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This past Saturday Mickey Connolly taught a parenting seminar at SGC. In three well-crafted sessions he provided the goal of parenting and the how of parenting. His target was parents of children through aged 12 years, but as a father of three grown children his gaze often extended upwards to the adult years. Those of us in attendance were given excellent instruction that was biblical, practical, and insightful.
His outlines were fairly complete, so you can easily read through one as you would read through the chapter of a book. You can find the messages online here (as well as recordings of past parenting seminars). The three sessions he covered with us were the duty of parenting, instructing our children, and disciplining our children.
The Duty of Parenting
This session looked at God's commands to fathers and mothers about bringing up the children that God has given us (go here for the outline). God calls us to a high standard in both the Old and New Testaments. We are to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Mickey mentioned that one of the temptations with parents is to get so bogged down in the details of schedules and academics that we forget the spiritual goals of parenting. Here he cited a wise word from J.C. Ryle:
“Precious no doubt are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt; the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll; and the sun shall cease to shine; but the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all, and whether in happiness or misery (to speak as a man) will depend on you. This is the thought that should be uppermost in your mind, in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement, that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, 'How will this affect their souls?'”The Duties of Parents
Instructing Our Children
In session two he looked at instructing our children (go here for the outline). There is an array of things we want to pass along to our children. We tend to think often of the academic side or practical side of what we want to teach them: Get them into college so they can get a good job, right? That is important. Yet, we want even above these critical areas to teach them about the character of God and the gospel. Learning about who God is inspires obedience, worship, and faith. Learning about the gospel inspires humility, worship, obedience, and encouragement to sin-wearied sinners. Teaching about the gospel extends way beyond the conversion of our children, of course. The gospel is for sinners and we are sinners! So we never stop turning back to the truth of Jesus' glory, obedience, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. It brings salvation to the lost, but it also brings life and hope to Christians. He quoted from Tedd Tripp in this section:
“From their earliest days they must be taught that they are creatures made in the image of God—made for God. They must learn that they will only ‘find themselves’ as they find Him. Your child must grow to see that real living is experienced when he stands before God and says ‘Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you (Psalm 73:25).”Shepherding a Child's Heart
Disciplining Our Children
In session three he focused on discipline (go here for the outline). Like instruction, discipline changes as a child grows. But whatever the age, the goal of discipline is the godliness and welfare of the child. It is out of love that we discipline, not hatred. And therefore it is to be out of affection that we discipline, not anger. Proverbs 29:15 says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Mickey gave excellent instruction about what this means (and doesn't mean). Through it all there were regular looks at the cross to remember that parenting is really an exercise in sinners helping sinners. We don't treat the sins and immaturities of our children as something foreign to us—we struggle in the same way. And like them, we need a Savior.
The good news is that God's grace is greater than all our weaknesses and faults. He receives all the glory for any fruit we see in our parenting, because the grace to accomplish it was all from him. Further, two other outlines he provided were on not exasperating our children and one he called “the problem with parenting,” which concerned the way sin affects us as parents and also affects our children. If you have time, give the messages a listen and look over these outlines. It will bring grace and help to you in your parenting.