We live in a crazy world. And it’s getting crazier by the day. And it’s not a good, fun kind of crazy. It’s scary. And one of the scariest things to me as I look around at our rapidly spiraling culture is that this is the world my believing children have to live in. During their formative years and beyond they are sure to face far darker and more sinister challenges than I ever did. Their worldview, belief system, and commitment will be challenged.
As fathers, that thought must sober us and call us to action because it is my job and yours to help prepare and equip them for living in their world. But there’s good news: they have all they need to be prepared, and you and I have all we need as we prepare them!
My goal is to suggest some biblical and practical foundation pieces for us as believing fathers that will help us guide our born-again children through the cultural pitfalls all around them. Then next time we’ll tackle specific opportunities you and I may have day in and day out to put these foundation pieces into practice.
As a dad to two redeemed elementary-age children, I am noticing how much they are starting to notice about their godless surroundings. They don’t miss much anymore. They’re seeing the mess around them, and they’re wondering about it. And that fact is presenting me with a golden opportunity.
Helping Them Pursue Holiness
How does Scripture define our job as dads? Perhaps the most succinct example is Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers… bring [your kids] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Our job is to introduce them to the Lord himself. He’s the central topic! And as they come to know him by faith, we must consistently teach them what he has said and what he expects.
1 Peter 1:13–16 summarizes what he expects. The goal for any believer, as they grow in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, is holiness, being set apart and uniquely committed to him. Our Lord is holy, and he expects that we grow to be like him. Our regenerate children are called to that pursuit just as much as we are.
But Peter knew that our pursuit of holiness will be a battle, no matter our stage of growth. So I love how he starts out his call to holiness: “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded” (v.13a). Our children need to be prepared and equipped for the opposition they are sure to face.
Their enemy doesn’t want them to be holy. Their enemy is going to throw falsehood and appealing thinking and doubt and tempting alternatives at them right from the start, right now in their formative years. And their godless surroundings are a massive tool he is sure to use.
It’s our job as dads to equip their thinking and guide their actions to not turn aside from that pursuit of holiness. Their culture will counter that effort at every turn. So prepping them for that opposition is a vital part of our role as they develop their own holy living.
So what foundations can we put in place to help us help them handle the fallen aspects of their culture? Here are a few ideas.
Develop Scripture’s Impact on Them
God’s Word is where our kids find the discipline and instruction of the Lord. It’s where they find how to be holy. And it’s the weapon they need to prepare their minds for action. It’s the foundation that will enable them to withstand all that their culture will throw at them.
They need to have confidence in it. They must know it provides the answers they need. Before we ever tackle the difficult topics of fallen culture with them, we must present them with this foundation.
- Show them the Word is central to you.
We have to start here. Your kids won’t believe God’s Word provides what they need if they see that you don’t actually believe that yourself. Do you respond to all the crazy daily life stuff with Bible truth? How much do you prioritize the Word daily yourself? Do you practice what you “preach”? Do you know your Bible enough to answer questions from Scripture?
- Enable them to glean from Scripture themselves.
As your children move from pre-school into the elementary years, they can read and process more. They can think more critically (evidenced clearly by their rapidly developing debating skills!). So there’s no reason why they can’t start reading God’s Word on their own.
Read it alongside them. Provide daily or weekly reasonable reading plans for them, even if it’s just a few verses at a time. Select passages they can understand at their level—you know them best! Encourage a mixture of Bible stories, individual psalms or proverbs, teachings from Jesus, and snippets of content from New Testament letters. And follow up every time with explanation and to ensure at least a basic understanding.
Just encourage them to read. For themselves. It’s not a book that they have to go through Daddy and Mommy to understand. Your kids can benefit from it too, with the Spirit’s help! We don’t stop instructing through the Word with them as they reach this age, but we are adding the element of self-exposure now. We are teaching them how they can dig for truth themselves.
- Expect retention at church.
They aren’t just old enough to read the truth on their own; they’re old enough to retain what they are taught in your local church, too! Communicate to them that you expect them to be impacted by the Bible on Sundays.
Teach them how to think while they sing in worship and hold them accountable afterwards by discussing what was sung. Depending on their age and ability, expect them to listen to the sermon or to the discussion in a small group setting. Perhaps provide them with a notepad to write down the passage reference for the week, a truth they heard preached from it, and something God expects them to do from that passage. They can do it!
All of this and more will continually underscore for them that the Bible is for them and speaks to them. This will develop in them an expectation that, when they go to God’s Word, it will not fail to have what they need.
Actually Expose Them to Their Surroundings
Intentionally put your children in situations where they will be exposed to their culture—including some of the problematic stuff! At first glance this suggestion seems unwise. But think about it: at this stage you have the chance to show them how Scripture speaks to those things. Developing and guiding the habit of thinking biblically about what they see now will go a long way to ensuring they will think that way later.
- Be careful.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that you throw them to the wolves! These need to be controlled opportunities that you intentionally experience alongside them and that you can oversee directly.
- Look for opportunities to involve them in the community.
While the primary purpose for community involvement is evangelism, community involvement also gives opportunities for exposure! Interactions at the neighborhood pool, participation in community sports or music programs, and other activities allow your children to rub shoulders with the lost in ways you can oversee and follow up on.
- Don’t be lazy!
Cloistering our children and shielding them from all the junk in our culture may seem like the safe option, but it may (perhaps) expose our own unintentional laziness. It takes time and effort to do all this deliberate and controlled exposing. It takes forethought to present our children with situations where questions will arise that we can answer with truth. It takes commitment and hard work to consistently initiate that debriefing. But it’s worth it! Don’t take the easy way. Bring them up in the instruction of the Lord by providing strategic opportunities to think about and practice their holiness.
Promote Opportunities for Discussion
Once your kids are exposed to the godless culture around them, don’t miss the opportunity to chat about what they’ve seen or heard! Your prompt and intentional leading in discussion is vital.
- Be open and approachable.
Your kids need to know that you are available when they need to debrief. Be quick to listen. Be vigilant for opportunities because your child may only hint at something he or she has been exposed to. Set the expectation with your words and actions that they can and should come to you. Be present; don’t let your electronic device send a message of unavailability.
- Set regular debrief times.
Your kids should expect that there will be a debriefing after each exposure to culture, however short it may be. Those opportunities can be formal or informal. About a year ago I decided on a whim to start “hanging out” by my son’s bedside before we pray—just be there and have small talk for a couple minutes. Regularly something he saw or experienced that day will come up. He knows to expect it now. Sometimes I ask questions, sometimes I don’t. But we always chat, and I’ve been surprised at the benefits!
- Speaking of questions…
Be sure to prompt regular discussion about what your children are seeing around them. Open-ended questions like these are great tools:
- Does what we just saw or heard bother you? Why?
- Are you hearing things from your neighborhood friends that seem wrong to you?
- Have you noticed that what you just saw or heard is different from your experience at home or church?
- What do you think God thinks about that? Why do you think those people feel their actions are ok?
- Get them to wonder about things they see or hear, and then direct them to truth.
- Don’t react.
Your children are learning. They’re seeing and hearing new things. They’re new to this whole interpret-culture-with-truth thing! Be prepared for what they may say and don’t react. Ask for God’s help to not be visibly shocked or put off by their perspectives. Patiently direct.
- Pray for wisdom.
You’ll need it. Every time. And you know where to find it (James 1:5).
We’ll come back to this topic in Part 2 and apply these concepts to specific situations you may face. But no matter the opportunity, it is a privilege to help our young but growing children prepare themselves for action in the pursuit of holiness despite a godless culture.
Growing Fathers Team
Chris serve as an assistant pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, with a particular emphasis on the youth and on church-wide edification. He and his wife, Larua, have two children—Patrick and Kinley.View all posts by Chris