Regular church attendance-check.
Praying together at every meal-check.
Attending every baptism in your family together-check.
Going to VBS-check.
Singing hymns or reading the Bible before bed-check.
So, what’s missing? What is the big, important thing most Christian parents are not doing?
In a word, discipleship.
Parents, too many of us are overlooking our responsibility to disciple our own kids, and to take that responsibility seriously.
Let’s review. (Be patient, and stick with me here!) As you read these, look for what they ALL have in common.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up.” -Deuteronomy 6:4-7
“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” -Psalm 34:11
“Listen, O my people, to my instruction;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.” -Psalm 78: 1-8
“Father, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” -Ephesians 6:4
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;
Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck.” -Proverbs 1:8-9
Did you see it? What they all have in common? These are all passages from God’s Word to YOU. The Bible is God’s thoughts and wisdom written and preserved for all men, and among the words He chose to preserve are all of these passages about parents discipling their children. Not for the children’s pastor; not for VBS; not the Sunday School teacher or small group leader; not for the private Christian school; but all of these are just for you. All of those other people and groups are extraordinarily helpful in supporting you and reinforcing what you are teaching your children. But they aren’t primary. You are.
If you know anything about the way young men learned from their rabbis, then you know how close that relationship was. They would follow their rabbis wherever they went, paying diligent attention to their teaching, copying the precise way they did everything including washing their hands, and staying so close to their rabbis that they were literally covered in the dust kicked up by their feet.
Moms, if you’ve had toddlers, I won’t have to work hard here to make the case that your kids are just like that when they’re little! Right? They follow you, they ask you questions incessantly, they copy you, and they say what? That they want to be just like you.
Parents, you are your child’s first rabbi. You are.
And the earlier you start, and the more intentional you are, the better. This is the heart of all of those verses I made you read at the beginning! I know it’s a daunting task, but God knew what He was doing when He placed your child in your home. You can absolutely do this!
Here’s some good news. There’s not a legalistic way to go about it. You’ll notice that the Bible verses are clear about your mission, and they give you some general guidelines and contexts, but there’s not a specific way you have to do it. So, here’s what you do. You, as parents, look at your strengths as a couple (and your weaknesses) and place them next to what you know about your child right now. (Note: This will change over time because you change, and kids certainly change, so all you’re doing is coming up with an idea for right now. Whew, right?)
Check out Part Two to start getting some practical ideas for what to do next!