You Can’t Make Your Kid a Christian

Control FreakI thrive on control.
I love projects that can be broken into goals, tasks and success or failure criteria. Nothing motivates me more than the opportunity to strive toward the successful completion of something. I actually have spreadsheets that outline every hour of my life with a color code for the activity so I can understand exactly where my time goes. I even have spreadsheets for my kids’ lives!
For a major “control freak” like me, having kids is a real wake-up call to the fact that there are some very important things in life that cannot be controlled via spreadsheet (gasp). I didn’t realize that, however, until a few months ago when I was trying to identify why I was always mad at my twins. Aside from the fact that they were being typical 3-year-olds, they were not behaving according to “my plan.” I had the mentality that perfect parenting could lead to perfect kids. I certainly never thought my parenting was perfect, but every time they misbehaved I felt it was a direct indictment of the quality of my parenting, and that led to misplaced frustration. . .at them. When they were good, I attributed it to me, and when they were bad, I attributed it to me even more so.
The problem with this is that it effectively made my parenting all about me rather than about my kids. I realized that I needed to start having a teacher mentality rather than a boss mentality. The key distinction is that teachers are responsible for learning. Bosses are responsible for outcomes. When you think you are working toward an outcome, your focus is on controlling the process. When you think you are working toward learning, your heart lets go of the process to embrace that which will most impactfully grow the student.
How much more so this is true as applied to the development of our children’s faith!
If our motivation for investing in our children’s faith development is even subconsciously rooted in the belief that we 1) can control that outcome or 2) are responsible for that outcome, we will start controlling the process too tightly.
We can’t “make” our children Christians.  
Only God can call our children. Not me. Not you.
Only our children can respond to that call. Not me. Not you.
That’s why we could invest 24 hours per day in spiritual activities for our kids and they could be atheists the day they leave home. That’s why we could invest 0 hours per day in spiritual activities for our kids and they could be rock-solid Christ-followers the day they leave home.
This shouldn’t be discouraging. It simply means we need to put our children in God’s hands and focus on the responsibility God has given us.
So what ARE Christian parents responsible for?
The three most specific passages in the Bible on parenting all speak to the role of teaching (not to outcomes).
“…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, emphasis mine)
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, emphasis mine)
“You shall teach them (God’s commands) 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, emphasis mine)
Our hearts have to be precisely right for this calling of Christian parenting. Our time spent in faith development is not a purchase; it is an investment that may or may not pay off with the desired outcome. But God has called us as teachers. We need to let Him be the boss.


Do you relate to subconsciously (or consciously!) thinking you can control your kids’ “outcome” and/or feeling responsible for that outcome? What do you need to do to step more fully into the role of teacher rather than boss?

7 thoughts on “You Can’t Make Your Kid a Christian”

  1. Excellent points. I think “Christian Mom Thoughts” is turning into a very lovely and very useful book. (Put that on your goals spreadsheet. 🙂

    1. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts

      Hi Johnny – Thank you so much. 🙂 I will give that its own color code in the spreadsheet for sure!

  2. Thank you very much. I didn’t realize until you brought it to my attention that I am exactly this way; frustrated and trying to control something that I can’t. Quite right that the Lord has to call them and they have to respond to that call, that we have to guide, encourage, and teach them and leave them in God’s hands. It will take me quite a while to remember this and put it into practice, but it is a an excellent insight that I didn’t have this morning. Thank you so much.

    Lord Jesus, please forgive me and I thank you for the reslease of this burden. Amen.

    1. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts

      Hi Melissa – Thanks for the comment! I’m so glad that this was helpful to you too. It absolutely takes time to put into practice and I don’t think we ever let go completely. We just have to be willing to continue investing because there’s no more important investment we can make!

  3. Great reading here. I used to worry about my kids too. I soon realized if I just listened to God, he provides the right tools for us to help guide our children. I can’t make my children be a Christian, but I can give them the proper instructions. I make sure to lead by example. I make God a part of our lives every day. I don’t worry anymore because it is the devil’s tool! I know in the end it is their decision. If we put our children into God’s hand when they are young, they have a better chance of “finding” Him.
    God Bless!

  4. So true. I wish I would have understood this more when my children were young. I thought I did, but the knowledge was only in my head, it really didn’t reach my heart. As they have become young adults and started their own decisions or going in directions that “I” did not want them to go, I had some very tough nights with tears and wondering what “I” had done wrong. It is very hard to let go and not be in control. I believe that I taught them well, and I am still teaching….and praying.

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