Training Up a Child... International Style

Training Up a Child... International Style Hero Image Training Up a Child... International Style Hero Image

I came across a quote last week from Abraham Lincoln on the anniversary of his 208th birthday. Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to cut down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening my axe.”

Parenting is a lot like tree-cutting. When faced with a tree that needs to be brought down, it's easy to jump right in and start hacking away at the trunk, rather than taking a few moments to consider what steps and tools might be needed to chop down the tree in the most effective way.

Outcomes and Opportunities

In the same way, raising kids in our electronics-at-your-fingertips, fast-paced, self-indulgent, immediate gratification world is, like tree-cutting, a tall task. If we want them to be Christ-followers who use their time, talents, and treasures as adolescents and adults in God-honoring ways, there are no shortcuts. If we don’t take the proper steps to prepare, the outcome of parenting becomes more uncertain and the task more difficult.

Proverbs 22:6 is a verse that speaks to this parenting ideal. It says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (KJV). As the father of 3 sons (ages 16, 14, and 13), it is easy to find great comfort in that verse and the hope it expresses. It seems to say if I raise my kids the right way - by teaching them about Jesus, taking them to a good church, helping them learn right from wrong, etc. - all will be well with their souls.

But real life doesn't always produce that outcome. Solomon wrote this proverb to give us wise counsel, not as a promise of results. Checking all the Christian parenting boxes does not guarantee my sons will come to know Christ and live a lives of obedience to Him. But at the same time, not taking advantage of the many shepherding opportunities and tools God has put at our disposal will lessen the likelihood that our “trees fall as planned," so to speak.

One Unique Shepherding Opportunity

One of the most impactful opportunities available to parents at Watermark is to join us on an International Discipleship trip to Haiti. For the past 5 years, we’ve taken Watermark families (parents and kids from third grade through high school) on a 6-day trip to serve and share the gospel in Haiti alongside Mission of Hope Haiti.

In fact, our February Family Trip is taking place right now, and you can follow their journey at!

We intentionally call them “Discipleship Trips," not “mission trips," because an overseas trips should not be a one-off experience that suddenly propels a believer towards a relationship with Christ. Rather, an international trip should be the next natural step for many believers on their journey to live a more Christlike life.

So how does this trip - and its preparation - provide the opportunity for "axe-sharpening" and child-shepherding?

  • In the four or so training meetings before the trip, your child and you will learn more about God’s heart for the lost - both at home and abroad.
  • You and your child will learn how to share your own personal stories of grace with someone who may have never before heard the gospel of God’s love and grace.
  • Your family will gain a different perspective on why there is poverty (both at home and abroad) and what a biblical response to that poverty should look like.
  • An understanding will develop that God expects your family to be “on mission” in your own “Jerusalem and Judea” (Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano) all year long.
  • You and your child will see that kids in Haiti love to play soccer, throw balls, paint fingernails, jump rope, and be hugged and shown love, just like kids in the U.S.
  • Your kids will learn a deeper level of flexibility and better understand that the world does not revolve around them and their wants and desires.
  • A greater level of physical poverty will be shown to you and your child than you can ever see at home, while at the same time you'll realize a deeper understanding that spiritual poverty looks the same everywhere.
  • New Watermark friendships will be developed because of the unique shared experience with trip preparation and then serving, sharing, and playing together in Haiti.

Take the Opportunity

The Haiti Family Trips are open to two or more people from any family (including spouses). Kids must be third grade or older.

Trips take place each November and February. Learn more about Haiti trips, start at We'd love to have you join us!

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