Parents dream of raising children who will become “better than” they are. I often find myself repeating the phrase “be better than me” to my kids because I dream that the familial dysfunction and sins of the parents (my sins) will not pass down to the children (my kids).
This dream won’t come true accidentally, by osmosis, or because I repeat a magical phrase over and over again. It only happens by non-negotiable parent-to-child discipleship, where transparent parents own the fact that “the best of our righteousness is filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) Parents can hinder the transference of generational sin by incorporating intentional moments of spiritual formation into quality family time together, especially a family vacation or “staycation.”
Be warned that you cannot permanently prevent sin’s encroachment, temptation, grip, weighty influence, impact or return to a child’s life. “Be better than me” moments will help deter sin, announce sin’s wages and foster an environment that encourages scriptural knowledge of how to ward off, resist and overcome sin.
First, live out Matthew 28:16-20 within your family. Become your children’s primary teachers, instructing them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. Take comfort in Jesus’ promise that “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God grants us moments to train our children in the way they should go and spiritually grow. Proverbs 22:6 says when they are old they will not turn from such teaching. As a result of Scripture’s teaching, we must see each moment as an honor and privilege to engage our children and glorify God at the same time.
Secondly, “be better than me” conversations are non-threatening dialogues that plant and water Truth from God’s Word into the hearts and minds of our young. They are birthed from questions such as, “What is God teaching you right now? What are your fears? Joys? Expectations? Disappointments with God or our family right now?” Each conversation opens the airwaves for fresh parental insight concerning where each family member stands in their faith walk with God. Be prepared for potent, transparent and convicting responses as you make the family a safe, nurturing and healthy atmosphere to ask and answer freely, even if it’s hard or uncomfortable.
I’ll never forget the questions my son asked on the eve of his 14th birthday. I was preaching at a conference that hosted people from several different religious faith denominations. Because we customarily talked about his experiences, he was free to pose questions he had about how divided denominations are across the religious landscape. This God-granted teachable moment led us into a two-hour healthy discussion concerning why we believe what we believe as Christ followers. Soon after our “be better than me” conversation he wrote, “My family has impacted my spiritual life in a very positive way, by helping me understand things about the Bible that I could have never known without their help. After my 14th birthday, God helped me understand my sins and how to avoid them.” This moment would never have happened if spiritual formation had not been built into the DNA of our family.
Mike is married to Rhonda and they have two teenagers. He founded Field of Grace Evangelistic Ministries in 2010 and currently serves as teaching pastor at Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.