ParYou can become a parent in an instant but learning the art
of parenting can take a lifetime. Children don’t come with instructions but
thankfully we can glean God’s wisdom through the Scriptures, from other
effective parents, and from the common sense that comes from life experience. God
describes himself in parental terms (as a “Father”) and calls us his
“children.” Each one of us has the
opportunity to be “born again” spiritually into God's family (John 1:11-13.
Rom.8:14-16. Gal.4:4-7. 1John 3:1-2). No matter what our natural family
situation may have been God wants to be a perfect spiritual parent to his
children. As we reflect on the character and behaviour of God, we can learn
much about parenting.

The Art of Parenting

1. Love Unconditionally

Our Father God is a God
of love (1 John 4:7-10, 16-18). Genuine
love is not merely an emotion but a choice to act in the best interests of
another person. God’s love toward us is his desire for our ultimate good.
“Unconditional love” is not a term used specifically in the Bible, but it is a
biblical concept. What’s amazing about God’s love for us is that it is not
based on our performance or any specific conditions we have to meet. In fact,
he chooses to love us despite our sin and our weakness. When God’s first
children, Adam and Eve, disobeyed his clear command, God the Father was
obviously very disappointed with them and he had to discipline them. But he did
not destroy them or disown them. He still acted in a loving manner towards
them. He moved towards them to restore the relationship. God the Father does
the same to us (see Rom.5:8-11). He is
quick to forgive us when we humbly confess our sins. He is patient,
long-suffering and slow to anger. Amazingly, his forgiveness is unlimited,
based on our confession and repentance (Ps.103:1-5, 9-14. 1 Jn.1:9). We can be
secure in his love because nothing can separate us from his it (Rom.8:35). His
love will never fail (1 Cor.13:8). He has promised to never leave us or forsake

As parents we need to take a loving stance towards our
children no matter what they do. Our love for them is based on the fact that
they are ours. We must beware of creating a performance-based environment that
causes our children to be uncertain of our love and as a result always seeking
our approval. Let’s ask God to fill us with his kind of love – a love that
reaches out towards people, no matter what. Love means giving people our
acceptance, as well as our time and our attention.

2. Affirm Frequently

God the Father expresses his love in a variety of ways, one
of which is affirmation or encouragement. Notice his encouragement of Jesus
during his time on earth (Matt.3:16-17; 17:5). On a daily basis, Jesus knew and
experienced his Father’s love and affirmation. He was always speaking about his
Father and was able to stand against strong opposition and criticism because he
knew he was doing his Father’s will.

Affirm and encourage your children as people – not just for
what they can or can’t do. Our words are very powerful (Prov.18:21.
Eph.4:29-32). Authority figures carry great power and influence. God calls us
as parents to use that for good – for building up rather than tearing down. To
put in qualities such as hope, courage, confidence and faith – not fear,
timidity and doubt. Affirmation takes time, good listening and attention. We
all thrive under encouragement, affirmation and praise. Praise becomes a
motivator for proper behaviour.

3. Instruct Clearly

Father God does not leave us to figure out life by
ourselves. He gives us clear instructions about every area of life and explains
why his way is full of wisdom. Notice his approach to Adam and Eve
(Gen.2:15-17) as well as to his people, Israel (Deut.30:11-19).  Jesus did the same for his followers and we
have the written word of God for our instruction (2 Tim.3:16-17).

As parents, we are to instruct our children in God’s way of
living. We are to make our expectations clear as well as consequences. Then we
need to be consistent in following through (see Eph.6:4). Frustration for
children often comes from unclear expectations and/or inconsistent follow
through. We are to show our children how to live successfully and why. We don’t
just want rote obedience when we’re around but we want to build values and morals
into our children that will guide them to make right choices even when we’re
not around. A good parent teaches about what is important in life. Train your
child in the way they should go (Prov.22:6). This involves modelling values and
character to your children (see Deut.6:1-9). Children do not respond to rules
alone. They respond to relationships. Josh McDowell says, “Rules without
relationships lead to rebellion.”

4. Discipline Lovingly 

Father God is not just a
loving forgiving God who is so soft that never deals with our disobedience.
Because he loves us he also disciplines us when we need it (Heb.12:4-12).
Disobedience displeases the Father. It is a direct assault on his authority and
leadership. Also, the consequences of disobedience destroy us. As
parents, we have a responsibility to lovingly discipline our children
(Prov.29:17). Unless there are painful consequences for disobedience, obedience
will never be learned. How we do that is very important. God
does not want us to abuse or harshly punish our children in a way that damages
them. We must be especially careful not to discipline in anger.

5. Empower Fully

God is not a controlling Father. He is a releasing Father
who wants his children to grow up and take responsibility for their lives. He desires
to empower us to full maturity and to join him in his work on planet earth. We
see this with Adam and Eve. He gave them a free will – the ability to choose. 

As children grow and become teenagers and then young adults
we as parents must empower them more and more – to make their own decisions and
to be responsible for their lives. The degree of empowerment is determined by
the maturity. We are responsible “to” raise our children and teach them God’s
ways but as they grow and come of age they are responsible “for” their own
choices and we have to release them to that responsibility (Rom.14:12). This
doesn’t mean we don’t care, or pray or seek to influence, but we have to
gradually let them go. This also means that we should not take inappropriate guilt
upon ourselves as parents if our children make unwise choices. There are a lot
of parents who feel that they are failures because their children are not
serving God or have made unwise choices in their lives. If that’s true then God
the Father is a failure because his first kids blew it badly! As parents we
must empower our children fully – then pray, trust God and believe that the
seeds you have planted will bear good fruit in due time.

Sample Reflection Questions

1. What were your natural parents like and how has
that influenced your view of God?

2. Reflect on the concept of “unconditional love”.

3. Think about some of the unique joys and challenges
of the different stages of a child’s life (baby, toddler, primary school age,
teenager, young adult, etc) and how it relates to parenting.

4. What are some of the changes that need to take
place in a parent’s approach as a child moves into the teenage then young adult

5. What are some keys to helping children find
their own relationship with God?

6. Consider the concept of “personal responsibility”
as outlined in Ezekiel 18:20 and Romans 14:12. How does this relate to the role
God requires of parents and leaders?

7. How can we provide more support for single
parents, foster parents and blended families?

Part 3 – Singleness