I am a horrible bowler. I’m lucky if I get within 20 points of 100. On the Wii I’m pretty good, but in real life I’m that adult who should probably go ahead and use the bumpers.

And I know why I’m no good at sending a 10-pound sphere down a 60-foot lane in an attempt to knock down the ten pins. Two reasons: 1) I only go bowling once or twice a year, tops, so I have no chance to practice at getting good. 2) My release is horrible.

Really good bowlers have their steps, their back swing, their release, and their follow-through down to a science. And it’s all a matter of muscle memory for them. They know as soon as the ball is released if it’s going to be a strike or if it’s going to veer left.

It’s all in the release. Give the ball a good start down the lane and the rest will take care of itself.

It’s all in the release.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Many of the problems we see with kids once they get to school age can be traced back to their home life long before school began. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks very effectively and passionately about the need for a good start in life during the following TED Talk. If you’ve got a few minutes, go ahead and watch the video. He makes some excellent points about what it means to train up a child in the way he should go.

So what does it look like for us Christian parents to “Train up” our children “in the way [they] should go?”

I’d like to offer up 5 P’s of PARENTING

[Full disclosure: As a young parent myself, the things I am writing and talking about are as much for my own sake as anyone else’s.]

This should be obvious to Christian parents. Prayer is one of the fundamental spiritual disciplines. It’s our primary life-line through which we communicate our praise, thanksgiving, petitions and requests to God Almighty. God, the Creator of the Universe, wants us to talk to Him just like we want our own children to talk to us.

When my oldest son (3) is angry, upset, frustrated (he says “flusterated;” it’s adorable), scared, or hurt, I WANT him to talk to me about it. It would break my heart if my own son didn’t feel like he could cry out in the night for me to come into his room because he’s afraid. If he’s playing in another room and hurts himself, I can’t help him unless he tells me what’s wrong.

Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Oh, I’m not anxious about anything concerning my parenting skills, my children, or our family’s future! – Said no parent ever. God wants us to bring our requests to Him. He doesn’t want us to be anxious and fret over situations we can’t control. But he wants us to turn our worries over to Him – because He CAN control the situations (see 1 Peter 5:7). And in doing so, the promise is that we will be blessed with a “peace that transcends all understanding” – wouldn’t that be nice?

So pray. Pray for yourself as a parent. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your children. Pray for your children’s future spouse and children. Pray for protection. Pray for courage. Pray for peace. Pray for patience. Pray when you’re happy. Pray when you feel like you’re the Worst. Parent. Ever. Pray with your kids. Teach your kids to pray.

In effect, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Study after study after study has shown a correlation between quality time as a family and higher levels of success in school, college, and the work place as children get older. The opposite is also true. Children who spend very little time interacting with their parents tend to do poorly in school and are even more likely to end up in jail. And this is a crying shame, especially in a country where nearly HALF of all children will grow up in a broken home or a home where only one parent/caregiver is present.

Being a youth minister has opened my eyes to how dysfunctional many families can be. Even in intact homes, the parents are over worked and over stressed because they have established a lifestyle for themselves and their family that is nearly impossible to maintain. They fall into the trap of thinking that what their kids need is more things – video games, cars, smart phones, clothes, exotic vacations, and so on. But what their kids, what our kids, really need is more TIME. And quite frankly, time seems to be the one thing that a lot of parents are simply unable or unwilling to give their kids.

It was never intended to be this way. God had an ideal in mind for the family unit that seems completely alien to our society today. It was an ideal in which the parents would, you know, teach their kids. A child’s education, especially in spiritual matters, was never intended to be out sourced to some uncaring, paid “professional.” Any training and education a child received outside the home was meant to be merely supplemental building upon a solid foundation that had been laid over the first formative years of the child’s life.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 makes this point abundantly clear:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

How many Christian families never talk about spiritual matters outside of church? Unfortunately very few keep the conversations going throughout the week. And the biggest reason, I think, is that families are simply too busy. Families allow themselves to get caught up in the busyness of life and allow chaos and crisis to govern their time.

We need more parents who are willing to take a stand and say “No” to some things. We need more parents who are committed to being the very best spiritual guides for their children, parents who are not content to outsource their NUMBER ONE JOB to some Sunday School Teacher or Youth Minister. We need parents who will totally and completely immerse (baptize) their homes in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to the point that their is no question about what is most important to them.

But we can’t do that if we don’t spend time with our kids and if we don’t spend time with God.

[Next time: Passion, Persistence, and Perseverance]