Saturday, March 27, 2010

How to be a successful CHRISTIAN parent (or not)

Let me wade into this most dangerous of waters!  An area of such sensitivities that I have resisted writing about this for a long time.  But I have opinions - so I'll throw them into the mix!

I have noticed a general feeling of panic among many Christian mothers.  The pressure to get this Christian parenting thing worked out NOW, while the children are little, or else face failure.  And how does one fail?  By having children who are not believers.

I know that we do truly want our children to be trusting in Jesus for themselves.  Of course.  Please don't hear me wrong.  That is my heart's desire for my children.  More than anything else.

But we speak about others.  'Older parents'.  Even 'minister's families'.  Who have (wait for it) ... 'unbelieving children'.  I wonder if behind these comments, is a dismissal of those Christian parents.  As if they have failed.  As if they just did not get it RIGHT.  We are encouraged to reflect on what it is that they did WRONG, so we don't repeat their terrible mistakes.

It is the dismissal of our Christian elders, that distresses me greatly when these comments are made.  I'm not confident that they did do anything 'wrong'.  There doesn't appear to be a formula.  They have been (and continue to be) faithful, loving parents.  And are not perfect - just like me!

My Dad is an Anglican church minister.  I grew up being friends with many ministers and their families.  My husband is a minister and we personally know many clergy families with adult children.  People I have serious respect for as my Christian elders.  And what a mixed bag of responses.  Some children follow Jesus.  Others don't.  And very often there is a different story for siblings within the same family.  Same family = same parents = same parenting strategies.  How come we so quickly start to point the finger at the parents in these families?  When do we start to say, 'Hey, guess what? Those children are adults, who have made their own decisions about their lives'.

And, ultimately, I thought faith was about a relationship with God.  Where does he fit into this picture?  How does God revealing himself, showing his grace and saving mercy to our children fit in?  Just as he showed mercy and grace to me.

Let's remember.  There is no magic formula.   Ultimately it is in God's hands.  One day it might be me, coping with these deep, deep disappointments.  And I would like people to be kind, sensitive and generous to me.  Not evaluating me, trying to work out what I did wrong.

8 comments:

Gina said...

Like so many things in the Christian life, this area seems to me to be one where we must take seriously all God asks of us as a parent, and yet retain a full understanding of, and surrender to, His ultimate sovereignty. We also have to accept the reality that our children will have to stand on their own before God, that we cannot protect them from their own sinful nature and innate desire to reject their creator!

Of course, my children are sub-3-year-olds and their faith IS my faith at the moment... so I haven't had to face the reality of growing independence that their development will bring (in faith and the rest of life).

Jenny said...

Hi Gina - great thoughts. Even though your kids are little it's good to think through this issue.

Kath said...

Thanks Jenny,
Good to read this. I am challenged about the fear that my kids won't follow Jesus in the long term. Is it because I deeply desire for them to know Jesus or because I worry that people will judge my parenting skills (and ultimately me) by it. Probably both.

Matt Moffitt said...

Great blog post Jenny; thank you.

Jenny said...

Hi Kath - I think it's interesting to consider why we feel fearful because sometimes we're more motivated by seeming to be doing the 'right' thing rather than what is the best thing by our child spiritually. I guess I want my kids (as they get older) to be independently moving forward in their relationship with God rather than just moving forward in the way they know will please me.

Meredith said...

Thank you for wading into these dangerous waters. This is such a helpful post. SO helpful that I am going to link your blog to mine so that the small handful of folk who read my blog might be encouraged to pop over here too.

It is all too easy for our sinful hearts and minds to default to that awful position of wondering what someone "did wrong" in their parenting when a) it is not our place to judge and b) there are many factors at play, as you say, and not just whether I read the Bible to my child EVERY night before bed.

And yes, if God should ordain it that we find ourselves in this situation down the track, yes, we will want kindness, sensitivity and generosity. Amen to that.

There are many folk in our congregation whose hearts are breaking for their lost children. We should be coming alongside them to pray for them and with them. And teaching others to do the same. And developing a culture where this is what we do for and with each other. All the time.

Thank you. You have been such an encouragement.

Jenny said...

Thanks for the feedback Meredith- glad it is useful to you in your context.

Pip said...

Thanks for the timely reminder that there isn't a formula or program or way of parenting your children into Christianity. This is often a niggling thought in the back of my mind (that I am not doing enough and that will harm them in the end). I am also reminded of how little my parents did in terms of actual bible reading, prayer with us, and how it was only by God's grace that we retained what we did learn and saw by their example, and grew into adult Christians.