God’s Amazing Design for the Parent-Child Relationship | Colossians 3:20-21

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. – John C. Maxwell

Talking about parenting

Becky and I on a retreat in Northern California

Recently, my wife, Becky and I took a much needed retreat to Northern California with some friends to talk about life, marriage, leadership, and parenting. I talk alot about the need for retreat… and it was time to practice what I preach.

As a parent, and a leader in youth ministry development, I see a real need for encouragement from God’s Word on how to pursue God’s design for the parent-child relationship. The Apostle Paul offers some simple but life-changing instruction in Colossians that is probably drawn from his understanding of Exodus 20:12 which is the a commandment directed specifically toward the parent-child relationship: God instructs children:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”(Exodus 20:12 )

This is the one commandment that is coupled with a direct blessing. All of the commandments are equally important, yet for some reason God adds a special blessing and motivation for following this commandment. Why? I think it is probably because FAMILY is the foundation of society. If we get this wrong, society will erode at break-neck speed. If we get the Parent-Child relationship wrong, patterns will get established that could govern the rest of our lives… and effect all of those other institutions God has ordained.

Paul gives some very simple but profoundly important guidance on the parent-child relationship in Colossians 3:20-21:

 “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” (Colossians 3:20-21)

His message to the Colossians was a strong reminder to stay devoted to God’s design in every way. We don’t know the questions that the Colossians had possibly sought Paul’s counsel on, but they may have gone something like this:

  • How are children in Christian homes supposed to relate toward their parents?
  • How are Christian parents supposed to instruct and discipline their children in such a manner that they will want to follow Jesus as well?

In this passage, Paul builds a case that God has perfectly designed the parent-child relationship to be a reflection of the relationship the Father has with us. Thus the Bible presents a portrait of parenting that stands out in the world.

Yet, lets get real. Depending on what day it is, our portrait of parenting probably fluctuates. In the following podcast, I explore some of the practical ways parents and children both can experience the blessing of God’s design for the parent-child relationships. You’ll learn:


I. The context of this Biblical text

II. Explaining the meaning of Paul’s terms:

  • “Well-pleasing”
  • “Obey”
  • “Exasperate:” What does it mean to “exasperate” your child?
  • “Lose heart”

III. Instruction for Children & Parents

  • Children: Your greatest need is to experience personally the pleasure of the Heavenly Father. Obeying and submitting to your parents is a path God designed to help you experience his pleasure.
  • Parents: Remember that you are a child too. In the same way you thrive when you experience God’s pleasure, your kids need parents who are “crazy” about them.

IV. Good News for Children & Parents

  • Jesus came to restore the fundamental disorder that sin has caused in our world.
  • There is a connection between following Jesus and enjoying truly amazing relationships…

Application/Discussion Questions:

  1. Parents and Kids: How might abiding in Jesus daily lead to enjoying your relationships with one another more fully? Remember that as you rest in the sovereignty of God you will be more able to resist the temptation to control each other, and instead, you’ll be enabled to abundantly enjoy relationship with one another and experience God’s blessings.
  2. Parents: What are some creative ways you can share your faith in Jesus with your kids? Remember that passivity or abdicating your role as your child’s shepherd will exasperate them.
  3. Parents: What are some ways that you can keep the lines of communication open with your children so that they know you care about what they think and what they value… that you like who they are and love them unconditionally? Remember that even the subtle ways that we demonstrate a lack of respect for our kids might exasperate them.