Real World Parenting from Orange 2011

Some of our team had the great privilege of traveling to Atlanta, Georgia last week to attend the Orange Conference – a large multi-day gathering of thousands of children, student, and family pastors. We loved every minute of it! We got to attend some great sessions and hear from some amazing speakers, as well as connect with friends new and old.

One of the sessions I attended was on “Real World Parents” presented by Mark Matlock of Youth Specialties. I’m not a parent yet, but believe me – Mark hit the nail on the head when it comes to the kind of parent I want to be! I thought I’d share some of his wisdom with you all and then we’ll have a giveaway at the end of this post for his book Real World Parents.

First, Mark started off sharing this amazing statistic: 38% of students polled say that mom and dad are the greatest spiritual influence on their lives. 38%! That number is either staggeringly low or incredibly high, depending on your point of view. Regardless, it shows that parents are and should be a tremendous source of spiritual influence. Do you approach parenting that way? It’s so much more than keeping bellies full and homework turned in … parenting is a calling to train up our children the way they should go. How do you want your children to go? The way of the world, or the way of the Lord?

Mark discussed that very theme over and over again. “Every family lives in a story,” he said. “What story are you living in?” There are two options: the world’s story, and God’s story.

Mark asked tough questions like, Is our parenting more about behavior modifications when our children misbehave? Or is it about viewing ourselves as a part of God’s story and chasing holiness every single day?

And how do you, as a parent, juggling school and soccer and church and your own job, compete against the world’s story?

Mark outlined 4 potential storylines that Christian parents tend to create:

1. Isolation from the world – these are parents who get caught in what Mark called a “misguided pursuit of holiness”. They believe that isolation from the world is the only way for their children to grow up in God’s story.

2. Regulating the world’s influence – these parents tend to fall into the trap of legalism. They don’t go so far as the isolationists, but rather set rules and boundaries to keep their children from going too far into the world.

3. Agreeing with the world – Parents who agree with the world don’t set boundaries for their children, believing that immersion in the world will not harm their children’s spirituality.

4. Transforming the world – These parents engage their children in the transforming power of the Gospel, in their own hearts and in the world. These parents create kingdom opportunities daily for their children.

Mark concluded that based on his research, families that fall into the fourth group have the greatest chance of their children having long-term, healthy spiritual lives. It’s an intuitive conclusion in many ways, yet it is the scenario that is by far the most difficult. How do we be “in but not of”? How do we introduce our children to a world ripe for redemption, yet warn them of its many snares and traps?

I love the way Mark phrased his conclusion. “It’s really hard to see the power of God as a candle in a well-lit room.”

It’s easy for us to hide our lights under bushels … and to teach our children to do the same. Can we step out in faith as parents, as families? Can we create, as Mark called them, “embassies for Christ” in our homes?

What do you think? How can the team here at What’s in the Bible? help? Are there things that you would like to see from us to help train up your children?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on parenting in God’s story vs the world’s story. Leave a comment letting us know your reaction to this post and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Mark Matlock’s book! We’ll give it away at the end of this week.

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