Family Discipleship: A Guide for the Church
What is family discipleship?
It is the biblical responsibility of every generation of Christians to teach the next generation to trust, obey, and worship God. Furthermore, the Scripture is clear that parents have been given the primary responsibility to disciple their children. This mandate for family discipleship is most clearly seen in the following three Scripture passages:
- Deuteronomy 6:4–7
Moses urges the Israelite parents to make family discipleship a part of their daily life. He calls them to saturate their home with the knowledge of God’s Word by teaching their children the Scripture in a way that is both routine and repetitive.
- Psalm 78:1–8
The Psalmist urges the Israelite parents to make family discipleship the goal of parenting. He calls them to faithfully teach their children what God has said in His Word with the intended goal that their children “might set their hope in God.”
- Ephesians 6:1–4
Paul urges the fathers of the Christians in Ephesus to take family discipleship seriously. He shows them how crucial their God-ordained role is and calls them to provide God-centered discipline and instruction in the Lord.
What role does the local church play?
Since God has called parents to be the primary disciple-makers in the lives of their children, what role does the local church play? Hebrews 3:13 points to the church’s important yet secondary role in family discipleship. In this passage, the writer calls local groups of believers to “exhort one another every day…that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Implicit in this text is the church’s responsibility to come alongside and partner with parents by encouraging them, praying for them, and assisting them in their God-given roles. While the church provides many age-graded discipleship ministries, each is designed to complement and not usurp the parent’s role. Nevertheless, the local church is indispensable, both for children who come from unbelieving homes and for believing families who seek to raise children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
How can I begin discipling my children?
No strategy or formula can ever guarantee your child will trust in Christ. Nevertheless, the Scripture is clear that it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).
Therefore, to bring the gospel to the forefront in your home:
- Treasure Jesus genuinely in your home.
Do your children see the same person in you at church that they see at home? If there is one thing a child can detect it’s hypocrisy. Do they see passionate, genuine followers of Christ or do they see empty, nominal churchgoers with minimal commitment to Christ? One of the greatest blessings you can give your child is to treasure Jesus genuinely in your home.
- Cultivate spiritual disciplines in your children.
From an early age, teach your children to spend time alone with God. Before they can read, teach them songs of praise. Sing around your children, even if their little ears are the only ones that would enjoy such singing! Read Bible stories to them. Teach them to pray by modeling prayer in the home. Encourage them to memorize God’s Word. Cultivate these and other spiritual disciplines in your children.
- Worship with your children.
Children learn by example. Do not underestimate the value of allowing your children to witness you singing songs of praise, listening and taking notes during the sermon, giving your tithes and offerings, and praying with the congregation. Although they may not understand everything that takes place, over time they will grow to learn what it means to worship as part of the Body of Christ. A Word of Encouragement for Parents Family discipleship can sometimes be like a magnifying mirror: it exposes your own imperfections and vulnerabilities. Every parent feels inadequate on the front end of parenting and guilty to some degree on the back end. Always remember, there is hope in the gospel. God sent His Son to die for you so that you would trust in what He can do for you rather than on what you can do for yourself. Find daily strength in the knowledge that Christ’s “strength is sufficient for you and His power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).