I think I just heard a collective gasp from around the world. Some missionary moms just gasped because I spilled the beans. Other moms gasped because I just destroyed your fairy tale idea of missionary kids.
All joking aside, missionary kids are just like other kids. They make mistakes. They sin. They make bad choices sometimes. Honestly, there are times when I have thought of my own children, "Who is this kid? He/she should know better!" Sometimes I find myself demanding or expecting perfection out of my own children.
Now don't get me wrong. My kids are amazing. I love watching God work in their lives. I love seeing them make great choices. I love seeing them grow and change. But there are times when they trip and stumble.
When I am reminded that they are sinners (just like me) sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I feel fear. Sometimes panic wants to invade my heart. During those moments, I try to do some reflection. I reflect on lessons on parenting that God has already taught me through His Word, through counsel, and through past experiences.
3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
Parenting and youth ministry is difficult and often heartbreaking. Just as seeing our children walk in truth can bring great joy, seeing our children stumble can bring deep grief. During those times we must stay focused. We must not forget what God has already taught us, and we must learn each day as the Lord teaches us new things.
Join me as I share with you such a time of reflection.
- Rules - Relationship = Rebellion
- Relationship - Rules = Dysfunction
- No matter what shocking news they tell you, never let the surprise show on your face. If they confide in you, they are looking for security. If they think they have shocked you, it may close off the doors of communication and trust. Just remember, no matter the shocking news, they have come to you. That's a good thing, and it is a foundation you can work with to help them get on the right path.
Proverbs 1:8-9 "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck."
- No matter how great of a parent or youth leader a person is, it does not guarantee children who will choose right. God is a perfect parent and look at us! So if you discover one day that your children are sinners, just as we are, be patient with them just as God is with us. If sin must be confronted and corrected, make sure you are spiritual (walking in the spirit and not in anger and disappointment) AND that you do it in meekness. After all, we are all in the same boat... we are all sinners.
Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
- Don't fall for the quality/quantity lie. "It's not how much time you spend with them; it's the quality of time." Ugh... No, quantity matters greatly too. Set time aside. Sacrificial time. When we do that it sends the message that our children are extremely valuable and worth sacrificing for.
Psalm 127:3 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."
- When young people (especially around the age of 12 and above) begin questioning our standards and convictions... and when "Don't do this because I said no" is no longer good enough, don't panic. It's actually a wonderful opportunity and exactly where you want them to be. We don't want them to have convictions and standards simply because mom and dad do or because a Sunday school teacher does. We want them to know what they believe and why they believe it. We want them to own it for themselves.
So when they begin questioning, encourage their questions! And be ready to answer from Scripture why you believe and practice what you do. If they say they aren't sure they believe the same that you do, don't worry. Keep pointing them to God's Word and tell them they don't have to agree with you... they should, however, seek to line up with Scripture. While they must submit to your authority while in your home or under your authority, you are preparing them to follow God's Word even when you are not around.
Proverbs 4:5 "Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth."
- Be real. Young people can spot a fake miles away.
James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
- Be consistent. Follow through or you become hypocritical in the eyes of young people.
Ecclesiastes 5:5 "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."
- Don't send mixed messages. "Church is vital!" But then you allow them to skip church for ball games. "The Bible is our standard!" But then you can't explain from the Bible why you do what you do or don't do. "Obey authority!" But then they see you trying to skirt around rules. Mixed messages send the message that truth is relative and they can decide what is right for them... and that's not true.
Matthew 15:8 "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
- We want our children to know God's Word. Having standards is a good thing. But without an intimate relationship with the Lord, these things puff them (and us) up in pride. We must teach our children that motive matters. Love for the Lord should be our driving force. It will keep us meek. It will keep us humble. In turn we can teach our children through our actions and attitudes.
1 Corinthians 8:1 "Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."
- We cannot be the Holy Spirit in the lives of youth. Manipulation, nagging, appealing to emotions, and cultivating guilt are destructive behaviors born out of a lack of faith. They tear down. God's Word must be carefully used in love with a heart for rescue and edifying, trusting that we may impact the ears, but the Spirit takes the Word and penetrates the heart. We must never use the Word as a battering ram to break into the heart. Doing so will merely harden a heart toward the conviction of the Spirit. Wield the Word gently in faith and let the Holy Spirit do His work in His time and in His way.
Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
- Stop rescuing children from the consequences of their actions. Sowing and reaping is God's design, and it is often the method by which we grow and learn. Yes, be compassionate. Yes, weep with them if necessary. Sin brings pain. Hurting with them helps them to understand that we know what it is like to face the music of our sinful choices. Allowing them to face the consequences also shows them the faith that you have that God is working, that God is holy, that sin is ugly, and that they can grow if they choose repentance. If the consequences they face break your heart... imagine how God feels when He must chastise us.
Galatians 6:7 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
- If they come to you in confidence, don't ruin their trust by sharing things with others. The trust of young people is a valuable and fragile thing. There are certain things we are legally obligated to tell to authorities, but even in that we should be up front about it with them and let them know we have to tell. Other things... if it is best shared, ask permission or better yet, encourage them to do the right thing and tell. Let them know you are with them and supporting them. Go with them literally if needed.
Proverbs 11:13 "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter."
- Our greatest ministry to children isn't cleaning or cooking. It isn't games and date times. It isn't gifts or lesson plans or even hugs and kisses. It's prayer. Pray pray pray. God can do what we cannot. God can protect and God can reach a heart. God can heal. God can convict. So pray faithfully. Pray fervently. Pray consistently. Pray.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Parenting and Family Book Recommendations
Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo (Heads up... Not KJV, but very practical)
A Firm Foundation by Paul Chappell
Author of Heart-At Home Mom