How many times have you felt like a failure in discipling your children? How many of you have started a great plan for family worship or devotions, but it failed because you could not implement it like you see other families on Instagram or the promotional material? Maybe you feel like a failure in discipling your kids because you feel like your spiritual state is not good enough, or strong enough.
You may feel inadequate. But let me say this: you are normal! And let me also say this: Discipling children is hard work. It does not require perfect work, but it does require you! You are the key ingredient, not your perfection or a perfect plan.
Discipling children is hard work. It does not require perfect work, but it does require you! You are the key ingredient, not your perfection or a perfect plan.
Since discipling children can be so daunting, there is a temptation in our church culture to pawn this duty off on a children’s or youth program within church and a pastor or ministry director. If this is your plan or your church’s plan for discipling children, it will fail. Why? Because the church, by itself, cannot disciple kids! The church can only do it with you, not for you. The church and your children need you because God designed the family to be the catalyst for discipleship, not a program at church or a pastor!
This has been God’s design all along. Look all the way back thousands of years ago to Deuteronomy 6:4-9. God’s word commands parents:
“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.”
The model given by God starts with investing in your own relationship with God and then pouring that down to your children in everyday life.
God’s Word is clear, the command to parents is to make faith a part of everyday life! Discipling your kids can be simpler than you think. The model given by God starts with investing in your own relationship with God and then pouring that down to your children in everyday life.
It can be as simple as asking your child a question about God on their way to or from school. Maybe it is praying with them before bed. It could be reading your Bible in front of them and explaining why you do it. Memorize a verse with them. (Pro tip: pick a short one!)
Simply ask them about their relationship with Jesus. This list could go on but look at the natural nature of Deuteronomy 6:4-9—as you are going and living life. Do not get bogged down in perfection and how daunting the task is, trust God and simply try! Discipleship will manifest itself differently in each family and each child, but it all starts with trying.
Discipleship will manifest itself differently in each family and each child, but it all starts with trying.
My story is a testament to the reality that anything, even the tiniest efforts you make towards your kid’s spiritual life is noticed and matters! I may not be a parent yet but let me share with you about my father.
My father was not a spiritual leader. He didn’t lead in the church or hold any positions. He didn’t grow up in the church. In fact, he would probably be the first to tell you he did not have it all together or figured out spiritually. Some of you can identify with that.
But I’ll never forget the effort my father made in my spiritual life. I always knew he cared. He would ask me about my relationship with Christ. He would read the Bible in front of me (and my father hardly read anything). He would volunteer to go on youth trips, and even though I was terrified he might say a cuss word driving the church van, it still meant the world to me.
My dad passed away eight years ago, but one thing that I am so grateful for is that he cared and put effort into helping me grow spiritually. I wish I could have told him that because I am sure he never knew, but eight years later I am now a pastor because he simply tried. He did not follow a perfect discipleship plan, nor did he have it all figured out. I am sure he felt like he failed, but he tried and that made all the difference.
You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to try! Any effort you make will have a bigger impact in your child’s life than you could ever imagine.
Of course, there are questions that arise for the child without a mom or dad in the church or inquiries regarding how churches can partner with parents in general. This is valuable content to cover, but here is a simple starting exhortation and encouragement for parents: You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to try! Do not let the complexities, challenges, or fear of imperfections keep you from starting in the first place.
I don’t know where you are spiritually. Maybe you have it all together, maybe you don’t. Maybe you are super busy and feel like this is adding just one more thing to your already full plate, but my hope is that this helps to ease your load. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to try! Any effort you make will have a bigger impact in your child’s life than you could ever imagine; way more than any program or method ever will.