“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV).
How Kids Think
The adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is true! Similarly, “All play and no work makes Jill a lazy girl.” Some children receive an overdose of sports, TV, school, video games, or even church. Few kids experience the energizing vitality that takes place when their minds, hearts, and bodies are stretched and balanced to reach their full potential.
As children grow in one area—knowledge, skills, or relationships—other aspects of their lives are affected as well. For example, physical exertion during “recess” wakes kids’ brains up so it is easier for them to learn academic topics. Students like to validate new facts and concepts through personal experiences, dialogues, and friendships. Older kids learn to work in groups, to communicate more effectively, and to resolve conflicts. Children can integrate spiritual growth along the way.
Achieving balance is the key to your child’s overall development. One simple Bible verse summarizes Jesus’ childhood: He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially (Luke 2:52). His life was in balance, even as a youngster. Balanced discipleship links three dimensions—growth in knowledge, in character, and in conduct.
The most important Hebrew prayer was the “Shema,” the Deuteronomy 6:4-9 passage that every Jew recited from memory twice a day. When the religious leaders asked, “Which command is the greatest?” Jesus cited this passage. The Shema summarized the entire Law—knowledge of God that enlightens the mind, love for God that transforms the heart, and service to people that affects their circumstances. Children must also embrace all three areas!
More than Head Knowledge
As a “tween,” I embarked on my first missions trip—an orphanage in Tecate, Mexico. My wonderful upbringing included consistent Bible training, but my limited service and ability to love people lingered behind my knowledge of the faith. Even as a twelve year old, I realized that trusting the Lord and trying new things was part of following and loving Jesus. Before that first trip, I grew nervous. What if I cannot help people? What if I can’t tell people about Jesus? These fears plagued me during the 14-hour ride to the border.
In Tecate, we were greeted by hot weather, red dirt, and smiling children. The kids at the orphanage were boisterous and kind—though their living conditions were quite poor. After recovering from the initial culture shock, I embraced the ministry with excitement. Most afternoons we performed dramas, did outreaches that ended with a Gospel presentation, and visited local schools. I was taking risks to love people that I had never before imagined!
In the midst of it all, I had a profound experience. When I was sharing my faith and seeking to love other people, the Bible verses I had learned as a child came back to the surface. When I needed a verse about salvation, or God’s love, or serving others, the Holy Spirit brought the right verse or nugget of truth to mind at the right time. On that day, my desire to learn the Scriptures and discover new truths about God grew exponentially—because I saw their practical value. The things I had previously learned about God came to life as I sought ways to love and serve other people!
What You Can Do
These three pursuits will help you build balanced, lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ:
1) Know God intimately—help your child develop a reservoir of Bible knowledge.
- Memorize and read Scripture
- Learn about God’s character and attributes
- Discuss with others what they are learning
2) Love God passionately—practice displaying Christlike character in every area of life.
- Love God and choose to follow Him
- Make choices that please God
- Confess and repent when you mess up
3) Serve God selflessly—demonstrate faithful conduct that honors God and helps people.
- Give time and resources to help others
- Volunteer in your local church
- Encourage and build up other people
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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