What is the best indication that our children will walk with Jesus Christ? Is it having consistent, loving correction when they do wrong? Perhaps it is making sure that a child connects with the youth leader or the preaching on Sunday. Or maybe it is just being a parent who our child tells everything, keeping no secrets. Each of our children is unique and it is sometimes hard to know what we do that is making a difference. So, what is a parent to do? Let’s turn to sports for moment for some encouraging insight- (that’s also biblical.)
I admit it! I am an NFL football fan. Even if you are not a football fan but a fan of other sports, you have probably noticed an explosion in the presence of something called, “analytics”. Analytics is the use of detailed data on an individual or team’s prior actions in a given game situation that helps an opposing team gain a competitive advantage.
For example, a football team faces 4th and 1. Should the team go for the first down, punt, or kick a field goal? By consulting the “analytics” a coach can decide on a play that is more likely to succeed. It is far more complicated than that, but you get the idea. When billion-dollar sports teams are faced with in-game decisions that affect whether they win or lose, they are increasingly turning to analytics rather than their gut instincts. But what are analytics, really? At their simplest, analytics are patterns.
This is not hard to understand. Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps, like most elite athletes, had a very well-defined training program (pattern) that enabled him to achieve unbelievable success. It is not a guarantee, but it normally is an accurate indicator of future success.
Patterns are Irreplaceable.
Back to our homes, so, what is the point? The point is that patterns are important. What we normally do, even if it is not always done with excitement, or even done well, matters in determining what we will do in the future.
What matters most in the training of our children are the patterns we establish in our homes for relationships and training. There is no magic fu-fu. Generally speaking, we reap what we sow. Whether we sow well or sow badly, God’s mercy is always what causes the increase. But we agree that we want to do our best to be a reason for our children following Jesus. God has not left us without instruction on these matters—or hope.
Scripture Commands Patterns
Foundational parenting passages like Deuteronomy 6:7-9; And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. And Ephesians 6:4, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Speak of our parenting task as a pattern.
But starting and maintaining patterns is so hard to do today! (And we don’t have the money of a professional sports team to buy help!) Herein, though, is the silver lining for us as parents. Patterns do not demand perfection to work. Patterns by their nature consider struggle and failure. They provide a long view of success that keeps us from utter despair when life is going sideways.
Generally, We Can Expect Fruit
At Home in Him, the third in our four steps to bringing home the joy of the gospel is to reinforce the gospel through four simple patterns: reading the Bible together, prayer, scripture memory, and regular conversations. Establishing or re-establishing these and other good patterns is hard, but God uses them on his timetable to work in us and our children.
Put a premium on faithfulness. It is not a guarantee, but it can be an accurate indicator of future success. God reminds us in Galatians 6:9 that we will reap if we don’t give up. Keep seeking to be faithful in developing healthy patterns in your family life.
Check out our podcast Balance and Boundaries!