The following thoughts are from Bill Johnson, the senior leader of Bethel Church and author of When Heaven Invades Earth, and can be found in the recently published eBook, Parenting With Purpose. Enjoy! (Available HERE)
For me, the greatest of all privileges in life is to be a parent. It is the great call of God on my life that I never take for granted. It is with fear and trembling, along with joy and adventure, that Beni and I have embraced this assignment for our lives.
In the following few paragraphs, I want to give some simple suggestions that might help you to parent well.
Children need encouragement from those who believe in them.
That encouragement helps to shape their view of themselves and their understanding of the future. The encouragement needs to be as specific as possible so they know you're doing more than trying to be positive. Complimenting them on their abilities and gifts is good. Commending them for who they are is even better. Do both.
They also need models to follow.
If they don’t have models in the home that are worth following, they’ll find their own outside of the home, and that is seldom good. For example, our passion for God must be practically displayed in the home in equal measure to what we display in a corporate worship service. If there’s a discrepancy between our public passion and what they see at home, they tend to follow the lesser.
Children learn what’s important to us by seeing what we get excited about in their lives—both negatively and positively. I remember watching one of my sons treating his brother with unusual kindness. I stopped him and said, “Son, do you know what that was?”
He looked at me like he was in trouble.
“That was kindness!” I continued, “That is a fruit of the Spirit. Great job on how you treated your brother.”
I've been told that it takes seven positive comments to recover from one negative comment. Most households would improve if there were one positive comment for every negative comment. We must make changes here.
When my children brought their report cards home, the first two things I looked at were how they were graded in “Attitude” and “Bible.” (They went to a Christian school in their grade school years.) I could handle any grade in any other class if I knew they were responsible in their attitudes and devotion to Scripture. This proved to be a valuable approach to schooling for us and for them. They knew what I expected by what I inspected. Their other grades were always good if these two areas were good.
We also intentionally exposed our children to the needs of the poor.
Sometimes that meant helping strangers who stopped by our house. We lived on a main highway, and people would stop by needing food or a place to stay. In one case, some people even lived with us for a short season.
Compassion, kindness, and humility were things we championed. Children don’t learn those qualities through sermons; they learn them through a model. Keeping our children exposed to world need is vital to shaping their hearts for divine purpose. To hurt for those who are hurting is normal. My job is to expose them to other people’s pain, in the measure that shapes them well.
Also important to me was to expose my children to how the “community of the redeemed” functions.
We often sat in the living room with many other friends, of every age. Sometimes I would point to an individual and ask, “What would you think God is doing in this person’s life?”
My kids were eager to hear the voice of the Lord for other people and were often the first to speak. We didn’t make it spooky or hard. They would come up with profound insights into what they felt God was saying to that individual. Children aren’t the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today and must be treated with that kind of value. The exposure to community life with other believers helped shaped their values for people and really helped them in their quest to “Always find the gold in people's hearts.”
The last thing I’ll mention here is my commitment to always expose my children to the move of God.
Exposure to the supernatural activities of heaven has always been a supreme value for me. If it meant that I took them to another city for meetings or we kept them up past their bedtime in order to see the powerful things that God was doing, I would do it. That is a decision I’ve never regretted. Exposure to right things wakes up the God-given appetite for the authentic gospel of power and purity. But it was an intentional exposure on our part.
The bottom line is we train our children by deliberate actions and by exposure. We devote ourselves to model a love for God that is practical and tangible. Shaping their hearts with the powerful force of compassion comes into play when we served broken people together. Since we are members of one another, exposing children to how community functions provides them with some of their most vital lessons. And finally, exposure to the work of the Holy Spirit creates a standard for life. The result is that they will never be satisfied with anything less than an authentic work of God—in them, and through them.
Be encouraged. You have a perfect Father, who is delighted to reveal His ways to us so that we might reveal them to those around us.