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50 Things Every Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home

Dr. Josh Mulvihill

When I was seventeen years old, my parents invited me to join them for breakfast at a local restaurant. Eating out was a special occasion for our family, so I wasn’t sure if I was in trouble or being rewarded. It turns out, it had nothing to do with my actions and everything to do with my parents’ plans.

After we sat down for breakfast, my parents slid a piece of paper across the table for me to look at. My dad said, “Josh, in nine months, you are leaving for college. We want to make sure we have done everything we can to prepare you for adulthood.”

“We want to know,” added my mom, “is there anything on this list that you think has not been accomplished in your life?”

I had never seen that piece of paper before, but when I looked at it, my childhood and teenage years flashed before my eyes. The paper contained approximately fifty bulleted items, and next to each was a checkmark and a date. As I looked at the list, I remembered when my parents taught me how to honor God by managing money through creating savings, giving, and spending accounts. I recalled the many weeks that my parents taught table manners, how to properly address an adult with respect, and how to shake a hand. I remembered when my dad taught me to develop strong academic study skills. I recalled being taught how to pray and read the Bible.

My parents had spent my childhood and teenage years systematically working through the items on that list and wanted me to evaluate it with them so they could put the finishing touches on years of intentional parenting. They had accomplished most of what they set out to do, but I remember one particular item on that piece of paper that I told them they hadn’t taught me: small engine repair. Why my parents included that on the list, I will never know. They probably recognized a weakness in me and decided to focus some energy on this area. I told them that small engine repair was a lost cause. To my relief, they crossed it off the list. And to this day, I hire a mechanic if I need work done on my engines. Aside from small engine repair, I gave my parents the green light for everything on the list.

Raising Children to Godly Adulthood

I hope my parents’ example encourages you to think seriously about preparing your children for adulthood. Far too few parents have a biblical vision for parenting, and far fewer have a plan to implement it, which leads to all kinds of potential problems, missed opportunities, and decreased effectiveness as parents. Not only do I want to help you avoid that, but I want to help you raise children who are passionate about Jesus, who love God’s Word and live according to it, and who become mature adults spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and financially.

I have been in full-time ministry for more than twenty years, most of that as a pastor, and as I have counseled individuals, I have noticed a few patterns with parents.

We want to succeed. We desire to be good parents. So we read books, listen to preachers, and discuss what works with parents we admire, putting into practice whatever is biblical and makes sense. If I were to ask any parent, “Do you want to be a good parent?” the answer would be yes. If success were determined by desire alone, we would have little to worry about. Nobody wants to be a bad parent. Nobody plans for failure. Yet, failure is often the result of a lack of preparation on our part.

We believe we are doing a pretty good job as parents. Most parents believe they are doing a good job. And why wouldn’t we? Our children dominate our thinking. We are concerned with every aspect of our child’s well-being. We want whatever is best for our child, and we act accordingly. We invest a significant amount of time, energy, and resources into our child. And so we think, “What more can I do?”

Many of us lack a biblical, God-honoring plan. I have not crossed paths with many parents who can clearly and concisely tell me the outcomes they hope to achieve in their child’s life and the plan to attain positive results. We’re comfortable planning for our retirement, setting goals for our company, and even for ourselves, but many of us have never considered setting goals for what our children will become. And the fact is that many people spend more time planning for a vacation than parenting. We may believe that we can get by with a minimum amount of effort and that we will succeed with the help of others. This is faulty thinking and a critical error that will surely catch up with us. We would never build a house without a blueprint. Inevitably, there would be problems. Yet, many parents attempt to raise children without a blueprint. Most would agree that parenting is far more important than vacations or new homes, yet they spend a disproportionate amount of time planning for areas that matter less.

Launch Your Child into Adulthood with Confidence

It’s pretty easy to get busy parenting and go about our days with no real plan, no strategy, or much thought to what will produce long-term fruit in our children. My wife and I recently wrote a book that Renewanation published called 50 Things Every Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home to help you raise your child to become a mature adult who knows, loves, and serves Jesus Christ. It’s a guidebook and keepsake all in one, designed to help you establish a plan and be proactive for each season of your parenting journey. It is also formatted so that you can record your progress, capture special milestones and memories, and give the book as a special gift to your son or daughter. This book will be helpful for new parents who want a parenting plan as well as for parents of teenagers who are thinking about what they need to do to launch a child into adulthood. It’s never too early or too late to think about these things. Whether you have eighteen years or one year before your child leaves home, whether you are a married couple or a single parent, this book will help you chart a course to holistically disciple a child in the following areas: firm foundations, Christlike character development, biblical beliefs and worldview, spiritual growth, life skills, relational skills, work and money management, home management, personal care, and educational essentials.

Imagine the day your child graduates. It may be a long way off, or it may be right around the corner. Regardless, no one wants to arrive at this day wondering, “Did I do the right things?” “Did I teach my child what is needed for lifelong faith in Christ?” “Did I provide my child with the essential training and tools for adulthood?” We hope this book helps you answer all those questions with a confident “YES!”


Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation. He served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, serves on the board of Awana, and helps to provide leadership to the Christian Grandparent Network. He holds a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage, and Biblical Worldview. Josh is married to Jen, and they have five children. Josh blogs at


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