Roll Models for Parenting


Last night my wife Rebecca and I saw a Christian program discussing parental difficulties experienced by young couples. They were encouraged to find a couple in their church who had successfully raised children to adulthood and learn from them as roll models.


Rebecca and I looked at each other and responded, “Who do we know at church who qualifies as such a role model?” Neither of us could think of anyone. We know spiritual couples in the church whom we respect but each of these parents has children who are no longer active members of the church. Perhaps the wayward child remains officially a member but no longer attends often if at all. They may be good children but public morality doesn’t qualify as practicing Christian morality.


We ourselves have only one child and she and her family do in fact regularly attend church and have their children in church school, pathfinders, and adventurers. So they qualify I suppose. But even while immersing their children, our grandchildren in church activities, they themselves go individually in and out of conviction and sometimes open rebellion. Right now we’re hopeful because their experience is stronger recently. But the pattern has repeated itself in the past. We pray, they pray. They continue attending church. We count on our caring God.


And of course, if we looked only in our own congregation we couldn’t count our own child anyway because they attend a neighboring congregation. But we would be hesitant about wanting someone else to look to us as role models. We could discuss our experience as parents but  we wouldn’t want any to depend on our example. We know we didn’t perform so well regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of our child. We ourselves have our ups and downs and our occasional doubts and personal struggles. Never have we openly rebelled though perhaps at moments we were near to rebelling . But our child’s family seems to struggle with their experience often and all we feel we can do is love them and listen when they occasionally choose to talk.


As an additional factor, single child parents might not qualify since it is often said that parents don’t know what parenthood means until they have a second child. So even if we felt confident out our parental success, we couldn’t claim roll model status.


Then Rebecca said, “At our old church the W…….. were successful!” At last we had found someone from our church of six years ago. They had three children so knew parenthood. Two of these children were high school merit scholars earning full scholarships to college while the third, the oldest I believe, through a birth difficulty would have fallen through the cracks in most families. But the five of them were devoted and encouraging, held high standards, encouraged participation of all in everything spiritual. All three of them graduated from college, the disadvantaged one completing a two year community college degree. All are employed. And to our knowledge, all of them are active in church. So the family who might be predicted to fail was our one recommended role model as successful parents.


And they all succeeded as evaluated by the world and by the church. Our families sometimes disagreed, but we and they worked through disagreements. Theirs and our end focus was Christ. We may have viewed church, even God, school and politics differently. They didn’t send their children to church schools or academies. One attended Andrews University for at least a while. We on the other hand chose to move where I had to drive nearly two hours to work each day so that we could send our child to an Adventist academy without boarding her in a dorm. We twice moved because after two years the first academy closed. But we certainly agreed that if anyone were successful parents, the W…….. were successful. They respected each other completely, despite a chasm of differences.


I doubt that young couples can often find roll model parents inside their church that they can count on to pattern their own parenting. Young parents may have to study several parents and pick and choose what they want to emulate. I fail to believe that they can often find a full role model from one pair of parents in the church. And if they think that they do, they will very possibly learn otherwise in time.