Parenting When Married to an Unbeliever

by Lynn Donovan

Could my husband's unbelief place my child's eternity in jeopardy? As a parent raising a child in a spiritually mismatched home, I've often agonized over this question. Now, as my daughter nears her 17th birthday, I do believe that it is possible to raise kids to have a vibrant faith — even when the other parent doesn't believe. With our effort and constant prayer, our kids can grow into a mature and lasting faith.

Love Jesus "out loud." Let the love of Christ flow out of you into your child's life. When you love Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, it becomes who you are, not just how you talk. And when your parenting partner doesn't share your faith, it's often easier to show your kids what you believe than to tell them.
Let your interactions — with your friends, your husband, your community — be a model of your biblical values. Kids are perceptive, and they recognize when a parent is passionate about something. They also recognize a counterfeit faith, when what you say you believe doesn't align with how you behave. Strive to model Jesus and His love every day in life's ordinary situations.

Pounce on teachable moments.
Having Bible studies or family devotions in front of your spouse can lead to conflict. But life is filled with teachable moments in which you can relay a truth about God's Word. Grab these moments while you can, because they don't often last long. Your child's heart and mind are open, seeking to know truth.

Balancing these teachable moments with love and respect for your unbelieving spouse can be challenging. One time, my daughter wanted to buy a video game that I had some reservations about, and it seemed like a good time to have a conversation about God-honoring entertainment choices. But my husband was there and didn't have those concerns, so we had a respectful discussion with one another and with our daughter. We agreed to disagree, and while my husband eventually left the decision to me, the entire process helped my daughter form her internal standards for acceptable entertainment. I was so proud of her when, some time later, she turned down an invitation to attend a play because it had questionable moral content.

Show your kids how to seek God. It's important to have your kids see you in daily pursuit of God's truth. Let them find you reading your Bible or seeking His guidance in prayer. They'll learn that Jesus is important because you make time for Him. You'll show them that He is the source of your kindness, humility and love.

Children sometimes need help learning to be comfortable talking to God. They may see how it works in church and at the dinner table, but learning to have an ongoing conversation with God — to open up with feelings and concerns—takes a little coaching. For my daughter, I found the space to model a reliance on God while on the drive to school each morning. I'd pray out loud, asking God to walk with my daughter through all the ups and downs of the school day, helping her remember that God was with her when she felt scared or anxious.

Today my daughter's faith is still maturing. Yet it is solid, despite her daddy's skepticism. What is amazing to me is that her life is also influencing my husband's faith journey. I've often wondered if it will be her witness that encourages him to seek a relationship with God.

As a parent in a spiritually mismatched marriage, I've learned that I need to lean on God, trusting that my kids' faith is ultimately in His hands.


Adapted from Winning Him Without Words © 2011 by Lynn Donovan & Dineen A. Miller. Published by Regal Books. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.


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