By Jeff Klick, Ph.D.
Married With Children:
When God blesses a couple with children (through either childbirth or adoption), the discipleship opportunities expand. In addition to what was stated in Family Practical Discipleship Tools: Marriage about the husbands and wives, now there are additional lives involved. The same principles apply whether there is one child or a dozen regarding discipleship opportunities. The more children the greater the possible impact. Regardless of family size, each couple will have to adjust their lifestyle once a child or children arrive. The first requirement for godly parents is to accept the Biblical assignment regarding children:
“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. 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. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
God has delegated the training of the children to their parents. This is a phenomenal sentence if we consider the ramifications of it. God has entered into a partnership with parents and He expects them to fulfill their roles. The Lord has built into every Christian family the opportunity for hands-on discipleship practice. As a unified team, husbands and wives begin the process of training a child in the ways of the Lord. This will help prepare both the parents and the children to reach out to other potential disciples. In addition, if the parents do a good job discipling those in their own homes, the destructive trend of faith rejection can be turned.
We have already mentioned making sure that both the husband and wife are growing spiritually in their own walk with the Lord, and this remains a focus after children arrive. Now the discipleship process needs to be enlarged to include the child(ren).
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, a few of which have already been mentioned. First, the family schedule needs to be evaluated to assure that where the time is being spent is the most beneficial place. If it is not, then change must be made and the sooner the better. Second, mealtime offers a wonderful opportunity to bring Christ and the Scripture into the daily lives of each family member. Discussions can be planned or spontaneous, but make sure the Lord is a central figure in the conversations. Depending on ages of the children, topics can range from interpersonal relationship challenges to character development. The Scripture provides every answer to all questions either directly or in principle. Therefore, we must make sure that the Word of God is the center of our homes and always the ultimate resource for our answers.
Fathers can lead devotions around the meal table, in the living room or bedroom. These can be as deep as the level of understanding of the children. Bible stories can be read and discussed. Leading questions can be asked regarding moral choices, or characters actions, and a lively discussion can be achieved. The goal is to provide an atmosphere where Christ is central and the Word of God is valued. In addition, insights can be shared from the daily devotions that each parent or child recently received. The Psalm or Proverb of the day also provides an abundance of material that can be read and discussed. The materials and ideas for a good discussion are only limited by the imagination.
Family worship times can help provide a growing discipleship environment in the home. If someone plays an instrument, chorus books or hymnals can then be used to lead in songs. If no one plays an instrument, then MP3 players and CD’s abound that contain wonderful worship songs to be enjoyed in the home. Worship is supposed to be a part of every day and not relegated to Sunday services only and leading our children in worship will help keep Christ as the center of our homes. The children need to see the reality of our walk with Jesus in order to want to follow in our footsteps.
Here are some other ideas to consider prayerfully:
Mothers or fathers can read excellent books aloud to the family and then discuss them. These can cover any genre and could include classics like, Pilgrims Progress or Pride and Prejudice, fictional or actual history, end times thrillers, and a host of other type books. The book is not as important as the time spent together. Every discussion should focus on growing in Christ and obtaining a better understanding of how to walk with Him in our daily lives. The characters actions and thoughts can be evaluated and then their lives become object lessons to impart spiritual truth into our everyday lives.
Family prayer meetings can be called during times of crises or when the Lord’s specific direction is needed. Praying together and recording the request and the answer will help solidify the reality of Christ to the children. These times will often provided opportunities to explore issues like patience, waiting on God, what happens when God says, “no” to our prayers, etc. All of these are basic discipleship training issues. We teach our children to pray by praying. They will ultimately “catch” what is important to us by what we actually did, not necessarily what we said.
DVD’s or movies can be watched and evaluated from a Biblical perspective. We are not to be naive or unaware of our adversary’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11), and we should help our children process the entertainment they watch so they are growing in discernment as they mature. (Hebrews 5:14) Every book, movie, and song has an author, and they had a reason for writing what they did. These things may be germane in nature, but there is a spiritual side to everything and we must train our little disciples to grow in discernment.
Like any other discipleship relationship, the spending of time together is critical. A great deal of impartation and spiritual life takes place as you spend time doing the normal family activities. What is actually done is not as critical as the fact that a large amount of time is being spent together. Every parent looks for teachable moments, and the majority of these happen as large chucks of time are spent together. Very few people in nursing homes regret not spending more time at the office yet often regret that they cannot spend more time with their family. We can only spend time once, choose wisely.
In our current society, divorce is rampant, and this has created a large group of single parents. Both men and women are now attempting to raise their children without a spouse to assist. Children often fall through the cracks of the broken home. As the single parent attempts to maintain a job and eventually seek another potential marriage partner, the children can be overlooked. Time is required and reprioritizing the schedule must be considered for the sake of the children. It is not their fault that the marriage fell apart, and they should not be deprived as a result. Single parents must attempt to fulfill the role of discipler even though they are now doing it alone. In fact, it is even more critical since the home is broken in two.
A single parent still has to invest in the lives of their children in the arena of discipleship. Reading books, praying together, Bible study, home worship, church membership, and such are needed for children of a single parent home. Children still spell love t-i-m-e.
If the couple was Christian and divorced, the message has already been given to the children that the parent’s Christianity was powerless to stop the divorce. This hurdle must be overcome in the discipleship process with the children. Even more time will need to be given to explain the marriage failure and why God did not intervene to prevent it. These issues provide a great opportunity to teach about forgiveness, patience, endurance, and many other desirable spiritual qualities.
Whether male or female, the single parent will need to supplement their discipleship process of their children with godly role models. The single parent will have to seek out others to include in their life to replace the spouse that is no longer there. Small groups, church involvement, gender specific clubs, or sporting programs can all assist in this process. The goal is to present to the child(ren) others that are excellent examples of Christianity and invite them into the process of discipleship with your children. Strong, godly friendships, extended family, and a committed church body, can all help to stem the damage caused by divorce.
The family unit is an excellent training ground for discipleship. It is often the most important, as well as the most overlooked regarding its potential. God created the family structure, and He gave explicit details explaining how He expects it to function. If the Christian families would do a better job at discipling the children under their roofs, we would begin to see a reversal of the devastation of the family unit, the Church, and the nations. In addition, the large number of young people rejecting Christ as soon as they leave high school would begin to reverse. God spoke through the prophet Malachi the following:
And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:13-15
The family unit is designed by God to propagate not only children but future disciples of Christ. Parents are given the honor and responsibility, from God, to invest wisely in the children under their care. While some of this process of discipling can be delegated to others to assist, the parents are still the ones that God will hold responsible for the discipleship. This is an awesome responsibility and the potential is amazing. God will empower and give grace to those that seek Him and walk in obedience to His commands. This includes the command to make disciples, beginning in the home.
The natural outworking of this process is forward looking. While it may seem that investing so much in the family is working against the spreading of the Gospel, the exact opposite is the truth. Since studies reflect a huge percentage of young people walking away from the faith, whatever investment is necessary to stop this bleeding is well worth the effort. If the 70-90% leaving the faith could be kept, or significantly reduced, the long term results would be overall growth of the Church at large.
In addition, as families begin to heal, refocus on Christ, and walk in discipleship, outreach will increase. A great deal of time and energy is currently being spent on recovery programs in the Church, but little on prevention. As marriages spiral into destruction, young people walk away in rebellion, and the overall condition of the family deteriorates even further, the Church and communities struggle to pick up the pieces. If the tide of family destruction could be reduced significantly, these burdens would be relieved. Functional families can generate significant energy for the propagation of the Gospel, while dysfunctional ones drain it. Functional families require far less resources from the already overburdened churches, and actually can be released sooner into ministry. Healthy, growing, discipleship oriented families will help reproduce more of the same kind, whereas, dysfunctional ones also reproduce more of their same kind. Which one offers the brightest hope for the future?
Since our goal is to walk in obedience to Jesus’ final command – go and make disciples, then the home is the first opportunity to learn how to walk in obedience and perhaps is the best place to invest for long term growth potential.
All Scripture references are from the ESV - English Standard Version
If you missed it, check out Part 1: Practical Family Discipleship Tools: Getting Started and Part 2: Practical Family Discipleship Tools: Marriage.
Pastor Jeff Klick is the founder and Pastor of Hope Family Fellowship with the focus on restoring the family to health. He holds a Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry, A Doctorate Degree in Biblical Studies, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Ministry and has written 2 books geared to assist families. Pastor Jeff also assists new church plants through the Association of the Restoration of Church and Home, and 4FIC, a new ministry to assist family-integrated churches. For more information please visit his website –http://www.jeffklick.com or his church website –www.hopefamilyfellowship.org