Children are a gift from the Lord
In Psalms 127:3 we read there that ‘Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.’ Have you ever felt like returning the gift? I mean it’s all well and good to receive gifts from the Lord, however, have there been any times in your child rearing seasons, when you have felt that you were just not cut out for this type of life? Perhaps it was when you were taking your two and a half year old shopping and they had a melt down in the shopping center. All that screaming and the tantrum flailing arms had you questioning why you made the decision to be a stay at home parent. Maybe, when you had a teenager in the house and the bills were high and they just kept eating and eating and outgrowing everything you bought for them. Can you remember a day when you asked them to help out with some chores in the house and their response was less than polite? Perhaps you had to bite your tongue to keep from lashing out at this ungrateful individual before you.
How does one, reconcile, a child being a gift from God with the reality that the parenting journey is at times difficult? May I suggest some wisdom from Ecclesiastes 3:1 ‘To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven….’ Parenting and the challenges associated with it is seasonal. As a step parent to three children, I joined the child rearing journey fully aware of what I was getting myself into. I’d been teaching secondary school children for thirteen years, sharing in my students’ dreams and accomplishments, introducing some to Jesus, being involved in their behavioural management, so I felt that I was somewhat prepared for the parenting journey ahead.
A few things which I found to be beneficial during the parenting season of my life was that, children really do appreciate parents who make time for them. Investing in your child’s good health emotionally, physically and socially ensures a stronger and healthier next generation. The greatest gift which a parent can give his or her child, however, is the gift of a personal relationship or walk with Jesus. By intentionally creating an environment for these experiences to occur mums and dads can help shape their child’s spiritual health. It is unfortunate that current research says that many of our children are walking away from their faith and church in their adolescent years. In order to look after the gift that our children are, we need to expose them to 7 Essential Faith Experiences. These faith experiences may be quickly learned using an acronym of the English word S.H.A.P.I.N.G:
S is for Service and Mission. Children involved in acts of service along with their parents will grow in their faith and values. As they involve themselves in being the hands and feet of Jesus they are more clearly able to see who and why Jesus came to serve and save.
H is for Homes Empowered. Empowered homes where children are loved and given boundaries, yet encouraged to continually grow are the best kinds of homes to shape the faith and belief systems of a child.
A is for Authentic Relationships. Children who at home, church and school encounter real and authentic relationships are blessed. As it is important for children to rub up against real people dealing with life and the challenges which are a part of everyday living. Authenticity and to be able to connect with like-minded people allows a child to gain a true picture of who God authentically is.
P is for Participation. Every person young and old has a part to play in the church family. Therefore, it is important for a child’s faith development for them be able to participate in the life of their church, to be involved, to be listened to and to also learn and grow from the wisdom of others.
I is for Intergenerational Connections. Children need to know who they are and where they fit into the family. Within the church there is much wisdom to be gained from the older generations just as there is much that the younger generation may teach the older people. Instead of constantly separating the generations a young persons faith is strengthened when they learn to listen to each other and work collaboratively together.
N is for Noteworthy Memory Events
Traditions and spiritual memories a very important in growing faith. A child’s involvement in these church or home events helps strengthen their faith in the amazing God they serve. Parents ensuring family worships are conducted on a daily basis are Kingdom builders.
G is for God Encounters.
Creating an environment where children may have a God encounter where they are exposed to the greatness and wonder of our creator God will help a child’s faith grow. By guiding a child to experience God in the natural world parents help children gain an understanding of who and what God is capable of.
Children are a gift from the Lord and it is true that we only parent them for such a brief season of their lives, I encourage you to consider SHAPING their faith for eternity by giving them the gift of a rock solid relationship with Jesus!
South Pacific Division
Discipleship Ministries – Children’s Ministries Director