As the new year begins, one of the best ways to spend it is by working with your spouse to develop a plan to disciple your children in 2010. That’s right, you read correctly. There should be a plan when it comes to helping grow your kids spiritually. I would also argue that if your current plan for accomplishing this endeavor is the one-step strategy of “Take them to church,” then I suggest getting a better plan. Let me give you a few reasons why:
- We risk giving our kids the impression that Jesus is someone we learn about for an hour one day a week (and that’s going to church weekly, which, truth be told, most Christian parents don’t do). Consequently, faith is viewed as something partitioned off from the rest of our lives. Christ isn’t seen as central in life but a footnote, and often a small one at that.
- We cannot cultivate a heart for anything or anyone by merely one hour a week. For instance, how much time do our kids spend participating in sports each week? School? Gymnastics? Why? We know why. It’s because children (and adults) need both quality of time and quantity of time when it comes to growth in any area of life. Yet, this is just as true spiritually as it is physically or intellectually.
- We can lead our kids to believe that the only people who really know about God, and thus, who should teach us about him are the experts – the pastors, directors and teachers at church. This feeling only gets reinforced when our kids ask us spiritual questions and we repeatedly reply, “That’s a good question. Let’s ask Pastor So-and-so.” It’s natural for kids to put us in tight places by the questions they ask, but when we continually put the spiritual ones off to the “Pastor,” all we’ve done is communicate to our children that the arena of faith isn’t a parent’s territory. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From the very beginning, parents have been central to the spiritual formation of their children. The words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema to Jews around the world and foundational instruction for God’s people in the Old Testament, reads:
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.
Note the emphasis on the role of the parent, “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.” (6:7) Parents are the primary disciple-makers of their children. It’s a mandate from God that hasn’t changed over the centuries. No wonder Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Helping our kids grow spiritually is our responsibility. And it should be intentional, strategic and ongoing.
That’s why I believe one of the best ways to begin the year is by sitting down with your spouse and developing a plan for how you are going to pour into your kids spiritually. It will look different for every family. In fact, if you’ve never done this before, never fear! Begin small. Start reading a children’s Bible to your kids each weeknight. Read just one story. It might take only five minutes, but if you’re faithful to do it, you have already begun in some small measure to create spiritual momentum in your home which may impact your family more than you could ever imagine!
Let me conclude by sharing what my wife and I plan on doing weekly with our children in 2010.
Mornings (When we rise)
- Read and briefly discuss one story from Egermeier’s Bible Story Book at breakfast
- Review Scripture Memory for the week from SojournKids Family Worship Guide
- Work through one question of the catechism (A catechism is an historic, time-tested Q&A approach to teaching children Bible doctrine and gospel tenets) adapted from SojournKids Family Worship Guide
Afternoons (When we sit in our house and walk by the way)
- Find moments throughout the day to highlight God’s work in the world and the goodness of the gospel
- Read Hymns for a Kid’s Heart and then listen/sing corresponding hymn over lunch
- Have the To Be Like Jesus CD ready in the car to sing when we drive around town
Evenings (When we lie down)
- Read and briefly discuss one story from The Jesus Storybook Bible
- Pray with kids, pray for kids.
Some will do more, others will do less, but this is simply our initial plan for 2010. My challenge to you, dear parent, is to just do something…something more than just taking them to church. Please understand, you can do this! Indeed, you are called to do it. And if God calls us to something, he will empower us in the undertaking of it. Let 2010 be the year that you took the reigns of responsibility for your kids spiritual development.
So, what’s your plan?