Surrendering Our Children
To kick off our series on living out surrendered lives to the glory of God, I chatted with Pastor Martin Winslow on what it looks like to surrender our children to the Lord. Pastor Winslow is the Pastor of Families, Children, and Missions at Canaan Baptist Church and before that served as headmaster of Ozarks Christian Academy in West Plains, Missouri. With a passion for Christian education, church planting, and the poor, Pastor Winslow has co-founded three Christian schools, collectively called Bethlehem Christian Academy. Bethlehem’s mission is to share the hope of Jesus Christ with orphans and impoverished children through Gospel-centered Christian education, with the goal of making disciples and planting churches. With two schools in Zambia and one in West Africa, Bethlehem continues to expand and reach more children through child sponsorships as well as church and corporate partnerships.
In 2019, Pastor Winslow published two books, New Testament 260: A One-Year New Testament Reading Plan and Navigation Tool and Parenting Tips for the Christian Home. It’s his hope that these books will help equip parents in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
With an obvious heart for children and families, Pastor Winslow was kind enough to share his insights on how we can surrender our children to the Lord.
Q: Webster defines surrender as “to yield to the power, control, or possession of another” or “to give oneself up into the power of another.” Why do you think it’s so hard for parents to “surrender” their children to the Lord?
A: Surrendering our children to the Lord’s will is extremely difficult. I think that having the proper perspective on who our children belong to is crucial for this conversation. It might be better as parents to think of ourselves as “stewards” who will give an account rather than “owners” of our children. I know that it might sound a bit cliché, but ultimately, our children belong to the Lord. While we may know this intellectually, living it practically is very difficult.
A good steward realizes that the “thing” they are stewarding doesn’t belong to them. They are responsible for the protection and care of whatever the owner has left in their charge. God has left us precious souls to steward as parents. We are responsible for their physical and spiritual care while they are under our charge. Preparing them for a life in submission to the Gospel should be our ultimate goal. Part of that is helping them to understand that they belong to God, not us. We have to “let go” in a sense when it comes to the hearts of our children. Paul says this well in 1 Corinthians 3:6–7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Moms and dads plant and water, but God gives the increase. They belong to Him and we must trust Him in that.
Q: The opposite of surrender is trying to exert tighter control or possibly even mistrusting God when it comes to our children. How might these unhealthy patterns exhibit themselves in the family?
A: Making a rule for everything! I’ve heard it said that “We trust the devil to mislead our children more than we trust the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth.” I agree with this. If our children have been born again, they have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them. The Spirit brings conviction of sin and the righteousness of God. We should be our children’s biggest spiritual coaches/cheerleaders, but they should also be allowed to make mistakes and learn to listen to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
When God created Adam and Eve, He turned them loose in a garden of “YES.” There was only one “no.” Many families have raised their children to know what the family is against (as demonstrated in the rules they’ve established) but the children have no idea what the family is for. Rules without relationship will eventually lead to rebellion. Rules are okay when they are in the context of a relationship that accepts children who fail, repent, and receive grace. Trying to control children so that mistakes aren’t made will only lead to disillusionment and legalism.
Q: Can you expound upon the freedom and peace that is found when we have a proper view of our children as gifts and ourselves as stewards? What benefits are to be derived for both parent and child when this view is taken?
A: Realizing that we are stewards of such an amazing gift as a child is certainly mind-blowing. There is definitely some freedom in knowing that God has a plan for each of my children. It’s His plan for their lives, not mine. While I’m a player in the story, He is ultimately moving them toward His end. I can rest in that, knowing that He always does what is right and good. This takes some pressure off of me as a parent. God has them.
At the same time, there are also some practical benefits for me as a parent in knowing that I am a steward. If I borrowed a truck from a friend so that I could move some of my things, I am going to be super careful with his truck. Maybe even more careful than I would be if it belonged to me! I have to give an account to my friend for how I treated his truck. At the end of the day, my wife and I will give an account to the Lord for how we raised our children. This is a benefit and reminder to us to take parenting seriously. The benefit to our children is to understand from a young age that they are ultimately accountable to the Lord for their actions. One day they will stand before Him and they want to be prepared and covered by the blood of Jesus.
Q: How can a parent practically surrender their children to the Lord? What might this look like in everyday life?
A: Everyone reading this is probably familiar with the term “helicopter parenting.” This refers to a parent or parents that take excessive interest in the lives of their children. Parents who try to micromanage every detail of their kids’ lives so that things end up going their children’s way. We must realize, however, that we aren’t called to manage every detail of our children’s lives, but instead prepare them for a life of making faithful decisions.
When parents are overprotective, their children are missing out on a steady growth in their independence. As hard as it might be, parents need to surrender their children to some mistakes. Their failures and mistakes are perfect catalysts for us to share the Gospel with them. I am not advocating allowing children to run headlong into something harmful! I am merely advocating allowing some failure as God teaches them through the Holy Spirit.
For parents who have a child struggling to connect with the Lord, prayer, as always, is our best weapon. Church history is full of stories of praying mothers who interceded for their children through prayer. St. Augustine’s mother, Monica, begged for God to change her son’s heart and He did in a mighty way! The famous missionary Hudson Taylor was desperately lost as a young man, but his mother, Amelia, kept crying out to God in earnest prayer and wasn’t surprised at all when Hudson told her of his conversion. We must never forget that our children are engaged in a spiritual battle just as we are. We have to lift them up to Jesus in fervent prayer and rely on the Holy Spirit to direct, guide, and change their hearts.
Q: What final word of encouragement would you give to the Christian parent who wants to faithfully walk out shepherding their child while also releasing him/her to the Lord?
A: Before the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land, God gave them some important words for child-rearing through Moses. He said, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7). Faithful shepherding is a 24/7 job for parents. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that God has a plan for them. No matter how good of a plan that we think we might have for them, God is the one who knows the beginning and the end. Don’t forget that verse out of 1 Corinthians 3 . . . we plant and water as parents but God brings the increase.
Pastor Winslow makes his home in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife, Amy, and five children. Connect with him online at http://www.nextgenerationfaithfulness.com/ and learn more about Bethlehem Christian Academy at https://bcaministries.com/.