Modeling and Leading Discipleship at Home
by Karin Sasser
As Christian parents, I think we can agree that our biggest hope and dream for our kids is that they will learn to love and follow Jesus for all of their lives. Of course, we have many other hopes and dreams for them – some they may realize, and others we may have to let go of; but, of all our hopeful anticipations, a relationship with Jesus tops the list. And while it will be a work of the Holy Spirit and a decision each of our children must make for themselves, we have an important role to play to lead and guide our children to know and follow Jesus.
Sometimes this may feel like a daunting task, but it may not be as difficult as you think. Below are some ideas of how you can point your teens to a growing relationship with Christ.
Model Being A Disciple
It seems like the first step in discipling our tweens and teens is to practice being a disciple ourselves. When they see us reading our Bible, actively participating in a Christian community, attending church regularly, resolving conflict biblically, and serving others, among other things, they are being taught what it looks like to be a follower of Christ. We all know the old saying that our children learn as much from what we do as from what we say.
Look For Opportunities To Talk About Faith
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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.”
Most of us don’t talk about our faith 24/7, but it shouldn’t be unusual for our family to talk about spiritual things. Some families are great at having a regularly scheduled family devotion. For others, it may come more naturally just to be intentional to look for opportunities to talk to their tweens and teens about spiritual things amidst what is going on in their lives. Talk about something God has been teaching you or a verse that has encouraged, challenged, or comforted you. If your teen is struggling through something or facing difficult circumstances, bring God into the equation. Be intentional about asking some questions at mealtimes or times in the car like these:
- What is something you are thankful to God for?
- How have you seen God at work in the last week?
- What is something God has been teaching you?
- If you could ask God anything, what would it be?
- After attending a church service, ask your teen if anything in the service or sermon struck them.
Allow faith to be a part of normal conversations.
Family Mission Statement Or Set Of Values
Take time to consider what the core values of your family are. What do you hope to instill in your tweens and teens? What values are important to you? Write your thoughts down. Invite your teen to participate and share their thoughts. Consider what spiritual truths you want your teenager to have planted deep in their hearts before they leave the nest and find ways to regularly impress them on your child. You may want to write a formal family mission statement or a set of core beliefs. When our kids were very young, my husband would ask them these four questions as he tucked them into bed:
- Do you know that your mom, sister, and I love you so very much?
- Do you know that as much as we love you, God loves you even more?
- Do you know that you are very special?
- Did you know that you can do anything with God’s help?
As they got older, we thought of a few more things we wanted them to know without a doubt and added four more questions. It can look however you want it to look but try to find a way to be intentional about how you lead your family.
This is one of the most important ways to disciple your tweens and teens – pray for them! Tell them you are praying for them. Ask them how you can be praying for them. Pray aloud over them.
Serving as a family is an incredible act of discipleship. You may be able to serve in a ministry at your church. Many children’s ministries are often looking for volunteers at Christmas and Easter. Door-holding and welcoming people at church is also a way for a family to serve together. Delivering meals to the elderly is something a whole family can do. Your church may know of other ministries in the area that welcome teens and families for volunteer opportunities.
I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine as we shared about some of our current struggles in parenting teenagers. We were commiserating about how difficult it can be – not always knowing the right thing to do and second-guessing our decisions, and feeling like we are falling short. We began to wonder if it was this difficult for our own parents. In some ways, it probably was, but in other ways, it was a different world – teenagers were a bit more independent, and parents weren’t as involved in the minutiae of their teens’ lives. My friend then remarked that the thing that her parents imparted to her that had the biggest impact was that she knew that she was loved. Wow! I thought, “I can do that.”
I share this story with you because I hope that just as it did with me, it will take a weight off your shoulders. All the above suggestions are great things that we can do to help our tweens and teens develop their faith and follow Jesus, but the most important thing we can do, and one that hopefully will seem quite doable, is to love them. Love them when they succeed; love them when they make mistakes. Love them when they achieve; love them when they fail. Love them when they bring you joy; love them when they cause you pain. Let your home be a place where, no matter what, they are and feel loved.