We are still very much growing into how we are to disciple our children. We have the clear scriptural precedent that we, as parents, are solely responsible for training and guiding our children’s hearts to pursue a living relationship with Jesus. We can invite others into this place, but scripturally speaking, there is no direct command given to any other role or person to fulfill this responsibility to raise our children to be followers of Jesus. So in that aspect, we are certain.
As to how we do this however, we’re only just finding a rhythm and consistency in this. Partly this has been due to having three young children, all at different places on their faith journey, and then we as parents continuing to grow and add habits that we need to be disciplined about keeping in place.
What is Family Discipleship?
Firstly, what is discipleship in the context of the family? I believe it is partnering with the Holy Spirit in directing your child’s heart towards cultivating their own relationship with Jesus.
The heart of our family’s discipleship approach is to stir within our children a desire to love like Jesus, and to follow Him every day of their lives, growing deeper in their faith, and living out His purpose for their lives on earth.
We’ve decided that the very best thing we can do is to love Jesus ourselves, devote ourselves to knowing him, be extravagant in our faith and in how we express love to others, and our children will follow our lead. We cannot lean on a method or curriculum to guarantee our children’s successful discipleship – these can be useful tools but do not replace loving nurture and guidance in stirring within our children a heart to cultivate their own relationship with the Lord.
Nurture and Connection
We’ve found that having gentle and sympathetic hearts with our children, and making our connection with them a priority, makes it possible to guide them from that place of relationship. Let me add that we aren’t perfect, and we ask for forgiveness daily for impatience, stern words, and missing the target in other ways. But establishing heart-to-heart connection is at the foundation of building into their hearts. Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than teaching good morals, and teaching bible knowledge as though it were a school subject. Discipleship for us must be from a living, real, honest, relational context.
Admittedly, we have wavered in our consistently many times, and are only just reviving our goals in this area. But here’s some of our approach and what we hope to grow into more this year:
- Read the bible (or storybook bible) and pray together. We bought a Discoverer’s Bible for our 8 year old, and enjoy The Jesus Storybook Bible with our younger children (we all love it).
- Prayer is the first response rather than the last when navigating the storms of life, no matter what their size.
- Children’s devotions are those designed for children to work through themselves or with your assistance. We especially love “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” which is written for children ages 8+.
- Family devotions are a way of bringing the family together and connecting together over His Word. “Our 24 Family Ways” by Clay and Sally Clarkson is a favourite, which contains nicely-illustrated colouring pages for children to complete while they are listening. Sometimes we just do a spontaneous family devotion at the dinner table.
- Spending time with like-minded families is such a necessary part of building one another’s faith, and inspiring a desire to know Jesus and make Him known.
- Worship with other Christians is something we love to do, and we have a community of like-minded families that we love to worship with where the children are welcome to participate. It might look a little different from a family separating into two locations once a week and standing in rows to worship, but we love the freedom of creativity of allowing God to move in a group of people that love, honour and accept one another, with children a valued part of His voice and expression amongst us.
- Worship music on in the house every day is something we’ve always done. Worship is my great love, and I know it will form the soundtrack of my children’s childhood. It’s our hope that the songs of their childhood will be remembered throughout their lives as a source of life, encouragement, and blessing.
- Memorising scripture and displaying scripture so His Word is being learned and meditated upon regularly.
- Audio bible is something we haven’t utilised yet, but plan to use when our children are a little older.
- Intentional bible study and learning – we haven’t wanted bible study to simply be another school subject, but do want to gradually introduce more intentional study as they get older. We want them to first and foremost understand that the bible is God’s Word – infallible, trustworthy and true.
A couple of resources we are currently enjoying as part of our intentional learning are, “Who is God and Can I Know Him?” (Apologia text and accompanying notebook), and “What’s in the Bible” DVD series.
We have a growing collection of books containing stories of missionaries and some great heroes of faith (both historical and living), that seek to inspire children with what it can look like when lives are surrendered to Jesus. A couple of films that we’ve watched recently (Father of Lights, and Compelled By Love) have reminded me that these will be a wonderful addition to our family’s discipleship resources at some stage.
One Final Thought
We aren’t simply aiming for our children to simply behave like Christians and grow up to be good people. We want to present them with the truth that the power of the gospel will save them and transform them. Yes we need a discipleship path that is grace-filled and intentional. Yes we need to model them love and a living relationship with Jesus ourselves.
But also, we need to remember that the goal isn’t to produce children and eventually adults with good morals and behaviour. It’s to train them up in the way THEY should go on the path of life, and encourage them to find out what God wants for their lives. Instead of asking them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’, ask them ‘What does God want to do in and through your life?’ It’s all about Jesus, and what He’s done for us. In dying for us, we can now live for Him. And he enables us to do so.