Ten Keys to Raising Godly Children

When I minister in churches, couples often ask, “How can I raise Godly children”?  I sense these parents are longing for me to give them a formula in which to input their offspring so that children who love and respect the Lord will pop out. However, as most seasoned parents understand, this cannot be reduced to a formula, but requires a great amount of wisdom gleaned from biblical principles. Therefore, please understand these ten keys are not meant to be an all inclusive parenting manual, but rather major biblical points of consideration that God has shown Debbie and me over the last thirty years as we raised our four sons. We readily admit that we made mistakes along the way, but our God was gracious to confirm what we did right and to gently teach us through our mistakes. Hopefully you can benefit from all He has shown us.

1)    Develop a Passionate Relationship with God

In Deuteronomy 6:5-6, God instructs parents:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.

How enlightening that before God commands parents to diligently teach their children (v. 7), He first instructs them to passionately love Him (vv. 5-6)! God wants parents to understand that they cannot transfer to their children what they do not possess themselves. The foundation for both a great marriage and successful parenting is to love the Lord supremely above every other love.

Watch the Intro and Key #1 Video: Intro & Key #1 Video

2) Strong Marriages Add Stability to a Child’s Life

Many times a pastor will ask me the question, “Which conference should I schedule first– a marriage or parenting conference?” Without hesitation I reply, “A marriage conference. If your couples’ marriages are not sound, their parenting will be hindered.” It is not easy to raise children when you have a strong marriage, but nearly impossible when you have a shaky marriage! Solidify your marriage.  Apply the principles from these suggested resources; What Did You Expect? (book), Celebration of Marriage Conference, What is Marriage?  and Leading with Love  (messages on mp3). Only when each spouse passionately loves God (key 1), will they correctly love each other and have the strong marital foundation needed for successful parenting.

If you are a single parent, pray for strength and wisdom to show respect and avoid negative put downs of the parent that is no longer in the home. Also, if the ex-spouse is pursuing an ungodly lifestyle and he or she has visitation rights, you must prepare your children to respond respectfully and righteously in the undesirable environment.

3) Make the Word of God Your Standard

We are living in a day that offers as many views on parenting as there are parents. It has been my experience that many Christians parent based on tradition (how they were reared by parents or grandparents), books written by a children’s psychologist, or advice from pediatricians such as Dr. Benjamin Spock who wrote the book, Baby and Childcare. Unfortunately, many fail to consult the book authored by the One who created the family unit. God’s Word is full of instruction about training children. It is the standard that we are to use to raise children that are God fearing. He has also gifted some Christians with the wisdom to write effective biblically based books on parenting. I highly recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart (parents with young children) and Age of Opportunity (parents with teenage children).

4) Parents Must Be on the Same Page

One common source of marital strife is disagreements concerning child rearing. To successfully parent their children a mom and dad must be on the same page. As previously stated, that page needs to be the Word of God. In Amos 3:3, God asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”  The obvious answer is – No! Parents must make a commitment to search the Scriptures and read biblically based books that direct them to be in harmony. If parents are not in agreement, their children will skillfully manipulate to get their way.

5) Protect Your Children

In a culture that is infiltrated with humanistic thought, sexual immorality, ungodly media, pedophiles, and false teachers, to name but a few, it is absolutely essential that parents take responsibility for their children’s wellbeing. A major part of protection is to teach children truth so they will recognize lies that are seeking to take root in their hearts. Parents must have a fresh realization that it is not primarily the church’s responsibility to protect the mind or to train their child. It is their God ordained duty!  J.I. Packer writes of the Puritan family:

It was the husband’s responsibility to channel the family into religion; to take them to church on the Lord’s day, and the oversee the sanctifying of that entire day in the home; to catechize the children, to teach them the faith; to examine the whole family after each sermon, to see how much had been retained and understood, and to fill in any gaps in understanding that might remain; To lead the family in worship daily, ideally twice a day, and to set a Godly example at all times and in all matters. To this end he must take time to learn the faith that he is charged to teach. 

Can you imagine what a difference it would make if fathers re-instituted this spiritual discipline in their homes? Dads, I challenge you to make family devotions a priority.

Parents must shield their children by monitoring television, installing filters on internet, regulating and overseeing the use of cell phones, and reviewing books and materials that are used at school. Also, they must safeguard their children from a society filled with pedophiles by not allowing them to be alone with anyone (even friend or relative) they do not completely know or trust. Protection also includes training children to resist and report any improper touch.

6) Bless Your Children

The necessity of bestowing blessings is frequently overlooked. There are many children today who are desperately pleading like Esau, “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (Genesis 27:34).

When mothers and fathers brought children to Jesus the disciples reprimanded these parents. But, Jesus immediately rebuked the disciples and encouraged the children to come to Him (Mark 10:13-16). In a message I preach titled Bestowing a Blessing, I remind parents that Jesus blessed these children in three important ways that they should also emulate:

  1. Jesus took time for the children.
  2. Jesus tenderly touched the children and offered loving affirmation.
  3. Jesus used a tempered tongue with the children.

To bless your child is to speak a message that attaches high value and pictures a special future for them with an active commitment as a parent to help them fulfill it. Bestowing a Blessing elaborates on how to effectively incorporate these principles into family life. Make sure you take time to regularly bless each of your children.

7) Understand Your Child’s Greatest Need

Understanding your child’s greatest need begins with acknowledging their greatest problem. Their chief problem is they are born a sinner (Psalm 51:5). Your children did not enter this world pursuing God and His righteousness. They came as every person does; a self seeking sinner in need of a savior! A proclivity to sin drives their hearts and minds. The most urgent need of every child is regeneration through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Parents must discern whether their children actually have personal relationships with Jesus Christ. William Farley in his must read book for parents titled Gospel Powered Parenting states:

Most Christian parents assume that church attendance or youth-group involvement equates to new birth. Parents are naive about new birth and its assumptions, “One key reason that evangelicals often don’t stand out,” notes Regnerus, “is (that) the measure itself – affiliating with an evangelical Protestant congregation – is not a measure of dynamic religiosity but simply one of affiliation…. There is no shortage of religiously apathetic evangelical adolescents and adults in America.” …. New birth is a radical change of heart that ushers in new desires, new loves, and a new life direction.[1]

Do not just assume or take for granted that your child is a Christian. The new birth is evidenced in your child when you see his or her life, thinking, and behavior begin to revolve around Jesus Christ. New birth is recognized by its fruits, not by a decision. The most important fruit is a hunger for God.[2]  This is not to say that your child must exhibit the behavior and maturity of a seasoned Christian, but should show some evidence of genuine salvation.

8) The Father Should Lead in Parenting

Dr. Wade Horn who served as president of the National Fatherhood Initiative made this very gripping statement, “If America continues on its present course, it will be known as the nation of the founding fathers, with no fathers to be found.” One of the most critical needs in our culture is for fathers to take an active role in parenting their children. In Ephesians 6:4 Paul instructs fathers to not provoke their children to wrath, but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The Greek word for father used in this verse is “pater”. It literally means father, not parents. God specifically singled out the father to assume the primary active role in the discipline and instruction of his children. Of course, this does not discount or diminish the mother’s participation since she is in a one-flesh relationship with her husband and is to assist him in accomplishing this purpose.

As leaders of their homes, single parents assume the responsibility of following this command. As they face this crucial task, they must remember that they are not alone; the power of God resides within them. Good Christian books are also invaluable in strengthening them for this duty.

9) Train Your Children

Ephesians 6:1-3 commands children to do two things – to obey and honor their parents. The Bible promises a twofold blessing to those children who keep these two commands. The flip side is that parents must realize they are on a rescue mission to train their children to obey and give honor. That is, they must instruct their children so they will remain under God’s umbrella of blessing (v. 3). John MacArthur aptly states:

Children do not go bad because of something their parents do. They are born sinful, and that sinfulness manifests itself because of what their parents do not do.[3]

Following the commands given to children, God specifically instructs the father in Ephesians 6:4. The father (with his wife’s assistance and cooperation as stated in key 7) is commanded:

  1. To not provoke his children to anger
  2. To “Bring them up”
  3. To use nurture (discipline or chastening)
  4. To use admonition (warnings and instruction)

 

Let’s look briefly at each of these commands. In a general sense a father provokes his child to wrath or anger when he does not take on the God assigned responsibility to do what is stated in the rest of the verse. More specifically, some of the ways parents provoke a child to anger (means to enrage) include showing favoritism (Genesis 27:3-4), by discouraging them, by neglecting them, by hypocrisy, by continually degrading them, by excessive discipline, by a lack of love, by trying to make their child into what they wanted to be but could never achieve.

It is interesting that the Greek word “bring them up” is found in only one other place in the New Testament. Ephesians 5:29 uses the same word to instruct a husband to nourish his wife as he would his own body. To “bring up” or “nourish” pictures the atmosphere in which the discipline, chastening and instruction is given to the child. This atmosphere of nourishing conveys acceptance and continually offers affirmation of your love to them. It encourages fertile ground in the heart of the child to receive the nurture and admonition that you give to them.

Thirdly, you are to nurture the child. The word nurture is also translated as instruction (2 Timothy 3:16) and as chastening (Hebrews 12:5-11). It infers that you administer discipline to the child. While correcting the behavior of a child is necessary, the ultimate goal is to train the heart behind their behavior. As Ted Tripp writes:

A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.[4]

Tripp further explains:

The child’s heart is the world’s smallest battleground, and the conquering of it calls out for all-out, hand-to-hand combat.[5]

As you train the child’s heart, it is important to keep these verses in mind:

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.            Proverbs 13:24

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.                Proverbs 22:15

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from hell.                                                                                                             Proverbs 23:13-14

Notice the word “rod” in these verses. God ordained that the parent use corporal punishment as a means to drive out the foolishness bound in the heart of the child. The rod refers to an instrument that is flexible and stings the child but is not injurious to the child. It is to be used during times when the child is rebellious to your authority. Even Psychologist Robert Larzelee admits that non abusive spanking actually benefits a child more that alternative forms of discipline. He states that “no other discipline technique, including timeout and withdrawal of privileges, had more beneficial results for children under thirteen than spanking, in terms of getting children to comply with their parents wishes.[6] Furthermore, according to an article in the U.S. News and World Report, “parenting experts” based all their findings against corporal punishment “on a body of research that is at its best inconclusive and at worse badly flawed.[7] I take time to briefly mention the use of corporal punishment since it is such a controversial topic in our present culture. However, I am not saying that spanking is the only kind of discipline parents should administer. Other forms of punishment such as “withdrawing a privilege” or a “time out” can in certain situations be effective. Keep in mind that the Bible is specific that spanking should be used when a child exhibits a defiant or rebellious attitude.

Where nurture refers more to what you “do” to the child (use of the rod), admonition refers more to what you “say” to the child (reproof). It includes warnings, instruction and teaching the child spiritual disciplines.

As this article is not intended to be a comprehensive manual on parenting, I encourage you to check out the footnoted books and also to listen to the audio message How to Keep Denise from Becoming a Menace.

10) Teach Your Children to Reverence God

Perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet necessary keys to raising God honoring children, is teaching them to walk in the “fear” of God.  Simply stated, inspire them to have both a fascination and awe for the majesty of God. The most vital aspect of this teaching is a thorough understanding of God’s attributes. Of course, it will be impossible for parents to train children to reverence God if they are not walking in the “fear” of God themselves. Since I have already written several articles on this topic, I refer you to them. Put links here. Catechizing children is a forgotten discipline that trains their hearts to recognize the awesomeness of God at an early age. Suggested resources are My First Book of Questions (recommended for ages 2 to adult) and Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (school age to adult). Mighty Acts of God is an excellent resource that presents Bible stories in a way that emphasizes and exalts the character of God (recommended for ages 8 and up). Also, I encourage you to listen to the audio message titled Building a Forever Family and to read the book The Joy of Fearing God.

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[1] William P. Farley, Gospel Powered Parenting (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 28.

[2] Ibid, 30.

[3] John MacArthur, Successful Christian Parenting (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 32.

[4] Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd, 1995), 20.

[5] Ibid, 39.

[6] John MacArthur, Successful Christian Parenting (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 154.

[7] Ibid, 153.