I don’t consider myself an expert in much of anything—except meatloaf. When it comes to meatloaf I have a pretty good track record. I’m not sure what makes one an expert, but I can say, without hesitation, I am one.
One thing I’ve realized about children is they are nothing like meatloaf—except for the fact that they come in all shapes and sizes. Until my recent transition to a different role in the church, I was in student ministry for 18 years. This doesn’t make me an expert, it just makes me enlightened to a plethora of insights into their world.
And if I can be honest, their world is a scary one. I’m not dropping a bombshell on you here, I know. But, we should realize the world they live in is very different than the world you or I grew up in. Which is why it’s important for you to have an understanding of their world.
Question: You can't battle the culture your child is living in without examining your influence with them. How's that going? What’s one thing you need to work on?
There’s one thing you’re not going to be able to change—the world. Since the fall of man, “the world” has continued to impress its influence on the people living in it. This influence begins at birth. This is why being a parent is so important. You have the ability to influence your children with the gospel. Not only your children, but your children’s friends.
As my children have grown up, I’ve noticed something. Other kids like them and want to hang out with them. This floors me, because I’ve seen them in the morning and how they “deal” with each other. I’ll be transparent. They’re not the nicest of people and I pray every day they are not known as the “mean girls” at their school. To my surprise, they aren’t yet.
As a dad of four girls (two of which are teenagers), I know the importance of the culture battle with your children. As a student pastor for 18 years, I know the culture battle with your children and it’s not going anywhere. So, as a parent, you need to prepare yourself for the battle and you need to prepare your children as well.
I’m a sucker for movies with swords, shields and British accents. Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Well, Kevin Costner isn’t British, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. Normally, in the battle sequences of these movies, the strategy is to attack from multiple directions. Either a portion of the army is hiding in the trees with bows and arrows or they dig holes in the ground to hide in until the army passes overhead. No matter how it’s done, they find a way to attack (or defend) from different directions.
I’d say that’s pretty similar to how we should teach our kids to handle the battle they have, or will, find themselves in. The Enemy is too smart to attack from one direction, so we need to be able to defend in whatever direction the attack is coming from.
The same goes for how we fight back. We can’t attack the issues from one direction, we must strategize to attack from multiple directions as well. It’s my hope the following words will help you as you train up your child in the way he or she should go. I know this is about manhood...so I pray you will be raising up young men that I want my daughters to want to marry. Just a heads up, I have pretty high standards.
“Believe it or not, you are the most influential voice in the life your child.”
Believe it or not, you are the most influential voice in the life your child. Let’s pause for a second and remind ourselves it doesn’t always feel like that. When doors slam, or tears are shed, you won’t feel like a positive influence. There will be seasons when you feel like the voice of their friends is louder than yours. In all likelihood, that will be true.
But there’s a reason why I said “seasons”. Seasons come and go, but the long-standing voice of influence in their life will be the one they’ve been hearing from the beginning. This is why it’s so important for you to be speaking the gospel into the lives of your children. Let’s call it spiritual “imprinting.”
Studies show when birds hatch (mostly geese and ducks) they attach themselves to one of the first things they see in the first 13-16 hours. At that point they follow that person or thing around acting as if it were its mom or dad. In many cases. they’ll adopt some of the same characteristics of what it follows. When I think of spiritual “imprinting” that’s what I’m thinking of.
From birth, through adolescence and into adulthood, our impression on our children should be so strong they can’t help but be affected by it. I’m not asking you to take your children to the sidewalks and berate the people walking by with your views on Scripture. I’m simply saying, when our children are young, we must speak the truth of love and grace because the battle they will face is one that will try to redefine that for them. It starts when they're young, because that’s when your voice is the loudest to them.
Know when your voice is the loudest
My daughters know my voice. They know what the inflection in my voice is saying when it accompanies the words coming out of my mouth. They know what the volume of my voice means as well. I think the reason they know this is because they’ve heard it all of their lives. I’m not talking about the sound of my voice only. I’m talking about the thoughts that come with it as well.
I haven’t been perfect. It’s not like we do a nightly family worship event. I simply realize the earlier I speak into their lives, the easier it will be for them to recognize it in the chaos of the future.
I’m not going to sit here and assume my children will be exempt from the pressures of this culture. Nor am I going to be dumb enough to believe my daughters will dodge every temptation. I’ve been in ministry long enough to know the impossibility of that outcome.
I simply know, the earlier I speak into their lives when it’s the loudest voice they hear, the better the chances are they’ll hear it in the future. What you say to them now matters. What are you speaking into the lives of your children?
Your influence is more than the words you say
If saying it were all we had to do as parents, life would be simpler. The truth is, we have to follow up what we say with how we live. Kids are pretty smart. My 13-year-old’s will be the first ones to respond to my pleas to clean their rooms with, “Yo dad, have you seen your room?” In one sense they’re right. In another sense, if my wife and I weren’t busy cleaning up their mess throughout the house we may have time to clean up our own room.
If what you're speaking into the lives of your children doesn’t match you’re doing, then there is no way they will take what you say seriously. I know this is a given, but let’s face it, we don’t always follow this reality. Maybe it’s because we haven’t fully accepted our influence in the lives our children.
Dare I say this? What you watch matters. What you listen to matters. How you treat your wife matters. It’s important for your kids to hear you speak kind words to your wife. Even more important, how you act around your wife—their mom influences your kids—whether they express this or not. How you respond to others affects how they’ll respond to others.
One of my least favorite things to hear is one of my girls yelling out the window of the car to the person in front of us who clearly learned how to drive from their blind grandmother. The reason it’s my least favorite is because I know where she learned it. The apple didn’t fall very far. They’ve heard their dad let the person in front of him how displeased he is with their driving—on more than one occasion. I know I’m not the only one screaming “C’mon Mamaw!” on the interstate.
The fact remains—how I respond leaves an impression on the hearts and minds of my children. This is true with how I respond to culture as well. If my first response to the things I disagree with is anger and shouting, then I would expect my children will begin to respond the same way.
You can lose your voice quicker the louder you respond.
I can say without hesitation I don’t like what’s going on in the world around me. I don’t agree with what culture seems to be slamming in my face. I see the anti-biblical stances being taken by the world and truthfully it sometimes takes everything in me not to scream, “C’mon Mamaw!”
I’m learning the truth of James 1:19 (CSB):
“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...”
You may have this part nailed. If that’s the case, then I’m thankful for you. But if you’re like me, then let those words ring true in your heart right now. We can’t battle the culture if we’re locked and loaded with hatred and disagreement. Our children can’t battle this culture if all we’re giving them with is ammunition without an ounce of gentleness and respect.
Your children need your influence in their lives. Your children need to know your influence in the culture around them. They don’t need a silent dad. They need a leader accepting he has a voice in this world that needs to be heard. They need a leader who has a voice who may be anti-culture but is pro-love. It’s time for your voice to be louder than the voices fighting for their ears.
"It’s time for your voice to be louder than the voices fighting for their ears."
Question: You can't battle the culture your child is living in without examining your influence with them. How's that going? What’s one thing you need to work on? Tell us in the comments section below, tweet us @manhoodjourney or you can always email me.
About the author > Jarred A. Morgan, M. A.
Jarred and his wife Jennifer have four daughters and live in Knoxville, TN. He serves as the Creative Arts and Communications Pastor at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church and previously served in student ministry for 18 years. Jarred received his Master of Arts from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid Vanderbilt fan and has recently made the switch from American football to real fütbol. Learn more about Jarred here and grab his Field Guide Culture Wars.
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