Being a Christian parent


Raising “godly offspring” is one of God’s key aims for marriage (Malachi 2:15). And even those unable to have children can still contribute to it through adoption.

Concern for our children’s eternal welfare should surely be paramount. Sadly however, many Christian parents put far less effort into nurturing their child’s faith than they do into helping them with homework or funding their various hobbies.

Yet the primary responsibility for teaching children the faith lies with parents, not the church (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:4-25, 11:18-21, Ephesians 6:4), and neglecting it can be the cause of the next generation neglecting the Lord (Joshua 2:10). The family is a spiritual unit, a community for learning to serve God. Strong and spiritual family life must therefore be a priority.


Parents are to “direct their children after them to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19, Joshua 24:15) in four particular ways: First, instruction: Many find one or two key times a day for family prayer and bible study helpful. But these things should also pervade family life and conversation in a more spontaneous way (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 11:18-21, Philippians 4:6). There are many good (and bad) resources around to help get into the Bible, and simple catechisms of questions and answers have also proved very useful for many.

Second, discipline: The secular mindset assumes children to be basically good, and so frowns on discipline and even on setting any boundaries of right and wrong at all. We must therefore be convinced that discipline is for our children’s good (Proverbs 15:5, 32, 29:15). It is more to correct than punish (Hebrews 12:5-11), and should never be given irrationally (James 1:19-20), but only when justified, and always as an expression of concerned love (Proverbs 3:12).

Third, Sabbath keeping: A key factor in children not growing in the faith is lack of time. God has set apart one particular day for spiritual refreshment (Exodus 20:8-11). Using it God’s way is difficult in a society that encourages all sorts of other activity on Sunday. Nevertheless, in addition to helping our children find time for mid-week church events, we must gently, firmly, and prayerfully persevere in finding a way of getting them to church at least once and hopefully more each Sunday. We would also do well to make the most of the day for teaching them ourselves. It is sad indeed when children opt out of church events or miss out on the opportunity Sunday gives because parents are pressurizing them to take on yet another hobby or excel that bit more in sports etc.

Fourth, in all these areas parents are to lead by example (Titus 2:6-8). Though this is never sufficient in itself, if what we say is not backed up by what we do, our children will see right through us. How important it therefore is to be exemplary in our own personal prayer and bible reading, our own self-discipline, and our own attitude to church. And how important too that we guard our tongues in the home, love and serve our spouse and children, lead our family in caring for and opening our door to others, in giving to mission and to the poor, in discerning in the TV we watch, the books we read, and the music we listen to.


God has instituted an authority structure for families: Both mothers and fathers are to be involved in instruction and discipline, and both are to be obeyed (Deuteronomy 21:18-19). However, as the overall household manager and head (1 Timothy 3:4-5), the father is particularly responsible before God if these things are not done (Genesis 18:19, Joshua 24:15), and so should take the initiative in ensuring they are. Yet contrary to some Christian stereotypes, Proverbs 31 affirms the legitimacy of mothers sharing in this management and working to provide for their family too.