Fulfilling. Consuming. Exciting. Challenging.
Parenting is all of this, and more. And it is one of the greatest privileges of my life.
The Lord gave Terrie and me four children who are now married and all serving the Lord with their spouses and are raising our eleven grandchildren for the Lord.
As a parent, and now a grandparent, I know that there is an immense responsibility of training a young life to follow God. While raising children, there can be a pull to simply create a checklist and assume that if enough godly standards or Christian experiences are in place, a child will grow into a godly individual.
Resist that pull.
I believe in the importance of living a godly, holy life, and I’m all for surrounding children with church activities and the input of godly Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. But embracing these external factors is not the goal in raising children.
Jesus is the goal.
We want to raise children who first and foremost have a personal relationship with Christ and a life that is centered around Him.
How does that happen?
There are many helpful resources in raising a family, including many good books. But what are the necessities?
We see three in the life of one of the first-century church leaders, Timothy.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.—2 Timothy 3:14–17
What I love about Timothy is that his home situation was far from ideal. He apparently had a Christian mother but an unbelieving father. Yet God gave his godly mother (and grandmother) the wisdom to point Timothy to three necessary components of a Christ-centered life:
Timothy didn’t begin learning the Bible from the apostle Paul. He began learning from his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).
Children and teen programs at church are a help in the way they come alongside and help a Christian family. But church programs are not a replacement for godly parenting.
Raising Christ-centered children requires Christ-centered parents who teach God’s Word in the home.
God uses and blesses His written Word in our lives to point us to the living Word, Jesus Christ.
There is no greater way to influence a child than to help them to Jesus. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16)
One of the most important reasons for teaching the Bible in your home is that the Scriptures “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Bible reveals to us our sin and our inability to save ourselves. And best of all, it reveals the gospel.
As we see in Timothy’s life, even a child can be saved. Salvation is not passed down from one generation to the next. Each person must make a personal decision of faith in Christ (Romans 10:13).
So yes, have rules in your home to protect your children. And yes, make decisions for your family based on what you believe would please the Lord. But remember the power of the gospel in a heart.
You cannot raise truly Christ-centered children without them having personally received Christ.
Once we trust Christ as our Saviour, God begins the ongoing process of sanctification in our hearts as He conforms us to the image of Christ. This is a life-long process, and it begins at the moment of salvation—even for a child.
The primary tool God uses in this process is His Word. That’s why Paul told Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Once again, then, we see the importance of making God’s Word central in the Christian home. This happens as Mom and Dad make the Bible central in their own lives and as they diligently teach God’s Word to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The most practical way I know for a family to develop habits around the teaching of God’s Word is through daily family devotions and faithful attendance and involvement in the local church. (I wrote some tips on having family devotions here and compiled a resource available here.)
The Goal Is Jesus
If you are a parent, your child is a trust given to you by God to raise for Him.
Success is not measured solely, or even primarily, by your child’s achievements. It is measured by your child’s heart for God and obedience to Him.
May God give you grace to raise Christ-centered children who obey the admonition of 2 Timothy 3:14 to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”