So, in Part One, we covered how important it is to take the lead in your child’s spiritual life. In fact, it is so important, that it is actually God-ordained. There are lots of ways that might look in your particular family, so let’s start getting down to the brass tacks.
Some families do best with a more formal devotional time around a table or in the living room. Some families do best with a looser, conversational journey through a particular book. Some families do best with very active, short object lessons. Some families do best when it’s scheduled, while others do best when it’s unscheduled but woven into the day.
If you’re new to this, give yourself a break if you don’t find the right formula the first time out. Be flexible, and definitely “read” your child along the way. One tip I will give you is that the more you can involve kids, the more engaged and “into it” they are. Even if it’s just, “Will you hold Daddy’s Bible until he reads our special verse?”, you’re making them see that they are an important part of what’s going on. If they are readers, and there’s something to read, have them do that. If they are new readers, I know it can be painfully slow, but just breathe deeply and look at what you’re doing from God’s vantage point. As they get older, they can start participating in choosing what you’re going to do in your family discipling time.
Let’s look at this whole thing from another angle. You can disciple your child one-on-one instead of as a family. If at all possible, it’s better to do both. Maybe it looks like this: Once a week, the family gathers for an activity/video/book, and during the week, the parents are on high alert for teachable moments a la Deuteronomy 6 (D6, if you’re cool). Or it might look like this: Dad travels most of the time and Mom is at home, so once a month, the whole family does something together, and Mom does a structured study of some kind once a week. Or it could look like this: The family does a study regularly together, and Mom takes the girl(s) through a study on another night, while Dad takes the boy(s) through another study. See? Lots of ways to make it happen, so keep at it!
I will say that as kids start to get older (preteen or so), it becomes more important to have Mom having spiritual conversations with the girls and Dad having them with boys. They need you, and they’re about to need you even more. Invest the time, and it will pay off. And especially if you’ve been discipling them along the way, you’ve probably managed to keep the window open.
Another part of discipling your children is living out your own walk authentically in front of them. What does that mean?
- Be honest about your struggles (as much as is appropriate from age to age) and praises. Share prayer requests, and pray together. And pray separately for each other.
- Teach your kids different ways to pray-how to pray Scripture, how to pray confession and repentance, how to pray praise and worship, the Lord’s Prayer, and so on.
- Apologize when you need to apologize because pride is no reason to withhold an apology from your kids.
- Be careful not to come off as a know-it-all who has all the answers, but as a trusted advisor who is really just a fellow traveler down a very long road.
- And here’s a big one- Whenever possible, connect biblical truths to anything that comes along in life, big or small.
Give yourself a deep understanding of grace. You’re not going to get it all right. You’re not. When you’re rearing kids, it’s all a big lab where you do the best to make the experiments go the way you want them to go! Even with second, third, and subsequent children, you never really know what you’re doing all the time. What you do know is that you have to trust in and rely on God along the way. And there are days when you get to the end, and your prayer is that God will bridge the huge gap you left. But here’s the good news about that lab—the truths you are teaching and the fact that you are teaching them at all, none of that is experimental. Those truths stay put no matter how you’re trying to pass them along.
If you don’t have kids yet, all of this is still relevant, believe it or not! Plan and prepare, my friends. Before you have kids, work on your relationship with the Lord. Grow and mature as much as you can so you will have more to give your child when the time comes. This is whether you are having your own children or adopting.
One last encouragement for you, from my own personal experience. We seem to put a lot of emphasis on the moment of conversion, and we set up a sequence of events in our heads that we are anxious to set in motion: conversion, baptism, then discipleship. Well, it’s not always so cut and dry, is it? Often, the whole thing is a process. Your child may make a decision young, and you can see fruit as he grows up that demonstrates that it was a genuine confession of faith. But sometimes, that fruit is hard to find, and you wonder if the conversion wasn’t what you all thought it was, or if it’s just the child’s age, or what. Don’t stay tangled up in that for too long. As long as your children are in your home, you have great influence, so don’t waste it.
It’s okay to do a Bible study or go through a book with a child you’re not sure is saved. You CAN disciple him or her. Be very loving and vocal about biblical truths, and connect them to what is important to your kid. And then connect it to bigger things, reminding them that faith isn’t about putting yourself in the center. What you’re doing in that process is understanding that you have made a clear Gospel presentation (have you?), and that you are committing to exposing your child to the breadth of God’s truths. What are they interested in? A topical study? Apologetics? Language? Archaeology? Prophecy? Whatever their “hook” is, bait it! Put in the time, knowing that having spiritual conversations is never, ever a waste of time. And then, pray. Realize that ultimately, you’re not the navigator of the journey God may have for our child.
So, Christian parents, here are your marching orders. Are you ready? You’ve heard them before. Go and make disciples, teaching them to observe all God has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20), and do it at home!