“After 24 years of following Christ, I have to admit that I have
seen few exemplary “second-generation Christians.” By that
I mean, God-fearing believing children, who are the offspring of God-fearing
parents. Although many Christian parents do love and fear God, seldom
is the next generation quite as “hot” for God.
I see few even in the Bible. Think of King David. At least several of
his sons didn’t turn out so well, causing him and an entire nation
grief. Think of Eli the prophet. His sons brought disgrace to the name
Why? Why does this happen? On the one hand, these stories can discourage
me and cause me to think that perhaps raising a godly second generation
is a little like spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. Simply hope
I get lucky. But on the other hand, I wonder if there are commands and
principles in the Word of God that I can turn to in order to find answers,
answers that will work.
I also wonder if we have not looked hard enough to find living examples
around us who really are being successful in their parenting.
If I have had any success as a father over the past seventeen years,
it is largely based on the example of other dads who are succeeding in
producing a hot second generation. And I know that their parenting has
been based on a careful, prayerful following of the Scriptures.
Rick Whitney is one of those men in my life. He has not just talked the
talk, he has walked the walk. For years, I have admired his heart and
his faith, especially concerning his family. But what has truly sealed
it for me is the fruit in his children’s lives.
No doubt Rick would be quick to admit that he is not the perfect father,
nor are his children perfect. But in his family I see something unusual,
an unusual love, respect and devotion. Discipline, courage, and a strong
A compassionate heart for the souls of others. A love for Christ.
His family is a rare commodity. Too rare.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. As you read this book, ask
yourself, “Am I following someone who has had genuine success in
raising up a hot second-generation?”
- Brad Barrett, father, pastor, teacher, friend
Now it seems like a long time ago. Over twenty-six years have passed
since we had our little baby boy.
Actually he wasn’t so little. Fourteen months old and chubby
as a sumo wrestler - he was the light of our life. We loved him and thought
the world of him. Like all new parents, we couldn’t begin to describe
what he meant to us. But he was a handful!
His behavior was often embarrassing. It was tough to have people over
for dinner. Sometimes it was tough to go out in public, even to Wal-Mart.
Often he didn’t
like what we were trying to teach him, and he let us know!
A few years went by and we had a baby girl. A cute, precious, little
But one of my favorite memories of her, beyond her wonderful smile, was
the time I trudged up the stairs when I heard her crying. I walked into
the bedroom and there she was, standing up in her crib with each of her
little hands firmly clenching a rail, her face perched on the top rail,
shaking the bars of her “prison” with all of her might. She
was angry, very angry, and let me know it as soon as she saw me.
As angry as a little girl can ever be, I guess.
And then we had another little girl.
Have you ever had a child who was so sensitive that if you just looked
at her cross-eyed she would start blubbering? Her lower lip would quiver
and her eyes would puddle at the drop of a hat. Well, that little girl
grew up over the years and now leads with her heart, first and always.
And then years later, we had another child. (Having kids was becoming
We had just come back from a trip to see the grandparents. The older
three were in bed, but my fourth child was still up, since she had napped
quite a bit in the car that afternoon. I was working through a pile of
mail on my desk and asked this sweet, precious, little two-year-old girl
to run a letter down to her mom.
She had been sitting on my lap up until this point, so I put her down,
handed her the letter and told her to scoot. Whereupon, she immediately
dropped the letter and said just as clearly as can be, “No!”
What followed was a frustrating, exhausting hour – for both of
Have you ever had your young son ride off with a few of his buddies
on their bikes and then half an hour later get a phone call from a neighborhood
grandmother? That neighbor has just seen your boy in her back yard near
her hen house, with a bunch of eggs cradled in his T-shirt!
Have you ever had
a child who could easily crash on the sofa and watch TV for whole days
time and think nothing of it? A child who could
then turn to you when you walk in the room and point this out, and answer, “Wha..a..a..a..t?”
This one grew up and now likes to run everything. Would you like to know
how we turned things around? I’d love to tell you.
Have you ever had a child who can sit in a room with two (or twenty-two)
other people and quietly take it all in? She may never say a word and
yet you know, deep down in her heart, that she is really scrutinizing
everything, judging the whole, crazy circus swirling around her?
Eventually all seven of them all started growing up. (Thankfully, they
do that just kind of naturally and fairly quickly.)
Then one day, one of those sweet, young angels turns to you at sixteen,
puts her hands on her hips, and states fiercely, “Dad, sometimes
I don’t think you love me!” You see the fire in her eyes
and know that what she really wants to say was, “Dad, I hate you!” What
do you do? Well, we’d better know what to do.
These kinds of situations – where the rubber meets the road – are
what parenting is all about. Do we have the right answers for these times?
We will need answers desperately, if we are going to keep our sanity
and help these kids grow into mature adults.
I want to get right into real life on the home front in this book. I
want our stories to encourage you, and I believe they will.
Just how do you write a book on parenting? I’m not sure. I’ve
never done it before.
Why even write a book on parenting you ask? Well, here’s my reason
for writing it:
I believe that God gave our movement – the Great Commission Association
of Churches (or GCAC for short) – a unique perspective on parenting.
We recognize that all godly parenting must have an outward focus, a purpose
that glorifies God. We believe that purpose is the advancement of the
Great Commission in and through our marriages and our families.
That is why I am writing this book.
Many Christian parenting books and child-raising curriculums seem somewhat
selfish. The unspoken assumption in many of them is that we can somehow
train our kids and “save” them from our corrupt society,
and yet ignore this lost world.
Our Lord addressed this selfish attitude when He said, “For whoever
wishes to save his life shall lose it. . . ” Our “life” obviously
includes our marriages and our children.
Our Lord continued with, “But whoever loses his life for My sake
and the gospel’s shall save it.” These Scriptures warn us
that if all we care about is keeping our children and families safe,
we are headed for heartache.
There are probably a hundred books on the topic of marriage and family
down at your nearest bookstore. But I have yet to read one that recognizes
that the advancement of God’s Kingdom is the key to raising successful,
Raising givers, not takers
Recently I read a column by Becky Hart in the Rocky Mountain News entitled, “Uber-parents
turning out kids who are not so super.” In her piece, she notes
that many parents today are so child-focused and obsessed with their
kids, that they are actually doing their kids a disservice. She quotes
Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist and mother of three, who describes
these parents as “uber-parents.”
As Dalton puts it, these folks “decorate their children’s
rooms in stimulating colors, buy educational toys, forgo playpens and
give baby massages. They sacrifice personal time, friendships and their
own interests… and perhaps most important, they take every opportunity
to build up their children’s self-esteem.”
She concludes, “Today’s children may love themselves, but
in the end the biblical ‘Do unto others’ is like a foreign
language to them. They are takers, not doers or givers.”
She proposes two reasons for this: 1) the smaller size of families and
2) our greater affluence here in America.
But whatever the reason, she confirms that it is possible to give too
much attention to your kids. “Child-centered-ness can easily become
child idolatry,” she writes. Her remedy? “Uber-parents” need
to get their children off the pedestal, for their sake and for the sake
of their children.
Dalton goes on to suggest that families that are not so obsessively child-focused
are probably happier. Those more balanced parents are, in her words, “certainly
more likely to raise kids who will be individuals who care more about
the needs and happiness of others.”
Isn’t that just what we are looking for with our children? Don’t
we all want to raise kids who are oriented towards others and involved
in reaching out to this dying world?
We Christian parents can easily treat our children as idols. But God
has given us the solution: an outward orientation. We need to get involved
with our families in a great and noble cause, the advancement of His
Thankfully, God has given this vision of “families on a mission” to
our team of churches. We believe this vision is vital to the ultimate
success of our families. In the chapters that follow, I would like to
share with you just how this vision can work itself out in practical
ways within a real American family.
We will look at several other topics besides parenting. We will look
at topics that relate to peace and purpose in our homes, God’s
vision for our marriages, the different roles of men and women in a family,
and the over-arching, God-given duty and calling that God has entrusted
to each of us in our homes.
We will discuss what I feel is critical for parents to know, understand,
and appreciate about raising kids. I want to write about the main things
that I have learned with my own “brood” and to share them,
hopefully, with a little humor. I will cover the principles that we have
taught many times to thousands of couples in over fifty churches during
our weekend parenting seminars.
In his book Halftime, Bob Buford concluded that, “Men spend the
first half of their life looking for success. They spend the last half
of their life looking for significance.” Might I again suggest
that apart from success within our families, there is very little lasting
significance to our lives.
These chapters are weighted heavily towards dads. It is an honor for
me to talk to other dads. I hope that every mother who reads this book
will find encouragement in what I say. But I am a father, and I have
written much of this material for other fathers, for my fellow “brothers
on the wall.”
My prayer is that each of you will be built up as parents through this
book. That you might have stronger hearts and stronger willpower. In
the chapters that follow, I want to share my heart, my passion and my
conviction that every parent can succeed in raising great kids!
· The first
few chapters will deal with children under twelve and the first basic
foundations that need to be established in their hearts.
· Then through
the rest of this book we will deal with our youth who are now
teenagers - maintaining good attitudes and imparting our vision to them.
As you read through each chapter (almost a collection of essays) and
mull over the discussion questions, know that my first purpose in writing
this book is that you would be deeply encouraged.
We all have questions. I pose several hundred and try to answer them.
I thought about entitling this book, 1001 Questions that Parents Ask.
But when you finish reading this book, my prayer is that you will know
the only question that really matters as a parent - and have an answer
I have shared the following statement often, with all the passion I
can muster, over and over again for over twenty years:
that the greatest need in becoming successful parents is to have strong
and strong willpower.”
This is where we
have to be at the end of the day, and I believe this book can help.
So I hope
you read it. I trust that you won’t be