Parents want their kids to grow up and have successful lives. Therefore it’s important that we understand that this primarily comes out of knowing God from whom all goodness flows. Mark 10:18 says that God is “truly good” while we see Jesus described as the “good shepherd” in John 10:11. Education, hobbies and sports are fantastic to increase knowledge, opportunities and life skills but God still is the source of life and therefore needs to be the central focus rather than just a random choice or convenience.
While the choice of church is important, parents are a children’s number one representation of God. A parent’s character and habits are often reflected in a child’s view of God. As a parent how do you talk of God and do you talk of God? Do you present Him to your child as judgmental or approachable, forgiving or one with positive expectations? Do you find it awkward to talk of God or does your conversation and actions reveal that God is a constant in your life?
Our kids saw us reading our Bibles and we talked about God in everyday life. We did monitor television shows and movies but didn’t make them read their Bibles nor did we do family devotionals. We sent them to the state schools while the kids did selected activities that fitted with our family’s lifestyle and life was filled with family fun and chaos. They were normal kids whom we rewarded and disciplined with the endeavor to build their character. At times we would lose our tempers but then we would need to sit and apologize to them with lots of hugs and kisses. Parents should separate their feelings for punishment from our embarrassment as to what others will think.
Church is a priority and it has always been even before being senior ministers. This is the place that God created for us in which to connect to Him and others to grow. It is the place to give and not just get. God is a two way relationship as are all our relationships. Again for parents to understand the necessity of church for their lives affects a child’s revelation of God. To me church is the center of a ferris wheel. If the carriage stays attached we go through the highs and lows of life but the attachment keeps one safe.
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Teaching a child Scripture is good but will not necessitate good choices long term. Many read the Scripture Proverbs 22:6 which is “direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Parents therefore think that a combination of Scripture and sheltering from the world will produce great Christian children. Proverbs is a book full of fantastic generalizations which are excellent for daily living but like all Scripture must be taken in context. It is difficult to decipher “the right path” while a child has his own choices to make. While a parent can dictate the external choices for a child, a parent cannot control their internal choices and attitudes. In Matthew 15:19, Matthew describes that we have evil in our hearts and so it is each person’s choices that will decide their future.
Having realistic expectations regarding children’s church programs is important. Sometimes we want it to be like school but I have yet to meet a child that has sat in a regimented church program that has perceived God as loving and caring. Let school be school, God be God and church be church. Let your children have fun in church, encourage them to be involved in the church activities and especially allow them to develop church friendships. These hopefully will become life companions. Our first year as a new church contained no children’s room, no program, no equipment but because it was fun those children today mostly are still committed Christians. Regarding church and raising kids, we chose to have vacations at other times rather than in the midst of church events and even encouraged these as priority above sporting camps. Start this from a young age and God and His House become a priority for children.
Guiding children is more beneficial than attempting to control them. While children are expected to yield to the answer “no” when young, this changes from the age of of around eight when more guidance and explanation are needed. In our household certain music, places and books were banned but as the children matured our reasons were explained as we would sit and discuss these things with them. In this way children feel heard and understood. As parents we are to protect our children but also need to give them opportunities to make wise decisions as they grow up. A good choice by a child needs to lead to more opportunities to make further good choices.