When my first daughter was born, I remember thinking about discipleship. I remember thinking the path to my kids following Jesus faithfully was a simple formula of good behavior and church attendance. That was more than eleven years ago. Although my intentions were great, my methods were lacking in so many ways. Of course church fellowship is necessary. As well as manners, virtue, good behavior, and respect–all a huge part of the process. But the single greatest thing I have learned is the need for intentionality. Especially in four specific areas.
I have a couple of old Bibles sitting on a shelf in our living room. One of those Bibles is my grandfather’s. It’s marked up and falling apart, but you can feel his faith emanating off the pages. It’s one of the very few things I treasure. Also on the shelf is my first Bible. But mine is in near perfect condition. One morning, my kids were asking about why those Bibles, in particular, were sitting on the shelf, out of reach. I walked over to the shelf, took them down, and brought them to the table.
I talked about the significance of my grandfather’s Bible compared to mine. One used, the other not. I explained how my Bible was indicative of my faith growing up—in “like new” condition and never used. The truth is, I really only learned two things in Sunday school—John 3:16 and to not hit people with your Bible. I brought my Bible every week to church, I don’t remember ever cracking it open, reading passages, or asking questions. In fact, I am even willing to admit that I never read a complete book of the Bible until seminary.
My goal is to make sure my kids’ Bibles are just like my grandfather’s. Worn and tattered. Evidence of a faith well-practiced. It is my aim to talk about the Word every chance we get, encourage my kids to read—even if they don’t fully understand—ask questions and pursue more than just knowledge of the Word but of the Word Himself.
One of the joys of my ministry is that I get to meet a lot of parents. And when it comes to cultural awareness, I generally see two very different approaches. There is one kind of parent that buries their head in the sand and invites their kids to do the same. “if we ignore it, maybe it will all go away, or Jesus will just come back.” All the while never really preparing their kids for the road ahead. The other kind of parent is the one who exposes their kids to culture with almost no filter. Of course, as good Christian parents, the hope is that exposure will lead to effective evangelism. But without proper filters, sin and temptation will win almost every time.
It is our job to be the filter. To not only help our kids navigate culture but to properly interpret its message in light of a biblical framework and to respond as much like Jesus as possible. We aren’t meant to hide from culture, nor succumb to it. Instead, we ought to teach our kids how to create a better culture—one that reflects the glory and image of the Creator.
Pursuit of truth
Every time I read Genesis, I ask myself the same question, “why are lies easier to believe than truth?” Adam and Eve had the very voice of God to explain the ground rules. They had a direct line—a guaranteed blessing. Yet one word from the enemy and they fly off the rails. Big surprise, we all do the same thing.
The lies are often so loud it becomes deafening. All the more reason our homes need to be beacons of what is true. We need to be showing our kids the path that leads to truth and walking that path with them. The lies are so seductive that even when students are fully equipped, they can fall victim. Adam and Eve did. What makes us any better? Help your kids identify the lies and point them to truth and walk that struggle with them.
Living on mission
Take a minute and try something. Teach your kids to do something without actually showing them, just explaining it. Pick anything—from the simplest math skills to driving a car. Don’t show, just tell them how. See what happens. My guess is that you already know what would happen. They would fail. Yet this is precisely what we do with God’s missional mandate to the church. We want, and perhaps expect, our students to reflect Jesus in every way, to talk about him to their friends, even pursue a call to “full-time ministry.” However, we spend little to no time showing them what that looks like.
As parents, the first place our kids learn what it means to love their neighbors, to serve others, to be witnesses, and to make disciples should not be in church, mission trip, or outreach event. It should be learned as part of the family routine—as normal as eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. It’s really rather simple: Families that serve together have a greater and more lasting impact on their world.
None of these are automatic or easy. They require planning, trial and error, and persistence. Like it or not, discipling our kids is a full time calling. One that, in time, will reap greater rewards than you ever thought possible.