Over the weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I’m pretty busy working my job as a cashier at a strawberry farm; however, my amazing dad is allowing me to feature some of his writing here on my blog. Since he and my mom are wise, witty, and wonderful parents, I was eager to have him guest post because finally you could hear from someone who knows what he’s talking about, right?
Two years ago, I helped my dad edit his self-published book Raising Homemade Disciples which is a compilation of teaching and stories from my parents’ experience. What I LOVE about my dad’s book and my parents’ strategies is that they are spiritually based, practical, and tested by life. Each of the posts over the next few weeks will feature modified excerpts from my dad’s book, which I HOPE you’ll check out for only $5 on Kindle. (And read on for a Giveaway option below!) We’d LOVE to see some more reviews on Amazon to help increase sales of this amazing resource. I think it would be a great discussion tool for a life group or Sunday school class.
Without any further ado, here’s my dad, Brian Tenny!
Whose Faith Is it?
I’d been walking with Christ about eight years when we had our first child, a son. We had every good intention of doing everything right so he would have a good foundation and make an early decision to surrender to Jesus as well. As you might guess if you have your own kids, every day was not full of wise decisions and kind, cooperative behavior. Sometimes it seemed that our wishes and prayers weren’t bearing much spiritual fruit in his life.
Of course, we understood the old saying that God has no grandchildren. They will joyfully sing along about Daniel and the lions, but throw a frantic fit if anyone gets an extra gummy worm. While your relationship with Christ may be contagious, it’s not automatically inherited. Somewhere along the line, each of your children needs to establish their own solid spiritual roots.
Our second child, Katrina, was generally sweet and compliant from the start. (Editor’s note: Notice that this story sings my praises. I’m nothing if not humble. Ha! ;)) Always eager to please, she thrived on friendships, which also meant some risk of her being prey to her strong desire to be liked. This became especially clear when she was four years old.
We moved to southern California to work at Wycliffe Bible Translators’ headquarters print shop. We lived in a somewhat cloistered community of families with similar aged children, where she quickly made friends. Two years later we moved to North Carolina and enjoyed a very similar setting of friends and families involved in ministry. Staff families are constantly coming for training and going off to assignments around the globe. They come for orientation for the mission field, sharpening skills, or return for further equipping during a temporary stateside assignment.
The word “temporary” holds major significance where Katrina is concerned, because all of her instincts were to cling to friends and the security of relationships. Many came and were gone again within the span of a school year. By the time she reached junior high, her heart had been torn apart time and again, preparing her “crisis of faith.” After one particularly hard farewell to yet another kindred spirit, Katrina told Judy, “I guess I’ll never have a best friend on this earth who will stay around for a long time. I’ve decided to make Jesus my best friend, because I know I’ll always have Him close.”
That discovery marked the beginning of her solid and very personal walk with God into young womanhood and motherhood. She reminded me recently about a necklace she wore during that era. It was a two-piece heart engraved with the words “Best Friends”. Over a few years she shared several of the necklaces with friends, each time keeping the “Be— Fri—” half of the heart, while her friends crossed the ocean with the right half reading “—st –ends”. Over the course of time she found herself wearing three “Be Fri” necklaces.
Why is it important for your children to CHOOSE to become spiritually rooted? Consider the record of so many who go off to college or their first job and stumble into the quicksand of bad choices, bad friends and needless heartache. The reason? Usually it’s simply a lack of anything solid for their anchor to hook onto. When they’re out on their own, away from watchful eyes and protective rules, nothing internal gives them reason to “just say no.” Their instincts may say, “That’s not good for you,” but then comes that tempting whisper, “Aw, why not? Mom said cotton candy would make my teeth fall out, too!”
Parents, it’s up to you to be on the lookout for opportunities – those “teachable moments”— at every stage of your children’s growth. Especially in the “tween” years, you can’t assume anymore that their familiarity with Bible stories will be solid and personal enough to keep them steady through the storms of new situations that come with growing independence.
Warn them early of the coming transition toward independence, and then explain the progressive levels of trust and responsibility you’re giving them. Guide them carefully, and make them aware of your confidence in their good judgment if they’ve shown some. Point out God’s faithfulness, provision and direction in their lives since they’re likely “too close to the forest to see the trees” of His working in their lives. Trust that the foundation you’re laying will result in them developing their OWN relationship with Christ when a crisis of faith comes.
Will you conscientiously and prayerfully pattern your “disciple raising” after God’s ways with you? If you do, you can trust that He will do His part – the part only He can do – to draw them close. As they realize His great love for them, the personal connection and trust will take roots that will stabilize them and last a lifetime.
Lord Jesus, thank You for the children You have entrusted to my care. I can’t do it alone, so I need Your Spirit to work through me and give me wisdom every day in my words and actions. Help me disciple them as You train and equip me with such a creative variety of experiences, hurts and blessings, stretchings and comfort. I surrender my parenting to You and do it all for Your glory alone. Amen.
Readers, please share this post and take a minute to read some of the beginning of Raising Homemade Disciples, by using the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. If you share this post, leave a comment and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a free paperback copy of the book. Thanks for leaving a review on Amazon too!