Every Christian parent will readily affirm that their children are being raised in a “Christian home.” Probe a little deeper, though, and you’ll find that what they really mean is that their children are being raised in a “Christian culture.” Let me state what should be obvious, but isn’t: Christian activities and interests do not make a home Christian.
Let me be more specific: A Christian home is never defined by what the children are doing; it is defined by what the parents are doing. Your child can read the Bible every day, listen only to Christian music, watch only Christian video, read every missionary biography in the library, know a zillion memory verses, and never miss Sunday School or Bible Club, and yet still not live in a Christian home.
Your children cannot do enough to make your home a Christian home. Only you, their parents, can make your home a Christian home. A Christian home, in uncomplicated terms, is one in which the parents purposefully keep Jesus Christ at the center of family life. It is what you to do “bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). You start on the foundation, the rock, of Christ and His Word (Matt. 7:24), but then you must build your Christian home.
We’ve identified four priorities of Christian home building that we call “faith-shaped parenting.” Each builds upon the one before it and supports the one following it: influence (steering your child’s soul to listen for God), nurture (shepherding your child’s heart to long for God), instruction (strengthening your child’s mind to learn for God), and discipleship (shaping your child’s heart to live for God).
To build a Christian home, you must first be aware of your divinely-designed influence on your child’s soul to turn their hearts to listen to God. Then, you can begin to create a spiritually nurturing environment that makes your children want to know more about God. The next natural step is to begin instructing your children to help them get to know God personally. Finally, you can disciple each of your children to live for Jesus every day. Your faith-shaped parenting will shape the faith of your children.
INFLUENCE: Steering your child’s soul to listen for God. Influence is the act of flowing your life into another’s. Your child’s natural spiritual awareness is open to your influence, but they can turn to others if they don’t find what their soul needs from you. You can exercise your spiritual influence simply by acknowledging God to your children, praying with them, talking about Scripture, and filling your home with God-centered books, music, and art.
NURTURE: Shepherding your child’s spirit to long for God. Nurture is the act of giving life to someone else. You bring the life of Christ into your home through family devotionals, spiritual traditions in family life and at holidays, and Christian fellowship. It includes developing your child’s character by helping them understand the goodness of God and learning to desire that good. Nurture is cultivating the soil of their hearts to be ready to receive God’s Word.
INSTRUCTION: Strengthening your child’s mind to learn for God. Instruction is more than just passing on information about God; it is the process of “building on” to your child’s mental abilities to learn about God. In the words of Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Your goal is not to indoctrinate your child with Bible truth, but rather to give your child the will and skill to learn, and the desire to keep learning, about God.
DISCIPLESHIP: Shaping your child’s heart to live for God. Discipleship is the natural result of influence, nurture, and instruction. If you’re doing those, then the next step is to disciple your child–to help them follow and serve Christ. Discipleship is not just about what you do, but what you are–how you follow Christ, walk daily with Him, serve others in His name, and “seek first His kingdom” through personal ministry. Before you disciple, you’re a disciple.
There is no biblical “formula” for building a Christian home. It is really just a relational process of loving God and loving your children. That is the essence of faith-shaped parenting–listening to God’s Word, walking daily in the power of the Holy Spirit, praying for wisdom, and stepping out in faith. Bringing your children into your daily faith-life with Christ is what will define your home as a Christian home–that you are faithfully influencing, nurturing, instructing, and discipling your children at home for Christ.