I’m certainly no parenting expert. My oldest child is sixteen years old (in other words, not fully baked). Yet, I long for my children to be successful in life as God defines successful. I long for them to be faithfully obedient to the commands of Scripture. And I see it as my high calling before God to teach, train, and prepare them for that. If it is important to teach them to read, drive, and manage money, oh, how much more urgent to teach them to be about eternal things. I want to teach them to be about the mission of God.
Our family spent twelve years serving as evangelists and church planters among Muslims. During that time, we learned four simple things that have helped prepare our daughters to share Christ with those around them.
1. Children can and need to understand the grand narrative of Scripture.
Living overseas, I realized there is nothing like watching someone hear and understand the gospel for the first time. Nothing like it! Because we lived in an area of the world that was 99 percent Muslim, we knew we needed to start from the very beginning of the story when sharing our faith. We couldn’t assume that people hearing our words correctly understood even the simplest things about God, the Bible, or Jesus.
We worked among people who knew many stories about God, but they didn’t understand the overall story of the Bible. We realized one day that while we were taking the strictest of care to ensure our Muslim friends understood the entire story, we often made assumptions about what pieces of the story our own children fully understood. We made some simple changes at home to correct this.
First, we made a commitment to help them read the entire Bible. This takes a lot of time and intentionality. So we started doing this with them at a young age. We read the Bible aloud to them for years and then had them read it on their own as they grew older.
Second, we committed to teach them how it all fits together. There are great books available for younger kids that clearly explain the whole story (see endnotes). We enjoyed using a gospel presentation called God in History to make sure they understood and could articulate the story of God.
If we as parents take time to quiz our children on spelling words, why not ensure they know and understand the story of God?
2. Children need to see their parents share Christ.
I learned how to share Christ by watching my dad do so. I remember going with him on many occasions to share with friends, family, and even people we had just met. He certainly didn’t need me to tag along on these visits. In fact, I have no doubt it would have been easier to not have me in tow.
However, he was intentionally training me to share the gospel. We follow his example by intentionally taking our kids along when we share Christ and lead Bible studies. Children need to see us be bold, be intentional, and make lots and lots of mistakes.
3. Children need accountability.
We don’t hesitate to ask our kids if they have done their homework or cleaned their room. We also shouldn’t be afraid to ask them if and how they are obeying the commands of Scripture to share the gospel. Accountability in all things should be a natural part of family life.
To help with this, our family enjoys using a conversation method that was created by Mike Shipman called Any 3 (see endnotes). We taught this to our kids and practiced it at home around the table. My husband will give the girls simple assignments (like a game) for them to try it out at school. For example, “This week let’s all ask one friend what they believe about sin.” We follow up and ask about these conversations and encourage each other in how to best continue to the dialogue.
4. Children must be around nonbelievers.
This sounds obvious, but I have learned that in the United States and, believe it or not, overseas serving as missionaries, we can fail to allow our kids to have meaningful relationships with nonbelievers. We pray for our kids to have relationships with kids that can help point them to Christ and with kids who they can help point to Christ.
We have seen young people apply for jobs to be overseas missionaries who have never learned to share their faith in their home country. Sometimes it has partially been due to the fact that they were raised in Christian circles and never had significant relationships with people who aren’t Christians.
God’s desire is that the body of Christ shares the gospel with the nations. He has chosen to give parents the stewardship and responsibility of training children to be prepared for a life of obedience to God. Therefore, one clear measure of success in parenting is teaching and training our children to be faithfully obedient to God’s commands.
Let’s make sure they understand the big picture of the Bible. Let’s model for them what it means to boldly share Christ. Let’s give them opportunities to have significant relationships with nonbelievers, and let’s not be afraid to hold them accountable along the way. Let’s give them Christ so they can share him with the world.
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
Any 3 by Mike Shipman
God in History by Bruce Ashford