Perfectly positioned whether you know it or not!
One of the most important things that Parenting for Faith will ever tell you is that if you are a parent or carer, you are perfectly positioned to parent your child for faith.
Now, ‘perfect’ isn’t a word we normally associate with our parenting. Most of the time we feel far from perfect. On a good day we might feel okay, but on a bad day … you know what I mean! And so when it comes to spiritually parenting our child, when we hear that we are ‘perfectly positioned’ it’s easy to believe we can’t possibly be good enough. But here are lots of reasons why even when your parenting isn’t perfect, your position is.
Perfectly positioned – because God has designed it that way
God’s design for parenting is simple and something every parent can do
‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Parenting for faith is simply living life day to day with our kids as we show them the reality of our life with God. It’s encouraging them and equipping them to find their own vibrant two-way connection with him.
Jesus used same model with his disciples.
Behind the bits we read about in the gospels were three years of everyday life. Three years of walking and talking together. Three years of good days and bad days. Three years of watching Jesus do his thing. Three years of getting it right, getting it wrong and everything inbetween. There were times when Jesus taught the disciples about God, but most of the time they learnt what a connected relationship with God looked like just by being seeing how Jesus did it.
Being perfectly positioned is not the same as being perfect.
God doesn’t expect us to have a perfect relationship with him that is squeaky clean enough for our kids. The most powerful thing we can show our kids is a real relationship with God: what it’s like when we let ourselves down, or find it hard to connect with God. Or when we are confused, angry or just tired. Because they need to know how handle anything with God: the ups, the downs, the ordinary and the extraordinary. So the fact that our relationship with God isn’t perfect is a distinct plus!
Perfectly positioned – because you have the time and influence
Parents and carers have enormously more time than anyone else to disciple their kids,
Even if their church has the best kids’ programme in the world, if your child lives at home, you have huge amounts of time with them. Care for the Family undertook some research into faith in the family, and this is what they discovered: ‘A child attending a church group one hour a week would need to attend for 421 years to equal the same amount of time they would spend with a parent before the age of 10’. God’s plan for discipleship takes place in the everyday ordinary bits of life and those are the exact bits of the day that parents and carers are there.
Research consistently shows that parents are the biggest influence on their children’s faith development
Recent research, such as this from Christian Research reveals that parents have more influence than anything else on their child’s spiritual development. Although many of us might be surprised, this includes teenagers (see for example this research from Youth For Christ). Just as kids are influenced by their parents in the football team they support, their hobbies, and their attitude to education, so you can influence what they see, think and feel about faith.
Perfectly positioned – because you aren’t alone
Parenting for faith alone was never God’s plan
Just because you are perfectly positioned to parent your kids for faith, you’re not supposed to do it alone! God’s original design for discipleship was that families lived in community. In ancient Israel, this was the family living in its wider kinship clan, living within the tribe. So, just as in an old fashioned village, everyone was known, everyone pitched in, and parents were supported practically and emotionally by those around them. Today, the church can take the place of that community, giving you people to walk alongside you as you parent, and adding to your kids’ experience of God.
Perfectly positioned – even if you’re not always around or it feels tricky
Many of us are parenting for faith but aren’t around our children as much as we’d like to be.
Maybe our kids live with their other parent; maybe they’ve left home; maybe you are a grandparent living on the other side of the country. However, even though you may not see your child on a daily basis, you can still share with them glimpses into your relationship and life with God as you chat to them on Skype, in the postcard you send them, as you Whatsapp how your day’s been, when you see them at the weekend. You are still influential and you will still be modelling what a life with God looks like – whether they are 4, 14 or 40.
You can parent for faith even when it’s tricky
Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we aren’t able to share our faith in the way we might want to. Perhaps your children’s other parent is hostile to faith, or you are a grandparent of children whose parents don’t believe or the relationship with your child has broken down. However your life will still speak volumes to your children. When they see you reading your Bible, or know that you pray, or hear that you went to church on Sunday – those things have impact on them. Give them glimpses of your relationship with God in such a way that is fair to their parents’ views. By saying, ‘This is what I believe … that God chats to me (for example)’ you are sharing the truth of your experience without saying their parents are wrong. In episode 11 of the Parenting for Faith podcast, Rachel shares more ideas for how to do this well. And remember that God is working in their lives all the time, and he is longing for them to find him too.