You love your kids! That is why you put up with toothbrushes in the toilet, baby powder scattered all over the floor, crayon pictures on the wall, spilled milk on the carpet and total sleep deprivation. But down deep your greatest desire is for your child to pursue God. That is why being a good spiritual parent is so important to you. Probably no Bible verse is more quoted when it comes to spiritual parenting than Proverbs 22:6.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (NIV)
A lot of parents think Proverbs 22 is a promise, kind of a like a deal with God. If a parent trains their child in the Lord, then when they get old they will not leave God out of their lives. From this famous verse, there are four important insights that we need to understand.
A Proverb is Not a Promise
A proverb is a short, pithy or catchy saying, with a piece of advice attached to it. It is an observation that is usually true, but not always true. An example of a modern day proverb is, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Of course, when we repeat this proverb we don’t actually believe that eating an apple every day guarantees excellent health. But we do believe that, in general, healthy eating contributes to physical health. A promise on the other hand is a declaration or assurance that what is said will happen. If you do this, then God will do that. So in this verse, if you raise your kid in the Lord he/she will not depart from Him. But Proverbs 22 is a proverb and not a promise. It is an observation that comes true most of the time but not all of the time.
Parents are Dedicated Spiritual Trainers
The phrase “train up” carries the idea of a dedicated trainer. Parents need to see themselves as dedicated and committed spiritual trainers of their kids. In other words, parenting is going to take a lot of effort and sweat equity. Parenting isn’t for wimps. That means you don’t coast through parenting and you don’t stick your head in the sand and hope everything going to turn out alright. You get in the game and show up everyday.
Parents Lead with Their Kids Design in Mind
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (AMPC)
The Hebrew form used for the phrase “in the way he should go” actually means “his way”. It refers to the child’s particular bent. In ancient times archers would make their own bows and they would bend the bow to fit their own unique size and shape. A shorter person would bend his bow differently than a taller person. This bend is designed into the bow to fit the size and strength of the person.
This verse is teaching us that each child has their own God-given bent or design. So the best way to train the child is to understand God’s special design for that child. We as parents are called to recognize this “bent” and to train our children according to their design. Some practical advice:Start studying your children and become an expert on your children. Spend some time learning about their spiritual gifts. Your children were not made in a factory. They are not all the same. Ask Him to show you His vision for your child. Ask Him to teach you how to train your children in the way they should go, in keeping with their individual gifts and natural bents given by God.
Parents Model What They Want to See Happen
Finally, we know, as Christian parents, that “the way he should go” is in the direction of God. The best way to help your children pursue God is to model what you want to see happen in their lives. If you are pursuing God, there is a high probability that they will pursue God. So as you train them in the Lord remember your example is the most important part.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it?
- What is one insight that jumped out at you from watching the video?
- What is the difference between a proverb and a promise?
- Describe some qualities of an excellent personal trainer and then share how those same qualities could benefit your parenting.
- What are some things the make parenting so challenging?
- Read Proverbs 22:6 and share in what ways each of your kids are different.
- If the ultimate goal of parenting is to help your kids pursue God, then why do you think modeling what you want to see happen is so important?
- If you are totally honest, what are you currently modeling for your kids spiritually at this time in their lives?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.