Parenting: Q & A with Dr. Dave & Donalyn Currie: SOLO Influence—How do I raise my family God’s way when my spouse isn’t interested?
QUESTION: I want to build my family on God’s principles, but my spouse has very little interest in spiritual things. What do I do?
Dave: Donalyn and I sympathize with you, and the challenge that your circumstance brings. The complexities you face as you try to influence your family will be difficult, but the impact of your life really can make a difference. Many kids have grown up in homes where either Mom or Dad doesn’t know or follow the Lord, but the other parent has compensated so effectively through their own spiritual integrity, that the kids went on to have a positive, life-changing impact on their world for the Lord.
Donalyn: The most important thing for you to do is to let your kids see the difference Jesus makes in your life. To be consistent in your walk, you need to clearly know what God’s Word says about healthy life principles. Be sure that your spirituality isn’t driven just by traditions, but that it’s authentic.
Dave: That’s right Donalyn. If we want our kids to bleed, we have to hemorrhage spiritually.
Donalyn: It’s very important to make the principles of God’s Word practical to the children. Even as they grow into teens, they need to see that God’s ways make sense in the day-to-day stuff. Dave and I have always advocated using teachable moments instead of pushing a family altar.
Dave: Don’t misunderstand us here. There is a place for having a regular family time focused on God and His Word. But it gets complicated when there’s a wide age span with the kids, or when one spouse isn’t really on board. It might be better to encourage your kids individually to think about the spiritual side of life, and to take advantage of teachable moments that arise naturally. Give God’s perspective on the situations you face daily as a family. That’s using the teachable moments wisely.
These daily doses of spiritual input are really crucial. You may also want to look into getting a picture Bible for your younger children to begin reading through with you. We used it with all four of our kids, and it provided them with an interesting introduction to spiritual things, while also getting them into the habit of studying the Bible on their own.
Donalyn: It’s important that you reach out beyond your family too, and solicit the help of others in your community. Work hard to be positive about your church and the programs that are available. If your children aren’t excited about the children’s or youth programs, it’s very important for you to see what you can do to help – help out to make them better, to improve them. Or even encourage them to attend other youth programs that their friends are involved in. What’s important is that you find a place beyond just your own home where your kids can receive spiritual input.
Dave: I really agree with that. It is so critical to facilitate a healthy church community for your kids. If it takes a little money to get them to youth outings or events, go for it. It’s much better to have them connected to healthy young people with great leaders, than to be stingy on finances.
Donalyn: Further, take the opportunity to encourage your kids to participate in other fun Christian events like concerts, youth rallies, mission trips and the like. A lot of young people make fabulous life changes at summer camps. Keep these things in mind.
Work hard to encourage friendships with other Christian children and facilitate outings and sleepovers with other Christian families. This is not only good for your kids, but it’s also a great idea for you to get together with other Christian parents to receive their support and ideas.
Dave: Now, we’ve been talking a lot about the influence that we can have on our family, but our family does include our spouse. So, I want to transition now to the other half of the issue of what to do when my spouse has very little spiritual interest. How do I operate? You need to consider how you can influence your partner to begin to grow spiritually.
In 1 Peter 3:1-6, we find some amazing guidelines on how to win over a partner from non-belief to a commitment to Christ. Though it specifically addresses wives whose husbands do not know the Lord, the principles are the same either way. Scripture clearly says that these spouses may be “won over without words by the behavior of their spouses when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” To really influence your spouse, your life has to reek of genuineness. Basically, you need to talk far less and live it a lot more.
Donalyn: That’s right Dave. I want to speak to women for a minute. Notice that it says that our beauty shouldn’t be just outward beauty, but the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is beautiful to God. But it does also imply that there needs to be a physical beauty as well. And so, basically what we’re saying to wives whose husbands aren’t believers is that you need to live with integrity, take care of yourself, support your husband, encourage him, have a fabulous relationship with him, and make the relationship work. It’s in that context that you have the best opportunity to influence him for the Lord.
Dave: Even though your spouse has little interest in spiritual things, it is important to talk openly, both about your child-rearing decisions and your interest in developing their spiritual dimension. Your spouse needs to at least be in agreement with the direction that you would like to go in nurturing the kids’ walk with God.
Donalyn: This whole process needs to be bathed in prayer. You need to pray for your kids, that they would follow the Lord, and that you would have wisdom in guiding them in His way. But further, you need to pray for your spouse: that God would soften their heart toward spiritual things and that you would live a consistent, caring life in front of them that would be a drawing card for them into God’s kingdom.
Dave: This is a daunting task, because often the children will settle in with the lowest common denominator when it comes to faith. Somehow if it’s good enough for one parent, that’s good enough for them. Your challenge will be to nurture your kids to a higher level of spiritual commitment than they see in your spouse who isn’t interested in God.
Donalyn: Your primary focus needs to be living your life in a way that honors God. Love your family with an unquenchable love and pray fervently that God would use your life and the lives of those around you to draw your kids and ultimately your spouse into a wonderful, real, vibrant relationship with God.
We’d like to hear from you. What has helped you raise your kids in the faith alone? Send us your comments or questions at www.DoingFamilyRight.com. Download our phone app to take some of the best God-honoring marriage and family help with you.
© Dr. Dave Currie – April 2014
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