First Century Parenting
Just for fun, put yourself in the sandals of Joseph or Mary, Jesus’ earthly parents. What unique challenges did they face raising a child who never lied, never talked back, never undermined their authority, and always obeyed?
A solitary verse summarizes Joseph and Mary’s parenting efforts: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). However easy or difficult raising Jesus may have been, His parents achieved a remarkable balance with their remarkable Son. His formation progressed intellectually (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (favor with God), and relationally (favor with men).
Twenty-first Century Parenting
Now replace those first century sandals with your favorite 21st century footgear. Educators today use different terms (cognitive, affective, and sensory-motor) to identify ways that children develop.
Christian educators explore how these interdependent dimensions contribute to a person’s spiritual formation. Discipleship is the ongoing process whereby believers grow in Biblical knowledge, Christlike character, and faithful conduct—to the glory of God. Your goal in discipling children to be like Jesus is to effectively interweave all three dimensions: knowledge + character + conduct.
Every child is inclined to favor either knowledge or character or conduct. One of those three dimensions is an area of natural strength. Each child also shows reluctance in one dimension. Strengths have corresponding weaknesses. Balanced discipleship training encourages children to grow in their natural strengths and to reinforce areas that are prone to weakness.
Seven Growth Paths
One-Dimensional Growth Paths
Children who favor only one dimension show significant promise in that area. But over time, they will be greatly limited unless parents counterbalance natural strengths with effective training that props up weaker areas.
- THINKERS (Knowledge): Thinkers love to analyze and reflect. These students naturally gravitate to knowledge. They like to learn new things and usually do well in school. However, as their intellects grow, these same children need to develop strong friendships, and the ability to get things done.
- RELATERS (Character): Relaters love to be with people. These children are often sensitive to the Lord and skilled with people. They have tender spirits and are careful not to offend others. Friendships come easily, but these kids must push themselves to learn academic subjects, and to become dutiful workers.
- DOERS (Conduct): Doers love to get things done. These kids like to be involved doing projects. It is second nature for them to accomplish things quickly. But these children need to think before they act, and to develop interpersonal skills.
Two-Dimensional Growth Paths
Kids who favor two dimensions display great potential. Their strengths are readily apparent, but if parents aren’t proactive to reinforce the weak area, these children will eventually show disappointing signs.
- PLANNERS (Knowledge + Character): Planners love to strategize and prepare. These children think clearly and carefully weigh how their ideas will affect themselves and others. But they have trouble implementing their plans, rarely completing tasks on time.
- DIRECTORS (Knowledge + Conduct): Directors love to be in charge. These students evaluate options and move ahead with well-conceived efforts. But children who neglect the feelings of others or who lack personal integrity tend to alienate their friends.
- MOTIVATORS (Character + Conduct): Motivators love to energize people. These kids work well in groups and are good at encouraging others to get involved. But they don’t always think about long-term consequences, leading to poor results or broken relationships.
Three-Dimensional Growth Path
Jesus is our model for balanced growth. As a boy, He developed in all three dimensions (Luke 2:52). Christ calls His children to follow in His footsteps so they reach their full potential.
7. SERVANT-LEADERS (Knowledge + Character + Conduct): Servant-leaders love God and people. These individuals establish meaningful goals and influence others to make good choices. They seek God’s wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes God’s way.