Children are like IRAs. A lot of people have them; few people really know how to handle or invest in them; and a lot of people feel helpless and overwhelmed by them – simply letting someone else handle it and hoping everything will turn out alright in the end.
Parents, fret not. You are not alone. Just as Hillary Clinton once said, it takes a village to raise a child. It’s just at times we feel like the village idiot. But God, in His grace, has not left us to fend on our own.
Let’s focus on what the Scripture shows us are four unique roles in raising godly children.
1) THE PARENTS
Yes, there are other roles than yours in developing your children into Christlikeness, but no one can ever shoulder the load God has given you. Deuteronomy 6 instructs parents to teach God’s words diligently to their children, talking about them in all places, at all times, and giving them a place of prominence in your household.
The reason Deuteronomy 6 puts so much on the parents is that mothers and fathers are uniquely equipped in three ways: proximity, power, and prominence. This is especially true and vital in the early years. No one spends more time with, or is closer to, your children in their early stages of life than you. No one else has the authority a parent carries or the trust a child gives to Mom and Dad. Use it. There is not now and will never be anyone with the gospel opportunity you have with your child.
I’ve heard it said that food left to itself always spoils. It’s the same with children. There is a time to apply heat and a time to cool down. There is a time to protect and store, but there is also a time to expose and marinate. Either way, just like food, children are not to be left to themselves or they will spoil.
2) THE CHILD
You can fast, pray, and tear your hair out for your children, but ultimately a child is accountable to God. Biblically, children have a unique role as well. Eph. 6:1-2 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’…”
God has given your child a biblically pro-active role in proximity, power and prominence as well. There is a time for children to cleave close to their parents and there is a time for them to leave and build their own home. In regard to power, children are to be submissive to their parents. They are to hold them in a place of prominence – giving reverence and understanding – as parents seek to point them towards Christ and navigate life’s journey.
Trust is given, and trust is earned. It is your role as the parent to earn your child’s trust, and it is their role to give it. But ultimately, remember your child has a responsibility before God and a response to Christ.
3) THE CHURCH
Biblically, a church is to equip the parents and children for the work of ministry. A church is not a parent – it is a partner. Eph. 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
The church’s role is to equip you for the work of ministry. They are to be a godly resource, community, and multi-generational family in Christ. You and your children need older generations. Go to them and model Titus 2, as we each glean from the wisdom God has given in both successes and mistakes.
The church bears responsibility as a faith family, but it does not bear the responsibility of your family. Your pastor is not your child’s dad. That children’s worker is not your child’s mom. There are roles only you can fill, but know this: you are not alone in seeking to fulfill that role.
Lastly, and most importantly, parents need to be reminded of the role God plays in raising your children. While parents are to model Christ to their children, a parent can never be Christ for their children. You can’t die for your kids – only Jesus can.
Psalm 68:5 says God is, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.” Acts 4:12 reminds us, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” You can wrap your child in spiritual kindling, but only God can strike the match.
The good news is God gladly carries the weight and responsibility of being God and doing what God does. Do we always understand what God is doing or has done? Absolutely not. But by faith, we believe He is God and what He does is best – even if it hurts.
God is Father. He is in control. He knows. He is there.
God is Christ the Son. He alone can save. Jesus showed us that children have a special place in God’s heart. He knows and loves your child even more than you do.
God is the Spirit. He leads into truth, partners in prayer, and seals for salvation.
Parenting can be a scary thing. It is also an immense opportunity to lean into God and grow in faith. Remember, just because you become a parent doesn’t mean you stop being parented by God the Father. Trust Him and lean not on your own understanding. Let us glorify God together as we point the next generation towards Christ.