Parenting perspectives: 2017 National Conference speakers weigh in

August 14, 2017

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.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24