Parenting: Getting Back to the Garden

Josh Poteet - Lead Pastor | 180 Life Church - West Hartford, CT

There is a cost to being a parent. I’m not talking about diapers and college funds (kids are expensive). Instead, I am talking about the time, effort, and intentionality that kids require that parents must pay. And every parent has the choice. You can pay now or pay later. The reality is that intentionally, or unwittingly, parents are discipling their kids. I’m not asking if you are discipling, I’m telling you. You are. The real question is, as you disciple your family, whose image are you leading them to become? At the risk of oversimplifying, I would contend that there are two destinations we can parent toward. You can parent towards the Garden (an abiding relationship with the Creator that we were designed to have) or you can parent towards the world (a default that drags us in like gravity). The first requires intentionality, practice, and a deep relationship with God. The entry fee for the second is significantly lower (at least on the front end). For the sake of argument, we are going to assume that it is your goal to parent your kids away from the default (the world) and back to the design (Garden living). This post is going to focus on the first two steps of a longer journey as you invest in your family and lead them toward their design.

Step 1: Look down at your feet. Your kids aren’t the only ones in your family who are designed to be disciples of Jesus. You are too! In fact, your kids are hardwired by the design of the Creator to love the things that you love and to go to the places you go. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone somewhere in my home just to find tiny feet close behind. One of the easiest ways to lead your family to the Garden, is to go to the Garden yourself! Let me explain. My daughter is a Miami Dolphins fan. Admittedly, she doesn’t watch the games, doesn’t know the players, and doesn’t understand the rules. She’s six. Perhaps I should amend my original statement. I love the Miami Dolphins and my daughter loves me. Our kids are built to follow. Which bring us to the challenge.

If you want to lead your family, you must lead yourself. Your family’s shift toward the Garden starts with you having a personal, abiding relationship with Jesus.

“I get it Josh, but I just don’t have time to get in the Word. I barely have time for lunch!” You’re probably right. You likely don’t have time. This is less about finding time for your fellowship with Jesus and more about making time for the most important relationship you will ever have. Everything you say “yes” to is a “no” to something else. In other words, what do you need to say “no” to in order to prioritize your time with Jesus? Remember, you were meant to rule your schedule, it was never meant to rule over you. The best thing I can do for my family is to have a close, abiding walk with Jesus.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is often referred to as the Old Testament’s great commission. It was a powerful set of verses that Jews would memorize and recite often. This is how it started.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Look at the order that Scripture presents. Step one: Love God with everything that you’ve got. But having a personal, abiding relationship with God is only part of the discipleship equation.

Step 2: Impress that love on your kids. You are the mold that is leveraged in the shaping of your children. Your priorities, strengths, and weaknesses are all part of that mold. This makes it all the more essential that you abide in Jesus and model your love for Him with your family.

This too, presents an issue. Many parents don’t model their relationship with Jesus because it’s incredibly personal. And it should be! Your faith is meant to be as personal as it gets, but personal was never meant to mean private. Too many of our kids are left putting together their faith without having a clear picture of what it should look like. There is a cost to our lack of vulnerability and our families are paying for it. I drive to work nearly every day, but just because I go there doesn’t mean my kids know the way. They aren’t in the car with me for that part of the journey. Yes, we need to go to the Garden ourselves. No, we shouldn’t be going alone!

As intentional parents, we need to find creative ways to invite our family to join us in our Garden living.

Here are some practical ways that our family does this:

  • Invite our kids to join us for quiet times in age-appropriate ways.
  • Celebrate (and protect) a weekly sabbath (this is one of the best things we have done in leading our family).
  • Fill our home with praise music.
  • Make random, aloud prayer normal.
  • Play “I Spy for Jesus” (where did you see Jesus today?).
  • Be vulnerable about how Jennie (my wife) and I are growing as disciples.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. It is merely a few examples of how you can own your relationship with Jesus and share it with your family. As you prioritize your walk and invite your family to follow, you will be amazed at what God does.

You were made for the Garden. Your family was made for the Garden. All they need is someone to lead them there. As intentional parents, it is on us to shepherd our kids to become disciples of Jesus. And when you get to the garden, look for us! We’ll be the ones in Dolphins jerseys. We’ll see you there.


Josh Poteet
Lead Pastor
180 Life Church
West Hartford, CT