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“Having a child will set you back nearly a quarter of a million dollars—$245,340 is the national average—according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” says this story.

My wife and I have five children under the age of 12. So according to this report, which shows big city living in Oklahoma costing $199,298 per child (what they call one of the cheapest, by the way), we will spend $996,490 on them, from birth through age 17.

Talk about sticker shock! That being said, I offer these thoughts on the cost (and reward), of raising children today:

  1. Don’t panic. Not all of the factors in reports like these affect everyone. For example, housing and daycare costs highly drive up the numbers. What you might gain from being a two-income family, you lose in childcare costs. Moreover, some of the education, food and entertainment costs can be right-sized to any budget. It also is important not to let sticker shock create a fear of the unknown. Maybe raising our kids will cost that million dollars, maybe not. By God’s grace, it will make me rely on the Lord to provide for our daily bread along the way, not despair.
  2. Anything worth doing… The economist Milton Friedman once said, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” His point is that everything costs something. Having children is not easy (ask any mother who was pregnant and gave birth). Raising children is highly difficult in this fast-paced, distracted world. Yet the rewards are beyond compare. So anytime you might wish to be written down childless, think of those millions of infertile couples who would give almost anything to have a child of their own. Please pray for those couples and then thank God that He assigned you to this mission field of raising children, your children.
  3. Have children anyway. Too often, people unnecessarily delay life, waiting for the right time. They make perfect the enemy of good. This shows up in things like getting married or “starting a family.” God did not call us to family plan; he called us to be faithful and fruitful. If God has blessed you with marriage, chances are He is calling you to become parents (through birth or adoption). Popular financial expert Dave Ramsey, known for planning every penny, agrees with this. Christians, don’t feel like you must wait until you can afford it to get married, and don’t wait until you have $199,298 in the bank to have children. The Lord will provide, we must believe.
  4. Pay, pray and stay the course, Yes, raising kids is expensive and comes with other costs. Yet Jesus did not promise our best life now or a trouble-free walk with Him. Instead He promised peace amid the storm and hope for eternity (John 14). If you have children, you know what a “storm” raising them can feel like. Messes around the house. Temper tantrums (theirs and ours!) and endless school and sports expenses. These things and more can drive us crazy, or they can drive us to pray. Which will you choose?
  5. Don’t go it alone. Every child needs a mother and a father, and every family needs a church home. Often times, circumstances prevent the first, but what an excellent opportunity for the church to step up. If you know a family raising children, help them. Instead of them having to pay for a babysitter to get one night out in a blue moon, offer your help to babysit. God may be calling you to help in tangible ways and even unnoticed ways to these families facing such long financial odds.

In the end, the worth of children is more than any dollar figure. The Bible says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127).