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Responsible Parenting: Mission

Once we have a clear picture of God’s mission in this world, we are in a better position to determine how each of us can be a part of this mission. Because, you see, the world does not revolve around us, or at least it shouldn’t; it should be oriented toward God. This, incidentally, is where we sometimes go astray as parents. Just because we want to boost our child’s self-esteem we celebrate events in our child’s life such as their birthday with what you might consider borderline narcissism. We don’t want to reinforce the selfish notion that we are the center of the universe, because we’re not.

So, by focusing on God’s mission when discussing how parents can prepare children for their mission in life, we try to adopt what you might call a theocentric (God-centered) rather than anthropocentric (man-centered) approach. Incidentally, you see this also in the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” where Jesus teaches his followers to pray, first and foremost, that God’s name be glorified, that God’s kingdom be advanced, and that God’s will be done. That’s a terrific example of a God-centered outlook that Jesus wants his followers to emulate. Only after this Jesus adds prayers for our daily bread, for forgiveness, and for deliverance from temptation.

In terms of the mission of God, we see that Scripture envisions that people spread God’s glory across the globe by multiplying and filling the earth with his representatives who live lives that are pleasing to him. This is both God’s original purpose for humanity expressed in Genesis chapter 1 and is reiterated and even sharpened by Jesus in the so-called Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. So, then, equipping our children for life means equipping them to find a suitable place of service where they can bring glory to God and advance his kingdom in keeping with the purpose for which God created them and chose and gifted them in Christ.

What is the overall mission of parenting?

Margaret: In Equipping for Life, we say (and I quote), “Parenting is more than merely training and disciplining your children for a productive life on earth. It’s more than taking them to baseball practice, dance recitals, and music lessons. It’s even more than taking them to church and memorizing a few Bible verses. Parenting, rightly understood, is part of God’s mission for the world. In bringing children into this world and in raising them to love and serve God, you are part of God’s mission.” In view of this, we encourage parents to raise their children responsibly, with purpose and perspective, and to help them find their part in God’s mission. In the book, we share briefly how we’ve tried to do this in the lives of our own children, in part by helping them to discover their natural and spiritual gifts and by encouraging them to develop in their areas of greatest strength and potential contribution. We also talk about the way in which we have challenged them to excellence in whatever they do, whether music, or sports, or academics.

How should we think about dating and guiding our children toward marriage?

Andreas: Over the years, we’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to prepare our children for college. But recently I was led to ponder the question: How well have we, and how well have I, prepared our children for marriage? Certainly, that’s an important part of equipping our children for life. It’s a lot more complicated than just waiting for the “right person” to come along whom they can marry! Many young people seem woefully unprepared for marriage today, and all too often their idea of what love is owed more to Hollywood than the Bible.

In our book, we discuss three ways of pursuing relationships: dating, courtship, and friendship. We don’t have time to discuss this fully here, but in our book we express certain concerns with both dating (as it can be too worldly and casual) and courtship (which we find at times may be too rigid and force young people to get serious too soon). Instead, we advocate a friendship approach, where you can get to know others in group settings and be more cautious initially.

When are we done with parenting?

Andreas: We don’t think there’s EVER a time when we’re done with parenting! Of course, there is a sense in which the early years are the most important, when parents have the most influence and impact. But even when our children start to become more independent, and then leave for college, we still have a vital role to play as our children will consult us when making important decisions and as we continue to mentor them. So, even though our relationship with our children will change over the course of our parenting journey, parenting never really comes to an end.

Margaret: For us, being a mother, or a father, has indelibly changed us, and shaped our character, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing compares to the love, and the joy, and, yes, even the pain, that we experience as parents, and so we would say to you that parenting is worth every investment you make in your children, it’s worth every sacrifice. Parenting isn’t easy; in fact, it’s extremely challenging. But don’t give up when you’re struggling. God will help you, because marriages and families are a vital part of his plan.

Andreas: I couldn’t agree more with you, Margaret. I believe parenting is ultimately God’s way of populating the earth with his representatives who bring glory to him and who serve him and advance his rule and his kingdom. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” And to all of you who have read portions or all of this blog series, thank you for the privilege of sharing some of the insights we’ve gained on our parenting journey with you. May God bless your parenting efforts as you seek to glorify him!

Note: Equipping for Life: A Guide for New, Aspiring & Struggling Parents by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger is available for purchase on Amazon and in the UK at Christian Focus Publications.

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