As parents, we understand the importance of family discipleship. Most of us are familiar with the verse Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV): “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” But many of us struggle with what discipleship should look like day-to-day.
The statistics show that an alarming number of youth and young adults continue to leave their faith despite being raised in Christian homes and regularly attending church. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what we’ve been doing and what we should be doing. So how can we be sure that our family discipleship strategies actually work?
3 Keys to Effective Family Discipleship
1. Encourage Relationship Over Routine
God doesn’t care if I read my Bible at the same time every day or check off all the boxes of religion. He wants an intimate relationship with me. A real and raw relationship. He wants me to know, trust, and respond to Him throughout my day. Yes, reading the Word of God is essential in building a strong relationship with Jesus, but it’s got to be centered around building a relationship, not just another part of our daily routine.The principles for a strong and healthy relationship with a spouse or child are the same principles for developing a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus. Discipleship Begins with Relationship. We want to encourage our kids to get to know Jesus by discovering more about Him through His Word, praying and talking with him regularly, and worshipping Him.
2. Engage in Discovery more than Discipline
We can be disciplined enough to participate in spiritual habits daily, but that doesn’t always translate to a vibrant relationship with Christ. Instead, we want to focus more on our Creator and all of His Creation. When we spend time helping our kids explore how amazing God is through a discovery process, we teach them why and how to build a relationship with Him–and suddenly we’ve moved from behavior modification to life transformation. And that is the secret to a lasting faith!
We want our kids to fall in love with Jesus, not just complete faith-related tasks. My kids do what I ask (at least most of the time) because they love me and want to please me. If I try to get them to obey God out of fear or obligation, they’ll never cultivate a sustainable faith. But, when they fall in love with Jesus, they can’t help but want to serve and obey Him too. When they notice how amazing the world God created is, they discover more about the nature and character of God. That helps them to know and trust Him on a deeper level.
3. Embrace experiences alongside knowledge
The hard truth is that knowledge of God won’t save our kids. Even Satan has knowledge of God. Many atheists have knowledge of God. The Pharisees had knowledge of God. But it’s not enough.
Our kids need to learn the Bible, obviously. But more than memorizing the words, they need to experience its truths.
Faith needs to move from our heads to our hearts in order to transform our lives.
Faith begins with an experience. Can you remember when you first encountered Jesus? How about a defining moment in your walk with God? In 2011, I had one of those moments. A pastor shared Proverbs 3:5-6 with me (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” [NKJV]) and I was sure he got it wrong. That scripture must have been for my husband, who struggling through a difficult season. I was living my best life, fully trusting God…or so I thought.
The next day, my husband James was fired from his job–and we were evicted from staff housing. We had no money, no job, and nowhere to go. But that promise filled me with incredible peace and gave me the faith to trust God in the unknown. Within 48 hours of leaving that place, we were living in Faith Landing on Noah Drive and James had a new job. That experience forever changed my faith walk! I knew without a doubt that God was real, that He knew me and loved me intimately, and that He could be trusted with the hard things in my life.
You see, there’s power in our testimony. People will always be able to argue with our knowledge, but nothing can take away our experience. And our experiences with God change everything!
As parents, we want to focus our discipleship energy on activating our children’s faith from a young age. The more they’re able to put into practice what they’re learning, the deeper their roots will grow, and the stronger their faith will become.
Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 (NKJV) tells us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I common 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This gives us a glimpse at how we are to disciple our children. It should be a natural part of everyday life, not just a set apart time in our day.
And as we infuse faith, fun, and family connection together, we help our kids build beautiful faith-filled memories that transform the way they approach a relationship with Jesus.
3 Strategies to Make Family Discipleship More FUN!
Think Outside the Box
- Don’t just read the Bible – engage with it – act it out, draw it, sing it, play it, etc.
- Don’t just pray for people, pray WITH people! Look for opportunities to pray with others each day, and watch God move in their lives and answer your prayers!
- Don’t just go to church, instead, BE THE CHURCH – remember that you’re the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth. Love others well. Serve. And seek to make the world around you a better place.
Take Advantage of Teachable Moments
- Help your kids connect what they’re reading in the Bible with everyday life. Make these teachable moments concrete and fun with object lessons they’ll remember.
- Teach your kids that the Bible has a solution for every problem we face. (If you are searching for Biblical answers to everyday challenges like anger, fear, unforgiveness, disobedience, peer pressure, etc., be sure to check out my interactive guide: Recipes for a Sweet Child: Creative, Bible-based Activities to Help Your Family Thrive. It provides biblical solutions to 36 common emotional, behavioral, and relational struggles our kids face. Each chapter provides support and encouragement for parents, simple biblical lessons, discussion guides, fun family games & activities, and delicious baking recipes (many GF & allergy-sensitive) with object lessons to reinforce the biblical truth. Learn more at RecipesforaSweetChild.com.
Make Meaningful Memories Together
- When we connect our faith with fun, meaningful, and memorable moments, those memories become milestones along our faith journey. Kids will remember the moment and the lesson. They’ll begin to see the Bible as an invaluable tool for life–filled with practical strategies and wisdom to help them along their faith journey. The stronger our relationship with our kids is, the more effective our discipleship will be.
Practical Ideas to Bring the Bible to Life
Here are some simple ways you can activate your children’s faith & put the FUN back in the FUNdamentals of family discipleship!
Storytelling and Parables: Learning Through Narratives
Just as Jesus used parables to convey profound truths in an engaging manner, we can use storytelling to captivate our children’s hearts. Share Bible stories enthusiastically, reenact them, or even create relatable narratives. This helps them understand biblical concepts and creates a sense of excitement around learning.
Creative Arts and Crafts: Hands-On Faith
In Exodus 31:3-5, we learn that God endowed skilled individuals with artistic talents for His glory. Encourage your children to explore their creative side through arts and crafts projects that revolve around biblical themes. Whether it’s painting scenes from the Bible or crafting items with symbolic meanings, these activities make learning interactive and enjoyable.
Games and Activities: Interactive Learning
Proverbs 1:7 NIV teaches, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This doesn’t have to be a solemn concept; turn it into a game! Trivia quizzes, scavenger hunts, and memory verse challenges can make learning about God’s Word a fun and competitive activity. Engaging in activities together that encourage conversation and memory-making helps provide learning while living. There are tons of engaging ideas and discussion pointers you can find in Recipes for a Sweet Child.
Nature Walks and Creation: Marveling at God’s Wonders
Romans 1:20 declares that God’s invisible qualities are revealed through His creation. Take your family on nature walks, exploring the beauty and complexity of the world God made. Encourage discussions about the Creator behind it all, and let the wonder of His creation spark curiosity and awe.
Music and Worship: Uplifting the Spirit
Ephesians 5:19 encourages believers to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Incorporate music into your discipleship routine. Sing together, learn worship songs, and write your own family hymns or songs based on Scripture.
Prayer and Personal Connection: Heartfelt Conversations
James 5:16 NIV reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Make prayer an interactive experience. Create a family prayer journal where each member can write down their prayer requests and answers received. This practice helps children understand the importance of a personal relationship with God. Dishing Up Devotions infuses faith and fun to strengthen family relationships while nourishing mom’s soul–all while building biblical character together.
Service and Outreach: Living Out the Gospel
James 2:17 emphasizes that faith without works is dead. Engage your family in acts of service and outreach. Participate in community service projects, volunteer together, and show God’s love through your actions.
More Help With Family Discipleship
If you’re looking for more resources and support to help you build and implement an effective family discipleship strategy, check out the Family Faith-Building Academy – a six-week digital discipleship course that eliminates the confusion, frustration, and overwhelm of Family Discipleship by walking you step-by-step-by-step through everything you need to know to effectively disciple your kids in fun, meaningful, and memorable ways.