Parenting on Sundays

This is a blog from one of our elders, Aaron Sabie encouraging us to parent our children better at church.  
Good morning brothers and sisters,

I received a message from a faithful brother this morning pertaining to the issue of parents allowing their children unmonitored, unfettered access to the internet. This thought conveyed through a picture used Luke 17:2 (It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble) as a proof text against this practice.

This led to a brief, albeit a broader discussion regarding parenting, and parenting styles, and I believe it may be a good jumping off point for us to have a discussion as we think about how we raise our children, in relationship to the Church and the growth we are experiencing. With that in mind, let's consider briefly how our parenting style may impact our children, and the life of our church (in addition to principles from scripture, much of the following can be gleaned from "Growing Kids God's Way", episode 1).

It is indisputably true that the admonition found in Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it" is a non-negotiable directive given to the Christian parents of Christian children.

Passages such as Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, and the aforementioned Luke 17 make this clear.

However, the number of ways, means, and opinions regarding the particulars of raising our children are as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

That does not mean, however, that all methods are equal, good, or true. Sure, there are many tools for parenting to be found on the belts of faithful Christian parents, but not all tools brings about the desired end result of parenting, which is, a child who loves the Lord with all their heart, loves their neighbor as themselves, and does all, obediently, in faith, to the glory of God.
So, let's look at three broad categories of parenting and examine each one.

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parenting derives it's methodology from it's name, which is a form of the word authority.  

If authoritative parenting had a mantra, it would be "you will do it or else". Authoritative parenting has at its end the restraint of wrong without affirmation of the right, the suppression of waywardness. It is a "do it and do it now because I said so" methodology without any moral teaching, and usually occurs in times of conflict.
 
Authority is a good thing.  God ordained authority and gave it to parents. The problem with this style of parenting is not that they are exercising authority or that obedience is expected but rather that parents don't use their authority to direct their children to  the authority above them.  They forget that their authority is delegated to them for a purpose-to serve God and their family.   A better name for this type of parenting is tyrannical parenting.

For instance, you've worked a long, tiring day at work, and would like nothing more than to sit in your easy chair with an ice cold beverage and relax. Little Johnny has other plans. Johnny would like you to play football with him, and launches a tight spiral from the kitchen, past your wife's head, and it lands right on the end table, sending your Pabst Blue Ribbon flying. You've told him a million times not to throw footballs in the house, he has now disrupted your peace, made a mess, and his mother is chirping from the kitchen about how she can't work under these conditions.

As an authoritative parent, you do what authoritative parents do: you throw up your hands, raise your voice, and declare "Johnny, how many times have I told you not to throw footballs in the house? Now, go to your room."

Crisis averted, right? Wife has a peaceful kitchen, no more chirping, the beer is cleaned up, you have a fresh one in hand. Now, all that's left is to kick back, throw on YouTube, and watch a little apologia or blog and mablog.

Permissive Parenting

Another form of parenting goes by the name Permissive Parenting. Defined as "allowing or characterized by great or excessive freedom of behavior", permissive parents permit, or give permission to their child, to explore their world with vigor, exercising the curiosity and hunger for learning inherent in children. It is a method of parenting which limits rules like do's and don'ts, which cause conflict, in favor of setting boundaries, permitting more freedom, from which flows more happiness, less conflict, and a more satisfied child. Permissive parenting is preoccupied with child happiness and having a stress free child in which the child's feelings are elevated over behavior. Proponents of Permissive parenting find it easier to avoid conflict, than to put demands of obedience on the child because demands equal conflict, conflict is stressful, frustrating, and depressing, and, who has time for that?

An example of Permissive parenting  may look like this:

Little Suzy Q is so cute when eating dinner in her high chair. Problem is, Suzy Q is a very picky eater, and her tastes change from one meal to the next. One day she likes peas, the next day not. Sometimes she will gobble up chicken nuggets like nobody's business,  other days she can't stand them. The cuteness comes in when I give her something she has decided she no longer likes: she will look at me with a scowl, grunt, grab the offensive food, and hurl it to the ground. I laugh every time I see this, in part, because I know something she doesn't know: I'm ready for her. Because she is so picky, and to make things easier, I have taken to preparing 3 or 4 items for her dinner every day, so that, when she hurls one to the floor, I have another viable option ready for her. I want her to be happy, and can't stand the thought of her going hungry, so this is really no issue. Kids are allowed to be hungry, right? At first I was a little frustrated because of the mess I had to contend with, cleaning up the floor after her, but I remedied that by placing a tarp under her high chair to catch the food she throws on the floor. Happy baby, easy clean up, happy momma. What could be better?


Moral Mandate Parenting
This brings us to our third and final method in this discussion which may govern our parenting, and that is Parenting by the Moral Mandate.  The Moral Mandate is a philosophy of parenting which acknowledges the real authority that a parent has to teach and discipline their child, and the characteristics of children which are inherent to their nature, while pointing outside themselves to the source of that authority, namely God, and the standard by which that authority is exercised,  the Holy Scriptures.

The Moral mandate of Scripture exhorts us to order our behavior in view of the preciousness of others as image bearers of God (Gen 1:26) and our neighbors (Matt 22:39), and is a reflection of our love for God. In other words, our words, thoughts, and deeds, all behaviors which flow from our nature, are executed in such a way that takes into account our relationship to God, and the value inherent in those around us.

 In light of this, any parenting must reflect this mandate, using discipline as a means of equipping our children for the blessing of loving their neighbor as themselves, while living in communion and fellowship with them and God. So vital is the teaching of the moral mandate that our Christian witness is at stake. John 13:35 says "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Moral Mandate considers the temperament and personality unique to children, in much the same way as Permissive parenting, yet where it differs is in how those temperaments and personalities are guided into behaviors which glorify God. Neglecting to discipline a child based on their temperament and personality when that child's behavior is not taking into account the preciousness of others, is an illegitimate reason for a neglect of moral training.

Similar to the Authoritative parenting scheme, the Moral Mandate acknowledges the real authority that you as a parent has, while simultaneously pointing to God, in Scripture, as the source for that authority.

A vivid example of the contrast of Authoritative/ Permissive parenting and parenting by the Moral Mandate can be seen in the first 60 seconds of Growing Kids God's Way, Episode 1 (ask the Pastor for access to this resource).

In it, we see a boy, arms extended like an airplane, flying all over a courtyard, exploring his surroundings, doing what children do. We also see him nearly run into people, spilling a gentleman's coffee, and enticing his little friend to engage in some childish play as well. At the end of the video, a father is seen and heard instructing his son that he would not be participating in the Tom Foolery, and there was little to no indication that once dad said it, the son was going to actually obey.

Let's be honest, doesn't this scene play itself out at Church every Sunday morning, to the tune of about 78 kids 18 and under, simultaneously? Running up and down stairs, spilling coffee and water meant for adults or responsible others, peaking under bathroom stalls, congregating across the street, horseplaying in the parking lot, trails of cheerios in the pews, and on a few occasions, children running out the front doors and into the street.

"What's my child supposed to do?"
"There's nothing to keep them occupied while I chit chat."
"I have so many kids I can't keep up with them."
"They're just being kids. Do you hate kids or something?"

Kids do love to run, but we don't allow them to run through supermarkets unmonitored do we?
Kids have an imagination and want to play, but surely you recognize that there are certain times when play isn't necessarily reasonable.

Fellowship with brothers and sisters is important, but not necessarily more important than the discipline and love of your child. How much of the fellowship taking place on a Sunday morning is of the bearing of burdens, sins, and praying kind, versus the kind you might engage in on a Friday night, at a cookout, or on social media? Are you being faithful to fellowship with the saints throughout the week, or are you so consumed with worldly affairs that it is only on a Sunday morning that your brothers and sisters cross your mind?

Many of you do have many children. Hallelujah!
God ordained marriage and parenting to ideally take place with both a husband and a wife. Disciplining your children is a team effort which cannot be handed off exclusively to one parent.

Here's what happens on a typical Sunday morning:

Family comes in, moms walk to the back right corner of fellowship hall with kids in tow.
Dad sees his buddy, either in the vestibule by the front door, or outside, and peels off to talk about "important" stuff. Kids linger by mom for about 30 seconds, then it's off to the races (see scene from Episode 1), with many of the children oblivious to the fact that their playground play, in Church, is out of context and not considering the preciousness of their neighbors. One does not expect an environment like Chuck E Cheese when they walk into a Church house on a Sunday morning.

"Yeah but, Aaron, don't you know what the Proverb says 'Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.(14:4)'? Our mess is indicative that we have lots of kids, and they are a blessing from the Lord".

God also told Moses to take off his shoes, because the ground he was standing on was Holy ground. Have we forgot this? Have we forgot that the corporate gathering of the Church is unlike any other assembly?

We gather to worship the Triune God of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.

We aren't in our living rooms, at the trampoline park, or in a movie theater.

As an aside, would you spend $150 taking your child to a movie and allow them to run around, interrupting everyone's movie experience? Why then at Church, where the stakes are so much more high?

What do we do?
So what is a reasonable solution? How can we as a church move from the position laid out in the last scenario, to one which honors why we come together on the Lord's day, the worship of God Almighty? Are reverent worship and fellowship mutually exclusive?
Absolutely not.

The Lord's house is to be a house of prayer. Have you considered gathering together with a few other families in the church downstairs or even upstairs in a pew or side room and praying for one another, your other brothers and sisters, and the Pastor and Elders? Is this not fellowship, when 2 or more are gathered in His name?

What about service? There are greeters, cleaners, Lord's supper preparers, the worship team, coffee makers, and obviously needs for extra hands and eyes on the little ones of the Church. Can you not serve Christ and fellowship with other friends at church simultaneously?

What do the other six days of your week look like? Are you so engrossed in worldly affairs that you make no time for your brothers and sisters throughout the week? Have you sinned by not extending hospitality to others within the church, then compound your sin by neglecting the discipline of your children in an attempt to play fellowship catch up?

Do you find it impossible to have an adult conversation with children on your hip or by your side, so it just makes for easier fellowship to let the kids run off and play while mommy and daddy have a grown up conversation? It won't be easy to reclaim, and will require faith, love, and perseverance, but it need not be this way. Rather than mom and dad and kid going separate ways to do their own thing, how about your family, the whole thing, fellowship with another whole family, at the same time? If discipline needs to happen, dad and mom are right there, and the other family won't mind because they probably need to discipline their child. If something in the church gets broke, an elderly lady gets knocked down, or a kid runs out into the street, you can breath easy, because your child is next to you.

Gathering for worship on the Lord's day is a perfect opportunity to put into practice all the things you teach your child throughout the week: prayer, singing, being still, not interrupting when mommy is talking, self control, delayed gratification, listening to God's Word, and a host of other things.  If you are not teaching these things throughout the week, then you need to repent.  It isn't something you can just do on Sundays.  

It is always helpful to remind ourselves as parents that this time is only a season.  Training children to reverence the house of God is only a short part of your life.  You only have so many weeks that you will be doing this.  Your children will grow up fast.  It is then that you will see the fruit.  Will it be rotten fruit where the children don't have respect for the things of God?  Will it be the sweet fruit of watching your children growing into adults who fear and love Christ and His church?

Have faith for the hard work.  Have faith during these times when you may not get to experience all the things you personally want to do.  Have faith that bringing your children to church, teaching them to respect the people of God and the place where they worship, disciplining them, and doing all this even when you might feel a little embarrassed by it will bring forth great fruit.  

We truly believe that our children are truly a blessing from God.  But how you parent them, discipline them, or not, has both temporal ramifications and eternal.  Avoid the ditches of being the drill sergeant or the absent parent.  Don't be a tyrant.  Don't be one who lets your child do whatever.   Use your God-given authority, your moral mandate, to raise your children in the fear and nurture of Christ.

What say you?
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