Families are faced with decisions every day. From eating to dress, from screen-time habits to holiday traditions, every choice and guideline affects the operation and experience of a family. As a follower of Christ, you desire to please Him within your family and with your decisions. As a Christian parent, you recognize that “full-orbed, rich, multifaceted communication is the cement that holds a parent and a child together” (Tedd Tripp, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”). So how can you communicate and disciple your children through the choices you make and boundaries you set for your family?
First, gauge their understanding. Use a casual family time, such as when you are gathered around the dinner table, to ask your children about a certain boundary or decision your family has chosen. You may ask, “Why do you think our family has chosen to do/not to do ________?” Questions like this not only give you the opportunity to understand your children’s thought processes and spiritual understanding, but also show them that you are open to communicating and willing to listen to them. These conversations are foundational in discipling your children according to Deuteronomy 11:19:
“And ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Second, explain your choice biblically. Your decision-making, particularly in the boundaries you choose to set, should always be informed by Scripture and worked out to show our love for Christ and others. Use specific Bible passages as you speak to your children. For example, you may say “Because God says _______, the best way we know to show our obedience and love to God is by doing ________.” Be patient, clear, and humble as you speak. You may not think you need to explain anything to your children; however, this step helps you model active biblical living for your children. Boundaries help a child see that life is not about pursuing what he wants but surrendering to the Lord and following Him. Many of these standards may not be specifically stated in Scripture, so don’t try to make the Bible say what it doesn’t. However, establishing these guidelines while expressing unconditional love will teach children to surrender to the Lord because they trust that God knows what is best and what will bring true contentment. Seeing that the Bible affects every area of life in real, practical ways teaches your children how to fulfill Ephesians 5:15-16:
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Third, go back to the Gospel. Make sure that your children understand that outward behaviors do not affect their salvation. Reaffirm God’s love for them. Remind them that they are saved “not by works of righteousness…but according to His mercies” (Titus 3:5). If your children are not believers, it is vitally important to help them to understand that these external boundaries and decisions do not bring us favor with God; rather our behaviors are our response to God because of His love. If your children are believers, remind them of 1 John 4:19 which says “We love because He first loved us.” Then, ask them to brainstorm how they should appropriately respond to God because of the Gospel.
Finally, encourage them to show respect and love for others. This includes showing kindness to others, whether or not they hold the same boundaries or make the same lifestyle choices. Pray with them for opportunities to “let their light shine” (Matt 5:16) in a humble way that shows love to their neighbor (1 Cor 10:24). If your children do not agree with your decisions, ask them to “honor thy father and mother” (Eph 6:2) by respecting your chosen boundaries, but also urge them to continue to think and talk biblically with you through any questions they may have.
As you maintain a humble attitude and keep the pathways of communication open with your children, even about practical decisions and boundaries, your home will be filled with unity and joy! May the Lord raise up more and more such homes which can passionately say with Joshua:
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15)
James and Deb Flowers
Senior Pastor, Hudson View Baptist Church
James and Deb Flowers have been married since 2009 and are parents to 3 young children. They live in Yonkers, NY, where James has been the senior pastor of Hudson View Baptist Church since December of 2013. James holds a BA in Humanities and an MA in Pastoral Studies from Bob Jones University (BJU). Prior to becoming a senior pastor, he served as an associate pastor in Charleston, SC for six and a half years. James is passionate about discipleship and biblical counseling. Deb holds a BS in Pre-Medicine from BJU, an MS in Biomedical Sciences from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and an MSPAS from Medical University of South Carolina. She has experience in Genetics research and is a certified Physician Assistant. Deb speaks to and writes devotionals for women and children. Because they are convinced of the fact that God has provided man with all things that that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3), both James and Deb are currently pursuing certification through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).