Parenting is a very difficult responsibility. But more importantly, parenting is a very difficult stewardship. To steward something is to recognize that that which we have has been given to us by someone else. As Christian parents we recognize that the children we have have been given to us and entrusted to us by God. He has given us the tremendous and joyful task of developing their hearts and their minds. Just as shepherds lead their sheep to green pastures, so do Christian parents lead their children towards that which is most satisfying to their soul, God. It is the responsibility of parents to shape a child’s worldview to be in alignment with the Biblical worldview.
Tedd Tripp, in his book Shepherding a Child Heart (the #1 book I would recommend on Christian parenting) says it so clearly:
If authority best describes the parent’s relationship to the child, the best description of the activity of the parent to the child is shepherding. The parent is the child’s guide. This shepherding process helps a child understand himself and the world in which he lives. The parent shepherd’s a child to assess himself and his responses. He shepherds the child to understand not just the “what” of the child’s actions, but also the “why.” As the shepherd, you want to help your child understand himself as a creature made by and for God. You cannot show him these things merely by instruction; you must lead him on a path of discovery. you must shepherd his thoughts, helping him to learn discernment and wisdom.Ted Tripp. Shepherding a Child’s Heart.
What does this mean? In general it means that Christian parenting is not neutral. Because we love and serve Jesus and recognize the reality of His Kingship over everything, we honestly desire to help our children develop that same worldview. We want to teach them how to love Scripture and walk with God. Of course the first way we do that is by loving Scripture and walking with God ourselves, allowing them to get a life-on-life first hand account of a Mom and a Dad that are driven by God’s Word. We want to teach them how to think about their decisions as a person rooted in God’s Word and led by the Spirit. We want to shape their minds to be able to engage with the world around them not as neutral bystanders but as equipped with all the spiritual armor God has given to His followers. While no person can guarantee that their child will grow to know and love God, we can do everything possible as parents to give them that opportunity.
I recognize that I am a young parent, my oldest is six years old and my twins are four, and so the advice I have to offer while Biblically can shape parents of every age, practically is limited to what I’ve personally experienced. But there are a few very practical disciplines that I believe Christian parents can implement today that can drastically change their home for the better
My wife and I began daily morning devotions with our children last year. While the two of us have always woken up early to spend time with God in the Word and in prayer, we recognized that it was time to bring our children into that rhythm. What this looks like for our family is that on school days after the children have eaten their breakfast and gotten dressed and prepared for school, we all gather on the Family Room couch. Each morning someone chooses a worship song which we play and sing together. Then we read one chapter from the children’s storybook bible. Then each person chooses one thing to pray for, and either Sara or I pray each of the prayer requests as well as for protection and guidance for the day. This time together usually lasts between 10-15 minutes. If you have never implemented anything like this before, can I encourage you that it is not too late to start. Mornings are hectic, I know that, mine are too. Toast gets burned, socks get lost, cereal gets spilled, and children like to argue. But we must make a choice whether we are going to allow burnt toast to rule our day, or God’s Word. Let’s teach our kids to give God our first-fruits of the day, our early mornings, and pray they never lose the habit.
A second discipline for the family is incorporating a Catechism. A catechism is an ancient way of teaching both children and adults the truths about God that are found in scripture. Most catechisms come in the form of short questions and answers that are intended to be memorized. Recently we have begun incorporating the New City Catechism into our daily rhythms. It comes in an App form for your phone and each question (when in Children’s Mode) has an accompanying song that helps your child learn and memorize both the question and the answer. As an example, the very first question in this catechism is ‘What is our only hope in life and death?’ The answer is, ‘That we are no our own but belong to God.‘ Each morning as we drive to school we play the songs and I gently quiz my children and help them learn the parts they don’t have memorized yet. It’s not a race. But at the same time it is also a discipline. Not only do my kids look forward to the Catechism in the car, but they are also memorizing incredible truths about God from scripture. And so am I 😉
Each family must determine what rhythms and rituals will work for them. But I want to encourage you as Christian parents, to be bold. Ask the Lord what He is asking you to do. There is no such thing as neutral. If you do not shepherd your child’s heart, the culture around you will.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV)