Parents have a tremendous opportunity to make disciples in the home. It is without a doubt the most important, and challenging task, yet God has provided everything we need to succeed. There are plenty of great parenting programs out there, but no matter what, parents in the early years ought to make sure that 3 things are included in the training of their kids – the Bible, the church, and the wisdom of godly, proven parents.
By building your home on the sufficiency of God’s Word, surrounding yourself with other faithful believers, and spending time gleaning from proven, godly parents, you’ll be able to access the tools you need to succeed. In the same way that you wouldn’t go to a marriage counselor who’s been divorced twice any more than you’d hire an overweight trainer to help you get in shape, we ought to go the right source to get the right results.
Most importantly, making disciples in your home is spiritual and requires the right tools. Beyond the 3 that we’ll discuss below, remember that above all else prayer is essential when trusting God for the salvation of your children. In this resource we’ll look at 3 fundamental things that will help equip you to make disciples in your home, and then we’ll finish with a real-life story from a mom who’s raising five children in the ways of the Lord.
Proverbs 7:1-3 advises, “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart”.
Is there really any better place to find “instructions” than the Bible? The Bible should be every parent’s go-to resource when making disciples in the home. The Bible teaches us about our God, our worship, our conduct, our eternal home and more! Before you think this is a typical answer and skim down to the next section, take a moment to ask yourself these questions: Is the living Word of God alive in you? Have your kids seen your diligence to study the Word? Do they see parents who love God with their whole hearts? Is there worship in your home? Do you sing songs of praise to God as David did (even if your tune is terrible)? Is the Word God a river of life flowing out of you?
The most important thing we can do as parents is remember that discipleship is “caught not taught”. If you’re excited about God’s Word, they will be! If you’re a biblical model of prayer and a bold witness for Christ, they will be! If you sing, dance, and shout for joy before the Lord, they will too! A basic principle in God’s order for creation is that everything will reproduce after it’s own kind. Yes, you make humans. But more than that, you influence who they are by what you do consistently.
If you’re a sporadic Bible reader, don’t expect your kids to want to read. If you don’t admit when you’re wrong, love others, or build your home values on Scripture, then don’t expect your kids to confess sin, love others, or obey authority. If your wife has to drag you out of bed to go to church, don’t be surprised when you have to do the same for your kids. Never has there been a greater challenge than the challenge to live out our faith in front of a 24/7 audience – our kids. If you’re going to make disciples in the home, make sure that you are a committed disciple yourself. It would feel good to say that it’s never too late to start but when it comes to parenting there are crucial stages that you won’t want to be lazy with.
One seasoned parent told me early on, “from age 0-6 the concrete is still wet, but it won’t be long until it’s set.” Don’t be discouraged if you’re a late starter. God is a big God and He’s the one who saves your kids. Perhaps a more accurate way to put it would be, “It’s never too late to start praying”.
This year at VBS there was a 16 year-old team leader who blew us all away with his ability to disciple young children. He led a small group in which multiple children made commitments to Christ and taught them how to pray by his example. When I told his mom and dad, “Great job raising your son that way!” they responded that it was only God’s grace, and explained they did not do a good job training him in the early years. After years of prayer, walking by faith, and setting the right example for him, now it is bearing fruit. Whatever stage you’re in as a parent, it’s never too late to start praying and setting the right example. It takes disciples to make disciples.
In Hebrews 10:23-25 the writer exhorts his readers with these words: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as your see the day drawing near”.
Too many parents think the church’s job is to entertain their kids, and far more parents think the church’s job is to fix their kids. Make no mistake about it – it is the mandate of the church to make disciples, but that does not mean just on Sunday. Parents are given the stewardship of training their children, and the church must support that. It’s like an ecosystem that works together to sustain life. Parents and the church partner together to teach, learn, and grow. If parents don’t come to church, they run the risk of parenting on an island with no support or discipleship. Likewise, if the church becomes Disneyland, it won’t fulfill its Biblical mandate to offer spiritual nourishment to believers.
The Holy Spirit inspired the words in Hebrews 10:23-25 to remind believers that we come together to stimulate one another to love and good deeds! Church is where we get challenged, find support, and celebrate our soon and coming King. Make sure your family is in a Bible-teaching church, led by qualified leaders who fit the description of 1 Timothy 3:1-3 and Titus 1:5-16, and that you serve the vision of that church, as it is feeding your family and responsible for keeping watch over your souls (Hebrews 13:17).
One of the best things you can do for your kids is consistently plug them into a church that supports their spiritual growth, instead of one that just satisfies their short attention span. Sure, there will be plenty of other children’s ministries that are more entertaining and have bigger playgrounds, but the final stage in heaven will set the record straight as Paul did in Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life”.
Proverbs 16:31 says, “A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness”.
If you are leading your home by example in the Word, and plugged into the local church, chances are you have some gray haired friends who’ve provided much wisdom. God designed the church to be a place full of people from different races, backgrounds, and best of all, different ages! Wisdom and experience often come through living out certain seasons in life. If you’ve read some books, taken a class, and think you’ve got parenting down, you’ve got a rude awakening in the near future. In the same way, if you’re waiting for problems to arise before asking for help, it will already be too late.
Good leadership in the home means planning ahead, and that means asking for help with life stages you haven’t even hit yet. Many young parents don’t know where to start, so the best thing to do is find a gray haired couple at your church and go admit that! The next step is to invite them to lunch on a Sunday after church and simply learn. Even on the tightest new-parent budget, it’s worth taking care of the bill, preparing your questions, and getting some good old-fashioned wisdom.
One final thought on this is to be wary of starting every search for wisdom by searching on Google. While the Internet can boast a plethora of solid resources, you may fall prey to bad advice if you haven’t first set your own core convictions. Asking for help from godly examples is always a great place to start, then sit down with your wife or husband and talk through your home’s foundation biblically, then weigh everything against that standard. You’ll soon find yourself on the right track.
ONE FAMILY SHARES THEIR STORY
Here is the story of one Godly woman who raised five Godly children: “Because I have 5 children all born within 7 years, I am asked many times, ‘What does spirituality look like for you?’ Well, I rise early and have my alone time with God. Now I can’t say this worked through all my child-rearing years. When they were babies and toddlers, it seemed the earlier I rose the earlier they did as well. Sometimes, 15 minutes was all I got. When they were older I trained them to leave me alone during my quiet time. God does take priority over our children. I instructed them this is not time for them; they need to leave mommy alone and wait. I put them back in their bed or crib, sometimes crying until I had my time. They learned and eventually stopped crying or demanding time. There were times when they were allowed to sit quietly next to me and scribble on a piece of paper. Sick babies sat on my lap while I worked out one chapter and a bit of prayer time. If I was sick I took snatches of time from my bed or the couch. Yes, there were days I missed, however, because I had built a relationship with my Lord, I longed for time with Him.
Later, my husband or I would read the Bible out loud to my kids during breakfast (there were no sermons mind you). As they learned to read we would take turns reading out loud. Sometimes, it was at lunch or dinner; we sat on the couch, or on a blanket outside. When they were young we did it in varied times and places. I consciously thought of what our schedule was like for the week and when we could read together. Because we enjoyed reading the exciting stories, many times my children would ask to read. We went through periods of life, moving states where we fell off, times of inconsistency.
In the older years, we read in the morning. When questions arose I was not afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,’ yet I would seek out answers. I worked to share with my children what God has taught me. I shared sins of the past, at age appropriate times. I would speak of the Lord with others in front of my children. We separated them only from very private conversations. We prayed with others in front of and sometimes with our children. When a friend calls me on the phone with an immediate prayer request, like someone being rushed to the hospital, I tell my children and we stop and pray before rushing out the door. I let them help and plan when we took meals to people. We would load it in the car and pray that God would bless the meal for this family. If I had work to do at church they went with me and I figured ways for them to help. They watched and served beside me.
I remember a time when one of my strong-willed sons was lamenting he was ‘always’ in trouble. He had been disciplined quite a bit that week! He even mentioned his brother enjoyed some things he did not (hmm, can we see Cain & Abel?). This was the perfect opportunity for me to point out and begin to memorize with him Ephesians 6:1-3, ‘Children obey your parents… Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you…’ Be careful parents, I also had to diligently practice Ephesians 5:21-24, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands…’ Somehow, my son’s will strongly resembled mine. We prayed together, and I asked him what specific ways he was going to begin practicing obedience. He didn’t write yet so we drew pictures of his plan of action. We repeated the scripture several times throughout our interaction and in the days to follow. A few days later he made a presentation to his father with the memorized scripture and the pictures of how he was doing it. I made sure to recognize his obedient actions God had helped him with those past days. I also had to be attentive when he was struggling to stop and pray with him and remind him of scripture.
In the young adult years, we still read the Bible, but separately. We didn’t go to the movies a lot – sometimes once a year. So we would watch movies on the weekend together at home and many times my husband or I would pause the movie to ask if they noticed what was wrong or right in a character’s action or response. We also did this with books. Sometimes our kids would say, ‘But doesn’t the Bible say this…’ We would respond by asking if that was the correct context. Someone would grab their Bible to check and read the passage which might relate. This is family Bible time. It is natural, it is an outpouring of what we have all learned, memorized, and experienced together. It is not every Tuesday night at 7pm, do or die. It is a lifestyle.”
Here’s a list of 3 fantastic child-discipleship resources I’ve personally read that can support the efforts in your home, and my #1 Bible recommendation for your early reading-level disciples, as well as an awesome way to keep discipleship going for your kids during summer break.
1) Your Child’s Profession of Faith – By Dennis Gundersen
Gundersen’s unique treatment of a rarely addressed subject can make the difference between parents who participate in their children’s deception and presumption, or parents who truly guide him to eternal life. If a small child tells us he thinks he’s saved, do we take his words at face value? How do we test his profession, especially without seeming to doubt the child and discourage him? Many have found this book the most useful guide ever written on the topic.
2) Shepherding a Child’s Heart – By Tedd Tripp
Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life. Shepherding a Child’s Heart gives fresh biblical approaches to child rearing.
3) What The Bible Says About Parenting – John MacArthur
Parents today seek answers from child experts, self-help books, or equally confused friends. But even the experts portray modern-day childbearing as a minefield strewn with psychological dangers and emotional hazards.
What the Bible Says About Parenting is not a book on child psychology, nor is it proposing a new parenting method. It is simply presenting the principles of biblical parenting with as much clarity as possible. John MacArthur, a leading expert on the Bible and an experienced pastor, teacher, father, and grandfather goes into depth on vital biblical parenting subjects.
4) The Adventure Bible For Early Readers (NIV) – By Lawrence O. Richards
There may not be a more kid-friendly and versatile Bible out there. There’s too many cool features to list here but to name a few: It provides a brief overview of every book of the Bible so your kids can start to survey Scripture (and parents can learn too), a “Words to Treasure” feature to help them memorize Scripture, and there’s even a dictionary for helping them (and parents) know what certain words mean. It’s got enough illustrations to help your child transition from a picture Bible to a reading Bible, but not so many that they still feel like a “little kid.” Perfect for keeping up in Sunday school but exciting enough to motivate them during personal reading times.
5) Vacation Bible School (Video)
Parents can always depend on Vacation Bible School to keep discipleship rolling through summer break! Here’s a link to Vacation Bible School highlights @ Mission Bible Church 2015. This year, our team witnessed 28 young disciples make commitments to following Jesus Christ. See you next summer!