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Parenting From Heart to Heart

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Parenting From Heart to Heart

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Studies have shown, and my wife and I experienced this with our own three children, that many children make a decision about a commitment to God before age 13 or even as early as the age of 9. It’s surprising how early young people learn about God’s way of life and begin to develop their personal relationship with God. This is exciting, and it also brings to focus that each day, each Sabbath and each month are precious in our bonding with and teaching of our children—each a precious gift from God!

I would like to share some lessons learned and give encouragement to devoted parents (of teens in particular) who are giving love and care to your children. And as a long-time pastor and father of three grown Gen X and Millennial children, I would like to cover some basic biblical instruction for parents from the Bible.

Parenting teens in our modern ungodly world is not easy. It behooves us to depend on God for His wisdom and to invoke His instructions when it comes to working with and raising children. God is our refuge when it comes to rearing children. Many mothers and fathers have cried out to God for His reassurance during trying times. But our wonderful God is good. He will never let us down if we seek Him. Parenting is an act of faith, day in and day out. Not only do our children grow before our very eyes, but we do as well.

If there is one overarching must as a parent, it is to wholeheartedly pray to God every step of the way. Seek God always for His constant inspiration.

Children—a Heritage From God

Children are a blessing and gift from God. Psalm 127:3-4:3 says: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

Each child is given the miracle of life by the Almighty God, and each child has the potential to be born into His eternal family. In this sense, children are “on loan” from God. He is their life-giver, and He is the one who will bring them into His eternal family. This helps us frame our accountability to God in how we treat our children—they are His children too. Also, this should help us treat our children with even more respect and consideration, and to parent them “in the Lord,” since they are His. Our precious ones grow up, move out and move on. Yet we will always be their mom or dad. Enjoy these years together and build bonds with them that will last for eternity.

Share Your Personal Relationship With God

It is vital that parents share their personal relationship with God and help to mentor their children on how to seek God and come to know Him and Jesus Christ better. Children should be learning the basics at home, with God’s Church then adding to this through sermons, youth camp and literature.

It is also important to teach your children that God wants a personal relationship with them—individually—and they are being called to be a part of His Church. This will help them to know this is their Church and they are an important part of it. In day-to-day living (Deuteronomy 6) make God the center of your lives by praying often for needs, reading the Bible together and talking about God.

Deuteronomy 6—Parental Instruction

The most influential relationships in a teen’s life are with his/her parents. Fathers and mothers, God has put you in this most important position of loving, teaching and being a role model. You are the on-site, walking and breathing example for them to follow.

This may seem a stark way of stating this but it is nevertheless true—if we, as parents, neglect the teaching of our teens, Satan and his culture will not. The dangers and worldly pulls to youth are clear and constant. But as negative as our present culture is, God is far, far stronger. In the end, we know God wins. Do not lose hope. Stay positive with your kids.

A parent cannot teach or live what they do not know. Our source of inspiration must be higher than ourselves. Our personal spiritual habits are paramount if we are to pass on the precious truths of God. The spiritual ABCs of daily prayer and Bible study are the building blocks in our own lives.

This section of Deuteronomy is to teach parents so they can teach their children. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 states: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Parents, make it a point each day to pray with your youth and teen. This can be done around the dinner table as well as in the bedroom. One of the most moving and bonding experiences each day at United Youth Camps is easy to do: Before lights out, the counselors will ask their dorm to get in a circle and join hands, and each camper can ask a prayer. The prayers are very moving and show the hearts of the teens. Dorms begin the day in prayer, and they end the day in prayer.

This leads to our 24-7 example to our teens as found in Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 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.” God instructs parents that His laws and ways “shall be in your heart.” This is where parental teaching begins—in our own hearts and minds.

At camp, teens tell staff they wish their parents would share more personal stories with them about how God has worked in their lives. These personal stories are very impactful to teens and to preteens. Share, share, share. God nurtures parents so they can nurture their kids.

Your children are of profound importance to God. He will not forsake them. The parable of the prodigal son teaches us this. At the end of the day, the father of the prodigal son never gave up hope that his son would return to his senses, repent to God of wrong living, and come back to him. If our beloved son or daughter temporarily forsakes God or us, and disappoints us, let us seek the example of God our Father and never give up, and love them with unconditional love. Where would we be without our forgiving Father and the sacrifice of our High Priest, Jesus Christ?

Let’s remind ourselves that God does not expect perfection from any of us as parents. In the entire history of the world there has never been a perfect parent, including the fine role models of Abraham and Sarah or Mary and Joseph.

Youth are forgiving when they observe that their mother’s or father’s heart is with them. As in every relationship, we should always ask forgiveness of our teen when we miss the mark with them. Open up, admit the fault, tell them you will try harder, ask their forgiveness, and reassure them that you love them very much. It is important to not cover up. Ask for their prayers as you face situations so they observe your own personal growth as a child of God.

Ultimately, children need to see the love of God reflected in their mother and father. Our role model is Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:10), which in turn, we strive to reflect toward our children. Only with God in us, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, can we reflect His godly image.


Here is a practical suggestion from parents in our local area about a “JOMO” weekend, which is enjoyed twice a month in their family. JOMO stands for “Joy of Missing Out.” It is the opposite of the media-driven FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out,” defined as apprehension that one may be missing out on an opportunity for social interaction or a satisfying experience. This media-free weekend by all the family members means that all electronic devices are put away and ignored. Talk about freedom. Their preteen and teens have all learned to enjoy this. At first there were some “you have got to be kidding" comments, but now the family looks forward to these “family-first” weekends. You can implement this in your family. Take charge of those time-stealing electronics by pulling the plug and reconnecting with one another by having your own JOMO weekends.

Youth Are Called, but They Need to Answer

Many of God’s youth are responding to their calling from God to have a relationship with Him in their lives now. From the United Youth Camps camper 2014 survey—95 percent of the campers responded “yes” to the question: “I believe God is calling me into His Church.”

God is fulfilling His promise of working with “all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). The minds of the youth are open to God’s way of life in action. We see this at camp all the time. It is a joy to interact with the next generation of servants.

Because of God in the lives of His youth, we have the great blessing of teaching Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth.”

While it is biblically correct and a blessing from God that youth are called by God the Father to have a relationship with Him now, not all young people will answer that calling. At the end of the day, each person is accountable to God for “answering” the call to salvation. Adam and Eve made their lives so much harder by rejecting God, and they suffered the consequences for it. It never pays to ignore the calling from our Heavenly Father.

This is quoted from pages 12-13 of the United Church of God study paper “Are Our Children Called?”
(www.ucg.org/members/study-papers): “What about children who choose not to respond to God’s calling? Are they headed to the Lake of Fire? Can they pursue God at a later time? Those who do not respond to God’s calling now have not necessarily forfeited their only opportunity to receive eternal life. Only God knows the heart or mind of each individual and when each person has had sufficient exposure to and understanding of His way of life. Since God does not treat people unfairly (Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, 1 Peter 1:17), those He deems to have not received an appropriate opportunity for salvation now will assuredly receive one later. Jesus Christ is the One who will perfectly decide such matters (John 5:22).”

As found in Matthew 6:10, we can ask God that His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Ask God in believing faith for His will to be done each day in your family, and ask God to direct you each day with inspiration, strength and love according to His will. Ask God to supply your daily needs as a mother or father—be specific—ask in detail. God will not let His parents down if we ask in faith and follow Him. God will give us His heart of love to parent our children. 


  • Gayle Hoefker

    Thanks for the excellent article! Though my children are grown, I can still use this information with children I interact with now in the congregation and at camp--and my potential grandchildren. Children are the future of the church. We must not neglect them. Also, we will be held accountable for not teaching them if we know to do it.

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