Parent “Sinnered” Parenting

Neal Nelson Blog

neal and kidsOne of the reoccurring stories in almost 20 years as a campus minister was from unchurched college students who had concluded that Christianity (or at least the church) was not relevant because of the perceived hypocrisy of others. The “others” were sometimes friends, classmates, adults in positions of authority, and frequently their parents.  It was this perception that I’ve consistently labored to dismantle in my years of ministry.

The immaturity of their teen friends and classmates was easy to dismiss.  I felt confident in encouraging them not to make conclusions about Jesus and the Christian life based on “pre-adults” who were rarely imitation-worthy in other areas of their lives.  I also reasoned that perhaps the adults in positions of authority in their life got a bad rap from the typical authority-resistant teen.  However, when parents were the antagonist in the “hypocrisy” story I found myself wondering or worrying about my own children.

My children witnessed all my “good, bad and ugly.”  I  worried that my kids, because they witness my own sin struggle (anger, self-centeredness, discontentment, apathy, etc.) would one day conclude that the whole Jesus thing was a farce.

We all sin so I am assuming that most parents understand the tension described above which eventually led me to develop my own philosophy of parenting.  As a parent or soon-to-be parent, you may have heard of the child-centered parenting philosophy or its nemesis the parent-centered parenting philosophy.  However, have you heard of my philosophy: “parent- sinnered” parenting?

Parent “Sinnered” Parenting means:

  1. We consistently acknowledge our sin to our children.
  2. We explain how Jesus has worked and is working in our life in spite of our sin.
  3. We model asking forgiveness.
  4. We model giving and receiving grace.
  5. We explain the importance of spiritual maturity.

The reassuring truth about centering our life on the person of Jesus is that we have by definition anchored ourselves into some amazing realities like…

  • We admit we are sinners and we need help. (not an excuse to sin, see Romans 6-8)
  • We are NOT slaves to sin.(Romans 6, Galatians 4)
  • He is for us. (John 1:17)
  • His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This philosophy most matches my reality and hopefully will help my children reconcile my professed faith in Jesus with my sin struggle.  We will see. With six children, from age 2 to 17, my wife and I have decided that it will be a looooooong time before we really know if we have been good parents.