Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

18 May 2010

Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes

I have just finished re-reading Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes.  One of the reasons I picked it up again was to locate the aforementioned quote - a quote that has served me well.  Circumstances had us move churches six times during the last ten years.  This quote has rebuked me when I have been tempted to personal laziness when in churches with great children's programmes, given me good courage when we were in churches with little or nothing for children and in all seasons, has challenged my thinking and spurred me on as I think about the nature of Christian parenting.

I didn't just hunt for the quote though and leave it at that.  I read the book right through because it's a great book.   It's not a parenting guide as such.  It's more a grab bag of good, solid ideas for godly parenting.  Some of the things they mention are not culturally relevant and some things I just wouldn't choose to do.  But lots of the Hughes' suggestions are terrific and truly helpful. 

One of the suggestions that really took my notice this time around was one to do with food!  In the chapter on building up strong family traditions they talk about meals on special occasions.

We have come to realise that consistency, not innovation for innovations' sake, is important.  So we have established tradition entrees: turkey at Thanksgiving, tamales and enchiladas on Christmas Eve, prime rib at Christmas, and lamb at Easter.  Predictable aromas, especially as they are associated with regular family celebration, enhance the anticipation of the event and more importantly build a sense of continuity and security-which is so important in this changing world.  (p. 51)

I really like this idea.  Building up traditions not just by the events themselves but through the senses.  We do it visually with decorations and music at Christmas and the sense of taste gets the big ticket at Easter with all that chocolate, but I do love this idea of appealing to the sense of smell as well.  I do this with fruit mince pies at Christmas - they certainly fill the house with a particular aroma, even if the children can't bear to eat them just yet.  (Which, I might add, is not a bad thing, because it leaves more for the grown ups!)  But now that I have some headspace to be thinking about cooking, it is worth thinking about extending this to other times of celebration during the year.

The other thing that stood out for me this time throughout the book, with all their suggestions and ideas, is the the Hughes' strong emphasis on prayer.  They dedicate a chapter to the role of prayer in parenting, which includes the list of headings they used to pray for their children - spirituality, character, friends, health, protection, problems, future spouse and praise.  But it is clear that they didn't have a tick box attitude to prayer with regards to their family because every chapter was infused with examples of praying with and for their children - it was underlying all the suggested activities in all their different contexts running through the book.  Regular, specific, sacrificial prayer.

Common sense tells us that the highest priority must be given to prayer if we hope to enhance our children's spiritual development.  Yet this is where so many parents fail to measure up.  Candid conversations have convinced us that many, perhaps most parents' family intercessions are little more than perfunctory nods toward God: 'Lord, bless Kaitlyn.  Keep her safe from harm, and help her to be a good girl and love you.  We thank you for her. Amen.'  This is, of course, an acceptable prayer.  But it isn't much of a prayer.  It lacks specificity, like the generic missionary prayer, 'Bless all the missionaries everywhere. Amen'  - and it is about as effective.  Effective intercession for our chilfren requires that we pray with the mind engaged, in detail, with appropriate earnestness... (p. 60)


I have heard a handful of Christian men and women interviewed at different times - older, godly, wonderful men and women whose children are all grown up and setting their own courses in life now, some well and some not so - who were asked if their was anything they regretted in how they did things with their families.  The universal answer is always, "I wish I had prayed more."  I guess in some respects that this will always be the case but in the context of lives that are naturally busy, it is good to reflect on their wisdom.

Everytime I read Disciplines of a Godly Family (or Disciplines of a Godly Woman, for that matter) I am encouraged and affirmed but I am also rebuked and challenged.  This time around, the challenge is to tighten up my prayer life with respect to our children.

And to cook a lamb roast on Easter Sunday.


Anonymous said...

I have purchased and have had my copy of this book on my bedside table for some time. I have dipped in and out of it but not read it cover to cover yet. Last night we finished our bible study on Philippians and one of the mums (my bible study is all young mums of very varying christian maturity) asked if we could do a study on christian parenting next term. I was encouraged by this because this particular mum labels herself as catholic and God has brought her to our church where she has been greatly encouraged and become involved in coming to church every week, playgroup and our busy mums bible study. I'm wondering if you think reading a chapter of this book each week and discussing the "Food for Thought" at the end of each chapter would be something worthwhile for our group? I'd love your advice and wisdom on this. Maybe you know of something else that would be more appropriate?? Thanks so much friend. Debbie

Meredith said...

Hi Debbie,

Always lovely to hear from you!

I think this book would be good to use in your Bible study situation - at least most of it. The benefit of this book is that it takes in the broad sweep of parenting. It isn't just focussed on the toddler years or the teenage years. And it is well founded on the Bible.

If I was going to use this in a Bible study I would probably only do the first seven chapters. The last three chapters are where it loses cultural relevance to the greatest degree. There is still plenty that is good in those chapters and hopefully if you have studied the first seven, they will go on and read the last three anyway and also have a wander through the appendices, which have some great bits and some dated bits and some completely not culturally relevant bits.

Young Christians and parents of very young children who are both after the ten top tips on how to be the consumate Christian parent may well be a little frustrated with the first seven chapters because, while filled with lots of practical bits, it is setting out a Christian foundation for long term good Christian parenting. Now I think that is very worthwhile and will have much longer lasting value than ten quick survival tips - and so I would do it and press on through. (And it won't be THAT hard to press on through as it is written in a light and entertaining way with lots of anecdotes.) Certainly the "Food for Thought" questions are good and will give enough material for some time in the Bible and good topics of discussion.

So, yes, I would do the first seven chapters.

In the remaining weeks, to get into something practical that deals the bread and butter stuff we all like to read (eg. discipline, manners, respect etc...all the stuff of the last three chapters) I would actually dip into "How to Really Love Your Child" by Ross Campbell. It is an easy read, on the same page and gives some good universals for creating a home environment of love, good discipline, respect and honouring God. Have you read that book?

Two books might be a bit much??? Maybe otherwise, as a means of getting in that more practical stuff after you have done seven weeks of "Disciplines of a God Family", get in some experts (those godly women whose children have all grown up and have set their sails in the Right direction) for a forum, Q & A session or the like.

They would be my thoughts. But I definitely think it is worth doing the first seven chapters in your group. (And point them to Disciplines of a Godly Woman at the end of the term for another good read!)

I'd love to hear what you decide to do. Please let me know. God bless. I wish I was in your Bible study group.