Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
Many nights, after we’ve tucked our children into bed (or our young adults have tucked us in!), we wonder if we’ll ever get it right. How we long to enter the next day with the right answers to their problems, the peaceful solutions to their conflicts, the patient words to answer their challenge to our authority, and the perfect gospel presentation for their hope.
Sometimes we feel so defeated and alone. We wonder what other parents do in similar circumstances. Is success impossible? With God nothing is impossible! What does success look like anyway? Are our standards of success in alignment with God’s will? As parents at Bethlehem, we’re trusting God for these things:
- “Our Father in heaven …” (Matthew 6:9). At Bethlehem, we believe that “successful” parenting starts and finishes with this Father—for he is the first and greatest. He is the originator of, the model for, and the power and love to do parenting. So, first and foremost, let’s lift our eyes and look to him for our help in this glorious task.
- The vision of the Father for every one of his children is to be conformed to his Son: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). What are we dreaming of related to our children? The goal of parenting is not to mold our children into who we want them to be, but to lead them to desire who God wants them to be.
- At Bethlehem, we also believe that parents are the primary disciple-makers when it comes to children and young adults. This is explicit in our Family Discipleship vision. In passages like Deuteronomy 6:7, parents are clearly given the mantle of responsibility for passing on God’s truth: “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” You, fathers (and single mothers), are the heads of your households.
The Johnsons and Helds have enjoyed leading five years of parenting classes at the North Campus. This has taken on different forms: classes for parents and their teens, for parents of teens, and for parents with children of any age.
Sally Michael has developed our three-year curriculum. Thank you, Sally! The North and South campuses will focus on the topic of raising teens this year.
The Family Discipleship Team aims to partner with parents in order to equip and encourage parents in this difficult yet rewarding job of raising children. Please pray for Sally and the Christ-Centered Parenting teachers this year—that God would have his way and parents would be helped.
Here are some of “the best of” related to the past five years at the North Campus:
- Vision: Our vision for every parent is that they would grow to become humble, confident, and joyful in their parenting. Of course God the Father wants this to be true of parents. Yet, none of us has arrived. But, it is possible because the Father is our father.
- The heart of the parent is primary! We continue to ask God to help us look at and change our hearts—because “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Parents are prideful, selfish, weak, mean, etc. Sometimes our own parenting idols get in the way of being a blessing to our children. We go after these idols together, in a community of grace and truth. Change us, Father.
- Affirm your children and young adults. Pastor Sam Crabtree has come each year and given what always turns out to be an award-winning session on “affirmation.” The more we celebrate evidences of God’s grace and his character in our children’s lives, the more we gain a hearing with our young people.
- Listen to them. “Be … slow to speak” (James 1:19). God will help us hear our children’s hearts if we listen. And, it is the heart that we seek to shepherd.
- Laugh with them. We know you’re waiting for the chapter and verse, but we’ll let you do the search. The idea is to enjoy each other. Trust the Lord for joy in him through your relationships.
- Model a humble fear of and love for God. “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7). We strive to be authentic parents by not hiding the fact that we’re sinners in need of our Savior’s help. As we share with our children how the Lord lovingly teaches us and corrects us, we model the gospel for them.
- Submit to others in humble interdependency. God will often use other human parents to direct and encourage us. Ephesians 5:21 says, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We seek to be open and honest with one another concerning issues in our hearts, our marriages and our child-rearing, so we can learn from each other. Author Paul Tripp states, “Parents who are humbly willing to change, position themselves to be God’s instruments of change.”
Please join us!
Christ-Centered Parenting Class North/South (starting Sunday morning, September 25, pending fully-staffed classrooms for Preschool–Grade 12 at the respective campus)
Christ-Centered Parenting Class Downtown (starting Wednesday evening, September 21, pending fully-staffed classrooms for Preschool–Grade 12 at that campus)
May our Father continue to grow us into worthy parents who resemble him,
Vince Johnson, Pastor for Outreach, North Campus
(for Kathy Johnson and Tim & Gretchen Held)