Two days ago I spoke of three bad strategies I see parents take in shepherding their children. Today, I’d like to talk about three simple, but powerful, ways I have seen parents work to shepherd their children. As with most of life’s best practices, these are not necessarily profound or novel, but are basic and fundamental. In shepherding our children toward a living faith in Jesus Christ, parents must…
Work to Know Them. Parents will be hard pressed to know how to lead, protect, and provide for their children if they don’t know their children. Shepherding takes intimate knowledge of those you seek to shepherd. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (John 10:14). Jesus does not shepherd his people in the same way because He knows His sheep are all different. They have different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, fears, interests, histories, etc. As the Good Shepherd, Christ knows all His sheep and shepherds them accordingly. In the same way, parents need to work to know their children.
So I encourage you to ask yourself questions like these. What are my kids’ hobbies? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Their dreams, fears, questions, confusions, and anxieties? Who are your children’s closest friends or favorite teachers? Parents who are intentional about knowing their children seek to know the answers to these types of questions so they can shepherd their children in the ways their children need them to. Work to study your children that you may become an expert in your knowledge of them and be able to shepherd them wisely.
Work to Teach Them. God has designed parents to be the primary teachers of their kids. In matters of faith and practice, the kids are to get the majority of their learning from mom and dad. Deuteronomy lays this out with clarity.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
According to the Bible, parents are the primary teachers of God’s Word to their children. Parents are the teaching elders of the home. In God’s eyes, you are your child’s teacher whether you like it or not. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that parents take time to teach their children about the Scriptures and it’s life giving message! This can take place informally whenever teachable moments or good conversations spring up or in more organized and planned settings of church or family devotions. Either way, teaching needs to take place in the home.
Some parents feel a great inadequacy when it comes to their knowledge about Christ and the Scriptures and that often keeps them from intentionally teaching their children the Bible and the truths therein. However, that can and ought to be remedied. If you feel unable to teach your child the truths of the Bible then learn what you need to know. Ask your pastor to teach and train you so you can teach and train your children. Check out the recommended books here and start studying. Further, make sure to get your hands on Bruce Ware’s “Big Truths for Young Hearts“. Ware is a seminary professor who wrote this great book to help parents teach their little ones about the immense truths of the Bible. There are scores of resources out there. Fill your mind and heart with God’s Word so your can, in turn, fill the mind and heart of your child.
Work to Model for Them. It is an old, but true saying: kids often learn more from what is caught rather than taught. Endless hours of Bible study will not usually come to much if the kids don’t see Christ in your life. If your theology doesn’t flow out of your fingertips, your kids won’t likely give it a second thought. Our children can see the things we really care about and often times are interested in those things. Sometimes our lives can preach a different message than our lips. If our children see us talk much of Christ, yet not obey, love, and cherish him in our own lives, they won’t usually be too interested. All of our kids are asking one simple question: are you smoking what you’re selling? If not, they won’t buy it. So the simple question for reflection here is: do I love and obey and honor Christ in the way I hope my children do?
One last word needs to be said. Looking over this list can be somewhat depressing for most of us. Images of failure sadly fill our minds and darken our hopes. Regret rise and joy is dashed. But, let’s not go that direction. I pray and hope that this post does not bring anyone to despair, but I do hope, where it is needed, it helps guide toward repentance. All of us, at every moment in our life, are in need of repentance; to turn from things of sorrow and sin so we may face Christ in grace. God is overjoyed by repentance (see Luke 15). The call of God toward repentance is alway a call away from sorrow and toward joy. So if this post had a sting, then let that send you to Christ to grace and instruction on how to change.
Let us all together turn from bad parenting strategies, rise to our call, and do all we can to shepherd our children to know and love Jesus Christ. Let us work to know them, teach them, and model the joy of the Lord in front of their eyes so they may rejoice in Christ with us.