By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry
We’re not raising our children to hit some static, bulls-eye target, merely for practice or for displaying our exemplary archery (parenting) skills. We’re raising kingdom-advancing adults who will fulfill God’s living purposes. We want our kids to grow up to penetrate areas of evil, to shine brightly in a dark and needy world, and to rescue people, so that they, too, can experience God’s amazing salvation.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Our son & new-daughter, Josh & Anna, training village ministers in SE India
Arrows are Designed for Battle
Many homeschooling families love Psalms 127. We talk about our “arrows” and about how “happy is the man whose has his quiver full . . .”
But I want to focus on a different part of this Scripture. God compares us, as parents, to warriors, and God likens our children to arrows. In a time of war or battle, an arrow is not for merely “looking good” in a quiver; an arrow is designed to do strategic damage against the enemy.
Our son, Mark, at a home for abandoned children in Costa Rica
One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 2:10,
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Each child is designed by God, with unique talents, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, desires, and spiritual gifts. Each is created to love God and to love others, with a strategic purpose in God’s kingdom. According to this verse, God has prepared good works for each of us (that includes us, as parents, and our kids), so that that we should walk in them.
Our job as parents is to diligently train and disciple each child (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) so he or she will walk in this unique path that God has established. What an honor! God has entrusted us, as “stewards” of our children, with the privilege and responsibility to train each one for the Lord’s specific calling on his or her life. We are called to raise our sons and daughters for God’s glory and His eternal purposes.
Not just “good little kids”
Our goal is not to raise “our” kids to be happy and to make us look good, or to have others impressed by our super-parenting and homeschooling skills. Instead, we are called to raise “God’s” children to be holy and to glorify Him – in every season of life . . . in childhood (Jeremiah 1:5), in youth (I Timothy 4:12), and in adulthood.
For our family, our goal is not just to raise “good little kids” who will merely sit still in church and do what they’re told. We desire to raise dangerous men and daring daughters who will take leadership as servants in God’s kingdom. As mission-minded parents, we want to be like that mighty warrior described in Psalms. Our goal is not to keep our arrows “safe” in our quiver, but to aim our arrows to launch-out into adulthood with strategic kingdom-effectiveness and spiritual strength.
Our daughter, Caela, with orphan children in East Africa
Mentoring our children, through life and missions
As parents, we’re called to diligently train our children in the ways of God. We teach them. We train them. We mentor them. And we model, through our lives and example, what it means to follow and serve the Lord.
I’m a teacher at heart, and I love it when I can find a little “key” that can help me in memorizing a reference. Recently, as I was studying about the importance of mentoring our children, I came across two related verses with a unique similarity. Both are powerful verses about mentoring and making disciples. If you look at the references, they are easy to remember.
The first verse is I Corinthians 11:1.
(Do you see all of the “1’s” — 1 – 11 – 1 ?)
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
To effectively train our arrows for adulthood, we need to follow the example of Christ and to “model” what it means to be a faithful disciple. We simply train our kids to follow our example. We live-out our faith, day-by-day, and we teach our kids to follow us . . . as we follow Jesus. Then we train our kids to train others. We encourage each of our kids, at every stage of childhood, youth, and young adulthood, to be a good example for others.
This second verse is also a powerful mentoring scripture. Our homes can be like a discipleship training school for God’s kingdom. We teach our children . . . so they will be able to teach others.
The second verse is 2 Timothy 2:2.
(Do you see all of the “2’s” – 2 – 2 – 2 ?)
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others.”
The things that our kids learn (both by our “teaching” and by our example), they will be able to teach and model to others. In our family, we’re raising our arrows to be servant-leaders in their homes, in their churches, and in the world – to love God and to love others.
Releasing Our Arrows
In the last few months our family has transitioned into a new season of life. Our four oldest “kids” are now young adults and completely living on their own. All within a few weeks of each other, they emptied their closets, packed-up their vehicles and u-hauls, and moved from our home in Oregon to various locations across the United States: to Washington state, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts.
Our adult children now live in their own homes, own their own vehicles, have jobs, pay their own bills, and most importantly, all love Jesus. Three have graduated with bachelor’s degrees from their universities, and all (by the grace of God and through many scholarships and lots of hard work) are completely debt-free.
Three of our kids are married, which is so awesome. Two newlywed couples are involved in full-time missionary/ministry ministry and one newlywed son is working in an engineering internship while he and his bride finish their college degrees.
After graduating from an outstanding Christian university, our oldest son accepted a commission in the US Marines. He served in three overseas deployments, commanded a platoon of snipers in Afghanistan, and trained special forces in S.E. Asia. Recently, he was promoted to Captain in the USMC reserves (our own Captain America!), and he is now studying for his MBA at Harvard.
It’s strange how time passes. The “majority” of our seven “kids” are now in their 20′s. We love them more than ever, yet our parenting role has changed. As parents of adult children, we need to let go and allow each adult arrow to fly — free and unhindered. It’s what our arrows were designed for.
It’s a new season for me as a mom and for our family. It’s an exciting time of adventure . . . and trusting in God.
Grown-up in their youth
Just this month, our 11-year-old son Philip accompanied my husband and me on his first international mission trip. Our focus was checking-up on hundreds of orphan children, sharing the Gospel in a remote village, ministering in churches, and leading a conference for hundreds of national pastors and ministers.
For our son, it was a time of discipleship, one-on-one mentoring, and an exciting adventure. He experienced strange food and stinky “pit” latrines, counted thousands of wild animals on a real African safari, received a live-chicken for a gift, and had fun doing push-up competitions with his new Ugandan friends.
Several times, we gave Philip the opportunity to speak in various church services and school assemblies. During these time, he encouraged both children and adults to read their Bibles (sharing how he just finished his third time reading through the Bible). He also shared, in each situation, his favorite Bible verse:
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” –I Timothy 4:12
Raising Dangerous Men and Daring Daughters
We want our sons to be grown up and mature, even in junior high and in their teenage years – diligent, dependable, hard-working, spiritually-minded, able to lead and to serve.
We want our daughters to be beautiful pillars – to be a strength and stability in our family, in the church, in the lives of others, and in the kingdom of God.
Our heart is to raise our sons to be strong and our daughters to be daring.
We have always encouraged our children to be mature at every age — not led by their fleshly or selfish desires, but led by God and with obedience to Him – even in their childhood and youth.
I just love Psalms 144:12 –
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
That our daughters may be as pillars,
Sculptured in palace style;
A few photos of our “dangerous” sons, Patrick (above) and Daniel (below)
My husband, and our boys, are dangerous men for the kingdom of God; and they’ve lived through more dangerous situations than I can remember: smuggling Bibles into Communist China, preaching in a tin building being stoned by angry Islamic rioters, and surviving a life-threatening storm on an Antarctica-bound expedition.
So as a woman, and as a mom, how do you think that affects me?
Well I’ll tell you one thing. As a wife and mother who wants her men to be mighty for God, I have learned that “worry” is not my friend. Being fearful is not the “responsible momma-attitude” to have; being worried is not the same as showing love; and fear doesn’t do anybody any good. Fear is the opposite of faith.
Introducing a new E-Course: Daring Daughters
I would also like to invite anyone with daughter, age 12-20, to consider joining me this fall for a brand-new mother-daughter mentoring course with a heart for missions, called Daring Daughters. During this initial launch session, I’m offering this $49.99 E-Course for FREE (although you do need to REGISTER).
The 12-week E-Course includes weekly audios, downloads, live group coaching, and special guest interviews (introducing godly women with unique expertise and passion in various areas of world needs — leaders in missionary service, orphan ministry, pro-life work, medical missions, abstinence, goal-setting, homeschooling, motherhood, and international evangelism).
We just finished our first week’s lesson, but it’s definitely not too late to jump in! My heart is to encourage mothers and daughters to reach for God’s dreams . . . together.
There is a powerful dynamic when the zeal and energy of a teenage daughter is combined with the wisdom and spiritual maturity of a godly mom. There are so many needs in this world. My heart is to encourage you, as mothers and daughters, to open your eyes to a lost and dying world. We need to be filled with love, compassion, and surrendered obedience, to make a difference.
Let’s aim our arrows into adulthood . . . for God.