Raising Kingdom Kids
Raising Kingdom Kids
By Susan Rieske
Labor Day has come and gone and summer is now officially over. The frenetic back to school shopping season is also behind us and the kids are happily or unhappily tucked into their school routine. Now what? After a summer of trying to keep our kids from being “bored,” this is a time that many of us as parents are often ready to sit back and let the teachers, coaches, and other leaders run with their plans for our child’s school year. But what about our plans as parents for their school year? Shouldn’t we be making some specific plans for their upcoming year as well?
As the beginning of each school year brings fresh learning, growth, and challenges, it is an ideal time to set some specific goals for your kids. I like to think of these plans as “new school year’s resolutions.” If we want certain things to happen in our children’s hearts, minds, and actions this year, it is vital that we make plans for what we are going to do to help those things happen. So, if you were to set some new school year’s resolutions for your kids this year, what would they be?
As you begin this process, many things may come to mind. Funny enough, the one thing that just popped into mine is figuring out a way to get my eight year old to put his toothbrush back in the toothbrush holder. Now, for my sanity, that may certainly be a goal worth pursuing. However, I know my son has much deeper and more important needs in his life, so my goals will certainly need to go deeper than bathroom etiquette!
When I set goals for my children, I like to think through several different categories of their life. These include academic growth, life skills, responsibilities, character issues, social development, and extracurricular activities, among other things. Some of these are just basic things to guide them to become independent and responsible adults, which is certainly important. But I want more for my kids than for them to be responsible, well adjusted adults. I want them to be in love with God and have hearts and minds dedicated to His Kingdom. I don’t want to just teach my kids to wash their hands; I want to teach them to wash their hearts. I don’t just want to get my kids to develop in sports; I want them to run the race of the Christian life. I don’t just want my kids to be responsible for doing their chores; I want them to be responsible for doing Kingdom work. If my kids grow up to be responsible, hard working, educated, well-rounded, and disciplined, that is great. But how sad it would be if they are all these things but do not have a love for God and a passion for His Kingdom! Certainly then, my work would be in vain. For every goal I set for them would not be culminated in the very life purpose God created them for: to love Him with all their hearts and to live their lives for His Kingdom. So as my kids have gotten older, I have seen the need to add a new category to my list of goals. I have called this new category “Kingdom Living.”
While this may be a newer category on my list, it was actually begun by God when he created the first parents, Adam and Eve. The first commandment he gave them was to “be fruitful and multiply.” Many of us think of this multiplying command to mean simply to have children. I think, however, there is more to this command than simple procreation. In two places where mankind is told to “multiply,” it follows a statement on the fact that humans were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27-28, 9:6-7). I do not think this is a coincidence. Being made in God’s image and multiplying seem to go hand in hand. So what does being made in the image of God mean? Part of being made in God’s image does seem to imply that humans have some similarities to God. But even more central in this idea is how being made in God’s image is fleshed out in a person’s role on earth. To be made in God’s image centers on the idea of being God’s representatives on earth in who they are and what they do. Our God never wanted to be represented on earth through a carved image or a stone statue, as was the practice of other religions. The only image he wanted on earth to represent Him was us. Yes, frail humans with all our weaknesses. He chose us to be his representatives. Amazing.
So, the main point of this command to multiply was to create more of God’s representatives on earth: people who would display God’s character and serve as his representatives in everything they do. Thus, God’s main goal for them as parents was to raise children to represent God on this earth. If this was God’s desire for the first parents, it certainly is His desire for us as well. In our parenting, we are to raise up people who will serve as God’s representatives on the earth: people who display his love, his goodness, his holiness, and his passion in everything they are and everything they do. Our goal is to raise people who the world will look at and see God and who will carry out God’s tasks in the world. What an awesome, yet daunting responsibility!
So what kind of goals could we set to produce children who will serve as God’s representatives in the world? To give you an idea of what this might look like, I have listed out some of the long term “Kingdom Living” goals we have set for our own family:
1. To understand their need to accept Christ as their Savior and begin a relationship with him. (Of course, this is the first and most important goal for our kids.)
2. To be madly, deeply, and passionately in love with God and be growing in their relationship with Him through daily Bible reading, prayer, worship, church involvement, and other avenues of growth.
3. To have a deep conviction on the truth, reliability, trustworthiness, and relevance of the Bible for all their needs. To be able to articulate this conviction to others.
4. To have a deep knowledge of the Word including Bible stories, characters, important verses, main themes, and concepts taught through Scripture.
5. To have an eternal perspective: a correct view of the brevity of this life on earth in comparison with our eternal life in heaven and a passion to give their life investing in the eternal one.
6. To display the fruits of the spirit in their relationships with others: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
7. To have a compassionate heart towards the lost and a commitment to tell them the good news of the Kingdom.
8. To be able to articulate the truths of the gospel clearly and effectively to others and to be able to share their own personal testimony of their decision to follow Jesus.
9. To have a heart of mercy towards the poor and needy that will lead them to give generously to meet both their physical and spiritual needs.
10. To understand the concept of stewardship of their time, talents, and treasure so that they will give of themselves powerfully to God and to His Kingdom.
11. To have a Biblical worldview that will serve to counteract the world view of our culture and to be able to critically examine ideas they encounter through the grid of God’s truth.
Perhaps you’d like to make this your own “Kingdom Living” list, or you may want to write out your own Biblically based goals. The key is to be intentional about setting goals like these for your kids and following through to help them reach them. You also may come up with long term goals that you want to have them achieve before reaching adulthood and then break these down into some short term goals for the upcoming year.
Once you have your list of goals, the next step is to pick out a few things that are going to be your primary focus for this school year. Then, write out the steps you are going to take to accomplish those goals and when you are going to work on them. This last step is one we often overlook in goal setting. For example, it is easy to say that you want to help your children to develop a heart of mercy toward the poor and then decide that to promote this you want to do a service project with your kids. However, the challenge is to set a time when you are going to make this happen. It needs to be scheduled. It will be too easy to set this aside when things get busy and you get to the end of your year and realize it just never happened. Pick a day, a week, or a time every day or week (depending on your goal) and schedule time to do the things that will help these desires become realities in your son or daughter’s life.
One of the goals we set at the beginning of last school year for our kids was getting them to memorize the books of the Bible. This was a short term goal that went along with our long term goal of their having a deep knowledge of God’s word. For the step we were going to take to achieve this goal, we purchased a cd of kid’s Bible songs that had songs for the books of the Bible. We kept this in our car and at least once a week when we went somewhere, we listened to these songs. By the end of the year, the kids had the songs memorized and consequently, the order of the books. It was a fun and easy way of moving forward on our “Kingdom Living” goals for our kids. However, it would not have happened if we hadn’t set the goal, planned the steps for achieving that goal, and scheduled time to work on it.
Perhaps you want your kids to learn how to share their faith. So how will you accomplish this in the coming year? Maybe there is a book at the bookstore you can get to talk about practical ways to share the gospel or maybe they need to memorize some basic Bible verses to be able to show someone these truths from Scripture. Another step might be for them to learn how to share their personal testimony about how they came to faith in Jesus. Decide what you think is the next best step in this area and then decide when you are going to work on these things. Will it be Sunday afternoons? A mealtime or bedtime during the week? Maybe it is something that will take some independent work on their part. If this is the case, help them set aside time to work on this goal in their own schedule and you can set aside time to follow up on it.
If we want our sons and daughters to live for the Kingdom, we need to be intentional and proactive about training them in Kingdom living. This is not the job of teachers, or coaches, or pastors, or youth group leaders. It is ours! We are the ones who are to reproduce God’s representatives on earth. So let’s get busy and start planning for this awesome task! For as we all know, the world desperately needs to see God and what better place for it to see Him than in the lives of our children.