Parenting and Spiritual Development of Children
What is the single most important factor in the spiritual growth and development of a child? Education? A Balanced Diet? Exercise? A Good Night’s Sleep? These are all important, no doubt, but the single most important factor is the child’s parents. The beliefs, examples, and methods of training that parents employ have more influence upon a child’s spiritual development than any other. It is for this reason that the LORD enjoins parents with the spiritual growth and development of children (Deuteronomy 6:2).
Key to success in the spiritual growth and development of children is a method of parenting that focuses on spiritually transformational outcomes. Researcher George Barna has recently weighed in on this issue. He says:
Parenting by default and trial-and-error parenting are both approaches that enable parents to raise their children without the effort of defining their life. Revolutionary parenting, which is based on one’s faith in God, makes parenting a life priority. Those who engage in revolutionary parenting define success as intentionally facilitating faith-based transformation in the lives of their children, rather than simply accepting the aging and survival of the child as a satisfactory result.
In other words, to foster the spiritual growth and development of a child, parents must go beyond simple concern for a child’s independence, and focus upon a child’s spiritual transformation. A child’s independence as an adult is certainly not excluded in this focus, but it is not the final desired outcome for the child’s personal development. Consider Proverbs 29:15 in light of this: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
It is also not surprising that another study indicates that children whose parents focus upon spiritual development, as definitive of successful parenting, are more likely to remain spiritually active as adults. More frequent spiritual participation as children resulted in more frequent spiritual participation as adults. Less frequent spiritual participation as children resulted in less frequent spiritual participation as adults. Of course, such results are not always duplicated in each individual life, but so far as trends and generalities go, spiritual activity and involvement as children influences and brings about spiritual activity and involvement as adults. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
If one doubt that such parenting practices have the desired effect, just consider another Barna survey: “Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality.” The survey shows that young adults today are far more likely to engage in immoral behavior than previous generations.
For instance, two-thirds of the under-25 segment (64%) had used profanity in public, compared to just one out of five Boomers (19%). The younger group – known as Mosaics – was nine times more likely than were Boomers to have engaged in sex outside of marriage (38% vs. 4%), six times more likely to have lied (37% vs. 6%), almost three times more likely to have gotten drunk (25% vs. 9%) and to have gossiped (26% vs. 10%), and twice as likely as Boomers to have observed pornography (33% vs. 16%) and to have engaged in acts of retaliation (12% vs. 5%).
Now, what would we consider one of the main differences between the baby-boomer generation and those raised by the baby-boomers? Would it not be the emphasis upon spiritual growth and development of children?
Our children are important and precious. They are important, first of all, spiritually. Each soul is worth more than the whole world (Matthew 16:26). Their growth and development in that department should be paramount in importance due to this intrinsic worth.
They are important, secondly, for the ongoing growth and development of the family. The children of today become the parents of tomorrow. They will act toward their children largely as we have acted toward them.
They are importantly, thirdly, for the growth and development of the church. The same children we spiritually educate today will be the adults participating in the activities of the church tomorrow. Those activities will largely be shaped by the activities in which they participated as children.
They are important, fourthly, for the growth and development of society as a whole. Who wants to live in hell on earth? Yet, that is exactly the kind of place future generations will occupy given the trends of moral decline today. May we, as parents, understand and respect the awesome God-given responsibility for our children’s spiritual growth and development, and may we set appropriate goals to so effect that development.