I suppose that as Christian parents we can mange just about anything our children do, except abandoning the church. I mean we'll survive:
- The crazy music.
- The funny hair and clothes.
- The mistakes they make and the sins they commit
We can love them and support them through all of the ups and downs of growing up but if they lose their faith - we feel that we've failed. Even if they succeeded in careers and have good families, if they stop serving the Lord Jesus Christ, it seems that it is all for nothing. Because Christian parents feel so strongly about the faith of their children and because there are many children who come from Christian homes but eventually leave the church and stop practicing their faith, I feel it is important to examine some of the mistakes we make as Christian parents.
Yes, as parents, we sincerely want our children to be faithful but sometimes because of our misconceptions of what Godly parenting ought to be, the exact opposite takes place. In a recent article written for the Power newsletter Barry Gilreath described the five most common misconceptions that Christian parents have about raising Christian children.
Because I'm a Christian, my children will automatically become Christians.
Just because you made this decision years ago doesn't mean your children will make it also. Samuel's sons did not follow after their father's ways but took brides and perverted judgement - Isaiah 8:3. Samuel was a Godly prophet but apparently did not correct the faults of his children. Children must be taught, corrected, trained in faith if they are to believe and live according to that belief. Parents must evangelize their own children and then disciple them if they want them to be converted and then be faithful and fruitful.
Misconception #2 is the reverse of Misconception #1
My actions will not influence my children's faithfulness.
You cannot effectually teach children with the method that says "Do as I say, not as I do." Faithful parents who are involved usually produce faithful children. A recent survey showed that where both parents are faithfully active in church - 96% of their children were also active in the church. Only 6% of children remained faithful if parents were sporadic, not really involved, just pew warmers. It's an old story but true, children are rarely more faithful than their parents are. Your influence and what you do as parents is the key.
My children will naturally show respect and give authority to those in positions of leadership.
Respect for authority is taught in the home. A child who doesn't respect the authority of his mother and father will not respect the authority of Christ, His word, or the leaders in the church. Respect and submission are not automatic. Some parents want the minister or the elders to get their children "in line." But if they have been rebellious with the parents and not corrected, they won't know how to submit to anyone's authority. Unfortunately those types of children are usually taught about respect and authority after they get into trouble and learn it the hard way.
Forcing my children to come to the worship service or youth activities will make them rebel and hate the church.
Some people think that they should just let their children "decide on their own" about their faith. For example: "When they're old enough they'll make up their own minds." The Bible says that ".. the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for there are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please" (Galatians 5:17). If left alone without guidance or training the flesh will always want to avoid:
- what is difficult
- what is Godly
- what is spiritual.
Young people need to be trained in the faith and made to understand that church attendance and involvement are not optional - they are required. Parents used to teach their kids that being unfaithful is as unacceptable as improper sex or taking drugs or quitting school.
Without a good youth Minister and a dynamic youth group program, my children will not grow spiritually.
This idea has crept into the church because in the last several decades our society has delegated the responsibility for raising their children to others. Daycares get them at an early age so mom can go back to work. Schools have them after that. Extra curricular activities, camps, sports organizations keep them busy after school and week-ends. TV, the Internet and video games watch them the rest of the time.
So when it comes to faith building it's easy to think that we can hand this job over like we've done in other areas.
I became a Christian at 30 years of age. I'd never attended Bible School, never been taught by a Youth Minister, never been part of a Youth group - but someone shared the gospel with me and here I am 29 years later preaching the gospel to others. What children need is to hear the gospel, see the gospel being lived, encouraged to obey the gospel themselves. In Romans 1:16 Paul says that, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.." - not youth ministers or youth programs, camps, etc.
Don't get me wrong, these are important as ways to help young people live out their faith - but coming to faith happens when you hear the word of God - regardless of who preaches it to you. Youth ministers, youth workers, youth programs are meant to reinforce what parents have instilled in their children, not replace the parents' role.
Brother Gilreath mentioned 5; I add a 6th...
Parents deserve all the credit or all the blame for the success or failure of their children.
I know that much of this lesson has stressed the importance of the parental involvement in the spiritual lives of their children, however we must remember that each child has free will and in the end is responsible for their decision and actions regarding their faith. Parents need to avoid the two extremes in raising faithful children:
A. Some parents take all the credit for faithful sons and daughters.
They are under the impression that through their efforts at discipline and Christian example their children have had no option but to turn out all right. Of course this attitude is based on pride and leads to self-righteousness. These kind of parents use their children and their parenting skills as the standard that everyone else should use. After all they've succeeded and proven that they were right and their methods worked. They usually become critical and intolerant of others' weaknesses and failures thinking, "If the others would only do what we did, they'd get the same results."
People who think this way are missing a few important facts:
- All the correct teaching and example will not influence a child who refuses to respond. Like David taught Solomon and gave the example but he became unfaithful.
- Parents who succeed owe their success to many others, not just themselves.
- They owe it to the Lord.
- They owe it to their children who decide to respond.
- They owe it to family, teachers, ministers, coaches, and mentors who have helped along the way.
- Their self-righteousness is sinful and they may also be modeling this attitude for their children to carry on for another generation - this is an awful burden for children to carry around.
Parents who take all the credit for their children's faith set themselves up for a terrible disappointment if ever their children don't live up to their standards. Self-righteous parents tend to either be unforgiving when their children fail, or when others fail. They also swing over to the other extreme - they take all the blame (after all if you're totally responsible for one, you should be totally responsible for the other).
B. As I said, the other extreme is that some parents take all the blame.
I've seen so many parents with extreme feelings of guilt because their children are unfaithful or unsuccessful in life. Sometimes there is reason for some guilt.
- Dad was too busy.
- Mom was an alcoholic.
- Parents were unfaithful for many years etc.
Again we need to remember that regardless of our ability to be ideal parents, the final decision rests with the child. Jesus says that those who seek will find in Matthew 7:7.
Ezekiel says that the children will not be punished for the sins of the fathers and the fathers will not be punished for the sins of the children (Ezekiel 18:10-18). What this means is that God recognizes that both parents and children will sin, will fail in many ways and each will be judged on his own. That parents did a poor job in bringing their children to the faith will not be a valid excuse for children to use at judgement. Taking all the blame is as bad as taking all the credit because it comes from the same place - pride. These parents would take all the credit if they could but because their children's failure is evident they take all the blame instead. This type of attitude leads to cynicism, negativism and a loss of personal faith.
Parents who take all the blame lose heart because they think, "what's the use of trying, you do our best and you still fail." Taking all the blame also misses several important points:
- The child has a role to play and part of the blame belongs to him. You can bring a horse to water but you can't make him drink.
- Parents who fail have usually fought against bad influences at school, sickness or problems in the family, the many traps set by Satan to ensnare a child. It's not a cop-out but some parents have less to work with and greater obstacles to overcome than others.
- It's not over till it's over. Many who take all the blame usually are too quick to throw in the towel. Maybe they're tired or lazy or fed up of trying so it's easier to take all the blame and give up on faith of their kids. Parents with unfaithful children should never give up praying, give up hope, give up trying to influence their children for Christ.
There would be a lot less jealousy and strife in the church if each parent used the Bible as the standard for good parenting and Christ as the point of comparison for their children - instead of comparing their parenting skills and their children to other parents and other children. When we measure ourselves against God's word, when we judge our children's faith and actions against Jesus the Christ, there will be no room for boasting and no delusions that we are responsible for everything.
Regardless of our parenting abilities or the relative success of our children in school or in their Christian walk - we all want the same thing don't we? We want all of our children to go heaven. Each parent should want that for every child, not just their own.
Hell is too terrible a place to be for us to feel smug and self -confident because we see someone else's child failing in faith and for some reason this makes our child look good! We should mourn for every child who struggles, every child trapped in disbelief because it could easily be our child in that situation. We should support and encourage one another as parents because we can't control the outcome of our children's passage through adolescence to adulthood - we can affect it but we can't control it.
In the end every faithful child is the product of the effort of many people. Instead of being self-righteous you should be thankful. And every child who fails is the product of the weakness of many people
Instead of continually feeling guilty, repent and ask God to forgive you so you can have a positive and hopeful attitude - who knows, it may rub off on your kid. If you need to repent because you recognize that you've been at one extreme or the other why don't you do that now so God can forgive you and help you in your efforts to be a Godly parent. If you are not a Godly parent because you've not given your life to God through faith in Christ expressed in repentance and baptism. Why not begin a new life as a Christian parent today by coming forward for baptism or prayer.