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Raising godly children. I think that is the hope of all Christian parents. With staggering statistics of children leaving the church in early adulthood, what can we do to increase the odds that our kids will continue to walk with God? Baptist news reported that six in ten young adults (millennials) who were raised in the church will leave and not adopt any religious affiliation or faith. Now I’m not Baptist, but, I don’t believe that statistic is, either. SIX in TEN? 60%! That is shocking and oh, so very sad.
While I don’t think there is anything that can guarantee our children won’t leave the church, I think there are many things we, as parents, can do to increase the odds that they will stay.
Raising Godly Children
Develop and demonstrate your own relationship with God
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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.
As I’ve written in Monkey See, Monkey Do: Modeling Godly Behavior , children model what they see. If they see you putting God first (even before your husband as the Bible instructs) and reading your Bible regularly, they will, in kind, be more likely to model that behavior. If they see you missing church, using the Lord’s name in vain and other behaviors which do not honor God, they likely will not honor God.
2. Demonstrate a Strong, God-First Marriage
Proverbs 20:6-7 Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.
Let’s be honest here. If children see and hear constant arguing and disrespect between their parents, no matter what you tell them or they hear in Sunday School, they will think that this behavior is acceptable. If, however, they see loving parents who calmly discuss any issues, they will understand that this behavior is the right behavior according to God. The Bible teaches us that our priorities should be: God, our spouse, our children and then everything else. It goes back to modeling godly behavior, but a strong marriage, with God first, is what God intended for us and one of the best ways to increase the odds of your child’s continued walk with God.
In a study published in 2013 in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, researches found that children with divorcing, religious parents were two times as likely to leave their church as adults than those with parents who stayed together. It’s not enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk – even when the walk gets bumpy on our road to raising godly children.
3. Discipline Your Children According to God’s Instructions
Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him
The word “discipline” can have ugly connotations or associations, but, when done in love, is truly a demonstration of that love. The definition of discipline is ” “training to act in accordance with rules”, “activity, exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill”, or “punishment inflicted by way of correction or training.”
When you discipline your child, never do it out of anger. Instead, explain why they are being disciplined and, if possible, share appropriate Bible verses which shed light on their sin and your discipline. In addition, the discipline should match the sin – a swat on the backside is not appropriate (in most cases) for spilled milk. Look first at your reaction before meeting out the discipline. Consider wisely the appropriate discipline for your child’s infraction. Additionally, discipline should be consistent: always use the same discipline for the same infraction and the same discipline for each child (For example, don’t scold one child and take away TV privileges for another for the same infraction).
Finally, parents need to be a united front when it comes to disciplining their children. Both in agreement and both consistent.
4. Pray for Your Children
When striving to be raising godly children, this should go without saying, but pray for your children each day. Pray that they make the right decisions. Pray that they will seek God first. Pray, pray, pray and then pray some more. I highly recommend the book The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. Each day, you are guided to pray for a different aspect of your child’s life from friendships and faith to school and talents. For those of you with grown children, The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children is a great read, as well.
My husband and I have recently listened to a wonderful book on audible, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. The two biggest takeaways for me, from the book, were praying over your child’s future spouse (yes, even as babies and children!) and thanking God for something before it has even happened (think: your child’s walk with God).
5. Train and Teach Your Children
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
You’ve probably seen and heard this verse hundreds of times in your life, but what exactly does it mean? Well, certainly, as we’ve discussed, you are to model godly behavior for your children, but your words need to match your actions. Training up a child is modeling godly behavior, discipline and teaching them His word and more. I love this list from Lagosmums about training up a child:
Following the commands given to children, God specifically instructs the father in Ephesians 6:4. (Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.). The father (with his wife’s assistance and cooperation)) is commanded:
- To not provoke his children to anger
- To “Bring them up”
- To use nurture (discipline or chastening)
- To use admonition (warnings and instruction)
How are you training up your child? Is your parenting style in line with your goal of raising godly children?
6. Talk to Your Children
It’s not enough to teach your children and model godly behavior (whew – this parenting stuff is hard work, isn’t it?), but you must talk to your children, as well. Ask them what questions they have about God and faith. The secular world will be “feeding” your child the worldview which, despite your teaching and training, may cause conflict in your child’s thinking and raise questions about what is true and right. Sometimes kids don’t know what questions they have or what to ask. You can even structure it in a game form to make it more fun for little ones.
In addition to allowing your children to ask you questions, remember to ask them questions. If you are out and about and see something that is in conflict with the Bible or your faith, ask the children how they felt about it. Use the conversation as an opportunity to train up your child and reference what the Bible says about what you saw or heard. The old (and in my opinion, misguided, adage) – children should be seen not heard should not apply when raising godly children!
Each day, you have a wonderful opportunity for talking with your child if you practice family mealtimes.
7. Read the Bible with Your Children
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
God’s word is full of instruction on not just parenting, but nearly every issue we face as humans during our time on earth, yet according to studies, less than 20% of churchgoers read the Bible daily and less than 3% of teens read their Bible. Those statistics are heartbreaking to me!
When you read the Bible with your children, you are teaching them that it is God’s infallible Word. When you teach them to go to the Bible in times of stress and trouble, you are reminding them that God has a plan for us. Instead of calling your best friend when you are overwhelmed or hurting, grab your Bible, with your child, and cling to the scripture. (It’s ok, of course, to call your best friend, too, but demonstrate to your child that God and His Word should be our first defense in times of trouble.).
The Bible not only teaches us how to live and love, but is filled with amazing stories of bravery, courage, faith and so much more. Encourage your children to read the Bible (there are Bible’s for every age and interest) and read from the Bible with them often. Raising godly children starts with His Word!
8. Expose Your Child to Christian Music, Books, Movies and Other Entertainment
Unless we lock our children in the house 24/7, they will be exposed to secular music, books and television. We simply can’t help that, especially, if they are in public school and are involved in sports or other activities. Of course, we’ll want to use that exposure as a conversation starter as described above, but there are plenty of things you can do to expose them to quality Christian content. Here are a few quick ideas:
a) Turn your radio to a local or national Christian radio while you are driving, cooking or cleaning or just when the kids are playing in the house
b) Buy or rent quality Christian videos and movies to watch as a family
c) Buy them Christian books for holidays
d) Take vacations to places that enrich their faith (we absolutely loved The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY and the Creation Museum not far from there. You can also go to family Christian camps and retreats
e) Do your homework on the television shows and movies your children want to watch and, if you have to, block certain channels from your family’s television
9. Raising godly children requires fighting against the darkness.
Have you ever endured spiritual warfare in your family? I can tell you from experience that the enemy is real, and wants to take you down. Satan wants to keep you from leaning into your relationship with God; he will try to increase your addiction to comfort just as much as he will attack your faith and your children. Be on guard!
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8
Parents, I know that raising godly children is tough work, but it is incredibly rewarding, as well. If you take one thing from this lengthy post, consider this: Your children will model your behavior. If you want to be raising godly children, live a godly life. There will be bumps in the road. We are sinners and we fail often, but look to God first and your children will be more likely to do the same.
Ever why so many children leave the church when they graduate? Learn more about this sad phenomena and what you can do about it here.
You may enjoy this video on raising godly children by Focus on the Family:
For more on this, I highly recommend these two books:
If you have kids who suffer from anxiety, check out this guest post.