Family Discipleship Part 2
As we began discussing in Part 1, adopting an intentional plan of discipleship for your kids is often very difficult. However, it is one of the most important things you can do, as you adopt the biblical responsibility of leading your kids to see that God’s Word is not empty for them, but that it is their very life!
In this post, I wanted to get a little more specific about what discipling and leading your family in this way can look like, as well as offer a couple of helpful resources.
Modeling in the Moments
One of the biggest ways that you can lead your kids into a lifestyle of faith in Christ is through demonstration. Life is full of ups and downs. There are days when the kids are in a good mood, laughing and listening. There are other days where you feel like you are constantly policing terrible behavior. Then there are in-between days where you are just getting by and things just feel so-so. That’s OK. The goal is to incorporate spiritual awareness and the truth of God’s Word into all those things.
So, in a pleasant moment when you are out with your kids in beautiful weather, take a moment to observe the beauty around you, giving God the credit for His incredible creation. Ask questions about what your kids understand about nature, and marvel together at its complexity and beauty. On terrible discipline days, try to take a moment to talk about sin and how it affects more than just the individual. Bad behavior opens an easy door for a gospel conversation. Explain the reason behind your moral standard, and maybe even point to Bible verses that have helped you understand that kind of sin (BibleGateway is a great and reliable Bible search website). Be transparent enough to talk about your own failures, and be sure to ask forgiveness if you have lost your cool in a moment of anger. On so-so, average, just-getting-by days, demonstrate your own personal devotion by continuing to make time for personal Bible reading and prayer. There ought to just about always be time to take a quiet moment to pray with your spouse and kids. Simply taking a moment before bed to give thanks, pray for needs, and re-center thoughts on the presence of God can make all the difference.
Praying with kids can be hard sometimes. They may not know what to say, and you may not either. But something is better than nothing. Have kids pray for missionaries or pastors that you know. Have them pray for their teachers or friends to simply have a good day. Have them begin to come up with their own needs and eventually begin to express those to God in their own way, even if it isn’t perfect. (My son Drew prays every night that he won’t throw up…for no reason whatsoever.) There have even been moments in our kids’ lives in which, when we pray together as a family, we have them pray for God to change their hearts and improve their attitudes or disobedience if they have had a bad discipline day. If we believe that God transforms us from our sinfulness into the image of Jesus, then we shouldn’t shy away from praying to that end with and for one another.
Rhythms Breed Replication
We’ve all had those moments when our children do or say something that feels a little too familiar. For example, I’ve noticed both my kids rolling their eyes and saying “Oh, come on!” in a frustrated tone. That’s me. I do that. They’ve seen me do it 1000 times, so they picked it up. Those moments of emulation can be truly sobering!
At the same time, however, they also illustrate the degree to which my kids are watching and mimicking my daily behaviors…the good and the bad. For that reason, I believe it is important to establish rhythms and norms into our family routines that reflect faith as a priority. Occasional doesn’t get the job done. It’s got to be consistent and regular!
The classic church answers are good examples and apply here: Pray, Read Your Bible, Go to Church. Those three things are accessible and clear ways for you to demonstrate devotion in your home.
Establishing a rhythm of praying before meals should be an easy win. We even have a little song we sing before meals that our kids will always remember. You can challenge them to pray in different ways, too! Then, pretty much every night, we pray together as a family. Sometimes one of us prays for everyone. Other times we have everybody pray for different things. By now, if we don’t do it for some reason, our kids ask for it. It’s built into their daily rhythm.
Reading the Bible is fairly simple. I do most of my personal Bible reading in private, but I believe it is important to also sometimes read your Bible around your kids (more on that below). Your kids should also, as they grow, begin the habit of daily Bible reading. You can demonstrate the rhythm of it, and they will pick it up. (Side note: I’m personally trying to read a real, physical Bible instead of the Bible on my phone, mostly because it’s hard for my kids to tell the difference between me reading my Bible and checking Facebook.)
Attending church as regularly as possible, even (and especially) if it requires sacrifice on your part, is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate devotion, and Sundays happen every single week, so it’s a natural rhythm. Your kids should see that going to church is a priority in your life, not because it is another box to check, but because you actually demonstrate it’s worth and value. You don’t teach your kids to value church by rolling up at the last second, checking them into children’s program, and sitting still in service, just to pick them up and the end and drive home in silence. No, the purpose and value of worshiping with the body of Christ together is much more than that. Your kids should see you passionately singing praises to God, participating in corporate prayer times, and tithing. They should see you engage intellectually with the sermon, taking notes, and intentionally seeking out guests to make them feel welcome. They should see church as a privilege, a joy, and a sacrifice. In all likelihood, your kids will grow to think of church the way that you do, and if simply “going to church” is your default, then it will likely never be the life-giving outlet that it is meant to be for them. Yes, there will sometimes be reasons to miss church, whether it is sickness or a special event, but those occurrences should be the exception and not the rule.
Demonstrations of Devotion
In addition to the simple rhythms of prayer, Bible reading, and church participation, I believe it is important to go a step further. It is important to set aside time for regular Family Devotions during the week. Setting aside time for an intentional, structured family devotion time can be challenging, but I believe it is essential to communicating to our kids that faith is part of our life as a family, not just something we do on Sundays. Family devotion time doesn’t have to be a big, well-planned production or another Sunday School lesson. It really just needs to be a time where you are demonstrating that the Bible is important to your life and family, and that it is something that can be studied and discussed together.
Sometimes for our devotion times we use a devotional guide (“Foundations for Kids” by Robby and Kandi Gallaty is really great). When our kids were babies and toddlers, simply reading from a kids Bible and praying over them is great (“The Jesus Storybook Bible” is wonderful for this). Sometimes we take a break from the guided devotionals and simply focus more on engaging our kids in prayer or just singing a praise song together. (The Go Fish Guys have great songs on YouTube that our kids love.) Here at Aspen Grove Church, we give parents a printed devotional for their family to try that is connected to the Bible passage that the adults studied that week. That way, parents can engage their kids about what they have just learned. In addition, in the coming months we will hopefully be releasing a brand new resource called “Reclaiming the Road” that will be a family devotional podcast that families can listen to together in the car!
Sure, it’s messy, and it’s difficult to keep our kids attention sometimes, but a failed devotional time is never as much as a failure as no devotional time at all. Set a goal for once a week, put it on the calendar, get your spouse to hold you accountable, and pull the trigger. You might think it will be easier after school is out or once school starts or after baseball season or after whatever, but it won’t. It’s never easy to start a new rhythm. But commit to it, knowing the results won’t be seen for a while.
Again, at Aspen Grove Church, we exist to lead people to growth and transformation in Christ, and one of the most important ways that mission is realized is by people replicating their faith through Family Discipleship. We would love for you to join us on this journey!