I know a lot less today about successful parenting than I did 12 years ago. If you are wondering why the number “12”, just know that my oldest is 12 years old. I feel like I’m learning something new all the time about how to be a godly parent, so what I share is not coming from anyone who considers themselves an expert. There are a host of mistakes that I’ve made, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could start over, but thanks be to God that the outcome of my children depends more on God’s grace than my abilities.
My perspective has changed a lot since I first became a dad. I used to push my kids to make big behavioral changes if I saw something sinful or selfish in them. I wanted sanctification to happen on my timetable and not the Holy Spirit’s. Of course, God has a way of humbling us as parents, and I quickly learned that I couldn’t produce the change I wanted to see in my kids. I also realized that pride and fear were the biggest motivators in the “discipleship” process I was implementing as a father.
One of the biggest perspective changes I made was looking at my role as a father a little bit like a brick or stone mason. Now if you see the craft of a skilled stone mason, you’ll notice how quickly they can build a wall, foundation, building, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t get the privilege of building quickly as parents. It’s a slow, tedious process. I look at my life now as an opportunity to lay one brick a day in my child’s heart. That brick is either going to be made in oven of gospel truth or the oven of legalism, or, unfortunately, no brick at all. Each brick will be placed on the foundation of their heart or taped on the outside of their flesh.
This picture of laying one brick a day has helped me to stay consistent and purposeful in how I engage with my children on a daily basis.
The question you may have now is, “so how do you lay that one brick everyday?”
The best way I have found to lay a brick everyday is to read to your child/children.
Reading to them is far greater than sitting down and watching a movie or show. Veggie Tales videos are great if you are looking for something to not wreak havoc on your child’s mind, but if you want to lay a gospel brick on their heart, read to them. I know that this may seem like an archaic idea, and you may believe that your children will never sit still long enough to listen to what’s being read. Just remember that you don’t have to start out reading for 30 minutes. If your children are young, start with 5-10 minutes and move up from there. Sitting still and listening is a discipline that needs to be developed in children.
Here are the books we’ve read as a family together with the age range beside it. I’ve even added a few that we haven’t read yet, but have come highly recommended and that we plan on reading soon.
1. The Bible – I know, like this even needs an explanation, but I think we would be shocked how many families do not sit down together and read even 1 chapter of the Bible. Find a version that reads easier like the NIV and try to read at least 1 chapter a day to start. It’s definitely the best brick that you can lay.
2. Building on the Rock series (5 books) by Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn – Scores of short stories from the last few hundred years of God moving in powerful ways. They range from stories of God working to bring about salvation in individuals to God working through providence to help His children in need. My kids used to ask me to read these books to them every night when they were younger. Age range 5-10
3. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – I love this book because it doesn’t just teach the details of the stories of the Bible, but it weaves in the grand gospel narrative of Jesus as the hero throughout every Bible story. Age range 3-6
4. The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken – Amazing story of one man’s journey with God through persecution and ministry. Nik goes on to interview hundreds of other Christians around the world where it isn’t easy to follow Jesus. The stories of God’s power, love and faithfulness have made a big impression on our family. Age range 8-high school
5. The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson – If your family loves Duck Dynasty like we do, then your family will love this book. It’s a book that shares the story of Willie and Korie’s families and how God gave them the opportunity to do the TV show. Our kids loved hearing about the humble beginnings of the Robertson family and seeing that they aren’t just about fun, but that they are really all about Jesus. Age range 6-middle school
6. Not a fan by Kyle Idleman – I read this when the students at Providence were going through it. I loved it as a simple straightforward way of challenging the consumer culture that is all around us. Jesus is either going to be everything to us or nothing to us. I haven’t read this yet to my family, but will in a few years. Age range middle school-high school
7. Five Who Changed the World by Danny Akin – This is a small little book that chronicles 5 different missionaries from the 18th to 20th century. As you can probably tell, I love reading biographies to my kids and these 5 condensed biographies are the perfect length for younger kids to grasp the power of a life given in sacrifice for the mission of God. Age range 8-high school
8. Hero Tales vol. I-IV by Dave and Neta Jackson – My kids and I breezed through one of these books quickly. Every story is unique in that it shows the various ways followers of Jesus can live out their faith in all kinds of occupations and ways. Age range 6-middle school
9. Lamplighter Books (www.lamplighter.net) – There are really too many books to post, but my mother used to work for this publishing company, so we would get a few books every year from her. We’ve read a lot from their collection and have never been disappointed. Lamplighter has resurrected some great books and has written some new ones as well. If you are looking for a library of books that helps teach children the values of the Kingdom of God through great stories, then look no further. Age range toddler to high school
It’s my hope that we as a church will rediscover the joy of reading together as a family. It’s not the flashiest means of teaching, but it will definitely help you lay that one brick every day.
Happy New Year and keep reading!