A few weeks ago, I wrote of three bad parenting strategies I observed from years in youth ministry. Now, I’d like to follow up with three simple, but powerful, ways I’ve seen parents shepherd their children toward awe of Christ. As with most of life’s best practices, these are not necessarily profound or novel, but basic and fundamental.
Three Ways to Shepherd Your Kids
In shepherding our children toward a living faith in Jesus Christ, parents must…
1) Work Hard to Know Them
It is hard, and more importantly foolish, to lead, protect, and provide for your children if you don’t know your children. Shepherding demands intimate knowledge of those you shepherd. Jesus models the principle well, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). Jesus does not shepherd all his people in the same way because He knows all His sheep are all different. They have different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, fears, interests, and experiences. As the Good Shepherd, Christ knows all His sheep and shepherds them according to that knowledge. Following Jesus’ lead, parents must work to know their individual children well.
So I encourage you to ask yourself questions like these.
What are my kids’ hobbies?
What do they like to do for fun?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
How do the respond to success or failure?
What are their dreams, fears, questions, confusions, and anxieties?
Who are their closest friends or favorite teachers?
Knowing the answers to questions like these will enable you to shepherd your child like Jesus. Study your children. Become an expert of them so you can shepherd them in the way they, as individuals, need to be shepherded.
2) Work Hard to Teach Them
God made parents to be the primary teachers of their kids. In God’s eyes, youth pastor is spelled parent. In matters of faith and practice, kids are to primarily learn from Mom and Dad. In speaking to parents, God said it well:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
Whether we like it or not, parents are the primary teachers of God’s Word to their children; they’re the teaching elders of the home. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that parents take time to teach their children the Scriptures and the message of the gospel! This can happen informally whenever teachable moments or good conversations spring up or in more organized and planned settings of church or family devotions (this book will help with those). Either way, teaching needs to take place in the home.
At this point, many parents may feel a great inadequacy that often keeps them from teaching their children the things of God. However, that can (and ought to be) remedied. If you feel unable to teach your child then learn what you need to know. Here are a few simple recommendations:
Ask your pastor to teach and train you.
Get your hands on some books about parenting to sustain and direct you. I would start with this one.
Further, to actually help you teach your children the big truths of the Bible, make sure to get your hands on Bruce Ware’s “Big Truths for Young Hearts“. Ware is a seminary professor who wrote this great book to help parents teach their little ones about the immense truths of the Bible.
Fill your mind and heart with God’s Word so your can, in turn, fill the mind and heart of your child. Remember, you cannot teach what you don’t know. Even more, remember that God graciously gives to those who seek and ask.
3) Work Hard to Model for Them
It is an old, but true saying: kids learn more from what is caught rather than taught. Endless hours of Bible study will not usually come to much if your kids don’t see you savoring Christ and following Him. If your theology doesn’t flow out of your fingertips, your kids won’t likely give it a second thought. Our children see the things we really care about. Sometimes our lives can preach a different message than our lips. If our children hear us talk a lot about Jesus, but do not see us obey, love, and cherish him above all, they won’t be interested. Your kids are asking one simple question: are you smoking what you’re selling? If not, they won’t buy it. So the simple question for reflection here is: am I loving Christ in the way I hope my children will?
Be Fueled By Grace
One last word needs to be said.
Looking over this list can be discouraging for many. But allow the pangs of parental guilt lead you not to despair, but to the cross where you can lose your guilt, find your joy, and be instructed on how to move forward from here. Godly parenting must only be fueled by gospel grace. Though there may be need for repentance, there is no need for despair. Jesus has everything we failing parents need for the work He’s called us to do. His grace is sufficient.
Let’s turn from bad parenting strategies, rise to our call, and do all we can by God’s free grace to shepherd our children to know and love Jesus Christ. Let’s work to know them, teach them, and model the joy of the Lord in front of their eyes so they may rejoice in Christ with us.