“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.” (Proverbs 10:1 NKJV). “Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons shames his father” (Proverbs 28:7 NKJV).
Most Christian parents desire to see their children grow up into God-loving adults. We never want the negative parts of the scriptures above to be fulfilled in our families. But how do we raise children whose lives please God and bring us joy?
First of all, it is important to say that raising God-centered children is no easy task. It takes deliberate effort and consistent focus. Just as we plan and act precisely when seeking to accomplish goals in other spheres of life, we must prepare ourselves and act intentionally if we want to truly raise our children for the Lord.
The Word of God gives us lots of direction and help for raising godly children. In a particular scripture (Proverbs 22:6), it says that we should train our children in the way they should go and when we do this, we will find that they will not depart from God’s ways in their later years.
To train is to educate; therefore, training a child to become God-centered implies educating them in God’s ways early on in life. Anyone who has taken courses or graduated from college would agree that getting an education is not easy. Courses and programs are not designed to be passed without significant investment of time and effort; no one who studies for few minutes each day ends up with good grades. Similarly, no one who desires to produce godly children can get by with exposing them minimally to the things of God. If we want to have children who do not depart from the Lord, the Bible says that we must immerse them in God-centered training in their early years of life.
Parents, Church or School?
These days, many Christian parents relinquish the task of training their children in the ways of the Lord to the church, or to Christian schools if the children attend them. They believe that getting their children involved in children’s programs at church and in formal Christian education fulfill the command to raise their children in the ways of the Lord. But this is an error that leads to disappointments. The Bible is clear about the fact that the primary responsibility for raising children lies with parents: Most biblical instructions and examples about directing children to God are given in the context of the family. Children are instructed to obey and honor their parents that their days may be long and parents are instructed to love their children and bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. We are instructed to live right before God and to impart the same way of life, by example and teaching, to our children. We are also encouraged to trust God for our day-to-day needs and thereby demonstrate to our children that He is dependable. We are to model a vibrant walk with Him in full view of our children.
This parent-child training is the foundation for raising godly children, and no other institution is as capable of providing this form of education as the family.
Although the church provides extensive support to families, it cannot take the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture of our children because they only spend a fraction of their time there. Christian schools are also a great blessing to Christian families, but they do not replace the parents’ role of raising children in the ways of the Lord.
Steps That Facilitate Raising God-Centered Children
What then can we do in our homes to nurture our children in the ways of the Lord?
1. Live true Christian lives. More than anything else, our children learn life from what they see us do; they copy our words, actions and attitudes. If our lives model a quest to know and serve God genuinely and fervently, they will copy and aspire to the same.
2. Lead our children into God’s presence daily. Leading our children in prayer and Bible reading each day teaches them about God and paves the way for a personal relationship with Him.
3. Shield them from influences that teach rebellion against God and lead away from Him. Programs and entertainment that oppose biblical values should be avoided in the formative years of our children’s lives. These should be replaced with God-honoring programs and with resources that provide age-appropriate entertainment in ways that do not destroy their budding faith in God. When children begin to attend school, they are bombarded with an avalanche of secular materials for several hours each day.* Their opportunities for learning about God are significantly reduced in this season. In fact, with current trends in the developed world, children are subtly or overtly discouraged from revering or exalting God. Therefore, as parents, we should be mindful to use our children’s early years and after-school hours as a time to prepare them mentally and spiritually for this anti-God battle. For example, as part of their daily at-home entertainment, we should provide songs, videos, games, websites and stories that teach about God’s love and power. In this way, we equip them to resist the ideas of people who defy God or question His existence.
4. Lead them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ early in life. This is the most valuable gift that Christian parents can give to their children. Salvation makes our children’s hearts alive to God and empowers them to live for Him. It also gives them access to the blessings that are available to believers in Christ Jesus. To be counted as His, children need to make their own personal decision to follow Jesus Christ as soon as they are able to understand the gospel message. Unfortunately, many Christian parents do not take this issue seriously; they assume their children will someday be led to the Lord by the church. But what if, for one reason or another, the child misses the opportunity to get saved in church? The salvation of our children’s souls is too important to be left to chance. If any of us had $10 million held in trust for them, we would probably take very meticulous steps to ensure that they receive this inheritance when they come of age. We would leave nothing to chance. In the same way, we should take meticulous steps to ensure that they are offered the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior once they are able to comprehend the gospel message. We can obtain counsel and direction for this by speaking to God-honouring leaders in the church or to mature believers who have led their children down similar paths.
5. Pray and confess God’s Word over them. Praying for our children invites God’s presence and power into their lives. It helps them to overcome the challenges they encounter in their world and graces them to live righteously. Praying for our children also helps draw their hearts closer to God and sets them on the path of His purposes for them. Confessing scriptures over our children helps to establish God’s will in their lives. The Bible teaches that our words carry the power to minister life or death (Proverbs 18:21). While raising our children for the Lord, we can put this power to good use by speaking promises drawn from God’s Word over their lives and circumstances.
*does not apply to Christian schools