“You can’t make me be nice. You can’t make me be good. You can’t make me believe. But your example, your kindness, your patience and love will affect me perhaps enough that eventually I may choose to do those things.” -Richelle E. Goodrich

Having children offers us a small glimpse into how God must see us. How amazing that He would give us the opportunity, privilege, and ability to take His perspective in this way. I want to begin by defining this phrase: “having children.” A few months ago, I wrote a post called “Raising Arrows” which helped us define what family was and stressed that it is the responsibility of all of us, whether we are able to have biological children of our own or not, to live in such a way that we are helping the children in our spheres of influence to become the best version of themselves, their intended identity… God’s best for them. This means that we need to strive to exhibit Christlike behavior: at the grocery store, in traffic (feel the conviction?), at Disneyworld, the DMV, Target, restaurants, and at church (imagine that)! Demonstrating Christlike behavior simply means that we are intentionally acting in a way that is life-giving and loving. You and I are not entitled to quick-moving traffic, attentive waiters, short lines, intelligent check-out clerks, or a personalized church experience! You and I have been commanded to “keep our love on” (Danny Silk) at all times and to love God and His people fully (Luke 10:27).  

But here’s the real point of this post… we need to take responsibility over teaching our children and the ones in our sphere of influence (biological or not) about Jesus, and what Love looks like. 

I went to an excellent, short luncheon-conference yesterday hosted by the staff at Family Time Training ministry. This ministry is committed to helping equip and empower parents and caregivers to teach children about Christian principles and values in their homes (Cornerstone is a proud supporter of this ministry). The keynote speaker, Pastor Rob Rienow, gave a compelling and challenging sermon about the profound responsibility that we, as parents (and child influencers) have in educating our children about who Love is. He delivered his message with a tender, but powerful sense of urgency, authority, and authenticity.

He began by vulnerably sharing his own experience (as a father of seven children) failing to lead and guide his family, spiritually: “I was leading and instructing parents and children at church, teaching and discipling them in that context, but really missing the responsibility that I had to my own kids at home.” He shared a prayer that he seemed very familiar with; he must have prayed it many times: “God, turn my heart to my kids; awaken me to the soul of my children.” He shared pieces of wisdom with us such as this: “Don’t place your spiritual opportunities above your spiritual responsibilities!” Again and again, he reiterated the importance of prioritizing your kids’ spiritual life (and those entrusted to your care and modeling). Needless to say, his talk greatly impacted me.

I am going to be a father in less than 6 short months! With a baby on the way, receiving wisdom that I can use proactively (verses reactively) is such a treasure for me. What a gift. Pastor Rienow (all while highlighting and honoring Family Time Training ministry) helped all of us to dispel an important myth with this important truth: It’s not solely the church’s responsibility to disciple, teach, and instruct your children about how to love God and develop an understanding of the authentic Christian life, it’s ultimately yours… and it starts in the home.

What does Scripture have to say about this? Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says, “5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Whether you accidentally or intentionally found yourself affecting and influencing children, you have a responsibility to- in your daily life- practice living in a way that honors Christ and demonstrates love to His people. You are a model, leader, and example to the children around you. Even Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” and don’t you dare get in their way, or do anything that might prevent them from entering into my presence (Matt 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). 

Is the church responsible for leading and guiding our children into the truth about Jesus and the truth that He died for? Yes, absolutely! 

Are there parents who are hurt, broken, didn’t grow up with this type of instruction, and don’t know how to do this? Yes.  

But, you and I don’t get to be lazy in our calling to creatively, passionately, and intentionally demonstrate the Love of God and message of the Bible to them at home and in the public arena. The church cannot be singled-out and blamed when a child begins to act outside of God’s will for their life. As Pastor Rienow stated: “It is a greater priority to sacrifice our time, finances, and efforts into the development of our children’s character rather than the schools they go to, the sports their involved in, and the social events that they are a part of.”

New and “Seasoned” Parents:

Take ownership over the entitlement and selfishness in your life, repent of it, and commit to change and purity in order to better influence the next generation! Recommit yourselves to pursuing a practical, daily application of Christian principles and values in the home. If you are feeling frustrated or “stuck,” contact Family Time Training ministry for advice, direction, and tools.

Future and Soon-to-be Parents:

I am speaking from this season and perspective. We need to take ownership over the entitlement and selfishness in our lives, repent of it, and commit to change and purity in order to better influence the next generation! We need to commit ourselves to trusting God, first and foremost, and believing in the reality of His goodness and promise of His provision. We must increase our awareness of self and others, choose take a position of humility, and be willing to learn based on the victories and failures we see in the parents and caregivers around us. Don’t you understand the immense wisdom that you and I have access to right now?

Grandparents, Teachers, Caregivers, and Child-Influencers (AKA- All of Us):

Take ownership over the entitlement and selfishness in your life, repent of it, and commit to change and purity in order to better influence the next generation! Perhaps you have chosen not to have children, or perhaps you are unable to, or if you have your own- you most likely know and find yourself in environments surrounded by others. Open your eyes! Increase your awareness regarding the children God has placed in your path to demonstrate His love to. We have an immense responsibility. Children are sponges and will absorb whatever is being poured into them. Practically, we can work to surrender our “right” (entitlement) to: smoke, curse, criticize, “express our opinion” (aka complain), bully, be lazy (using the justification that we are “relaxing”), and watch TV and movies that promote violence, crude humor, sexual perversion, hatred, negativity, and fear.

Let’s commit, as people who desire to love and be loved, who are created in the image of God… to take responsibility over the influence and training of the upcoming generation. Let’s defend the work of the church at large (this is what Jesus died for, after all) in their efforts to provide direction, discipleship, and community for our children and youth. These children will be the ones to care for and lead the world we are aging and retiring into.

“Parenthood…It’s about guiding the next generation, and forgiving the last.” -Peter Krause

“Adolescence is wanting the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities.  It is the #1 issue in our churches and society today.” -Bryan Lorrits

“Fortunately, God made all varieties of people with a wide variety of interests and abilities. He has called people of every race and color who have been hurt by life in every manner imaginable. Even the scars of past abuse and injury can be the means of bringing healing to another. What wonderful opportunities to make disciples!” -Charles Swindoll