I am a parent of kids who are soon to be adults. That means the most crucial years of my job as a parent are done. I am also the pastor of a church with a growing number of young families just starting the journey that my wife and I started nearly 20 years ago. When I consider my own life as a parent, my ministry to young parents, and what I hear from parents either in person or through social media, a problem immediately presents itself.
The problem is that while parents know they have the responsibility of raising their own kids, many don’t know how to do it. They feel ill-equipped and even inadequate to accomplish the tough task. And pastors sometimes have a hard time helping parents navigate these difficult years, especially if the pastor is a young parent himself. But parenting need not conjure up fear in the hearts of young moms and dads, but rather joy, for successful parenting is possible, but only if parents know three important things.
1. Parenting Requires Grace
Because we are soon to be empty nesters, my wife and I have been asked how we got through the tough parenting years with relative success. My answer is almost always: “My kids did not turn out the way they did because of me but in spite of me.” Yes, I am blessed with two kids who love the Lord, love others, pursue holiness, and contribute to society in a God-honoring way, but all credit for this belongs to God. It is His grace that is responsible for my parenting successes. It is His grace that is responsible for minimizing the effects of my parenting failures. It is all His grace.
When we feel weak and defeated as parents, we would do well to remember what the Lord told the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9, ESV). When the struggling, sleep-deprived mum sees her toddler climbing onto the counter after being told “no” a thousand times, God’s grace will give her the strength and patience to gently correct instead of blowing up. When the overwhelmed father is wondering how he can maintain a relationship with his teenaged son who seems not to want that same relationship anymore, God’s grace will give him the wisdom and power to persevere.
2. Parenting Requires Hard Work
Parenting requires grace, something every parent needs to know, but it also requires hard work. There is no way around this, and neither should there be. God never told us that living in a godly way would be easy; in fact, He made pretty clear that it would be difficult (Luke 14:27-28). If that applies to life, that applies to parenting, which means there is no phoning it in and no room for wusses. Parenting is not easy, and though God provides the grace and strength, there is much hard work He requires from us if we want to raise children who honor Him.
3. Parenting Requires Help
Fear not, though, for you don’t need to be afraid of this immense yet incredibly rewarding task that God has called you to. The truth is that God gave your kids to you because you are the right person for the job. You might not feel qualified, but the very fact that God gave you your kids qualifies you. Furthermore, you need not fear for God has not left you to do this on your own. He has provided help (Psalm 46:1).
The first help He has given you is His Word. Young parents often joke that kids do not come with an instruction manual, but the reality is that we do have a manual. We have the words of God, and scattered throughout the Bible we find an abundance of instruction concerning how to parent. But for parents who want to raise their kids well they must not only look to those passages, but they must also read, study, and apply the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). It may be difficult to find the time during the child-raising years, but parents must carve out time daily to be fed, instructed and encouraged by the Word of God.
The second indispensable help God has given parents is His church. Many parents feel alone and thus will look to all sorts of places for help and advice. The church is meant to be that place. We were not made to live life alone, which means we were not made to parent alone. It is not the church’s job to raise your kids for you, but it is the church’s job to help you raise your kids. Again, Paul provides a necessary word for parents when he states that one vital purpose of the church is to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).
The church can do this for parents in several ways. For parents who want to know how to apply the parenting principles found in Scripture, God has given the church pastors to preach and teach on such things. For the young parents who feel alone in their struggles in the church, there are other young families to join together with for encouragement and mutual edification. For the parents of teens who are trying to help their kids navigate the transition to adulthood, there are older parents who have gone before them and can give counsel and pass on wisdom.
So, whether you are a pastor serving parents or a parent of young kids or teens, know that while it is a huge responsibility, it can be done, and it can be done in a way that honors God. It simply requires that you keep in mind three important things. God provides the grace necessary to raise the kids that He blesses parents with. Parenting is not easy; it requires hard work. And God has not left us alone in this task, but has provided everything we need, not the least of which is His Word and His church.