By Bev and Phil Haas
What can we do to make sure our children grow up knowing and loving God?
Most of the parents we know have a strong desire to raise their children to know and love God. We need to say up front that even though good parenting makes a difference, there is no guarantee that the outcome of our parenting will produce the results we desire. We’re all familiar with unhealthy families that produce children who turn out remarkably well. And we are also aware of families in which the parents seem to do everything right and yet there’s at least one prodigal in the family.
A Premise, Not a Promise
But what about Proverbs 22:6? This well-known verse on parenting says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). That certainly sounds like a guarantee from God. If parents do their job well, the kids will turn out well. It’s important to remember that biblical proverbs are not promises, but premises—general rules. Like all proverbs, this is a statement of probability.
Children are not mindless lumps of clay that can be shaped against their wills. They become autonomous individuals who, despite the best parenting efforts, can still choose to go their own way. Even God, the only perfect parent, had trouble with his children—Adam and Eve, to name two. Why point out that there is no guarantee that comes with good parenting? We want to make sure that we don’t set you up for disillusionment or guilt. There is no foolproof formula for parenting. We can offer our best suggestions that have shown a high level of success, but we want to make sure you don’t hear us say, “If you do these things, you will always get these results.”
Being a Godly Parent
While there are no guarantees in parenting, let’s talk about principles that can increase the probability of producing godly children. The question we want to focus on is “How can I be a godly parent?” instead of “How can I raise godly children?” At first the two questions appear similar. Not so. The second concentrates on the outcome of our parenting (something over which we have little control). The first has to do more with the process of parenting (over which we have some measure of control).
Here are our top two suggestions for being godly parents.
Our first suggestion is to strive to live a godly life. Nothing will stall your efforts to raise godly children faster than failure to practice what you teach. Rest assured, your children will know that you are not perfect; but don’t allow that to stop you from trying to be everything Jesus has called you to be.
Your words and actions carry more weight than anyone else’s. Use both to show your children what a godly life looks like, shortcomings and all. Dr. Charles Stanley wrote about his mother, Rebecca. He describes how she taught him to read his Bible, to pray, to trust and obey God, to have a servant spirit, to do the right thing, to forgive, and to love unconditionally. As you can see, his mom taught him much about living a godly life. Stanley says about his mom, “Was my mother perfect? No. But the lessons she taught me about living the Christian life profoundly affect me to this day.”
Our second suggestion is to enlist the influence of at least five other adults to encourage your children to live a godly life. In our family ministry we call this our “high five.” Research shows that an alarming number of students are putting their faith on a shelf after graduating from high school. Research also shows that children who have five or more adults influencing them for God have a greater probability of keeping their faith after they leave home. Can you name five other adults who are influencing each one of your children for God? If not, get busy and enlist the help of influential adults.
Raising godly children does not happen by accident. It requires intentionality. Begin by focusing on what matters most—your Christian example and the godly influence of other adults. Keep in mind that your children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days and make the most of them.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.