Cross-Shaped Parenting: 4 Takeaways from the 2017 ERLC National Conference

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Adoption. Technology. Same-sex attraction. The birds and the bees. These were just a few of the topics addressed at the 2017 ERLC National Conference. A sold-out crowd gathered to learn about Christ-centered parenting in Nashville, TN, and many more watched via Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary‘s livestream.

Here are four lessons I walked away with. (If you were at the conference, I’d love to hear your takeaways, too.)

1. Parenting is spiritual warfare.

Parenting is difficult. If you’ve been a parent for any amount of time, you know this to be true. Russell Moore explained why parenting is so hard in his keynote. “Family is not just biological. Family is spiritual warfare,” Moore said.

As a result, the best parenting aid isn’t a book or a technique. It’s not about whether you bottle-fed or breast-fed your infants. It’s not even about whether you sent your kids to public or private school. The best spiritual aid is prayer. “The thing that will have the biggest impact on your kid is a few calluses on your knees and an open Bible,” Crawford Lorritts explained in his talk. Nancy Guthrie echoed this observation. “Parenting in the hard seasons teaches us persistence in prayer,” she said

And when hard times come your way in parenting, don’t expect that God will necessary remove them. “The Bible doesn’t give us a way to avoid the difficulty of parenting,” Moore said. “It gives to us a word of the cross.” In other words, the cross shows us that Jesus was willing to suffer. In the same way, Christian parents can emulate their savior’s suffering.

Parenting may not be easy. But we can look to our savior for strength.

2. Parents, your example matters.

Parents, you influence your children not just in what you say, but in how you live. Parents can model a Christ-changed life to their children.

First, spouses can model practical, sacrificial love for each other and their family. Danny Akin said,

J. D. Greear echoed these themes. “Most men would be fired if they put in the same level of effort at work that they put in for family health,” he said.

Second, fathers can model respect for women. Dean Inserra explained that the most important rule in his home is that his boys respect their mother and respect their sisters. This step reinforces that women deserve respect, not objectification.

Third, parents can model how to use technology wisely. “Parents, the biggest threat to technology and media use is your relationship to it.” said Jen Wilkin. If your kids see you staring at screens all day, they will follow your example.

Fourth, parents can model the importance of family. “Family dinner may be the most counter-cultural thing you can do,” Wilkin said.

And when parents do model Christ-like love, the results can be powerful. “If the father comes to Christ, there is a 93% chance that everyone else in the family will come to know Christ,” said Greear. And Crawford Loritts acknowledged that his father taught him more important lessons than any leadership book or blog ever could. “My greatest lessons in leadership came from a grandson of a slave,” he said.

Parents, your example matters.

“You say, ‘I would die for my wife.’ Great. But will you wash the dishes? You say, ‘I would die for my wife.’ But will you change dirty diapers? You say, ‘I would die for my wife.’ But will you watch the kids for your wife?”

3. Your children need to see their place in biblical big picture.

Parents, your family isn’t an island. Your children need biblical community.

This community is essential to their spiritual growth. Dr. Naomi Cramer Overton observed a startling statistic about the kids who continue to follow Christ after they leave the home. “Statistically, children who retain their faith have 5 faith-filled relationships with adults. They have served alongside adults,” she explained.

Greear also noted that your kids will become their the people they spend the most time with. “You show me their friends, I’ll show you their future,” he said. Biblical community matters.

In addition to needing biblical community, your children need to see their role in the mission of God. “Our kids were given to us for the purpose of sending them into the mission. That changes how we parent them,” Greear explained. “The ultimate mission of family isn’t to keep kids from harm, but to mobilize them for the mission of God.”

Crawford Lorritts explained it simply and succinctly: “From the time our kids are babies we must whisper in their ears that they were born for the glory of God.” God has a plan for your kids, and it involves his church, his mission and his glory.

4. Storytelling is a powerful tool.

Friday night’s sessions concluded with an all-star lineup of storytellers: Phil Vischer (of VeggieTales fame), Sally Lloyd-Jones (author of The Children’s Storybook Bible) and singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson. These gifted artists shared how and why stories matter for families.

“A story is the most effective way to ambush us,” Lloyd-Jones explained. Stories don’t come right at us with truth; they sneak around our defenses to tell us deeper truths we might not have believed otherwise.

Phil Vischer noted how many good stories contain traces of the gospel, whether the authors of those stories know it or not. “In every good story, something broken must be healed, and something must die to make it happen,” he said.

Andrew Peterson then used storytelling to tell us his own life story. He concluded with this stirring observation: “If the gospel matters at all, it matters in every corner of the universe.”

So don’t be afraid to read that bedtime story. Don’t grow weary of reading the classics. For good stories show evidence of the grace of God, and they can point our children to the true story of the whole world.

These takeaways are just a small bit of all that was discussed at the 2017 ERLC National Convention. What did you take away? Let us know in the comments below.

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Nathaniel D. Williams

Editor and Content Manager

Nathaniel D. Williams (M.Div, Southeastern Seminary) oversees the website, podcast and social media for the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, and he serves as the pastor of Cedar Rock First Baptist Church. His work has appeared at Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Fathom Mag, the ERLC and He and his family live in rural North Carolina.

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