If you know much about family discipleship or how to spiritually lead your family, you will probably know some version of the following practices: family devotions, family prayer, family worship, and serving together as a family.
All of those things are wonderful, true, and essential.
But so often we can get stuck on just one way of doing each of those. Even with that, we can sometimes feel completely overwhelmed.
My family’s schedule is too busy for us to do anything at home all together in the evenings, we think to ourselves. How can we possibly add one more “event” to the schedule?
Our questions sometimes become concerns:
How can I lead family singing if I’m not musically gifted? If I can’t play guitar, then I guess we can’t sing together. If my kids won’t sit still, I won’t be able to read them a children’s book. And my family just won’t go for sitting in a circle listening to me or my spouse read aloud from the Bible, so I guess that’s a wash for us, too!
While these concerns are all valid, they represent rigid thinking—which is dangerous for leaders!
I currently serve my church as a children’s minister, but prior to stepping into the role, I spent ten years working in homes with parents as a therapist. Through those experiences, I realized that while the foundational elements for healthy families are the same, the specific forms they take can look incredibly different from one family to the next.
The individual dynamic of the family plays such a huge role: you have to know your people, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to play off of the strengths whenever possible.
I believe our views on family discipleship often get stuck in two main ways: 1) our thinking is either too small about what counts as “family discipleship,” or 2) our thinking is too big in how much space family discipleship will take up on our family calendars. What I mean by “too big” is that we think we have to add it on as just another “to do” item on our list.
So, today I want to challenge these ways of thinking about family discipleship. I encourage you to think big and broad about family discipleship. Let’s think “smaller” about incorporating disciple-making possibilities into our busy lives.
Step 1: Start in Prayer
Ask God for wisdom as you think about the dynamics of your family and consider your schedule. This will help you while you search for ways to build up your family’s strengths and grow in Christ together. God will answer! And being in prayer about this will tune your heart to see possibilities as you go about your day.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Once you’ve prayed, make a plan for one or two of the areas that you feel God is calling your family to focus on. Know that it’s okay to start small, especially as you get started! Set a timeline for how long you are committed to trying it out. Changes in routine always take a little time to really take hold, so make sure you give it enough time to make it past the transition period.
Below are some ideas—just to get you started.
Please do not read this list as a prescription! See it as inspiration, ideas to consider, or things to try out as you get started.
For more ideas, see another article about family discipleship practices here.
Read the Bible with your kids during a regular everyday routine.
You could do this any time! But pair it with a routine that happens daily to make it easier to remember. Keep the dynamics of your family in mind and set yourself up for a win here. If, for example, brushing teeth is a daily battle but bedtime is pretty easy, pick bedtime.
When my oldest son was a toddler and I was home with him during the day, we made reading the Bible part of our lunch routine. He happens to be a slow eater (and a big talker), so we would pray for our food and start lunch. I would always finish eating mine first (and he usually had quite a way to go), so I would grab a kids’ Bible or a children’s book with Bible stories and read to him while his little mouth was full.
He loved it! Our favorite was The Jesus Storybook Bible—we have read it cover to cover more times than I can count.
Give kids their own Bible.
This is particularly important to do when they start reading, but you can do it when they are younger, as well. When things come up and you want to look up a verse, look it up together in their Bible. You are teaching them that the Bible has answers, and you are teaching them how to find them—and empowering them to actively engage with God’s Word.
Find verses related to common issues or emotions your kids face.
As kids grow, they experience a wide range of emotions. This is actually good—it’s how God made us! But as kids learn to navigate their world, having verses that they can hold onto when experiencing certain situations or emotions can be a great tool, and a great comfort.
Is your child dealing with fear at bedtime? Teach them Isaiah 41:10.
Is your child experiencing anger when playing with a sibling or friend? Read them Ephesians 4:26.
Is your child worried? Read them Philippians 4:8.
Remember: this doesn’t only work for uncomfortable emotions!
Is your child feeling thankful? Read them James 1:17.
Hopeful? Romans 15:13.
Loved? Psalm 103:17.
The list goes on, but those should get you started.
Make a music playlist with Christian artists.
Listening to music that speaks truth is a beautiful thing. The words and the melodies stick with us. So, find music of Christian artists your family likes!
And don’t get stuck with only what you hear on Sunday mornings or on the radio. There is so much out there! And if you are new to this, think about the secular artists that your family tends to like and then Google “Christian artists like___________,” and fill in the blank.
Then, make a playlist or two. Or help your kids make one. Your kids will probably love this project.
Talk about God every day.
And I don’t mean for you to put it on your schedule. In Deuteronomy 6:5–7, one of the key passages about family discipleship, says:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (ESV).
Think about what your family does during all the times listed in this passage: Can you think about any time in your day that is not covered by these verses? I submit to you that no one can!
But I also submit to you that I do not think we are supposed to be walking around all day long only talking theology. Definitely not.
There is homework to do and dinner to make. But the above passage tells us that God has a place in every part of our lives for conversation about Him. This does not have to fit in our “Church box” or a “Sunday-school box.”
As we’re making dinner, we can talk about our favorite foods and praise God for giving us good food—and for making us all different.
We can celebrate that I like the crunchy bacon while my son likes soft bacon. It’s a win-win!
When we are doing a science project, we can talk about the beautiful and intricate design of God’s creation.
This sort of conversation style might seem daunting to you at first, but pray for your eyes to be opened to these opportunities and God will answer in abundance!
Step 3: Take Action
After you’ve made your plan, it’s time to take action. Talk to your family about the new ideas and dive in! And know, it’s probably not going to be beautiful on the first try. Be patient (with your family and yourself), be flexible (with the details of the plan—know you can adjust as you go), and be persistent (it will be worth it)!
STEP 4: Re-Evaluate
Once you have made it to the end of your trial period for your plan, take some time to prayerfully think through what worked and what didn’t. And talk to your family about it!
If it still needs a little work, don’t be discouraged! Modify the plan and try again.
If it’s a winner, awesome—keep it! And then start praying about what area to tackle next.
Let me tell you now, you may land on a truly amazing plan. It may work beautifully for like a week, a month, even six months. And then life is going to happen and jar the system. Someone is going to get a new job or someone is going to start a new school. Someone is going to start walking and someone is going to start soccer. That is normal. Just start back with prayer.
Overall, the most important thing is to keep prayerfully moving forward. Our lives are full of change, but our God is constant—he will be with you and will lead you through every step!