There is one thing I am certain of: for the vast majority of the parents I know, regardless of their age, income level, education, or culture, the thing that they value and cherish more than anything else in the world are their children—hands down.
Parents love their children. But, as we know, having children can be tiring, frustrating, and conflicting. Before having kids, some of us may have held strong convictions about devotions, ministry, missions, and being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yet, once our children arrive, our world tends to revolve around diapers, naps, and play dates. And we’re not quite sure how to reconcile our calling to serve and our kids.
As a parent of two adult children (one of whom already has a child of her own!), here are three things I hope can help young families who are struggling with this dilemma:
1. Your Children Are Your First Calling
You are by far the greatest influence on your young children. Realise that your children have now become your first ministry.
As a young parent, it’s perfectly normal that a large part of your heart, soul, mind, and strength go to raising your children. So don’t feel guilty! Your children should become your first ministry. You are called to raise them, protect them, and disciple them in God’s ways (Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 6:6–9). You literally are the life givers to your children.
Fellow parents, you are by far the greatest influence on your young children. Use this season to disciple them in a holistic way. It does not mean that you neglect yourself, your spouse, or the church, but realise that your children have now become your first ministry.
2. Your Calling Can Help Your Children
One of the trends that I see among some young parents is their drive to give their children the best. In a way, it’s no different from most parents in most generations. They give their children what they think is the best food, the best environment, the best timings to nap or sleep, the best enrichment classes, the best experiences, and so on. Parents rarely say no to what they think is best for their kids. But this can be overwhelming for some of us.
Yet . . . giving the best for your kids all the time may not always be what is best for them. If you give your kids the best of everything, chances are, they may grow up believing that they deserve the best of everything. If you make idols of your children, they may likely begin to think of themselves as little gods.
Giving the best for your kids all the time may not always be what is best for them.
What this means is that parents should consider ways of bringing up their children in a way that they understand that they need to sacrifice for others. For example, teach them that they may need to sacrifice a playdate for the sake of Mummy serving in the worship team, or video game time so that Daddy can lead Bible study. After all, our Lord and Saviour is the perfect model of sacrifice: He “made himself nothing . . . [and] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8)
When you sacrifice giving your kids what you think is best for the sake of the church, there is another benefit: you allow the church to help disciple your kids as you spend more time serving in church. No matter how good a parent we are, we will inevitably have blind spots. You need the spiritual community to help give a more broad discipleship experience to your kids. Your children should grow up within the church, with spiritual aunts and uncles journeying alongside your family.
3. Your Tension is Natural
Finally and most importantly, don’t fret if you feel a tension between your children and your calling. I often look at 1 Corinthians 7, which I believe gives us permission and guidance on handling tension between family and mission. Here, Paul notes that while the single person can give undivided devotion to the Lord, the married person can become anxious at pleasing his or her spouse (vv. 32–35).
What this tells me is that the person with a family will naturally feel a tension between serving the mission and serving the family. It’s natural! On the one hand, if you give unhindered time to the church and your calling, you may be neglecting your family. On the other hand, if you never sacrifice family time for the church and calling, you may be neglecting your calling.
If you feel a tension between being faithful to your calling and being faithful to your children, you may be exactly where God wants you to be.
In fact, I might go as far as to say that if you don’t feel a tension, you may be leaning one way too much. If you feel a tension between being faithful to your calling and being faithful to your children, you may be exactly where God wants you to be.
So, fellow parents, fret not if you’re feeling pulled in opposite directions by your children and service in church. God’s first calling for you in this season is to be a godly parent who models for your children what sacrificial submission and service to the Lord looks like—whether in the home or outside.
This article was originally published on SOLA Network. Adapted with permission.