Christian parents face more opposition than ever before. We live in a culture that promotes paganism and protects perversion. Plus, there’s a rising threat from within Christianity itself, as many churches twist Scripture to make it more culturally acceptable. Without a doubt, Christian parents are on the front lines of the culture wars. Even those who are getting it right aren’t doing so without struggle. That being said, I see three common Christian parenting mistakes. My goal here is not to pick on you as a parent, but to warn you.
Teaching Kids to Fear the Wrong Things
Fear permeates our culture. Consequently, kids today express a lot of fear. They’re afraid of disease, violence, and climate change (just to name a few). Think about it—kids are being told that the planet we live on will only last another few years. No wonder the teen suicide rate has risen sharply. This generation is struggling to find hope and purpose. One of the greatest mistakes we make is teaching our kids to fear the wrong people and the wrong things.
Should we teach young children to have a healthy fear of a hot stove and a busy street? Of course! But we also need to give them a healthy respect for a holy God. Jesus taught, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
The opposite of fear is assurance. And the only real assurance we have is in learning to trust God. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Jesus is not only our eternal hope, He also gives us purpose for today.
Teaching Kids to Find Identity in the Wrong Things
I worry that our bucket lists are all about here and now. Many parents are so focused on making memories on Earth that they fail to make disciples fit for Heaven. Parents tell me, “We only have a few years with our kids.” True! And that’s exactly my point. How you choose to spend those few years shapes where they look for acceptance and to find their identity. Your actions—not your words—teach them what you consider most important.
Be careful not to let your kids find their identity in activities—sports, music, academics, etc. Don’t encourage them to find acceptance in a world that Jesus said would hate His followers. I’m not opposed to sports and vacations, but if your goal is to make fun memories you might miss the one thing they need most—a growing relationship with Jesus. Their “best life” is not here but in Heaven! Teach them to love the eternal, not what lasts only a moment or a season.
Teaching Kids to Believe the Wrong Things
Most Christian parents feel great relief after their kids get saved and baptized. But that’s not the time to take your foot off the pedal because that’s when discipleship begins! What your child believes about the Christian life will largely be determined by two things: the church you attend and the example you set at home.
As I said at the beginning, many churches today manipulate the Bible to make Christianity more acceptable. They promote self-love and teach tolerance for behavior clearly condemned by God. They get away with it because biblical illiteracy is sky-rocketing within the Church. I cannot over emphasize the importance of attending a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church.
Barna research has found that only 4% of professing Christian parents hold to a biblical worldview (a high view of Scripture as the authoritative guide for life). Barna remarked, “Perhaps the most powerful worldview lesson parents provide is through their own behavior, yet our studies consistently indicate that parental choices generally do not reflect biblical principles or an intentionally Christian approach to life.”
I know Christian parents who are shocked by what their kids believe. Yet, many of those parents cannot clearly articulate their own Christian beliefs. Is church important? Yes! But countless young adults have walked away because they didn’t see done at home what was said at church.
I’ve been fighting this battle as a parent and as a pastor for 40 years. I have seen the devastation of being passive and deceived, but I’ve also seen the impact and success of those who were faithful. In my own life, I’ve learned much more about parenting from my “misses” than my “hits;” when I failed than when I succeeded.
Have you made one or more of these Christian parenting mistakes? Don’t be afraid to admit what you’ve been doing wrong. Correct it now, if possible. You may even need to apologize to your children for where you failed to follow God and His Word.
But even if you do everything right, your child might still make a bad choice. Remember, Adam and Eve lived in the perfect place, with the perfect parent, and still blew it. There comes a time when kids make their own decisions. You can’t live their lives for them. What you can do is give them a consistent example to follow. You can live in reverence for God, value the eternal over the temporal, and base every decision on the authority of God’s Word.