When we put our focus on discipling our children to know Jesus, we invest something in them that will last beyond this life.
By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer
The best thing we could invest into our children’s lives is not a love for sports, or reading, or the outdoors. No, the best thing we could invest in our children is a love for God, a knowledge of His word and guidance for what it looks like live accordingly. It’s eternity-minded mothering.
Every single thing that is contained solely within this physical world will pass away and be forgotten, and yet there are also many pursuits and inclinations of the heart that strike a chord in eternity. We have the opportunity to foster either or both of these things in the lives of our children.
The temporary is not bad, it’s just temporary.
Those great manners, straight-A report cards and advanced athletic and fine arts accomplishments will one day cease to hold meaning in and of themselves. What will hold enduring value is the way we and our children loved God and loved others sacrificially, along with the way we walked in faithful, trusting obedience to God.
It’s really that simple.
The most humble, faithful of lives will be elevated above the most glorified on this earth. God’s economy is completely other than ours, and as parents, we would be wise to pay attention to this eternal equation.
So how do we foster lasting value in our children’s lives?
I believe this happens best through the simple, yet profound process of discipleship.
What is Discipleship?
Jesus’ parting words before ascending to heaven were “Go and make disciples!” and yet in our 21st Century world, it is difficult to comprehend the depth of this concept.
Jesus used the discipleship model Himself to bring about change and growth in the lives of the group of 12 men He selected to be His followers. They went with Him everywhere, watching and learning for three years! This process didn’t change the hearts of the disciples (like Judas Iscariot), but for those who were sincere in faith it was an extremely effective model for training and developing.
In this way, the teacher demonstrated God’s ways and applied His truth in many situations and contexts. Discipleship is the ultimate method for equipping others for life with God.
Jesus did it, and He commissioned us to do likewise.
The Amazing Parenting Parallel
As mothers (and fathers), God has uniquely positioned us to disciple our children.
Think about it for a second: our children naturally live their lives alongside us. God has given us the privilege of fulfilling His command to make disciples right in our own homes. Therefore, we must, over all else, make it our parenting goal to lead our children to know God, to follow His ways, and to view their lives in light of eternity.
We nurture and train our children to follow Christ.
Neither the wise, nor the strong, nor the rich will have anything to boast about in the presence of God. So let us strive to instill in our children the things that will matter: knowing God and exercising kindness, justice and righteousness.
A Beginner’s Guide to Discipling Your Children
Be a disciple
I would be remiss if I didn’t start here.
We can’t lead our children on paths we haven’t first trodden ourselves. That truth challenges me to continue pursuing Christ myself through Bible reading, prayer, rest, meeting with other believers and obedience to what God has said.
Discipleship isn’t about “arriving” at spiritual maturity and then mentoring others from the station of “expert.”
Rather, discipleship says, “Come with me as I go deeper.”
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
If you need a place to start your own discipleship journey, start here.
Talk about God’s activity
This is a simple discipleship principle, yet it is incredibly important and often neglected.
Every moment that we are with our children is an opportunity to help them see God’s activity and apply His word to their lives in real time.
It is easy to live at the surface-level, willing away our days perceiving nothing more than the sheet of glass that is the world right in front of our face. Yet, there is always a spiritual reality in every situation. Through walking, sitting, eating and talking with our children, we have the opportunity to model and guide them into a God-soaked and eternity-minded way of thinking, being and living.
This conversation can be as simple as sharing what God is doing in our own lives, what we’re reading in the Bible, and how we’re applying it practically. When we share openly and authentically, we bring down the barriers that divide us and allow our children to see inside our hearts.
Discipleship says: “Let’s walk together. Let me show you how I apply God’s word along the way.”
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)
Pray for (& with) your children
We cannot change our children’s hearts, and only God can draw them to Himself.
We must rely on His power and trust His plan, yet by His grace we have the privilege of partnering in this process. One of the best ways we can do this is by praying for our children’s hearts.
And then, we disciple our children in prayer as we model it. When we bring our children with us before to thrown of God, we sow valuable seeds. When we connect the normal happenings of our daily lives with prayer, we set a pattern for our children to follow.
Discipleship says: “Everything I know about doing life with God, I will show you.”
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 (NIV)
Minister alongside your children
Jesus’ disciples went with Him as He ministered.
They watched and learned and ingested His way of interacting with the world. They learned to see people as He saw them, through eyes of compassion and love. Each of them learned to understand truth by experience.
Just last week, I was in Guatemala drilling a clean water well with Living Water International. I have felt moved by the work this ministry for years. Yet it wasn’t until I saw the need firsthand and had the opportunity to meet and love the people they serve for myself that it became personal.
Until it became personal, I now know that I didn’t truly “get what it was all about” … not deeply.
In the same way, our children may understand that serving is good, but when we take them into gritty, hard places and let them get their hands dirty to meet the needs of real, hurting people alongside us, we open the door to understanding, love and spiritual truth in their lives.
Discipleship says: “Do what I do, as I do what Christ does.”
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:14-15
Looking for more?
Maybe you need help seeing life and parenting from an eternal perspective?
As God has opened my eyes to His broader truth, He has also given me a passion for helping moms cultivate this reality-shifting perspective. That is why I’ve created a four-part online course, which comes complete with four video lessons and a companion Bible study journal, to help you as you pursue eternity-minded mothering.
Enroll now here: Heavenly Minded Mom Online Course
Just a quick question for you on ministering along side your children. My husband and I have been really trying to find a way to serve our church or community with our children. They are 3 and 1. They are the wild kind of children that cannot be contained. Any advice on types of ministry activities for families with children in this age group?
That is a hard time for sure! It honestly might be as simple as inviting another family with little children over and loving them through hospitality while casting vision for what it means for your kids to love their kids. Or maybe picking up sticks in an elderly neighbors yard? Another idea would be to take the visiting to those who are homebound or in the nursing home. Many times being around children is a huge blessing to elderly Christians. Hope that helps!
I feel for you! I once had a 3 and 1 year old too, and I stepped down from the serving team I was on at church. Instead I found creative ways to minister like those I mentioned above, and I had to give myself grace to realize these home-centered or kid-friendly ministries were no less valuable in the Kingdom than “official” church ones.
Its just hard to be in this season when it comes to serving. My children are what you might call “strong willed” so picking up a neighbors yard actually sounds like a great idea! Anything active and outside would be great for them. Thank you for the tips!
I just found this blog and think it is awesome. Zhade, I read your comment and couldn’t help but respond. I am a mother of four and grandmother of nine. Plus I am a special education teacher and have been a pastor’s wife for over 25 years.
While this time in your life is very challenging, you must remain in control. Every child, regardless of temperament or disability, must be taught to follow directions. Psalms 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.” The importance of this was brought home to me when my children were young. There was a mom who saved her child from a shooter at a restaurant because she was able to guide the child without words. While I would probably never encounter the same problem, the idea of being able to guide my rowdy bunch of four children permeated my soul. Proverbs 29:17 says, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” At first, this verse made no sense to me because it takes a lot of hard work to get kids to do what you want them to do, but as you establish your authority with your children, the rest eventually comes. And it is pure joy. I can honestly say that as my children got older, I could guide them with my eye. Not only did I enjoy the rest, but all the adults who encountered my children enjoyed the benefit as well. I’ve even had my son’s employer tell me how wonderful it was to have a young man who could take correction.
How you do it is a whole other matter. Whatever system you use should provide both positive and negative consequences. But the main thing is that you believe God has equipped you with the ability to be a mom who has full control of her children.
Wow! I loved this! This was an insightful! These ideas could be applied to any religious belief systems! My favorite quote was, “Come with me as I go deeper.” I like it because I am no expert myself. I am not Jesus, or Buddha, but this quote allows me to be my imperfect self. Then my children and I become more like classmates rather than professor-student. I am just getting started on this spiritual journey of mine so I need all the leeway I can get!
Yes, absolutely discipleship is an effective model across the board, but there is only one truth, so pointing them to Jesus must be the goal. I am so glad you were encouraged!