I never imagined when David and I married that we would end up with 9 children. We lost quite a few others along the way through miscarriage but we are very thankful for our nine. Having a big family is a big responsibility and for us the most important thing was, and is, to train up our children in Gods way. We have seen so many Christian families lose their kids to the world that we really considered how to raise a family with more likelihood of our children desiring to be disciples of Christ.
It is the most amazing blessing to have all nine of our children walking with the Lord. I don’t think that it was just luck or that we were perfect, we aren’t, but there are things we did that I believe have helped our children to walk and maintain their walk with the Lord. Obviously the grace of God is at work for there to be such a good outcome. We will never know how much the Lord has helped us and blessed us. But we have also chosen to do things different to the norm and I do believe this has been an integral part of seeing each child safely through to accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and continuing on in the faith.
One of the most radical things we did was to start homeschooling when our eldest was 10 years old (22 yrs ago). We pulled him and Joanne, out of school and Matthew out of kindy and we began the scary task of homeschooling. It was hard at first, feeling like we were being looked at through a microscope by family and friends and I remember one friend saying, ‘we’ll be watching you’ ( with the tone of voice that suggested she thought we would fail). As we focused on our children’s characters- honesty, integrity, good attitude, helpfulness, Christ-likeness and the like, the academics fell into place too. Our kids started learning more than us! Our eldest started his accounting degree, part-time at 14yrs old by correspondence through Open Universities (attaining his degree at 19yrs). I do believe homeschooling really helped us as parents to keep the hearts of our children, and subsequently see each of them maintain their personal relationship with the Lord.
Then about 18 years ago we chucked out our TV. At the time this was a very radical thing to do as there was no internet, computers or mobile phones. We copped a lot of criticism for doing this, but it has to have been one of the best things we ever did. We had the evenings free. Our older children all taught themselves musical instruments, as being on one income we couldn’t afford lessons. We had more family time and time to pursue other interests. It was also a way to protect our children from porn, but of course today it’s different. We still don’t have a TV but we do have computers, internet and mobile phones. Our children have limited time to play computer games and they watch no more than one (parent approved) movie a week. Our kids don’t get their first phone until they get their first job and then they pay for their phone themselves. Our kids generally don’t get onto social media until 16 years or older, and interestingly none of them have pushed to have this earlier. By this age they are generally more aware of the dangers of social media having talked to them about the easy access to porn and how to avoid it and turn away from it. I say, “never look twice”. Sometimes you can come across things unawares so the principle of not looking again at anything that is dubious is a good lesson to learn, coupled with the fruit of the Spirit; self-control. We regularly check with our kids if they are struggling with any temptation. It’s not easy in our modern world to stay pure but it’s oh so necessary if we are to be holy as Christ is holy. Accountability is beneficial and necessary if we and our children are to stay free from falling into temptation.
I trust we’ve raised our kids to not have the need to be peer-dependant, but rather be willing to be different, unique, and if need be, a solitary voice for the truth. It is a good thing to have a child who is willing to stand out and be different, to be so secure in their relationship with Jesus that they are not ‘needy’ for the accolades of peers. Our kids have not had lots of friends. Some may see this as a problem but considering the warnings in the Bible about bad company corrupting good morals we need to be very careful who our kids hang out with. If parents just want their child/ children to be in the ‘in-crowd’ or the most popular child this could well back fire and breed worldly children. Far better for our children to have good relationship with their parents who can influence them in the right direction. Children need parent time more than being popular with their peers. Our goal has been to win and keep the hearts of our children. Simply put, that’s lots of love, lots of food, time together (especially at night when it’s bed time everyone seems to get more chatty!) and openness about the joys and struggles of life. Enjoy your children. Don’t just palm them off to others so you can have ‘me’ time, let them be part of your life, day in day out- they grow up quick enough. Quantity time is necessary and really the quantity of time does add up to quality time. Do you enjoy hanging out with your children? Do they know it because you actually do it?
Dinner time is family time. No distractions, no mobile phones just good hearty food with wholesome conversation followed by a Bible reading, with some practical applications and prayer. This is an opportunity for the youngest to the eldest to share insights from their daily personal Bible Reading. We take in turns with a different one sharing each day- although Shalom, our youngest, is always very keen to read the Bible and share. David and I also pray every night for all our children. The power of prayer is amazing as we commit each child to the Lord.
At this time we have 6 of our kids living at home, the other 3 are married and we have 2 grandchildren with more on the way. Life has whizzed by. It doesn’t seem that long ago they were all at home and we had our crazy country adventures in Toodyay and Colebrook. All our kids have learnt to work hard and they’ve had no trouble getting jobs. Shalom already has a job waiting her when she is old enough at the cafe where Charity and Joseph work, as they have proved to be reliable, capable and hard workers.
I asked our children why they think everyone of them is walking with the Lord. I asked them individually so they had no idea what any one else said. Here’s their responses:
Sean, 32yrs The closeness of the family. Everything around my parents spiritual experience they shared with us.
Joanne, 30 yrs I think a big part is that Mum and Dad are not hypocrites. They’re not two-faced. They live out their faith in everyday life, not just on Sundays.
Matthew, 27 yrs My parents are very open about their faith, they always shared their struggles and trying times as well as the good things. I appreciate their openness.
Thomas 25 yrs We had a very open and honest family time growing up so we all grew together and you could see everyone was real.
Brodie 22 yrs My parents are real. They’re the same when they’re out at church as they are at home. They’re not fakes.
Emily 18 yrs Mum and Dad are real and not fake. Also being homeschooled we haven’t been influenced by worldly people.
Charity 16yrs Mum and Dad have set a good example for us.
Joseph 14 yrs Mum and Dad are genuine, and they’re very nice.
Shalom 11 yrs I’ve seen God move through the street ministry, the healings and miracles we’ve seen, I just know there’s a God. And I just see Mum and Dad are real. They love Jesus and they love each other.
As parents we need to be sure we are giving the right message to our kids, and that’s not just what you say but what you do. What do you prioritise in life? Work? TV? You? Or do you put God first? Do you spend time aside with the Lord? Are you leading your children by example? You can’t expect them to put God first in their lives if you’re not.
In summary. Be real with your kids. Don’t hide the struggles or the tears. Let them see the real you. Let them be part of the good times, the joy and laughter, but let them share in the hard things in life too. When life has been really hard it’s amazing how much encouragement our kids have been to us. But be warned, if you’re being a hypocrite in any area of your life it will turn your children off Christianity. I always say a teenager can pick a hypocrite a mile away. If you’re prioritising your career, your ‘me’ time and watching things on the internet that you shouldn’t, your kids will know. Be sure to set a good example as you can’t expect your kids to do what you’re not. Get right with the Lord, deal with any sin in your life and seek to be holy as Christ is holy that you might lead your children in truth and righteousness. And then as Paul, the apostle said “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
Proverbs 23:26 “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” NKJV
Helen Devenish is a wife, mother, grandmother, pastor, evangelist, artist, author of ‘Let’s GO! Fearless Evangelism’, published by Ark House Press.