We all want the best for our children. We want them to be used by God to do great things, to be world-changers and make a difference in eternity. But these things don’t happen by accident; they are planned for, prayed for, and worked toward.
You may be surprised to hear this, but children are born with an incredibly small worldview. Their entire universe exists inside their own skin: what do I want, what do I feel, what makes me happy. If we want our children to grow up to be something for God, we must expand their view of life, and it’s never too early to start.
Just taking the children to church is not enough; if that’s all you do, you haven’t even gotten in the ballpark yet. “Church” in the twenty-first century is mostly a spectator sport, and God has enough spectators. What he wants are workers.
How do we raise up workers who will make a difference for God? Three ways: we plan, we pray, and we implement.
Nothing big ever happens without a plan…
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28–30).
…and the plan should be in place before the materials (the children) show up. Parents, have a vision of what you want your children to be when they are adults, and start heading toward that goal right now, even before they are born. Plan for the good times and the difficult times before they happen. Make your decisions now, when you can think clearly, before you are in the heat of the moment. Decide how you will handle this situation and that one. Will you let the children have sleep-overs? Who, if anyone, will be allowed to babysit? Will you homeschool or send them to public or private school? Will they take dance lessons or learn cooking and carpentry and first aid skills? Will you permit shyness or teach them to be outgoing and confident? Consider how all your decisions will shape who they become, thereby dictating what they are able to do in the Lord’s work.
It goes without saying that we must pray for our children, so why is it so hard to do consistently? Is it because we are too busy to spend ten minutes on our knees asking God to use our kids for his glory? Is it because we think he is too busy to listen? We’ve all heard the story about the guy who gets to heaven and God shows him all the storehouses of blessings he wanted to give, but the guy never asked. I wonder how many of our children will miss God’s best because we didn’t make prayer a priority.
Pray now. Pray often. Pray without ceasing. Don’t wait until there is a catastrophe and then beg God to get you and your kids out of it. Pray preemptively.
So how do we bring about what we want in our children’s lives? How do we implement the plan? Just as we learn the scriptures line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, our children will learn what it means to serve God the same way.
You will never get your children to a particular place if you don’t go there yourself. When the shepherd wants his flock in a particular place, he doesn’t run after them, yelling about which way to turn or barking directions about how much farther it is. He gets out in front of the flock and LEADS them. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
If you want your kids to be hard workers, be a hard worker. If you want the girls to be contented homemakers who serve their families, be a contented homemaker who serves her family. If you want them to be soul winners, be a soul winner, and take them along so they can see how it’s done and gain confidence that it is a normal part of everyday life. Show them how we hand out tracts and tell people about Jesus everywhere we go—the bank, the gas station, Lowe’s, Walmart. They will grow up thinking this is normal, and when your kids meet people who don’t witness all the time, those people will be the oddballs.
When our five kids were little, we were part of a missions-minded fellowship. There was a constant stream of missionary families always coming through, and though we had five children in a 1200-square-foot house with one bathroom, we always had missionary families staying with us. Our kids got to meet the families who were bold enough to go, and hear firsthand the stories of God working on the mission field. It gave them a taste of what was possible and greatly expanded their worldview. They learned there were billions more people in the world than just the twelve kids in their Sunday school class.
By the time they were teens, our kids had seen and heard enough; they were ready to go and do. One by one they committed themselves to a short-term work they felt God would bless, and dove in wholeheartedly. On an enlisted military salary, we couldn’t help them pay for their trips. It was up to them to figure out how to do that—and what great lessons in trusting God!
Our oldest son spent a college spring break with a group of young men doing construction work for a mission in Mexico. We had no money to pay for his trip, but told him we would help him pray for God’s provision. Two months before they were to go, God gave Mike a small job that would pay the full price. Watching God provide became deliriously fun sport at our house.
When our second child, Deb, was sixteen, she was ready to go. She found a group that organized summer-long mission trips for teens and signed up. Her first-choice trip to Siberia was canceled due to visa problems, so she had to choose another destination. Three weeks before she was to leave, she told us she believed God wanted her to go to Cuba. When her daddy balked at that idea, she countered with, “But you said I should go someplace where people might never hear the gospel if I don’t go tell them.”
God has a funny way of turning the tables on us, doesn’t he? Our goal for our kids was that they should learn to trust God completely; now we were the ones doing all the trusting. For 30 days she and her team traveled around Cuba, eating nothing but rice and beans (and dog, the one time they got meat), having no access to clean water, contracting parasites, at times being sought by the authorities for their proselytizing—and we had no communication with her at all. Now that will bring a mom and dad to their knees.
In subsequent years we sent children on mission trips to Poland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong, always letting them trust God to provide for their needs, and what an amazing education it was for them and for us.
God does not give us children so we can hoard them for ourselves, keeping them for our own enjoyment. If your view of life is so small that you can’t see past your own four walls, start inviting life in. Expand your own worldview, and take your children with you. Get to know some missionaries, and find out how your family can help them. Don’t raise your kids up to keep them close; prepare them to go out and to carry the glorious gospel of Christ with them when they go.