Family Discipleship at Home
by Kody Antisdel
At Canby Christian Church, we are passionate about multigenerational ministry—when parents are actively working to pass down their faith to their children. However, family discipleship can be exciting and terrifying. Walking that fine line of leading your children in faith, while also allowing them to discover Christ for themselves, is not an easy task. TO be honest, I don’t know that I’m always doing it right. However, like most things in parenting, the fact that my wife and I care and think about it at all is a huge step in the right direction. I’d like to mention a few aspects of this task I’ve found to be helpful, and I hope you will too.
1. Be a disciple.
So much of family discipleship is caught more than it’s taught. As an example of this, my daughters love the Seattle Seahawks, though they know next to nothing about football. What they love about the Seahawks, however, is seeing their parents get excited when they are doing well. I didn’t teach them that the Seahawks are the greatest football team (and that the 49ers are basically garbage), it’s just obvious to them (and to decent people everywhere) because of the environment they are being raised in.
Applying this principle to our faith in Christ: The greatest thing you can do to ensure discipleship is taking place in your family is to be a disciple of Jesus yourself.
John 15:5 (niv) says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Are you abiding in Jesus? Are your actions and motivations rooted in Him? The way we remain in Jesus is by spending time reading His Word and responding to Him in prayer. Quality time spent with Jesus doesn’t just affect you; it affects everyone you come in contact with.
We can’t expect to accomplish anything, especially discipling our families, if we are not connecting with Jesus regularly ourselves. Do you want your children to pray? Pray with them and for them regularly. Do you want your children to read the Bible? Let them see you reading the Bible. Do you want your children to serve and be generous? Let them see you volunteering and giving in your church. Your passion for Jesus will influence them more than your words. Our kids are smarter and more perceptive than we realize. They can tell if we are truly followers of Jesus or just bandwagon fans, jumping on board with Jesus only when it is convenient for us. If we desire genuine faith for them, we should first pursue it ourselves.
2. Grow and learn with your family.
Once you’re on your way to being a disciple of Jesus, you simply invite your family to come along. When you are actively training yourself to serve and love the way Jesus did, you can turn to your family and say like Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
In addition, one of the great things about discipleship is that as we disciple others we discover new areas that we can grow and learn ourselves. Look at every question your children might ask as a chance to discover together. Don’t just blurt out answers, do the work with your children. Never be afraid to say, “I’m not sure, let’s look into that together.”
3. Help your kids fall in love with the Bible.
This one tip will carry your children well into adulthood. Start now instilling a love of Scripture in your children’s hearts. Read the Bible with your kids daily. Talk to them about interesting stories you have read. Ask them what their favorite stories are. We read a children’s Bible with our girls every night and they are outraged if we ever forget. I hope they will be just as passionate about making the time for reading the Bible when they’re adults. As I watch my wife read the Bible in bed every night, no matter how exhausted she is, I’m assured of the power of this simple act.
4. Reassure them they are loved and safe.
I recently heard a psychologist say that when children ask tough questions, most of the time they are really asking, “Am I ok?” I have found this to be true with children and teenagers alike. Although, sometimes with teens, it’s cloaked with more of a, “I dare you to tell me I’m NOT ok!” kind of attitude. Discipleship is inevitably going to give way to some very tough questions as your family grows and matures. While the answers to the questions are important, often the underlying questions are far more important. Am I loved? Am I accepted? Is something wrong with me? What if I doubt? Am I safe?
Every interaction with your children is a chance to express your love and care from them. Anytime you have tough discussions, it should end with them being reassured that God loves them, you love them, and through personal faith in Jesus we are a part of an eternal family. Fear, guilt, and shame can’t motivate real discipleship to Jesus. Jesus motivated His disciples through radical forgiveness, service, and love.
A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When our families think about God, let them think of pure, everlasting love. Because there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).