Raising discipled children in a world filled with childish adults

Published 5:34 pm Friday, November 1, 2019

By Nathan Decker

Every day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”

– Charles Swindoll

Ever been confused about the rules? Alicia was confused. Her parents had taught her not to talk to strangers. But the Sunday Bible story was about a guy named Samaritan helping a stranger on the road side. Mom had told her not to take candy from strangers. But when the old man in the pew in front of them handed her a peppermint, she smiled in approval.

All the rules seemed upside down at church. While she could run through the house at home, she was not allowed to run through the house of God. Mom and dad yelled all the time at home, but singing loudly was cause for a shush. Before supper, she had to wash her hands; no one washed their hands before the covered dish. “Stranger danger” suddenly turned into, “Give him a hug, honey.”

Growing up means going from the small world of a crib into the wide world. When we raise our children, we raise them with tightly controlled boundaries that expand into responsibility for self and others. At first, moms and dads protect us from playing on the stairs, but one day the barrier is moved. Before you know it you are given the responsibility of carrying your laundry up and down those same stairs.

If we are truly discipling our kids, we empower them with faith life lessons. Growing up means going from strict black-and-white rules to flexible gray areas where it isn’t so easy to see right and wrong. Don’t play with fire turns into cooking on the grill. Don’t play with knives turns into cutting our own meat. “Don’t talk back to me, I’m the authority” evolves into question everything. As much as we would like to stay in a simple faith, God pushes us to grow into more complex reasoning and believing. As much as we would like our children to stay children for the rest of their lives … growing up is the only option.

Our world is full of childish adults. They have no boundaries. Personal space, personal belongings — they overreach. It’s OK if their opinion steamrolls over someone else. When they get angry they pick up their toys and leave. They take no responsibility. It’s not my fault. Society made me this way. It’s not my problem if you aren’t strong enough, smart enough, etc. The law of the jungle, it’s OK as long as you don’t get caught. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

God has given us a goal in parenting: Not to raise children, but to faithfully raise responsible adults who understand boundaries. Holy parenting means giving children ever-expanding boundaries. If the first time our child is out of our sight is when she goes to school, we’re asking for trouble. God teaches us to start firm … but then relax as our children are prepared. Instead of boundaries being about protection, we need to shift our thinking to boundaries being about experiencing life.

Holy parenting means equipping children with responsibility. If the first time we have a conversation with them about sex, drugs or the differences in socio-economic levels is on their way to college, we’re asking for trouble. Responsibility is a tool. God wants us to give our kids the tools they need to live as adults. Equipping our kids with responsibility means allowing them to make decisions with their time, money, and relationships.

Most of all, holy parenting means teaching our children our faith. We don’t say “They’ll figure out the alphabet and complex math on their own …” or “If you don’t want to, you really don’t have to go to school today.” No, we send them to school. Faith is taught in Sunday School and worship. We don’t say, “Eating healthy, exercise, that’s all good for you, but I want you to choose your own habits.” We must teach our children habits of faith like prayer, reading the Bible, helping others in the community.

God gave us boundaries and responsibilities to share with our children. As parents, think hard about the boundaries we are setting, and have those difficult conversations about responsibility in love. As grandparents, don’t just spoil them. Meddle. Get involved. Help raise them to be disciples of Jesus Christ. All of us are a part of the village. Be that non-blood relative that makes a difference by sharing your time and love today. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again.”

– Deuteronomy 6:6-7a