Relational Parenting: Fostering Your Child’s Relationship to God
It seems obvious that parenting is relational. And yet, it’s easy to forget sometimes, especially when the children are younger. Many dads, especially, tend to approach parenting more like a task needing to be accomplished. Problem is, parenting is not just a task, it’s a relationship. And relationships take time. They are complicated. So, parenting is costly. It takes sacrifice. We need to spend time with our children and encourage them in their relationship with God.
Why is it so vital and fundamental to foster your child’s relationship with God?
Andreas: Only if a child trusts Christ will he or she be able to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, which is their eternal destiny. All their relationships with others, including their parents, will spring from that central relationship with God, and from a transformed and renewed heart.
Margaret: There is an enormous difference between parenting an unregenerate child and parenting a child who has trusted Christ. Once a child is a believer, the Holy Spirit will become a powerful ally in his or her character formation and spiritual transformation. As parents, we should make every effort to introduce our children to Christ at an early age and to be God’s instruments in leading our children to Christ—depending on the Holy Spirit’s leading (you can’t force it). This is the Great Commission we’ve been given as parents, to make our children disciples of Christ, by his grace.
What would a simple gospel conversation with your child look like?
Andreas: I’ve had the wonderful privilege to lead several of our children to the Lord, and to baptize them. There are at least 3 concerns I have as a parent, 3 things I want my child to understand about himself and about Jesus Christ. First, does he understand he is a sinner? Talk to him about the fact that when he finds himself wanting to disobey you, the reason ultimately is his sinful nature. Explain to him as well that there’s no way he can overcome his sinful nature in his own strength; he needs a Savior.
Second, does he understand what Jesus did for him on the cross? No one can become a Christian without sensing a need for a Savior and grasping that at the cross Jesus died the death he deserved as a punishment for his sins. Jesus took our sin upon himself and paid it by dying in our place! That’s the gospel message, and we need to take every opportunity to explain the gospel patiently, and repeatedly, to our children, and pray that God will help them understand.
Third, does he understand what he needs to do to become a Christian? Essentially, he needs to put his trust in Christ and what he has done for him. This can be extremely liberating. It also means Christ has forgiven him and borne all his guilt and shame. He is free to love and can draw on God’s grace. The Holy Spirit now lives in him and enables him to rise above his sinful desires.
You also talk about the importance of asking questions and of seizing teachable moments. Tell us about that.
Andreas: Margaret is great about asking our children lots of questions all the time. She does that because she cares and wants to know about every detail of their lives. When they come home from an event, she asks: How many people were there? What were their names? Who did you sit next to? What happened? What did you talk about? And so on. That’s an excellent way to engage your children, boys and girls, especially during the teenage years.
Margaret: As a dad, Andreas loves to talk with our son about his games. Did the ref make a bad call? How did you deal with that? What did the coach say at halftime? Sports provides a wealth of teachable moments that we can seize upon as parents. Of course, that presupposes we take the time to come to our children’s games and other events. Andreas also loves to take our children with him when he runs errands or goes on a trip just to spend time together talking and hanging out.