On Sunday, I mentioned a staggering statistic: Parents will spend 77,000 hours with their children by the time they reach the age of 18. Another statistic that adds deeper meaning to it, is the fact that children who are raised in homes that go to church with spend just under 900 hours at church-related activities. It shows you the amount of influence parenting yields in regard to spiritual development.
But how are we doing with those 77,000 hours?
I am a bit of a procrastinator by nature. When I think I have a lot of time to accomplish something I have a tendency to push things off. I remember when I was in Bible College at the beginning of the semester I was given a syllabus for each course. It laid out very clearly what the expectations were for that class. It gave me all the pertinent and needed information: when tests were, when papers were do, when the final exam was and what percentage each piece was worth toward my final mark. My general thought was, “I've got lots of time.” I was wrong. I spent many all-nighters doing papers last minute and cramming for exams. I could have been far more effective if I would have had a better daily plan to accomplish my educational goals. I can tell you that as a parent, I also pulled a lot of all-nighters (sick kids). I wasn't though, given a syllabus. I had no clear expectations for raising kids, except for maybe keep them healthy, happy and safe. I think I knew, particularly because I'm a Pastor, that I needed to do some spiritual building of foundations in their life, but it was probably far more haphazard then it should have been. I just knew I had lots of time and if i don't get it done early, I can catch up later. Which is partially true, some parents have done an excellent job of playing catch up. (that will be a blog post for another day), but it is not necessarily the best method for long-term spiritual development of your children.
I am on the downside of parenting. Three of my kids are already over the age of 18, I only have two left under the age of 18. I can feel my influence changing, I am no longer the foundation builder any more, but more of a consultant. My direct influence is becoming smaller and smaller as they move from children into adults. I have learned that time can be your greatest ally in parenting, but it also can be your worst enemy.
So we need to ask again, How are we doing with our 77,000 hours?
Mark Holman in his book, Building Faith at Home, answers that question. The Search Institute conducted a nationwide (USA) survey of more than 11,000 participants from 561 congregations across 6 different denominations. The results were quite revealing (keep in mind that church youth were surveyed!)
- Twelve percent of youth have a regular dialog with their mother on faith/life issues.
- Five percent of youth have a regular dialog with their father on faith/life issues.
- Nine percent of youth have experienced regular reading of the Bible and devotions in the home.
- Twelve percent of youth have experienced a servanthood event with a parent as an action of faith. 1
In his research for his book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, researcher George Barna confirmed these results: “We discovered that in a typical week, fewer than 10 percent of parents who attend church regularly with their kids read the Bible together, pray together, participate in an act of service together as a family unit.” 2
We may not be doing well, but by God's grace and strength we can do better. Let me quickly give you four suggestions if we want to be more effective in parenting with the allotted time we have been given for spiritual influence:
Begin with Prayer – Ask God to help you. It is too large of a task to do in our own strength. So, ask for wisdom, ask for direction, ask for strength and ask for perseverance. God will help you!
Brainstorm: Sit down (with your spouse, if you have one) and brainstorm some ideas, How can you use meal time, bedtime, morning time, drive time and acts of service, more effectively and strategically? Come up as many ideas as you can and then choose some of them to do.
Build: Start building it! Don't try to do too much, start adding a few things. Evaluate. Always remember something is better than nothing.
Brace yourself: Any time you start wanting to do the right thing, the enemy or circumstance will make it difficult. DON”T GIVE UP! Keep pressing on. If one idea doesn't work, try something different.
Your clock is ticking in regards to parenting for greater spiritual impact. What are you going to do with what remains of your 77,000 hours?
1 Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregation, copyright 1990 by Search Institute SM
2 George Barna, Transforming Children in Spiritual Champions (Ventura, CA Regal Publishing, 2003), p.78