By Kelli Wild
My husband, Dean, and I are both first generation Christians. Not seeing faith modeled in our families while growing up, we have worked together to learn how to share an authentic love of Jesus with our children. It has been far from perfect, and our kids would tell you that, but we have learned a lot along the way.
I always knew I wanted to have a joyful, loving household where my kids would want to bring their friends. I hoped to have healthy communication, and authentic relationships. I hoped that my children would develop honest, personal walks with God; and that they would love one another.
There is often a great distance between having a vision in your mind and having the skills and tools that you need to see that vision come to life. As much as Dean and I have had to learn what “to do;” we’ve also had to “un-do” just as much.
Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:
Begin with the end in mind.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
Too often, we run on the hamster wheel of life, not really knowing where we are going. Taking time out to ask God, “What are my goals for my family? What are the character traits I hope to see developed in my children? What do I hope my marriage will be like 30 years from now?” is important.
Knowing what your future goals are will help you make wise decisions in the present of how to invest your time, energy and resources. For example, we hope to teach our children to value family. Though we want them to be involved in extracurricular activities, we limit their involvement to ensure we have time together as a family.
Renew your mind.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Have you ever really paid attention to how families are portrayed in media? Kids are portrayed as knowing more than their parents, siblings portrayed as rivals, and teenagers spending hours in their rooms alone. Without realizing it, our understanding of what is “normal or acceptable” is deeply impacted by our culture. The messages we receive can slowly become our truths.
Asking God to renew our minds and to teach us how to be a family is important. Ask Him to reveal anything that you have believed about family that does not line up with His Word. He wants to parent you so you can effectively parent your kiddos!
Look at your family of origin and decide what you will keep and what will go.
We all have “junk in our trunk.” Without concerted effort, we may fall back into the pattern of parenting the way we were parented. Good or bad, it’s what we know. With God’s help, we can choose to lay a foundation for a healthy family, even if that was not our personal experience.
It starts by putting ourselves in the position to gain healing, insight, and practical strategies for living.
Find examples and seek to learn and grow.
When I was in my 20’s, and a young Christian, I was blessed to spend time with women who were wonderful role models to me in regards to being a wife and mother.
It wasn’t until years later that I would realize how truly significant their impact was on my life. These ladies showed me how a godly wife and mother behaved, what thoughts went behind the choices she made, and how she could lean on God and other women for help. I was soaking it all in.
I am still learning and growing. I have only been parenting for 19 years; so have not yet experienced all stages of parenting. I continue to look to those who have gone before me to help equip me for new seasons.
Remember WHOSE your children are.
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3
The thing I have learned about receiving a gift is that I don’t get to choose the wrapping. I have had to learn to empty myself of my preconceived notions of who my child “should be” and seek to train each individual child in the way he or she should go. Parenting for Jesus requires a surrendering yourself and leaning on the Holy Spirit for direction.
My kids laugh as they hear me saying, “Lord, help me raise these children!”
Faith is caught more so than taught.
This is about your love walk with Jesus. If you are seeking to be filled up with the presence of God, the byproduct of that will spill over to your children. Simply bringing them to church will not capture their hearts for Christ.
What are they observing the other 6 1/2 days a week when you are not in church? What are you characterized by? None of us are perfect. As you are growing in your walk with God, share it with your kids.
Speak your family identity.
“Our family serves.” “In our family, we look out for each other.” “The Wild family does not behave that way towards someone who is unkind to us.” Talk about who you are as a family. This helps impart a sense of God’s calling on you as a unit, not just as individuals.
Seek relationship first.
Our culture would have us believe our children are at a disadvantage if they are not hurried from one activity to the next. How many times are you feeding your child a meal in the car? How many evenings do you sit down and have dinner together as a family?
Developing a strong family identity takes being together. Teaching moments happen most often within quantities of time.
Serve and have fun together.
Don’t forget to have fun! God is fun. Dance in the kitchen to worship music. Sometimes the best choice is to leave the dishes in the sink and play with your kids.
My prayer is that you enjoy your children and invest in the vision God has given you for your family!
Kelli is married to Dean and they are the parents of Luke, Caleb, Anna and Sarah, and currently one exchange student. They have served at Grace Family Church for 17 years and Dean is the Campus Pastor at Temple Terrace.