Book Review

Book Review: Shepherding a Child’s Heart

by Kristopher Schaal

man reading a book while seated

Christian dads, you should read Shepherding a Child’s Heart, especially if you have young children.

It can be hard for dads to make time to read. I get it! We work long hours and have lots of responsibilities at home and at church. At the end of an exhausting day, we’d often rather do something mindless than read a book. However, like many things in life, reading good books is an investment. It’s hard, but the rewards are great!

We know that your time is limited. That’s why we at Growing Fathers want to help you identify the best books that will be the most helpful to you as a dad. Shepherding a Child’s Heart is one of those books. Here are six reasons it is well worth your time and effort to read.

1. It is biblical and gospel-centered.

You do not read a Christian book on parenting in order to supplement the Bible. God’s word is sufficient! Rather, you read a book on parenting in order to understand and apply God’s word better. (By the way, that is also the purpose of this blog!)

Shepherding a Child’s Heart presents an approach to parenting that is thoroughly biblical and grounded in gospel truths. In the introduction, Tripp says, “The central focus of parenting is the gospel.” This book uses the Bible and practical examples to teach you how to shepherd your kids to Christ for salvation and spiritual growth.

2. It will help you address your kids’ hearts and not just their behavior.

In some ways, you could view Shepherding a Child’s Heart as a parent’s meditation on Proverbs 4:23. It reads, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Alluding to this verse, Tripp says, “This emphasis is the fundamental tenant of this book: The heart is the wellspring of life. Therefore, parenting is concerned with shepherding the heart. You must learn to work from the behavior you see back to the heart…. This proposition will inform everything you do as parents” (6).

Tripp goes on to summarize his book by saying, “This book will address all of the facets of childrearing. We will look at a biblical view of the parenting task. We will examine child development. We will focus on parenting goals. We will think through training methods. In all these topics the core issue will be shepherding the heart” (6, emphasis mine).

3. It is both convicting and inspiring.

Tripp has a way of expounding a biblical truth and then telling a story to drive it home. These stories cut to the heart! Whenever I read this book, I end up confessing my sins and asking for grace to grow.

At the same time, Tripp can be quite inspiring. He writes, “Parenting will mean that you can’t do all of the things that you could otherwise do…. It may mean your home does not look like a picture from Better Homes and Gardens. It will impact your career and your ascent up the corporate ladder. It will alter the kind of friendships you will be available to pursue. It will influence the kind of ministry you are able to pursue. It will modify the amount of time you have for bowling, hunting, television, or how many books you can read…. The costs are high.

How can you measure the cost against the benefits? I have spent time with broken parents. I have seen the drawn faces of parents who have known the heartbreak of seeing their children fleeing a home in which they had not been understood or engaged by their parents. I have also known the joy of hearing children who have been biblically engaged by their parents say, ‘Dad, I am amazed at how thoroughly I have been prepared for life. I will always be grateful for what you and Mom have given me.’ What price tag can a parent put on that?” (97)

4. It is both philosophical and practical.

The book is broken down into two parts. Part 1 is “Foundations for Biblical Childrearing.” The first six chapters in this section deal with philosophy, and the next six deal with methodology. Each chapter includes practical examples and ends with application questions so that the book never feels dry and intellectual.

Part two is called, “Shepherding Through the Stages of Childhood.” It deals with objectives and procedures for the three major stages kids go through: “Infancy to Childhood” (ages 0-5), “Childhood” (ages 6-11), and “Teenagers” (ages 12-18). I found the structure of the book and its balance between philosophy and practical advice very helpful.

5. It will give you a plan for parenting.

Christian dad, God has called you (not your wife) to lead your family (Eph 5:23; 6:4), and doing so requires having a biblical plan for parenting. Leaders need to know where they are going. Haphazard attempts produce haphazard results.

This book will ground you in a basic, yet comprehensive plan for parenting.1

6. It is the best Christian book on parenting that I know of.

I haven’t read every Christian book on parenting by any stretch, but out of the ones I have read, this one is my favorite. And I’m not the only one who thinks that, either! For instance, Christian counselor Ed Welch calls Tripp’s material on parenting, “the clearest, most biblically framed, and most helpful that I have ever encountered.” Shepherding a Child’s Heart is also one of Christian blogger Tim Challies’ top recommended books on parenting.1

If you want to supplement your Bible reading with a book that will edify you as a dad, consider starting with Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

Want more resources? View our resources page to see our other recommended resources for dads.


  1. One note is that the book gives more emphasis to children than it does to teens. However, parenting teens is discussed, and the principles Tripp expounds apply to all ages. That said, Tripp also has a full-length book on parenting teenagers called, “Age of Opportunity,” for those who are interested. 2

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