Raising Spiritually Healthy Children - Part 1

6:09 PM

Right off the bat, I should preface this post by saying that this post is all about raising children,  and not just that, but raising children who are spiritually healthy. In the sense of having a strong, secure, lasting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If this is something you have no interest in, click to your next blog for the day. 
If it does interest you, keep reading.

Kyle and I attend an evangelical Bible church, Fellowship Bible Church, that was formed in 1977, the year I was born.  The original group of pastors who formed it are now no longer the primary pastors, but they are still involved in various capacities - and many of them have ministries that extend well beyond our church and community, into the world at large.  One gentleman, Robert Lewis, has written tons of books on raising godly children as well as creating the Men's Fraternity curriculum that many churches around the country are teaching.  Kyle went through this a few years ago and it was such an amazing thing for him.  It gets to the crux of what it means to be a man of God. To be a MAN, period. It helps men deal with wounds from their childhood - mother wounds, father wounds, etc. Highly practical, enlightening, instructive and challenging. I can't say enough good things about it. Or about Robert Lewis. Suffice it to say, when he speaks at something, Kyle and I make sure we're there.

This past Sunday evening, he spoke on Raising Spiritually Healthy Children.  I was blown away by the wisdom and insight he shared with us. It was not only so intuitive, but also incredibly practical. Since I imagine there are other parents out there interested in raising spiritually healthy children, but who were unable to attend that session, I am sharing with you what he said. This is all from him - not from me. 

He shared 8 specific insights into raising spiritually healthy children. In order to not overwhelm you with a bunch of text (this is a pic-free post), I am breaking this post up into 2 parts. It'll still be lengthy, but if you have children, it is so worth the read. Not because it's from me, but because it's from an extremely wise, godly man who has successfully raised 4 godly children and has learned a great deal - and he's sharing it with us. I just took really copious notes to share it with you!

So, let's dive in.

#1 - Great parenting begins and ends with a visible faith at home.

A "little Christianity" is the worst kind of spiritual exposure for our children. It leads to "religion" which is the antithesis of what Christianity is - a relationship with God. A "little Christianity" will only inoculate our children against a true faith over the long term. 

Essentially, if your children are only exposed to a living faith while at church on Sundays, you are setting them up beautifully to completely walk away from the faith as they get older.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if there is a visible faith present in your home:

- Do my kids see us (my husband and I) having spiritual conversations?
-Do they see me and Kyle reading our Bible and spending time with the Lord?
-Do they see us asking for forgiveness from them (or each other) when we mess up?

Having a passion about our relationship with the Lord is vital because passion is catching. So is apathy. 

#2 - The best spiritual gift you can give your kids is a GOOD MARRIAGE.

Marriage is 75% of parenting. Truly. 

Modeling a good, solid, strong, faith-filled marriage is so critical to raising spiritually healthy children that if you are having trouble in your marriage, make fixing your marriage a priority OVER your kids.

WE takes precedence over ME.  

If it's suddenly occurring to you (as a parent) that you're having to be more unselfish than comes naturally to you, wrap your mind around the fact that parenting is one of the great shapers of our lives. It's not so much about just you anymore - there's a marriage that is of vital importance - to YOU and your spouse and to those children who now look to you for stability, security, direction and inspiration.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but a solid marriage does more for solidifying the spiritual health of our children than ANYTHING else. Food for thought.

#3 - Parent with clear ends in mind.

Proverbs 29:18 says Without a vision, the people perish.

This is never more true than in parenting. Parenting should be purposeful, not slap-dash and make-do.  The best thing we as parents can do is sit down and make a list of attributes, specific character traits, specific terms that we want our children to have/be by the time they leave our house.  

If you're floundering about where to start with those, may I suggest...
Godly priorities; love God and others before themselves; make the biggest difference for God in their lives that they can....those are good places to start.

Robert Lewis specifically recommended that we all read Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna.  He said it is incredibly helpful in this regard.

#4 - Balance DISCIPLINE with LOVE as a parent.

In parenting, there is a spectrum along with each of our styles can be plotted.
Think of an x/y axis. 

High Love 
Low Discipline                                                                                                      High Discipline
Low Love

If you have High Love and High Discipline (top right quadrant) - that is an Authoritative parenting style.

Low Discipline and High Love (top left quadrant) - Permissive Parenting.

Low Discipline and Low Love (bottom left quadrant) - Neglectful Parenting.

Low Love and High Discipline (bottom right quadrant) - Authoritarian Parenting.

So, I'm sure you're looking at that thinking about where you fall and whether it's a good place to be or not.  The BEST place to be - the best parenting style would be the Authoritative. You can't go wrong with high love balanced by clear discipline expectations.

The second best style would be Permissive Parenting, followed by Neglectful Parenting.
What you absolutely don't want is to be an Authoritarian Parent.

It is so destructive to dole out discipline consistently without balancing it with lots and lots of love. 

Robert pointed out that most fathers find it too easy to fall into the Authoritarian category which is exceedingly damaging to our children.  So, Dads, if this is a tendency of yours - seek the Lord's help in overcoming this because it will rip your kids to shreds. OR, cause them to run like heck in the opposite direction of your faith when they're old enough to make their own choices.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - which I'll post tomorrow.

God bless you on your own parenting journeys!

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