I remember the moment when, as a young father, I awoke in the middle of the night and realized, my little girl is completely dependent on me to provide for her needs. At the time, I was 24 years old and barely getting by paying bills and learning about life.
My anxiety grew with another thought: She is an eternal soul who must come to know God to know everlasting life. Am I up for this? What have I done?
That is the ultimate question for all parents. Our children have eternal souls in need of salvation, and we have a significant role in ensuring they know and love God. Many parents clearly grasp this reality.
But many other parents don't seem to understand the eternal questions regarding their children. Their actions are passive and distracted. They cannot articulate how or what they are doing to ensure their children know God. They abdicate responsibility for spiritual training to their church (as though an hour a week in Sunday school will do the trick). In short, they lack a vision for their children and have failed to prepare them for the future.
Parents must establish a vision for their children. When children are adults, who will they be? Will they serve God? Will they have the capacity to love others? Will they be equipped to pass on a spiritual legacy?
There was a time when parents understood the stakes. They knew they were establishing a legacy of faith that would live for generations, eventually encompassing thousands of people in their family tree. Today, I fear we've lost the perspective of time and tend to view our lives only in terms of our immediate family and personal ambitions.
Perhaps that's why we have an epidemic of divorce, fathers abandoning their families and parents who prioritize only those things that offer their children a competitive advantage in life. Here's my challenge to parents: Teach your children the laws of God as commanded in Deuteronomy. Train them as instructed in Proverbs. Lead them to fulfill God's Commandments; call them to the Great Commission.
To do so, first capture a Godly vision for your family then aggressively pursue His call on your lives.
Where to start:
- Passionately commit yourself to God.
- Teach your children to develop healthy relationships with other people. If you want your children to possess good relationship skills, you must provide them with a model. The best model is your marriage. Even with all the evidence on the negative effects of divorce on children, divorce rates continue to rise. Even more distressing is that the divorce rate among Christians is no different than from unbelievers!
- Discipline. Here's what Dr. Dobson says in his book The New Dare To Discipline:
When properly applied, loving discipline works! It stimulates tender affection, made possible by mutual respect between a parent and a child. It bridges the gap which otherwise separates family members who should love and trust each other. It allows the God of our ancestors to be introduced to our children. It permits teachers to do the kind of job in classrooms for which they are commissioned. It encourages a child to respect other people and live as a responsible, constructive citizen.
- Introduce your children to the Savior. The reason God commands parents to teach their children His laws is because nobody can reflect God's love and purpose to children better than their parents. Attending church, Sunday school and youth camp are important parts of a family's faith experience, but they are no replacement for parents who follow Christ and intentionally disciple their children to know Him.
- Prepare your children to become influencers in the world. While it's easy to focus on the financial benefits of a good education, we've often lost sight of God's priority. God does not call us to riches (although some of us may become rich); rather He calls us to service. When your children enter the marketplace as accountants, stay-at-home moms, soldiers or building contractors, they need to know their occupation is wrapped in their ultimate calling: to be ambassadors for Christ.
- Call other parents into action on behalf of their families. Encourage, coach and equip others to parent well. Busy families struggle to find time for every expectation thrust upon them these days. The good news is you cannot go wrong praying with your family. Nor can you fail when teaching them Scripture or life skills. The trick is to prioritize your parenting responsibilities, then be as intentional as you can.