Raising Kids Of Faith
As Christian parents, we desire to raise our children to become kids of faith. Filmmaker and actor Alex Kendrick gives us five helpful things to help parents foster an environment for that to happen.
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As Christian parents, we desire to raise our children to become kids of faith. Filmmaker and actor Alex Kendrick gives us five helpful things to help parents foster an environment for that to happen.
Raising Kids Of Faith
Bob: There may be no more important assignment for us as parents than for us to do all we can do to actively incline our children’s hearts toward the Lord. Here is Alex Kendrick.
Alex: I don’t want my kids’ hearts/I don’t want my heart to be callous to the things of God. Again, if the Lord has their hearts, they will face temptation, and struggles, and even issues of repentance far differently than if the Lord does not have their hearts. I intentionally pray regularly, “Lord, please keep the heart of my children moldable and tender toward You,”—their mind is receptive of His truth and their relationships to be honoring to God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 22nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ll hear from Alex Kendrick today about how we can be more effectively praying for our children. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. If I had to pick the top five issues that our listeners want us to be helping them with over and over again, one of the top five would be what we’re going to hear about today.
Dave: I mean, it’s a top five for us.
Dave: I mean, we’re empty nesters now; but still, it was like, “How do we help our children walk with Jesus their whole life and especially as adults?”
Bob: That’s the core—not just parenting in general—but “How do we get our kids on the right spiritual path?”
The three of us had an opportunity to hear Alex Kendrick speak on this subject recently. Alex, our listeners will know, is part of the Kendrick brothers. They’ve made the movies: War Room, Overcomer, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Courageous—a number of great movies. Alex has directed many of those, co-written a lot of them, starred in some of those movies.
He spoke to us about how we raise kids of faith and the things that need to be priorities. We thought, “We need to share that with our listeners”; so that’s what we’re going to hear today. Here’s Alex Kendrick.
Alex: What is the end result of what we all want for our kids? As followers of Christ, let’s talk about our target. We want, eventually, to have grown children, who love and walk with God, and live to honor Him, and who are passing their faith on to the next generation. I hope that is what you want for your children. Yes, we want them to be successful in life and financially; we want them to be happy; but I hope, above all, you want them to be walking and honoring the One who made them—so that is the target.
Since that is the target, we want to make sure we are aiming for that; right? You are not going to hit a target you are not aiming at, so we want to intentionally aim for this target. Alright; so we’re going to talk about five things. The first thing—having set the target—sincere faith; let’s talk about this. Sincere faith: knowing and walking with Jesus. We cannot pass onto our children what we don’t have ourselves. If you want your children to grow spiritually, and in a healthy mindset in a walk with God, that will come most early and effectively when you are doing it yourself.
Before we get started, I would say to impart faith to your children, you have to have sincere faith yourself. I put one verse up there, Romans 10:13: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Just so we all know, what that includes—an acknowledgement of who He is—of who I am: that I need Him; I need Him as Savior; I need Him as Lord; He died for me. When I surrender my life to Him and I belong to Him—I put my faith and trust in Him—He gives me a new heart/a new spirit. He genuinely saves me. When I live that out, that is easier to impart to my children.
A sincere faith: you need to know that you belong to Jesus Christ—not that you know about Him—but that He is Lord and Savior. It says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” We want to establish that first.
Okay; so having established that sincere faith, let’s go to the next one: prayer strategy—praying specifically for each of your children—pray for their hearts to be moldable and tender toward the Lord, their minds to be receptive of His truth, and their relationships to be honoring to God. Pray for strong faith and a hatred for sin. Pray for God’s protection, for wisdom and discernment, for a hunger for God’s Word. Pray for healthy relationships and interests and a desire for holiness. Then pray all this, again, for their future spouse; if they are married, start praying now. Again, you can’t pray these things enough.
Now, this is certainly not exhaustive; but when I am praying for my children, I pray through these things. Now, again, add as much as you want to this. If I go through this very quickly, pray for their hearts to be moldable and tender toward the Lord, of course, you know why. I don’t want my kids’ hearts/I don’t want my heart to be callous to the things of God. Again, if the Lord has their hearts, they will face temptation, and struggles, and even the issue of repentance far differently than if the Lord does not have their hearts. I intentionally pray regularly, “Lord, please keep the heart of my children moldable and tender toward You,”—their mind receptive of His truth and their relationships to be honoring to God.
Pray for God’s protection. Of course, we want to pray for their protection; for wisdom and discernment; and for a hunger for God’s Word. I love, I love, I love when my children are spending time with the Lord. One of the questions—and I’ll refer to this a little bit later—one of the questions I love asking them—and feel free to write this down—is to engage conversation with them: “What is the most recent thing God has taught you?”
If they are not walking with God in any sort of way, they’re not going to have answer for that question; but if they are walking with God, there will be an answer to that question. Occasionally, I ask my kids, “Hey,”—especially the older ones—“out of curiosity, what’s the most recent thing God has taught you?” From their time in God’s Word, they will have an answer for that.
Alright; for wisdom and discernment, a hunger for God’s Word—pray for healthy friendships and interests. You guys know that their friends will influence them. The things they are interested in can pull them away or enrich their lives—and a desire for holiness. Pray all of this, again, for their future spouse. Don’t be mad when I say this: “Don’t be lazy about praying for their future spouse. They’re out there, and you want these same qualities in your future son-in-law or daughter-in-law. That’s what you want for them.”
Okay; now, my wife found—and we think it’s from John Maxwell—but we’ve messed with it a little bit, and certainly you can add to this. Christina says in her quiet time—when she is praying to God, she adds all of these things—and I love this—for our children:
She prays for the faith of Abraham: that their faith would be personable and intimate with God.
She prays for the leadership of Moses: that they would be led by God as they lead others in their area of strength with their personality/the way God has wired them—that they would be leaders.
The courage and conviction of Daniel: that no matter what this world says, trying to pull them away, that they are unwavering in their faith. It’s firm and unwavering just like Daniel.
The heart of David—oh my goodness—God loves the heart of David—that they are tender toward God and repentant. David, as you know—he was a great sinner, and he was equally a great repenter. We want our children to be quickly repentant when the Lord says/puts them under conviction.
The wisdom of Solomon: of course, wise and discerning in all that they do.
The perseverance of Job: that they are faithful even in hardship. Yes, Job struggled, and every single person in this room has some crisis or horror stories they could share—all of us. If you don’t, please don’t get mad when I say, “One day you will.” Every single one of us—we want to make it through those hardships, honoring to God on the other side of it. It doesn’t mean you didn’t struggle; doesn’t mean you didn’t question; it doesn’t mean you didn’t ask, “What is going on?” But we want to honor the Lord with our perseverance.
The zeal of Paul: a desire to share the gospel. What does Scripture say about “He that winneth souls is”?—“wise.” We want them to want to share the gospel.
The faithfulness of Timothy: that they are faithful to God, their family, their friends, and of course, faithful to the faith itself.
The compassion of Jesus: to see and love people, to have/you have feelings of compassion for them.
Now, you could add to this list all day long. I’m thinking, “Oh, I want the courage of Joshua!”—right?—“Be strong and courageous.” We want the grace of Esther and Ruth. Man, you could just go through the Scripture; so add it. You study Scripture and come up with an additional prayer strategy for your children.
You can see the way we pray. Don’t pray just general prayers; I encourage you: “Do the work of praying strategically.” And I would say: “You want specific answers from God?—pray specifically; don’t just gloss over it.” We spend too much time worrying and not enough time praying—too much time fretting over what our children are going through—and not enough time, on our face or on our knees, seeking the Lord. Do the work of prayer.
Okay; so we’ve talked about sincere faith—you need to have it before you can pass it on. We’re talking about praying strategically: develop a prayer strategy. Please feel free to use ours as a jump-off point, but continue to develop your own.
The next one is aiming for their hearts. If you have their heart, they are more likely to listen to you. People tend to embrace the belief of those who they believe love them the most. So whoever has your child’s heart will influence their life. When I was growing up, when I believed, “Oh my parents are being too stringent on me; they are being too legalistic with me,”—when I believed they were being too legalistic and some of friends were saying something different, the point where I believed my friends really loved me and had my best interests in mind—guess where my heart shifted to; right? Your children’s hearts will shift toward those they believe love them the most, so it is important that you and I proactively go after their hearts.
The Old Testament ends with the need of the hearts of fathers to be turned back to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers—if that doesn’t happen, Malachi 4:5 says, “The nation will become cursed, and truth will be forsaken.” That is not what we want in our homes. When a young person feels unloved, they will go elsewhere to find affirmation and affection—often to the wrong people and the wrong places. If you want your children to listen to you/to delight and follow in your counsel, you must first be proactive to win his or her heart.
How can we do this?—three A’s: Attention, Affirmation, and Affection. Let’s go through these. Even if they are grown/even if they are grown, talk to your children. Make them feel safe, secure, and loved. Plan on one-on-one time with them—meals, dates, activities. Don’t choose less important things over your kids, especially when they are young. Engage your kids; talk to your children; make them feel safe, secure, and loved.
The next one is affirmation. Affirmation is one of the key elements behind a father’s blessing: to bless means to speak well of someone so that they will have God’s favor on their lives. When you bless your children, you are lovingly using the authority you have to verbally affirm them toward future success. Everyone wants to live up to the expectations of those that love us.
Consider this: When Jesus was baptized—this was before He started His ministry; right?—when Jesus was baptized, what did God say from heaven? “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is before the miracles started. All of us want to hear—especially from our dad—“I love you,” “I’m proud of you, and I’m glad that you are mine.” Even as adults, you can say that to your children: “If I’ve never said it before son/if I’ve never said it before daughter, can I just say to you, ‘I love you; I’m proud of you for so many different reasons; and I’m glad that you are mine’?” We want to hear that affirmation.
Affection is the third one. “Our heavenly Father pours out His love on us,” Romans 5:5 says, “so should parents to their children.” Hug them; kiss them; hold them; appropriately touch your kids during your interaction with them. Boys, who feel loved by their fathers, are bolder, stronger, and more secure. Girls, who know they are loved, are less desperate for a boyfriend. Give them meaningful gifts, take them places, show your affection for them. Alright; so attention, affirmation, and affection.
Let’s move on. Number four—needful boundaries: put God-honoring standards in place in your home, your work, your areas of entertainment. Then help your children understand why they are there—of course, when they are young/if you have very young kids, of course, they need to obey you because you are mom and dad; they don’t have the ability to process the reasoning behind it; right?—but when they are older, especially when they get to be 13, 15, 18, and you have parameters in place.
I have fences, if you will, in all the areas you would expect to have them; so we have standards in our home. Our kids/like your kids have challenged those fences, especially in areas of entertainment: “Now, why can’t we watch this movie? What’s so wrong with it?! All my friends/all the other church kids watch it.” “Is it ever okay?”—you know, alcohol. “How much alcohol?”—all those kinds of things—so we have fences in my home.
I’m going to share a story with you that you need to share with your kids, even if they are older, because it helps my children understand. When I’m trying to honor God and to be the shepherd of my home and their hearts, it is my responsibility, while they are in my home, under my roof—until they are adults and gone—it is my responsibility to watch over them and shepherd their hearts; right? I cannot do it perfectly, so I told them this story. This is when it clicked for them; please use this story.
Not sure where it was, but over in England—and I think there are some places even in the Northeast of the U.S. that are like this—you’ll have on the beaches/and this was a really rocky beach—you’ll have this sharp cliff that goes straight up, and then you’ll have/it levels off up there, and some people build houses up there. You know what I’m talking about? They can go to a fence, and they can see the water and everything; but there is a deep drop off.
Years ago, a father had a house up there. He had a flat part of his backyard, then it went down a slope to the cliff, and then it went straight down to the rocks on the beach. He had a fence at the end of the flat part of his backyard. His son grew up, playing back there; and everything was fine.
When his son was grown, he inherited that house and property; got married; and he and his wife had twin boys—the twin boys playing in the backyard. Soon they discovered, “Oh, this is not a lot of room for the twin boys. Now, we own so much more property that goes down to the cliff, but it’s on a slope.” That young father said, “Tell you what—I’m going to move the fence part of the way down the slope to give them more room to play—the wooden fence. He did the work to move the fence.
They are eight or nine years old. They play—it’s a little more—and they start saying, “Dad, but we have so much more; can’t we play/can’t we get over the fence?” He goes, “No, do not climb over the fence, ever.” He and his wife talked about it; they decided to move the fence again. It was there property after all, so they moved the fence further down the slope.
Eventually, by the time the boys were 13, he moved the fence all the way down to the edge of the cliff. They are 13. They know not to climb over the fence; they know where the danger is; and it is our property after all. One day, the boys got into an argument: “Who was faster?” They are playing in the backyard. The mom is inside, just in the kitchen, working on a meal. She hears the boys arguing; and the boys say, “Okay; touch the house, and whoever makes it to the fence first is the fastest.” They take off running; and immediately, the mom realizes what could happen.
As they are running down the slope toward the fence, neither of them slow down because they want to win the race. By the time, they got to the fence, they could not stop. Their momentum carried them over the fence. Both of them dropped to their death on the rocks below. Now, let me ask you: “Where should the fence have been put?” See, when I ask that question, you will all have different answers; but none of you will say on the edge of the cliff.
When I asked my children that, they thought about it, and they gave different answers; but it was all between the flat part of the yard and a little bit down the slope. But they all gave answers that left a lot of room on the slope. I said, “Can you understand that, if I move the fence at all down the slope, you could argue with me, ‘Well, what’s different if we moved it just one foot further or one foot less?’ You could argue that it’s very little difference, and I would agree. But here is the point, my son and my daughter, I have to put the fence somewhere. Do you understand that?” They are like, “Yes; yes, you do.” “We can argue about where that fence is, but why do I want to put a fence around a certain area?—a certain area of entertainment?—a certain area of access to the internet?—a certain area of you spending time with the opposite sex? Why do I want to put a fence there?” They are like, “It is to protect us.” “Yes, to protect you.”
In other words, you, in your home, have to put up boundaries and have principles and standards in place; and you’ve got to put them somewhere. Put up a fence; you need boundaries/needful boundaries. I encourage you to share with your children why you put them there and just say, “Because I love you, I’ve got to put the fence somewhere. Trust me, as your father, who cares deeply for your heart, and who is praying for you, and loves you. I’m not a perfect dad; your mom is not a perfect mom, but would you trust me to put the fence there for your good?”
Let’s move on to the next one. Number five—keep hypocrisy out—this is obvious to you—if you say one thing but do another, or refuse to apologize for mistakes, you will lose their trust/part of losing their heart. If your children see you do something hypocritical, then you need to stop and apologize as you repent and seek the Lord’s forgiveness; you may need to also seek your family’s forgiveness; alright?
I’m going to talk about this for just a minute. When a child withdraws emotionally or goes into rebellion, a wise parent will sit down with them and start asking questions to discover what happened to break the heart strings between them. If appropriate, a sincere apology from the parent needs to be ready first before they expect their child to apologize for their misbehavior. God can graciously redeem our failures for good, provided we recognize those failures and confess them. Don’t let pride keep you from regaining their trust and, therefore, their heart.
God has given us a great calling to bless and teach our children and grandchildren to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let’s shepherd our kids’ hearts so they will receive our blessing into their lives, eventually, give God their entire heart and live the great adventure He has for them for His glory.
Why?—whoever wants the next generation the most will get them. We have to fight for the hearts of our children. Does the world want the loyalty of your children?—yes, they do. Do they want their mindset?—yes, they do. Do they want their political views, their spiritual views, or their lack thereof?—yes. The world wants to own the hearts of our children. You and I cannot just let your teachers, or your pastor, or youth minister—as good as they might be—to raise your kids. That is your and my job, especially when they are in our home. We have to embrace that, and we have to fight for our kids.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Alex Kendrick talking about how we raise kids of faith. Those priorities—we’ve got to keep those in front of us.
Ann: What a great message. I feel fired up; don’t you?—like I want to fight for our kids.
Dave: I mean, I was inspired hearing it in person and hearing it again. I want to share that with people; because parents, like we said earlier, this is the thing we lay in bed at night and think about. He gives us handles and practical steps to say, “You can do this, and here is how you do it.”
Bob: It’s easy to share this with others. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There is a link there to the complete message from Alex Kendrick, and you can download it or share it with others. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Alex and his brother, Stephen, have written a book called PrayerWorks: Prayer Strategy and Training for Kids. It’s a book that we also have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order that from us online.
And if you have not yet gone through FamilyLife®’s Art of Parenting® video series, either online or with a group, this is essential training for parents. Alex and Stephen Kendrick are contributors to that series, along with Alistair Begg, Bryan and Korie Loritts, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Tim and Darcy Kimmel—so many people who contributed to this Art of Parenting video series. Get all the information about the series, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have a young parents’ small group in your church—or if, as an older couple, you’d like to mentor some younger couples—get this series and take them through it. Again, the information is available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, a week from tonight, we’re going to be kicking off a small group of our own. For three weeks, on Facebook® Live, we’re going to have a Love Like You Mean It study. This is based on the book I’ve just completed called Love Like You Mean It. We’re going to be looking at 1 Corinthians 13. You can sign up to be part of the Love Like You Mean It small group, Thursdays, 7 o’clock Central Time, on Facebook Live. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about how you can be part of the Love Like You Mean It Facebook Live small group, starting next Thursday night.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about just how powerful a wife can be in the life of her husband. Dr. Juli Slattery shares with us strategies for how a wife can powerfully and profoundly minister to her husband. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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