by Larry Fowler
What do you want your sons and daughters to be when they grow up?
God’s answer: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Early adolescence is the time when the drive for significance and acceptance by others begins kicking into high gear.
Think about what provides significance:
Destiny is a big deal. Many philosophers have posited that life’s most important question is, Why am I here? Christian parents have the responsibility to help young people see that the answer is found in fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives.
Here’s what a sense of God’s purpose for their lives will do:
- A sense of destiny gives direction in the major decisions of life. The young person who believes God is calling him or her to serve Him will consider that when deciding what college to attend, who to marry, and what to do for a career.
- A sense of destiny gives meaning to life’s opportunities. If I believe God might use me to influence children as an elementary school teacher, I’ll seek opportunities that contribute to that direction.
- A sense of destiny provides strength in hard times. If I understand that God may need to knock off some rough corners in order to best use me, difficult times can be understood and endured.
Being in the center of God’s plan for life
Your children must feel that they’re important to God, that He has a great plan for their lives, and that by submitting sacrificially to Him, their lives will please Him. Teach them that being a doctor or lawyer, or even president, is not the pinnacle of achievement, but rather to be right in the center of God’s plan for their lives.
When do we teach destiny? From the time children can understand it, of course. But preadolescence and early adolescence is the time to emphasize it. Middle-schoolers are just beginning to think about what they’ll do with their lives.
That was true for me. I was thirteen when a speaker at a summer camp challenged us to commit our lives to following God’s will. I can still feel the sense of peace, exhilaration, and significance that came over me when I told my counselor later that night that I felt God was calling me to serve Him with my whole life. Of course, I didn’t know then what this would mean, but that decision affected many future decisions—including staying out of a lot of sin—during my high-school years and beyond.
So what do we do?
1. Teach children they’re important to God. Help them be able to say:
- My life is important because God made me just the way I am.
- My life is important because God loves me enough to die for me.
- My life is important because God has a purpose for me.
2. Teach them to desire God’s will.
- Read to them, or have them read, missionary stories or biographies of faithful Christians. Get videos about the lives of spiritual giants and watch them together as a family.
- Provide as much exposure as you can to Christian workers, pastors, missionaries, and others. My daughter and son-in-law, Andrea and Ray, recently took their children (my grandkids) to a Christian concert and stayed afterward to talk to the musicians about their ministry. The kids were starstruck, talking for days afterward about it, and now they want to be Christian musicians. I know God will likely lead them differently in life, but that experience will make serving God with their lives more desirable to them.
- Change your vocabulary. Don’t say, “What do you want to be?” and expect a vocational answer. Say, “What does God want you to be?”—and expect a ministry answer.
3. Give them service opportunities early. Many parents wait far too long to get children involved in serving God. Don’t wait until the midteen years and then send them on a mission trip where they paint fences and take clothing to the poor. When they’re ten or eleven, let them assist in spiritual responsibilities both at home and at church—leading worship, teaching, reading Scripture, planning activities, and yes, mission trips.
© 2008 Cook Communications Ministries. Raising a Modern-Day Joseph by Larry Fowler. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.
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