I’m ill-equipped to give out parenting advice, but this question is an important one: Who do you want your children to become? What matters most when they are young adults, get a job, get married, and have kids of their own? What is our role as parents in that process?

There are literally tens of thousands of books available to guide our parenting. The problem is that the majority are based on authors’ personal opinions and assumptions. Despite the millions and millions of children that have been raised in our country, we have relatively little data on the parenting principles that work to reach a desired outcome for our children.

In George Barna’s book Revolutionary Parenting, he states, “Most American parents concoct their own unique mixture of parenting ideas and routines based on a rather general idea of what they are seeking to achieve.” Not too long ago, I would certainly have fallen into that category. I knew I wanted my kids to succeed in life and be strong in their faith, but that’s pretty vague. I had no clear goal for them and certainly no plan. I was heading down the proverbial path of shooting an arrow first and then drawing the target after I saw where it landed.

Barna suggests the desired outcome for children of Christian parents should be “Spiritual Champions”. This is defined as “an irrepressible follower of Jesus Christ who accepts the Bible as truth, lives by its principles, and seeks ways to impact the world and continually deepen his or her relationship with God.” I realize this may sound somewhat “churchy” to some, and perhaps not what you have in mind for your kids. But this definition was true to our hearts, focused us as parents, and got us excited as we pictured our kids 10-15 years from now.

If this resonates with you, a good next question may be, “Isn’t this just another one of those thousands of parenting approaches out there?” The good news is that Revolutionary Parenting has some pretty good research behind it. Barna’s team examined over ten thousand interviews with adults in their twenties to find those who were living “transformed” lives. They weren’t just looking for regular church attenders or “good” people, but those with personal spiritual activities outside of the church that resulted in strong and impactful lives. Then they interviewed these young Spiritual Champions’ parents to discover what they had done to promote this end result.

The results were remarkably consistent among the families of Spiritual Champions. It turns out there are a number of core parenting values and behaviors that are typically associated with this outcome. Is it a guarantee? No. Do all children respond the same way? Of course not. These are principles that if followed, increase the likelihood of raising Spiritual Champions. Listed below are four of eighteen parenting principles we have learned, adapted to fit our family, and incorporated to form our parenting plan:

• To succeed, the most important focus of their training is the development of Godly character. Character matters more than achievement. God is more excited about a servant than a superstar.

• We need to be students of God’s principles and commands on parenting – we must maintain strong personal spiritual formation.

• The vast majority of our children’s spiritual growth will occur inside of our house. We will not rely on church-related activities for their spiritual formation (although that is important).

• We will have regular family conversations that bring Biblical views into current life situations, and discuss faith principles as a normal part of decision making.

For an editable Word document containing our other core parenting values and behaviors, as well as our kids’ Spiritual Champion Plan, character traits, and family values, please click “Our plan for our kids to be Spiritual Champions” at the top of our Family Values page.

Let me assure you that I am so far from having this parenting thing figured out. Consistent follow through is difficult and sometimes I get discouraged. What gives me hope is that we have developed a plan, it is solid, and many others before us have found it to be successful.

The development of Spiritual Champions is our goal – we’ll run hard to the finish, rely on God’s provision, and pray for that outcome in our kids.