5 Simple Ways to Disciple Your Children
The highest calling for every Christian parent is to raise their children to love and serve the Lord. Yet many Christian parents struggle to know how to actually accomplish this task. Unfortunately, this has led some to essentially leave it in the hands of the church to do for them. We bring our kids to Sunday School, midweek ministries, youth group, and summer camp, and then hope that everything turns out in the end. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things, and I would argue they are incredibly helpful assets in our task of discipleship. But Scripture calls parents to take a more active role in this process. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 states:
 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. (ESV)
These verses lay out at least two important principles. First, it is the job of parents to raise their children in the faith. It cannot be something we merely export out for others to do. Second, this is an ongoing, natural process. In the passage, we see parents interacting with their children over the natural course of a day. We also see that it is not a one-time conversation. Discipleship happens in the context of the parent-child relationship.
With this in mind, I offer a few practical suggestions to help in this regard.
(1) Read the Bible with your kids daily
The foundation of our faith is God’s Word, and children should be exposed to it at home as well as in church. Reading the Bible at home shows children that our faith is not something sectioned-off for Sunday mornings but rather fills our entire lives. In our house, we have formed the habit of reading the Bible at dinner time, since everyone is gathered together already. There is no need for adding another meeting to the day. We simply read a section, ask a question or two, and leave it at that. Sometimes there is little engagement, and other times it goes really well. I don’t worry much about the results from day to day, since establishing the priority of Bible reading and reflection is itself a worthy goal.
(2) Pray with your kids
No surprise here. Most Christian parents already pray with their children regularly. But if this is not yet a habit you have formed, start today. Praying with your children is incredibly valuable. You can do this at bedtime with younger children every day. Once kids are a bit older and are no longer being tucked in at night, it may be harder to find opportunities, but don’t let that deter you from finding a way anyways.
One thing we forget about praying is that it is an opportunity to show kids what a relationship with God looks like. Children naturally pray for things they want, like a new toy or nice weather on the weekend. That’s perfectly fine, but we want their prayers to mature over time. We can do this by modelling what spiritually mature prayers can sound like. When you pray with your children, incorporate things like:
- giving thanks for the day
- asking for growth and wisdom
- praying for the salvation of friends and family
- asking to grow through a hardship, rather than simply taking it away
- asking for opportunities to serve others
- praying that we would be more obedient to God
You can actually teach a lot of sound theology just by modelling in prayer. This will help our children move from prayers that are centred on their own will to prayers that are centred on God’s will.
(3) Ask for forgiveness
Parents sin just like kids do. When we lose our temper or fail to fulfill a promise, we should ask our children to forgive us. Don’t simply say “I’m sorry”. Also say, “I was wrong, please forgive me”. You might even want to pray together and ask for God’s forgiveness as well. When we fail to show transparency in our own sins, but demand our children do so, we are inadvertently teaching them that faith is a thing kids need but not adults. Admitting our own failures and showing our own need for a Saviour is authentic parenting and authentic Christian living.
(4) Serve with your children
There are a hundred different ways to serve others that can be both inside and outside the church. Sometimes we can divide the act of serving up too rigidly, so adults serve over here and children serve over there. Try to find ways to bring service together, whether that is raking the yard for an elderly neighbour or serving food for an outreach event.
(5) Work to be more joyful
Joy does not always come easily for parents. We are balancing a hundred different stressors at any given time, often feeling overwhelmed in our responsibilities and struggles in life. As such, sometimes we can put off a general vibe that Christians are miserable people who like to complain and be grumpy all the time. How much better would it be for our children if the most joyful people they knew were followers of Jesus! Wouldn’t that send a powerful message of its own? It does, but joy is not as natural as we’d like it to be. There are many different ways to fight for joy in life, including nurturing our own health—spiritually, physically, relationally, and otherwise. Some simple ways to start would be to watch less TV, read less news, put down the phone, and enjoy each other’s company uninterrupted. Showing our children that they are a delight to us is a winsome way to demonstrate that our experience of God’s love spills out into love for others.
What do you think? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.