Raising Children the Christian Way

In modern Western society there is a diversity of family structures. There are single parent families, cohabiting couples (partners not married) of parents and their children, same sex couples, some with children, friends sharing a house and its mortgage, and "dinkies" (double income no kids) who are married yet with no intention of having children. There are also single adults who choose not to marry and who are supporters of relatives who have children. Amongst this variety are the families consisting of mother and father with children. The extended family (generations living together) is more unusual now among Western Christians.

The Christian model of the family is the traditional model guided by the bible and traditions of the main Churches.

Marriage: Mark 10: 2-13
Ephesians 5:21-33
Parents: Exodus 20:12
Matthew 15: 3-9
Ephesians 6: 1-3

Catechism of the Catholic Church: The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and the gift of life... The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honour God and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

The Catholic view emphasises the claim that the family is the bedrock of society and its stability. It produces a safe, secure and morally well adjusted society.

The Christian family uses the local church for moral and ethical guidance, spiritual teaching and guidance regarding the upbringing of the child.

Supporters of infant baptism state that at the service God confers his grace (blessing) on the child. This child then grows up within the family of the Church as the child does within its own family. At the infant baptism there may be godparents who are asked by the Church and family to take a special interest in the moral and religious upbringing of the child. There are no fixed rules about the number of godparents, although traditionally there are three of two sexes the same as the child.

The parents and godparents make promises of their allegiance to Christianity and bringing up the child as a Christian. Water made holy by prayer is poured on to the baby and a sign of the cross is made. The baby is named. A candle may be given to the parents as a sign of the baby passing from darkness to light.

Some Christians reject infant baptism because choosing Christianity should take place when an adult. There may be a service of naming or dedication instead. Later on in life those who were baptised as an infant may choose to be confirmed as teenagers or become members of their church. Confirmation or church membership is making up one's own mind to be a professing Christian and takes place as a public statement of serious commitment. However, some teenagers get confirmed as Sunday School/ Youth Fellowship Groups finish for them and soon after they leave church! This is because their social lives alter with new relationships and friendships. Those who do leave may return later to active church participation as adults.

The baptism or dedication service may take place within a Sunday service so that the baby comes within the congregation of the church, thus is incorporated within the local church people. The baby may wear white, not a sign of its innocence from sin but of cleansing by the baptism.

It should be noted that baptism has been used superstitiously by many parents. Although they have little or no intention of going to church, the blessing by water ceremony is important in case the baby might die. They would not want the baby to pass on to another place without the ceremony. Some people call this being "done". Others less superstitiously use this ceremony as an important moment of naming and starting life, a hello, rather like a funeral is a way of saying goodbye.

As the child grows the parents have a duty to the children and responsibility for their upbringing. Many a couple will try to delay divorce until children are older. Children also have a duty to honour their father and mother.

Divorce/ Rejecting marriage: Matthew 19: 3-12

Children may attend Sunday School if their parents are active churchgoers. In the past the Sunday School was a popular place for leaving children so that parents could spend time together. Now only a minority attends Sunday School. There are Family Services in church with an emphasis on easy to understand services for the whole family. There are uniformed groups like Scouts and Guides. Christian churches often put on youth clubs.

There are Christian based or inspired institutions for family advice and even some retirement homes.

When the children have grown up their responsibility extends to looking after their parents until they die.


Look up and summarise one biblical reading on marriage and one biblical reading on parents. State where each reading is from before summarising.

How does the Roman Catholic Catechism link the family and society? Write the sentences where family and society are linked.

Why do some people choose to become confirmed or take church membership and then why do some leave church afterwards?

Give some reasons why Jesus states some people might be single or not marry (Matthew 9: 10-12)

Extended writing...

"Only believers should get baptised and, anyway, many parents only take their children to be 'done'."

Do you agree that babies should not be baptised? Give reasons for your answer and show that another point of view has been considered. You may wish to write your answer using your own experience of attending a child baptism or a believer's baptism or confirmation or becoming a member of a church.