Discipling our Children
...that life-long process which begins with introducing our children to Jesus and continues with encouraging them in their relationship with Christ. All this in such a way that they give their lives over to Jesus Christ as undisputed Lord, Saviour, Redeemer and eternal friend and follow Him in His redemptive mission on the earth.
Murray and Carol's adult 'kids' in 2008 (right)
Discipling our children is our most important role as parents because our children are a trust from God for but a few years while many competing ideals and personalities vie for the souls and ultimate allegiance of our children.
It's important to understand clearly that the responsibility of discipling our children cannot be delegated; it is ours alone. This means it is not first of all the responsibility of a church community, a Christian school, a grandparent or anyone else, though all may contribute - it is first of all the responsibility of the parents who brought their child into the world.
Discipling our children in their relationship with Jesus is not a technique but a goal, an attitude, and a motivation - hopefully in time to come so naturally that we may become hardly even fully conscious of doing so. This is not to say that it is not to be deliberate.
Let me share some of the elements which Carol and I have valued over the years in this process.
· Keep your own relationship with Christ fresh. You cannot give what you do not have. Please consider suggestions intended to help in your relationship with Christ by clicking here.
· Keep your marriage warm and strong. One of the best gifts you can give your children is to show them how much you love their father or mother. Very little helps a child feel secure as much as knowing that his or her father or mother are secure in their love for each other.
· Faithful love. This is primary because our children will often come to view their Father in heaven, at least to a degree and for a season, through the lens of how they viewed their parents love towards them. Love provides the emotional security critical to the emotional health which is a part of the Lord's love for us.
· Give thanks to God at mealtimes. Giving thanks acknowledges God as the Giver of all that is good cultivating a positive attitude towards life, an attitude of gratitude and the important truth that the world revolves not around us but that God alone is God.
· Eat together as a family without the distraction of television or other activity. Eating together gives opportunity for conversation, giving our children a sense of belonging, and for sensing how each child is doing. More...
· Find regular times for the family to come together for snacks, tea or coffee, to provide opportunity to connect emotionally in a relaxed setting. In our family these were simply called "coffee time" and those who were free gathered to chat and share experiences of the day.
· Pray with your children as you tuck them in at night. This began before our children were aware with a song and a prayer in infancy and ended somewhere in their teens. Sometimes our children would share a fear or concern and we would place it into the Lord's care in prayer.
· Pray for your children as long as you live. Now that Carol and I are "empty-nested" we continue to pray for our children daily. We pray for their personally needs, spiritual growth and discipleship in Christ. As it turns our we have 5 children so we pray particularly for our eldest son and his family on Monday, our second son on Tuesday and so on, but also anytime any of them come to mind.
· Read Bible stories and later the Bible itself following a meal or at bed time. When I was a child my parents read a Psalm following breakfast, a chapter from the Old Testament at noon and a chapter from the New Testament at supper. The possibilities are many. There are excellent children's story Bibles, character building stories, devotional booklets, audio stories for children and best of all the Bible itself. The most important is to seek to engage your children in conversation, with questions or other ways of connecting Biblical truth with daily life.
· Scripture memory. Sometimes we would choose one verse from the chapter we read after the meal to write onto a small card and place with other Bible memory cards gathered that way. This is an excellent way to bring focus to a reading and to help retain the truth of God's Word as guideposts on life's journey.
· Read Christian biographies to inspire and share practical examples of lives which have made a difference. Such books also share realistically the cost and in some cases suffering of those whose lives we would invite our children to emulate.
· Involve your children in mission through reading, travel and opening your home to others involved in mission sharing their stories.
Some may view these suggestions as out of fashion or inadequate in other ways. Certainly Carol and I have not always expressed these goals as we would have wished. May the Lord guide you to do better.
I share these suggestions simply to encourage you to choose what is helpful, but more importantly, to stimulate you to ask the Lord how He would have you disciple your children to put deep roots into Christ for the challenges of following Him in this world.