both, great. If not, guess which one will make an eternal difference in your kid’s lives. We saved to serve. In that we combatted any teenage sense of entitlement and modeled denying self.
- Every time, Mom and Dad were one. They didn’t even bother getting a second opinion or trying to play one of us off the other.
- Every meal in the evening we ate together.
- Every night we were home or at church together. Very little television, if any; usually a video if the day went well.
- Every trial we “huddled” up. Some thought we were too honest with our kids with the problems we were facing. We talked with them about what was going on. We asked them to pray for us. I don’t remember too many us versus them seasons. Most of the time the “us” included all of us facing our family challenges together.
- Every Sunday we were church. If you are hit and miss, they will be too. Here’s a quotable from Kristen: “Parents, if church isn’t your priority when they are little, it won’t be their priority when they are older.” We were steady in the same church through thick and thin. We’ve had more opportunities and reasons to leave our church in twenty years than perhaps anyone else. But we tried to bloom where we were planted and learned to love and be faithful to people. Sometimes we ask ourselves what that taught our kids that will make them different than the kids of church hoppers.
- I prayed our kids wouldn’t be popular at school. I learned this as a youth pastor. It’s not that I didn’t want them to have friends. It’s just that the influence of peers is uber-strong and popularity is a trap no matter what age you are.
- Mom and Dad were on the same page with God, equally yoked spiritually.
- Looking back we wonder if we hadn’t shifted away from traditional or denominational Christianity if our kids would have “dried up.” This isn’t to say we didn’t pass on a rooted faith. In fact, some of our favorite excursions were to the graves of saints and sites of Church history. We exposed them to God’s superheroes. We showed them the book of Revelation was way better than Harry Potter.
- The move of the Holy Spirit in our church came at the right time for our family. Conferences in Colorado Springs and Kansas City put our kids in the middle of a move of God in this young generation. Countless times they’ve been in stadiums full of believers and in strategic prayer meetings and sacred assemblies in various places. God touched them in these places and marked them.
- We made college decisions based on ministry callings not career callings.
- Extracurricular activities – sports, dance, hunting – all took a distance second place to church. One sport, no Sundays/Wednesdays. We didn’t let them drive or have cell phones until they were sixteen. It didn’t kill them. The sky didn’t fall.
- “Family” included church and church people. We notice people today put family and family time first and wonder later why their kids wander spiritually. Christ is encountered in the communion of saints. Pastor Dennis was there the night my dad was killed. My kids see Pastor Dennis today as a surrogate grandpa.
- Every “screw up” is forgivable. Nothing they do or don’t do is a deal breaker with regard to your relationship with them. Our kids knew they couldn’t do anything to get us to love them less. Be steady to them even when they aren’t to you or to God.
By the way, some of the things listed here came from our kids as we asked them this week why they are hungry for the Lord when many pastor kids fall away. It is never too early or too late to start some of the things listed here. God can redeem the years the locusts have eaten. There is a grace.