Parents Making Disciples

words by Chris Bond

What do parenting and discipleship have in common? How do we help our children grow up to know and follow Jesus?

I’ve often thought longingly about the way Jesus spent 3 years doing life with His 12 disciples. If only we could replicate that sort of living and working together so closely in modern life, surely we’d be much more effective in the church’s mission to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ Of course the two-hour church service on a Sunday is part of it – it’s where we are inspired and encouraged and equipped as a larger group. Our iron-sharpening-iron times with 2 or 3 others who know the details of our lives is also helping us to grow as disciples as are the times when we engage with a group of others regularly in a missional context. These are all parts of our discipleship environment, and the structures we’re building at Hope. But, eating together every day and living and working under the same roof feel like the holy grail of discipleship!

I went to a talk recently called ‘Faith In Our Families’ by Care For The Family. I had a mind-set change, realising that we do have this opportunity to make disciples like Jesus did, maybe having 18 years or more with those we are discipling!! Research has shown that the majority of people who come to faith do so before the age of 19. About 50% of children brought up in a Christian home follow the faith as adults. What an opportunity!

Just as I think of discipleship for adults happening in different settings, so, I realise it does for our children. The Sunday service is a time of inspiration, learning and meeting with other Christian children, discovering that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. We as parents though are the primary disciple makers of our children and do this in normal life, at home and out and about with our children.

So how do we do it? As we read the gospels we see Jesus teaching His disciples both systematically and spontaneously (both organised and organic). The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7) was a systematic teaching on different parts of the Christian life. Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer spontaneously when they asked Him how they should pray. Jesus also taught spontaneously whilst on a walk with His disciples through a wheat field (Luke 6), using that opportunity to explain a spiritual truth.

The beauty of discipling our children is that we can, like Jesus, be both systematic and spontaneous as we do life together with them. The systematic might include a discipline of reading the bible and praying each day. The spontaneous might be talking through an incident from school or sharing what God’s been teaching you recently. Allowing ourselves time to engage with these moments helps to make the most of them.

And a lot of what we pass on to our children we will do without realising it. I attribute my optimistic can-do attitude to my parents although I can’t remember how and when they taught me that. A couple called John and Vicki discipled me in my teens. They were intentional in helping me to hear God’s voice but also from being in their home I absorbed an appreciation of good coffee. I also notice myself behaving like Silas from time to time(!) and I’m sure I’ve picked up those behaviours from my pastor’s apprenticeship working alongside him for 5 years, as well as hopefully catching some of his humility and love for people on the margins.

So, in your parenting be encouraged! It’s a wonderful opportunity to disciple your children. We’d love to keep talking about this. If you have questions, stories, recommendations please share them with me and perhaps we can incorporate them into some follow-up blog posts.