Don’t Be That Parent Part 4: Understanding Your Role

One of the toughest parts of spiritual parenting is understanding your role.  Imagine if you’d been cast as the Tin Man in a live production of the Wizard of Oz, but you thought you were supposed to play the Wizard.  You’d come on stage at all the wrong times, say all the wrong lines and generally make a mess of the whole show.

Sometimes, we do the same thing when it comes to helping our kids follow Jesus.  Even though our motivation is good,  we misunderstand our role in the spiritual formation process, and miss out on the opportunity to play our part.

This is particularly hard when our kids begin asking questions about salvation and baptism.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about how parents may fall into the role of the salesman, who tries to sell their kid on making a decision, the bouncer, who tries to hold them back until they’re old enough or the client, who farms out the whole process to the professionals at church.

Notice that all of these parents have great motives.  They want to see their children begin a relationship with Jesus when they are mature enough to understand the decision. However, God has a better role for us to play in the process.  

The Trail Guide

A few years ago my daughter and I went for our first horseback ride in the mountains. She’d had a few riding lessons, but I had never been on a horse in my life.  To be honest, I was nervous, not so much for myself, but because I knew I couldn’t help my daughter if she got into trouble.


Fortunately, though, we had an expert trail guide.  She was a cowgirl named Jesse. Yep, just like in Toy Story.  You could tell this wasn’t her first rodeo.  She’d been down this trail before.  She knew where we were going, and because my daughter was the youngest one on the trail, Jesse rode close to her and gave gentle words of encouragement and advice every step of the way.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s what the best spiritual parents do.  We follow Jesus and invite our kids along for the ride.  We’re not perfect examples, but we’re real, living, breathing examples of what it looks like to follow Jesus.

We may not have all the answers, but we know this trail of salvation and faith.  Even if we haven’t been riding it for long, we are at least a few steps ahead of our kids.  All we have to do is make sure we ride close and offer encouragement and guidance along the way.

And the best part?  The Holy Spirit rides ahead of us.  He will be our ultimate trail guide as we guide our kids.  If we pay attention to His gentle prompting, He will set the pace so that we don’t push our kids too fast or hold them back when they are ready.  As we seek God’s voice, He will lead the way.

In my next post, we’ll look at a few trail markers we can watch for as we lead our kids down the trail of salvation and faith.  We’ll talk about how to know when our kids are ready to take a next step and how we can help them in their journey.

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