Discipleship is for Young Parents Too

(Editor's Note: This article is reposted from a series at Domestic Kingdom and appears here with the author's permission.) As a mom of young children, I feel like I’m going, going, going all the time.

On a typical day, I have devotions to be done, breakfast to make, chores to supervise, reading to do, games to play, school to teach, lunch to make, diapers to change, dishes to clean, training to do, gospel conversations to have, naps to enforce, peace to keep, dinner to prepare, family bonding to facilitate, laundry to fold, and so on and so on.

Where in that long list of important activities can I find time or energy to disciple younger women? How much should helping other Christians grow factor into my daily plans? What could this discipleship look like?

Discipleship looks different in different seasons, and as a Christian parent who desires to see the gospel magnified, being a part of the growth of other Christians is a privilege and a necessity. When Christ came, he died for broken people. At the end of time, Christ will present his bride, the church, radiant and blameless to himself (Ephesians 5). There is no such thing as Lone Ranger Christianity!

Especially in a season of parenthood with young children (which itself can tend to be isolating and lonely) involvement in another believer’s life can refreshingly lift our gaze from the mundane tasks of the day to the bigger reality of what the Lord is doing to make a people for himself.

What do young parents have to offer to younger believers?

Because stay-at-home parents get the privilege of serving little ones day in and day out, often with little self-initiated appreciation, we get the opportunity to live out the gospel before watching eyes. As Christ came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28), our dying to self to serve our children displays Christlikeness. As believers we are all being made more and more into the image of Christ by the grace of God.

Parenthood in the young years lends a unique crucible into which our selfish natures are refined to be more holy. That should be shared with others!

In the area of biblical womanhood, the "younger me" would have benefited hugely from a true picture of what young motherhood looked like. I loved children and wanted a family. But I think a realistic idea of the work involved in raising children and keeping the home would have informed some of the choices I made. I had an inflated view of what I could accomplish in my waking hours. I thought I could be a doctor, a pastor’s wife, and mom-extraordinaire all-in-one.

I spent a great deal of time shadowing doctors, but I didn’t initiate much to spend time with a mom. I think if I had, her life would have offered much wisdom to me as I considered what kind of degree I achieved, what career I pursued, or how much I financially invested in my education. Seeing a real-life picture of biblical womanhood and having realistic role models would have challenged my proud thoughts of being able to do all and have all and be all.

Discipleship should be happening in all seasons of life: dating, beginning a marriage, parenting young children, parenting teenagers, growing old, retiring. Each season brings its own freedoms and limitations. Because of the unique needs of young motherhood, discipleship will probably not look like formally sitting down with a younger woman and digging into the depths of Scripture for hours.

More likely this discipleship will happen in intentional conversations and pictures of gospel application facilitated by opportunities to correct children or pick up toys. You can pray for one another and lift each other before the Lord even with your two-year old wiggling in your lap. Being a young parent is not an excuse to not disciple younger believers, it is a reason to do so.

What are some reasons we don’t disciple as young parents? How does the gospel challenge these objections?

Objection #1:  I don’t have the time or energy.  Discipling younger believers is not convenient. 

The other day I was trying to figure out how to make something.  And my son said to me, “Just use your computer and search for it.”  Ta-da.  Instant information with the push of a button.  No need go to the library to find a book or call an expert for advice.  All I had to do was push a button.

We live in a culture of convenience.  Things come easily and often instantly.  In some ways, this ease of life cuts against the very grain of Christianity, which calls us to deny ourselves and live for Someone greater.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:1-2  

Christ loved sinners to the point of death on a cross!  If we have received that sacrifice, how can we not also sacrifice to love others by investing in their lives? If we are in Christ how can we not also be energized by his strength?

Christ has redeemed that young believer in your church. He means to sanctify us all and make us more like Christ.

If our lives can be used by God in his work of sanctification, we would be wise to consider whether this objection of inconvenience and lack of energy is legitimate or not.

It’s true: life only gets busier with children.

As young parents, we are responsible to train up our children in the fear of the Lord, and they should be one of our main priorities.  It does require much of our best time and energy. But are we making the best use of the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16)?

If I examine my own life truthfully, I admit that I find myself checking email or browsing Facebook more than necessary. That’s just one example of how I waste time. Sometimes I want to selfishly get away from my kids for a moment. Sometimes it’s to legitimately relax or do work.

But for all those times where I am wasting my time, how much more fruitful would it be to read a good book, a gospel-centered article, or meditate on some truth of Scripture? How much more fruitful would it be if I gathered those wasted minutes and do that with another believer? The truth is that I am lazy and selfish. I want to do what is easy. And it is pathetically easier for me to be temporarily satisfied knowing the latest status of all my friends, rather than in thinking about how I might access grace through the powerful Word or thinking about how I might benefit another spiritually.

Nothing about Christ dying on the cross was convenient for him.

It wasn’t an easy task that took no effort. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect imitating Christ to be easy. He suffered and gave his life for His people. Why should we expect to do any less?

As we look forward to the privilege of being God’s instruments for sanctification in the lives of other believers, we should embrace the price associated with it and rejoice in Jesus’ provision of everything we need.

Objection #2:  I’m not one to be emulated. My children aren’t obedient enough. I’m not fill-in-the-blank enough.

It’s true.  I’m not. They’re not. And I’ll never be. But praise God that we “can boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9). To disciple a young believer doesn’t mean you have to be the perfect parent and your children have to be perfect.

As one author put it:

I love my fellow-Christians not simply because of the gospel, but I love them best when I am loving them with the gospel! And I do this not merely by speaking gospel words to them, but also by living before them and generously relating to them in a gospel manner.  Imparting my life to them in this way, I thereby contribute to their experience of the power, the Spirit, and the full assurance of the gospel.  - Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians, page 22 

When I invite a young woman into my life and she sees my failings and my sin, I have the opportunity to show what kind of people Christ came to die for: sinful, blemished people.

I have the occasion to communicate that apart from Christ’s gracious work in my life I would be a much meaner, more selfish mom.  I can show this younger woman how to rejoice in the fact that Christ came to heal the sick and needy, not the healthy and perfect.

I also have the gospel reapplied to me when I realize that my example may actually benefit the younger woman by showing them what NOT to do or be. Ouch! What a humbling reality! As my pride balks at this idea I am made aware of my need for even more grace!

Yet I can rejoice as even my insufficiencies are helping this younger believer know Christ more and grow in him. I can thank God for the opportunity to know my own limitations and boast in Christ! As I seize the sufficiency of Christ for my motherhood on any day– smoothly-running or Twilight Zone– this younger believer gets to experience a dose of reality.

Objection #3:  My children are my priority. I can’t divide my time.

Precisely because they are learning about life by watching, don’t we want our children to see us caring for and investing in other people? We want them to know that our relationship with our spouse is a priority because God prioritizes marriage in his Word.

Likewise, when I have a younger lady into my home – when my children see us discussing a book, opening Scripture or praying together or talking about Jesus while we cut veggies -  what a marvelous opportunity it is to show them that the body of Christ is intimately involved in each other’s life.

This is another priority God places on the church: the fellowship of believers. My children get to learn that Mommy talks to lots of people about Jesus. She talks to me and she talks to Auntie Jessica. And Auntie Kate. Lord willing, in their minds, it is a normal and important thing for Jesus to be a part of every day conversations. It is a normal and important thing for people from church to be coming to their home and involved in Mommy’s life.

My bubble-loving two-year-old has surprised me on more than one occasion. As I get ready to pray with a lady, I will ask the kids to play quietly so we can pray.  More than once, she has toddled over to me and said, “I pay too.” And she’ll climb up in my lap and ceremonially cover her eyes, sit still, and wait quietly while we pray.

Our children are watching and learning more than we know. Modeling discipleship to your children in this way is not forsaking them as your priority.

Father God, I pray You would use these moments to show my children the implications of the gospel lived out.  I pray that my kids will catch a vision for how following Christ involves my giving my attention to other people for the sake of gospel growth.  I pray they will see the body of Christ building itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

Wisdom in all things

There is no doubt that young parenthood is a tiring, if not exhausting, season of life. We need God’s wisdom to decide how to spend our waking moments.

And sometimes wisdom requires us to say “No” to an extra relationship at this time. But let us also not excuse ourselves from ministering to the saints because of the busyness of this season. Let us rather run this race with others and rejoice that we can fall into bed exhausted each night because we have given ourselves for others, emulating our Savior in how he has given himself for us.

Melanie Yong is from California. She’s married to Jeremy, who is a pastor in the Golden State. Together they’re raising three photogenic children (Miah, Ellie and Bethan) with another on the way.