“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV).
Kids sometimes wonder, “Where does this path lead?“ They are looking for clear direction and honest answers. Many parents feel inadequate, so they leave academic and social training to the school and spiritual training to the church—or to chance. As a result, many children “grow up too fast,” having to navigate life’s choices without leadership or direction. They wander aimlessly—and often choose precipitous courses.
God has given parents primary responsibility to train their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Parents must rise to this challenge, or worldly influences will win the hearts of their kids. Churches must rescue families by encouraging and equipping parents so they can carry out this responsibility. Together, parents and churches can lead children along righteous pathways.
As a ministry leader of the 3rd-6th grade midweek program, Darlene saw many new families attending church. The kids in her ministry were not shy about inviting their friends. Children who came with a friend often began following Jesus; sometimes they were the first in their family to do so.
Alyssa, an energetic eight-year-old, was part of one such family. She came with a friend from school, and began following Jesus one month later. Her mom, Brenda, started volunteering in a small group, wanting to be part of the community of friends her daughter had developed. Brenda began listening to the third graders’ discussion. Several months later, she understood the Gospel and began following Jesus. Brenda stayed involved as a parent volunteer, learning right along with the children each week.
Brenda often felt ignorant of spiritual things, but she would study each topic so she could talk about it with her daughter at home. Brenda got more involved and eventually became a small group leader. The partnership between the church and other parents gave Brenda the opportunity to ask questions before and after small group; she did her best to disciple Alyssa at home.
Darlene and her team could only do so much to teach Alyssa in two hours each week. It was her mom’s initiative that propelled Alyssa to grow leaps and bounds!
Ryan and Kristie were serving as missionaries in a country that was hostile to the Gospel. When they became new parents, Ryan and Kristie didn’t have the benefit of extended family support. They navigated challenges such as limited access to basic needs like formula and disposable diapers, and reliable medical care.
Kristie and Ryan learned to pray for the Lord’s wisdom: “Lord, our son won’t stop crying! What should we do?” or “Lord, we can’t find a safe place to take our son to play—where do we go?” God answered in unusual ways: a solution to crying popped into Kristie’s head; a local believer shared about a safe playground; or they learned a nugget of parenting wisdom from a friend.
Kristie and Ryan applied this approach to every area of their parenting. They sought to lead their children from the Lord’s wisdom, asking for specific guidance for each situation. They opened the Word, talked to wise counselors, and prayed constantly. This dependence made up for their lack of experience. They just needed to stay close to the Lord and seek Him for everything. They realized that all God was asking them to do as parents was to obey the next thing He revealed. And the only way Kristie and Ryan would know the “next thing” was to seek Him daily in the Word and through prayer!
Disciple for Life
Doug was raised in Southern California where his father served as a church pastor. Since his youngest years, Doug went with his dad to hand out Gospel tracts and tell people about Jesus. They spent time together reading the Bible and talking about life. As Doug grew older, time together in the Bible became irregular, but his dad frequently asked if he was spending personal time in the Word. Doug’s dad was comfortable that his son would make the right choices because of his solid foundation and commitment to the Lord.
Doug enjoyed playing football, but until eighth grade he had not considered trying out for the school team. He showed up for try-outs. At the end of the first practice, Doug asked the coach if they could talk. Doug asked the coach if he knew who Jesus was. The coach said, “Yes, He’s the Savior of Christians.” Doug then responded, ”You’re right, and I don’t think He appreciates you using His name the way you do on the practice field.” The coach apologized and promised to stop doing it.
A couple of weeks later, the guys in the locker room asked Doug what he was listening to through his head phones. He said, “Christian music,” which brought a roar of laughter. Before the next game, team members chided Doug, “Why don’t you pray so we can win,” which was followed by another round of laughter. Doug said, “OK,” and dropped to his knees and prayed.
This rag-tag team wasn’t supposed to win many games, but they ended up in the playoffs. Near the end of the fourth quarter, Doug’s team was down by one score. In all seriousness, team members came and asked him to pray. He said, “I will if you get on your knees with me.” Then and there, everyone knelt and Doug prayed. The team went back on the field, scored a touchdown, and won the game. Doug realized that Jesus was the real winner. Doug was so grateful that his dad loved him and discipled him from childhood.
What You Can Do
Acknowledge that God has entrusted you with the responsibility of providing direction for your child.
- Discern your child’s unique design (Psalm 139). Ask the Lord to reveal His unique identity and purpose for your child.
- Depend on God’s wisdom and the Spirit’s guidance (James 1:5, John 14:16-17, 26). Without the Lord’s guidance, parenting is like flying blind! Seek Him daily; follow the Spirit’s leading as you parent.
- Be proactive in every area (Proverbs 12:28). Pursue a variety of meaningful experiences together with your child.
- Disciple your child at home (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Take everyday opportunities to teach and train. Show your child how to study the Word of God and ways to “write it on the heart.”
- Balance your parenting style (Proverbs 22:6). Give calm and confident directives to your child when appropriate. As he/she matures, allow for personal choices. Each child needs to respect leadership and to learn how to make good choices.
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
Children need meaningful, shared-life relationships. That’s the heart of discipleship. DiscipleLand’s family of Biblical resources forms a complete Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational process designed to help children know God intimately, love Him passionately, and to serve Him selflessly. Click here for your Free Catalog
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