“The days are long, but the years are short.”1 — Gretchen Rubin
Time is an interesting thing. I can clearly remember my girls playing dress up, starting school, learning to ride bikes, and making new friends. It seems both like an eternity ago and like it was yesterday. And it seems the days and years are shorter as my daughters stretch into adulthood with graduations and weddings.
There are some things you learn along the way as you parent and release your kids into adulthood. You learn your strengths and weaknesses. You learn how each child is unique and how you need to handle each one in a way that brings out the best in him or her. You lead, disciple, and serve each child differently. With time, methods change, you learn from your mistakes, and hopefully, as your kids reach adulthood, you haven’t messed them up too much!
As moms and believers, one thing you continue to model is spiritual leadership to your young adult children. Throughout your life, your kids will look to you for spiritual insight and wisdom. How do you lead them without it feeling like a task forced upon your kids? After all, their relationship with Jesus needs to be their own.
- Shepherd your young adults by example. Let them see you being led by the Holy Spirit and growing spiritually. Regardless of their age, let your children into your life and share your spiritual growth. A spiritual leader is always a person being led before she is a leader. Jesus did or said only what the Father did or said (John 5:19, 8:28). Following Jesus precedes leading anyone else in their faith.
Allow your kids to see you reading your Bible, doing a Bible study, spending time in prayer, and having spiritual conversations with others. If possible, start this when they are young, but it is never too late to start! Be a woman of the Word of God. I’ve been “that mom” who bought us all a devotional book or Bible study book and said, “Let’s do this together!” I did it when my girls lived at home, and I’ve done it since we are now in four different cities. Although some might consider it being a pushy mom, it is what a spiritual leader does! I hope they see me being led by the Lord and then how He can also lead them. I’ve shepherded them through childhood, but as they’ve approached high school and become young adults, I continue to point them to Jesus as their Good Shepherd.
- Serve your kids. A servant is committed to the success of another. Jesus talked about kingdom values (Matt. 20:24-28) and washed His disciples feet (John 13:14). As moms, we don’t move from being their mom on to something else. And we don’t move from serving our kids on to something else, even when they are adults. The essence of spiritual leadership is following Jesus and serving others. If we stop serving, stop being committed to the success of our kids, we stop walking in Christ’s footsteps of leadership. As they grow, serving is focused more on their spiritual and emotional health rather than the physical daily needs when they are young. But serving and honoring your kids is essential for healthy relationships and their growth.
One of the best ways you can serve your adult children is to pray for them. With all that Jesus came to do, He would slip away and pray (Luke 5:16). Ask your adult children how you can pray for them. Ask them if they’ve seen God move or how they need to see Him move. Let them know you pray for them daily and are specific in your requests to God on their behalf.
Since birth, I’ve prayed that my girls would become all that God had planned and fulfill His purposes for their life. As they grew, when there was something special happening in their lives, I would ask God to again do whatever He willed so they could fulfill His plans and purposes. We prayed this same prayer through milestones, graduations, marriages, and transitions. We’ve also prayed it when something appeared to be a tiny decision and not nearly as life-altering.
- Lead your young adult intentionally. Leading your kids over a lifetime is challenging. They see and know your flaws as well as anyone. But being an example of a spiritual leader for your children and especially your young adult children is important and needs to be intentional. The apostle Paul did not hesitate to invite people to follow him as he closely followed the Lord. (See 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 1; 2 Thess. 3:7.) Being a spiritual leader for your young adult children will require integrity and consistency. Not perfection. We have an incredible calling as parents. However, it does not end just because they become young adults. Instead, it may be the time when you need to be more intentional in your spiritual leadership with your kids. Remember that your young adults are individuals. They may be your biological children, or they may be your spiritual children by choice or circumstances. They may love Jesus, or they may be wrestling with faith. Either way, it is a privilege and honor to get to be a spiritual leader and pray for them. We need to remember to find ways to help them succeed in becoming the people they are meant to be even when distance keeps us apart.
Let’s be honest, when our children leave the nest, fear and anxiety can set in for us as parents. However, my fears dissolve when I think about how much more God loves my children. As I spend time in His Word and pray Scripture, I remember that my girls will always need spiritual encouragement. Jesus came to be a Servant (Mark 10:45) and a Shepherd (John 10). A shepherd leads, feeds, and cares for his flock. And that is what moms do physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
A few of my favorite verses to pray over my children are: Psalm 3:5-6; Proverbs 4:23; Micah 6:8; Ephesians 1:17-19; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:9-12; and Hebrews 10:24. What are some favorite verses that you want to pray for your children?
1. Gretchen Rubin, “The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short,” Gretchen Rubin, March 31, 2014, accessed May 15, 2020, https://gretchenrubin.com/2014/03/the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short/.
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.