There is a lot of talk today about spiritual fathering and spiritual mothering. So if we feel that God is leading us in that direction, there are a few things that we need to understand.

Mark 3:13-15, NIV – (13) And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. (14) Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, (15) and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.

 What can we learn about spiritual parenting from these verses?

  • Jesus didn’t just accept whoever appeared needy. He called the people that He felt had the potential to parent (“called to Him those He Himself wanted”).
  • Out of those who He called, He then chose twelve of them (perhaps those who showed the most interest or potential), and He made a commitment to spend time with them (“He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him”).
  • He would teach them very specific skills (“to preach”).
  • He would also impart power and responsibility to them (“to have power to heal”).
  • His goal was not to create great followers, but to create independent people who could go out and minister (“that He might send them out”).
  • He decided to parent a group, rather than just an individual, perhaps because group dynamics can reveal a lot, expose a lot, and cause faster growth toward maturity (although Jesus also did have some one-on-one time with each of them).
  • Jesus had a long-term plan, not just to parent a group of young men, but to raise them up as leaders of the future church.

Why were there no women invited?

  • They were together 24 hours a day. One or two women sleeping in the same room with ten or eleven men would have been scandalous in those days, as well as provide unneeded temptations to the young men of romantic and sexual distractions.
  • Jesus was already challenging so many social norms of the day. To add women in leadership could have caused so much persecution and distraction that Jesus would not have been able to prepare the twelve for future leadership.
  • Remember that Jesus’ goal was to establish His Kingdom on the earth. To go after all sorts of unjust social practices of the day could have taken Jesus way off course.

If we feel called to spiritually parent members of the opposite sex, what safeguards or boundaries should we put in place?

  • Stay in the group, and don’t get alone with the opposite sex.
  • When you meet alone, always meet in a public place, like a restaurant or coffee shop.
  • Let other people know when you are meeting with the opposite sex, for the sake of accountability.
  • Practice appropriate physical boundaries, avoiding inappropriate touch.
  • Make agreements with your spiritual children what your relationship will look like, and what it will not look like.
  • Ask the person what they are looking for in the relationship before you start to parent them. (They may not be looking for a spiritual parent, they may just be looking for a friend, a companion, someone to make them feel better, someone to be romantic with.

1 Corinthians 4:17, NIV – (17) For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

  • Paul called Timothy his son (“Timothy, my son”).
  • Paul publicly declared his love for Timothy (“whom I love”).
  • Paul publicly declared his pride for Timothy (“who is faithful”).
  • Paul let Timothy observe his life in many different situations (“He will remind you of my way of life”).
  • Paul did not try to control or be on top of everything. He was very willing to delegate responsibility to his spiritual sons.
  • Paul released Timothy after Timothy had proven himself worthy of trust, due to his faithfulness.
  • In order to be a spiritual parent, we must become comfortable using words of love toward our spiritual children.
  • Judging by the intimate language that Paul used toward Timothy, it is clear that Paul was comfortable with words and expressions of love – he was “comfortable with love”.
  • The greater context of this passage is 1 Corinthians 4:15-17. Paul had said that they had ten thousand guardians in Christ, but not many fathers. Yet Paul saw himself as a father to them, and he encouraged them to imitate him. Then he said he was sending Timothy, one of his mature sons, to demonstrate the benefits of spiritual parenting, and to see how Timothy had grown through imitating Paul, and to see an example of the heart of Paul, in Timothy.

Philippians 2:22, NIV – (22) But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

  • Paul was willing to let Timothy serve him as a son (“as a son with his father he has served me”).
  • To make sons and daughters, we must give them opportunity to serve and develop character.

1 Timothy 1:2, NIV – (2) To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:2, NIV – (2) To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Paul called Timothy a son (“my true son in the faith”). We need to learn to use parental talk with our spiritual children.
  • Paul used tender words with Timothy (“my dear son”). We must learn how to use tender words with our spiritual children, just like with our natural children.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, NIV – (11) For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, (12) encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

  • Paul dealt with others the way a father deals with his own children.
  • Paul encouraged them (in their discouragement)
  • Paul comforted them (in their pain)
  • Paul urged them (to step up as Christians).

John 11:33-36, NIV – (33) When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (34) “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. (35) Jesus wept. (36) Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

  • Jesus was willing to show His feelings and emotions openly to others (“he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled”).
  • Jesus was willing to display public demonstrations of His affection in front of others (“Jesus wept … see how he loved him”.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-7, NIV – (6) We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, (7) but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.

  • Paul also treated his spiritual children as a mother to children, by being gentle and caring for them.

Matthew 23:37, NIV – (37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

  • Jesus used motherly language to describe His love for the people of Jerusalem.

Matthew 3:16-17, NIV – (16) As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (17) And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Part of spiritual parenting, is learning to bless our spiritual children. From the above passage we learn the following principles:

  • Meaningful Touch – A visible or tangible touch – “Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.”
  • Spoken Blessing – “a voice from heaven said”
  • Declaration of Sonship / Relationship – “this is my Son”
  • Words of Love – “whom I love”
  • Words of Pride – “with him I am well pleased”
  • Prophetic Future – See Genesis 49 as Jacob blessed his sons.

We challenge you to take what you have learned from this blog, and begin to spiritually parent another person. Enjoy the adventure, and share with us your experience!