Discipleship at Home: A Leader’s Role
by Amy Diller
School’s out! Summer means many families can enjoy more time together as schedules ease up. Homework and school projects no longer take up evening hours. What a perfect time to encourage and resource parents to help them with discipleship at home. Some parents already engage their kids in prayer, reading God’s Word together, and participating in spiritual conversations. However, many parents hear the words “discipleship at home” and don’t understand what that means or what it looks like in a practical sense.
As leaders, we cannot assume parents know what we mean when we talk about discipleship at home. Often parents visualize sitting their children down every day and conducting “church” with them. This becomes an intimidating idea that hinders parents from taking a step toward leading their children spiritually. As you talk with the parents in your church about discipling their kids, keep a few things in mind – define the term, provide doable steps, and share resources to help them lead their family at home.
Make It Clear
First of all, in order to disciple others, we need to be disciples ourselves. What does that look like? The dictionary defines a disciple as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower”. When we are disciples of Jesus, we strive to look more like Him by following His teachings and doing what He did – prayer, knowledge of scripture, community, meeting people’s needs, serving, defending truth, and spending time with His Father. He didn’t compartmentalize these behaviors or limit them; they were part of His daily life.
In addition to Jesus’ example, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 charges parents with the responsibility to love the Lord fully and to pass it along to their children.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
These verses tell us what it looks like to follow God and how we should walk it out. Follow and love Him with every part of our being and talk about His commands throughout the typical activities of the day.
Make It Doable
Parents in your ministry may be intimidated when they hear that they are the primary spiritual leaders in the lives of their children. They don’t believe they can live up to that responsibility.
Parents have preconceived ideas about what discipling their children is supposed to look like. They think they have to sit their kids down for a sermon. They believe they have to be at a certain place in their own Christian walk to lead their kids. Parents look to us as more equipped to be teaching their children about the Lord.
Communicating to parents their spiritual role at home is important, but they also need to hear that discipleship is a lifestyle, not a prescribed set of imagined expectations. Looking back at the passage in Deuteronomy 6, teaching your children about loving God and following His commands is far more about a lifestyle. Make sure parents know this. Children pick up on what parents do and say; parents need to make sure their relationship with the Lord is an everyday thing and not just something for Sunday morning.
Here are a few doable examples to share with families:
- Pick a Bible verse to read every day and memorize as a family. Scripture memory songs are great tools for this.
- Use car time to thank God for the things you see around you.
- Take advantage of waking up and going to bed as times to pray over your children.
- Ask questions during meals to spark conversation like, “How did you see God today?” or “What’s something you wonder about God?”
- Let your children see you reading the Bible and praying.
- Attend church regularly to show your kids the importance of community.
- Serve together as a family.
Develop a Plan
In addition to defining discipleship at home and sharing that it’s doable for all families, you also need to develop a plan to resource parents on a regular basis. Without a plan, you are more likely to be sporadic in sharing materials families can use at home. When you add this to your calendar, parents can count on receiving things regularly to encourage them personally and provide them with tools they can use at home with their kids.
On the first day of every month, Ministry to Parents sends members an email with the topic for the month, a video class for parents, toolbox items to go along with the topic, blog posts, and more. Set two dates each month, two weeks apart, to print or email these resources to parents. You’ll find prewritten emails to go with the videos that you can send as is or edit to add your own personal comments.
In addition to using M2P resources, get parents involved in weekly lessons by providing them with a take-home sheet with the Bible passage for the lesson, discussion questions, and a memory verse. Some curriculums provide this kind of resource. If not, invest the time to create one. You may choose to do this as a monthly handout rather than a weekly one and post it on your social media pages and send it in an email to parents.
Finally, think about hosting occasional parent events to encourage them to invest in their children’s spiritual development. Talk about what it means to disciple their children, encourage them that there’s no “right” way to do things, and discuss ways to utilize the resources you provide. Allow parents to share ways they incorporate discipleship into their daily lives. If you can offer childcare, it provides a way to help more parents attend.
One of the most effective and impactful things you can do as a leader is to invest in parents. The call for parents to disciple their children at home is a biblical responsibility, and you are in the position to help make this happen. Your role is to help parents understand their God-given charge to be spiritual leaders in their homes, assure them that small steps are actually huge wins, and provide them with tools they can use.