Article Aug 14, 2017

Parenting perspectives: 2017 National Conference speakers weigh in

We’re excited to welcome over a thousand people to our 2017 National Conference, Parenting: Christ-Centered Parenting in a Complex World, on August 24! With a dynamic lineup of speakers and an important array of topics, this will be an invaluable resource for Christian parents and leaders seeking to be intentional and biblical in their calling.

We thought it’d be fun to get to know our speakers with some of their perspectives on parenting—it’s misconceptions and challenges. Their answers will encourage you in the task before you, reminding you that you’re not alone.

What is the biggest misconception about parenting?

Sally Lloyd-Jones: That you have to be perfect and do it perfectly.

Nancy Guthrie: That we as parents have control over how our children turn out. There are no "Five Steps" that if we do them right will result in a certain outcome. We have influence but not control. We have responsibility for what we do and say, but our children make choices that are their own. Because we do not have control, we pray for the Holy Spirit to bring our children to life and work in them through life. Because we often fail at what we are responsible for, we find hope and forgiveness for our failures in Christ.

Kelly Rosati: The biggest misconception is that with good, biblical parenting techniques, I can control the choices or outcomes of my children’s lives.    

Afshin Ziafat: The biggest misconception about parenting is that you will handle everything perfectly and be better than the parents you have seen over the years. I am quick to learn that my children are a constant mirror showing me how incapable I am and how dependent on the Lord I need to be. I have learned the great truth of being willing to say I’m sorry to your children so they can see that even dad needs Jesus.

Kevin L. Smith: That there are nice, neat, across-the-board formulas, answers, and approaches.

Jimmy McNeal: The way you parent will determine how your kids end up. Yeah sure, how I parent and steward this little life is important, but ultimately I need to be begging God to do work in their hearts. I was brought out of darkness into marvelous light, not because of my parents, but by the will of God. I want to parent with that in mind. If I do that, I will actually pray for my kids’ salvation often.

Trevor Atwood: That a single formula will guarantee your kids turn out to be well-adjusted, Jesus-loving people. Or, that what “works” with one child will work for all your children.

Courtney Reissig: I am fairly new to parenting, so I would say that everything I thought about parenting before I became a parent is all wrong. I thought that if I knew head knowledge about parenting, it would be easy. But I am learning the complexity of each of my kids. They are all different. Every stage of life is different. Every day is different. There are no textbook answers with kids. If ministry to people is about knowing them and understanding where they come from and all of their complexities, so is parenting. It's much harder than I thought it would be.

What is a misconception about parenting? That you have to be perfect and do it perfectly. - Sally Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Naomi Cramer Overton: There are so many! Here are a few I speak to particularly:

  1. God designed us to live not from overwhelm, but overflow. You can live out God's mission in each season in ways that fit your realities, and God's enough.
  2. Your kids aren't just being trained to make a Kingdom impact when they get older; they already can be agents of God's good (in ways that fit their age and stage).
  3. Parenting is not "us four, no more, shut the door": Serving with an intergenerational faith community is a must for kids to develop a strong, lasting faith.
  4. Our kids don't have to do everything to grow spiritually strong: they do need to serve with faith-filled adults, to read God's Word and to pray.

Chip Dean: The biggest misconception about parenting today is the lack of influence they are being told they have. God is the one who defines and gives every parent influence to raise and disciple their child to follow Jesus through the gospel.

Briana Stensrud: The biggest misconception about parenting is that you are in control. That if you work hard enough, read the right books, feed them nothing but organic food, then they will turn out the way you want them to.

Dan Dumas: We believe that our children need to obey us. In reality they should be learning to obey God by learning to obey us.  

Jim Daly: That it comes naturally.

Dean Inserra: I believe the biggest misconception about parenting in a Christian context is that it is our job to keep our children from something rather than prepare them for something. While there are certainly protections we put in place for our children’s safety and innocence, God has blessed me with children so my wife and I can raise them to be a blessing to others. I want to raise my children in the world, while leading them to not have their loyalties to this world. We live in an age of overprotective Christian parenting that often removes families from the lostness of our cities, and I fear what that means for the future of the American church when these children become adults and have never truly engaged with people who believe differently.

Jana Magruder: The perception that what may work well for one child, works well for all children. We have to acknowledge the uniqueness of the individual to adjust our parenting styles (even with siblings).

What is the greatest challenge you face in your parenting experience?

Jamie Ivey: Loving a child who is mean to you.

Nancy Guthrie: Trusting God with the family and the children God has given to me. Facing up to my own failures and inadequacies as a parent. Trusting God to work in my child's life in his way and his timing.

Kelly Rosati: The greatest challenge has been parenting kids with genetic mental illness in their birth families combined with the neurological complications of early trauma. This combination has brought parenting into a different stratosphere of behavioral difficulties with no road-map to follow and no quick fixes. It has been devastating, confusing, isolating and a severe test of our faith as we have grieved the loss of a “normal Christian family life.”

Afshin Ziafat: The greatest challenge I face in parenting experience is how to balance my ministry (work) life with leading my family well. Next to that, I would say the challenge of pouring truth into my children while the world is telling them something different. I am constantly seeking the Lord on how much I shelter my children from things that may be too early for them to learn about all the while knowing that I want to be the first one to tell them the truth about things before they hear the world’s twisted version.  

Kevin L. Smith: The shift from raising my in-the-house children to fathering my out-of-the-house young adults.

Jimmy McNeal: Seeing myself in them. I can see my selfish heart, not just in my son, but in the way I parent him. So often it's about me, how I feel, what I want, how I want him to act, what I want him to do. I often find myself seeing a glimpse of how I view God and the way I think he views me. Neither are always sound or actually true.

Trevor Atwood: My greatest challenge in parenting is the daily realization (especially in the teenage years) that no formula can guarantee my sons turn out to be well-adjusted, Jesus-loving men. This attacks my idols of control and approval.

Courtney Reissig: I am regularly confronted with my limits as a human being in my parenting. I am one person, yet I have four kids. The needs are constant, but I find myself up against my own inability to meet the needs that are ever before me. We've been teaching our children catechism questions, and one of them is about the Trinity. God is one God, in three persons. He is also everywhere. When I'm confronted with my limitations as a finite human being, I remind myself and them that while I am one person, God is everywhere and all powerful. He is able to meet every need that I cannot.

Randall Goodgame: At every stage, modern parenting can seem overwhelming. You’re on a cruise, and you are the captain, and the chef, and the wait staff, and you’re on roller-skates. And the ship is taking on water. Oh, and hold this robin’s egg. It’s about to hatch. Still, underneath all the physical and mental challenges, my greatest parenting challenge is spiritual.

In the morning, before I face a grumpy teenager, or a chatterbox grade schooler, a biting preschooler, or a colic-y baby, can I remember God’s love for me? Can I remember how much I try God’s patience? Can I remember his tenderness and understanding and forgiveness? And can I remember the cross? John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me,” and “without me you can do nothing.” I don’t know about you, but when I am not freshly soaked in the truth of the gospel, I do not remember. I forget how fully present Jesus is. Relying on my own, insufficient wisdom, I miss opportunities to love my children like God loves me.

I get angry faster and more often, or I disengage and disappear. I enforce the rules of the household without grace, or I choose the parenting path of least resistance, robbing my children of the personal growth and maturity gained through struggle.

When I do remember Jesus, when I “abide in the vine,” I cry out to him. I say, “Help me, Lord!” And his Word rises in my thoughts. Scriptures memorized long ago—or yesterday—fly to me for comfort. A hymn or spiritual song remembered from my morning prayers will join the breath from my lungs, and I move forward with grace for my kids.

Of course, many times I’ve prayed and talked with Jesus all day, and still lost my temper. Last year, at the end of a long day, I snatched a video camera from one child’s grasp, and pitched it straight into the creek behind our house. And it was my camera.

But, when God’s love is fresh on the mind, it’s easier to apologize. What a gift it is for our children to see us wrestle with our own sin and guilt with grace and humility.

Today, my 16-year-old daughter wants to dye her hair blue. My 14-year-old son wants an iPhone. And my 10-year-old wants my undivided attention every waking moment. Tomorrow, there will be new challenges, but the greatest challenge remains the same. Abide in the Vine.

Thank God for the good news of the gospel, for the character of Jesus revealed in the Scriptures, and for the Holy Spirit, who is always ready for everything.

Dr. Naomi Cramer Overton: As a parent, my greatest joy is my greatest challenge: how to nurture each child's God-given design. They're each so different!

As an advocate for "life to the full" for all God's people, my greatest challenge is helping others (and myself) discern amidst overfull lives how we love God, our families, and those God calls us to serve in our community and world. While we may not know how to do it, God does, and God is enough.

Chip Dean: The greatest challenge that parents are facing today is the lack of personal influence with their children, and the amount of influence from the world in their children's lives. Today's parents are pressured to please their children rather than disciple their children. A child who grows up in this world is not just bombarded with right and wrong, they are bombarded with one right and countless wrongs to choose from. Because of this, parents cannot fold to the pressure of pleasing their children by constantly entertaining them with every minute of their waking day. Instead, parents must be willing to slow down, engage in conversations, and disciple their children with the Gospel of the Word from an age of comprehension.

Jeff Dodge: As the father of adult children, I cannot stir faith or the affections of faith in my children. My role is to parent them according to the Scriptures. Their faith is outside of my ability to control, and that can be difficult for me.

Briana Stensrud: The greatest challenge I face in my parenting experience is continually entrusting every less than ideal situation to the sovereignty of God.  

Dan Dumas: Managing technology and lack of verses on parenting.

Byron Day: As a pastor, finding enough time to spend with my kids!

Jim Daly: Commitment to consequences.

Dean Inserra: The greatest personal challenge I have faced in parenting is battling my own selfishness. I tell people I learned I was selfish after I got married, and learned I was a self-centered pig after having kids. Parenting is a 24-hour job where I am always responsible for the welfare of my children. While I love them dearly and take my responsibility as a father seriously, there are many times I just want to tuck away in the corner and scroll through my phone, or guy out with my friends whenever I feel like it. The “fear of missing out” on whatever fun or leisure is taking place can cause my mind to drift and believe that I should be able to do what I want, whenever I want. Rather than a one-time battle to be won, I see selfishness as a daily war, where I must respond to the good news of the gospel by pursuing faithfulness and embracing my literal God-given responsibility to be a father. There is so much joy when I choose Christ and my family.

Jana Magruder: As a working mom, my greatest challenge (on most days) is focusing the few hours I do have with my kids on gospel-centered parenting.  

It’s not too late to join us at the National Conference, either in person or online. Visit our site for more information.

ERLC2018