Early one Monday morning as a principal, the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention. It was a Monday like any other during that season of my life. I went into my school's staff lounge to place yellow slips into the mailboxes of teachers that had not yet submitted their lesson plans for that week. I'll never forget: as I placed a yellow slip into one math teacher's mailbox this particular morning, it was as if the LORD stopped me and said (though not audibly), "Larry, where is your plan? You want your teachers to have lesson plans, but where is your plan for your own life, your spiritual development, your marriage, your parenting, and the discipleship of your own children?"
The reality was, I was an experienced Christian educator and school administrator, and my wife and I had been teaching a Bible fellowship class for young families as we were having our own children. I didn’t have a plan. I wasn’t taking advantage of the time I had at home.
That moment in staff lounge early that Monday morning was a pivotal turning point for me as a dad and school leader. I began to think and make decisions to strategically care for my spiritual development, my marriage, and the discipleship of my children. I also took steps to develop ways of empowering parents at the school where I was serving as principal to have their own plans for spiritual development, marriage, and parenting. I already knew that the LORD had called me into Christian education, and I began to see this calling as a platform to reach parents.
Many young adults are stepping away from their Christian roots and identifying as the continuously growing group of religious "nones." I believe that the intentional development of a biblical worldview as we parent our children prepares them for their journey beyond our home. Teaching and training and discipling our kids to see and engage the world around them through a Christian lens--a biblical worldview--happens best when children grow up in a synergistic environment.
Ideally, there are three major entities that form and mold the heart of a child--their parents, a local church, and educators. When those three entities are "rowing in the same direction" and they (not necessarily 100% on the same page) share the same end goal—to produce obedient followers of Jesus Christ—then there is congruence of training that develops synergy.
I do not tell parents that they must send their kids to Christian schools to achieve synergy or that Christian schools are the savior of the world. Even if a parent sends their children to a non-Christian school they can develop that essential congruency, but it may be a lot more difficult. The goal of cultivating a synergistic environment for our children is that every time they turn around--whether at home or church or school--they are hearing about that same end goal.
If one or two of these “legs” is not strong, the result can be fragmentation rather than synergy. Fragmentation can take place in any of the three entities I’ve mentioned or among the three entities in a child's life. Fragmentation at home could be one of the parents not living a life of obedience or home life being divided. Fragmentation in the church may look like incongruent teaching or discipleship. In a school, fragmentation can have a direct impact on the success of teaching and training. Fragmentation can even surface in a Christian school where there are parts that are not fully focused on the common end goal. Any mixed messages within or among these entities can be very confusing for a child.
Of the many parents I have worked with over the course of my career, one thing has been very apparent to me: we love our "babies." We want what is best for them. And according to research conducted in the evangelical realm, nearly all of Christian parents feel that they are the primary leader/trainer of their children, yet nearly the same number of those parents do not feel confident in that role.
I have observed that this research is valid: I think that most of our parents do not feel qualified or confident in training their children. I have also observed that when people are not confident, they typically go one of two ways: they either shut down, OR jump in and go in too many different directions.
God’s Word says in Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 that mom and dad are the head coaches of their children. One of the great moments of Psalm 78 is when God pulls Moses aside and essentially says, “I want you to train this generation of Israelites to love me with all of their heart, soul, and mind." And then He says a second thing, "Tell parents to train their children." Parents are the primary influencer of their children.
If we were to create a continuum of spiritual maturity, with 1 being the least mature level of Christian faith and 10 being the highest level of Christian maturity, many parents think that they are not mature enough to lead their families spiritually. My encouragement to parents is, if they do not feel confident in leading their family in a Bible study or in regular family prayer, that is okay! The Bible makes it very clear that on this spectrum of spiritual maturity, we do not have to wait until we are a 7, 8, 9 to be intentional in leading our family. I encourage parents: Don't sit on the bench. Jump in! Start wherever you are, be genuine, and aim to be consistent. I encourage families to create a family spiritual development plan and for parents to regularly check in with each other to discuss how they are growing in their lives as individuals, in their marriage, and in discipling their children.
To learn more about intentional parenting from Dr. Taylor, be sure to check out his book "Running with the Horses: A Parenting Guide for Raising Children to be Servant-Leaders for Christ."