The other day I had someone say to me, “I love reading your blog and I like your thoughts on discipleship in the home but I don’t even know how to get started. I don’t think of those things like you do. Where do I start?”
It’s a good question and one that I have heard expressed many times before. Comprehension of the need for faith formation at home is often overshadowed by fears of implementation. How do you “see God in the everyday”? How do you begin to prepare for a “faith talk”? What in the world does it mean to “speak a blessing” over your kids?
If you, or the parents you serve, have ever asked these questions or ones like them, take a second and celebrate (in our family, you’d be doing the “Oh Yeah Dance” at this exact moment). Celebrate! Because asking questions like these show a heart that is already in tune with God’s heart for children and families and even if you feel completely at a loss for “what to do” chances are the very fact you feel that way probably reflects in your parenting and leadership already.
Combining that heart with intentional actions created to draw children into the “mystery” of the faith is a dynamic duo for discipleship at home.
If this is a new arena for your family or those you serve, I encourage you to start with these four small but powerful “baby steps” that begin to shift the focus of the home towards Christ.
1. Morning Prayer/Blessing – In Deut 6:4-9, God tells parents to “impress” His commands on the children and provides four times in which to do that. One of those times is “when you rise.” Mornings can often be rushed, crazy times as everyone is trying to get shoes tied, hair brushed, coffee guzzled and breakfast consumed. In the middle of it all, take just 30 seconds to stop with each child and pray a simple blessing like, “Lord, be with Grace today. May she know that you are with her, that you love her and that you have called her by name and may she return home full of joy and wisdom.” You will be setting the tone for the day with those simple words and reminding her just how much she is loved by you and by God.
2. Dinner Discussions – Another time God encourages us to engage with our kids is “when you sit.” It’s rare to have families in a place where they all sit down together, but sometimes dinner still gives us that opportunity. To center our conversation during those nights, our family asks four questions: What was your high today? What was your low? What mistake did you make? Where did you see God today? We have had more “teachable moments” at dinner than we could have ever imagined. Sometimes we only get two questions in before we begin discussing something related to our faith, God, family or church. And what’s great is that everyone, even Mom and Dad, gets to participate.
3. Drive Time – God tells parents to share with their kids as they “walk along the road.” This doesn’t happen as much as it did but we do drive along the road an awful lot. If you have to travel frequently, might I suggest downloading or purchasing some Adventures in Odessey programs from Focus on the Family? These radio dramas provide a great platform for discussion with kids and they will love listening to them (you will too – they’re pretty great!). We have had many conversations with our children brought on by topics discussed in the episode and as an added bonus, the episodes all have Scriptures to go with them so you don’t have to figure it out yourself!
4. Bedtime Blessing – The final time God specifies is “when you lie down.” Kids are fantastic stallers for bedtime. Wouldn’t it be great if you got them at their own game and turned their stall time into a time for discussion and blessing? For young children, check out the Jesus Storybook Bible which tells the stories of Scripture in a unique way and points out where Jesus can be found in every story. For older kids, before they go to bed, simply ask them if anything is on their mind that they need to talk about before bed so they can sleep well. It will shock you what they are willing to share in that safe place with you. These moments will be the last thoughts before your cherub slips off to sleep; can you think of a better sendoff?
Once these four practices become habitual for you, you will find it much easier to put Christ in the center of your family activities. Your kids won’t think it’s “weird” when you take time to schedule a Family Faith Talk because you’ve already invited Jesus to the dinner table. It won’t feel difficult to turn to Scripture in everyday moments because you’ve been listening to it in the car and reading it before bed. And before you know it, your baby steps will become faith-forming strides as discipleship happens… at home.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zech 4:10 NLT. In other words, God loves us and He loves our baby steps.
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About the author
Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com, Seedbed, and D6 Family.