Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Parenting in the Bible
We can learn a lot we can learn from the Bible about parenting. In ancient days, walls were built around a city to protect the city from outside invasion by keeping things on the outside from getting in. But while the walls kept things on the outside from getting in, the gates also let things on the inside go out.
That is the goal of parenting – to learn how to build the walls and use the gates. The walls are for protecting our kids and the gates are for preparing our kids. Parents need a plan to gradually introduce freedom and responsibility to their children, to gradually open the gates and let them out into the world. The secret to raising godly children is knowing the balance between protecting them and preparing them.
The structure of the home begins with recognizing parents are the authority. Your right as a parent to be in charge is derived from God’s authority. He has delegated His authority to you to act on His behalf. Human nature doesn’t like authority and some of us aren’t comfortable being the authority.
There are three types of parenting:
- Absentee parenting occurs when either parent is gone physically from the home or they are there physically but disengaged and uninvolved emotionally and spiritually.
- Engaged parents are involved and engaged in their children’s lives, but they lack a strategic plan for training them to become godly adults. They have no strategic plan to fulfill verse 4, to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The truth is children who grow up to be godly don’t get there accidentally.
- Strategic parents are involved and engaged in their children’s lives and have a strategic plan to equip them to be strong, godly people.
It’s important to remember there are two worldviews at war for the hearts and souls of our children—the secular worldview and the Christian worldview—that will shape children into the adults they become.
Your worldview shapes your vision, values, attitudes, and actions, and defines your decisions.
A Biblical worldview says God is my authority and the Bible is absolute truth. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong.
The secular worldview says just the opposite – there is no absolute right or wrong, no absolute truth, and no moral authority. This worldview believes the Bible might be a book of good ideas, but it’s certainly not absolute truth.
The secular worldview says, “I can do what I want to do and live by my own set of rules.” This is what the average youth in America has been taught. Your children will embrace this worldview if you don’t have a strategic plan to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Raising Godly Children
The secret to raising godly children is knowing the balance between protecting them and preparing them. There is an age of protection from birth to around 10 years of age and an age of preparation from around 10 years of age to age 18. The plan is to gradually move our children from high parental control to high personal control on behalf of the young person.
Early on you should have a great deal of control over where your children go and what they do. You are putting fences in their lives at the most impressionable and moldable age and protecting them from sinful influences.
While the Bible is full of parenting principles, there is no book, chapter, or verse that says, “Do this when they’re two, when they’re ten, etc.” There are no guarantees they’ll turn out to be strong, godly people.
The early years
What lessons and character do children need to learn during this critical time of protection of their early years?
Introduce them to the concept of sin and their need for forgiveness through the blood sacrifice of Jesus.
The first spiritual lesson our kids learn should be the basic concept of Christianity - we are separated from God and heaven because of our sin and that is why Christ came to redeem men from the penalty of sin. Christ died for our sins, He was buried, but three days later He rose from the dead and He’s alive forevermore.
Teach them the necessity of obedience and submission to authority.
Everyone must learn to function in submission to whatever authority is in their life at school, work, home, etc. Children ultimately learn to obey God by first learning to obey their parents.
Empty them of selfishness and self-centeredness.
Human beings naturally come into the world self-absorbed and self-centered. We live in a society that is increasingly self-absorbed because it’s full of grown-ups who learned as a child it was all about their self-esteem. We’ve all heard a great deal about how important it is for parents to build their child’s self-esteem and how a high self-esteem is essential if our children are going to grow up to succeed, but I challenge you to find that concept anywhere in the Bible.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind [humility] let each esteem others better than himself.”
Social scientists have concluded that those with high self-esteem have lower self-control and those with the highest opinion of themselves have the lowest respect for others. High self-esteem results in lower, not higher self-achievement. We should teach our kids to be self-confident while esteeming others better than themselves. Children need to learn they are part of the world but not the center of the world.
Shape in them a biblical worldview and biblical values.
Teach them Christianity and belief in the Bible is not a “blind faith” but based on hard evidence. Teach your children how to defend their faith, or their faith may one day be taken away.
The later years
What are some things you want to accomplish in your child’s teen years before they leave home?
Give them a compelling vision for biblical masculinity/femininity.
This is the time you want them to capture key character qualities that will define them such as honesty, integrity, tenacity, strength, and humility. The age of 13 is a very pivotal time in their lives. They aren’t children anymore; they are emerging into adults and it’s time to teach them what that looks like and set the bar higher in terms of taking on personal responsibility.
Give them a sense of identity.
We can help them by teaching them to have a strong work ethic, be a worshiper by bringing glory to God in all that they do, find their calling in life (not just a career), and love the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificially so they will one day be prepared to love their spouse with a sacrificial love.
Prepare them for life practically
Teach them how to handle themselves around the opposite sex, how to handle their finances, when to file their taxes, and other important social skills.
Give them your blessing.
They need to know you think they’ve got what it takes. Your kids long to know you believe in them and you’re proud of them!
Pastor Phil Hopper has been the Lead Pastor at Abundant Life for 19 years. Previously he served on the Kansas City Police force and on the Kansas City SWAT team. He desires to make God known—to truly be "living proof of a loving God to a watching world."