Discipleship Parenting: Getting Started with the Basics
A few months ago, I began thinking about blogging more seriously about parenting. It’s not because I’m an expert. I’m not. I’m 8 months into being a 2-kid mom, and I haven’t got the hang of it yet (and I may never fully master it). It’s just that I’m feeling more and more burdened with the desire to do what I can to help parents (including myself) raise kids who love Jesus through discipleship parenting. I’m pretty sure I make parenting mistakes every day. But the older my kids get, the more I feel the urgency of leading them into a relationship with Jesus.
I’m fortunate to be married to a man who has also made the discipleship of young people his mission, and we are working together on making discipleship parenting the main focus of our lives.
What is discipleship parenting?
Honestly, I’d never heard the term before I used it the other day. I wrote it into an article I was working on because it made sense. It seemed like a pretty great name for how we’ve been trying to parent our kids. I mean, isn’t discipleship the ideal for all Christian parents? I asked my youth pastor husband if he’d ever heard of discipleship parenting, and he said, “no.” In any case, I’m sure people out there have used this term and I can’t say what it means to them, but here’s my definition:
Discipleship parenting is loving, listening to, and following Christ, and, in turn, living a life that leads your children into their own meaningful relationships with Him.
Of course, the simplicity of the words is deceptive, because none of that is easy to do. I fail daily. I won’t give up, though, and I’m not in this alone. You aren’t either, because the God of the universe is on our side. (Plus, we have each other now, right?!)
Why is discipleship parenting so important?
Have you heard about how teens and young adults are leaving the church in droves? Yeah, of course you have. Here’s the thing: I suspect that many of them are leaving because the church is not something they really feel is theirs. So, for my kids my husband and I are doing our best to focus on leading them into a relationship with Christ. We want Him to be their best friend, because if He is, they are much less likely to leave Him. The thing is, it’s best to start as early as possible. In fact, according to the Barna Group, kids’ moral standards are basically in place by age 9, their beliefs about Christ by age 12, and they pretty much believe what they’re going to believe spiritually for the rest of their lives by age 13. (Read the article here.) Babies and toddlers are not too young to begin viewing Jesus as their friend. Of course, if your kids are older they can still form a strong relationship with God; it’ll just take more intentional special care and attention. It’s never too late to start.
Another reason discipleship parenting is essential is that parents are the ones best equipped to lead their children to Jesus! Yes, even better than pastors! You may not feel that you are the best spiritual leader for your child, but you have many advantages (like time, genetics, and motivation) that give you a leg up on anyone else when it comes to having spiritual influence over your children. Don’t believe me? Check out this video that my husband, Ben Martin, (Pastor of Children and Family Discipleship at Pioneer Memorial Church) put together:
Discipleship parenting essentials
There are at least 87 quadrillion facets to parenting, and I haven’t even done my dishes today, so the chances of me covering this stuff exhaustively are pretty slim. But, here’s a list of essential target teaching areas for discipleship parenting:
- Bible study, worship, and prayer These are non-negotiable necessities for Christians. James 5:13 Kids can start participating in personal Bible study at a very young age, and family worship can start before your kids are even born!
- Character building Building Christlike character is one of the most important things parents can help their children with. 1 Timothy 6:11. Character building starts with loving Christian discipline!
- Physical health/Time in nature 1 Corinthians 6:19. Outdoor play is not optional, it’s essential!
- Stewardship of resources God blesses wise use of time, talents, finances, and care for natural resources. Malachi 3:10
- Personal relationships We need to be modeling healthy relationships (person to person, and person to God) Matthew 22:36-40
- Education/Learning environment Parents are responsible for providing healthy and safe learning environments. (Joshua 1:8) This includes choosing safe childcare options, setting screen time limits, and introducing biblically sound and developmentally appropriate learning concepts in a variety of ways.
These areas overlap somewhat and cover a multitude of tiny little tasks and nuances of daily life, yes. But being intentional about incorporating something from each of these 6 aspects of a healthy Christian life into the daily business of parenting will make a difference.
Discipleship parenting in action
If you’ve made it this far into this post, you’re probably already doing a lot that would fall under the discipleship parenting umbrella. So, there’s a good chance that you’re looking for ideas for how to be more intentionally putting it into action right now. Here’s my first piece of advice:
Choose one (new) thing to start with and practice it until it’s permanent.
If you’re not already doing personal devotions on a daily basis, start with those. Daily family worship (either morning, evening, or both) would be a great next step. Take a look at the bullet points above, and decide which area needs the most attention in your family. (Bonus hint: Sometimes removing part of the daily routine can be a positive change–and frees up some precious time.)
If you’re having trouble thinking of simple ways to incorporate the 6 essential target teaching areas into your daily routines, I can help. I’ve put together a list with kid-friendly activities for each category, which can be yours if you sign up here!
You’ve God’s got this.
Remember that discipleship is more about a relationship with Christ than anything else. Focus on Him, and the rest will, over time, fall into place. The things we do should, ultimately, just be products of who we are in Christ.
Thanks for spending time here at Disciple Mama! Hopefully we’ve got you thinking about how to step up your discipleship parenting game. If you’re willing to share your thoughts, leave a comment below! Please stop by and visit again soon. Or, even better, sign up to receive newsletters with new posts and bonus information straight to your inbox!
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