Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gospel-Centered Parenting

I am reading a book right now on parenting. I usually do not read books like this, not because I dislike learning about parenting, but because most of the books I have seen are flesh-driven, rule-driven books that fall short of sharing how to parent with a gospel-centered approach. My interest was captured recently when I learned about a book from Timmy Brister on how to parent with grace and the gospel driving your philosophy and approach. The name of the book is Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus. It is a fast and easy read. This is a book that goes beyond giving parenting tips, it teaches you the gospel. Not only does it teach you the gospel, it shows you how to contextualize the gospel in different parenting situations.

Check out a few quotes from the book to get an idea:

In talking about the need for God to do a work in and through our children, instead of trusting that our "good parenting" can fix/change/save our kids: "There are no promises in the Bible that even our best parenting will produce good children. None." (59)

"We have far too high a view of our ability to shape our children and far too low a view of God's love and trustworthiness." (57)

"Raising good kids is utterly impossible unless they are drawn by the Holy Spirit to put their faith in the goodness of another. You cannot raise good kids, because you're not a good parent." (50)

On the encouragement and accolades we give our kids for "obeying the rules" or "being nice" they say, "Our encouragement should aways stimulate praise for God's grace rather than our goodness." (43)

"If a Mormon can parent the same way you do, then your parenting isn't Christian." (37)

On the issue of teaching our kids to flesh and fear-driven obedience, "Every way we try to make our kids good that isn't rooted in the good news of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is damnable, crushing, despair-breeding, Pharisee-producing law." (36)

"Instead of the gospel of grace, we've given them daily baths in a "sea of narcissistic moralism."" (20)

You can tell from these quotes the tone and nature of the book. It gives lots of practice helps and examples to accompany the biblically-centered truths. At the end of the day, I want to be a parent that teaches my kids the gospel, through my parenting. I do not want to preach the gospel to them, only to then teach moralism and flesh-driven obedience. This book has sparked in me a desire for other parents to evaluate their parenting through the lenses of the gospel. This fall, I am considering doing a parenting seminar around this book. Let me know if this would interest you.

I would love to hear from you: Is your parenting grace-centered or law-centered? Are you teaching your children the gospel through your parenting or are you encouraging and celebrating the idea of their own efforts to "obey rules" and act like "good little boys and girls."

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  1. I'm interested in reading this book as well. While I feel His grace always supersedes our screw ups He does give us boundaries or rules as some would put it. When we step outside of those boundaries there are consequences and essentially when we stay inside of those boundaries there are rewards. How different is it then to reward our children when they stay within boundaries or obey rules? Just some thoughts.

  2. Josh,

    That is one of the major issues the book gets into. Our children still have to be taught not to throw a fit in the aisle of a store, and they need to be disciplined, but even our approach and perspective in how we approach discipline (or rewarding), must have a gospel/grace focus.

    For example, if we reward obedience from our children with, "you are such a good boy/girl," we are lying to them. Scripturally, we know they are not good boys and girls. Scripturally we know they need the grace of God. So when they do something in obedience to a rule or guideline, we don't say "you are such a good boy/girl" but we can say "because you were obedient it shows that God is working in your life, because you and I do not want to naturally obey. Let's thank God for working in you to be obedient."

    It may sound trite, but how we discipline and reward our kids will teach them a theology. It will be "caught" in and how we parent them.

    You will enjoy the book. I highly recommend it.


  3. i would really enjoy you doing some classes or whatnot based on this book! no matter how much anyone prepares you for parenthood, its never enough and it gets harder everyday! Cory and I are dedicated to raising the boys in Christ but we need a lot of guidance in doing so!

  4. Amber,

    The great thing about this book, which is desperately needed, is encouragement to parents. In the same way that kids have no ability to be "good kids" it is impossible for us to be "good parents." We need the gospel of God's grace as much as our kids do...including how we parent.

    We will definitely do something this fall around this topic.