Last week I wrote about the imperative of family discipleship. In short, parents are called to be the primary disciple-makers of their own children. Seeing our children come to know and love the Lord, while ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, is partly a “DIY project” – it is the responsibility of every parent and family. The “professionals” (pastors and church leaders) are here to help, of course, ideally partnering with families to disciple their children. But this is a job that cannot and must not be left only to those with “skills.” It is a job for everyone.
How do we do that job? In most jobs, after you are hired you get an orientation period of some kind. You spend some time training, perhaps learning the ropes from a co-worker or predecessor. But many of us who are parents never receive such on-the-job training in spiritual leadership and discipleship. Perhaps we weren’t discipled by our own parents. Perhaps we’ve never really been discipled by anyone. How can we do a job we’ve never been trained for?
I won’t try to give you an exhaustive briefing on how to handle this essential task right here. (Though, if you worship at Capitol City, I want you to know that it is among our highest priorities right now to grow in the way we give you ongoing training and opportunities to engage in family discipleship. So stay tuned.) What I will do right here is articulate a simple strategy for discipling your children – or your grandchildren – or anyone.
This strategy is actually so simple it can just barely be called a strategy. It is so simple that you can probably get the gist of it without reading much further. I’ll describe it, and then give you complete permission to move on without reading another word, should you see fit. However, if you stick around, I’ll spend just a few more minutes describing some tips for each component of this strategy – and then give you a sense of how this could work in your family.
Alright, that’s enough delay. Here’s the simple strategy: Read. Pray. Sing. That’s it. Make it a habit for your family to gather regularly to read Scripture together, pray together, and sing songs of worship together. I am certain that God, in his grace and through his Spirit, will use each of these activities to save and sanctify his people. Now, why read, pray, sing?
Through the habits of family discipleship you are hoping to hoist the sails that will catch the the Holy Spirit’s wind, sanctifying and sending your family’s ship all the way to glory.
1. Read. The Word of God is sufficient to do the work of God among the people of God for the glory of God. We don’t need supplements or replacements for the very words of God found in the true Word of God. This is true for adults, and its true for the smallest of children. Of course, your reading strategy will need to be shaped by the age and maturity level of your kids. But make a commitment to spend time with your family in the Word on a regular basis. Maybe that means just a verse or two at the dinner table; maybe it means a chapter in the family room after dinner. As you read, explain anything that requires explanation – words, ideas, etc. Answer questions. Ask questions. But make it clear that God’s Word is an essential part of living the Christian life, and through the Word point your children to the nature and character of God.
2. Pray. Whether one person prays or everyone prays, pray together. Perhaps, if you are in the habit of praying Scripture, you can pray through a psalm together. Perhaps you take prayer requests from each person in the family. Perhaps you pray for missionaries your family supports or knows. Perhaps you pray for sick or afflicted people in your life and family. I regularly pray for the salvation and sanctification of each of my children, in their presence, during times of family prayer. But the bottom line is this: pray together.
3. Sing. Maybe this idea seems awkward to you. It doesn’t have to be. If no one in your family is particularly musical, find a recording of some worship music online and ask everyone to sing along. Print out the lyrics if you need to. In my family we pick a new song or hymn to learn every few weeks. (Let me clarify: A song or hymn that is new to my kids. Most that we sing are actually quite old.) One of the primary purposes of biblical worship is to encourage one another with gospel truth as it is expressed by the hymns of our faith. Let that encouragement characterize your family life. It might feel strange at first, but I don’t think it will for long.
Putting it all together. Now, how do you manage to fit all of these things into a busy family life? I’d suggest that you start small. If you aren’t in the practice of doing this, then commit to ten minutes per week. Find one night or day when everyone can sit together for those ten minutes. Read a verse or passage. Pray together. Sing together. Be brief, and stay positive. If you are in the habit of doing some of this already, that’s great! Is there an area where you feel like you need to grow? In my family, we strive to do this every day…which means we manage to do it about five times per week. But we didn’t start there…We started with one day per week, and we grew into it as we all became more comfortable with the process.
So get started! It won’t be easy, and it will never be perfect. But God will use your efforts. Its not too late to start, either. If your kids are young, its easy to jump right in. But if they are older, even if they are out of the house, there can still be a place for this. Ask your older children to forgive you for not discipling them more intentionally when they were young, and when you do gather as a family, make some time to read, pray, and sing together. Through the habits of family discipleship you are hoping to hoist the sails that will catch the the Holy Spirit’s wind, sanctifying and sending your family’s ship all the way to glory.