Embrace Family Discipleship

3 Reasons to Embrace the Precious Pitfalls of Family Discipleship

The parties in this mini-drama will remain unnamed, but I will reveal that the scenario is taken from an old journal entry (which accounts for its truncated style):

The Dad:  [Reading from the Bible] “My son, hear the instruction of your father,
     And do not forsake the law of your mother;
     They will be a graceful ornament on your head,
     And chains about your neck.
     My son, if sinners entice you,
     Do not consent.”

Son #1:  “Sounds kind of bossy to me.”

The Dad:  It’s okay for it to sound “bossy” because God is the Boss.
     It’s truth.
     Is there anything better than truth?

Son #1:  Candy
Son #2:   A big, juicy cheeseburger 

Family Discipleship May Not Look Like Much Is Being Accomplished

I wish I had recorded my husband’s attempt at salvaging this conversation. The good news is that we almost certainly got another chance at Proverbs the next morning. When our children were small, we didn’t usually go very deep, but the goal was to put something biblical in their ears every single day.

If the wheels came off on Monday, we could bolt them back in place on Tuesday. We were in the business of building habits of holiness because we knew that we needed the regular routine as much as our children did. The rhythm of family devotions is easy to lose in the noise of life.

As the boys grew up and our schedules became more frenzied, we had to work harder at gathering around Scripture. With tweens and teens, even though we met less frequently, we were able to go deeper. In those days, the challenges transitioned from silly answers to occasional eye-rolling and lack of enthusiasm, but the benefits of faithful family discipleship kept us in the game for the long haul.

Benefit #1– Family Discipleship Teaches Children How to Read the Bible Well

The Bible is a book about God. That seems obvious, but I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear about grown-up people treating the Bible as if it’s a book about them. It’s their Ouija Board, their little pick-me-up, or their “thought for the day.” If parents start every Bible time with the question, “What does this say about God?” they train their children from the beginning to expect the Bible to inform their understanding of God and his ways.

If parents start every Bible time with the question, “What does this say about God?” they train their children from the beginning to expect the Bible to inform their understanding of God and his ways.

Benefit #2–Family Discipleship Fosters a Climate of Conversation

Deuteronomy 6 assumes that parents and children will share the same space and have significant connections, facilitated by the overlap in their schedules:

These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

The message we wanted to communicate is this: “We are a family. We talk to one another.” This made us want to fight hard for family time, a decision that became controversial during one fraught season, but the goal was to have daily, consequential, but light-hearted conversations about faith rather than trying to communicate everything we believed in a few heavy indoctrination sessions.

Benefit #3–Family Discipleship Assures Everyone that Grace Will Be There on the Days When We Fail

There were plenty of days when my kids were small on which I failed to treat them like they were “my neighbor.” I raised my voice, I was impatient, and I had unrealistic expectations at times. To round out the family fallenness quotient, my kids were often uncooperative in school and insensitive to each other.

Our family met around the table as sinners in need of forgiveness–from God and, frequently, from each other.

But we met anyway, and grace was there.

Helpful Resources for Family Discipleship

If it’s your goal to foster a living faith in your kids, begin at home. Start small and easy, and take advantage of great resources, but don’t be afraid to pick a verse or a narrative section from the Bible and simply read it and explain it yourself. For instance, one Proverb a day will take a family through the book of Proverbs with all its timeless wisdom in just one month.

We worked our way through Ken Taylor’s The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes several times. Of course, we had the older edition.

Both The Jesus Storybook Bible and The New City Catechism came into being after our children were older, but I have used them in Sunday school or with my grandchildren, and they are solid resources, too.

Ask yourself today, “What spiritual goals and desires do I have for my family?”

Then ask, “What am I doing to bring them to fruition?”

When you lean into the challenge of family discipleship, you cooperate with God in establishing habits of holiness in your children. Would you really want to miss that opportunity?

Holding you in the Light,

When you lean into the challenge of family discipleship, you cooperate with God in establishing habits of holiness in your children. Would you really want to miss that opportunity?

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55 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Embrace the Precious Pitfalls of Family Discipleship”

  1. Our small practices bring such laughter and memories, not only in our minds but hopefully in the minds of our children and grandchildren. May God do much with every seed sown!


  2. Your humorous moment during family devotions reminded me of one of our own. It was Christmastime, and the Bible reading was about the wise men. I mentioned to the children that the Bible didn’t tell us their names, but some stories call them Melchoir, Baltazar, and . . . The third name was lost in the recesses of my brain and refused to come forward. I repeated them again: Melchoir, Balthasar, and . . . Three-year old H. piped up with a suggestion: Candy Bar!


  3. This line struck me: “What does this say about God?” they train their children from the beginning to expect the Bible to inform their understanding of God and his ways.” It is so important to point kiddos from an early age to what the Bible says about God. It is knowing about God and all of his magnificent ways that give us the gas we need for the journey ahead. It is all about Him.


  4. Kids are going to question God. If they have the chance to do it at home and get open honest responses instead of the “because I said so” they are more likely to be able to withstand those challenges when they are out in the world as well.

    The cheeseburger and the candy are eventually gone and leave you but God is always with you is something kids can think about and you aren’t challenging their love of tangible things but getting them to stretch just a little to think about feelings they’ve experienced when they’ve filled a hunger and then it comes back because the thing they valued is gone.


  5. So honest. Kids are kids.
    We certainly have had our moments too.

    I appreciate the reminder to keep being faithful to our calling.

    Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap in we faint not.



  6. I wish our attempts at this 40 years ago had been more consistent. But I have encouraged our children and grandchildren to do a better job than we did. In fact, I’ll be sharing this post with several of our married grandchildren. Thanks for your wisdom!


  7. Michele, I love how intentional you and your husband were to meet around the table and around Scripture each day, fully aware that you were each sinners, but that you also could draw from God’s grace because He met you there. Just beautiful.


    1. That season was full of challenges. We had no idea, really, that anything of great spiritual depth was going on around the table, and yet, God was faithful and met our efforts with his grace.


  8. Great story and resources! Thank you, Michele! One time in our family devotion time, my husband was asking our children for the name, Nicodemus. Getting some blanks looks, he tried, “Nico .. .” and paused. Our son shot back, “Nick O’Reilly!” It caused a lot of laughter and is still remembered, much to the now-grown son’s embarrassment!


  9. I love the approach you took to family devotions, Michele. I’m not sure why, but it worked better for our family to have devos with our girls individually each night. Now, both of them continue that on their own, which is so wonderful to see. We wore out at least one copy of “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” over the years!


  10. Hi Michele, great post. I’m actually going to take this away with me – If the wheels came off on Monday, we could bolt them back in place on Tuesday. It’s such a strong reminder that all is not lost in a fleeting moment, and things can most certainly be set back on track. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories x


  11. oh that photo brings me back to those sweet, active years of early grandmothering. my oldest is in college now and the rest are 11 and older. when we are able to get together, it’s all quite different than that season when they were dependant and needed to be cared for. there’s both good and sad to that truth. and that’s as it should be.


    1. Yes, there’s nothing quite like those years of crowding into a recliner with a tiny person and reading book after book together. Even so, I have a feeling that you and your grands connect in countless meaningful ways. They are blessed to have you!


  12. Faith is not a constant, it changes and so does our family. We need to adapt and stay true to ourselves whilst accepting other interpretations, learning from each other. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories


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