NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Rodney and Selma Wilson remember the time their 4-year-old daughter Natalie called a family meeting.
Natalie declared openly that her parents loved her sister Jennifer more. Before the meeting ended, the issue was thoroughly discussed and eventually resolved. Now all grown up, their daughters laugh about it, but it serves as an example of the importance of open communication.
Most importantly, the Wilsons contend, strong communication or a “talk system” can help children on their journey with Jesus Christ.
“You never want to shut off conversation with your child … ever,” Selma said in an interview. “Looking them in the eye and putting your hand on their shoulder and saying, ‘I love you and I’m praying for you,’ is a powerful form of communication.”
The Wilsons have been involved in family ministry for 25 years. In the book “The Parent Adventure: Preparing your children for a lifetime with God,” they team up with Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, to share the impact that godly parenting can make on a child’s life.
The Wilsons share Scripture and practical advice from their own parenting adventures in the first half of the release from B&H Publishing, the trade books division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Wilsons’ stories and advice cover everything from first bike crashes to dropping kids off for their first day of school to the times their daughters left home for college and marriage.
“This book sets out as an encouragement to every parent,” Rodney said. “[Parenting] is difficult at times. And yes, guilt-ridden at times … but it can be done and done effectively.
“We’ve had many people tell us, ‘Don’t take this wrong, but this is really simple stuff,'” he added. “‘So simple I can remember it and apply it to my parenting situation.’ To which we always say, ‘Thanks.'”
The Wilsons share their passion for family ministry through writing, counseling and speaking at seminars, such as Festivals of Marriage. For the past 10 years, they have worked with HomeLife magazine — for five of those years as executive editors.
The second half of the book, titled “The Church Challenge,” focuses more on how a congregation can provide more parenting and biblical guidance to families. It also addresses the widening divide between people’s parenting and faith.
McConnell heads up the research end of the book, which includes sobering statistics that come from hours of interviews with 1,200 parents — all of whom had children under the age of 18 at the time of the study.
In addition to his role at LifeWay Research, McConnell is a husband and father of two children. He has helped churches through various research projects for 12 years.
The book opened McConnell’s eyes to the growing gap between how people are parenting and living out their walk with Christ.
“The Word of God is what is missing from the parenting equation today,” McConnell said. “The average American parent and many parents with evangelical beliefs do not even know what the Bible has to say about parenting.”
Among the results McConnell reported from a demographically balanced survey:
— 12 percent of parents said their religious faith is the top influence in raising their children.
— 14 percent feel very familiar with what the Bible has to say about parenting.
— 42 percent agree that the Bible is the written Word of God and is accurate.
Most parents are too busy living in what Selma referred to as “survival mode” — just trying to keep their lives together and provide for their families. Faith is often just a “Sunday thing,” she said.
But, she added, it doesn’t have to be.
“If your faith becomes so integrated in the natural course of getting up and going to bed and doing life,” she said, “[your child’s] faith will be integrated also.”
The good news of all of this, the authors said, is that churches today have a unique opportunity to provide parents and children with more encouragement, biblical and parenting training, discipleship and mentoring.
The book also suggested that parents are more successful when they develop a parenting plan based upon the realization that God has a plan for their child’s life.
“It’s a mindset that says, ‘I do not own my children,'” Selma said. “They have a destiny beyond my role … and my job is to get them ready for that role.”
The Parent Adventure Bible Study, a seven-session course, also is available through LifeWay Christian Resources. The leader kit includes a member book, trade book and DVD featuring the authors. The member book includes six chapters of instruction and learning activities.
Shawn Hendricks is a writer based in Richmond, Va.