How do you raise up children in Christ in this difficult world? That’s a question most Christian parents ask at one point or another. It’s not just about raising kids today. There are a thousand books out there from a thousand experts on how to do that. It’s the struggle many Christian parents face because they are raising their kids the best way they know how, they’re raising them in church, and the kids are still walking away from church and the faith. What are we doing wrong? What can we do differently? And culture isn’t making things any easier. As our society drifts further and further away from biblical principles, raising your kids up in Christ becomes that much more difficult. So how do we do it?

Now, it’s easy to assume that if culture were more godly, then raising good Christian kids would be much easier. But think about the 1950s, what many people would look back to as a Golden Age when culture lined up with biblical values. Well, all those kids raised in the 1950s became teenagers in the 1960s, and how did that turn out? The solution has got to be more than just culture, which should give us hope, because culture isn’t going back to the Bible anytime soon.

A better comparison would be the first century. Think of trying to raise your kids in Christ in the first few decades after Jesus. If you were Jewish, you were considered an outcast from the faith for believing Jesus was the Messiah and you were effectively cut off from your family and community. If you were Greek, you were abandoning the Roman gods and were susceptible to outright persecution from society and eventually the government itself. If first-century Christians could figure out a way to raise their kids in Christ in a difficult environment, so can we. Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote to the early church about raising kids: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). From this verse we find six powerful steps to raise your kids up in Christ in this difficult world.

1. Don't be the reason why your child rebels.

This comes from the word “exasperate.” “Exasperate” means to provoke someone to anger, to drive someone to wrath. It’s not losing your temper in the moment. It’s a slow-building, long-term, life altering rage. What provokes kids to rebel against their parents? What provoked you to wrath and rebellion when you were a teenager? Was it injustice? Perhaps your parents did something that was completely unjust and benefitted them only. Was it severity? Maybe your parents were so strict they were trying to crush your spirit. Was it hypocrisy? Perhaps they said one thing at church but lived out something completely different in the house. Whatever your parents might have done to provoke you to wrath, don’t do that with your kids. Don’t be the reason why your child rebels.

Or, let me put it another way: your kids will most likely end up just like you. Is that a good thing? So, if there’s stuff you need to work on in your own life, do it! Don’t wait until your kids are out of the house.

2. Don't make kids an idol.

This comes from the word “training.” In Hebrews 12 this word is used four times when talking about how a father disciplines the son he loves, and even though discipline isn’t any fun, it’s for their good. That’s the idea behind training. When you train your child, that means there has to be ground rules and discipline. You can’t properly discipline someone when they’re your idol.

Years ago the term many people used about parenting was “helicopter” parents, the ones who hovered around and never let the kids do anything on their own. The term used today is “lawnmower” parents, those who mow down anything difficult so that their kid never has to struggle. As loving as that might seem, it’s not setting them up for success later on in life if they never learn how to overcome adversity because they’ve never faced adversity.

3. Show your kids how to successfully navigate this world.

This also comes from the word “training” in Ephesians 6:4. When you have a personal trainer, their job is to help you learn more about your body, to teach you how to get fit and stay fit, so that when they’re gone you can still do it on your own. A good personal trainer knows how much weight to put on the dumbbells to push you. It’s a fine art, and this is where parents can struggle. If you put on too much weight, they’ll tear a muscle. If you don’t put on any weights, they’ll never get stronger. If you protect your kids in bubble wrap, they’ll never gain the strength needed to successfully navigate this world. But if there are no limits, especially when they’re younger, this world will eat them up and spit them out. This is where as parents you need to be on your knees and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. It’s not enough to protect them from the world, because sooner or later they have to fly out of the nest. The key is to allow them to engage the world in bite size chunks. That means that you have to have lots of conversations.