Michael and Melissa Kruger’s oldest daughter will leave home for college in the fall. That kind of milestone makes parents stop and reflect on what they’ve learned in 18 years of parenting. Melissa notes, “One of the important things for me in motherhood is to learn to be a mom who is prayerful, and a mom who’s in the Word each day. I have realized that that example for my kids will probably affect and encourage them more than having the perfect meals or the perfectly decorated home or all these other things that we can spend our time on so much as parents.”
The Krugers have three children. Michael serves as president of RTS Charlotte and Melissa holds the dual roles of women’s ministry coordinator at Uptown Church and director of women’s content for The Gospel Coalition.
See also Melissa’s talk with Jen Wilkin, “Your Teenager Needs Discipleship.”
Michael Kruger: Well, we’re coming up on 18 years almost as parents. Our oldest is getting ready to be a rising senior and she’s 17 and a half. And so it’s been a joy to sort of look back and think about the lessons we’ve learned over the years about parenting and thinking about what’s worked, what hasn’t worked. And, you know, when we think about that, I would start just by saying that when I think about our parenting, we realized that we were not perfect parents.
And many ways, people ask the question, hey, you know, you’ve been doing parenting for 18 years so you must have all the answers. And I think the first thing I would say is, and I’m sure Melissa would agree, is that we don’t have all the answers. And in fact, we’re hardly the model we would think for the sort of perfect parents. That said, I think that’s one of the lessons I would mention it right off the bat is that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a blessing to your children. You don’t have to do everything right in order to be effective as a parent.
One of the things we try to do with our kids is model what it looks like to fail and confess that you failed, repent and look to Christ for grace. So, what I always tell people is you don’t want to just teach your kids the gospel or share the gospel with your kids, you want to model the gospel to your children by saying, “Hey, we’re sinners too and as we’re trying to lead this family, we make mistakes and we’re going to look to Christ, we want you to see us looking to Christ as a picture of what it means to have a Christ-centered family.” So that’s one of the lessons I would add. I’m sure Melissa has several too.
Melissa Kruger: I think it’s so important how we do as we model what to do with our failure. That’s just so important to them because they’re gonna grow up and they’re gonna struggle with sin and failure. And one of the other things I think that’s so important to model is really taught to us in Deuteronomy 6, which is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, our soul and our strength. And then we teach our children.
So, one of the important things for me in motherhood is to learn to be a mom who is prayerful and a mom who’s in the Word each day. And I have realized that that example for my kids will probably affect and encourage them more than having the perfect meals or the perfectly decorated home or all these other things that we can spend our time on so much as parents. But that being parents who cling to Christ in our own lives and have our affections centered on him before they are centered on our children. It’s really easy and just in our families to put our children at the center of our homes and Christ needs to be at the center of our homes.
And it’s actually good for our children that they see our greatest affection directed toward Christ rather than them. They really can’t take the weight of all of our affection and love and that our life would be just about them. Our lives need to be about something bigger. And so that’s keeping our affection set on the Lord and then training our children to do the same. That’s been one of those things that I’ve just learned is so important from my focus and my gaze to be on Christ as I am parenting my children.
Michael: I mean, I would add to that that, you know, we want to tell our kids directly, you are not the number one thing that this family is about. And in a culture where kids are the number one thing about everything, that sounds so counterintuitive. But we want to say, “Look, Christ is number one thing in this family and you are part of this family and we together are gonna serve him and love him,” and I got to keep balance for the kids.
And, you know, just one other thought here as far as lessons go. There’s a lot that can be said about the role parents have in family devotions and things like this and those are important things. I know that some parents think they don’t matter and they think not only do they not matter but I’m not very good at them anyway, and I don’t really know how to do a family devotion and I feel like my little lessons don’t really have much weight. I would just encourage parents out there to not underestimate the effectiveness of regular time in the Word with your kids starting young and moving on to the ages. That it seems like little crumbs but, over time, it makes a whole meal. And that I think is something to keep in mind when you think about the long haul.
Melissa: And one thing I would add to that is it doesn’t have to be perfect but I like to talk about it being the pattern of your home. So, it’s not that you have even family devotion times every single day perfectly for, you know, 365 days a year, every year of a child’s life. But what’s the pattern of your home? Is your home a place of prayer? Is it a place that the word is read and studied and memorized?
Those patterns just like Mike said are gonna build a lifetime of memories for them and it’s just such a joy when you see that. And one last thing I’ll just say, when you teach the word to your children, do it with warmth, do it with joy and fun as much as you can so that those times around the family table are actually fun and a delight. I mean, those are things I look back on with great joy.
The times we laughed when words weren’t said quite correctly when they’re memorized in the catechism and things like that, it’s to bring warmth into those times and deep affection for the Lord. That’s gonna help them look back on those times as special memories rather than we were forced to memorize the catechism. It really can be actually a joyful fun time for a family.
Michael: Absolutely. And just sort of…and this can be the last thing, you know, one of the final lessons that we’ll share is that we think you always parent with the goal in mind of helping your kids be ready to leave when it’s time to leave. And what I mean by that is not just ready to leave financially or ready leave educationally, although those things are important but ready to leave theologically. That they’re able to go out into the world and make it with all the hostility there is towards Christianity out there. And so, shaping their world view, shaping their Christian commitments, shaping their theology is so important for a parent. So, you’re gearing them up to step out into that difficult world and be faithful for Christ over the long haul.