This weekend, I was a breakout session speaker for our Ohio Student Ministries Conference. I was asked to speak at Synergy on the topic of discipleship.
How can parents disciple their children?
I was speaking specifically to student leaders. But, I’d like to share what God showed me for this session because I love the topic of discipleship! I learned so much as I prepared for this session.
One of the things that is amazing about God’s Word is that the principles and foundations will not change. No matter how old your kids are or what season of parenting you find yourself in today, God’s Word is relevant, alive and ready to give you the tools to parent God’s way.
You see, parenting and discipleship go hand in hand. If you are not pouring into your kids spiritually, you are not fully parenting the way that God intended. On the days that I skip devotions with my girls because we are “busy” or on the days that I discipline without bringing my girls at least once back to the Bible, I am not parenting fully with discipleship in mind. I must purpose to disciple my kids.
So, how do parents disciple their children? How can we make sure that we are parenting fully the way God intended?
God showed me an example from the life of Samuel.
Prophets in the Old Testament were very much parents to the children of Israel. The prophets rejoiced with the Israelites, they cried with them, disciplined them, encouraged them, confronted them, wept for them and sought God on their behalf. They heard from God and followed through with that direction for the children of Israel.
Samuel was a godly prophet who spent his entire life “parenting” the Israelites. At this particular time in history, the Israelites had just asked Samuel for a king. They wanted an earthly ruler that they could see. The problem was that God never intended for the Israelites to have a king.
And, once a king was appointed, the children of Israel knew they had messed up big time. They knew that they had sinned against God.
I used the word PARENTS to present the foundation for parenting with discipleship.
P – Prayer
Samuel knew the importance of prayer.
I Samuel 12:23 says, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
Samuel even considered it a sin to not pray and intercede for the children of Israel. Do you pray for your kids? Do you seek God for wisdom in your parenting? Psalm 99:6 says that Samuel was one who called on the name of the Lord and God answered. We need to be parents who understand the power of getting on our knees in prayer for our kids.
Parenting is too big of a job to handle on our own. We must be in prayer and be Spirit led in every decision of parenting. If we are not in a growing relationship with God, how can we help our children grow? How can we pour into them what we are not getting for ourselves?
A – Assess
Where are you at in the journey of discipleship with your children?
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
The goal of discipleship is to build effective and productive followers of Christ. Are you adding to where your kids are right now? Do you know where they are at in their relationship with the Lord?
It is never too early or too late to start discipleship with your kids. For some, it may take more time and effort than others but Peter says to “make EVERY effort” in growing our faith.
R – Relate
You can NOT disciple your children effectively if you do not know them. You have to be able to relate to their thinking, their likes and dislikes, their wants and needs. Discipleship is about getting to know someone so well that you can guide who they are becoming. Do NOT automatically assume how much you know about your kids.
Samuel knew the Israelites. He knew their lives. He understood how they lived. He was able to call on God and speak specifically to their circumstance. I Samuel 12:16-17 says, “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the LORD when you asked for a king.”
E – Engage
Spend TIME with your kids. Quality, one-on-one time will build relationship as well as open a door to speak truth into their lives. Make every effort to pour spiritually into the lives of your kids. We want to know that when we aren’t around, they are equipped to make the right decision and remember the things you taught them.
Later in that same chapter of 2 Peter it says, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”
Watch your children. Notice the good and don’t always be so quick to point out the bad. Samuel encouraged the children of Israel. Even though they had sinned, he chose to remind them of God’s pleasure, his specific plan for the Israelite children.
I Samuel 12:20-22 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.”
Look into their hearts. Don’t just be pleased with outward obedience. Discipleship is going deeper than that. Take the time to notice what is going on in their hearts.
T – Teach
We are the spiritual example to our children. They see us: good and bad. When we talk it but don’t live it, they KNOW it!
Samuel was able to stand before the Israelites at the beginning of the I Samuel 12 and ask them to examine his innocence. He said, “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed.” Could you stand before your kids and ask them to examine you for sin?
Obviously, we will not be perfect or sinless but would your children be able to point out sin in your life? Would that sin be a contradiction to what you are trying to teach them? Teaching must begin with daily examining of our own hearts and lives. Children will gauge the truth of God’s Word by what they see in you.
I found this quote from the book The 360 Disciple.
“Credibility is the consistency between your words and your actions.” – Alton Garrison
Samuel’s blamelessness gave him the authority to then point out sin in the Israelites. I Samuel 12:7 says, “Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your fathers.”
S – Stick with it!
18 years is a long time and really, parenting never ends. Samuel parented the children of Israel his entire life. He never gave up on them, never stopped loving them and never stopped discipling them in the things of God. Parenting is a tough job but God has equipped you for your unique children. God specifically designed you to parent your kids. You have a voice that can speak to them like no one else can. Don’t give that voice to the world. Take ownership of your children’s spiritual walk with God and start discipling them today.