“The study by psychologist Nicholas Zill, the founder of Child Trends, and statistician Philip Fletcher found that children in such a situation -- when compared to children not living with both parents and not attending religious services regularly -- are 5.5 times less likely to have repeated a grade and 2.5 less likely to have had their parents contacted by the school because of a conduct or achievement problem. Additionally, intact families who have regular religious participation (defined as at least weekly or monthly) are less likely to report parental stress and more likely to report a ‘better parent-child relationship.” Further, “The authors said that children in an intact religious family ‘are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior, including showing respect for teachers and neighbors, getting along with other children, understanding other people's feelings, and trying to resolve conflicts with classmates, family, or friends.’”
It should be no surprise that children from religious, intact families fare better. Sensible circumstances lead to better results than chaotic circumstances. Such a dynamic is owing to God’s common grace and the natural law He has built into this world. At the same time, special or saving grace is necessary to truly understand God and ourselves and implement His will in our lives in a way that pleases Him and produces the genuine, peaceable fruit of righteousness.
In God’s economy, the family plays a specific role. God calls human beings, and indeed Christians, to populate and subdue the earth for His glory and the good of man. The family provides a stabilizing force in an otherwise frenzied society. It is in the context of family that men and women learn the absolute necessity of being responsible adults and the onus upon them to train their children. It is through the family that the gospel is propagated in a visible way as Christ’s commitment to His church is magnified in loving relationships and as children are taught to fear the Lord.
There are some tremendous implications for your family in God’s command to take dominion over the earth. God has a role for you and your family to walk the road of life together and to subdue the earth together in some sense. It is the individualism of our culture that militates against such an understanding. And yet, God has a specific purpose for families together as families. Certainly we all have different roles within the family. But, those roles must mesh into this dynamic of togetherness if we are to honor God and find maximum fulfillment within our family life.
Above all others, Christian parents must see the significance of the family and bring their full attention to bear upon it. Too many of our children suffer for a lack of biblical focus in that context. While they generally do better than those in “dysfunctional” families as the survey indicates, in the end, they end up making shipwreck of their faith. As Christian parents you must learn the imperative of discipleship with particular reference to your children. Other research has revealed that ninety percent of evangelical youth walk away from Christ upon graduating high school. You must embrace and apply God’s admonition to you regarding your children: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:6-9).” Only then will your children fare better in an eternal sense.
Parents, you must learn that television, your own busy lives, and even working long hours rob you of time with your family. You are robbed of a growing and vital relationship with your spouse and children. Husbands and wives, you need to have a relationship apart from your children that you might enjoy your empty-nest years to the full. You must also prioritize the personal discipleship of your children that they might honor God, that your children might do the same even as adults, and that they might be filled with joy as their children grown in grace, again, even into adulthood. Let us not be committed to the world’s priorities but to God’s priorities. Such a commitment is the only path to true, temporal happiness and eternal fruit.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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