Key Scriptures: Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 27, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:14, Colossians 3:21, 1 Timothy 5:8, Proverbs 29:15-17, Titus 2:4, Proverbs 23:22, Psalm 103:13, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 1:8-9, 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Leviticus 19:3, Deuteronomy 6:6, Luke 11:11-13, Luke 2:51, 1 Kings 3:22-28
Guiding Question: What does God expect of parents (and their children)?
Optional Introductory Activity: Ask students the characteristics of a “good” parent and a “bad” parent. Do not define the terms or comment on their suggestions. If they seem reluctant, suggest that the “good” parent would be one they would want to be their parent and the “bad” parent would be one they would want to avoid having as a parent. (Note: Be very careful to keep this from becoming a session where students are merely griping about their parents. This lesson is focused on helping them to begin to consider how they want to parent their children in the future, not giving them permission to go home and criticize their parents.) Create two columns and record the suggestions where students can see them. Then ask students how they would expect the children of each type of parent to act in childhood, as a teen and as an adult. Once again, don’t comment on their responses, merely record the answers where everyone can see them.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read or tell the stories of the early lives of Jacob and Esau found in Genesis 25:19-34 and Genesis 27. Explain that while there are many stories of parents and children in the Bible, the family of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau has some interesting dynamics in it. What are some of the indications that Isaac and Rebekah may have had some problems parenting Jacob and Esau? (They may want to take a quick look at Genesis 26 and 28 for some more clues there may have been issues in the family.) What are some things it appears Isaac and Rebekah did well as parents? What are some areas in which it appears they didn’t address issues with their kids or weren’t effective in the ways they addressed them? Did any mistakes Isaac and Rebekah make as parents give Jacob and Esau the right to make poor choices and sin? Why or why not?
When parents give birth to a child, there is no instruction book that comes with him or her, like when you buy a new car. What are some ways new parents figure out what they are supposed to do as parents? Just for fun, go home after class and ask your parents what it was like taking you home from the hospital and the first few weeks of your life. Ask them how they figured out what to do and if they made any silly mistakes!
The truth is that no parent is perfect. Even Mary and Joseph, whom God chose to raise Jesus, made mistakes. The good news is that while the Bible doesn’t tell parents how to put a diaper on a baby, it does tell them how to take good care of their children’s souls. Why do you think God focused on teaching parents how to teach their children how to please God, but didn’t tell them very much about what to feed them or how much sleep they should get? What do you think is God’s number one goal for parents?
There are probably more verses in the Bible than you realize that discuss parents and their children. Some give instructions to parents, some to their children and some verses compare God to a perfect parent and give us some more clues about the things good parents do. As you read each passage, work as a class to start a list of instructions for parents and a list of instructions for their kids.
- Proverbs 22:6: train up a child, when he is old, he will not depart from it
- Ephesians 6:1-4: children obey parents, fathers provoke not your children
- Colossians 3:21: when fathers provoke their kids, the kids can become discouraged
- 1 Timothy 5:8: provide for your relatives
- Proverbs 29:17 discipline your children, kids behavior should give parents rest and delight their hearts
- Proverbs 29:15 reproduced of parent leads to wisdom, child left to himself brings shame
- Titus 2:4 train young women to love their husbands and kids
- Proverbs 23:22 children should listen to their fathers and not despise their mothers when they are old
- Psalm 103:13 as a father shows compassion to his kids
- Leviticus 20:9 children who curse their parents should be put to death (It’s important to note that while God has different earthly consequences for disobedience, the heart of this command remains.)
- Proverbs 1:8-9 listen to your parents
- 1 Timothy 3:4-5 Note: While this is in a list of qualifications, the underlying principle is important. Parents who cannot manage their children may not be entrusted by God with other responsibilities, because they haven’t managed their first responsibility well.
- Leviticus 19:3 revere your parents
- Deuteronomy 6:6-7 parents should constantly be teaching their kids about who God is and what He wants from His people
- Luke 11:11-13 what parent gives his child bad things when the child asks for things like food
- Luke 2:51 even Jesus was submissive to Mary and Joseph
- 1 Kings 3:22-28 a loving parent will sacrifice to keep their child from harm
Which items on your lists imply either the parent or the child or both are also focused on the rest of the verses in the Bible? Why? What other things do these lists imply that a parent or a child should do? Which of these verses do you think is hardest for parents to obey? Which is the hardest for kids to obey? Why? After reading these verses, what do you think is God’s number one goal for parents?
One day, many of you will become parents. It’s never too early to begin thinking about some of the choices you will need to make as a parent. It’s especially important to think about what you want to do differently from your parents and why. Why? Because the human tendency is to either do exactly what our own parents did or to do the exact opposite of whatever our parents did that we didn’t like. In practice, if we merely copy our parents, we may be copying their mistakes, too. If we decide to do the polar opposite of what they did, it is usually just as bad or worse for your kids as what you experienced.
Because no parent is perfect, it’s the job of each generation to prayerfully consider how they can improve the Christian parenting from one generation to the next. Some of you won’t need to change much and the things you do change may be more preference than anything (like serving ham rather than turkey at Thanksgiving). Others will need to change a lot to build a family that is more closely obeying God.
If you don’t think about those things now, your own parenting will be reactive rather than proactive. You will either mindlessly repeat what your parents did with you or you will do the exact opposite. Sometimes that will work well and sometimes it won’t. Thinking about it now will give you time to think about all the angles and make some intentional, proactive choices for parenting your future kids. Keep thinking about the topic between now and the time you have children and as you raise your own kids. What things need to be done to raise children who are pleasing to God? Your ideas on that may change as you get older, so you need to keep considering the question.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Explain to students that it’s rare for us to stop to consider the parenting styles of the various people in the Bible and the results. Have students pair up and look at scriptures about the various parents and kids in the Bible. What did the parents do well? Where did they make mistakes? What happened to their kids? Try to include parents who were godly, but raised ungodly kids like King David (the Bible actually tells us David didn’t spend enough time correcting his kids), Eli, etc. Also include bad kings who raised good kings like Ahaziah the bad king dad of good King Hezekiah and bad king Amon whose son was good king Josiah. Don’t forget good parents like Mary and Joseph, the Centurion and others like them.
As students share what they learn, adjust your chart from the opening activity. When you are finished, the lists should fairly accurately reflect the traits of godly and ungodly parents. Make sure students get a paper copy of both lists at some point. (Young people tend to hold onto paper and may see this list again when they are older.)
Application Challenge: Look back at the scriptures from the Bible lesson. Find a time when you and your parents are relaxed and have time for a talk. Ask them about how they view their parenting. Find out what they are trying to do the same or differently from their own parents. Ask them why they decided to change those things. Ask them about the hardest and the best things about being a parent. Ask them to share their dreams for your future. If your parents haven’t thought about these questions before, it may take them several conversations to be able to answer these questions. Be respectful and calm even if you don’t particularly like their answers. Remember the goal of this is to help you better understand the hearts of your parents, just like one day you will hope your own kids understand how much you love them.