How to Raise a Godly Child

We were gathered around our friends’ dinner table when the question was asked:

What advice would you give on how to raise a godly child?

We all had raised or were still raising kids. So we threw out answers: always listen when your kids need to talk; don’t show if you’re shocked; be kind; etc.

But as I looked around the table, I knew our answers were only partially right. Because among us sat a mom who had done all the “right” things, yet one of her children is struggling as he transitions from adolescence to adulthood.

Had this mom and dad messed up?

No. Definitely not.

Ultimately we can’t take too much credit nor too much blame for how our kids turn out.

While we can influence them, we can’t make anyone godly, just like we can’t make ourselves godly.

It’s a job for God himself.

The best we can do is pray for help in becoming godly parents.

And even then, the desired outcome for our kids is no sure thing.

Emma is a young girl who volunteers regularly at House of the Harvest. A few weeks ago she took it another step further. She got permission from her school principal to put collection cans in the classrooms so other kids could donate change to buy food for those who needed it.

Last Saturday she turned in over $100 that she and her fellow elementary students had collected. Her initiative and love for others at such a young age amazes me.

house-of-harvest

Emma donating to Adam the money she collected from school

But when I look at her, I see others behind her: her mother and grandmother also volunteer regularly, at multiple places and in many ways.

The daughter is doing what she sees modeled before her.

volunteers

A few of the regular volunteers (including Emma, her mom, & grandma) at House of the Harvest

  • If we want to raise a child that cares about the poor, then we need to care about the poor.
  • If we want them to be kind to others, then we show kindness to others (including to them).
  • If we want them to love Jesus, then we start by loving Jesus ourselves.

Does that guarantee a godly child?

Unfortunately, no.

If we plant the seeds and water the plants and fertilize the soil, we still can’t make anything grow.

True growth takes supernatural powers that we lack.

But we can help by allowing God to change us.

Not only for the good of our children. But for the good of ourselves. For the good of others. And to the glory and by the grace of God.

* * *

What advice would you give on how to raise a godly child? Please share in the comments.

57 thoughts on “How to Raise a Godly Child

  1. Linda Stoll

    Go, Emma!

    Yay!

    Raising 2 girls was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I didn’t always do a good job along the way. God’s grace kicked in repeatedly.

    Anything good that happens? He gets the glory …

    P.S. I’ve been out of town for a few weeks … please tell me how you’re feeling, Lisa! God has kept you on my heart.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yep, raising 2 girls has definitely been the most challenging thing I’ve done too. And among the most important things thus far. Grace, grace, grace! Thanks for asking about me, Linda—I’m still having pain but trying to be patient a couple of weeks more with it, as the doctor suggested. Easier said than done. ha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love Emma’s story too—it’s a beautiful thing to watch families serve together. Some seem to do it so effortlessly, whereas it was more of an effort for me back in the day. 😉

  2. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Oh, my goodness… I echo what Linda said beginning with, “Raising 2 girls was the hardest thing I’ve eve done. And I didn’t always do a good job…” I always did my best under some difficult circumstances, but (looking back) I see times that’s exactly what I did: MY best; not my best with God’s help. Sometimes I did things on my own, and as a mother of adult children, sometimes I now see the consequences of my actions. Tough to admit, but true.

    Children—little ones or adults—are watching us closely. With God’s help and a whole lot of grace, I pray for end results that are pleasing to Him! I also pray that Emma’s parents will keep relying on God, especially when the teenage years come! Such a beautifully encouraging post, Lisa. Thanks!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ouch. I see what you mean: OUR best isn’t necessarily the same thing as our best with GOD’S help. It’s something we all can relate to, parenting or not. And now as the mom of young adults myself, I still need to lean as much on God’s help since I’ve never walked this particular path before, so thanks for this reminder, Susan.

  3. bluecottonmemory

    Wise words on how to raise a godly child? Pray always because prayers go where words can’t, shepherd but don’t pen in, believe even when it feels hopeless, understanding that God is not surprised! I think your words carry such wisdom – it is God – and it is the child and how the child was designed. I do believe that a faithful, never-giving-up-on God-taking-care-of-it faith parent makes a huge difference in the results of those children who take the hard path.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Excellent, excellent advice, Maryleigh. And I know you’ve walked this, not just talked it. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom here. More faith in God; less faith in our own abilities to do things “right.” God will take care of all our babies in ways we can’t understand.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      And I think we can agree what you’re saying applies really to ANY relationship, not just parent/child. Husbands and wives, while responsible in some sense to each other, are also responsible individually to God. Good words, Elizabeth. Thanks.

  4. Beth

    Well-said, Lisa! And bravo for approaching this subject with realism and grace, all wrapped up in power–the Lord’s power! I love it! I’ll be sharing, my friend. This is an incredibly encouraging post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, our examples definitely can make a huge impact–for bad or for good. I still have good memories of my parents serving others, having them over for meals, taking them to doctors’ appointments, etc. I don’t always follow through myself in mimicking them, but I’m glad I have that foundation to encourage me to do it.

  5. Lois Flowers

    “Ultimately we can’t take too much credit nor too much blame for how our kids turn out.” I agree wholeheartedly, Lisa. For me, this really lessens the pressure to somehow live up to being a “good mom” (what is the measuring stick for that, anyway?) or to chastise myself for being a “bad mom” at times. Instead of focusing on my parenting successes or failures, I need to do as you say and pray to become more like Jesus–a godly parent, rather than a “good one.” This post has been a helpful addition to the thoughts I’ve been mulling over lately about this whole topic, so thank you for that!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “What is the measuring stick for that, anyway?” Exactly, Lois. Even if there was such a thing (which there is not), it would look different for every child, every parent. No comparisons allowed. 🙂

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Oh, golly…what a question!

    I do have some suggestions…

    1) It all begins with example. Don’t expect your kids to live up to that which you are not willing to meet. If you swear – and even take God’s name in vain when you bash your thumb with a hammer – don’t scourge your children for doing the same.

    2) Recognize that slip-ups…like cussing when doing the hammer thing…are not failures. Casual habits are what’s important.

    3) Don’t try to enforce cultural Christianity. A denomination may proscribe the use of alcohol, for instance…but Christianity does not (C.S. Lewis famously pointed out that Islam is the teetotal religion, not Christianity). You’re not called to make a child a Baptist, a Catholic, or a Nazarene. You’re there to witness Jesus’ influence in your life, full stop.

    4) Keep kids away from televangelists; they make a living by skewing the message, or by misapplying it altogether. The Parable of the Sower has been perverted by many to imply that “if you give us money, God will give YOU money”, backed up by nebulous first-name-only testimonies. Kids see through that kind of cynical approach in a heartbeat…but are not deft enough to realize that it’s not representative of the faith.

    5) Don’t force Youth Group of VBS. They contain the same social pressures as school, and can serve as an incubator for distrust of a faith that tolerates cliques and bullies…or stupefying boredom. Be aware of your child’s feelings about participation.

    6) Be gentle in correcting misconceptions, and never humiliate. A personal example…I spent part of my youth in California, and knew people who kept Big Cats as pets…so I assumed that Jesus was healing leopards, and the he and the Apostles went about with a pet lion…the Lion of Judas. I didn’t realize for longer than I care to admit that I was wrong. I’d simply never looked further. And…not faith-connected, but still perhaps relevant…Barbara was raised Catholic, and a few weeks ago I asked her if, when the Catholic church counseled the use of the rhythm method, they gave married couples the music to use, or could couples choose their own?

    7) Always remember…the Bible speaks for God. The parent is NOT in loco Deo.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Wow–lots of great suggestions here, Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to list them. I have to smile about Jesus healing leopards. 🙂 Although I suppose he did do that too if necessary. Ha. I think this sums it up so well: “You’re not called to make a child a Baptist, a Catholic, or a Nazarene. You’re there to witness Jesus’ influence in your life, full stop.” Yes.

  7. Bill (cycleguy)

    I think you have it right Lisa. We cannot make our children godly, but we can be godly parents, friends, etc. Ultimately, the forming and changing is in God’s hands. we are only called on to raise them to know Jesus. It is their choice.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Total agreement, Bill. God has to do the inner work. There were times when I wish I could get inside and change things up myself, but it’s a good thing I can’t. 🙂 I can only imagine the mess I would make.

  8. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I wish that so many people could read this post…including me as a younger mom. I have two children, one followed in the faith, one completely abandoned it. I used to despair. What did I do wrong?

    Your point about not being able to make anything grow is such a deep one, I love that. We try our best to be good role models, encourage participation in church, hope that the candle catches fire. But as you said, sometimes it just doesn’t.

    This post was a great comfort to me.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think many of us tend to despair when our kids make bad choices, whether large or small ones. 🙁 But, yes, it’s not always about us. I like the person who said that if Adam and Eve made bad choices with God as the perfect Father in the Garden, why should we expect that our parenting will produce better results? Glad this post was comforting to you, Ceil. Blessings to you. I know you’re a great mom and grandmother!

  9. Pam

    So true, Lisa!! As a former school teacher, but one who retired from being a professional marriage and family therapist after 25 years and also raised two children of my own I can only say “Amen”!! One never knows what the results will be from our teaching and training, but I am persuaded that often it is more what is “caught” from us than “taught” by us that may provide the longest impact. Things my adult children share from their childhood seem to confirm that. Surely, the Lord must grant a special grace for parenting. I have told many couples in my office that the Lord has two primary ways to potentially grow us up and cause us to rely on Him. The first is marriage and the second is parenting.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So you know this from every angle. 🙂 Marriage and parenting have definitely been two of the primary ways the Lord has (and continues to) teach me too. It’s very humbling. “Surely, the Lord must grant a special grace for parenting.” Amen!

  10. June

    Emma’s story reminds of Timothy. Paul makes a point to mention his mother and grandmother. I’m not a mom, but clearly, modeling behaviors in front of our children is key. It’s heartbreaking when, despite our best efforts, children struggle and fall away. I would say prayer is the most important ingredient in raising a Godly child ! Thanks for sharing Emma’s story, and encouraging us all!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a great connection to make with Timothy and his mom and grandmother! I love seeing those 3 generations mentioned. Even though you may not be a physical mom, I’m sure you have great influence on young people in your life and are a great blessing to them. Thanks for sharing this, June.

  11. Stephanie

    Right now my husband and I are raising a 3 and 5 year old. This post speaks right to my heart. There are so many days where we feel like we’ve missed the mark and other days that we are so full of joy, we can’t contain it. Thank you for your post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Blessings and grace to you as you raise these tiny ones, Stephanie. Such a responsibility and such a gift at the same time. It sounds like you feel both. 🙂 Keep doing what you’re doing!

  12. Sylvia R

    A lot of truth and wisdom here. We can’t make *anybody* holy. Only God does that. And we all have our failings, as parents or anything else. I know I did, despite my earnest desire not to. (The prayer I prayed repeatedly was for God to cause them to grow up rightly despite me.) But the modeling attitudes and behaviors you mention –in the way we treat them and others– is a definite strong influence in the right direction.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to your prayer, Sylvia…”despite me”. 🙂 And even once our kids are grown, we still have to pray that. The Lord knows our weak spots and I’m grateful that he gives grace for those huge gaps! Thanks for sharing your own wisdom here.

  13. Tiffany Parry

    Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Even when we pray, and pursue, and point them toward Christ, free will kicks in. I think modeling the way and walking the talk are so important – kids often learn more from what is caught than taught. I know that I want my some to realize that his dad and I aren’t perfect and that he doesn’t have to be either. That faith is meant to be stretched to grow. And that we are deeply loved by a God of grace and while His heart is that we stay close, no matter how far we go, God always welcomes us back.

    Thanks for starting such a great conversation today, Lisa. So glad I visited from #tellhisstory.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Great words of wisdom, Tiffany. None of us have to be perfect; we need our faith stretched; God always has open arms for us. Thanks for sharing! Your son is blessed to have you as his mom.

  14. Anita Ojeda

    Amen! It’s just like if you want polite kids, you need to BE polite. If you want your kids to pick up after yourself, YOU pick up after yourself. Kids don’t really listen to what we say. They listen to what we do.

  15. Debbie Putman

    Wow. So much hope and inspiration. And so much reality. I, too, had a child who walked away. I was devastated. God kept His promise, and before Kimberly passed away at 32, she returned to Him. God’s gift to me, that glimpse of my joyful, God-seeking girl, before He took her home. So my advice: trust that promise. God loves our children more than we do. He has written their lives in His book. He has a plan for them–a plan we can trust. Pray and pray and pray. Model. Never, ever quit hoping.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You have been through a lot, Debbie! What a blessing to get to see your daughter return to God here before she returned to him there. But such a tragedy that you lost her at such a young age. I am so sorry. You speak truth here: “God loves our children more than we do.” I’ve had to preach that to myself often through the years, and I know I will need to for years to come as well. Thanks for sharing your story here. Very meaningful.

  16. Deborah

    Wise words here today Lisa. We can never ever make kids just who WE want them to be. We love, model, disciple, guide, provide for, and discipline as the Lord instructs us in His word. And then we pray and trust the Lord. Well put.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You make me ponder this morning, Deborah….if we COULD make our kids into who we want them to be, would we even like them in the end? Ha. What we think is best is so often misconstrued, so I’m grateful that we can leave it in the Lord’s hands. Thanks for sharing.

  17. [email protected]

    Lisa,

    I read you’re still having some pain. I pray God heals you and the pain goes away and for God to comfort you in the process. So hard.

    Yes to: ”
    How to Raise a Godly Child
    February 1, 2016 43 Comments

    We were gathered around our friends’ dinner table when the question was asked:

    What advice would you give on how to raise a godly child?

    We all had raised or were still raising kids. So we threw out answers: always listen when your kids need to talk; don’t show if you’re shocked; be kind; etc.

    But as I looked around the table, I knew our answers were only partially right. Because among us sat a mom who had done all the “right” things, yet one of her children is struggling as he transitions from adolescence to adulthood.

    Had this mom and dad messed up?

    No. Definitely not.

    Ultimately we can’t take too much credit nor too much blame for how our kids turn out.

    While we can influence them, we can’t make anyone godly, just like we can’t make ourselves godly.

    It’s a job for God himself.” And Yes, we can model it…so important 🙂

  18. Kelly Chripczuk

    Sigh. I don’t even know. But I feel a calling to try to move “with” my kids, rather than trying to move them in one direction or another. I want to face the world and life and even their own internal struggles “with” them, so we can both seek God in the midst of whatever comes – I guess, then I must be saying a good relationship is at the heart of it. I’ve also been struck recently by the knowledge that it’s my calling as a parent to raise lovers. Too often I can get stuck on wanting my kids to be “good,” but teaching them how to be brave, bold lovers is so much more dynamic. Thanks for being part of #SmallWonder, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Moving “with” your kids instead of just moving them…love that approach, Kelly. Sometimes those subtle shifts in attitude can make such a huge difference in how our kids (or anybody, really!) are willing to interact with us. I’m sure you are doing a great job in raising lovers—what a beautiful way to put it!

  19. alecia simersky

    Thank you for making the point, that even though we may do all the right things, our kids may still veer off course.

    It’s hard not taking your child’s choices personal, bc it does feel like a reflection of you. But how right you are about the need to model Christ-like behavior. Those seeds are planted and even though they may take a left turn, I truly believe God can and will redeem all things and use it for His purpose and glory.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Not taking it personally…yes. That’s been something I try to remind myself of often, not just with kids, but in all my relationships, long-term or with the one-time cashier at Walmart. Don’t take it personally. And I love when people give me that grace in return. When I wander off, it’s usually more about my own internal struggles and less about the other person (for better or for worse). So grateful that God does indeed redeem all things! I need that. Thanks for sharing, Alecia.

  20. floyd

    I’m with you on this. Being and example is one thing and praying for God’s guidance in the another. All good. I do those things, but I think, and hope, that God answers the prayers from us on behalf of our kids. That will never cease…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, our prayers keep going on, long after our kids are out of the house and married….and one day, have kids of their own. That’s still a new phase ahead for both of us. 🙂

  21. Maria B

    I don’t have any advise but I am following because I am in a unique situation. As a new full time stepmom, I have to tread carefully in this area. The kids go to a Christian school so they see God and Jesus as homework. It goes through one ear and comes out the other. There is no relationship with Jesus and it weights heavy on me because as children of divorce, I can tell they (but especially the middle one) needs the love that comes with that relationship. So thank you for posting this.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      May God bless you in this new role, Maria! I love your heart that obviously wants the best for your new stepkids. It sounds like you’re already on a good path because you are aware of their need. Often it takes kids awhile to develop that personal relationship with the Lord, but they’ll be blessed to see your example of how it can be done. I appreciate you sharing this here; praying for you and your kids now.

  22. Ifeoma Samuel

    Dear Lisa, I have been reading from top down the articles before as you would have noticed but I couldn’t resist not leaving a comment on this particular post!
    Emma, has a heart of gold. Indeed our kids model what they see us do!

    This is a powerful message. Please blow Emma a kiss and wrap her round in bear hugs for me with loads of love from Nigeria.

    PS. I am sharing this post. Thanks for checking up on me all this while! I appreciate your kindness and I do not take your care for granted.
    God Bless Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I will give Emma a hug from you on Saturday, Ifeoma, all the way from Nigeria! She’s a faithful volunteer at House of the Harvest each week, and is always wearing a smile.

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