As Christians, one of our greatest concerns is family. Over the last century, the order and stability of the home has been drastically altered. The challenges most of us encountered as children have changed in nature and increased in intensity. How are we to counteract all that society throws at our children to lure them away from the family and the church? What should we do in order to pass our faith on to the next generation?
The good news is that with all of the competing influences our children deal with, parents have the most powerful, governing effect in their lives. When they become adults and move out on their own, they carry with them the imprint of how they were trained, what they were taught, and what they observed in the home. It’s like a recording that begins in their minds as babies and keeps running throughout childhood and adolescence. This is both encouraging and sobering.
Children are impacted more by what we communicate to them with our attitudes and actions than they are by our words. They notice if who we are contradicts who we profess to be. And this discrepancy between our words and actions sets up a confusing and conflicting thought pattern that can determine whether they will follow in our steps or reject what we’ve tried to pass on to them.
When the apostle Paul wrote to encourage Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, he said, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings” (2 Tim. 3:10-11). The key word in this passage is followed. Timothy followed in Paul’s footsteps because he saw authenticity in his life. He listened to his teaching, but more importantly, Timothy witnessed Paul’s Christlike attitudes, his godly response to suffering, and his unfailing commitment to the Lord.
To leave this kind of example for our children, we must become people of consistency. The Christian life is not something we put on in public and take off at home. God intends that we grow continually in spiritual maturity and integrity (1 Pet. 2:1-2). If we want our children to love and obey the Lord, we should be filling our own minds and hearts with the Scriptures. As our kids see our love for God demonstrated by our obedience to His commands, they are more likely to adopt the same attitude and practice.
If we want our children to love and obey the Lord, we should be filling our own minds and hearts with the Scriptures.
However, if we profess to believe God’s Word but ignore His instructions regarding the home, our children will be confused. Ephesians 5:22-23 says, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.” Our culture today regards this as an antiquated model of male superiority and female oppression. However, the Lord has a divinely appointed order for all His creation. The same all-knowing, all-powerful God who established the movements of heavenly bodies and the progression of seasons and weather patterns on earth also ordained the blueprint for the home.
As the head of the home, husbands have been entrusted with the role of provider, protector, decision maker, and humble servant to their families. Any man who recognizes the weight of this responsibility knows he needs the help of his wife. Her role of submission is not that of a doormat but of a cherished helper and partner. Although their roles in the family differ, husbands and wives are equal in worth and value. In His wisdom, the Lord knows that this is the best arrangement for the family. When children grow up in a home where this pattern is honored and practiced, they develop a sense of security and confidence in the wisdom of God’s design for every area of life.
If we want our children to follow us as Timothy followed Paul, we must also be honest and transparent. When we make mistakes, we ought to humbly admit that we were wrong, and if necessary, apologize to our children. Sometimes we may fear that they will see this as a sign of weakness, but in reality, their respect for us increases when we are honest about our failures. Furthermore, they’ll learn the value of a humble and contrite spirit, which is so important to the Lord (Isa. 66:2).
Transparency also includes giving our children the freedom to express their thoughts and feelings when they see any inconsistency in us. When my daughter Becky was young, she asked to speak to me one Sunday before church. After venting to me for about 10 minutes, she turned and walked away. Three weeks later she told me that because I gave her the freedom to speak her mind without defending myself, she loved me more than before. God used this incident in both our lives—He revealed something I needed to hear, and He increased my daughter’s trust in her dad.
Children need the stability that comes from a home founded on biblical truth that is exemplified in word, attitude, and deed. Although we will never be perfect parents, we have a perfect heavenly Father who teaches, guides, and trains us along the way.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. While our mission at In Touch is to lead people worldwide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to strengthen the local church, we must never forget that our mission field begins in our own homes. I invite you to visit intouch.org, where we have resources to encourage and equip you for the task. May God bless you as you draw closer to the Lord and invite your children and loved ones to do the same.