Friday, June 24, 2011

Revolutionary Parenting

Revolutionary parenting, George Barna

I thought I was having a break from parenting books, but a request for input combined with a trip to Koorong drove me to the ‘parenting shelves’ and now I have made another few purchases.

First one I read was Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna. It’s a short book to read ~150 pgs and it only takes about 2 hours, but it packs a punch which I am still thinking through.

Barna’s premise is that we are over-saturated with parenting books, however none are based on objective research. Rather virtually everything we read on parenting is someone’s opinion, assumptions, observations or experience. He set out to change that. He is founder of the Barna Group, a research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture. What they have done is survey, research and interview people who he terms ‘spiritual champions’; and their parents, whom he terms ‘revolutionary parents’. ‘Spiritual champions’ are
individuals who have embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord; accept the Bible as truth and as the guide for life; and seek to live in obedience to it’s principles and in search of ways to continually deepen their relationship with God. (xvi)

He goes on to further expound how they might look:
  • they possess a biblical worldview that affects decision making, including the fact that there are moral absolutes
  • they believe they have been created by God to serve Him
  • they believe that our lives should reflect the character of God
  • they carefully screen the media they ingest
  • they have a deep and intense commitment to their relationship with God and other Christians
  • they strive to change the world in small but life-impacting ways

The book is then divided into 3 sections. The first section describes the crisis in parenting (in an American context). The second details the research and the third summarises some bible teaching and a way forward (I thought this third section was the weakest).

The second section which details the research and its results, and is by far the bulk of the book, is excellent. Barna has divided it up into chapters which address all aspects of parenting, and how being a ‘revolutionary parent’ can affect real change in our children, helping them to become spiritual champions. He addresses character, discipline, roles of a parent, planning as a parent, faith and how we teach it, and many other aspects.

Personally, I found it very helpful. It made me stop and think again about the choices we have made and continue to make for our children. It gave me confidence that some of the decisions we have already made were good and that we should stand firm in them, despite what others may think. It also made me think again about what the most important things are that we want to teach our children and to keep trying to keep them at the forefront of our minds and planning. These are primarily the matters of faith we want to teach our children, and the way we want to do so.

However, I suspect this book also (like any parenting book) has the ability to cause doubts, despair and guilt. Because it’s research that’s being presented, it is quite dry and then quite directive. He draws direct links between this is what they did and it worked, therefore you should do the same. As a result, many who are already a little way in to this whole parenting thing could just end up feeling inadequate and guilty for what they have not done with their children.

Having said that, the overriding message of the book is: you can do this. You can parent your children this way. He also gives two very helpful and important reminders along the way.

1. Many parents they spoke to did not have an upbringing that prepared them to be spiritual champions, and many are not ‘superstar’ Christians today. This is immensely relieving! What those parents decided however was that the greatest gift they could give their children was a sound upbringing based on biblical principles. (p30)

2. We cannot control the outcome of our parenting. Our responsibility is the obedient to God in raising our children, but the outcomes are up to him. (p24). This is incredibly freeing! All we can do is continue to be faithful, and trust God with the outcome.

It’s a book well worth reading. If you are willing to be challenged about what your parenting priorities are in raising children who will love the Lord Jesus, add it to your parenting book collection – it will get you thinking about how you want to do so.

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