When I was a Youth Pastor in Virginia in the early 80’s I had two sharp young men in our ministry. They were respectful, attentive, interested in spiritual matters, and were balanced in both academics and sports. I was intrigued by the consistency of their lives and the type of training they received to make them that way.
One Sunday evening after church we were invited to their home for dessert. We had a wonderful time, but I also had a question burning in my mind. After we had talked a while I asked the parents (when the boys were out of the room), “I have to ask you a question. Your sons are a great blessing to our youth ministry and a great encouragement to me. They love the Lord, know how to relate to both adults and their peers, and are able to stand alone graciously. What were some of the things you did to help them to become that way?”
They gave me some valuable advice that I later implemented with my own children. What is interesting is that at the time of our discussion Paula and I didn’t have kids. In fact, our first child wasn’t born until we had been married for almost five years. Our first pregnancy had ended in miscarriage.
Someone said, “Everyone knows something that I do not know, therefore, everyone is my teacher”. I concur with that. Especially was I drawn to parents that had done an excellent job with their teenagers. Even though we didn’t have children yet, I wanted to know how to be a good parent.
Before I continue, let me make two quick caveats at this point. First, I have known parents that were godly and did a great job and they struggled with their children; also, I have known parents that didn’t work hard at being a parent and they had great kids. So, I’m not saying at all that rebellious children are the sure evidence of bad parenting. (If you buy into that theology then it inevitable leads to the fact that God, the perfect Father, was a failure and the cause of Adam and Eve’s sin. No, in spite of a perfect environment they chose to sin and violate God’s commandment).
A second caveat. I’m also not trying to establish a check list of virtues that guarantee your being a perfect parent. There is no such thing. In the truest sense we have all grown up in dysfunctional families because of sin and it’s impact on God’s design. It is God’s grace that motivates and empowers us to live a godly life. That’s why I believe the most important task of a parent is to lead their child to salvation that they might have the means to live a godly life and to love God to have a fulfilling life.
With that being said, I do believe what we do as parents matters – and it matters a lot. The Bible clearly teaches the role and responsibilities of a parent. It is one of the most important roles you will ever fill on this earth. I believe that with all of my heart.
Even before I was married I thought about how important being a parent was and I began to read and study how to be an effective father. The most important resource I used was the Bible. There are principles and commands for parents sprinkled throughout God’s Word. (I think the most succinct is in Ephesians 6:4). The book in the Bible that has the best guidelines for parenting is Proverbs.
As a teenager I had begun to read one chapter from Proverbs every day. (There are thirty one chapters so I read the specific chapter that corresponded with that date and that got me through the entire book each month). One of the dominant themes in the book is that of the relationship, both good and bad, between parents and children.
In college I decided to do a formal study on the topic and so as I read through each chapter I made notations in the margin of my Bible. When I discovered responsibilities of parents to children and of children to parents I used a simple code. I wrote a “P” beside a verse for parents and a “C” for children; simple, but adequate for my purpose. In those Scriptures was practical information that formed the foundation of my philosophy of parenting, directly from the Designer of the family.
Another study I did was to look at various parents in the Bible and to learn from their successes and failures. I was shocked when I learned that the Bible portrays few men as effective, positive fathers. And I’m not talking about perfection. The majority of fathers in God’s Word had serious flaws. It was the exception rather than the rule to find good role models. That frightened me.
As a pastor I have a large library of resources to help me prepare messages. I have several books, sermons by other preachers arranged topically on subjects for special days. One such book featured “Father’s Day” and had sermons on that topic – or so I thought! As I read them, looking for quotes, illustrations and applications, I was disappointed that the book specifically geared for fathers hardly dealt with men at all. They were good and helpful messages, but almost all of them were not directed for men, but were generic in their focus.
Why is it so difficult to find positive role models of fathers? I believe Satan knows well the power of a godly parent and does all he can to confuse the role and discourage them. Someone said, “We have a weak nation because we have weak churches; we have weak churches because we have weak families; and we have weak families because we have weak fathers”. The enemy focuses especially on men because of their potential influence, for good or for bad.
My heart is to encourage rather than to condemn men and I hope the following posts on parenting will indeed do so. I firmly believe the greatest need facing the church today is for men to step up and be men of God. Nothing is more important to a family than to have a godly man as it’s leader.
Dear lady, if your husband is disinterested in the spiritual health of your children or is absent because of death or divorce the same principles will work for a mother. For the purposes of emphasizing the role of a father I will use men in the Bible as models to draw out some crucial qualities in parenting. I could do the same with ladies as well.
What are the attributes that God used in fathers to positively impact his children? Fathers influence their children for a lifetime through modeling and teaching godly character. In the next five posts I’ll take a single quality and show how it can influence our children for God and for good. These are also reminders for which to thank the Lord if your Dad reflected them in his life and they influenced you.
I am so grateful for the integrity of my father and the good name he left me. Many of the blessings I enjoy today are because of his character and being true to his Savior, Christ Jesus, and God’s Word. May I be that man for my children.