Leading Your Kids to Flourish

by Roger Sappington on

Articles 11 min read
Deuteronomy 6:2–15

After forty years of wandering in the wilderness because of their disobedience, the Israel was finally about to enter the land that had been promised to them. Before they were to cross the Jordan River and take hold of what the Lord had waiting for them, God gave Moses some words to share with them. These commandments were given to God’s people that their “days may be long” and that it “would go well with them” (Deuteronomy 6:2-3). The Father’s desire for his children was that they would flourish in Canaan.

As a parent of three kids, that is my greatest desire for my children as well – that they would flourish. Sure, sometimes I just wish they would just keep their rooms clean and do their homework without me reminding them. But when I’m thinking beyond the day-to-day challenges of family life, this is the thing I want them for them more than any other: To live a full life with Jesus at the center of it. To have healthy, God-honoring relationships with family and friends and to discover a meaningful career in which they can do good works for God’s glory. To deeply know their identity in Christ and to find great purpose in how the Lord has uniquely shaped them to be involved in his mission. Thankfully, I believe the Lord has the same aspirations for them, too.

The question is how we as parents can help lead our kids towards a life of flourishing. What can we do to encourage them to live in such a way that they would experience God’s greatest blessings? Though the Lord provides no failproof promises for such a result, I believe he gives us some principles to follow through the plan he provided Israel in the rest of Deuteronomy 6. Let me share with you four ways we can lead our kids to a life of flourishing.

  1. Show Your Kids That Jesus is First in Your Life

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

We need to show our kids that Jesus is first in our lives. “Monkey see, monkey do” is a real thing and that goes for our spiritual lives as well. Our children in many respects will mirror what they see from us – for good or bad. And, study after study has proven that parents have more influence in the lives of their children than do teachers, coaches, pastors, friends, or the media.

So, if we want our kids to love the Lord will all their heart, soul, and might as Deuteronomy 6:5 commands, then we need to model for them what that looks like. Here are some practical ways we can do that.

As it relates to loving God with our hearts, we can be transparent with our children about where we are still needing to grow in Christlikeness. We could share with them one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) we are asking Christ to mature in us. Remember, a heart that is humble before the Lord and others is one that honors God and one the Lord desires to lift up (Matthew 23:12).      

When it comes to our souls, we should show a commitment to spiritual disciplines. When our kids see us reading our Bible or praying, they see what it looks like to be devoted to Jesus. I once heard a testimony from a grown man that this was his father’s greatest spiritual influence on him.

With our strength we love God by serving others. In fact, inviting your children to serve with you in your church, in your community, or around the world can be one of the most transformative ways we show our kids that Jesus is first. I have seen this testimony lived out among many families at our church.

  1. Saturate Your Kid’s Life with God’s Word

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

Notice in these verses all the ways and times that God’s Word is to be “diligently” imparted from parents to children: when you sit, when you walk, when you lie down, when you rise, on your hands, between your eyes, throughout your home. A life of flourishing requires saturation of God’s Word.

David wrote the same thing in Psalm 1. He said that the one who is blessed is the one who meditates on the law of the Lord “day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

So, how can parents faithfully fulfill Deuteronomy 6-9? Here are a few ideas:

  • Pray on the way to school
  • Have a regular time of Bible study with your family
  • Have intentional, biblically-driven conversations with your kids
  • Write Bible verses on chalk board or mirrors in your home
  • Spontaneously bring God’s Word into your conversations
  • Play Christian music in your home or car
  • Bring your kids to church on a regular basis (Sundays and Wednesdays)
  1. Teach Your Kids to Have a Heart of Gratitude

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

As Israel entered the Promised Land and experienced all its blessings, the Lord didn’t want his people to forget him. Rather, he wanted them to have a heart of thankfulness for all he had done for them.

He desires the same from our kids. Unfortunately, they (and we) can be a lot like Israel – allowing both disappointments and distractions to lead them away from acknowledging their great God and his grace.

When it comes to disappointments leading us away from a heart of gratitude, I definitely saw this in my own life when I was a teenager. My struggle with acne led me to believe the Lord didn’t really care for me. And, if he didn’t really care for me, then I didn’t really care too much for him either. However, with that way of thinking, I had failed to see all the blessings that were all around me. I had also failed to accept that the Lord sometimes allows trials in our life to refine us and transform us more into the image of Christ.

No doubt, our children will face adversity at some point or another. We need to help them establish a heart of gratitude in the good times so it can help carry them through those days that are more difficult. We can do that through some simple ways:

  • Daily ask them what the best part of their day was, helping them to see God’s goodness everyday
  • Pray prayers of thanksgiving with them
  • Have them keep a thankfulness journal
  • Share stories of how you are thankful for the challenging seasons of your life
  • Have them serve others

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

  1. Help Your Kids Tear Down the Idols in Their Lives

It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:13-15)

These verses demonstrate the Lord takes idolatry seriously. We, and our children, are to have no other “gods.” Unfortunately for us, John Calvin was right when he wrote that the human heart is a “perpetual factory of idols.” So, as parents, we need to better ascertain what idolatry could look like in the life of our kids. 

An idol can be defined as anything more important to us than God; anything that absorbs our heart and imagination more than God, or anything that we seek to give us what only God can give. When I shared this definition with my kids and asked them what they believed were the most damaging idols were in their lives of kids their ages (10-15), here was the list they gave me: sports, gaming, social media, academic success, and physical appearance.

Here’s the thing about the list they provided – nothing on it is necessarily evil. However, when any of these become the center of one’s identity or devotion, they become idolatrous. Sadly, we as parents, too often lead our kids straight into their idol worship when we place such high priority on things like sports or academic success. When we model for our kids that academic success is more important than character development or that playing in sports tournaments is more important than church attendance, we in essence become pagan priests.

Rather than being co-laborers in our kids construction of their idols, parents should be like Gideon, Hezekiah, and Josiah tearing down the idols that plagued their families. We can do that by:

  • Identifying those things which can become idolatrous in their life and limiting their time with it
  • Praying for their heart
  • Helping them prioritize the things of the Lord
  • Being courageous and loving towards our kids rather than giving in to what they want

Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Many Christian parents are familiar with Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Though this is not meant to be a guarantee that every child properly raised in a Christian home will necessarily endure in the faith throughout his or her life, it is a wise principle that show us both the way to deeper faithfulness to God in our parenting and what “normally” results from pursuing that path.  

At the end of day, the Lord has called us to lead our kids to a life of flourishing and to trust him with our children. May he help us do both!

About the Author

Dr. Roger Sappington (D. Min. Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, M. Div. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Executive Pastor of Central Bible Church and the author of 30 Days in Exile.