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Discipling our children is an overwhelming prospect, isn’t it? I mean, what a huge responsibility! Don’t you wish there was a formula for it somewhere? There is!
Discipling Our Children: The “Magic” Formula
Discipling our children is something that we as parents do every single second of every single day, whether we are aware of it or not. Simply put, discipling means teaching.
We teach our children intentionally and unintentionally, but it happens every moment we are with them. We teach them through our actions, our responses, and our words.
How we go about discipling our children shapes their future, defines their identity, and ultimately impacts their eternity. We must be incredibly intentional to parent with graceful abandon, not just harsh correcting.
The way Acts 2:42-47 lays out the model of discipleship in the Early Church is so simple and yet profoundly important for us to take note of. It’s the “magic formula”, if you will.
The believers and the Church grew because they (1) focused on learning from the teachings of the disciples, (2) fellowshipped with one another, (3) broke bread together, and (4) devoted themselves to prayer.
These four simple, yet critical efforts added to their number daily and caused explosive spiritual growth. I don’t know about you, but I would love to sow into my children and see a harvest of explosive spiritual growth!
What Exactly is the Teaching of the Disciples?
The very first thing that Luke identifies as a focus of the Early Church that directly affected its growth is the teaching of the disciples. That tells me that it’s very important (first things first, right?).
So, what were those teachings? Today, we simply refer them as the New Testament. Back then, when Luke was penning the book of Acts, they were still letters and word of mouth.
How truly blessed we are to have our Bibles! One trap I fell into as a young mom was reading all kinds of devotional books and even allegorical stories to my children, but rarely reading the actual words of Scripture itself.
I was worried that it would seem dry or boring, that it would fail to grab their hearts and minds, or that it would seem like I was forcing the Bible on them…so I didn’t. I didn’t fully understand my role in discipling our children either, though.
We also read a passage out of the International Children’s Bible to them each evening, as it’s simple enough for them to understand but is also directly Scripture. There is no substitution for sowing the Word of God into our children’s lives.
Discipling Our Children Through the Teaching of the Disciples
As I read through the New Testament, it occurred to me that the teaching of the disciples referred not only to the what (letters and oral reports of Jesus’ time on earth) but also the how.
The apostles taught with a bold authority, with grace-soaked Truth, and with unshakeable Love. They explained things carefully and leaned on the Holy Spirit to give them the right words.
Do I speak that way to my children? Or are my words often quick, careless, or easy?
Not only is it important to read Scripture to our children, but it goes a lot deeper than that. As parents, we need to take the charge from Deuteronomy 6 seriously and incorporate the word of God into every part of life.
The Word of God is alive and active. It is Truth.
It is the Truth that challenges our souls, and the Truth we often use to challenge our children. But is that enough? I don’t believe it is.
Discipleship comprised only of Truth is incomplete.
Yes, the Truth is often challenging, isn’t it? That is what makes it such an agent of change. But when we share the Truth in love? That is when it becomes an agent of transformation.
Discipling Our Children By Our Example
Like the example set by the first believers, we need to be willing to let the Holy Spirit speak through us. That might mean having awkward conversations or saying things to our kids that aren’t politically correct.
It might mean stopping at an inconvenient time to deal with a heart attitude. It certainly means pausing to choose my words carefully, because I realize that they are powerful.
In my experience, it often involves me repenting to them for my sin and sharing the Scriptural response to my action so that I am leading by example.
When I speak out of frustration instead of love, that is sin. When I selfishly put my needs above theirs, that is sin. When I hold them to a standard I can’t even achieve myself, that is sin. These things demand repentance.
That’s always so hard for me, but so impactful for them.
My humility, and coming to them in Love, do what my lecturing and correcting never can.
Why? Because it shows Jesus so clearly. Jesus didn’t come in an authoritarian manner, throwing about the power of heaven. Instead, he came gently, in perfect meekness. It paves the way to their hearts.
Discipling Our Children With Delight: The “Secret” Ingredient
Discipling our children also means praising them, encouraging them, and spurring them on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). It means delighting in them.
If I had to say there was one “secret” to discipleship, it would be delight.
Think about how their little hearts swell with pride and joy when we are proud of them. Think about the smiles that spread across their faces when we notice something they have done. Remember that hug they eagerly return when we reach out just because.
When we delight in our children, it knits their hearts more tightly to our own.
Far too often we focus on correcting their mistakes, instead of building a relationship that instills a desire in them to follow our leading. However, human nature is such that when we love and respect someone, we are eager to please them. Relationship is the foundation upon which we build our children’s lives.
This doesn’t happen in the profound moments. Instead, it happens little by little in the moments that will one day slip through the cracks of our memories.
It happens in the response to a stressful moment, the consistent presence of hugs throughout each day, the gentle kisses goodnight and the welcoming smiles in the morning. It is the laughs, the tears, the game nights, the late night talks, and the winks across a crowded dinner table.
It happens on a blanket in the yard, in the car on the way to the grocery store, or even cleaning up the kitchen after a meal.
Our hearts as parents should be to capture the love and respect of our children, and that will make the responsibility of discipling our children both easier and more effective.
We love God because He first loved us, and we obey Him because we are responding to the depths of His love and grace.
If we as parents loved our children in a truly unconditional manner and lavished grace upon them in tandem with our correction and training, perhaps they would respond with an eager desire to accept our teaching.
From what I’ve been able to glean from Scripture, the teaching referenced by Luke in Acts 2 is a beautiful harmony of the word of truth and the love that presents it. And when their hearts receive it? That makes the heart of the Father sing with joy!