critical – characterized by careful analysis; pertaining to a crisis, decisive; formed or situated to determine or decide (Webster)
In his book Revolutionary Parenting, George Barna spells out what it takes to raise spiritual champions, children who “have embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord; accept the Bible as truth and as the guide for life; and seek to live in obedience to its principles and in search of ways to continually deepen their relationship with God.” (Intro, p. xvi)
His book is based not on opinion, theories, or experience, but on research–thousands of surveys and interviews with young adults and their parents. Read more about it at www.barna.org/family-kids-articles.
Don’t let the title throw you. It has nothing to do with the 1960’s or the Occupy Movement. This is a great book if you want to know how to be a better parent. Buy it. Read it. Put what it says into practice. You’ll be glad you did. By the way, the book has 163 pages of advice, reporting and resources.
But let’s start here. Barna writes: “You cannot hope to raise a spiritual champion unless you love God with all you heart, mind, strength, and soul. That commitment must be clearly seen through your life before you can hope to have children who embrace that objective. And they must see you investing in your own spiritual growth before they will accept the importance of their personal commitment to becoming a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ.” (p. 18) So, if you’re reading this, you’re probably there. If not, let God’s Word regarding parenting transform you.
In a nutshell, here is some of what Barna learned.
Parenting requires a quality relationship with your children built on lots of time spent together–not just quality time, but a large quantity of time.
You have to embrace parenting as your primary job in life, requiring a great deal of personal sacrifice. You recognize that you are out of the norm and that this approach will put you at odds with other, more conventional, parents. The willingness to prioritize the family was a hallmark of fathers who were intent upon raising spiritual champions.
You have to be parents, “in charge,” not a child’s best friend. Many young adults complained that parents were too lenient and failed to provide appropriate discipline, including a curfew.
You have to respect your children, be patient with them, love them, and be willing to do whatever it takes to accept, nurture and protect them. One of the worst things you can do is to say hurtful things to them, even in jest.
The parents of spiritual champions worked hard to provide a stable, consistent structure, and got involved in every aspect of their kids’ lives, including their choice of friends.
On what do you focus your training? Not intellect, skills, or accomplishments, but godly character. Barna reports that 100 percent of the parents interviewed agreed that this was the most important focus of their children’s training. He identified 21 traits to work on.
These parents used a clear set of rules that was communicated and enforced. “Failing to identify and enforce a schedule of rules” was the “most common mistake of American parents” cited in the research. Twelve rules are highlighted.
Setting guidelines for media consumption is crucial. See the related article.
These families found simple, age-appropriate ways to serve together.
The most important factor in the shaping of spiritual champions was exposure to God’s Word. These families consistently and regularly studied the Bible, but not usually in a formal way. It was a natural part of their daily lives, woven into the conversations and events of the day (This sounds alot like Deuteronomy 4:6). These parents taught them how to pray, study the Word on their own, and worship.
To read more about Barna’s research, click here.
Build a Strong Family–Consider the Following
Celebrate Family Traditions
Family traditions offer opportunities to strengthen the bonds of relationships, creating a healthy family identity. Celebrate birthdays, of course, and holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter together. Other special days, such as Valentine’s, April Fool’s, Independence Day and others, provide times for both fun and meaningful moments together. Family Nights, sharing time together in an activity (craft, topic, or outing) once a week or once a month, will help keep you united.
Observe Milestones or Passages
Make a big deal of passages in your child’s life, such as the start of school, first communion, entrance into the teen years, committing to purity, beginning high school, a job started or well-done, crossing into adulthood and others.
Mark Your Home
Would a visitor in your home know you were Christians by what they saw on your walls or heard bouncing off them? Paintings, plaques, figurines and other artwork can serve as teaching tools. Christian music offers a positive message in a variety of styles.
You’ve Got to Have Fun!
Is your home a warm, inviting place to live? Do you provide your children with pleasant and meaningful mealtime conversations, play games, have fun and go places together?
Three Other “Must Address” Issues
1. Your Children and Media: Be Offensive!
As a Christian dad, when your child encounters a serious question, problem or issue, how do you counsel them? What do you tell them? Where do you point them for answers?
Many issues are resolved by having them consider what, if anything, God’s Word has to say. If a verse of passage of Scripture provides clear direction, that’s all the advice they may need.
Problems of a personal nature might call for prayer. “Have you prayed about it?” is a common question in many households. “How is the Lord leading you in this area?”
A third step might involve seeking counsel from you or another trusted Christian adult, either in person or through a book or CD.
Depending upon the quantity and the quality of TV programs and movies your children watch, they’ll potentially see thousands and thousands of questions answered and issues resolved in the media. More than likely, never once will one of the three options above be suggested or utilized. In effect, even a sitcom can teach them that problems are resolved through intelligence, skill, team-work, technology or some other natural means. But God’s never a factor.
Barna warns that “the unwillingness of parents to closely monitor and limit media was listed as a glaring fault of many parents. Giving children the freedom to determine their own media diet was ranked as one of the most insidious weaknesses of today’s parent, producing outcomes that will haunt their children–and our society–for years to come.” (Revolutionary Parenting, p73)
So dads, while filling our time and entertaining us, almost all of our media is working against us and our kids, not for us.
You need to be offensive here. Figure out a game plan. Don’t sit by passively while our culture’s moral values continue the slide. After all, many in the media are on the offensive. They have a game plan too, promoting their own agenda for our children and culture. And it’s usually contrary to the beliefs and values represented in our Christian faith.
To read reviews of good, clean movies, visit here.
Check out Focus on the Family’s site, pluggedin.com, “shining a light on the world of popular entertainment, here.
2. On Dating, Sex, and Porn: Be a Leader!
When it comes to sharing everything their fathers taught them about dating and sex, some men could probably write a sentence or two. Many would have nothing to say. Very few could fill a page. In effect, we’re handicapped.
This is another critical area where you need to be offensive and set the standards for your family. Don’t let the world do it. Don’t let your kid’s friends or their parents do it. You need to do it.
Where do you start? Paul says to Timothy (5:1-2), his spiritual son, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.”
Ask yourself, “What does this verse mean for my son, my daughter, and for me?” I think it’s pretty simple–and difficult–at the same time.
Simple, because it means I have to train my son to look at girls, and think about them, as he would a sister. The qualifier: with all purity. That’s a challenge, isn’t it? That’s a bit difficult with our culture’s mind-set.
And I have to teach my daughter that not just any boy will do. Any boy worth hanging out with will treat her like a lady, like a sister, at all times, with all purity. That’s not how most girls, and their parents, think about it.
But you’re not concerned about how most parents do it, right? You’re setting your own standards here, based on the Lord’s leading.
Have you ever really analyzed your own dating experience? Have you ever listed the pros and cons, the positives and negatives of our dating customs? If you do that, you might discover that there’s got to be a better way, a less painful way, a more God-honoring way for your sons and daughters to interact with members of the opposite sex, eventually leading to a God-honoring marriage. What will that look like for you and your children?
While you’re at it, you need to come to terms with the pervasive role of pornography in our culture, for you, and for your son(s), especially. What will you teach them about it? What safeguards will you construct to protect your children from its destructive consequences?
Read an article by Family Life’s Dennis Rainey entitled, “Guarding Our Daughter’s Sexual Purity–A nervous father interviews his daughter’s date,” here.
Listen to Dr. Scott Turansky at BiblicalParenting.org describe a conversation he had with his daughter and her boyfriend about their relationship and sex here.
3. Honor the Creator
If your son or daughter asked you what you believed about evolution, what would you say? Could you talk intelligently on the issue? Do you know enough to counter the theories of evolution that are assumed to be true? It’s complicated, so if you don’t have a clue, you’re not alone .
This is another area where you, as a dad, have to be on the offensive. You might have to train yourself, especially if your child has an interest in science.
A lot of our kids, at an early age, are convinced that the Bible is just not reliable. After all, the Bible upholds creation by God in six days and a young earth, and everyone, well, almost everyone, anyone with half a brain, that is, knows that’s not true. Some will tell you that you can believe in God and evolution, but what they don’t tell you is, with millions and billions of years of evolution doing its thing, you really don’t need a god involved.
David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me, states that “more than half of churchgoing thirteen- to seventeen-year-olds say they hope to train for a science-related career.” “Yet issues of science are a surprisingly rare topic in U.S. churches. Only 1 percent of youth pastors told us that they have addressed a subject related to science during the last year.” (p 139)
As a church we’re not doing much to help young people navigate the faith/science maze. Some people are (see the creation links). Dad, you can take the initiative here. The websites listed, and other like it, have thousands of articles and videos to help you get handles on this issue, so that you can protect your family’s foundational belief in the reliability of Scripture and help your children deal with this topic. Some sites are geared for children. Take a look. Read a little. You’ll be glad you did.
See the Creation section for more.