If you are a father with children at home, you are a blessed man. It seems just yesterday that I snapped the picture above. In reality, it was twenty years ago.
When it comes to parenting, time flies. And I don’t regret a second of that fleeting time that I invested in my children.
By obvious implication, Proverbs 4 instructs dads to invest in their children—to prepare them for a successful life.
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.—Proverbs 4:1–2
Contrast these verses with the epidemic of uncommitted fathers in our nation, and you’ll easily understand why we have so many floundering young people. It’s not that dads don’t care about their kids. It’s just that they miss the opportunities. And they forget how fleeting their time is with their children in the home.
How can you redeem the time? How can you instill your walk with the Lord and biblical values in the lives of your children? It’s not always as complicated as you might fear. It’s a matter of opening your world to them and intentionally investing in theirs.
Below are five simple ways you can redeem the time with your kids:
1. Pray with your kids.
And not just before dinner (although do that, too). Pray with them about life, about their needs, about their future.
Express your love for them to the Lord in their presence. There are few things more powerful in the heart of a young person than hearing their parent pray for them while with them. It builds security, and it teaches them to take their needs to the Lord as well.
Sometimes I spontaneously put my arm around my son or daughter and said, “Hey, let’s pray together.” Was that ever awkward? Sure, but it was worth a bit of discomfort for the way it deepened our relationship with one another and drew us both closer to the Lord.
When your children see you pray, it lets them know that you recognize your accountability to God. And when they see you pray for them, it lets them know that you take your responsibility for them seriously, even recognizing that it is a trust from the Lord.
2. Teach them to live by faith.
First generation Christians pay a price for their faith that succeeding generations don’t understand. Parents sometimes pioneer in faith-filled labor while their kids develop a mindset of expectancy.
This is why it is vital that Christian parents intentionally teach their children to live by faith.
Teach them to give to the Lord. Even before our children began earning money of their own, I would let them watch me write out our family’s tithe and giving check. I’d explain to them what “tithing” means and the added areas to which their mom and I were giving as we invested in the Lord’s work.
As our children began their own sources of income, I talked with them about giving to the Lord as well as wise saving and spending. When there were special opportunities to give, we’d pray together to seek the Lord’s direction. All four of my children are generous givers—not because they have great resources, but because the Lord has developed their faith through giving.
Encourage them to take advantage of ministry opportunities. Intentionally involve your children in a ministry of faith—an area that pulls them beyond their comfort zone while allowing them to make a difference in the lives of others.
Each of my children were involved in ministry as teenagers, and it made a tremendous difference in each of their lives.
I remember Danielle helping in public high school outreach. It was a stretch for her, but the Lord used her to reach teenagers. Seeing God use her beyond her comfort zone was incredibly faith-building for her.
Likewise, one of the best things ever in Larry’s life was working on a bus route in high school and through college. He invested in the kids on his route—well beyond the expected “norms” for bus ministry. To this day, I see fruit in his life (not to mention in the kids he invested in) from the bus ministry.
I could say the same for Kristine and Matthew. Serving others through ministry was faith-building for them. As a dad, it was a joy to encourage them in ministry, pray with them about it, and see God stretch and bless them.
Talk with your teenagers regarding their future. All of us have the fleshly bent in decisions to ask, “How will this benefit my life?” It takes faith to see beyond the immediate personal advantages/disadvantages of a decision to its long-term effects and blessings.
As your children reach points of making decisions regarding their future, talk with them and pray with them. Share with them the role of faith in making decisions. (Hebrews 11:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:7 are great places to start.) As they begin making these choices, ask them, “How will this decision increase your faith?”
3. Ask them questions about their friends, studies, and activities.
Know who their friends are, and help them evaluate their friendships by asking questions: “What is Joe like? Are you keeping your testimony when you’re around him? Does he encourage you to grow as a Christian?” As a parent, remember that nearness is likeness. You have every right to know about your children’s friends, and you are wise to help them understand your reasons for wanting to know and your criteria for helping them develop godly friendships.
Stay involved in your children’s studies. Ask them what they are learning. Ask them questions to whet their appetites to learn more. Show up at their sports practices. Be involved in their activities. Use questions as a tool to understand your children’s lives and challenges and to connect with their hearts.
4. Support authority in their lives.
Children and young people are experts at pitting sides. Therefore, don’t automatically build assumptions when your child says, “My teacher….” Be supportive of your children, but remember you do them a disservice by undermining their authorities. When a question of fairness in authority arises, be thorough in your research…but remember that your children have a sin nature!
5. Give them assignments and keep them accountable.
Be it through a learning assignment, regular chores, a summer project, or assigned reading, help your children set early patterns of responsibility and personal growth. When you give them these projects, give them a deadline and follow up with them. Or better yet, do the project with them setting deadlines for you both along the way.
Giving your children assignments and teaching them how to be proactive with them will help them in almost every area of life—education, workplace skills, relationships, and so much more.
Our children are our greatest possessions. They are priceless treasures from God in which He gives us the privilege and responsibility to invest.
As a dad and now as a granddad, I challenge you, don’t squander the time you have with your kids. Every day—every hour—you have with them is a gift from God. Redeem every moment!