Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families by Dr. Michelle Anthony, (David C. Cook, 2010), 219 pages. Last Tuesday, I posted a brief overview of Michelle Anthony's new book, Spiritual Parenting. Anthony encourages parents with the following words, "The joy of parenting can be spent on cultivating environments for our children's faith to grow, teaching them to cultivate a love relationship with Jesus as we cultivate our own, living our lives authentically in front of them so that they become eyewitnesses to our own transformation" (25). What a great perspective on parents' nurturing and teaching role! Here is a brief review of her ten environments:
3 Identity-forming Environments (Storytelling, Identity, Faith Community) Understanding our lives in light of God's story of redemption is an essential skill for all Christians. It helps kids (and parents alike) see that we're living in the story of God, and He has already won the victory over Satan, sin, and death. Parenting in light of the story helps us to see that each of our children is more than our kid. They are all actual or potential brothers and sisters in Christ. We must help kids understand themselves in light of who they are called to be--chosen, adopted, redeemed, sealed, and given an inheritance--in Christ rather than who that are accused of being by the World, their sinful nature, and the Devil. The church community also plays a vital part in the identity-forming process. It strengthens kids' identities through the richness of worship and rhythms of celebration and remembering (see pages 92-95 for ideas). Christian kids find a reprieve in the faith community from their mission as "aliens" amongst lost friends--time to be with others who are "not of this world" so that they can continue to live with faith and conviction in it.
Take note: Practically speaking, Anthony recommends praying blessings over your kids as a practical means of forming identity (77-78). This is a great suggestion because it phrases "identity promises" in the form of a prayer. One potential danger of identity language (that Anthony doesn't mention) is giving children who are not yet Christians false assurances--potentially encouraging children to trust their parent's promises rather than Jesus' promises. As parents, we should recognize that there is a need for "come to Jesus" moments where we call our children to embrace an identity that they have not only merely forgotten but have not yet ever embraced (see the section "Messengers of Good News" on pages 195-196).
3 Missional Environments (Service, Out of the Comfort Zone, Responsibility) A servant heart is always ready to ask the question, "What needs to be done?" and say, "This is my responsibility." The Holy Spirit often uses service, responsibility, and movement away from personal comforts to cultivate a view our lives as living and radical sacrifices generously given away for Christ's cause.
Take note: At Sojourn, we don't use the term "volunteers" but instead have adopted the term "servants" for all of our children's ministry workers. I hadn't thought of applying this same principle to the home until reading Anthony's suggestion of replacing "chores" with "acts of service." How can you complain about acts of service? :)
The Environment of Course Correction. Anthony gives an excellent and redemptive treatment of discipline based on Hebrews 12:11-13. Biblical discipline for a child encompasses (a) a season of pain, (b) an opportunity to build up in love, and (c) a vision of a corrected path with the purpose of healing at its core--making certain to communicate that we need God's help to change (158-164). Dallas Willard's influence bleeds through over and over again here. It's great!
Take note: One of the greatest dangers in a parenting book is the temptation (for the author or reader) to think that the methods presented are full-proof--"If I do this, then my kids will turn out." This temptation could be particularly strong for the reader on page 164. Anthony writes, "The final piece of this discipline journey is that, later on, this corrective path produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. This is part of the beautiful outcome." It is important to point out that the words, "to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness," in Hebrews 12:11 are a general principle for discipline. They do not guarantee that every child will be receptive to training. As Leslie Leyland-Fields has written, perfect parenting does not make perfect children. God is the perfect Father, but He has many prodigal children, and many of them will never return home. I don't write this to be a sour puss but as a reminder that another important step in discipline is prayer--prayer that God will be gracious to allow our discipline to be truly corrective by changing our kids' hearts.
3 Environments for Spiritual Formation (Love and Respect, Knowing, Modeling) Children need an environment of love and respect in order to be free to both receive and give God's grace. An environment of unconditional love (where love is not withheld because of behavior) helps children to see God's love "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8). In this environment, children will learn that they can be fully known by God and yet also fully loved by Him. Nothing is more important than knowing and being known by God. Parents who are personally loving and learning to know God more, create an environment that upholds and displays God's truth in the "natural daily flow of life" (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; pages 192 through 195). The goal is to "give children a foundation that is based on knowing God, believing His Word, and having a relationship with Him through Christ. These are essentials for faith, and they all begin with knowing God" (197). Finally, Biblical content needs to be expressed in practical living in order for it to make a difference spiritually. Knowing is the 'who' while modeling is the 'how.' This environment is a hands-on example of what it means for children to put their faith into action.
I received a complimentary copy of the book, Spiritual Parenting, from David C. Cook for review purposes.