One thing that I am certain of. For the vast majority of the parents that I know, regardless of their age, income level, education or culture… the thing that they value and cherish more than anything else the world are their children. Hands down. Parents love their children. But having children can be tiring, frustrating and conflicting. Before having kids, many faithful Christians held convictions about devotions, ministry, missions and being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Once they have children, their world often revolves around diapers, naps and play dates. They’re not quite sure how to reconcile calling and children. Here are three things I’d want our young families to remember.
1. Your children is your first calling
When you are raising children, do not feel guilty that some of your heart, soul, mind and might go to your children. Your children should become your first ministry. You are called to raise them, protect them, and disciple them. You literally are the life givers to your children. Parents are, by far, the greatest influence of 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 realize that your children have now become your first ministry.
2. Your calling can help your children
One of the trends that I see among young parents is their drive to give their children the best. In a way, it’s no different from most parents in most generation. They give their children best food, best environment, best nap times, best lessons, best experiences, and so on. Parents rarely say no to what they think is best for their kids.
But this can be overwhelming for parents. But here is what I want to say. Giving the best for your kids all the time may not be what is best for them. If you give your kids the best of everything, they will grow up believing that they deserve the best of everything. If you make idols of your children, they will think of themselves as little gods. Bring your children up in a way that they understand that they need to sacrifice for others. Let them learn that they can sacrifice nap times for the sake of mom doing praise team.
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. No matter how good a parent you are, you have blind spots. You need the spiritual community to help give a more broad discipleship experience with your kids. Your children should grow up within the church with spiritual aunts and uncles.
3. Your tension is natural
Finally and most important, don’t fret if you feel a tension between children and calling. I often look at 1 Corinthians 7 as permission and guide for tension with family and mission. While the married person can become anxious at pleasing the spouse, the single person can give undivided devotion to the Lord.
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. If give unhindered time to the church and your calling, you may be neglecting the family. If you never sacrifice family time for the church and calling, you may be neglecting your calling. I would 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.
Pastor Steve Chang is the Lead Pastor of Living Hope Community Church and a board member of Crossroads Campus Ministries.