26th December 2023
Christian Concern's Head of Education, shares
"Flourishing or failing?
Helps and hindrances in Christian parenting"
"May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children"
Psalm 115:14 NIV
When you are planning a garden, you must imagine what you want it to become.
You consider the soil, you plant, you water, then feed, tend the young plants, prune, protect, look at the prevailing environmental conditions, adjust accordingly, and wait, and watch.
Those who have had the vision and then the wisdom to patiently engage with this process, are most likely to see their garden flourish.
What is true for a garden, is even more so for our children
God has made each one of us with a body and a spirit. Both must be healthy for us to flourish.
And just as parents and community can help or hinder the physical development of our children (by giving them nourishing food, or encouraging exercise), the same is also true of their spiritual development.
There is a God given authority handed to parents and churches to actively seek and invest in the flourishing of our children.
There is a garden set before us.
Do we see it? Do you see it?
Children need our help to be guided towards the Lord.
For their spiritual flourishing, we can provide the food, the nurture, the environments, the protection they need, but it is also possible for us to abdicate, forget, or be ignorant of what can hinder their spiritual development.
"Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them."
With young people now spending 30 hours per week imbibing data and discipleship from devices, and 30 hours per week being trained by teachers, surely an hour a week of children's or youth activities each Sunday will not be enough to ensure parents and church are diligently tending the development of those in their garden.
What will the true master of the garden find when he returns?
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"
To counteract the hindrance of 'Pressed Parents', what do our children need us to become?
When our children ask us a question or attempt to show us something they have made or done, are they more likely to get a welcoming response, or a 'not now'.
The truth is, if they come to expect a rebuff, or distracted disinterest, they will stop asking.
Your opportunity for influence in their lives diminishes over time.
But you can learn to say 'yes' more often, and make decisions that bring less hurry and more peace to your home.
Plan for unplanned time, not just when you have your scheduled appointment with your child, as though they were some task to complete; real time, where you are present with them in the moment, their moment.
In these occasions of peaceful communication, and even silly playfulness, then their questions will come, you can offer to pray with them, demonstrate your sacrificial love for them and point them to Jesus, letting them into your relationship with Christ.
One small change which can make a big difference... can you ask them about their school day, where your question shows you knew something about what their day held?
We won't always get this right, but we can make it our aim, while we have the chance.
Christian Concern's Head of Education
Equipping you to be an effective ambassador for Jesus Christ in today's culture.
We're passionate about bringing the love, justice, truth, freedom and hope of Jesus Christ to the heart of society.
And we're building a movement of Christians who share that passion.
We believe that Jesus Christ is good news for society and as relevant today as he has ever been.
We believe that a flourishing future is a future shaped around him.
I want to emphasise, not all teachers or teachings are toxic.
And where there are attitudes and actions being encouraged which are against the Christian spiritual formation we would want,
we have the ability to counteract this as parents and church communities.
We can regularly help our children and young people detox, in the evenings and holidays, through prayer and discussion.
We can also seek to provide the best schooling, given the circumstances we are in.
Making a choice for the best school, and the best teachers is clearly crucial.
It is also important for our churches to encourage Christians into the teaching profession, to be salt and light in this highly influential position.
I believe I was able to have a profoundly positive effect through my teaching in state primary and special schools over 17 years.
The joy of the research conclusions from studies on present and past pupils in Christian School's Trust Schools, has been to see the difference Christian teachers make in the encouragement of faith in children.
The positive results in the mental health of past pupils is also a powerful testimony of this kind of education.
This is an edited version.
The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request