Our world is a dangerous place, where stories of terrorism and child abductions dominate the news, and many young people try out premarital sex, alcohol and drugs. It's enough to frighten any parent.
But don't let fear paralyze you. There are things you can do to protect your children and help them shine God's light into the darkness around them.
Here are some ways you can raise your children to venture boldly into our perilous world, secure in the knowledge that God will go with them and enable them to make wise decisions:
- Teach them to know and love God's Word. Help them understand that the Bible contains absolute truth that applies to everyone, and that God wants them to use it as their guidebook for life. Read and discuss it together on a regular basis, making a specific commitment of time in your schedule. Use a translation that's easy for your children to understand. Point out how the verses you read are illustrated in your daily lives.
- Help them develop relationships with other faithful young people. This will give them an invaluable network of encouragement, support, and accountability. Make sure they participate in an excellent youth group.
- Pray for them and with them often. Share with them regularly how God has answered prayers, so they will start to notice His answers and expect Him to answer when they pray. Help them understand the reality of evil and the need to fight it through prayer and action as spiritual battles rage in their lives. Show them the extraordinary power of prayer.
- Help them discover God's love for them. Emphasize how much God loves them. Even the youngest children can grasp this concept. Tell them that God's relationship with them is based on love, and that He longs for them to love Him back. Point out examples of gifts God has given them, for which you are thankful. As you read Bible stories and celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter, focus on how God has put His love into action.
- Help them discover God's plans for their lives. Encourage your children that God has their best interests at heart, and wants to accomplish specific purposes in their lives. Affirm the unique ways God has created them. Point out the talents He has given them, and help them think and pray about how He might want them to use those talents. Tell them that God has great plans for their lives that He will reveal if they seek Him. Support their dreams.
- Encourage them to become increasingly independent of you, but dependent on God. Equip them to make their own righteous choices by making it clear what God expects of them, why it's important to God, and how their obedience will benefit them. Give them opportunities to make their own moral decisions (in age-appropriate ways), then deal with the consequences. Show them that you trust them.
- Help them think critically. Expose them to books, magazines, music, movies, television shows, plays, and other parts of our secular culture and discuss the content together. Show them how to recognize glimpses of biblical truth in secular material, and how to discern lies when they are presented. But keep them away from material that is so objectionable that they cannot yet properly absorb and process it. As you discuss a particular cultural offering, ask them questions about what they like or don't like, and why.
- Remind them that they will experience trouble in life, but that God will always be with them. Don't let unrealistic expectations of a trouble-free life erode their faith. Help them understand that we live in a fallen world full of sin, and that God has said everyone can expect trouble in this life. But encourage them that God will walk with them through any situation, and give them the strength and peace they need to face it.
- Teach them that God is watching how they treat other people. Emphasize that a person can't truly love God if he or she doesn't also love other people. Ask them to consider how they would feel if someone else treated them the way they're considering treating another person.
- Help them understand that sin is at the root of all that hurts them. When someone hurts them or when circumstances go awry, help them connect their hurt to the sin at its source so they'll be motivated to avoid sin with their own actions. Point out hypocrisy so they'll be able to distinguish it from integrity.
- Encourage regular confession times. Help them go to God on a regular basis to confess their sins, repent, seek His forgiveness, and receive His grace to do better in the future. Encourage them to regularly renew their relationship with God in this way to maintain their intimacy with Him.
Adapted from Walking Tall in Babylon: Raising Children to be Godly and Wise in a Perilous World, Copyright © 2003 by Connie Neal. Published by WaterBrook Press.
Connie Neal is the author of dozens of books, including What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?, The Gospel According to Harry Potter, and Dancing in the Arms of God. She multiple credits on Bible projects, including the Gold Medallion Award-winning Spiritual Renewal Bible, and has 10 years of experience as a church staff youth pastor. A speaker for more than a decade, she has toured as a guest speaker for Women of Faith and Children's Ministry Live! She and her husband, Pat, are the parents of two school-age children and one college student.