With the New Year fast approaching, it’s time to think through setting yearly goals for our children. This post is divided into two parts to make it more “digestible.”
Our family likes to use the Luke 2:52 approach, which states how “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.” In this passage, we see four areas to consider for our children. The first is the mind (wisdom), followed by the body (stature), then spirit (favor with God), and relationships (favor with man).
Edric has a spreadsheet for our kids that includes columns labeled with each of these areas. At the beginning of the year, he and I will discuss our goals for our children, and he will fill in the columns and target dates.
This may sound like a nerdy way to set goals for our children, however, it has helped us to be purposeful. Some families may not opt to set goals in this manner. They may want to use a simple list that covers the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development of their children.
Whichever method they implore, the key is to be purposeful. Successful companies have annual planning meetings to assess where their companies are at, project profits, and to determine direction. As parents, we ought to be as intentional and even more so about the way we raise our children.
Many giants of the faith were faithful followers of God who performed miracles, prophesied, and influenced cultures and nations. However, they neglected their first ministry – their families. Take for instance, Samuel, a judge and prophet who was personally called by God in his sleep to serve Him. It is said of Samuel that “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:19-20)
He advised the first king of Israel, Saul, and anointed the great King David. Yet, we know from the Scriptures that Samuel’s sons were not godly men. “And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel…His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.” (1 Samuel 8:1,3)
How is it that one of the most faithful messengers of God to His people failed in his fathering?
On the one hand, he had a bad example in Eli, who played the role of a pseudo dad as he mentored Samuel. Samuel lived with Eli when he was weaned from his mother, Hannah, who had dedicated him to the Lord. From a young age, Samuel’s ideas about fathering were modeled by Eli. Eli, while succeeding at raising Samuel, failed as a father to his own sons. His sons were described as “worthless men who did not know the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:12) Their sin was very great because they “despised the offering of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:17) Though Eli tried to speak with them to correct their behavior, it was too little too late. His sons “did not listen, and the Lord intended to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:25)
There are other clues to Samuel’s father issues. In 1 Samuel 7, there is an insert about Samuel’s ministry, explaining that he “used to go annually on circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. Then his return was to Ramah, for his house was there, and there he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to the Lord.” Traveling these distances every year naturally consumed much of his time, besides executing the duties of judge to the people. No doubt this took away opportunities to disciple his own kids.
Perhaps Samuel also had a tendency to look at appearances rather than the heart. We see this when he was tasked to go to the house of Jesse to look for a successor to King Saul. His instinct was to choose based on appearances and God specifically told him to look at the heart. It’s possible that as a parent, he didn’t do his due diligence in seeing the hearts of his sons. His focus may have been on the appearance of goodness in his children while failing to recognize unchecked character issues that blossomed into dishonesty, bribery, and perversion of justice.
It’s sobering for us to consider this reality as we raise up our own kids. If great men of God can fail at parenting, how much more susceptible are we to do the same! This is why we need to think through what our children will grow up to be like. A thriving ministry, as well as workplace and business success cannot compensate for lack of intentional discipleship in the home. We can’t assume that our faithful service to God will, by virtue of osmosis, be embraced by our children. Neither should we content ourselves with our kids finishing college and getting good jobs or starting up businesses. While these are important, the greater measures of success are whether they will turn out to be men and women of integrity who know how to serve others, stay faithful to a spouse, raise godly children, and make a positive difference for Christ in this world.
Therefore, let us not be shortsighted as we set our goals, assuming that our job is done when our kids complete their schooling years. Luke 2:52 is included as a description about Christ when he was at the age of twelve. After this time, he makes his appearance in public ministry at the age of thirty. Up until this point, he continued to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. Similarly, every year, we ought to envision and plan for our children to do the same.
For those of us with older children, goal-setting may involve asking them what they are interested in and what they would like to accomplish in the year. Encouraging them to be involved in the planning also makes them more committed to achieving yearly goals.
We would like to share with you some of the ways our children are growing in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. Since these examples are personal, may God help you to think through what can apply to your own children and family context.
Growing in Wisdom
Wisdom is the ability of a person to apply knowledge and make right choices. Ultimately, we want our children to have godly wisdom. When they are out of our sights or when they eventually leave our home, will their decisions honor God and please Him?
Knowledge and wisdom have to go together. Solomon asked of God, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10) He knew that knowledge in the sense of facts and information was not enough to make him a good leader. He needed the combination of wisdom and knowledge.
As our children acquire knowledge through the study of subject areas, we need to balance this out with an understanding of who God is and what His principles for living are. A brilliant mind that doesn’t fear God or have a conscience can be a dangerous weapon!
Take for instance, our son, Elijah, who has always been interested in and become very capable in the area of technology. At the age of twelve, he was tinkering with gadgets and figuring out how to jail-break old Ipads and phones. We allowed him do so and paid for online programs so that he could learn programing. A year later he was building apps and websites. At a certain point the idea of hacking interested him as well as the ability to circumvent restrictions so that he didn’t have to pay for apps or movies. We told him to stop doing this because it wasn’t legal. Thankfully, he is a young man who fears God so he exercised restraint and self-control!
He is learning to channel his knowledge to worthwhile pursuits. Very recently, he created a forum for homeschooler friends where they discuss math problems, science, and exchange ideas. It’s a much wiser application of the knowledge he has acquired! He isn’t aspiring to hack anymore. Whew.
Considering our child’s interest is also a good starting point for planning out goals because it’s an integrative approach to learning. For example, instead of our kids studying math or reading as separate subjects, why not give them opportunities to exercise the usefulness of both?
Last year, Titus wanted to start his own stock portfolio as an eight-year old. His older brothers had already done so when they each turned nine, but Titus expressed the desire to get involved in investing earlier to compete with Elijah and Edan. It was a great way for him to apply math, reading, research, and critical thinking skills. So Edric included this goal in our yearly plan for Titus. Before the end of 2016, Titus attended a three-hour seminar by COL Financial where he learned the basics of investing in stocks. Edric asked him to think through which companies he would like to invest in, and he got his portfolio up with stocks from Pure Gold, Ayala Corporation, Rockwell, and SMPH. He now knows how to go online to research and purchase stock options on his own, too.
Our second son, Edan hopes to travel the world someday and talk to people about Jesus, so he asked if he could do foreign language studies this year. At present, he uses apps and travel books to teach himself Spanish and Chinese. During the day when he wants to work on his language studies, we set aside time for him to do this as well. He’s still at the beginner levels but his motivation keeps him going. Lord willing, this desire to share the gospel around the world will be fulfilled in the future.
Growing in wisdom may often supersede yearly subject area requirements. While it’s beneficial to cover minimum learning competencies as outlined by the Department of Education, these do not have to restrict us from identifying loftier goals for our children that take into account their gifts, interests, and dreams.
We want our kids to develop their physical abilities such as their artistry, musicality, and athleticism, and we want them to be healthy and fit. Since each of our kids is at different stages of ability and capacity, we have to be specific about what activities we expose them to.
This past year, one of our aims was to help our sons find sports they wanted to focus on. Elijah let us know that he was open to training on a swim team and continuing with tennis. Our four other kids are also doing tennis. Since paid classes are usually once a week and our boys need more physical activity, Edric revised the specifics of our yearly stature goal to include an exercise regimen for our sons. Edric also participates in this fitness program with them as a way of bonding with our boys. The girls, on the other hand, are pressing on with their ballet.
As for music and art, two of our kids play violin, and two others are doing piano. All of them are enrolled in a painting class. We also make time for art at home. Since their preferences may change as they discover what they are really good at, we ask them at the beginning of each year if they are open to sticking to the same music and art classes or switching to something else.
Edan used to take violin but didn’t develop a love for it. We really hoped he would stick it out, imagining a future when our three boys would be “jamming” on their violins together. However, he emphatically told us he would like to take up piano instead. Allowing him to let go of violin to focus on piano was one of the best decisions we made. After one year of piano playing, Edan progressed quickly. From simple pieces, he tackled compositions like “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Since he was so excited to learn an instrument that he actually enjoyed, he pushed himself to practice and work hard.
To continue, read: Setting Yearly Goals for Our Children Part 2