Confucius once said, “From the loving example of one family a whole State may become loving, and from its courtesies, courteous…Such is the nature of influence.” But what is true about a loving and courteous state coming from a loving and courteous family is true as well in the individual, church, nation, and world. The family is, after all, a foundational institution in every culture and society. It is important to properly plant the seeds of discipleship there first in order to reach out to yet other disciples. Unfortunately, the family is a ground that is often overlooked despite its potential. This is why in this post we are going to focus on the role of parents in discipleship and offer a few practical suggestions. A parent’s duty of making disciples out of sons and daughters should be prioritized; it is a God-entrusted responsibility. According to Tad Thompsonin his book Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship By Design, “God intends for a beautiful partnership to exist between the home and the local church. As a matter of fact, God intends for the Christian home to become the body of Christ in microcosm.” It is essential then for parents to take on their roles as teachers. Being close to them physically and often emotionally, parents have the ability to exercise great influence on their children’s lives. From the time they are born, children are constantly, consciously or unconsciously, picking up things regarding how to behave in society and the world from the context of their families, from their parents. Proper parenting would provide a glimpse of God’s nature. In other words, a good parent would serve as a picture of the relationship God had with Israel and Christ with the Church. However, the opposite can cause children to completely steer away from Christianity. Jeff Klick writes in his blog “Christian Discipleship Ministries,” “[There exists] dismal statists regarding the destruction of the family via divorce and the tragedy regarding the high percentage of young people rejecting Christ shortly after they leave the home.” Therefore, parents should strive to serve as good models of Christianity in order to help their children grow as good Christians themselves. The goal is to provide children with a constructive relationship of instruction, care, and love at home that will aid them in developing their identities as disciples.
Some Things You Can Do
God urges Israeli parents in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to teach their children like this: Hear, O Israel: TheLordour God, theLordis one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. We have been given a limited amount of time to use. However, we can choose where and how to use it. Children should be our priority. Sending them to a youth group or Sunday School class is not merely enough. Parents must take on to themselves to use their time for the children in order to instill in their hearts the ways of the Lord. As Pastor Craig F. Caster, Founder and Director of Family Discipleship Ministries and writer of Parenting Is a Ministry, says, “parenting according to God’s Word does not come naturally.” And it is true. We intentionally set time apart for the children every moment we can.
- Praying Together: For every instance there is a moment of gratitude or blessing, like at mealtime or graduation, a need for guidance or help, we encourage you to gather as a family and pray. Family prayer meetings can teach children early not fear to converse with God, bringing them a sense of comfort and closeness with God, and make them grasp the importance and meaning of prayer. Some suggest that even recording the answer to the prayers afterward can also teach patience and help solidify the reality of Christ in the children. We can teach our children to pray by praying for them and with them.
- Reading the Bible together: If you do not know where to begin with, the Book of Proverbs is a good starting point. It is filled with practical and righteous wisdom usable in daily life. Reading one chapter a day, or even a couple of verses a day, and sharing devotions and insights of what has been read can make a difference if you do it together every day. Through this, not only are you teaching your children to develop their own spiritual disciplines, but you are learning to be disciples together.
- Reading Other Books Together: Be it shortened versions of Bible stories or classics such as Pride and Prejudice, by a bed lamp or on a cozy couch, read to your children. When you do, you will have the chance to lead them with questions that will let them reflect on the lessons or the morality and values of the characters, measured against Christian values. Reading in general encourages the practice of critical thinking and discernment, things necessary to become knowledgeable disciples in Christ.
- Discuss: Children will have all sorts of questions, ranging from about the Bible to the ways of the world— do not avoid them or find an easy way out of them. Even if you cannot offer a satisfactory answer, share your own opinions and ask for theirs, always using the Word of God as your ultimate resource. Like this, Scripture can become a part of their way of thinking.
- Worship Together: Set apart a time for singing and praising God together. You can use chorus books, hymnals, printed lyrics of your favorite Hillsong songs, instruments, or even your bare hands to clap—anything! Teach your children that worship is supposed to be a part of daily life and not only a Sunday thing. Teach them to find joy in genuine praise.
- Spend Time Together: We have used the word together unsparingly in this post, and this is to emphasize the importance of togetherness in family. All discipleship relationships work through intimacy, honesty, supportiveness, and intentionality. The mere act of spending time together, no matter if it is the “usual family activities,” shows caring, and nothing else is more expressive of God’s loving nature than that.
A Christian parent’s mission should not be merely to be a good parent. It should be to be a great parent and disciple. The goal is to provide the children with an atmosphere where Christ is central and the Word of God is valued, where the right habits may be created. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” If you are afraid that their Christianity might become just a mere product of their social or family context, do not be. Unknowing obedience may seem to come first in this process, but sincere love will come with maturity and calling. After all, it is not really us who make disciples out of people, but Christ.