My husband and I were both saved out of unbelief as adults, I in my late teens and he in his early 20s. Only a couple of years after becoming Christians, we met, had a short courtship, a long-distance engagement, and began married life. Ministry and parenting weren’t far behind. We were babies raising babies—not only in age but, most importantly, in spiritual maturity.
Like many other young believers, we fell into extreme legalism, wanting desperately to save our children from the mistakes we made before Christ. And then, in a quick pivot, we embraced careless permissiveness, having only the worldly wisdom of our unbelieving parents as a guide. In those early days of diapers and temper tantrums, we swung between erroneous poles.
By God’s grace, and almost a decade after that first positive pregnancy test, we’ve grown in maturity as we labor to live out the gospel in front of our kids. We’ve come to rely on three crucial things.
1. God’s Word
Gospel parenting is impossible if we don’t know the gospel. Paul’s reminder to Timothy is God’s reminder to Christian parents everywhere: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Grace, law, sin, true wisdom, and salvation are found in no other book. As our children moved from crawling to toddling to walking to running, my husband and I made studying God’s Word a priority in our home. We memorized verses with our children, sang Scripture songs, and read through the Bible in our personal and family devotions.
Parenting books are helpful secondary tools, but the Bible is a first-generation Christian’s lifeline to raising a family.
Even the best Christian parenting books are just explanations of the truth found in the pages of Scripture. Such books are important and helpful secondary tools, but the Bible is a first-generation Christian’s lifeline to raising a family.
2. God’s People
My husband and I are the first Christians in each of our families. We pray that someday our kids will grow up to profess tested and true faith, but until then we remain the only believers on both sides of our family. And yet the body of Christ, manifest in the local church, provides Christian family where there is none. First-generation Christian parents need the local church; in joining with those saints, we add God-fearing aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, to our fledgling Christian family.
The biblical exhortation to not give up meeting together (Heb. 10:25) is especially poignant to the first-generation Christian who didn’t grow up in a home where the Bible was taught, hospitality practiced, discipline administered, and tithes joyfully given.
The local church is an adopted heritage for first-generation Christian families.
Young mothers need the older women of God to graciously come alongside them and teach them to love their children (Titus 2:4), and young fathers need the elders to model managing their homes and exercising godly authority over their kids (1 Tim. 3:4). God uses the local church as an adopted heritage for first-generation Christian families. Let’s not neglect such a gracious gift from our Father in heaven!
3. God’s Sovereignty
As new Christians, my husband and I soaked up every bit of literature we could about God and the Christian life. The only thing we knew was that we knew absolutely nothing. So we sought out men and women to disciple us, attended conferences, joined Bible studies, and read anything a mature Christian put in front of us.
But for people raised to take charge of their own lives, it was still easy to forget that we weren’t omnicompetent. Thankfully, parenting will humble you whether you like it or not. Your knees will either bow or break from the sheer weight of raising a human, so allow God’s sovereignty to humble you.
Ask the Lord for wisdom in your parenting—he promises he will give it (James 1:5)! Seek counsel from other parents, and make use of godly resources to equip you in this noble task.
Even as the first Christians in your families, you’re not alone. You have an all-powerful God who will never leave you. His Word is alive and ready to guide you, and his church will come alongside you. He will graciously accomplish his purposes through you as you raise up the next generation.
Your knees will either bow or break from the sheer weight of raising a human, so allow God’s sovereignty to humble you.
My husband and I often think about our spiritual family tree. Ours begins with us, and we’ve made the mistakes to prove it. We’ve neglected the instruction of the Lord with our kids, weary of starting these new and foreign habits in our 20s and 30s. We’ve downplayed our role in disciplining and instructing our children, believing the lie that God’s sovereignty erased our responsibility. We’ve dove into legalism, in hopes of protecting our kids from testimonies like ours—only to become overbearing and performance-driven.
We have done so many things wrong, but our Father in heaven kindly gives new mercies each morning for parenting and every other part of our lives. My hope for our family and yours is that our generation is the first of many. Pioneering isn’t easy, but our Lord is with us.