Principles, Not Formulas, Build Strong Homes

Formulas, recipes, methods. We like them because they produce predictable outcomes. We lean on them because we fear the outcome that we don’t want. We follow them because we want results.

Which is fine if we’re baking brownies. But raising children? Not so much.

Formulas are dangerous for children because

  • all children are different
  • all families are different
  • formulas deal with inanimate objects with consistent properties
  • formulas leave out a most important factor: RELATIONSHIPS

But we don’t despair. The Lord has given us principles–wisdom for life, and those are different than formulas. We need to understand the difference.

A recent commenter said (paraphrased): “I did all the right things and most of my children have left the faith.”

Isn’t this our fear? Of course to pour our lives into our children, praying for them and sacrificing for them in a hundred ways, hopeful that they will cling to our faith, only to have them reject their Creator is the most horrific thing a Christian parent can imagine. And this is why we cling so much to our formulas.

But here’s the essence of real, Christian parenting:


We cannot parent for outcomes. We must parent out of obedience, understanding (this is huge) that our children have been loaned to us, and we are stewards over them for as long as God has prescribed. (Just because reproduction is so easy to control does not give us ownership.) They are treasures–gifts, but not possessions. God’s jurisdiction is salvation, calling them to Himself as He ordains, and in His time, through the means prescribed to us–discipleship.


The Bible is full of principles for Christian living. We must be diligent to divide the Word carefully, applying its truth to our lives. Some applications we will disagree on. Others are (should be) black and white. But we must become students of the Word, not “tossed by every wind of doctrine” or looking to the culture for our standards for life. Principles guide our daily decisions, providing answers for every question in life, without the “checklist” that is not human-friendly.


I said earlier that “discipleship” is the prescribed means of bringing our children to a believing faith in Christ. That’s the essence of bringing the gospel to people, modeled by Jesus, and given as a command to us. Walking daily, pointing them, through the tangible challenges of life, to their need of a Savior, showing them the solutions to life’s problems from the wisdom of Scripture.  All other is futile without an intimate relationship with our children. It’s hard. It’s hard because our faith must be real or all we do is transmit hypocrisy. But it is our job. It is ALL we have control over. We plant the seeds, water them faithfully and then leave the regeneration work to Him.

They are, after all, HIS.

(Need practical help and encouragement as a mom? When Motherhood Feels Too Hard–the book that will change the way you parent.)

12 Responses to “Principles, Not Formulas, Build Strong Homes”

  1. Mrs. S says:

    Great post! God really showed me about the formula thing this year in many areas of my life. After I was done being terrified that there was no perfect formula, I felt really free and saw my dependence on Christ alone. Now I can just focus on loving like Christ and living in the Spirit– not trying to make us something we are not or following a formula to get an outcome.

  2. Keri says:

    Kelly..You Nailed It!

  3. Smitti says:

    Since God created families first (Adam, Eve, etc), and the church came later, could we say that – if our families are built on strong principles and not formulas (and they go to church) – our churches would then be built the same way? I see many churches failing b/c they are trying to use the world’s formulas to grow and thrive, instead of using the Bible’s principles, building up personal relationships, and shunning outcomes-based results from VBS, revivals, etc.

  4. Sara says:

    This is a nice post explaining principles and methods. Relationships are our primary focus, not a formula treadmill. Love your site. I’ll be back!!

  5. Ginger says:

    The old testament is full of godly men who raised children who were evil. And if we believe that we are all depraved and it is God who saves, then we should stand amazed when our children become Christians, rather than standing shocked when they don’t.
    We have to pray for God to save our children. We can’t do it for Him.

  6. Kristen says:

    Funny you should post on this. The girls’ social worker was here today and we were just talking about how you cannot reduce a person to a formula. It’s hard to not parent for outcomes, but I realized something when I got married. No matter what happens, or what anyone else does (i.e. my husband, since we didn’t have kids yet) I was responsible for my own obedience to the Lord and that in my marriage, I had to do what God commanded me to do as a wife. And it’s the same thing with kids. I’ve told my kids that I require and teach them obedience because God told me as a parent that I needed to teach that to my children and I wanted to be obedient to God. That was what He was going to hold me accountable for – not their behaviour, but my faithfulness in teaching them and disciplining them according to Scripture. God will hold my children responsible for their own behaviour and whether they reject the teachings of their childhood or not.

  7. laura says:

    So funny, Kelly, my hubby was trying to get me to see this recently, that the process IS The purpose…I think most of us every day look around and try to measure SOMETHING that we contributed to for that day…so that we can get in bed each night and say, “Wheeww, got THAT done today…” but so much of mother hood is just wake up each day and wash the same dishes, make the same meals, clean the same cute little bottom, say “no” a millon times, give tons of hugs, kisses etc…it can’t really be measured…and we feel frustrated as a result…especially when we go to bed with the house “messier” than when we woke up in the morning…We are walking alongside our kids TO walk alongside them and for no other reason than that the process of walking alongside them in life is what WILL hopefully lead them to the cross that they have to cling to for themselves someday…

    • Word Warrior says:

      Isn’t it amazing how perspective completely changes everything? I loved what the founder of the mag. said at one point: “how Mom and Dad view those moments is so important”. Enjoying life and “being in the moment” must be deliberate and that’s really hard sometimes!

  8. Ponder Woman says:

    I’m WAAAAYYY behind on your posts. I might not even get a chance to read them all, but I just wanted to let you know I really, really appreciated this one.

    When I first became a mother, I (without even realizing it) was parenting by formula. It did not work out well. By the grace of God I’ve come to a place where I’m seeing the same thing you’ve written about here. It’s freeing and frightening all at the same time.

  9. […] Kelly @ Generation Cedar: Principles, Not Formulas, Build Strong Homes […]

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