After over thirty years of marriage and raising three children, Jack and Deb Graham collaborate once again to produce Courageous Parenting, an encouraging and hopeful look at the family. Jack Graham has served as a pastor for over thirty years and is currently the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “We are not experts, but we have learned some things from being parents and serving in the pastorate for well over thirty years. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the home and family. This includes many wonderful and successful marriages and families, from whom we have learned valuable and positive lessons. And we have observed many families in trouble. So we know something of the downside as well as the upside of parenting.”
The Grahams begin by laying a foundation with the biblical plan for the family, believing that a healthy family does not just happen. As a father, Jack Graham writes directly to fathers throughout the book, emphasizing his role as the leader. Cultivating a healthy family takes hard work and perseverance. It is accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Grahams encourage parents to begin cultivating their healthy family with a healthy marriage. “It is highly unlikely that a husband and wife who are unhappy and completely at odds in their marriage, or are indifferent and content to let their marriage deteriorate, can then turn around and become an effective set of parents doing a dynamic job of raising their children.” The Grahams emphasize that it takes three to make a great marriage: a husband, a wife, and Jesus Christ. This portion of the book addresses God’s plan for marriage, God’s blessings on marriage, God’s desire for Christians to work on making their marriages better, and God’s power to restore a marriage in which one spouse has hurt the other.
Once the foundation of a healthy family is established, the Grahams turn to specific roles of men and women in the family. Mr. Graham uses a heat pump as an analogy for how husbands and wives work in the home. “A wife and mother in a home is like a thermometer, sensing and reflecting the home’s temperature. But a father and husband is like a home’s thermostat, which determines and regulates the temperature.” This chapter is built around Paul’s admonitions for husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” and “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Jack Graham makes some interesting statements through this portion of the book. He does a lot of straight talk to men. One such statement is, “the best place to learn how to walk with the Lord is in your own home. The can be the most challenging place to start, but until our Christianity works at home we can’t take it into the community.”
Wives are encouraged to submit and follow the leadership of their husbands. Realizing that submission has gotten a bad rap the last couple of decades, the Grahams tread lightly in this area and emphasize the value of both sexes while distinguishing their differing roles in the home. “Submission is hard for sinners…the Spirit can help us get over it. That is, we can grow in our God-given roles as we yield ourselves to the leading and the control of the Holy Spirit.” Following the importance of submission, the Grahams emphasize a mother’s influence in the home by encouraging mothers with “two pillars that need to undergird the life of a mother who wants her home and family to be a reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These pillars are sacrificial, nurturing love and consistent, patient teaching.” Realizing that parents must decide for themselves what will work best for their particular family, the Grahams believe that the best situation includes a mother at home full-time, caring for the family. They do not go so far as to tell women to quit their jobs and stay at home. They do share, however, biblical examples of women who made their families first priority and the fruit of that decision. The Grahams also remind mothers that God will provide for all our needs as we obey Him.
Next, the Grahams remind parents of how they need to view their children. One might think that Christian parents would not need to be reminded to love their children, that God values children, or that Christian parents ought to raise Christian children, but in a society in which children are killed by their parents, I suppose it bears repeating again and again.
While the first portion of the book deals primarily with a biblical definition of the family, the second portion focuses on the practical outworkings of this biblical view. They touch on a wide range of parenting subjects. The Grahams use various sets of parents in Scripture as positive examples of what to do from birth through the teen years, emphasizing important truths to remember during each stage of a child’s life. This is followed by some specific lessons Christians must teach their children, such as “how to fear God,” “live a life of moral purity,” “teach and model integrity,” “responsibility,” and “generosity.” The Grahams encourage parents to take a stand in their own homes and to adopt the motto of Joshua after he led the Israelites into the Promised Land: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Then they offer six areas of character they “believe are crucial to instill in your children.” They are confidence, conviction, character, compassion, competence, and love for the church. In the chapter entitled “Homeland Security,” the Grahams discuss several important issues, such as the importance of setting boundaries, rules in the home, passivity versus permissiveness, and blessing your children with a knowledge of God. The Grahams share several anecdotes from their own family. They offer if you will, a view through their living room window, interspersing their personal thoughts throughout the meat of the book with short sections called “Jack says” and “Deb says.”
Deb Graham writes the final two chapters. She offers her reflections on being a mother from the time the children are born to the time you see them in Heaven. She shares her thoughts on how a mother must adjust as her children grow and become more independent.
Parenting is a broad topic. The Grahams attempt to cover several topics relating to marriage and parenting. It is near impossible to do that really well in as few pages as possible. In the end, you have a book that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Courageous Parenting is an encouraging look at parenting, offering the best aspects and blessings of working at marriage and raising children. The Grahams do not offer much hope to the single parent, the parent who has made mistakes, or the parents with rebellious children. For example, when offering advice from scripture’s parents, they ignore those parents in scripture whose children lived in bold-faced rebellion despite their “good” parents’ actions or because of their “bad” parents’ actions.
The Grahams address important questions that most parents ask. Weighted heavily toward the positive, however, their answers are too easy and have a “put a smile on your face and just do it” ring to them. I think the Grahams would have a more powerful book had they at least addressed from the scriptures the heartache, pain, and frustrations associated with parenting.
It is a popular thing these days for a pastor to compile a sermon series and turn it into a book. I’m not sure, but I think Courageous Parenting is one of these. The book is riddled with cutesy stories and a couple of the chapters have sections that all begin with the same letter. This really doesn’t mean the book is good or bad…I just thought I’d include that tidbit since this aspect of the book really got on my nerves.
Overall, Courageous Parenting is as an encouragement to Christian parents (particularly fathers) to keep pressing on with this goal in view: raising children who will live for God.