If parents want their children to have strong enough faith that it will influence their life and actions in today’s society, then the childhood home needs to model and nurture a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. “The makeover, from worldly life to Christian living, in a family begins with a makeover in the hearts of the parents .” Parents who want their children to have a healthy relationship with Christ and a life lived in faith and love, must first embrace and strengthen their own intimate relationship with the Lord. The Christian lifestyle was intended to be an interactive community of faith, and the interaction was intended to begin at home!
Parents striving to weave the faith, love and moral values of the Christian faith into the hearts and lives of their young ones need to keep an open dialogue and constant communication about faith and what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Teaching the children through biblical truths how a healthy and productive Christian life is to be lived.
Parents need to remember that if they are following the biblical examples in their own walk of faith with the Lord, that teaching and talking with their children in this way is actually a commanded requirement of the Bible. Ephesians 6:4 tells us we are to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This was not intended to simply give parents a free pass to discipline their children for their wrong choices or missteps in life, but it clearly tells parents that they have been called to teach their children the Christian lifestyle and how to generate an intensely personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Some parents may consider this assignment quite a tall order to fill, however Ephesians 6:1-3 also directly commands the children to “honor their father and mother” and is instructing the children to receive openly the teaching of their parents so that they may live long, healthy, and productive lives on this earth. It is important for parents to remind their children that just as God blessed the parents with the gift of their children, God also has blessed the children with the gift of parents to teach them how to be obedient. This was intended by God to be the earliest building block to Christian living. Once a child has learned healthy obedience with regards to their parental relationship, then the child has also build a foundation for a life of obedience to God. The great commission indicates that all people are to make and mature disciples for the Lord, for parents, God has put these little people right there in the home to have them taught and raised from a young age to follow the Christian legacy.
If parents are leading their children spiritually on the path the Lord has directed, then God will take care of all of the children’s needs as well. This process is most effective when started during a child’s early years. But, even in the teenage years, parents can still make quite an impact regarding who that child will grow up to become. All people live by some set of values. For a parent to imbed the values desired for their children to live by, it requires open communication about those values and how they can impact the child’s life and identity as they grow.
When a parent is discussing faith and values with their children, in order to nurture the Christian world view, it is important to make sure those values are biblically based and serve to help the children become more like Christ. While each parent has to decide for themselves what God is calling them to instill in the children, so they can grow into healthy followers of Jesus Christ, it is important to speak to the children about these things on a level the matches up to their ability for understanding. By considering the age, maturity level and how each child learns best; the parent is giving them the ability to have each value stick in their minds and over time, change how the child may choose to live their life. By middle childhood (around ages 6-10) most children are ready for their parents to challenge them to abide everyday by these principles they are being taught and can be held somewhat accountable by the parents for these actions.
As the children grow into more mature Christians and age closer to adulthood, the parents should begin to invite them to take on the responsibility of embracing these values and accepting them as their own (Bogear, J. & J.; 2009). The children will eventually need to take personal ownership of these values and this world view to fully cement it into their hearts and have them choosing for themselves to abide by the word of God in their own lives.
As important as it is for parents to discuss the Christian lifestyle, values and relationships with their children; it is equally important for the children to grow up in a household that models for them a visual experience of what the Christian life is to look like. The most important aspect of parenting during a child’s life seems to be how parents “show” the children their feelings, values, and behaviors. In general, it seems that parents also want their children to revere people who virtuously live what they say and say what they live. Jesus Christ was sent to this earth by God the Father to show all of the children of the world a virtuous example, in the flesh, of what a Christian lifestyle was intended to be. He was the first example modeled for all Christian believers, and just as he was called by God to model the Christian values for the world, so are parents called to model the Christian life for their children.
Ephesians 5 clearly sets the standard for all Christians to live out this model as “imitators of God.” Often times it would seem that people live so much in the flesh that it becomes easy to forget that all human beings were created as spirit beings, and are called to live as such. Former president Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying “The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier, in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the little choices – by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation. It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made – the decisions that piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits and disciplines.” By parents teaching and modeling for their children the importance of every seemingly little choice made in life and how to base these choices on the biblical principles for living, a legacy of Christianity can begin to take shape in these young lives.
From these principles and values parents can begin to teach their children to live with character, as they follow the Christian world view. Although society and the nature of the flesh and temptation can create some difficulties in this area, living with character is a significant part of the Christian lifestyle. As all Christian’s are called to be the example to the world, in the great commission, parents who are raising their children to follow the ways of Jesus Christ are also raising the next generation of the Christian example for the rest of the world. This is what makes it most important for parents to teach their children to live with character; for as we all live our lives, others will inevitably be watching how we live.
In the flesh, children are naturally predisposed towards self-focused behaviors and thoughts. It’s the job of the parent who is trying to teach their children to live with character, to help them learn to look outwardly so they can build healthy relationships for Christian fellowship. The biggest component to the great commission and our Christian commandment towards relationships is that we live in love or “love our neighbor.” The book of Paul, in the Bible, says we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but that we are always to place the needs of others first. Love and acts of love can come very naturally if a person purposefully looks for ways to execute them. Teaching children to live outwardly focused lives of character, in this way, must be taught to live purposefully loving the other people of the world. Jesus’ life was not measured by his apparent human success, but by his mark on the lives of those he touched. This is the model of character first provided for the Christian world by God, and the one parent’s are called to teach their children.
Parents want to raise children who think well for themselves and that will fulfill their God given potential. This can seem like quite a challenge since children naturally trend towards selfishness from the time of birth. Finding the biblical examples to teach patients and acceptance are iconic for most Christians. Considering the amount of patients it took Moses, back in the Old Testament, to lead his people out of Egypt; not to mention the trust it took in God for provision, shows a clear example of the selfish flesh nature over come. But, perhaps the most unselfish example any Christian will ever recall from biblical teaching was the unselfish betrayal and death of Jesus Christ for the sake of humanity.
Children in today’s society need to be taught that character comes from accepting that there is not always instant gratification, that it is always about God’s glory and not their own and that generosity born from outward thinking is a key component to Christian living, since “faith without works is dead.” There are so many ways to encourage generosity in children. As they are taught to embrace those opportunities, they will begin to see past themselves and to live with character and love for others.
Parents who strive to raise healthy Christian children need to fully support their own efforts at home through prayer for and with their children and spouse and by blessing their children as biblically indicated. It helps for parents who are teaching their children to pray, that prayer is intended to be an intimate conversation with God. Parents need to begin modeling this conversation for their young children, then encouraging them to “pray along” or to be interactive in the prayer conversation, as the child develops into these steps. Parents need to remember to teach their children that prayer was intended to cover the “high’s” and the “low’s”. That is to say that prayer time should be taught on the basis that it is not just time for the child to ask of God for themselves, but also for them to praise, thank and worship him, as well as a time of concern and compassion for others.
As parents are teaching the fundamentals of prayer to their maturing Christian children they must also consider it a high priority to teach, expect and model calm, quiet listening in meditative form. It is in the still, quiet times that we hear God and can best receive his direction for our lives, at any age.
Prayer is an important tool for Christian parents to not only teach their children, but also to use in blessing their children. Biblically blessing children is a practice that has been referenced since Old Testament times and should still be actively practiced by Christian parents today. Children thirst for parental approval, they long for their mother’s and father’s to reinforce their worth. This is what blessing a child is all about, and the practice for parents is multi-fold. There are reportedly five significant “steps” to blessing a child, and one additional area of support for those five steps.
Parents bless their children by providing healthy, appropriate, loving touch to affirm their value to the family, not just to the family in the home but also to the family of God. The earlier mentioned words of encouragement and love, as parents are teaching their children the values and lessons needed for life blesses the child by showing they are accepted and forgiven for mistakes and mishaps along the way. Parents who let their children know that they are valued not only as members of their earthly family, but that they are valued and special to God find they receive the blessing of fulfillment in the holy spirit. Parents who acknowledge and encourage their children towards fulfilling the special future or the plan that God has chosen for their lives are blessing them by allowing them the freedom to follow the will of the Lord and by affirming that God has a predefined plan or purpose for each one of us. All of these previous steps come with a true commitment from the parents, one that needs to be expressed clearly to bless the child. Letting the child fully know and understand that they are loved, unconditionally, as Christ loved the church and as God loves everyone of us, plays a significant role in the confidence and self esteem established in the young person’s heart at every age. When adding to these five critical steps a parent who prays frequent blessing over their children, you see the most impact on the child receiving the blessing. As children grow, they may require different types of affirmation and it is critical for them to receive the blessing of this affirmation in a way that they can clearly understand.
Parents who are raising their children to fulfill the Christian legacy are essentially shaping the child’s views of God, other people, and themselves. This practice is essentially instilling in the young person a reality of their value to God and society, teaches them that they are worthy of being loved and able to receive it, encourages safe and healthy trust in other people but primarily in God, and affirms for them that God has promised and will continue to fulfill his promise to meet their every need. This is a teaching process that was not intended to be done alone. God provided children with two earthly parents and one heavenly father whom he intended to all work together at raising that young person into healthy Christian adulthood. Both Mother’s and Father’s have a profound influence of a child’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships and choices in life as they grow. When parents connect with their children in healthy ways, bonds of love are formed. These bonds were biblically intended to give every human being on the earth the physical experience of the love they have in God the creator. These bonds also instill the trust a child needs so that they can accept and process healthy learning from their parents. Those children who enjoy secure relationships with their parents and friends, the ones that God has provided for them in their lives, the message being received is one of God’s love and protection under any circumstance that they may face, and that is where the merging towards living in true faith and reliance on God begins.
There will always be struggles and tests of faith as a child marches down the path of their own life, even when they have been taught to follow the direction of Jesus and to live a Christian life. For those children who grow up in a home where intimate relationships with God are modeled, cultivated, discussed and affirmed the foundation for a life lived in faith is laid firmly for a lifetime. Nearly 9 out of 10 Christians receive Christ as their savior before the age of 18 and nearly half of them are being saved before the age of 13. 40% of those who declare that they have had a born again experience are still living as adults in such a way that encourages others towards faith.
The children are now and will forever be the legacy of the Christian faith. The next generation heirs to the kingdom will always be born as spiritual beings, primed and ready to soak up the biblical teachings of their Christian parents, by God’s design. What each generation of parent chooses to do with this God given opportunity to share in the legacy is ultimately their own choice, and those whom commit to raising their young people up in the words and examples of the bible have been promised grace and incorruptible love in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:24).