The Importance of Discipling Your Child
“Train up a child in the way he should go: even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 ESV
Parents love this verse, but it’s not a promise. But, it is an encouragement to be godly, steadfast parents with hope that our children will follow Christ.
Raising our children to know and love the Lord is the most important ministry we have. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that making peanut butter and sandwiches and potty training is a ministry, but it is. Discipling your child is a higher calling than we can imagine.
Because no matter how intentionally we parent our children, their faith, or lack thereof, becomes their own eventually. And we need to take every opportunity to nurture it.
So we must do more than just parent intentionally, we need to disciple intentionally.
How is discipling your child (discipleship) different from parenting?
When we make disciples, we don’t give them faith, we give them tools to discover their own faith and develop a personal relationship with God.
What does discipling your child (also known as discipleship parenting) look like?
First, be an example.
You are not to be the perfect example they are to follow, butbe a human, imperfect example of how to follow Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.
Don’t make a big deal of being a “good person.” Make a big deal of following Jesus. Let your children see you praying, reading the Bible, and spending quiet time with God.
Dr. Christopher Yuan from Moody Bible Institute once said, “The job of godly parents is not to raise godly children, but to BE godly parents.”
Our world is so results focused, but God wants us to be Him-focused and trust Him for the results. If we are godly parents, our children will learn more from that example than anything else.
Especially demonstrate humility.
Children need to see us apologize and seek forgiveness. Often, my sin is impatience or frustration with my daughter. Because she is the recipient of that sin, I will often ask her to pray with me when I ask God to forgive me and help me be a better mother.
She sees me not being perfect, humbling myself before her and God, and asking God to direct my choices.
Don’t assume your children know how to come to God when they have sinned or fall short. Show them how.
Never underestimate how powerful that example can be. Seeing their mom pray alone is powerful, but demonstrating how to walk imperfectly with Christ as sinners with a holy, perfect God sets the tone for how they see God’s love and righteousness.
Teach them to pray in general as well.
Developing a prayer life takes practice and cultivating. Help your children learn to pray daily, how to keep a prayer journal, and what prayer looks like in the Bible.
Talk to your children about how you make decisions.
When I make decisions for my life and family, I try to use God’s word as the foundation.
If God’s word is at the core of my identity, then I try to have my life reflect the fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.
Does this action or choice reflect those attributes?
Teach your children this fun activity with 1 Corinthians 13 – replace the word Love with your name. Jennifer is kind. Jennifer does not seek her own way. Jennifer keeps no record of wrongs.
Teach your children to use this passage in weighing their actions, too.
Train your children for living in a lost world.
Living in a fallen world means we’re going to encounter lost people acting lost. The problem is that most lost people don’t know they are lost and will often want you to join them in being lost.
Our children need training to be prepared for these moments.
My daughter and I discussed going to see a recent film that had a few seconds that normalized a sinful behavior.
We discussed some verses that could guide our choice, like Romans 8:5.
Romans 8:5 ESV For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
We both wanted to see this movie, but felt we are called to live according to the Spirit and could find something more edifying to watch.
Include the kids in your decisions!
We made the decision together about going to the movie. I could have made the decision alone, but then she wouldn’t have seen me disappointed about making a hard choice, praying about it, and searching scripture.
Making the decision together means she gets to be present to see how to make decisions and be a part of making godly choices.
Use scripture as a guide to growing godly character.
My daughter was bickering with some friends and had used a harsh, angry tone to get her point across, which only made the situation explode.
Once I was able to get her calmed down and take a breather from the situation, I walked her through what happened. Her friend called her a name. And she lost her temper.
I looked at her and said, “Proverbs 15:1 A gentle …”
“…answer turns away wrath,” she finished.
And was able to recognize that how she answered made the situation worse, made her look unkind, and put divisions between her and her friend. If she had responded gently, she might have been able to stop the whole argument.
But more than that, she saw how God’s word is active in our daily lives.
Raising our children for the Lord is more than intentional parenting, we need to be intentional in discipleship. Our homes are perfect training grounds to teach our children to love and serve, be gentle and respectful, offer grace and forgiveness and live more like Jesus.
Raise up disciples, mamas!
Jennifer DeFrates is the author/blogger behind Heaven not Harvard and the brand new site theMamapologist. She is a passionate follower of Christ and loves to learn more about God’s word. She writes about faith-based living, parenting, homeschool, and marriage. As theMamapologist, she will be writing about Christian Apologetics.
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