Raising Children in the Church When The World Seeps In

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B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Morning,

I am posting this with a fair amount of reluctance due to 1) the thought that many here might not be able to relate and 2) out of some concern that it will read like it came from the keyboard of a Pharisee...but here she goes.

For those with children: have you ever been in a church where you start to grow concerned that your children's peers aren't the kinds of kids you want your children to intermingle with? I hate asking that, but it's been weighing on my wife and I's minds as of late. I get that there is a mixed multitude in the pews and that the spectrum of Christian maturity/growth is at varying levels; however, the number of families with like-minded values and beliefs seems to be shrinking as my children grow older and the red flags in the behavior of other children and what other parents allow their children to be exposed to has started to spike.

When my children were younger it seemed easier to point out and correct behavior that you don't want your children to imitate, but as they have gotten older it seems more of a challenge as they realize their friends are permitted to do things they are not and they see conduct/behavior in the church go unchecked and begin to question whether mom and dad might be too strict. I'm beginning to encounter this a bit with my oldest who naturally wants to connect with other youth in the church and feels isolated/lonely when my wife and I pull back some on what church activities she can or can't participate in. As a parent it's concerning to see so much worldliness in the ark of the church.

Does this resonate with anyone at all?
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Maybe the other children have too many liberties, or perhaps your children have too few. It's difficult to give input when there are no specific examples/details...
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I can relate, B.L. This is just one thought: My children are all grown now but looking back, I see how valuable is that godly father/household in the church who will be the one to have kids over, exemplify family worship and joy in the Lord, etc. You can be a light and example, hosting and loving and caring for these kids, all the while setting a standard. I think your children will flourish in this and it will help them see the difference. It will be a challenge and something to prayerfully move forward with, should you undertake it.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Maybe the other children have too many liberties, or perhaps your children have too few. It's difficult to give input when there are no specific examples/details...

I left examples/details out as I'm not seeking counsel so much as wondering whether others have felt the same while rearing children in their own locale/context.

I appreciate your interacting with my OP though. :)
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I can relate, B.L. This is just one thought: My children are all grown now but looking back, I see how valuable is that godly father/household in the church who will be the one to have kids over, exemplify family worship and joy in the Lord, etc. You can be a light and example, hosting and loving and caring for these kids, all the while setting a standard. I think your children will flourish in this and it will help them see the difference. It will be a challenge and something to prayerfully move forward with, should you undertake it.

This thought is on track with what my wife and I discussed together. I appreciate you sharing this.

We've also thankfully met some wonderful families in our homeschool network...though they attend other churches it has been a joy to fellowship together. When we started our homeschool adventure a few years ago an old hand told me over a dad's donut breakfast that he was in many ways closer to his homeschool community than he was many in his own church. I was dismissive of that comment, but over time it has resonated with me.

Have a joyful day in the Lord.
 
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JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Don't know the ages of your children. That would help a lot.
I have 10 children, 24-6yrs old. What I have learned, through many attempts, is you must choose your battles wisely as a parent. There have been friendships that I cut off only to see the Lord do remarkable work in those who I thought were not good for my children. Little did I know that my children were also in need of the same pardoning grace that I thought others needed. The Lord has been faithful where I have been unfaithful. Proceed with caution. I have found that most the idealistic parents often have the most rebellious children as they enter their mid to late teen years. I am an example of this.
In saying choose your battles wisely, I mean being so strict (which I was), can often lead to secret sin and hidden relationships and greater rebellion in your child/children. The key, I have found is communication, openness, and a good dose of humility.

Child one and two were the most problematic, much of it being my own fault. Children 3-8 less so, learning from my mistakes. Children 9 and 10, still to be determined:)

Here is what I have learned (depending on the ages of your children):
1. Be the home where everyone wants to come. Food, games, intermittent but not excessive parental involvement.
2. Your older children need parameters, but let some of the decisions be volitional, not mandatory (Unless obviously sinful). Young children, obviously monitor closely.
3. Don't be on patrol. Children will feel most at home where there is moderate but not excessive parental involvement.
4. Be accessible. I often find older teens and young adults coming to speak with my wife and myself about life in general.
5. Don't overreact on things that don't please you, but could be much worse than they are.

Attached is a picture of my kitchen on a Friday night. This is TYPICAL. My wife and I were kept up last night due to the noise. We were a bit ticked until my wife said, "But they are here, not somewhere else, doing who knows what." It's been this way for about 3 years. May there be many more such interruptions to our sleep.
After all my "strict" mistakes, all 10 of my children (mostly teens) are in the church and following the Lord. I have been given far more than I deserve.

Warmly,
 

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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Every church I've been a part of has had families I wonder about. That's pretty normal. In general, it's good to be attentive to possible bad influences but not so cautious that you withdraw from other people or become self-righteous. A few thoughts:

1. Keeping your own house in order is far more important than protecting your kids from other homes. Even as teens, they will learn much more from you than they will from their peers. What they've learned in your home will color what they think of other homes, and it can actually be beneficial for them to get out a bit and experience how others live, even how other families have sins or blind spots that are somewhat different from how your family tends to sin and your blind spots. It's part of growing up and learning godliness.

2. Keeping your own house in order should mean making it a Christian home, not trying to keep it a perfect home. A Christian home is one that regularly practices faith and repentance. It is sin-aware and grace-aware, and it puts a priority on seeking God through frequent prayer, Scripture reading, godly discussions, worship attendance, etc. It may even appear more sinful than other homes because everyday sins are confessed and dealt with openly and honestly, without condemnation. But a "perfect home" tries to appear sin-free. It is a demanding place that imagines it is better than other homes, which makes it a burden to live there and to try to meet its standards. It is by nature overly protective and suspicious of other homes. Many Christian parents feel an urge to create a perfect home, but kids actually need a Christian home.

3. Don't be preachy and constantly critical about other homes. Remain humble and confident in God. Kids can see the differences between homes without you having to be a fearful critic.

4. Teaching your kids discernment is good, but teaching them humility (which happens by example) is even more important to godly behavior. A humble person obeys God out of willing and joyful service. A discerning person often "obeys" out of pride or self-righteousness. Modelling humility rather than mere discernment is very difficult for parents, and you need to be praying daily for a humble spirit.

5. Temper your protectiveness by asserting it mostly in situations that require greater oversight. Sleepovers deserve close scrutiny, but most lunch visits do not.

6. If you can do it humbly rather than self-righteously, think of your home as a place of good influence for other kids rather than as a bunker that protects your children from other kids. Get to know your kids' friends and their parents. Invite them over. While they are there, make them part of family devotions and other Christian habits, so that sharing this with them becomes normal rather than feeling weird. Counterintuitively, resisting a bunker mentality is one of the most protective things you can do for your kids. It trains them to be open about their faith rather than feeling a need to hide it—which is a common outcome of a bunker home and one you want to avoid.

7. You're playing a long game. Your goal is that when you send them off to college or to their own apartment, and they are no longer coming home to you each day, they will have a grounding in faith and repentance and will have enough experience/practice with all kinds of people that they know how to pick good friends and good churches even when you aren't looking over their shoulder and critiquing those friends and those churches. Be planning now to let them go then. Be training them to be submissive to God rather than trying to keep them forever submissive to you. That's harder than it sounds, and it means that as parents we must be humbly repentant and grace-receiving rather than self-important. Every parent has a prideful desire for their kids to follow them, but the kids really need to follow Jesus.
 
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