Parenting: Equipping for Life

Discover a Framework That Explains God’s Design for Parenting

Curated by Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger
In partnership with Biblical Foundations

Course Introduction

About the Course

The aim of this course is to provide a framework that explains God’s design for parenting. Instead of addressing a specific crisis or a given disciplinary issue, this book sets out to provide an overarching theological framework for parenting. As a parent, you will face all kinds of challenges, but with these categories in place, we hope that you will “act out of your God-given identity and role as a parent in keeping with God’s larger purpose for you in Christ” (19).

We’re not parenting experts or professional counselors. We’re a mom and a dad who have experienced the joy of raising four now-grown thriving children. In addition, this book is unique in that it is written by a married couple who embraces a biblical-theological approach, that is, “We seek the Scriptures from beginning to end to see what they can teach us about a given topic—in our case, parenting” (20).

Therefore, the primary approach of this book is not sociocultural (family structures and traditions), psychological (emotions and communication), or counseling-oriented (addressing specific problems). Instead, we seek to provide a biblical basis for parenting. We pray that this book gives you a firm foundation for your parenting efforts.

Course Textbook
  • Equipping for Life: A Guide for New, Aspiring & Struggling ParentsAndreas & Margaret Köstenberger

    This book is for all kinds of parents: brand new parents, experienced parents, future parents, and single parents. Or maybe you’re not a parent at all but you’re mentoring someone who is; maybe you’re a grandparent and want to encourage your children as they begin their journey as parents. If you fit in any of these categories, read on.
    Broadly speaking, this book is organized by the three R’s of parenting: Realism, Relationship, and Responsibility: “Each of these emphases is borne out by a tension we perceive especially in young parents: between idealism and realism; between relationship and task orientation; and between a responsible engagement with your children and a permissive stance” (17–18).

    This book is for all kinds of parents: brand new parents, experienced parents, future parents, and single parents. Or maybe you’re not a parent at all but you’re mentoring someone who is; maybe you’re a grandparent and want to encourage your children as they begin their journey as parents. If you fit in any of these categories, read on.
    Broadly speaking, this book is organized by the three R’s of parenting: Realism, Relationship, and Responsibility: “Each of these emphases is borne out by a tension we perceive especially in young parents: between idealism and realism; between relationship and task orientation; and between a responsible engagement with your children and a permissive stance” (17–18).


“It is our great joy to recommend Equipping for Life, believing it will make a significant contribution to the church as a parenting tool that, as the authors aimed for, is ‘biblically based, theologically grounded, and missionally oriented.’ We have known the Köstenbergers for more than 30 years and have journeyed alongside them as they have fleshed out these principles in their own lives. Written together by a father and a mother, Equipping for Life couples the scholarship you have come to expect from the Köstenbergers with their hearts for training the next generation to embrace God’s design for parenting and build families on a strong biblical foundation.”

– Craig Bowen, Pastor, and Theresa Bowen, Founder of A Candle in the Window Hospitality Network

“Very few people could have written this book. The Köstenbergers have laid out a biblical framework for parenting that has recalibrated some areas in my life and encouraged steadfastness in other areas. Pastors would do well to put this book in the hands of their church members. Moms and dads would be edified by reading it together. Grandparents could read it and learn how to support their children in parenting.”

– Mark H. Baker, Dean of Faculty, Paideia Academy, Knoxville, TN

“Finally, a book on parenting that doesn’t merely tell Christians how to do it, but lays a rich biblical foundation for why it matters and how it glorifies God.  Striking a wonderful balance between practical advice and theological wisdom, this volume is a must-read for all parents.”

– Michael J. Kruger, President, RTS Charlotte, and Melissa B. Kruger, author of The Envy of Eve

“This rich and enjoyable book rings true on every page. Avoiding clichés and simplistic formulas, it focuses on character—in parents as well as in their children. More importantly, it focuses on God, his priorities, and his parent-like attributes. In calling for parenting that is realisticrelational, andresponsible, the book covers a whole gamut of issues from infancy to in-laws to education. The authors have been there, done that, and share what they have learned with tact, grace, and care. I warmly recommend this book for prospective parents, new parents, parents-in-the-trenches, and mentors of parents.”

– Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary

“If you are a Christian parent who believes that education is very important, but that character is even more important, then this book is for you. The Köstenbergers wrote this helpful book from the perspective of solid theology, daily practicality, and a wealth of experience. There are few books on Christian parenting that so beautifully blend the three. If you’re a parent looking for guidance on raising children in a Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, biblically-faithful way in everyday life, look no further.”

– Don Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality, Associate Dean for the School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“As a father of five children, I’m always on the lookout for helpful parenting resources. Finding parenting resources is easy. Finding helpful resources is much more difficult. In Equipping for Life: A Guide for New, Aspiring & Struggling Parents, Drs. Köstenberger offer a refreshing remedy.Equipping for Life presents exegetical and practical wisdom for constructing a biblical home and rearing children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Every Christian parent ought to read this book.”

– Jason K. Allen, Ph.D., President, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Solomon records for us the principle that safety is found in a multitude of counselors. Andreas and Margaret need to be added to your circle of wise counselors. This book is practical, convicting and heartwarming. Each principle and page is forged from personal experience and guided by biblical truth—a refreshing blend of realism from life and revelation from God.”

– Stephen Davey, Senior Pastor, Colonial Baptist Church

“Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger distill many years of wisdom and experience in this gold mine for parents, especially those with young children. Realistic rather than idealistic, hope-giving yet not trite, rigorously biblical yet culturally aware, no-nonsense yet light-hearted, this book will drive parents more deeply into the Bible in reverence, more deeply toward each other in unity, and more deeply toward their children in love.”

– Dane Ortlund, Executive Vice President and Bible Publisher, Crossway

“For years I have benefitted from Dr. Köstenberger’s careful and insightful scholarship. To see he and his wife devote their considerable talents to the most important of Christian duties is very exciting. I especially appreciated the emphasis on relationship and the Fatherhood of God. As believers instructed by the gospel, the Köstenbergers show us this in EVERYTHING.”

– J. D. Greear, Lead Pastor, The Summit Church

“In Equipping for Life, you will find an excellent resource to help you whether you are a new parent, a struggling parent, or in need of some fresh insight and encouragement. Packed with godly insights and encouragement, the Köstenbergers give us a thoroughly biblical grounding to the practicalities of parenting for the glory of Christ.”

– Josh Moody, Senior Pastor, College Church in Wheaton

“What would it look like for two first-rate Christian scholars—who also happen to be married and have raised four children of their own—to team up to write an accessible book that is rooted in the Bible and speaks to the practicalities of parenting? We no longer have to wonder. Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger have done it. Equipping for Life After is a first stop for new parents and an important resource for old ones.”

– Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, School of Divinity, Liberty University

  • IntroductionRuntime: 11 min
  • Author Q&A

Reading Assignment

Read Equipping for Life pages 15–23.

Recommended Books

Parenting Isn’t Just about Children, It’s about Parents, Too

  • Chapter 1 InterviewRuntime: 11 min

Related Scripture

Genesis 1:26–28; Ephesians 5:1–2; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12

Reading Assignment

See also:

  • God, Marriage, and Family, chapters 2–3 and 5–6
  • Marriage and the Family, chapters 1–2
  • God’s Design for Man and Woman
Reading Assignment Summary

It may sound strange, but when it comes to parenting, parents often get overlooked. We think about children and often miss a key component to parenting: the parents themselves! Have you ever listened to a father complain about his son? Often, unbeknownst to the father, the son’s flaws have come from the father himself. Sometimes the problem isn’t primarily the child—it’s you, the parent!

Our biblical theology of parenting begins with the grand narrative of Scripture: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. God created humankind in his image, which means that your children are imagebearers of God and meant to put his glory on display. What is more, we rejoice that parenting is grounded in the fatherhood of none other than God himself (Ephesians 3:14–15; Hebrews 12:9): “Here we see that as fathers and mothers, we can relate to God on a deeper level because we can further enter experientially into what it means to be sustainer, provider, protector, and ultimately parent” (35–36).

Another aspect of God’s created order is that God has appointed the husband as the leader and the wife as his companion and partner. This loving complementarity has many applications; for example, the husband should take the lead in discipline and decision-making. The wife supports the husband in disciplining in his absence and providing needed input for making the best decision possible.

We know the next part of God’s grand narrative all too well: we are sinners. Parenting can often bring out the worst in us. But here’s the good news: our weakness and sin do not have to drive us to despair; it can drive us to God! God is the author of our redemption, and this gospel truth should change our parenting in three ways. First, redeemed sinners receive powerful help from the Holy Spirit. Second, the gospel also brings reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. Third, these blessings make God’s original design for parenting possible.

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • Reflect on and discuss your expectations for your family. What are your fears, hopes, and dreams?
  • How can you live out your God-ordained role as parents, father and mother?
  • What do you need to work on in your relationship with God and in your personal life to be better equipped as a parent?

What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?

  • Chapter 2 InterviewRuntime: 12 min

Related Scripture

Genesis 3:1–21

Reading Assignment

See also: Paul Tripp, Parenting

Reading Assignment Summary

We need to grapple with the truth: our children’s sinful nature can’t be reformed; it must be redeemed: “No amount of discipline can replace regeneration of your child” (52). In light of this reality, we should not discipline for surface-level obedience; rather, we should seek to get to the heart of the issue. Biblically, discipline is broader than just correction or punishment. It has to do with setting your children on the right path and shaping their character.

In light of this biblical evidence, here are seven principles of parental discipline.

  • First, discipline must be consistent and predictable. The same offense should be met with the same punishment, and the punishment should be clearly explained.
  • Second, discipline must be age-appropriate. Disciplining a five-year-old will be different from disciplining a teenager.
  • Third, discipline must be fair and just: we should not be too lenient or too harsh.
  • Fourth, discipline must be child-specific. Though we should be fair, we should also tailor our discipline according to the specific personality of each child.
  • Fifth, discipline must be administered in love, not anger. We should not discipline because we are annoyed or angry; rather, we should convey love even in our discipline.
  • Sixth, discipline must be future-oriented and forward-looking. The focus of our discipline should not be on a past event or a current crisis but rather on the desired result of the discipline.
  • Finally, discipline must be part of the parent-child relationship. Discipline should be treated with respect and dignity.

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • What went wrong at the Fall, and why?
  • How did God act as a parent in the aftermath of the Fall?
  • What adjustments do you need to make in your view of your children? Have you been too optimistic, pessimistic, or accurate about their innate proclivity toward sin?

I’m Overwhelmed: Parenting in an Imperfect World

  • Chapter 3 InterviewRuntime: 16 min

Related Scripture

Proverbs 3:5–6; 1 John 2:15–17

Reading Assignment
Reading Assignment Summary

There are three major enemies that all Christians face: the world, the flesh, and the devil. As parents, we need to think through how we will help our children fight against this trifecta. Do we run from the culture, trying to shelter our children from external influences? Do we fully assimilate into the culture around us, believing our culture is essentially good? These two positions represent extremes that we should avoid. Instead, Romans 12:1–2 tells us that we should not be conformed to the ways of this world but to be transformed by a renewal of our minds, so we can engage culture strategically without being unduly swayed by it.

Parents should also beware of busyness and fatigue and recognize their need for rest. We should remember that “our capacity to handle stress is not boundless” (78). As the leader in the home, a husband should help his wife find time and space to recharge, whether it is by getting a babysitter for a date night or by watching the kids so she can get time by herself. Busyness does not always indicate godliness; sometimes it is the opposite: “A busy life may flatter our egos and serve as a sort of escape mechanism—no need to come to terms with our loneliness, unanswered questions, uncertainty regarding our calling … but it hardly ever permanently and successfully serves as a substitute for doing a few things well” (82). Therefore, be still and know that God is on the throne; and resolve to focus on what God has called you to do, so you can do it well and keep distractions at bay.

There is one final triad that can contribute to parental stress: sex, money, and in-laws. Sexual intimacy for mom and dad can become more difficult when kids come along, especially when those youngsters get older and stay up later: “You’ll have to train your children to accept that there’ll be times when the bedroom door is locked” (95). Similarly, you’ll also need significant wisdom regarding financial stewardship as parents. There are so many voices telling us what we must do with our money, especially regarding children: essential baby gear, premier athletics starting at an early age, the latest technology or gadget, etc. It is better to exhibit forward-looking thinking and save for the future than to have everything that social media labels essential to your child. Finally, your relationship with your in-laws might undergo new stress when kids come along. Grandparents have a learning curve just like new parents, and you’ll need to talk with your spouse about setting new boundaries and maintaining old boundaries so that your family can thrive. A “realistic approach to parenting will recognize that challenges will come in these areas and will try to be proactive and sensible in these pressure points of life” (97).

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • What have been the greatest successes and challenges in parenting for you? Are these internal (selfishness, fatigue) or external challenges (financial pressures, spiritual warfare) or both?
  • Make a list of people on whom you can call to support you as parents. Do you have sufficient help as parents or do you need additional support?
  • What are sources of frequent conflict in your family? What stresses are you facing? What can you do, or do better, in this regard?

Fostering Your Child’s Relationship to God

  • Chapter 4 InterviewRuntime: 9 min

Related Scripture

1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Peter 1:3–11

Reading Assignment
Reading Assignment Summary

As Christians, we rejoice that God’s new covenant promises do not merely address the outside of a person, but also the inside (see the promise of a new covenant in Jeremiah 31:33). With this point in mind, consider the following questions to include in your gospel conversations with your child: Does he understand that he is a sinner? Does he understand what Jesus did for him on the cross? Does he understand what he needs to do to become a Christian? (108–9). Of all the conversations we will have with our children, these core gospel questions are of the utmost importance.

When (by the grace of God) our children experience spiritual regeneration, our task as parents is far from over. Then the task of discipleship begins, and it is a life-long task. One way to effectively disciple your children is to have them serve alongside you. Find creative ways to bring your children with you on ministry assignments. Let your ministry bring you closer to your children, not farther apart. In addition, take advantage of life’s various circumstances to capitalize on teachable moments in your children’s lives.

  • Did the referee make a bad call in your child’s game?
  • Did someone else get the position your child applied for?
  • Did a friend disappoint them or turn against them?
  • Did they get a bad grade, a traffic ticket, or have a terrible day?
  • Did something break? (116).

Any one of these situations can appear to get in the way of your normal parenting tasks, but these circumstances can actually prove to be the perfect catalyst for discipleship: “Unfortunately, parenting can’t be reduced to a formula: If you do A, B will happen. Human relationships are complex, especially in a world controlled by the ‘ruler of this world,’ which puts sinful people together in sinful families and communities in this imperfect world” (119–20). Yet we trust that God is conforming us to the image of his Son, and we trust that God is doing the same with our children as we engage with them in gospel conversations and discipleship.

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • How would you assess the current spiritual condition of each of your children? Have they trusted Christ?
  • What can you do to introduce your children to Christ or, if they’ve already trusted Christ, how can you help them grow spiritually?
  • What were some teachable moments that arose in the last couple weeks and how did you try to capitalize on them?

Cultivating Your Relationship with Your Children

  • Chapter 5 InterviewRuntime: 17 min

Related Scripture

Deuteronomy 6:4–9; John 15:12–15

Reading Assignment
Reading Assignment Summary

The Bible testifies over and over again that God’s people flourish in his presence. This principle also trickles down into our parenting. The statistics are clear: children are more likely to thrive when both mom and dad are present. Fathers need to guard against spending too much time at work. Yes, they are providing for their family, but monetary provision is not a substitute for physical presence! Likewise, mothers should strive to nurture and build up their children in the home as much as possible. Here is another example of counter-cultural parenting: worldly parenting prioritizes careers whereas godly parenting celebrates God’s design for intentional presence in the home from both mom and dad.

Parental presence will look different as children get older, and this is by God’s design. Though parenting is a lifelong calling, your children will not stay under your roof forever. Here are four strategies for relational parenting through the years:

  1. During the growing-up years, mentor your children by trying to instill in them biblical values and principles, teaching them to make wise decisions.
  2. As your children get older and spend more time away, technology is making long-distance mentoring even easier through Skype, texting, and phone calls.
  3. We must also realize that digital communication can only go so far: occasional visits can go a long way.
  4. We must not overlook the power of prayer, which is another way to keep our children “present,” at least in our minds, as we bring them before the Lord.

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • Do you have sufficient time to spend with your children? If not, what can you do to spend more time with them?
  • How do you view your role as a parent? Do you view parenting more as a task to be accomplished or a relationship to be pursued?
  • What are some things you could do with your children?

Dealing with Adversity, Conflict & Spiritual Warfare

  • Chapter 6 InterviewRuntime: 17 min

Related Scripture

Ephesians 6:10–18; James 4:1–6

Reading Assignment

See also: God, Marriage, and Family chapter 6

Reading Assignment Summary

It may come as a surprise that disagreements over childrearing is one of the main reasons for divorce (143). Wise parents will prepare for conflict by trying to think through their own philosophy of parenting before troubles arise. The Bible gives us some practical help here: beware of making excuses. Adam blamed Eve when God confronted him in the garden. Aaron’s excuse is even comical: “So they gave [gold] to me, and I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf” (Exod 32:22–24)! We, like Adam and Aaron, often make excuses or shift the blame instead of taking responsibility for our actions.

Here are four principles that will help you take responsibility and work towards conflict resolution:

  1. Analyze the issue by identifying the root problem. Sorting through what happened will probably take a little time, so consider asking your child to engage in an activity while you sort things out.
  2. Accept responsibility for your actions. Even if you’re not the main perpetrator of the conflict, if you were even partially in the wrong (and you probably were!), then own up to it. This step will help your child own his wrongdoings as well.
  3. Apologize. Apologies should not be forced—this means you need to allow time for honest reflection. Contrary to popular TV shows, all family conflicts cannot be wrapped up in thirty minutes or less.
  4. Affirm your love and affection. James 5:16 tells us that confession of sin will result in healing: “Just like a fractured bone, when healed, becomes stronger than before the fracture, so a healed relationship can be stronger if the issue is truly resolved” (152).

Consider the following list of sources of conflict in parenting:

  • Dealing with social media: what age to start, what to post or not to post, family privacy
  • Relationships: issues related to dating, boyfriends or girlfriends, being left out of a social circle
  • Sibling rivalry: alleged favoritism, parental inconsistency, territorial issues (invading or violating another person’s space, not respecting their property, and so forth)
  • Disobedience: various kinds of insubordination, challenges or parental or other authority, rebelliousness
  • Insensitivity: boys not treating girls in a gentlemanlike manner, being inconsiderate of another’s feelings, such as when they’re tired or having a rough day, or girls not affirming boys and encouraging them to lead
  • Miscommunication or no communication: unwarranted assumptions, lack of clarity, unloving words (158)

Realistic parents will remember that we are at war. The spiritual war that we fight is probably more severe than we realize. Though the conflicts listed above describe surface issues, we must strive to get to the heart issue behind these conflicts—that is the true battle.

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • Is conflict a rare or common occurrence in your family? What are common causes and is there anything you can do to change that?
  • Growing up, how did your family typically deal with conflict? Was conflict commonly avoided or dealt with?
  • What is your conflict resolution strategy in your family now?

Helping Your Child Grow in Character

  • Chapter 7 InterviewRuntime: 22 min

Related Scripture

Romans 5:1–5; Hebrews 12:4–13

Reading Assignment
Reading Assignment Summary

As parents, our central concern should be the character of our children. First and foremost, we rejoice that it is the Holy Spirit who develops character: “As we walk with Him, are led by Him, live in Him, keep in step with Him, and are filled with Him, we’ll set our mind on spiritual things, and the Spirit of the risen Christ will infuse our mortal bodies with supernatural strength to surmount our sinful nature” (176). Practically speaking, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is doing this work as we strive to instill virtue in our children. The book of Proverbs will be a significant help in this endeavor. Go to Proverbs often for instruction on diligence, justice, kindness, generosity, self-control, and many other key virtues.

Of all the virtues, humility deserves special attention. Here are two practical ways to pursue humility in your own life as well as to encourage humility in your children:

  1. Avoid bragging: We want to celebrate the accomplishments of our children, but we don’t want to inflate their feeling of self-importance. We should also strive to separate value from performance: “I sometimes tell my son before a game that even if he scores zero points, I’ll love him the same as if he scores a hundred points, just so he knows not to connect my love for him to his performance” (183).
  2. Don’t overdo special occasions: Again, we want to celebrate birthdays and special accomplishments, but we want to avoid the temptation to overdo it. Our children don’t need “participation trophies” for every sports season, nor do they need annual birthday parties that will rival everything you see on Pinterest.

There are two other key areas for character growth: involvement with social justice issues and wise use of technology.

The vital point from Matthew 25:31–46 is that acts of social justice are significant manifestations of a regenerate heart. While we must never replace social justice with the gospel, a heart that has been shaped by the gospel will respond with mercy and compassion to the lowly and hurting in society. Practically, you can take your children with you as you do ministry in nursing homes, crisis-pregnancy centers, or inner-city ministries.

In terms of wisdom and technology, it is our responsibility to shepherd the next generation in learning how to engage with technology in a fruitful manner. Following Andy Crouch, we can learn to use technology properly when …

  • It helps us bond with the real people we’ve been given to love
  • It helps start great conversations
  • It helps take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit
  • It helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains of human culture (sports, music, etc.)
  • It helps us cultivate awe for God’s created world
  • We use it with intentionality and care (200–201)

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • What significance do you currently attach to character development in your children? Do you need to make this a greater priority in your family?
  • How are your children dealing with adversity? How can you help them do a better job in this area?
  • Are your children humble? Are you humble? What are concrete ways in which you can improve in this area?

Guiding Your Child’s Education

  • Chapter 8 InterviewRuntime: 16 min

Related Scripture

Psalm 119:9–11; 2 Timothy 3:14–17

Reading Assignment

See also: Marriage and the Family, chapters 2 and 4

Reading Assignment Summary

When it comes to the education of your children, “We believe it best to approach education as a natural process rather than compartmentalizing” (205). There is no chapter and verse in the Bible that will tell you exactly how you should educate your children. Should they be schooled at or from home, attend a private school (Christian or otherwise), or go to public school? This answer will vary from family to family. But on a more general point, the Bible is very clear: the education of your children is ultimately your responsibility.

For the most part, we have chosen to school our children at or from home. There are several key advantages to this approach: First, educating your children at or from home allows for a significant bond between parents, the child, and other siblings. Second, you can personalize each child’s education toward his or her specific interests and disposition. Since you know your children best, it is a privilege to get to tailor their education to their individual personalities. Third, you have more control over your children’s curriculum. Fourth, you have extra flexibility, which allows you to take educational trips as a family or to serve in various ministry contexts that others cannot.

Finally, it is important to remember that your child’s education is far more than their schooling. They’re learning all the time! Here are some other things your children can learn: family history and ethnic and cultural heritage, communication and interpersonal development, sex education (at an appropriate age), and financial responsibility. As parents, if we’re not proactive by guiding our children through these significant areas, others will surely fill in the gaps for them. What a privilege we have to equip them for life!

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • How important is your children’s education for you and what type of school do you prefer and why?
  • Do you believe educating your children is part of your role as a parent? Whose task is it to educate your children?
  • How can you inspire in your children a greater joy of learning and discovery? How can you be a family that enjoys learning together?

Spiritual Gifts, Mission, Marriage & Vocation

  • Chapter 9 InterviewRuntime: 15 min

Related Scripture

Romans 12:1–2; Ephesians 5:18, 21–33

Reading Assignment
Reading Assignment Summary

“Parenting takes place at the intersection of three missions that encompass the parent, the child, and ultimately God. The mission of parenting—bringing children into this world and raising them to love and serve God—involves equipping children for their particular mission in life and takes place within the larger scope of the mission of God” (229).

We must not separate our families from God’s call on our lives. As parents, our calling to make disciples begins with our own children. We should see our families as “Great Commission families.” Such a vision produces a full-orbed understanding of God’s call on our lives.

Similarly, we should strive to help our children discern God’s specific calling on their lives. This goal is often best achieved by allowing them to serve in different capacities according to their interest. Along with other trusted mentors, you can then begin to give your children counsel and direction based on their various experiences.

Another major milestone in your children’s lives is dating or courtship. Your child’s choice of spouse is one of the biggest decisions he or she will make, and it needs to be made with great care. Here is an outline of three different options as your children think about this step:

  • Dating: Spending time together exclusively for a certain amount of time to enjoy the opposite sex, not always with the purpose of finding a marriage partner. Serial dating may ensue with several or many people, with or without the purpose of finding a marriage partner.
  • Courtship: Commitment at the outset of spending time together (usually with parents’ permission) that the couple is pursuing marriage. Time together also involves accountability to an outside party.
  • Friendship: Young people get to know each other in larger and smaller group settings (or other informal ways) to form friendships before committing to a purposeful (likely to get married) but still exploratory relationship (253).

There are benefits to each model, but our conviction is that the “friendship” model provides the most helpful way forward.

We conclude with a reminder that the task of parenting is never done. Even when all your children graduate high school and college and get married, you are still their parent. As your children move out of the house and grow increasingly independent, you will often find that your communication with them increases—albeit in diverse ways.

There is still so much to learn, and it is a wonderful joy and privilege to spend the rest of your life investing in your children (in appropriate ways, of course!): “May we walk closely with Him and with each other throughout our parenting journey, and may we inspire our children to do the same” (260).

Summary by Mark Baker with Andreas & Margaret Köstenberger

Study Questions
  • What is God’s mission? Are you viewing your mission in life in light of God’s mission? How can you do a better job at that?
  • Have you identified your own mission in life? What is it?
  • What is each of your children’s mission in life as far as this is apparent thus far? How can you best help them identify their life mission?