Posts

Earned Wisdom in Parenting

I have seen a lot of parenting styles in the almost 40 years I have been in children’s ministry or teaching public school. I have seen parenting victories and fails and have experienced both myself as a parent of three grown children. All of these observations have led me to think about things parents need to know, but maybe haven’t been told.

There are things you should do, things you should avoid, and most importantly, things you should become.

I Hope You:  

  • Laugh. Enjoy the little quirky moments with your children. Sometimes things your children do are just funny! Relax and laugh.
  • Pray Continuously. Praying quietly comes naturally to a parent. But remember your child needs to hear their name prayed out loud. So pray for them in front of them, also. Pray that your children love God more every day. Pray for every stage they wander through. Pray for their health. Pray that they will learn and grow even in their mistakes. And don’t forget to pray for their spouses even when they are little. Pray for protection for that spouse as they grow as well.
  • Depend on God. Remember that God is the protector of your children. He gave them to you to raise, but they are his. Depend on the loving Father that he is and relax some of your control issues.
  • Value Experience over Schedules. Give your children different experiences, memories, and time with different people. Experiences almost always should trump schedules!
  • Raise the Bar. As your child grows, raise your expectations. Challenge your child instead of enabling them.
  • Teach Obedience. Train your child to stop, listen, and obey when they hear your voice. When they are running toward the street, you do not have time to count to three or reason with them.
  • Teach Service. Teach your children to serve others at an early age and encourage them to keep doing it all their life.
  • Teach Generosity. Help your children give generously to the church and others early in his/her life. Be a generous family and let your children be part of that generosity.
  • Have Family Meetings. Family Meetings are great for making decisions on rules and consequences, discussing family finances, planning ways to be generous and serve others, celebrating victories, and supporting each other in hard times.
  • Write letters. Write to your children at milestones in their lives and save these letters to give to them as an adult. It will mean a lot for them to see how you prayed for them, or what characteristics you saw in them at an early age.

 

I Hope You Avoid:

  • Delayed Obedience. Don’t teach your child to procrastinate by counting instead of expecting immediate acknowledgement and obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
  • Reasoning with a Toddler. It just doesn’t work! Use less words and physically show them expected behavior.
  • Children as Idols. Our sinful nature makes us idol makers. Don’t allow your child to become your idol. Remember, idols are made when we turn something good into the ultimate.
  • Creating Idols. Children are also sinful and will struggle with making idols for themselves. Don’t create idols for them by taking something good (like sports, education, talents, recreation, etc.) and making it into the ultimate thing of their life, by letting it take all of your family’s time and treasures.
  • Stubborn Pride. You will make many mistakes as you parent your kids. Learn to apologize quickly.
  • Words Instead of Tools. Give your children tools to use instead of words of excuse like “bored” or “fair.” Teach your child to create, dream, or read, and help them to understand the reality of an unfair world. Give them tools to survive and thrive.
  • Staying on the Sidelines. Get in the game! Parenting is an active sport and you can’t just sit on the couch and yell.

 

I Hope You Remember to Be:

  • Surprised. Sometimes we have too high of expectations and feel discouraged as new parents. Be surprised and then thankful for gifts like a good night’s rest, or even a nap. Your life will never be the same after kids. Embrace it, and then be thankful and surprised when you get a good gift.
  • A Good Model. Model how to be a Christ follower, a good citizen, a loving friend, and a generous person.
  • A Team. Make a plan together with your spouse to disciple and discipline your children, and always stay united with your spouse in how to raise them. Never show any disunity in front of the kids.
  • A Storyteller. Tell your child your story of coming to faith and let them watch the story of your faith play out every day.
  • A Worshiper. Give your child experiences worshiping with you corporately. Embrace the moments they can worship with you; don’t be afraid of them.
  • In Community. We all need community — people to walk with us as we parent. Mark and I were blessed with friends along the way and a special couple that walked with us because their journey looked a lot like ours. We learned together and survived together. We picked each other up and encouraged each other along the way. We grew as parents and followers of Christ together.

 

So, now I’ve said it — I’ve told you things you may not have ever been told. Hopefully though, I just reinforced things you already knew, and encouraged you. Parenting is a mighty adventure. The trip can seem long at times, but when you look back it only seems to take a moment. So, seize all those moments and enjoy the gifts that your children truly are.


 

(Mom) Guilt and the Gospel

It started a few weeks after my oldest son was born.

I had dreamed of being a mom. Read all the books. Attended the classes. Developed and implemented a plan experts guaranteed would have my child sleeping on a schedule and through the night by six weeks old.

Except it didn’t work.

I was a wreck. I wasn’t even three months into this mom gig, and already I had failed my child in some significant way. I was experiencing my first bout of mom guilt.

I have a feeling most moms can share their own stories of times they felt they were not up to the task of motherhood, that somehow, they too failed their children. It’s almost universal. Studies say more than 90 percent of mothers experience this unique kind of distress, and 75 percent of parents as a whole feel pressure to be “perfect” for their children. Did you read that? Perfect. No wonder we feel guilty. Perfect is a pretty high standard.

For moms who are followers of Christ, what are we to do with mom guilt?  Actually, let’s first ask the question: what are Christians to do with guilt period?

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas world grief produces death.” Said another way, our grief before salvation leads us to repent and accept Jesus’ gift of grace on our behalf. Once we’ve become followers of Jesus, Christians shouldn’t feel guilt. Conviction of the Spirit for sin? Yes! But guilt? No. The penalty for our sin has been paid by Jesus.

Bryan Chapell expands on this truth in his book, Holiness by Grace:

Remorse prior to approaching the cross is of God, but after true repentance beneath the cross such self-reproach is of Satan. Our Adversary wants us to believe that Christ’s blood is not sufficient to cleanse confessed sin. We become susceptible to his lie when we begin to doubt the power of the cross full to cancel our guilt, for then we will begin to live (and fall) in the strength of our own efforts.

If you listened to the Clear Creek Resources podcast episode Rachel Chester, Mandy Turner, and I did on mom guilt, we made the distinction between good and bad guilt. Good guilt is better called conviction. It’s one of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the Christian. It is a mark of true belief (see John 16:8). As followers of Jesus we should be broken over sin. As believing moms we should repent when we sin against our children. Certainly this happens: angry words, rash discipline, selfish motives. These are clearly times we should ask for forgiveness from the Lord and our children.

However, far too often we experience anguish and shame when no sin was involved. This is because somewhere along the way we exchanged the idea of what we might do to be a good mom with what we must do to be a good mom. I experienced mom guilt when I didn’t plan the perfect birthday party, or couldn’t have lunch at school with my boys because of work, or a thousand other things that made me feel like a bad mom. But, I had turned mommy possibilities into mommy imperatives. This is bad guilt.

Sometimes mom guilt has nothing to do with our actions. We may feel guilty because our child made a poor choice and is experiencing a natural consequence like the loss of a friendship. That is enough to send some into the mom guilt spiral of self-doubt, heartache, and despair. And you should know, this also is bad guilt.

Mom guilt is bad guilt.

We need a gospel pathway to walk in order to deal with it.

In my opening story about how I couldn’t get my son to sleep, my friend Amanda heard about my despair. She called and gave me words of grace. Gratefully, over the years, many other women have shepherded my heart similarly in other times of mom guilt. I want to leave you with four steps that have helped me get back on track, and I hope, might help you as well:

1. Remove the standard of perfection.
Get rid of the burden you’ve placed on yourself from wherever it may have arisen (e.g., family of origin, social media, friends). Realize there is one who has been perfect for you (2 Cor. 5:21). Like Paul, we certainly all have weaknesses. And if the apostle, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, can claim that because of his weaknesses he can rest in Jesus, certainly we should as well (2 Cor. 12: 9-10).

2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
I think my mom guilt has often surfaced when my focus has been too much on me. Jesus frees me from needing to constantly evaluate myself against my “perfect mom” standard. Instead of my feeling being anchored to my accomplishments which fluctuate daily (sometimes I’m happy at the day’s end, and other times I’m discouraged), my affections are bound up in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). His love for me is steadfast (Rom. 8:38-39) because of what he accomplished for me 2,000 years ago.

3. Call out to God.
Let’s be real. Being a mom is hard. Really hard. Go to Jesus in prayer when you feel the waves of self-doubt and despair begin to wash over you (Heb. 4:16). Don’t skip this! Prayer is one of the most effective ways to combat mom guilt.

4. Be involved in community.
Every mom needs two (or, maybe ten?) Amandas in her life. You need women who can speak gospel truths to your heart. You need friends who will not tell you what you want to hear but need to hear. This is authentic community. It is where can know and be known. It is where you can be vulnerable and find encouragement that you are not alone in your dealings with mom guilt…or any other endeavor (Heb. 10:24-25).


 

The Parent as Primary Disciplemaker


At every park and backyard in America, parents mill around jungle gyms, monkey bars, and swing sets in order to keep an eye on their kids at the playground. But, invariably, accidents happen and kids get hurt. Maybe one skins his knee on the ground, bumps heads with another child, or has some other misadventure. What is the first thing he does? Instinctively he looks to a parent to see what reaction the mishap provokes. And, inevitably, there is the parent who looks horrified and shouts in a shrill voice, “Oh my goodness, sweetie, what have you done?” To which the child, now assuming he has five minutes left to live, begins screaming at the top of his lungs.

But, there are also the parents who, when given the same scenario at the playground, immediately, confidently, and calmly say to their children, “You are okay. Shake it off and keep playing.” What happens next? My sense is you already know the answer. You likely witnessed it time and again at the playground yourself. Most kids, as a result of a parent’s confident and assuring counsel, move beyond the irritation and discomfort of a minor injury and continue their fun day at the playground without shedding a tear.

THE POWER OF A PARENT
Ponder that scenario for a moment. How great an influence must a parent possess that a child will emotionally interpret what has happened to him or her merely by gazing at a parent’s response? Parents are their children’s biggest influences. Often our work ethic, emotional patterns, or even the way we talk are just a sampling of the innumerable attitudes and actions we display in adulthood that echo our parents’ example we witnessed in our childhood.

The reason this influence is so pronounced is not only because of the emotional attachment between kids and their parents, but also the sheer amount of time children spend with their families. The late seminary professor, Howard Hendricks, says that children in Christian families spend about one percent of time at church, 16 percent at school, and 83 percent at home. Even assuming these percentages shift as children move into adolescence, the message is clear: parents are the most influential human beings in the lives of their kids.

A parent’s influence not only helps kids with bumps and bruises, but, more importantly, in leading their spiritual development. Indeed, the home is the discipleship strategy God ordained, and why, from the very beginning, fathers and mothers are central to the spiritual formation of their children. Contrary to what some may assume, when it comes to role and responsibility of imparting the gospel to our children’s hearts, minds, and lives, Scripture focuses the spotlight, not on the church and its programs, but squarely upon parents and the home.

DISCIPLESHIP AND DEUTERONOMY 6
One of the foundational passages for this truth is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7,

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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.

Did you see the strategy? According to this passage, Hebrew fathers and mothers are indisputably their children’s primary disciple makers. They are to teach [these truths about God] diligently to [their] children, and shall talk of them when [they] sit in your house, and when [they] walk by the way, and when [they] lie down, and when [they] rise.

THE NEW TESTAMENT STRATEGY FOR DISCIPLING KIDS
This home-centered strategy for discipleship continues in the New Covenant with the church. God’s plan for children’s spiritual formation continues in (not deviates from) the original discipleship path established in the Old Covenant. For example, Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” When looking at the entire span of biblical revelation, the apostle Paul affirms the continuity of the parent as primary disciple maker in the days where the church has now become the people of God (cf., Heb. 12:9, 2 Tim. 1:5).

It is also worth noting that believers during both covenants had either priests, prophets, pastors, or someone whose primary designation within the community of faith involved spiritual guidance and teaching the Scripture. Yet, it is striking to see that even with these necessary, and God-ordained, individuals helping shape the spiritual formation of the people, the burden for a child’s discipleship remained primarily upon the parents. This only serves to highlight the truth that God’s plan has always been, and will always be, parents acting as the primary disciplers of their children.

This foundational biblical truth should also resonate with our experience, not only as parents, but as those who have been parented. Our personal patterns and habits that echo our parents’ influence on us merely confirm why there is no one better to impart to a child a love for Jesus. It is also why the parent as primary disciple maker is one conviction we must firmly hold. Unfortunately, many parents often leave the responsibility for their children’s spiritual growth with the church staff who lead children’s ministries on any given Sunday.

At first blush this church-only strategy seems natural because, like a teacher for educational development or a coach for athletic development, specialists often play a central role in the growth of our children. Therefore, it would seem the obvious strategy for our child’s spiritual growth would fall in bulk upon the pastor’s shoulders and the ministries of the local church. But we have clearly seen in Scripture that both Old and New Testaments testify this is not the case. The parent operates as their child’s first pastor, minister, and teacher. This does not mean our children should refrain from involving themselves with age-graded ministries of a local church. Far from it! However, it does mean those ministries are not a replacement for the parents’ critical position as primary disciple maker.

If this was the type of legacy you personally received as a child, make a break as a parent. If this is the legacy you are presently giving your kids, repent and give them something worth passing down. Remind yourself that, for better or worse, you are your kids’ primary children’s minister and their foremost student pastor. If that feels overwhelming, then welcome to the club. I have been in ministry for three decades, hold a couple seminary degrees, teach the Bible on a regular basis, and still feel overwhelmed as I look into the eyes of my three sons and wonder what their future holds. But being overwhelmed does not mean parents get a free pass from the Bible’s calling on us to disciple our children. Be encouraged! If God calls you to this role, it means you really can do it.

So, give it a try.

Let the church come along side you. And watch what God can do in you and your kids for his glory and your good!


Podcasts

061: Mission-Minded Family

As disciples of Jesus, we are all missionaries, sent to proclaim salvation in Jesus! However, talking to others about faith can be intimidating for many adults. So, what should our expectations be for our kids? What about children who do not believe? How can we center our family and our purpose in God’s love for us? On this episode, Rachel sits down with Lance Lawson and Jason Norcross to discuss these questions and more.

Resources:

Children’s Ministry Curriculum & Resources

Clear Creek Children YouTube Channel

Who’s in the Bible: A Podcast for Kids

“Few American Teens Share the Gospel. Here’s How to Help Them” by Joe Carter

 

23: Judges

In this episode, Aric convinces Lance to take another trip in the Back in Time Bus to visit some of the Judges of ancient Israel, and at least one of them immediately regrets that decision.

 

22: Joshua

Next up in the story of Israel, a new leader, a secretive spy mission, and a big choice about the future. Check out this episode of Who’s in the Bible!

21: Aaron

God gave Moses instructions to build a beautiful tent and to have the Levites to serve as priests. Find out what special role Moses’ brother Aaron had in this episode.

20: The Israelites

God had a special relationship with the Israelites in the Old Testament because they were his chosen people. On this episode, Aric and Lance continue reading the Israelite’s story in Exodus and talk about who God’s special people are today.

 

19: The Passover Lamb

What’s the big deal about lambs in the Bible, and what do they have to do with Jesus?

Tune in to this episode to find out!

18: Pharaoh

On this episode, Moses confronts Pharaoh about letting God’s people go free from Egypt. But Pharaoh is stubborn, and takes some convincing…

 

17: Moses

Who’s in the Bible is back for season 2! Aric and Lance jump into Exodus to learn about Moses and the fate of the Israelite people in Egypt.

 

047: Empty Nest – Preparing Your Kids and Marriage for the Next Stage

You might be looking forward to it or be saddened by it, but one day it’ll be here. Those precious kids will move out and move on to adulthood. Being an empty-nester brings new found freedom but the transition into the next stage can be difficult. On this episode, Mark and Lisa Carden share what they learned about marriage and parenting when their kids were in the house and how they prepared for the launching of their kids into the real world.

RESOURCES:

God’s Design for Sex series by Stan Jones, Brenna Jones, Carolyn Nystrom

Parenting by Paul Tripp

What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

043: Dad Life – Leading and Loving Your Kids

In light of Father’s Day, Ryan Lehtinen talks with Aaron Lutz and Aric Harding about the fun times and awkward conversations that come with being a dad. They discuss how they lead their family when it comes to technology, discipline, and the priority of their marriage and relationship with Jesus.

They also tell some classic dad jokes.

RESOURCES:

The Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley

Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes

Tender Warrior by Stu Weber