How are you raising Christians kids like your kids? I hear this question often. Isn’t it every parent’s heart to have their children share their Christian faith as adults? Yet, so many parents are having the heartache of their adult children walking away from their childhood faith shortly after leaving the nest.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Yet, when I’m looking back on our parenting over nearly 23 years, there are a few key things that stood out to me that seemed different from my own experience growing up and from those raising children around us.
It often amazes me that amidst all of my parenting mistakes, and personal issues that I display in front of my children that they have such a solid faith in their early twenties.
I know their faith isn’t a reflection of my own faith, but their personal relationship with their Savior.
I can only give a few key things that I’m certain makes the difference in passing on our faith to our children, and seeing them walk in their own faith in a mature way that neither myself or my husband experienced in our early twenties.
6 Keys to Raising Christians
When my older two children were young, I had taken them to a park to play. An older lady was there with her grandchildren, and before long, we were talking. I don’t remember everything we talked about, but one thing she said stood out to me, and has become a motto in my parenting.
“If only more people would realize that they aren’t raising children, but they are raising adults.”
In a nutshell, the older lady was saying that parenting needs to have the end goal in mind. That is how we parents should reflect on what we want to see in our children and then work hard in developing it in them.
I remember pondering this saying for years, and keeping it as my guide in raising our children on a daily basis. Over the years, I began to picture a garden in my mind, with each child being their own garden.
With this mental picture, I began to think about a gardener and how when they plant their seeds they label them as what they will be, not what they are at the time. For example, cucumber seeds will have ‘cucumbers’ labeled over them. Tomato seeds will have ’tomatoes’ labeled over them, and so on.
The gardener doesn’t say this is where the ‘cucumber seeds are’ or ‘baby cucumbers’, but labels the garden based on the end goal in mind. Then the gardener cares for the garden based on the needs of what he is growing, taking great care to ensure that nothing of harm will come its way to becoming what he expects them to be.
Raising Christians is just like raising a garden of any kind.
Our parenting has been one where Scripture has been our tool for planting seeds of our faith. We used key verses from the time our children were babies through preschool to get the basis of why we required certain behavior at home and out of the house.
We didn’t require our children to memorize them as Scripture, but we used these as pillars in our parenting.
If a child was disobedient, I would tell them “The Bible says ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.'” (Ephesians 6:1). If I needed to remind them often, I would say “Children obey your parents” as a quick reference to the verse.
After many times of using the same key phrases in these verses, our children were memorizing what ‘the Bible says about their action’.
As they grew, I would literally just ask them, “What does the Bible say about how you are acting?” Nearly every time, our children were able to come up with the right scripture to match what we wanted them to consider when they were going against what we wanted for them in the end goal.
This helped them to better understand how to judge their own actions based on their own knowledge of Scripture from a very early age.
As they grew, we added additional Scripture as pillars to our parenting, and required Bible memory work throughout their schooling years.
These seeds that we planted were molding our children into Christians because they were self-evaluating their actions, and lining it up with Scripture from a very early age.
In addition to these Scripture practices, we also read Proverbs daily until our children got into middle school, where our focus went into the New Testament strongly.
This one aspect of raising Christians is so very vital, and where many have lost their children.
When a good gardener places seeds in the soil, he does so with the utmost care to ensure that the soil is healthy for the seed to grow to the end goal. The Bible explains just how important soil is in the parable of the Sower.
As parents, we carefully protected the environment that our children were placed.
We choose friends that shared our Christian faith, when Sunday School influences resulted in our oldest learning to use a swear word perfectly in a sentence, we made the decision to keep our children with us during church services.
Although I know that homeschooling isn’t an option for everyone, it was for our family, so we took the opportunity to teach from a Bible world view on subjects that are void in the school systems today.
We live in the world, so it is important to do our part to ensure the world is not your children’s teacher. Trust me, the world wants to be your children’s teacher, so you will need to be intentional about getting to their heart before the world does with their agenda.
NOTE: If your children are part of the public school system, I would encourage you to add Creation studies as a family, and even some American History of our founding fathers, to help with the things that are pulling Christian children away from their faith. In addition, I would also recommend talking to your children about what the Bible says about sex, before the school system and students educate your children in things that tempt them away from your faith.
We were often laughed at, and shunned because of our choices with our children, but our intentional plan of being our children’s main influence in their formative years has proven time and time again to be what they needed to reach the end goal.
Plenty of Water
Plants need water, and a lot of water, to grow healthy and strong.
Children need praise and encouragement just as much as plants need water.
What we have found in our parenting is that our children try harder when we praise them before, through and after the task in front of them.
We are building their confidence before they attempt something. Then we are building their perseverance to complete the task. Lastly, we are building a sense of accomplishment when they have completed a task.
This is so important for a child learning to obey, or a teen making his way through peer pressure.
“The earlier we start being our child’s cheerleader, the easier it will be for them to look at us as their coach in the game of life, and trusting our decisions on faith.” Dollie Freeman
Along with praising and encouraging our children, we need to also learn how to be attentive to them from their first moments on, so they trust us when they are teens.
Having eye-contact with our children when they are sharing what is pressing on their heart as a two or three year old will build their confidence that you really care about the small things and trust you with the big things.
The distractions of life, the electronics that we own and our busy schedules could easily unravel the best attempts to building that bridge for a child.
Be diligent in giving your child plenty of water, and as often as you can.
Direct “Son” Light
With the pillar of parenting in place, we had set the precedent that our children should live to honor God through their actions, and that when they fail they disappoint Him, not just us, as their parent.
We literally took the weight of raising Christians off from our shoulders, and put it on theirs. The daily decision to choose Christ at an early age built the habits that are much needed when reaching adulthood.
We utilized Joshua 24:15b – “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”, as our family verse to ensure that our children knew that while they lived in our home, our family would serve the Lord.
Over a period of time, through daily practice and pointing our children to Jesus for their weakness, and forgiveness, they saw that there is peace in knowing Him.
The only time we used Scripture to correct our children’s action toward us as a parent is with the 5th commandment, “Honor thy Father and Mother”.
When a child dishonors their parents and gets away with it, it is when the pillars of all other structure you have done crumbles.
It is in this one Scripture that allows us, as parents, to still be humans, walking along the same Christian journey as our children. It gives us the ability to fail as parents, and allow our children to witness the failure, but still pay honor to our position as their parents. By admitting our failures in front of our children, we are showing them just how much we still need Christ in our own lives.
Tend to the Weeds
You can’t have a garden without weeds. Any gardener will tell you that the best gardens are ones that are faithfully weeded, so the roots don’t grow deeply, and take over the healthy plants.
The weeds of the heart are no different.
Remember, it is the little foxes that spoil the vine, and it is the weeds of life that harm the heart of a Christian.
In parenting, there is always something that we need to deal with. Sometimes, it can be when your child started to tell lies, has a hard time forgiving a sibling, or maybe just struggles with asking forgiveness.
These are all weeds, and the sooner you deal with them, the easier they are to pull and the less damage is done to the healthy plants in their heart.
There has been times in our parenting that we have had to make some hard choices for a season. Times where we needed to remove our children from relationships that creating more weeds than we could keep up with.
Hopefully you don’t have any of those experiences. If you do and you aren’t sure what to do with the situation, I highly recommend removing the weeds, for your children’s sake. Keep the end goal in your mind, and it will help you to make the best decisions for your family’s faith than anything else.
Re-Pot for Growth
If you have ever grown a house plant, you may have some experience with re-potting plants for growth. It is so important to the roots of a plant to have room to spread out and grow.
If you don’t re-pot a growing plant, you can actually be stunting its growth, or causing root decay and kill it all together.
A child’s faith is very much like a growing plant.
It needs the opportunity to stretch their faith to grow strong roots.
I want to be sure you understand that I’m not encouraging you to send your young child into the mission field at 6 years old. I known a family who actually thought that doing that with their child at a young age in their neighborhood was wise, allowing play time at the unsaved neighbors home time and time again.
Sadly, that resulted in the opposite way. The unsaved family converted their Christian son, who is still not walking in faith today.
What I am encouraging is allowing your children the opportunity to act out their Christian faith, in your care, to those they can minister to in your circle of trust.
They can recite Scripture, sing songs they are learning in church, make cards for the sick, visit neighbors, do kind acts for their neighbors and most of all share their faith with anyone that will listen.
We have allowed our children to openly talk about their faith wherever they go, and praise them for doing it.
The more they practice, the easier it will be when it matters the most. One day, they could be witnessing to a future Christian and that my friend, is the end goal, isn’t it?
Raising Christians isn’t easy, but with these keys you can become intentional in the areas that we have seen reap the harvest with our children. These were the things that we were doing differently than others around us, and our results were also different than those around us.
There are times when my older children talk about their faith and standards, and I stand in awe because many of their standards aren’t ones that we expected of them, or even mentioned to them.
They are walking in their own intimate relationship with their Savior, and as their parents, we are blessed to know that the fruits of our labors were blessed in such amazing ways.
Keep up the good work, mama!