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Lynette .......... Caedmon .......... Libby .......... Tom

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Revolutionary Parenting - a Book Report

I used to read a lot... that is, until marriage and children came along! In the past, even when I was busy and tired from work, I would at least be able to read a book or two while on vacation. Now it seems all but an impossibility. However, a few months ago, Lynette read George Barna's "Revolutionary Parenting". She encouraged me to read it. Now 2 months later, in the hospital on-call on Christmas day, I have finally gotten to it. I was actually first introduced to George Barna's writing by my friend and neighbor, Ashley http://stewardshipmandate.blogspot.com/. He had given me one of Barna's books last year called "Revolution" - this book was quite interesting as it described a growing trend in America in which people were redefining and identifying their Christian life not so much with "going to church", but rather in "being the church" in their daily and community lives. The message had sparked something within me that was missing that I wished for in my own life. But sadly to say, the message for me was like some of the seed sown in the Parable of the Sower- "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature (Luke 8: 13,14)." I do hope that God will bring about in me a strong desire to radically change the way I live my life, and that for me life would be my church.

Back to talking about reading... the book "Revolutionary Parenting" is not a how-to recipe guide for parenting, but rather, Barna has through his research identified some trends in what it takes to raise a spiritual champion. Much of what I gleaned and follows in this post is directly copied and/or paraphrased from the book. His data were drawn from a series of national public-opinion surveys among parents, reviewing the literature on parenting practices, interviews of people in their 20's living transformed lives and then got permission to speak with their parents. Barna's goal was to identify some common factors that were pertinent to the child-rearing efforts of parents who successfully raise spiritual champions.

Most American parents conclude they are doing "ok" because the are basing their measure of "ok" on what our society deems to be normal and significant. Raising children who are healthy, doing well in school, have a good home environment with parents, involved in church, has good friends, not on drugs, not sexually active, etc is fine but these are our measures... not God's. All these things do not produce the final result God seeks.We miss the bigger picture - that is to raise children who will love, serve, and obey Him for the rest of their lives. As Barna reminds us, they are molded in God's image, not ours. We ought not to try to clone ourselves or make them into something other than what we we felt were our own shortcomings. Children are a gift and our blessing. We are given the responsibility of raising them for God's purposes, not ours.

Barna says that part of successful parenting is being a great coach to your children - he cites five conditions :
1) Your impact on your children's lives is proportional to the depth of the relationship you have fostered with them.
2) You must wholeheartedly embrace the outcomes you are pushing your child to achieve.
3) Impact is derived from "coaching in the moment".
4) Great coaches are great communicators (and listeners).
5) The coach must have a comprehensive plan for reaching the "promised land."

Interesting, there are also some family conditions that Barna's data drew out:
1) Family size - the fewer the children, the more likely a family is able to produce spiritual champions. This is felt in part to be due to the amount of time devoted to hands-on parenting and access to parental resources. Consequently, single parents have a more difficult time raising spiritual champions.
2) Birth Order - The firstborn child is most likely to become a spiritual champion. (again due to the reasons cited above.)
3) Family Characteristics - No correlation between socioeconomic status and spiritual development of a child.

Also, he notes that the most successful parents embraced parenting as their primary job in life.
Revolutionary parents are more likely to:
1) Be single income households.
2) Schedule a much greater amount of time to spend with their children each day.
3) Intentionally identify their children as their main earthly focus in life during their parenting years.

Our modern-day psychology has misled us that it is quality, not quantity that counts. We must be willing to invest substantial amounts of time and energy in child-rearing. Barna says that the willingness of Revolutionary Parents to make raising their children a paramount DAILY priority is based on their Christian faith as the pivot point in ALL their decisions - God wins first place. Two themes emerge when looking at these families in growing together spiritually:
1) family conversations that bring biblical views into their shared lives, and
2) efforts to regularly engage in faith activities (Bible study, worship, prayer) that model integration of faith into their lives.
These practices are even an aberration in most so-called Christian families.

These parents held some common key qualities:
1) They got in the game early - they started their revolutionary parenting when their children were very young and were relentlessly diligent from that point on. They worked together as a team, even tag-teaming it when one parent was tired.
2) They planned, measured, and revised their strategies and goals for their children.
3) They realized that one size does not fit all. Each child is unique and deserved different yet consistent ways of parenting.
4) They did not push their children to grow up before they were ready. God's timing, not theirs.
5) They focused on developing godly character (rather than achievements).
6) They tried to be the best parent, not their best friend.
7) They translated the notion of parenting as their highest calling into investing substantial amounts of time and energy into their relationship with their children and the activities they engage in.
8) They provided structure, consistency, and stability - in their marriage, household rules, moral expectations, financial priorities, discipline, kept their promises, and provided a worldview that the children could predict and find soothing.

(I particularly liked the part in the book where one mother writes as she recalled the behavior of her son who was always trying to impress his folks with his grades and sports feats, "We kept coming back to how he treated people and what he did with his money and what kind of stories he'd tell his friends. We tried to affirm his accomplishments, but we worked at keeping those things in their proper place. He was sick of hearing me tell him that I'd rather have an honest boy than a smart one, and that God was more excited about a servant than a superstar. It took him a long time to get that message. None of his friends were being given the message, his teachers did not give him that message, his coaches did not give him that message; it was only dorky Mom and Dad who kept harping on that theme. But as he grew older and began to see, and sometimes suffer from, the absence of character among his friends, he latched onto the idea that character matters more than achievements.")

(Also interesting was a section regarding education in the book. Barna talks about how exemplary parents expected their children to perform at or above their competence level while in elementary and secondary school. But when it came to college, some were indifferent if their children even chose to apply, while others went all out to get their children into the best ones. Others fought with their children over it. Regardless of whether they went to college or not, every one of the children in question became a spiritual champion. The conflict was perhaps more of a growth moment for their parents rather than their young adults, he writes. "To be honest, it broke my heart that Brandon refused to go to college. He was not the most academic of students, but he was certainly bright enough and could have done well in college, if he'd given it a try," rued a mother, forlorn over her son's decision to join the workforce directly out of high school. "But the Lord has taught me that Brandon's worth is not in the kind of job he has but in the character he demonstrates and in his love for God," she continued. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about my dreams for him and God's dreams for him. I've concluded that if God's will is to be done in Brandon's life, the most important thing is not whether he has a college degree, but whether he serves God. I've come to appreciate the fact - and to thank God for it - that Brandon is a committed follower of Christ and lives in ways that are consistent with our beliefs. I know that pleases God. Having a college degree would have pleased me, but it's more important that he honor the Lord. I've made my peace with this, and now I simply appreciate Brandon's heart for God. I prayed for that for years. When God answered that promise, I just wasn't ready for the way He answered it.") ... Wow - this would be a tough one for me personally.

These parents saw themselves as the primary person blessed with the responsibility of the spiritual upbringing of their children. They did not try to outsource Christian education to the church. They saw the church as a support system, not as the place that was responsible for the child's spiritual growth. They expect to know what the youth leaders of the church teach, what they expect of their students, how they conduct the experience, and how they want to interact with the parents. It is not enough to just drop off their kids at church and pick them up later.

Some common chief rules these parents relied upon:
1) Always tell the truth, regardless of circumstances or consequences.
2) Never cheat or steal.
3) Always show respect to others, no matter how you feel about them.
4) Help others - we are servants.
5) Control your tongue.
6) Don't judge other's motives. Only judge their behavior as it affects you or other family members.
7) Take good care of your body - hygiene/exercise.
8) Be active in the pursuit of your faith.
9) Work hard in school.
10) Household chores.
11) Make sure at least one parent knows where you are at all times.
12) Accept the penalties for inappropriate behavior.
Other things identified were that these parents enforced a curfew, cautiously (and quietly) influenced their children's choice of friends, and established limits on media.

For these parents, Faith is the foundation. They:
1) showed genuine love for God.
2) prayed daily, regularly, openly, and faithfully.
3) worshipped regularly.
4) read the Bible habitually for personal development.
5) participated in the life of their spiritual community.
6) applied their resources, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities frequently to influencing lives.
The Bible is their guide. Their purpose for studying the Bible with their children were:
1) to teach their children that the best place to search for life's answers is in God's instructions to us.
2) by turning to the Bible consistently, they hoped that their children would adopt the idea that there are truth principles that must be integrated into life.
3) modeling the value of studying Scripture in the company of others and benefiting from the group's wisdom.
4) the hope that regular exposure to God's principles would build a worldview for their children that they can have for the rest of their lives.

Reading this book has definitely opened my eyes into what I should be doing right now, and working more towards in the future, and how as a team I should be supporting Lynette who spends everyday non-stop with our children while I am at work. We prayed for God to grant us the blessing of children when we married. He has graciously answered those prayers with Caedmon and Libby. As a father, and the wage earner, I need to make sure my priorities are correct. Their little hearts, minds, and souls are at stake. It is a responsibility from God I must not take lightly. Barna writes, "Parenting is hard work with no guarantees.The most unnerving reality is that even when a parent does everything right, there is still no guarantee that the result will be an adult who honors God with all his heart, mind, strength, and soul. (Though daunting) we may give Him and our children our best effort and confidently leave the results to Him. We need to be obedient to God's calling and principles and allow Him to produce the outcomes according to His perfect will."

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