The difference between preparing and pressuring your children to follow Jesus

This post originally appeared as an exclusive article in Kirk Cameron’s new community: The Campfire. To join, sign up here.

To a certain degree, I am not concerned about what our kids will grow up and do one day. I am not overly stressed about whether they pursue business, education, computer science, or a host of other options. More than anything, I want our kids to grow up and follow Jesus. My heart resonates with 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” That’s the stuff that matters most to me. Everything else will fall into place, I am sure.

And yet, with that said, I know that I am wholly inadequate. How can I, an imperfect parent, participate in bringing about that kind of change? There is so much out of my control. I can’t make my kids love and serve Jesus. As much as I would like to! This is precisely where many parents get into trouble.

A sincere desire, a godly desire, to see kids grow up to love God with all their heart, can produce an immense amount of pressure for a lot of us parents. We feel the weight of wanting our kids to “turn out.” Instead of trusting that God loves our kids even more and is actively drawing them to Himself, we can try to do it all, alone.

Our pressure becomes a child’s pressure.

As a parent, we can become filled with fear. Gripped with anxiety. Or even more commonly, become overly controlling and demanding. When we lean in the direction of pressuring our kids, instead of preparing our kids, we begin to create a “family culture” that is legalistic and rigid.

As a result, our kids feel the pressure to choose Jesus long before their hearts can’t help but chase Jesus.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Our calling matters. One of the primary vehicles for passing on faith to the next generation is the family. But we need to remember that the work that God has called us to as parents is a lot like the work of a farmer. We are cultivating hearts. Planting seeds. Pulling weeds. Guarding the field of our children’s hearts.

All of it takes time. Patience. Perseverance. And a lot of trust. A farmer does his work and then waits on God to open the heavens, trusting that when the rain falls, the harvest comes. A farmer can’t rush the seasons. He can’t make things grow. He can only be faithful, intentionally preparing, then waiting on the fruit in due time.

As parents then, we intentionally teach God’s Word.

Memorize Scripture.

Serve others.

Give generously.

Walk by faith.

Suffer well.

Trust in the Holy Spirit to do His work, in His way, and in His time.

And most importantly, model for our kids that following Jesus really is the best way to live. It’s the good life. The abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).

All of this and more is the work or preparation. Fulfilling our calling as parents, but trusting in the God who makes all things grow. So be careful of allowing a good and godly desire to become unhealthy. Don’t pressure your kids to follow Jesus, prepare your kids to follow Jesus. Help them want to choose Jesus when the choice becomes their own!

This post originally appeared as an exclusive article in Kirk Cameron’s new community: The Campfire. To join, sign up here.

Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.


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