Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of  Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof's book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community, (David C. Cook, 2010).  

 

As a parent, your influence in your children's lives is vitally important. But your limitations prevent you from giving your children everything they need through just your own efforts. The only way your kids can grow fully into the people God wants them to become is for you to parent beyond your capacity. That means inviting others who share your values to invest in your kids, and engaging your family in a story that's bigger than yourselves - the story of God's work in the world.

Here's how you can parent beyond your capacity:

Recognize the potential. Combining your influence as a parent with the influence of a faith community will impact your children much more powerfully than simply working by yourself to influence them. Ask God to show you the potential your kids can reach if you connect them to a faith community that will expand their perspectives and help them discover their significance in God's greater story.

Trade a perfect image for brokenness. Don't waste your time or energy trying to live up to an image of what you think is the perfect family. Accept the fact that, in this fallen world, all families have flaws and experience problems. But rest assured that if you invite God into your less-than-perfect life and cooperate with the work He wants to do in your family, each of your family members will grow and change for the better. Rather than trying to hide your family's brokenness, ask God to redeem it and restore your family to show those who are watching the reality of His grace working through each of your lives.

Pursue strategic relationships for your kids. Widen the circle of adults investing in your children's lives. Realize that the time will come when your kids will need other adults in their lives besides you, and don't take that reality personally or be too proud to ask other adults to mentor your children. Do all you can to encourage your kids' relationships with trusted adults outside their home who care about them and share your biblical values. Find a church where your children can engage in meaningful conversations with other adults and ask difficult questions.  Look for other adults who will speak into your kids' lives, saying what you would try to say as a parent. Plug your kids into opportunities to serve others regularly, so they can learn how to be the church instead of just going to church. Give your children something significant to do so they'll believe that they are truly are significant and that God will use them to accomplish good purposes in the world.

Focus on what matters most. Ask God to help you set the right priorities and base your daily parenting decisions on those priorities. Keep in mind that, as one of your children's spiritual leaders, you need to help your kids keep moving forward in their relationships with God. Keep encouraging them to purse closer relationships with God. Imagine what kind of people God wants your kids to become, and keep that vision in mind when parenting them so you can keep pointing them in the right direction.

Build trusting relationships with your kids. The spiritual legacy you want to pass down to your kids must be transferred relationally for them to truly receive it. So show your kids that you value your relationship with them by proving that they can trust you. Avoid behaviors that break their confidence in you, such as disciplining them in anger, using words that communicate rejection, ignoring their voices, failing to try to understand who they really are, breaking your core promises, and taking issues too personally. Instead, talk with your children often, being open and honest with them about what God is doing in your life. Apologize when you've made a mistake that has hurt them. Ask them questions about their lives, and listen carefully and without judging them. Express your love for them frequently, through both words and actions.

Create a rhythm that works well for your family's schedule. Be intentional about how you spend time with your kids and consistent about how often you spend time together. Figure out the best times of day and night to enjoy meaningful conversations with your children, such as while eating meals together, walking or traveling together, tucking them into bed, and just after getting up in the morning. Keep in mind that kind of people you want your kids to ultimately become, so you can plan discussions and activities in light of that. Aim for helping your children become people wh pursue relationships with God, love others the way God does, and see themselves the way God sees them. Learn what your church is teaching your kids every week, and reinforce those same lessons at home through your discussions and activities in fun ways that naturally fit into your children's schedules. Participate in family worship services and family events at your church together, and talk about it afterward.

Pursue personal growth so you can become the kind of person you want your kids to eventually become. Make the time to invest in your own spiritual growth regularly so you can develop faith and character you need to be an excellent role model for your children. Show them through your own life what it looks like to prioritize Jesus above all else.

Mobilize your family to demonstrate God's love to a broken world. Remember that your family's mission isn't to protect your children; it's to mobilize them to demonstrate God's love to the world. Encourage your kids to take the risks God calls them to take to join Him on adventures in the world, serving others and pointing them to Him. Give your children plenty of consistent ministry opportunities while they're growing up so they can learn how to say "yes" to God's calls and experience the joy of accomplishing something significant. Connect your kids to a story greater than what's going on in your own family - the story of how God is working in the world.

Adapted from Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community, copyright 2010 by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.  Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com.

Reggie Joiner is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of The reThink Group, a non-profit organization providing resources and training to help churches maximize their influence on the spiritual growth of the next generation. He is the author of Think Orange and The Orange Leader Handbook. He is also the architect of the Orange Conference and one of the founders of North Point Community Church. He and his wife live in Cumming, Georgia, and have four grown children.

Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church with campuses in Barrie and Orillia, Ontario, Canada. Before moving into full-time ministry, he worked in law and broadcasting. He and his wife, Toni, live in East Oro, Ontario, with their two sons.