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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
272 pages
Feb 2007
Crossway Books

Parent Fuel: For the Fire Inside Our Kids

by Barry St. Clair

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt



Whoosh! When fuel touches the tiny spark, combustion occurs, and the fire flames with the whoosh sound.

Whoosh! happens when the fuel goes from its source, through the pump at the gas station, into a hand-held gas container. That fuel poured on a fire pit, like the one behind our house, then comes in contact with a lighted match—whoosh!

From the source, through the dispenser, to the spark—that’s how the fire ignites. Similarly the Source pumps His fuel through parents who dispense His fuel to the spark He has ignited in our kids—whoosh!

the source

from God

through Parents

to Kids

That image portrays our opportunity, mission, and charge as parents. Through our relationship with the Source and our relationship with our kids, we dispense the fuel of God onto the tiny spark ignited by God in our kids’ hearts. Without the dispenser, the fuel cannot get to the fire! With parents as the dispenser, the fuel pumps a passion for Christ on the tiny spark, and it ignites into a flaming fire—whoosh!

It’s all about the relationship! When parents connect with God and then connect with their kids, the fire of God can ignite and steadily increase the flame. This book equips parents to go to the Source and then to dispense the fuel to their kids through relationships.

It’s like the relationship I have with my daughter, Ginny. We have experienced so much together. And I remember the crazy occurrence when we connected relationally and the fuel began to flow. On our first big trip together, we traveled to California after she turned ten. Five of our ten days together we spent in my world, speaking to a gathering of teenagers. The other five days we jumped into her world—Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Sea World. We had fun! To this day we cherish our picture together with Winnie the Pooh.

Yet beyond the fun our most memorable experience came on the day we drove to Balboa Island. A friend had loaned us a “nice” car. But when he handed us the keys he informed us that it had no air-conditioning and that the electric windows “might have some problems.” Yes, they did! They did not roll down, and we had no AC. We tried to ditch the car and get a rental, only to discover that my driver’s license had expired five months earlier. At that point I wondered if we might spend the day in the police station.

With the “nice” car as our only option, we drove that “wreck” onto sophisticated Balboa Island. When we parked it, the windows indeed did not work, nor did the doors—except one. To get out, Ginny had to climb out one partially open window and open the hatchback. Then I had to climb out of the driver’s seat, through the backseat, and out the back of the car. At this point both of us had broken into a full sweat and had attracted a crowd of onlookers. We repeated that process every time we got out of that car—for a week. At the end we wanted to drive that car into the ocean!

As ridiculous as it may seem, that “hatchback bomb” experience symbolizes our bond. A bond that has grown through the sickness and death of my wife and Ginny’s mother, through our “single” days together, through my remarriage, the family blending, and her delayed bout with grief. As her dad, my relationship with the Source fueled me, so in turn I could fuel Ginny. I could dispense the fuel, and she could receive it because of our ever-deepening heart-connection. Through our relationship, her tiny spark has ignited!

In our reading journey together we will discover how to make those relationship connections and pump the fuel from the Source to the spark. Then the fire will burn. And the more fuel we add, the hotter the fire burns.


The bonfire burned hot as about a dozen of us youth leaders sat on the edge of the canyon watching the sunset. A wild three days together on a west Texas ranch had offered us some unique experiences. We had rappelled over a cliff and off a rock inscribed with the words, “Lean back and live!” We’d herded cattle on horseback, hiked through the canyon, and gathered for grub cooked over an open campfire. As darkness set in, I stared into the hot orange flames leaping from the mesquite logs. Mesmerized, I found myself lost in my thoughts—about fire and all the gifts this simple element brings to man.

Fire warms. On this increasingly cold fall night in Texas, I scooted as close to that fire as I could get.

Fire brightens. No lights anywhere! Away from the fire it looked darker than normal to this city boy. The fire offered our only source of illumination.

Fire consumes. The barbeque cooked over the hot, smoking wood tasted delicious. So did the baked potatoes, vegetables, apple pie, and coffee. The heat of the fire made the food taste better. But if we had left our meal on the fire too long, it would have burned into charcoaled nothingness.

A bunch of grown-up little boys, we threw a few scraps of food into the fire just to watch them sizzle. Eventually the scraps disappeared completely, totally consumed.

Fire refines. Warren, our cowboy/guide, built the fire close to the corral. He had used that same fire pit many times to brand cattle and to shape horseshoes. He could fashion the horseshoes with his blacksmith’s tools and the heat of the flames, which burned out all the alloys and left only the pure metal.

Fire can also describe God and our relationship to Him.

And in a most fascinating way it expresses how He wants us to parent our children.

When we begin a relationship with God, He builds a fire in us that warms us, brightens us, consumes us, and refines us. And as that fire burns in our hearts, God uses it to kindle a fire in our children’s hearts.

Yet today that fire often gets doused in the hearts of teenagers. Maybe you find that true in your own home. Why so much widespread apathy—toward God, toward life, toward all things meaningful?

In many churches and families with teenagers, either the fire never started or only a spark remains. Josh McDowell summarizes the problem: “The reality is that the majority of our young people are adopting a ‘Christianity’ that is making little or no difference in their lives.”

In other words, they have the words of faith but no fiery enthusiasm for their faith.

Why? Many reasons define the problem, and we’ll take a shot at addressing those.

What can we as fallible, busy parents do not only to avoid spiritual apathy in our children, but more, to pour fuel on the fire of their hearts? I can hardly wait for us to go through this book so we can fuel this fire together!

Maybe you’re worried that your past and/or your own spiritual life now don’t exactly exhibit a shining example of sainthood. I have good news for you! I love the line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, especially when applied to parenting: “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.”

Don’t let where your kids have been or where you have been in the past dampen your fiery enthusiasm for the future. To use another movie line, in this book we will look back but only to enhance the future. Back to the future, so to speak!

If you desire a fresh start when it comes to raising your kids, Parent Fuel: For the Fire Inside Our Kids offers you a new, fiery perspective on parenting filled with possibilities. In fact, as a result of reading and applying this book . . .

  • You will move past your guilt over what you have not done.
  • You will make your pursuit of Jesus a passionate priority.
  • You will change from raising your kids by rules to raising them by God’s amazing grace.
  • You will take steps toward connecting or reconnecting in your relationship with your children.
  • You will relate to your children from your heart toward your child’s heart.
  • You will invest in a discipling relationship with your kids and your kids’ friends.
  • You will exercise discipline that will move your children from dependence to independence.
  • . . . and much more!

In a sentence, you will discover how to guide your children to passionately pursue Jesus, and in the process they will discover their hearts.

Once the fire starts, it spreads quickly. God ignites the spark; we pour the fuel on the spark in their hearts; the spark turns into a blaze; then their brightly burning fire spreads to others.

I hope that my experience as a dad and my own family’s amazing journey will . . .

inspire you to fuel the fire inside your child’s heart!