As a church leader, discipling children is challenging.
You have one significant roadblock you have to overcome: Time.
Think about it.
How much time does your church spend discipling children?
Do you provide programs or Bible studies?
Does your staff or volunteers spend one-on-one time discipling students?
Make an honest evaluation of the amount of time your church directly influences children.
Is it one hour per week?
Do you offer 2–3 hours of training?
Regardless of how much time you spend, it fails in comparison to the amount of time children spend with their family’s during the week.
My intention in telling you this isn't to smash your hopes against the rocks. Think of what I’m saying more like waving smelling salts under your nose to wake you up to the reality your church faces when it comes passing the torch of faith to the next generation.
Does this mean you shouldn’t provide programs or Bible studies for children?
Nope. That’s not the case at all.
The point I want to stress is that you should view the programs you offer as support to parents—not a replacement.
Here’s the good news:
There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
You won’t need to make significant changes in your church to empower parents and guardians to become disciple-makers in their home.
In this post, I’m going to share with you three overlooked ways you can lead parents to disciple their children. What I’m going to share isn’t necessarily revolutionary. But it will help you to connect the dots.
Here we go!
#1. Lead parents and guardians to live for Jesus
Discipling children doesn’t begin with children.
Discipling children begins with their parents and guardians.
Can you influence a child for Christ?
But as a church leader, it’s difficult to disciple children if their parents or guardians are not committed to Jesus.
Here’s the deal:
As you lead parents to live for Jesus, then they’ll be able to guide their children to live for him.
Parents have everything they need to disciple their children.
God gives them the grace and power they need to fulfill their calling as a parent.
In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul had these encouraging words to share:
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
In Christ, parents receive the power they need to lead their family to live and love like Jesus.
Do they need specialized training?
No. But it's helpful for parents to read books, attend parenting conferences or seminars, and seek help.
Are there certain “things” parents should do?
Sure. But it’s not as tricky as you probably think it is.
What’s the bottom line?
The most significant influence in the life of a child is their parents and who they are as a Christian.
Before parents can lead their children to follow Jesus, you must lead parents to drink from the wells of God's grace first.
#2. Help parents to talk about their faith
Life as a Christian isn’t a to-do list—it’s a lifestyle.
It’s who we are and what we do.
In time, our faith in Christ will lead us to live like Christ.
The holds true for discipling children.
What does this mean for church leaders?
It means you need to help parents see that faith is more than participating in a worship service. From the time we wake up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, our devotion to Jesus influences what we believe, how we live, and how we parent.
Practically speaking, for parents, here’s what I’m talking about:
“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” (Deut 6:6–9).
From this one passage, you can see that discipling children is more than what your church can offer during a weekday or weekend worship service. Discipleship mostly takes place in the home.
As a church leader, encourage parents and guardians to make the most of their everyday life.
During the day, families have several natural times they can talk about their faith, including:
- During dinner
- Before bedtime
- On the road
- One-on-one time
Let’s take a look at these in detail.
During dinner, encourage families to give thanks to God for their food (1 Tim. 4:5). After a prayer of thanksgiving, challenge parents to make it a priority to talk about their kids’ days and find ways they can connect conversations back to Christ.
Before bedtime is a natural time parents can share their faith and encourage their children. If you missed a dinnertime opportunity to talk and pray, encourage parents to pray for their children and ask them specifically what they can pray for.
Do parents drive their kids to school? They can redeem a portion of this time by talking with their kiddos in the car.
Another helpful way parents can engage their children is by planning one-on-one time with their kids. By taking their children out for a treat, lunch, or whatever, parents will have plenty of time to ask questions and listen to what they have to say.
There are plenty of opportunities for parents and guardians during the day. But these few suggestions will help you to lead parents to engage their children at key moments.
#3. Equip parents to read the Bible
Over the years, there are several common ways churches have reached out to children:
- Sunday school
- Vacation Bible study
- Youth groups
As I mentioned above, these programs—and others—are helpful, and they are a tremendous support for parents. However, to disciple children, you have to equip parents and guardians to become disciple-makers in their home.
There are several resources available to help you do this. But there’s a straightforward discipleship hack any parent can use regardless of how long he or she has been following Jesus.
This tip doesn’t require building an extensive library, obtaining a seminary degree, or attending a conference.
The only thing parents will need is a Bible, time, and staying one step ahead.
Here’s the big idea:
Encourage parents to read the Bible with their family, and ask three simple questions.
- What did the Bible say?
- What does it mean?
- How does this change me?
Let me break this down.
With the first question, the goal is to lead children to think about what they just read. Think “reading comprehension.” At this point, encourage parents not to worry about talking about the meaning of the text. The only thing they need to focus on is helping their children understand what was written.
Pro tip: Parents can crank this up a notch by helping their children make relevant cross-references in the Bible. Doing this will help children to see that every individual book of the Bible ties into one big story of redemption.
After kids know what the Bible says, ask the second question to help them understand what it means. For some portions of the Bible, such as the Historical Books like Joshua and Ruth, you may not be able to pull out a meaning per se. But for other books of the Bible, such as the Prophetic Books (Isaiah) and the Epistles (1 Corinthians), you’ll be able to pull out a ton of meaning.
Take your time. Don’t feel a need to rush this question.
Pro tip: Parents can read ahead to identify key themes in the passage, and potential questions children may ask. Staying one step ahead is the name of the game.
Finally, with the last question, the big idea is to help children apply what was read and discussed. Again, there will be times when you won’t have anything earth-shattering to share, and that’s okay.
Pro tip: Encourage parents to identify one idea their family can focus on during the day or throughout the week. They’ll be surprised by how often this will come up during that time.
Champion parents and the church
Parents and guardians are the best people for the job of discipling their children.
As you challenge parents to fulfill their call as disciple-makers, don’t forget to let them know that your church is there to support and equip them to lead their family well. Let parents know they can reach out to a pastor, elder or deacon, or someone in your church they can learn from