Nan and I are by no means experts in parenting! We have done many things the wrong way in parenting our three boys. However, we did some right things. The following are eight things we tried to do as parents when our boys were young and still actively do today now that they are adults. In fact, now we are practicing these 8 Tips with our grandchildren.
5. Feed your own growth.
Your personal spiritual growth must be the top priority in guiding your children. So, how do you make sure that you are developing your own spiritual growth? Let me give you five simple ways that I personally practice to grow spiritually.
Read God’s Word Daily: I teach the children that I am entrusted with in the First Kids Children’s Ministry that when they hold the Bible in their hands they are actually holding God’s mind. The Bible tells us what pleases God, what displeases God, what God likes, what God despises, what grieves God’s heart and what pleases God’s heart and how to live. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.” When you read the scriptures, you are taking in truth about what God is like and what He has done. It is a testimony to His character and work in this world. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” If you want to strengthen your faith, you must have a regular diet of reading the Bible. I highly recommend a reading plan that will allow you to read through the Bible in a year. The YouVersion app is what I personally use for my daily Bible reading. Nan and I use a reading plan that we do together that has strengthened our individual spiritual growth as well as our marriage relationship. We use the Bible Recap by Tara-Leigh Cobble and The Bible Recap YouVersion app.
Put God’s Word Into Practice: The Bible is full of instructions and commands for every area of our lives: relationships, money, sexual temptation, worry, anger and fear. Its testimony is simple – obey it and you will find life. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” When you put the words of the Bible into practice, you will see your life slowly start to change, and your faith will grow into practice. You will find doing life God’s way simply works. My spiritual mentor, Dr. Adrian Rogers, said, “Spiritual Impression without Spiritual Expression will lead to Spiritual Depression”. In other words, what we learn from God’s word is designed to be practiced not hoarded.
Surround Yourself With People Of Faith: It has been said, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.” The motivational speaker, Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It’s simple a fact of life that you and I will become like the people we surround ourselves with. King Solomon said in Proverbs 13:20, “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” This principle is either helping you or hurting you when it comes to your faith. Ask this question about your closest circle of friends, “Do they have a stronger faith than you?” If not, your faith will not grow. We must surround ourselves with people of strong faith. Their faith will rub off on us. I have personally practiced this principle over the past thirty years! Over the course of these years I have asked a select group of men to share their wisdom, truth and principles from their walk with God with me. The guidance from these men has strengthened my personal spiritual growth.
Read Great Books: Apart from the Bible, great books have been the primary source of guiding my spiritual journey. Authors like E.M. Bounds, C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, Robert J. Morgan, Charles Spurgeon and many more have helped shape my spiritual growth. These authors are among my favorites because they made sense to me and challenged me. What I have learned from these authors shaped my love for God, helped me trust God, helped me find peace and joy in difficult times, guided me in learning how to pray and study God’s word. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:13, “When you come, bring my cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” This shows that in addition to the scriptures, Paul valued the writings of other mentors in the faith.
Trust God In The Pain: Rick Warren is one of the Pastors that I listen to on a regular bases. In one of Pastors Warren’s sermons he made this statement, “God never wastes a pain.” I believe that God uses pain in our lives to stretch and grow our faith. He also made this statement about faith, “Faith is like a muscle, it has to me stretched and exercised to become strong.” God allows us to go through the fires of life so that we can learn to trust Him more. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Paul doesn’t reveal what the difficulty was but just they had lost all hope of survival. Then Paul goes on to say that God brought this difficulty on to bring them to a point totally trusting him and not trusting in themselves. The one thing that Nan and I did right was that we included our children in our pain. During our family prayer time we were honest with our children about the family finances, joblessness, health issues and etc. It was amazing to hear our children pray about these family and personal pains and difficulties.
Questions to ponder or bother you: How often do you read God’s Word? Do you deliberately try to follow what God’s word says? Do your closest friends have a strong faith? What books are you reading or ones you need to start reading to assist you in growing you spiritually? What pain, are you going through right now that you need to trust God with?
6. Teach by your example – Model gospel transformation to your children.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” God forgave us while we were still sinners. He shows grace to imperfect people and continues to involve them in His plan.
As parents we need to model forgiveness and grace to our children regardless of personal cost. Human nature prevents us from easily giving grace and forgiveness, yet we learn from God’s Word that we need to give both or we can’t expect to be forgiven.
I have to be honest; I disciplined my children many times to harshly and in anger. God would convict me of my harsh discipline and I would have to go back to that child and ask for forgiveness for my actions. God turned my admission of my wrong doing into teachable moments of illustrating His perfect love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.
7. Connect your family deeply into your church.
Joshua 24:15 says, “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua called the children of Israel together to give them one last charge before his death. He tells the people to make up their minds on whom they will serve, the pagan gods or the God of Israel. Then Joshua makes a bold public statement before the Israelites, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord”.
My father took this Joshua 24:15 passage to heart! It was never a question on Sunday mornings if we were going to church. We knew no matter the weather, how we felt, it was a long holiday weekend or if he was tired, we were going to church. It was never a question.
The decision my father made in his home I have carried over to home. You may say, “That is easy for you Pastor Maury because you get paid to go to church!” Yes, I do because it is my occupation. However, Nan and I have included our children in our ministry. We included them in church camps, passing out gospel tracks, going on mission trips even as children.
What we wanted to model to them is that the church was a part of our family life not something we did in addition to like sports, hunting and fishing or school activities and etc.
8. Pray with them and for them.
Nan and I established two things that were a priority in our home. The first was family dinner. We made eating together as a family every night a time to connect and fellowship with our children. The second was family prayer time. We made praying together as a family every night as a time to share both our family needs and personal needs. These two priorities became the focal point of our day.
Here are 10 Easy Steps to Praying with Your Child: Pick a Time: Set aside a specific time every night and try to be consistent. For our family it was at bed time. As our boys got older we made the necessary adjustments to our Family Prayer time. It eventually became every Sunday night. Pick a Place: Create a quiet comfortable, peaceful atmosphere in which to pray. When our boys were preschool age we prayed with them in their beds individually. As they moved into grade school we piled onto our king size bed. Plan the prayer: Nan and I would ask each child what he wanted to pray about. As they grew older these prayers became more specific and focused. We let them pray for that request. Then we would share family needs such as; a car needed repairs and for God to provide the means to repair the car. It was amazing to hear the faith in the prayers of children for our family needs! Create an Opening: We always started our prayer time with Nan praying first so they could hear the example of how to pray, then we went in family order of our children and I would close the prayer time. Give Your Child the Reins: Nan and I never said things like, “No, you can’t pray for your friend because they lost their cat”. To them they saw that their friend was hurting because they lost their cat. We established that nothing was too silly or absurd to pray about. Be Patient: If your child gets stuck or frustrated, tell them that God doesn’t have a specific plan people need to follow when they prayer. Guide them but don’t push them. Only step in when they ask for help. Silent moments during the prayer should not be considered obstacles but moments of quiet reflection. Thank God for Those You Love: It can be for family, friends, pets – anyone within your child’s circle of love. Create a Closing: By hearing you pray they will learn when you say “Amen” you are done. This is very useful for your child to know especially when they are struggling to pray they can just say, “Amen”. Document Your Prayer Life: Nan and I used our refrigerator, as our prayer needs board. It was the most opened door in our home! Every time our boys opened the refrigerator they saw a picture of a prayer need or in written form. This reminded them to pray right then or at our Family Time for the need. One last thought in praying with your child: It is not about the length of the prayers, or whether or not if it is profound or grammatically correct; it is about sharing your child’s heart with God.
Nan and I hope that these 8 Tips for Parents in Raising Children have been helpful for you and your family. We are always open to listening to your questions that you might have in parenting, marriage or life in general.
Grace and Peace,
Maury & Nan