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How to Raise Courageous Kids

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When we welcome a new child into the world our protection gene kicks in. In fact, it usually starts earlier, even when the baby is still in the womb. And protecting that child is the right course of action then and as they grow. We walk close behind a toddler as he takes first steps. We run alongside her bike when the training wheels come off. It’s just our nature to protect. But at what point do we move from protecting to overprotecting? How do we gradually pull our hands away and begin releasing our kids into the world? How do we raise courageous kids who not only move out into the world to live their lives, but charge into the world to make a difference for Christ? Here are three keys:

1. Rethink Your Role

When was the last time you stopped and evaluated your role as a parent? If we were to create a list, it would include things like teaching them how to make good decisions, how to live independently, how to do basic life skills, and how to treat people the right way. And perhaps there would be some kind of spiritual item or items on our list, such as taking them to church, maybe even leading them to Jesus. But would your list stop there? Would it stop with just getting them to Jesus?

A few years ago I was engaged in a conversation with my neighbor across the street. He and his wife had recently come to Christ and we were talking about how their decision to follow Jesus was changing the way they were now parenting their two young children.

He said to me, “My wife and I want to parent our children the way you and Tricia have parented yours. You’re not just raising your kids to be good, you’re raising warriors over there.” I didn’t swell up with pride at his remark. In fact, I was convicted. He gave Tricia and I too much credit for something we were supposed to be doing. Our job was not just to raise good, moral kids, but warriors for the cause of Christ. We’re not just to get them to know Jesus so they’ll be safe for eternity; we’re to disciple them to be strong in the faith, to know the Scripture, to be able to share their faith so that they are equipped and challenged to be light-bearers in a very dark world.

Want to raise courageous kids? Take seriously your role as the primary spiritual developer of your child. Train them. Equip them. Don’t just raise good kids, raise warriors.

2. Pray Boldly

Not long ago I led a conference at a local church for parents of upcoming seventh graders. The student pastor asked me to share some things parents should be aware of and prepared for as their children moved from childhood into teenage years. As I prepared the conference, one of the points I was working on was encouraging parents to pray for their children. As I wrote some notes on this point, I suddenly stopped and was confronted (and convicted) by this thought: If we’re not careful, most everything we pray about and for our children will be temporal. We will pray for them to do well in school, to find a good spouse, to get a good job, etc. And usually at the top of our list is praying for them to be safe.

I’m not saying that’s wrong. I totally understand. Our 10-year-old daughter is in graduate school five hours away in a large metro area. (Actually, she’s 24, but in my mind she’s still 10. I’m sure most of you understand.) Our son is two hours away at college. They are out of my sight and frequently on the road. They are with people I don’t know, ministering in places I’m unfamiliar with, and facing challenges that I can’t filter for them. They live in a dangerous world, and I want them to be safe. I want them to live a long time and produce lots of grandbabies for me to love on. (I also want them to live long so they can take care of me when I’m old.)

But I can’t just pray they be safe. I can’t just pray about here and now. I must pray for them with eternity in mind. I pray they will be bold witnesses of the gospel, that they will courageously take the good news to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. And I understand in praying in that fashion that God may lead them into unsafe places. But when you stop to think about it, is there really any safe place in our world today? The only truly safe place is being with Jesus, wrapped in His love, following His will.

It’s not wrong to pray for safety, good grades, a loving spouse, a good job, and so forth for your children, but don’t stop there. In fact, you can pray for those things in the context of praying boldly for your teenager. Pray for a spouse who is willing to come alongside your child in taking the gospel to the world. Pray for your teenager to do well in school to get a degree that opens doors to share his or her faith here or around the world. Pray for jobs that afford them the opportunity to witness to the lost or perhaps even lead them to the mission field on temporary or permanent assignment. I once heard someone say that you know you’re really serious about missions not when you pray for God to call you, but when you pray for God to call your children to go

Reevaluate your prayer life for your teens. Is everything temporal or are you keeping eternity in mind?

3. Release Them

When both of our children were born, there was a special moment that took place soon after their births. I knelt beside Tricia’s bed, held her hand, and we prayed together. We thanked the Lord for their safe births and for the medical personnel who helped usher them into the world. But the main focus of our prayer was to acknowledge at the beginning that this precious child we held was given to us only for a season. We understood that we were just stewards of the gift, and we gave each of our children back to the Lord for His purpose and will. Releasing them to the Lord when they were a few hours old was not that tough. The day they would leave our nest was way out in the future. However, staying true to that decision now is a bit more difficult. That’s why we continue to revisit that prayerful commitment. We don’t know where the Lord will direct our children, but we are at peace that He has them, and has them on the path He has designed for them. So we continue to release them to Him, as He releases them into the world for His sake.

You want to raise courageous kids? Release them to the Lord and to His purpose. If you’ve never entrusted your children to the Lord and His purpose, I encourage you to do so now. It’s not too late. Trust Him to guard them and direct their paths. Remember you are only a steward of the gift.

Please understand, Tricia and I aren’t experts on raising courageous kids … and we don’t easily let ours go. We’d love for them to live long lives and live close to us for the rest of them. But that’s not our call. They belong to Jesus. They always have. And ultimately we want them to live their lives courageously for Him and for His glory. We pray you want the same for yours.


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