Preparing Children to Be Around Unbelievers: 4 Moms

It’s that time of year when many are getting together and spending more time with unbelieving family members. moms of many manageSome must even deal with family that is critical and/or antagonistic of their faith or decisions about how to raise their children. This week the 4 Moms of 35 Kids are talking about how to prepare our children to be around unbelieving family or friends.

I don’t believe there is one right way to manage interactions with other people, believing or not. We are all different, with different backgrounds, maturity levels, motivations etc. and so even identical circumstances might need to be handled differently depending upon the people involved.

My assumptions for this post are that you have a vibrant, active and healthy relationship with your children, that your children would naturally desire to come to you with questions and that you, the parent (not peers or others),  are the main influence in your children’s lives.

Pray, pray, pray.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men generously. ~ James 1:5

Actively work to train up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph.6:1-4) Saturate your children in the Word of God which is the best defense one can have against error, attack or unbelief. (Eph. 6:10-20)

Don’t be afraid to talk with your children, but don’t force it. There probably is no need to sit your 4 year old down and tell him, “Great Aunt Cecilia is not a Christian.” However, we have found that as our children have matured, they’ve come to us with questions about how a friend’s words or actions don’t align with God’s Word. This is a great opportunity to, first of all, remind them how often their (and our) actions do not align with God’s Word and that we are not able to judge a persons heart. It’s also a good opportunity to speak with them honestly about the situation.

Protect your children, but don’t overprotect to the detriment of relationship. Remember that there is nothing inherently sinful about being in the presence of sinful behavior, (i.e. foul speech, drunkenness, etc.). This is where parents need wisdom to make decisions in each specific instance.

If you have your child’s heart there is little to fear from occasional exposure ungodly thoughts, ideas and attitudes. There may also be little to fear in criticism of firmly held beliefs and ideas. We are after all to be in the world, even though we are not to be of the world. (Please don’t misunderstand the Proverbs are chock full of warnings about ungodly companions.) However, there are two sides of this ditch. We are to protect our children and some things can be particularly damaging.

Two things we have done in regard to protecting our children is that our children are never left under the authority of an unbeliever and we  do not expect them to encounter those who are antagonistic to our faith alone. In other words, we primarily protect our children by staying with them.

Teach your children to stand firm with love. This is done by example. As your children see you interact with unbelievers (and sinful believers) with love, compassion and firmness, they will learn to follow your example.

Another important aspect of our children learning to interact and respond with love is to watch what we model for them in private. We can not expect our children to interact with love, if they are hearing unloving criticism for the beliefs or ideas of others in the privacy of their home. Our children should hear truthful, biblical criticism of thoughts and ideas that are contrary to Scripture, but that criticism should be tempered with humility and love.  Often when we are discussing an error of our culture, we take a moment to examine how we fail in much the same way in our own personal lives.

What strategies do you use to prepare your children to interact with unbelievers, family or otherwise?

Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about this topic:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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11 Responses to Preparing Children to Be Around Unbelievers: 4 Moms
  1. Nikki
    December 1, 2011 | 11:32 am

    Good post. You give us such a great reminder. I especially loved this paragraph,

    “Two things we have done in regard to protecting our children is that our children are never left under the authority of an unbeliever and we do not expect them to encounter those who are antagonistic to our faith alone. In other words, we primarily protect our children by staying with them.”

    I think this is CRUCIAL– especially with the young, easily impressed ones.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Thanks Nikki.

    Another aspect of staying with our children is that, within the realm of that protection, our children have the opportunity to build healthy relationships with those who hold a wide variety of beliefs and they can witness how adults handle disagreements (rather than learning from their peers that anyone who is different in any way will be is the butt of all jokes, teasing and even bullying).

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  2. Diana
    December 1, 2011 | 11:41 am

    Thank you for this post. As I was reading it two thoughts came to mind.

    1. I need these words of wisdom for my own life. (forever reviewing) :-)
    2. I need to share this with a women that I’m mentoring who needs to grow in this area of “in this world, but not of it” and “not judging a heart”. She has so much fear in her life, and needs to mature.

    Thank you again for a very timely subject.

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  3. Musings Of A Minister's Wife
    December 1, 2011 | 12:46 pm

    I enjoyed reading this, because we are in a unique position in our ministry. My husband is a prison chaplain and we are very involved in the community. We believe in x, y, z and we often find ourselves around other people that only believe in x or x and y but seldom x, y, and z. :)

    I believe the most important thing we do for our children is to make sure they are properly educated about our beliefs and that they are raised in a non-judgmental atmosphere. If we are guests at another church affiliation, it is not their job to go around and educate people. Their responsibility is to live how we have been taught and if they are approached with questions, then they are allowed to answer.

    Thanks for the excellent post!

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  4. Sarah Stinnett
    December 1, 2011 | 1:52 pm

    Very interesting post:) My kids are around unbelievers every day. My husband is not a believer and my kids attend public school. I know that they share Jesus even in pre-k and Kindergarten. I am very involved and we stay in God’s Word daily and talk about the differences in what it says and the world says.

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  5. Emily
    December 1, 2011 | 4:23 pm

    Thank you for this post. My brother has recently decided to convert to another religion, one that requires him to dress differently and grow a beard. He and his wife have changed everything about their life, their dress, their home, their food, and how they spend their time. It has brought up a lot of questions from my children. We stayed in their home over Thanksgiving and it brought up even more questions. This has been a very difficult time for our family. I appreciate your insights on this sensitive subject.

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  6. anonymous
    December 1, 2011 | 5:20 pm

    I have a question. On one side of our family we are the only ones with children. There are two adult family members who are homosexual. They bring their “partners” to family gatherings and there isn’t outright kissing so much as holding hands, rubbing arms, etc. Basically the same public displays of a man and wife. My husband and I moved away to separate ourselves from many family members for this and similar reasons. So any holiday get together are “back home”.If any comment is said that we don’t wish our children to see and we ourselves are uncomfortable,these particular members are quick to snap back with comments of us being judgmental. They are members of a Lutheran church that believes homosexuality is acceptable. This is all so sad. Any ideas on how to see certain loved ones without letting others impact negatively?

    [Reply]

    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    It’s exactly these types of situations that I had in mind when I said that this takes much wisdom and prayer.

    Pray, show love and grace to your family, be willing to sacrifice any personal opinions, but do not compromise on God’s standards.

    Perhaps you could invite family to your home, meet halfway or visit during non-holiday times.

    May God give you grace, love and strength.

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    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    If you’d like more help, we have a good friend whose full time ministry is to help homosexuals, their family and friends. He would be happy to give you some book suggestions or speak with you on the phone.

    If you’d like to contact him, please shoot me an email at kimberly at raisingolives dot com

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    anonymous Reply:

    Thank you for the offer! Since my post, I found that another family member has sought counsel on this matter. He was reminded that we must be careful of the conduct we allow into our homes because they are not truly “ours”. We are but servants awaiting the Masters return. The family member and her partner are being approached before the holiday by the family member who “owns” the home where we meet. Thank you for the insight and any prayers offered!:)

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  7. Katie
    December 6, 2012 | 9:07 pm

    My parents are unbelievers, and my husband and I have been wrestling with how to keep our children from ever being “under their authority.” The problem is my believing in-laws are also in town, and we have no problem with them watching the kiddos. Should we not allow anyone to watch them so we don’t seem biased. I obviously do not want to offend anyone, but especially my parents while I am constantly trying to plant the seed of the gospel. We have baby three coming soon and are anticipating a couple nights at the hospital. This is when it really gets tricky, for we need others to stay with our kiddos. We have purposed to really stay together as a family as well.

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