Interview on Equipping for Life
I was grateful to do an interview on Equipping for Life with Dave Jenkins and Theology for Life magazine. In this interview, we discuss some of the challenges in applying the biblical teaching on parenting at home. We’ve included a portion of our interview below. You can read the full interview at Theology for Life magazine here.
Theology for Life
T4L: How did you come to care so deeply and personally about helping parents learn biblical truth relating to parenting?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: Both through the study of Scripture and our own experience, my wife and I have developed some deep convictions about the centrality of marriage and the family in the lives of Christians, and how living this out impacts our overall mission from God. The creation narrative in Genesis makes clear that God created humanity male and female and called us to be fruitful and multiply in the form of children. This is the primary arena in which we are called to make disciples and live out our Christian convictions, in which we can grow in Christlike character, and in which we can witness to the world.
T4L: Can you please tell us some of most significant issues you see for Christian parents today, so they can raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: By and large, our culture no longer affirms biblical values. Feminism has strongly challenged the mother’s role as centered in the home and attacked the institutions of marriage and the family as instruments of patriarchal domination and oppression. The father’s leadership and masculinity have been significantly undermined as well. There is widespread confusion even regarding a basic understanding of gender identity. As those committed to the Bible’s authority in all of life, what we see on all these fronts is large-scale resistance and compromise, even rebellion against God’s created order. Confusion, disunity, and brokenness are the results, and ultimately the destruction of our witness to God in and through families and churches. What is more, no longer is the world “out there” threatening the biblical teaching and practice in the Church; the world has invaded the Church with unbiblical teaching, and often the Church and the world are virtually indistinguishable.
T4L: It certainly is a tough area of life to navigate through! You write in your book, Equipping for Life, about parenting and conflict. How should parents traverse these challenging situations with their children to help them learn how to not only take responsibility for the stuff in their lives, but also to learn how to deal biblically and maturely with conflict, stressful situations, and challenging people?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: We devote one entire chapter, “The Peacemaking Parent”, to dealing with adversity, conflict, and even spiritual warfare. In our experience, conflict is ubiquitous, and parents often don’t know how to resolve it, or at least aren’t very good at it. Our own struggles in this area inform this instruction. Specifically, we propose four ideas that we develop in more detail in the book, which might help in working through conflict: (1) analyzing the situation, (2) accepting responsibility for your actions, (3) apologizing as needed, and (4) affirming love and affection for one another. Helping our children deal with all kinds of adversity, and so developing character and self-control, is helpful for the complexities of life. We also discuss some of the common sources of conflict we’ve dealt with in our experience, such as dealing with social media, relational issues, sibling rivalry, disobedience, insensitivity toward others, and miscommunication and the lack of communication.
T4L: So, how do you think can pastors, ministry leaders, and those who seek to put out faithful, biblical, and practical content that aims to serve and equip God’s people, help parents in their task of training their children in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus?
Dr. Andreas Köstenberger: This is exactly why we wrote our book—to equip ministry leaders to guide young parents in the church in parenting. We recommend you read Equipping for Life with your congregation, perhaps in small groups, considering especially the new, aspiring, and struggling parents. Every chapter starts with a “What’s Up?” section to help readers prepare their hearts with relevant portions of Scripture. At the end of each chapter is a section called “What’s Next?”, which poses discussion questions for couples or small groups to consider after digesting the content. We strongly recommend using the material in premarital counseling as young couples look toward parenting in the future.
In addition to reading the book, there is a free TGC parenting course built around the book Equipping for Life, available at here. This accessible course could be gone through in a weekly or biweekly format in the church, or in mentor homes. Perhaps it would be helpful to actually prepare a core of mentors in the church, who are able to embrace these truths—hopefully, experienced parents—who can facilitate these discussions for younger parents. It’s so important!
There are few books on this topic that cover the overall framework, perspective, and purpose of parenting. This is preventative medicine for parents and families that has the potential to change the face of church family dynamics and the mission of God in the world. Where many books on the topic offer remedies for the “sicknesses” and dysfunctionalities that occur from misguided parenting, we suggest that young parents in your church be equipped in the three major ways that our book covers—realism, relationship, and responsibility (the 3 “Rs” of parenting).
First, help parent develop realistic expectations of what parenting entails. Second, guide them to grasp the relational component of parenting, especially acknowledging that parental presence in the life of the child is key. Finally, third, encourage parents to embrace a responsible approach to parenting that includes arranging or rearranging their lives in such a way that they can be there for their children when they need them, and not delegating vital parenting task to others—whether teachers, youth leaders, or even their peers.