Dear Parents, Play the Long Game 

Dear Parents,  

  Being a child or teenager in our culture today might not be more difficult than in previous generations. However, due to the developments of technology, the changing of cultural norms, and a plethora of other realities, it is surely different to be a child or teenager today compared to previous years.  

  The glaring implication for you, as a parent, is that this means it is different to be a parent than ever before. We cannot parent in the same way our parents did when we were children. But the job description of a parent that is found throughout the Bible has not changed.  

If there is one piece of advice that I need to remind the parents that I care for as a pastor, and myself as a parent of two small children, it is this: Play the long game.  

Playing the long game means we must make sure that we are shooting for the correct target. 

How silly it would be for a basketball player to shoot the ball in the wrong hoop or a soccer player to aim for the wrong net. Yet often as parents we feel frustrated that growth isn’t happening in our children. This can snowball into not even knowing what goal we should be shooting for in our day-to-day actions with our children. 

Christian parents long for their children to know Christ and follow him all their days. Like Paul with the church in Colossae, we hope they will be found “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). What is one of the key ingredients to maturity? Time. No one matures overnight. However, many days compounded over many months and years mixed with the spiritual disciplines described in the Bible can lead to maturity in Christ. Obviously, a mature 8-year-old in Christ looks different from a mature 18-year-old. However, the principle is the same: slow growth over time, while we do the work that God intends, can lead to our kids being mature in Christ one day.  

  To play the long game, we must be careful how we measure success as parents. 

As much as we talk about a fear of missing out (FOMO) among Gen Z, parents often fear missing out on seeing tangible evidence of our kids following Jesus. We want our kids to follow Jesus, but often we forget the biblical picture that the Apostle Paul paints in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he explained that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” We want to plant, water, and grow our children. However, God did not give us the responsibility or ability to grow our children, but instead gave us the responsibility and opportunity to plant and water. We want these seeds to grow fast and without seasons of drought.  

Ultimately, as parents, we often want our kids to grow into what we desire for them and forget that God’s plans might be different than ours. Fortunately, God’s plans and timing far outweigh our own timeline for our children. Is some of our discouragement as parents caused by measuring fruit or results rather than faithfully being the farmer or gardener that God calls us to be as parents?  Is it possible that some discouragement comes from times that we don’t see the results that we want to see?  

Parents, let’s play the long game while doing what God calls us to do and leave for God what only he can do. 

  Lastly, playing the long game as a parent means we don’t need to fear. 

I know, I know. You might be reading this article and now you are saying out loud “Are you kidding me?” Let’s be clear. I don’t know all that your child is going through, the complexities of your family, or the decisions that are making your family life difficult. Honestly, I struggle myself with fear as a father and pastor. However, playing the long game can reduce fear because the long game reminds us that we are not the ones in control. God is the only one who is in control of our family, not parents. The gospel reminds us that in Christ, the worst and biggest problem of sin has been conquered. We are not called to fear, but to pray and act according to God’s plans and instructions. This type of parenting can happen best while we are playing the long game. 

  It doesn’t take long to realize that we cannot parent as we were parented. Even living in a hometown like Mayberry is not enough to protect our children from sin and temptations that seem to be growing every time the clock ticks.  

Parents, let’s remember that God loves our children even more than we do. His plans are pure, and his timing is flawless. Let’s play the long game while actively anticipating what God will accomplish in the lives of our children.  


  A Youth Pastor and Father of Two 

Kyle is the Pastor of Family Ministry at Old North Church in Canfield, Ohio. He also serves on the board of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding ( and hosts the Word in Youth Ministry podcast. Kyle is married to Jenna and they have two children named Madelyn and Benjamin.

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