Most of the believers I know have a strong desire to raise their children to be godly; to be passionate followers of God. With two boys of my own I know the difficulty in completing that task. Years ago, before I even had children, God laid on my heart to develop a plan for my fathering. Though I never put this on paper at the time, over the years I have begun to write it down in an effort to encourage other parents to have a plan for their parenting in the area of spiritual development. (I have another overall parenting plan. Perhaps I’ll share that soon.)
So, here’s an outline of my plan for spiritual development of a child. You will need to alter your plan to fit your own goals, life situations, and individualities of your children.
1. Realize that raising godly children does not usually happen by accident.
It will require proper planning and implementation.
2. Know what you want your child to look like as adults.
Ultimately I want my boys to be like Christ, so He became the primary model I used.
3. Define what it means to be a Christ follower.
For me that definition is one who knows what God requires of him and is willing to do whatever it takes to meet that requirement.
4. Strive to live like Christ personally.
I realized early in parenting boys that they would each be copycats of me.
They must see me willing to live out my own definition of who a Christ follower is.
5. Have basic principles in mind of spiritual growth that you want each child to learn.
For me those were:
a. How to hear from God.
b. What it means to be a student of God’s Word.
c. The act of surrendering to God’s will.
6. Find practical teachings from God’s Word.
For my boys, that meant looking at the characters of the Bible and how their lives represented Christ, how they heard from and obeyed God, and also how sometimes they failed. Reading through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes also helped implant wisdom in my boys.
7. Individualize teaching time for the child.
We seldom did the typical Bible study setting; although that may seem like the easy way. I looked for teachable moments with my boys; for one boy that was often while pitching a baseball together and for the other it was while kicking a soccer ball. Bedtime was another opportune time for teaching. It is amazing what children will do to delay bedtime, but if the discussion is productive I always felt their character development was most important. Dinner time was another time when we could talk about the things of God.
8. Be purposeful to talk about the specific character traits you want your child to have.
We decided each year what was most important for each boy to learn that year. I purposively brought up character topics, such as honesty or how to treat girls and discussed it with them during teaching moments when I had their full attention.
9. Be willing to grow in your own learning of who Christ is.
Over the years, my understanding of who Christ is and how He relates to us and the world around us has continually grown. I have allowed my boys to walk through those changes with me. I haven’t been afraid to let them know I didn’t have answers or that I was wrong.
10. Pray and trust Christ.
I know plenty of examples where parents did everything I have done, yet they haven’t experienced the same results. I know that only God’s grace can really build godliness and every child has the ability to resist that grace.
I know it is one of my responsibilities as a father to see that this plan is implemented. I am thankful for a supporting wife who has worked with me to balance my role with her more nurturing role (which she is excellent at completing). So far our boys are following after God’s heart in their own way. Both have expressed a sense of call to vocational ministry upon their life.
My role is changing from my boy’s primary influencer to one of a mentor or coach, but I’m thankful for the godly young men they are becoming.