GREENSBORO, NC - A trip to the local Christian bookstore reveals a growing industry of books for parents, with choices dealing with a wide variety of issues and subjects related to the Biblical raising of little ones. But some years ago, Donna Miller went on just such a trip looking for material to help her mentor and raise her oldest daughter Jennifer, then 6.
"The thought came to me that I should disciple Jennifer, my daughter, at some point. So I thought, 'OK, I'll go out to the Christian bookstore and see what I can find.' But I couldn't find anything," says Miller, whose husband Don is pastor of Westover Church in Greensboro. "What I wanted to do was to give her some idea of why I believed what I believed, why God's Word was so important to me, why I based my life on it. But I wanted to do it in a fun and craftful [recreational] way, a way that she could learn."
Miller envisioned a mentoring process that would both disciple her daughter and strengthen the bond between them, giving Jennifer a new way to get to know her Mom. But without an appropos resource to establish that, she took matters into her own hands.
"I came home after not finding anything, and decided I would go ahead and try to write down some ideas that I had, of things that I wanted to talk to Jennifer about," she says. "And so I sat down at our kitchen table, and starting writing out topics that I thought were important to address."
Miller discipled Jennifer, and later her younger daughter Tracy, using the materials and resources she developed. With the encouragement of friends and family, she organized her ideas into written text and had booklets printed. One of those booklets found its way into the hands of an anonymous person in Texas who showed it to the right people at Moody Press in Chicago. Moody called, interested in publishing the material as a book, and the result was Growing Little Women, released in 1997.
In the introduction to the book, Miller says, "Even though the active time of discipling is now over, I can still see the positive effects it had on each of us. It is clear to me that the time we spent together in those formative years strengthened our relationships in their teenage years."
For parents of young children dreading the coming of adolescence, those may well be encouraging words. Growing Little Women is a 16-week discipling course for mothers and daughters, created with the idea of moms getting together with their daughters (the book is written for ages 9-12) once a week for about an hour. Each topical lesson begins with a Scripture reading, and follows with a short story related to the week's theme, and discussion questions.
Next is a section called "What does the Bible Say?" a set of fill-in-the-blank Bible verses for the girls to look up, and "Looking Deeper," a section of additional discussion questions. "Action Ideas" are suggestions for later activities that can be done together, such as spending time looking at old photos or doing a service project to help others. The lesson ends with a memory verse, "Your Goal for This Week," and a closing prayer. Growing Little Women is designed to be both a workbook and a keepsake for the daughter to remember in years to come.
Growing Little Women sold well, and three years later a sequel was released, Growing Little Women for Younger Girls. The successful format from the first book is retained, but with added illustrations and simplified material for younger daughters. "The second book is so similar to the first book, because the format ... worked so well with the first book," Miller says.
If the number of parenting books released each year is any indication, the raising of godly children is a subject of great importance to Christian parents. Donna Miller's books offer a unique resource created specifically for the strengthening of mothers and their daughters. But don't look for her to capitalize on her success: she says she has no plans to write further books.
"No, I would rather not. I like being involved in church, and with the Mom's group (M.O.P.S., 'Mothers of Preschoolers') and being at home," she says. "That's really important to me."
By William Chad Newsom