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A Child’s Primary Disciplemaker

Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.”
– William Penn

Give me three guesses on the most effective children minister or student pastor your kids will ever have growing up and I bet I can nail it. Here’s my first guess…actually, it’s my only guess and even that’s a misnomer because there is no guessing about it. The answer is easy and obvious: it’s you.

You will be the most effective children’s pastor your child ever has in his or her life. No one will have a greater impact for Christ on your progeny than the parent whom the child sees every day and night (for better or worse – effectiveness goes both ways don’t you know?). The Bible gets that. In fact, when it comes to role and responsibility of imparting the Gospel to our children’s hearts, minds and lives the Scripture focuses the spotlight not on the church and its programs but squarely upon the home and parents.

One of the most foundational Scriptures to the people of God throughout the ages was Deuteronomy 6:4-7,

“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.”

To listen to the New Testament is simply to hear the same song, second chorus. For example, Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Now, mind you, the believers during these times had priests, prophets or pastors dwelling amongst them in some form or fashion, yet who does the call for a child’s discipleship fall primarily upon? The parents. And doesn’t that make sense? At least in principle there is no one better to impart spiritual values and a love for Jesus than parents. They are the ones who pass most everything else to their kids – how they treat people, what they value in life most, work ethic, emotional patterns, etc. Why not add to that list the things which matter most?

Yet it doesn’t take long to look around and see that many, if not most Christian parents, have sadly abdicated their discipling responsibility to the church. Hiding behind excuses like, “I’m not as spiritual as I need to be,” or “The church staff are professionals at this kind of stuff,” parents expose their children to about forty minutes of discipleship a week (and that’s if they come to church every Sunday, which most don’t). Think about it: How good would you be at anything if you spent only 40 minutes a week doing it? And yet that’s the measly discipleship plan countless numbers of Christian parents embrace when it comes to the most important calling they’ve been given by God as parents.

While it may be popular choice it’s also very perilous. When we solely expect the church to execute the role as primary disciplemaker our kids run the risk of becoming exactly the opposite of a disciple  as they see the incongruity of what they hear and see at church with what they don’t hear or see at home. Over time kids can easily come to believe that Christianity is simply going to church (like school, cheerleading, football, etc., it’s just the stuff one “does”), faith becomes compartmentalized as a nice accoutrement to our suburban schedule but not really central in “real life”, and Jesus gets marginalized – just someone we talk about one day of the week (and pray to when something bad happens) instead of becoming the One our week is lived unto.

This is not the legacy that the Bible talks about nor the one you want to leave. If this was the type of legacy you received, make a break. If this is the legacy your are presently giving your kids, repent and give them something worth passing down! Remind yourself that you are their first and foremost children’s minister. You are their primary student pastor. If that feels overwhelming then good, welcome to the club. I’ve been in ministry over twenty years, have a seminary degree, and teach the Bible on a regular basis and at times it definitely feels overwhelming to me too as I look into the eyes of my three sons and wonder what their future holds! But being overwhelmed doesn’t mean we get a free pass from the Bible’s calling to us as parents to disciple our children. It just means we’re human and probably getting in touch to what a weighty calling we’re truly been given.

But trust discipling your kids is as beautiful as it is weighty. I don’t know of anything more priceless than seeing my children deepen their devotion to Christ. Whether its seeing them pass under the waters of baptism or praying for their friends, nothing compares to the joy I find in seeing Christ formed in them. Sure, I can pat myself on the back that I’ve taught them how to shoot a basketball, tie their shoes, or fire a 30-30 rifle, but to know that they’re growing in something eternal as they live their lives for Jesus makes everything else pale in comparison.

If discipling your kids means you need to become a better follower of Jesus in order to lead your children then become a better follower. That should not be a barrier for us because isn’t that our call anyhow – to grow in our own faith? Just so you know, I think most parents already feel that way. Let me give you one more incentive. You know you love your kids. I know you love your kids. You’re their parent. No one on this earth loves them more than you. Discipling your kids is one of the best ways you can love your child because you are doing for them what really no one else can do.

…or should do.

So Mom…Dad…love your kids well. Let the home, not the church, be the primary place of spiritual training. For not only your kids’ sake but your sake as well.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “A Child’s Primary Disciplemaker”

  1. Beautifully written Yancey! We take this role very seriously in our home. And last Thursday we were able to see our fruits…Little Mario walked up alone, (not a small step for him, he is very shy), during the alter call at Good News Club! He had already said the ABC prayer with Samantha last April (when she was baptized), but Mario & I wanted to make sure that he truly understood the decision he was making. We did not let him get baptized at that time. However, about 2 weeks later, he and Samantha were in the bath and we heard Samantha baptizing him…in the name of the Father & the Son & the Holy Spirit. He gets it. He knows it’s important. He desires a relationship with God like we have. So, we are going to have him baptized in front of his peers. It’s SO comforting to know where your kids stand in their faith. That they know that it’s a part of the fabric of your family.

    **P.S.- Mario & I have have great conversations through our daily readings because of your last 2 sermons! We could seriously have listened to them for hours…fascinating!

  2. What an awesome post and great reminder to all parents.

    I started reading the Bible to Seth (4) this year and talking about what the passages mean and reiterating what he learned at church that week. He also asks for more Bible stories than his regular stories and that warms my heart. But I can honestly say that if I didn’t volunteer in PWV, then I probably wouldn’t have known the important of reading the Bible to my child. I’d probably just let the church teach him, like you said. So I’m grateful to PWV for teaching me to be a better parent and spiritual teacher.

    I do see the impact it has on Seth. He will randomly say, “we need to pray” and he’ll be the first to extend a hand to a friend at school that wants to pray before a meal. I’m very proud of him and I’m proud to be a part of his spiritual learning.

  3. Thanks for the reflections. It’s definitely a labor at times…but a labor of love.

    Also, sorry for the shoddy grammar and stuff. I posted this late at night and didn’t really review it. I’ve since seen a ton of bad sentences, incomplete ideas, etc. I think it is fixed now. At least, it’s fixed enough. 😉

  4. Yancey: I truly thank you for doing these blogs and using the technology to promote the Gospel and grow us.
    I started very late in life Saved at 43 I am now 48. Called at 19 yet never knowing who, what or where to follow. I even allowed my wife to divorce me after the baptism. She did not want to partake in any of those church things. Nor did she want our son to. I respected that attitude and just prayed dilligently for my son.

    I took bruce’s mothers day message to heart.

    1)”If all your children ever got was that which you prayed into their lives would it have been enough prayer?” 2) “Have your children heard you petitioning God?” 3) “Are you being an authentic christian in your home?”

    I assure you these three were more than sufficient in our home. Being the father of a son who strayed is not easy but I gave my burden to Him. Today my 15 yo son lives as a fully commited follower. I am reminded of Jesus when he told his disciples. “Until you have faith like these children….” Rock (my son) is bringing new children to faith He is a good example to other children and to me!

    I feel a real resonance between mine and your fathers experience as thumbnailed from the stage of CCCC on several occaisions.

    Kind Regards,

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