As a parent, God has entrusted you with a tremendous privilege and responsibility. The Bible speaks frequently to parents, offering encouragement, wisdom and instruction. Before Shannon and I had kids, I remember having a conversation about how we would be different than our friends who were letting their kids drive the family’s schedule and priorities. We vowed to be different; that was until we actually had our first kid.
We realized very quickly that there is an inertia that drives parents toward having a kid-centered home. Their noise, needs, desires, activities, homework, etc. require parents to diligently avoid being consumed by the tyranny of the urgent.
Parents have to work hard to build a Christ-centered home and not a kid-centered home, because a kid-centered home produces self-centered adults. Parents have to constantly strive to take their kids out of the center of the family and remind them that Christ is the center.
Mom and dad, you are the leaders in your home, and as such you are uniquely positioned to keep your eyes fixed on God and your finger on the pulse of the family. The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. And as their mom and dad, you have the privilege, joy and responsibility to lead them.
Check out what the Bible tells parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Here are a few observations about disciple-making for parents from these verses:
Step 1–“On Your Hearts”
Let the Word of God and the love of God be on your heart. The best discipler is a disciple. The best leader is first a follower. Your primary call as a disciple-maker is to know the Word, love it and live it. How are you doing in the areas of prayer, sharing your faith and reading your Bible? If you don’t have a Bible reading plan, click here for a free online Bible reading plan. As a parent, your first step in making disciples of your kids is to be a disciple.
Step 2–“Impress Them on Your Children”
Parents can impress the things of God on their children through discipline and delight.
The greatest context for teaching kids comes through consistent discipline. One of the things that I’ve realized is that while I waver in my consistency in leading family devotions, our kids never waver in their need to be disciplined. The Bible speaks of disciplining kids often:
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13–14
The purpose of discipline is to gain a hearing. Most of the time, our kids are running around so fast that they don’t stop long enough to really hear what we are saying. The goal of discipline isn’t just behavioral modification but heart transformation. Through discipline, we slow them down and create the opportunity to teach them the truths of repentance, grace, forgiveness and kindness.
A parent’s role, especially a Father, is not to crush his children but to cultivate them. Through discipline, parents should seek to cultivate their kids so that they become self-disciplined and do not continually need a wooden spoon or a timeout or jail cell to have them live rightly.
Our role as leaders in the home is to equally delight and discipline. It is not loving to delight in your kids without correcting them, just as it is not loving to discipline them without delighting in them. The Bible reminds us of the joy of having kids:
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. Proverbs 23:24–25
The LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11–12
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Proverbs 29:17
Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! Psalm 127:3-5
Parents, you are to rejoice in and delight in the blessing of your kids today, not in some future version of them. Before any parent disciplines their children, they are commanded to delight in them. This means that most of your time is spent enjoying your children, encouraging them, laughing with them, being affectionate with them and enjoying them so that there is a deep bond of love and joy between your children and their mom and their dad. The backdrop of your discipline is delight.
Step 3–“Talk About Them …”
Finally, mom and dad, make disciples as you go. Look for opportunities as you drive to practice, play at the park or put the kids down to bed. Don’t let discipleship be isolated to Sundays, but let it be a natural part of your day. It’s not weird for your kids to hear you talk about what you love and are passionate about. So talk about what God is teaching you and ask them what God is teaching them.
You can’t delegate discipleship. You take the lead and look for opportunities to “talk about these things” as you go. Try to create places where your kids ask questions. Use family devotion times, serving together, going to church together, and asking them what they learned, as ways to have some conversations. And be patient, because most of those conversations will be short and fruitless, but there will be one every so often that is powerful and transformative.
This is the way of discipleship: patient obedience over the course of years builds a firmly rooted disciple who will bear much fruit. And that is what we are praying that our kids become. Mom and dad, keep your heart engaged in the Word of God, delight in your kids, correct them when necessary, and look for opportunities to have fruitful conversations that lead them to Jesus.