Make disciples. That is what Jesus has called the church to do. Making disciples means reaching the lost and equipping believers to declare and display the gospel in all of life—even parenting. God has entrusted parents with children to raise and nurture in the gospel.
The church partners with parents to make disciples of the next generation by encouraging and equipping parents in this task and investing into the lives of their children through gospel-centered children and student ministries. The church’s mission to make disciples informs and encourages the parent’s pursuit of being a disciple and making disciples at home.
In turn, the parent’s pursuit of making disciples at home furthers and strengthens the church’s mission of making disciples. Making disciples is the mission of the church and it must help parents pursue it faithfully at home.
Churches and Parents Partnering Together
Making disciples of the next generation must be a partnership between churches and parents. Churches cannot replace parents and parents cannot be independent of the church.
Within our own church, we have tried to think through avenues of partnership that promotes discipleship through the church and in the home. Here are some categories that help us navigate this partnership:
– Encourage Parents
Parenting is not easy. There are countless decisions and situations parents face that bring them to an end of themselves. They are regularly reminded of their insufficiency and inability to change the hearts of their children. As much as they need equipping to be more faithful parents, they also need encouragement both as parents and disciples.
Every believing parent is at the same time a disciple and needs to be reminded of who God is, what he has done, and who they are in him. They also need to be encouraged to stay faithful in serving, disciplining, and loving their children. As leaders in the church, we must not undervalue the importance of making a phone call just to check in with a parent or having a lunch meeting to encourage them in their pursuit of Christ and discipling their children.
In the past, our church’s student ministry has invited parents to a quarterly event called Parent Connect. This time is designed to both encourage and equip parents in their task of making disciples at home. Being with other parents while sharing both the challenges and joys of parenting can be a great blessing. It also provides a time for our leadership to hear directly from parents regarding the challenges and questions they have as parents, which in turn helps us better equip them as parents and disciple-makers.
– Equip Parents to Make Disciples at Home
While it is vital to enter into the challenges of parenting and speak life-giving, gospel-rooted encouragement, it is also essential that the church calls parents to make disciples at home and equip them to do so. There is not one particular way the church accomplishes this; however, through a multitude of ways the church can both emphasize this calling and equip parents to carry it out. Consider the following ways:
- Remind parents of their calling as parents through faithful biblical preaching
- Speak directly to the challenges and opportunities of parenting in your sermons
- Devote a sermon series, discipleship class, or retreat to the issues of parenting and disciple making in the home
- Host parent events that focus on specific parenting topics (e.g., Parent Connect)
- Provide parents with resources in your newsletter or ministry update
Ask yourself: What avenues of ministry does my church have that we can use to better equip parents in making disciples at home?
Sometimes it can be the small things that help parents most. For example, each month our student ministry sends out a monthly update. Within those emails, we have a “Parent Connect” section that provides links to various topics that aim to provide parents with resources to help them better raise and disciple their children.
As a student minister, there is nothing more encouraging than hearing how a particular resource encouraged a parent or helped them work through a situation or have a difficult conversation.
– Reach, Equip, and Send Students
Another significant way churches partner with parents is through having a faithful student ministry. While most churches have student ministries, it is important how a student ministry understands its mission and how it carries it out.
A faithful student ministry does not aim to replace parents or entertain students. It aims to reach students with the gospel, equip them to be disciple-makers, and send them on mission. A faithful student ministry does not isolate itself from the rest of the church, but reflects the mission of the church and helps foster that mission within the lives of students and families.
When a church’s student ministry carries out its ministry with parents in mind it can strengthen the ministry of parents by echoing the same gospel and promoting the same mission in the lives of their students.
From Church to Home: Parents Making Disciples
If you are parent, how do you make disciples at home?
How do you help your children come to faith in Christ? How can you help your student take the next step in their walk with Christ? How do you make disciples when you are so busy already? How do you make disciples when there are so many other influences in your student's life?
Making disciples at home isn't a cookie-cutter process. It won't just happen if you love Jesus and pray before your meals. It won't work to hope that someone else will do it. Making disciples at home will only happen as parents pursue making disciples with intentionality and great dependence on God. Let me give you three categories to help you think about how you can more faithfully make disciples at home:
– Be A Disciple
Making disciples at home begins with being a disciple of Christ. Many parents put their children in church because they want them to have a positive influence in life. Ironically, what they hope for their children, they fail to pursue themselves.
Other parents want their children to follow Jesus and make wise decisions, but they simply don't hold themselves to the same standard. The goal we should desire for our children is that they know Christ and submit their lives to Him. This is the hallmark of a disciple. If we desire this for our children, we cannot help them get to where we have not gone ourselves.
- How is your relationship with God?
- How are you doing at prioritizing time in God's Word?
- How are you working out your faith in the office? In your marriage?
I challenge you to so live for Christ as his disciple in every area of your life that your children cannot help but take notice.
– As You Go
Deuteronomy 6:4-8 is a key text in thinking about what making disciples at home looks like. How do you help your children love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? Deuteronomy 6:7 says, "Talk about it when you sit down in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
In other words, as you go throughout each day and week, talk about the Lord with your children. Talk about it on the ride home from school, on the way to practice, around the kitchen table, as you get ready in the morning, or before you go to bed each night. These conversations don't have to be formal or equate to a Bible study. Ask them questions and listen to the struggles and problems they face. Think through gospel truths your student needs to hear. Find ways to connect those truths to their life.
While your child might now want to hear it from you or may appear not to listen, these words and moments can have lasting impact long after the awkwardness or silence of these conversations. The beauty of a church committed to making disciples is that parents and pastors have the opportunity to echo the same truths into the lives of children and teenagers through a mosaic of relationships. Think of your parenting as having a cumulative impact on the direction of your child's life. It most likely won't be one particular conversation that changes everything, but it will be the everyday, as you go, ordinary moments that shape and mold who your child is in Christ.
– Family Worship
There are multiple ways families make time for family worship, but the most important point is that you make time for it. I'll be the first to acknowledge this can be difficult to do consistently. However, its value is worth the difficulty of figuring out how to do it. The mistake many people is making it more than it has to be.
In Donald Whitney's Family Worship, he encourages a simple plan: read the Bible, pray together, and sing. Take time to reflect on a passage of the Bible (maybe from Sunday's message or your student's small group), pray together (ask your student about the things on their heart/mind), and sing (see if your church has a Spotify playlist). In this interview, Whitney provides detailed information about family worship.
We cannot relegate making disciples to Sunday. It must be woven into our daily life. Let me encourage you: this will not go as you would like. You will fail. You will have funny attempts to connect God's truth to your teenager's life. In the midst of this pursuit, don't grow weary in doing what is right. Don't lose sight of the goal. Don't forget this is ultimately a work of God's grace through his Spirit.
God has given us his Word to might pass it on to our children "so that a future generation-children yet to be born-might know. They were to rise and tell their children, so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God's works, but keep His commands" (Ps. 78:5-7).
Michael Guyer is the Minister to Students at Open Door Church where he has served for the last five years. He gets most excited about good coffee, enjoying friends and family, making disciples, engaging culture, and planting churches. He writes to help others delight in, declare, and display the gospel in all of life. Connect with Michael on Twitter or his website.