In Psalm 127:4, you will find an amazing statement about your child. Many of us know of the previous verse, in which we are told, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” That’s a nice, warm, safe verse.

But then look at verse four: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

Think about those words. The psalmist refers to your child as an arrow—a weapon! And that is no mistake.

God has great plans for your child. Arrows are not meant to be kept safe in the quiver. He wants you to eventually release that arrow to make an impact on our world with the love of Christ. And guess who gets to be the primary “crafter” of the arrow?

Welcome to Arrow Crafting 101!

Any arrow to be useful must have a shaft, fletching (feathers), a nock (the groove at the end of the arrow into which the bow string fits), and a point. If all of these four are made well, the result is an effective arrow, beautifully designed for impact. These four qualities give us four clear goals to pursue as we craft our children. Nearly every issue or trap our children will encounter can be linked to a young person’s need in one of four areas.

1. The arrow’s shaft: identity

The making of a fine arrow begins with the shaft. Obviously, since every other part of the arrow must attach to the shaft, this part of the arrow is a lot like a child’s identity. If a child’s self concept is warped—not straight and strong—his flight in life may be wobbly.

The Scripture records the story of God giving man and woman an identity. The nation of Israel was selected, adopted and set apart by God to be “His people.” Every person is born with a unique, divinely-imprinted identity. If we want to properly guide our children to a healthy self identity, we must acknowledge and support the Creator’s design in three key areas: spiritual identity, emotional identity, and sexual identity. We must also communicate with them one of the most important messages they will ever receive—”You are made in the image of God. You are one valuable child.”

2. The arrow’s feathers: character

Why do arrows have those feathers at the back end?

The feathers or fletching create drag when the arrow is in flight, which keeps the back end of the arrow behind the front end—a pretty important function! It also stabilizes the arrow as it flies to its target. An arrow without good fletching is undependable and dangerous. If an arrow has the right kind of feathers, properly installed, it will fly straight. We think character has the same effect on a child.

From Genesis to Revelation, character development is a major theme of God’s work in people. And it’s one of the major assignments God gives us as parents. Character is how your child responds to authority and life’s circumstances. It is “response-ability,” and comes as a result of training our children to submit to God and His Word.

3. The arrow’s nock: relationships

All of the pent-up power in a bow is of no value if it cannot be effectively transferred. That’s why every arrow, at the rear of the shaft, has a small groove that holds the bowstring. This is called the nock. The nock keeps the arrow in place on the string until the power is released.

The nock can be compared to the third core ingredient necessary in a child’s life: relationships. When someone’s life intersects with God and with people, a power transfer occurs. None of us was intended to make a journey through life alone. We need the strength, comfort, encouragement, resources, and power provided by God and others.

Try teaching truth without a relationship with your child. It produces rebellion. Similarly, relationships without truth can result in a self-indulgent teen, one who is spoiled.

Children also need parents who will build into them the ability to love others. And this training can occur quite naturally in the context of our relationship. The best school to learn about relationships and resolving conflict is in the University of Family, where the professors teach and train their students for more than eighteen years.

4. The arrow’s point: mission

Our finely-crafted arrow is nearly complete. Only the front end of the shaft needs a finishing touch—a point.

The point of the arrow reminds us of the last essential quality we want to craft in a child: Every person needs a reason to live, a driving passion or calling that provides meaning and impact. This is a person’s mission.

We need to ask ourselves, “Have I more passion for the values of this world’s system than for the things of God? What are my goals in life—are they ones I want my child to copy?”

Every child should be helped to understand that life is a dynamic relationship with God that overflows in love to other people—a love that the Holy Spirit uses to reconcile the lost to God. Everything else, as good or innocuous as it may be, is only a prop to facilitating this mission.

Soon after our son Samuel was born we could tell that he was a natural athlete. After he turned 13 he really began to excel in tennis. We loved attending his matches and tournaments.

Samuel was ranked seventh in the state when his game began to slide. His coach didn’t understand why Samuel wasn’t getting to balls he had reached earlier with ease or why he was falling on the court. After a series of doctor’s appointments to try to figure out a diagnosis, we eventually had a neurologist describe what was going on with him as neuro-muscular degeneration. The bottom line was that Samuel’s days of tennis and sports were over.

Although Samuel’s disease was not life-threatening, we felt as though there had been a death of a dream for a young man and his parents.

The next four months were almost unbearable as Samuel refused to quit tennis. Finally, we had to help Samuel hang up his tennis racket and admit his playing days were over.

Late one afternoon as I (Dennis) was driving Samuel home from a doctor visit, we were talking about what his disease meant to him as a young man. I was struggling to keep my emotions composed while trying to comfort him. But Samuel ended up comforting me. He turned to me as we rode and said with a boyish grin, “Well, Dad, I guess you don’t need legs to serve God.”

I couldn’t talk. All I could do, as I brushed away a stream of tears, was reach across the seat and give him a hug.

Samuel was a young man whose identity went far beyond tennis, whose character could weather a stiff challenge, whose relationship with God and family could sustain him, and whose mission for God transcended any physical limitations he would face in his lifetime. Samuel’s arrow was nearly ready to fly, dead on, toward the bulls eye prepared for him.

Adapted from Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, Parenting Today’s Adolescent, Copyright © 1998 Thomas Nelson Publishers.