Mike Connell shares six powerful ways to build a foundation at home that reflects the glory of heaven.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Christians normally associate this verse from the Lord’s prayer with the “big things” like evangelism and salvation. But this verse also forms the bedrock for raising a family: what if we could bring the culture of heaven right into our homes? How would we treat one another if we want heaven to be in our home? Here Mike Connell, senior pastor of Bay City Outreach Centre in Hastings, New Zealand and an internationally-recognized teacher of the Word, talks about parenting children as how God parents believers—by building a foundation of love, acceptance and accountability.
“One: Take authority over your household”
“The spirit world understands authority, even though many people don’t. God has set order into relationships, and delegated authority to governments over nations. Bosses have authority at work, pastors have authority in the church, and in the home, God has called the husband to be the head, working in partnership with his wife to raise a family. When the husband stands up in prayer as head of the home and speaks blessing over his wife and children, there’s a release of something wonderful into the family life. If the children abide in relationship with their parents, they stay under protection; as soon as they rebel against that covering, they can then be vulnerable to danger.”
“Two: Help them express themselves”
“Before they develop the language to express themselves, children communicate by making a fuss and crying—they have to learn that it’s not an acceptable way of communicating their feelings, and it’s the parents’ job to help them grow emotional language to express what they feel and what they need, that is, putting words to their emotion, like ‘I feel such and such …’
“Parents need to help their children be responsible for their decisions and for what they feel, rather than try to shut them down and ‘contain’ them—this prevents them from developing the range of emotional language necessary to engage in relationships at a proper level.
“Otherwise, you just get this ‘performance’ of crying or the child manipulates the parent and grows up completely out of control because the parent gives in every time. This does not shape the child’s character. Sometimes, children feel depressed, and are not able to express themselves, and thus become withdrawn.”
“Three: Practice the language of love and touch”
“Even if your child is not of speaking age, he still has the language of love and touch. We have a daughter who, when she was very young, was almost non-communicative with us, and I asked my pastor about it. After talking, we realized that she had been born at a time when we were very stressed and busy. So, what we did was to go into her room every night, look her right in the eye and tell her we loved her, and we hugged her. She later on became the most creative and responsive child!
“Every child is different, so there’s no one-rule-fits-all, but the starting point is this—what if we could bring the culture of heaven right into our homes? How would we treat one another if we want heaven to be in our home? When we start to think that way, building a culture where there’s love and acceptance, we will ensure everyone, even the little ones, are treated with honor, respect, and accountability—everyone is accountable.
“Four: Create shared experiences”
“Creating opportunities for mutual experiences shape relationships and provides the material for the bonds of love to be formed. It does not need to be long or complex; it can be simply carving out time to eat breakfast or to read the Bible together.
“Get everyone to share about his or her day—this way, you’re building a flow of togetherness, a bonding. For us, Friday nights are family nights, and back then we didn’t have any TV so we created activities together using puppets, drama, games… everyone had a chance to initiate something. Sometimes the most unexpected child will come up with a solo item. Even now, when we get together during Christmas, it’s not all about the gifts, it’s about connecting.”
“Five: Spend one-on-one time together”
“When our kids were growing up and I was very busy with church and ministry, I would set time aside to bring our kids out weekly—that was their time alone with Daddy. I could never break it, because that would be letting them down desperately, but I can negotiate a change, reschedule it maybe, but never cancel it. Sometimes we invest in things that are not eternal, and forget the things that are eternal. Nobody in the world cares about your family except you, and you have to keep the world at bay, no matter how busy you get.”
“Six: Disciple children within a culture of love and accountability”
“Many parents don’t beat their children with a stick, but they beat them with words which are intentionally hurtful—these words bear the intent to shame and pain, and it hurts the child’s spirit. And then you wonder why they don’t talk to you about what they feel. You don’t have to shame and cause pain to a child to communicate disapproval.
“By asking them whether they made a good choice or a bad choice in a certain scenario, it helps the child take responsible for their actions. Children understand the concept of consequences even from a very young age. The Gospel is simple—Jesus died for all our bad choices. Can you see how to put it at a child’s level?
“I remember asking that question of my children when they were young and they said, ‘I don’t want you to ask me that question!’ They already knew as children, that it was a bad choice. They just didn’t want to be responsible.
“How God dealt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden provides a great pattern for treating your child—He asked three questions, and these are some of the most powerful questions one can ask when working to connect with people.
- ‘Where are you?’ (Gen. 3:9)
This question is not really referring to the physical location … it’s not like God didn’t know where they were hiding, but where are you relationally, that is, ‘what’s happening in your life?’, ‘where are you in your life right now?’ And then Adam answers that he’s afraid and ashamed of his nakedness.
- ‘Who told you you were naked?’ (Gen. 3:11)
God then asks what was influencing his thoughts i.e. what was shaping the way was behaving. This is why parents need to be on the alert and be selective about what their children are allowed to watch on TV or the computer.
- ‘Did you eat the fruit of the tree?’ (Gen. 3:11)
Then comes the responsibility question—was that a good or bad choice? The moment Adam blame-shifted, God stopped talking and required accountability. At that point, there’s just consequences. So even within this framework you see some very powerful ways for working with children. You have to connect with them first of all—find out what’s going on in their world, build a relationship with them, find out what’s influencing them—and then, help them see if the choice they made was a good one or not. Explain the outcome. That was what God did for Adam and Eve.”