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Let’s “Uncomplicate” Discipleship at Home

I first shared the blog post below in January 2015, a mere two months after I started writing the blog now known as ReFocus Ministry. Since that time, I’ve written on a myriad of topics around the topic of generational discipleship and connecting generations at church and at home. But from time to time, I receive the same question as I received in 2015 – “Where do I start?” Whether we’re talking about integrating generations in community together at church or cultivating a faith-forming environment at home, the biggest question is “How do I even begin?”

When it comes to discipleship in the home, engaging in conversations that create space for faith talks and God moments, it can be tempting to formalize it, following the step-by-step guide of a book or instituting certain practices to ensure that faith gets talked about at home. But sometimes those things can bring more frustration than they do formation.

So, where should we start? It’s not as mysterious as you might think – we start where God told us to. I hope the article below, even if you’ve read it before, is an encouragement and a reminder that discipleship at home isn’t a complicated thing – we don’t have to add more to our already full lives; rather, we get to welcome Jesus into the things we are already doing!

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.  Understanding of the need for faith formation at home is often overshadowed by fears of implementation.  Combining a heart that desires to grow faith at home with intentional actions created to draw children into the “mystery” of the faith is a dynamic duo for discipleship at home.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God tells the community of Israel to “impress” His commands on the children and provides four times in which to do that: When you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you rise, and when you lie down. These everyday and honestly, quite mundane, moments are when the Lord invites us to have faith-forming moments with the younger generations. In fact, it’s these simple and uncomplicated moments that offer the most powerful and effective opportunities to connect with Christ and grow our faith.

If this is a new arena for your family or families in your church, I encourage us 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 – One of the everyday moments mentioned in Deuteronomy 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.”  We will be setting the tone for the day with those simple words and reminding our children just how much they are loved by us and by God.

2. Dinner Discussions – Another time God encourages us to engage with our faith is “when you sit at home.”  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 asked four questions:  What was your high today?  What was your low? What mistake did you make?  Where did you see God today?  We 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 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 we 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 can be surprising what they are willing to share in that safe place with us. These moments will be the last thoughts heading to sleep; can you think of a better sendoff?

Once these four practices become habitual for us, we will find it much easier to put Christ in the center of our family activities.  Our kids won’t think it’s “weird” when we take time to schedule a Family Faith Talk because we’ve already invited Jesus to the dinner table.  It won’t feel awkward to turn to Scripture in everyday moments because we’ve been listening to it in the car and reading it before bed.  And before we know it, our baby steps will become faith-forming strides as discipleship happens… at home.

Family Faith Formation: Fill Your Toolbox

The heart of Family Faith Formation is families spending time together around the Word of God within the context of the larger faith community.

Many parents express frustration about the lack of support and equipping they experience when it comes to leading their kids spiritually at home. Churches often encourage parents that they are the ones who are called by God to disciple their kids but frequently don’t provide the training, experience and resources needed for them to feel adequately prepared for that work.

Our Fill Your Toolbox curriculum gives parents what they need and churches what they desire. Each block contains five lessons focused on introducing, learning, and practicing specific discipleship strategies. 

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“This experience allowed me to review how the church needs to break down the barriers and all multi-generational relationship to happen. We did ourselves a disservice by dividing out the generations. We missed opportunities to naturally develop relationships that lead to discipleship and mentorship” – Pastor in Texas

Christina Embree is the founder and director of ReFocus Ministry. She holds a masters in ministry focused on Children, Youth, and Family Ministry and a doctorate in spiritual formation with a focus on age segregation and intergenerational ministry. In addition to coaching churches of multiple denominations and traditions all around the globe, Christina serves as the Minister of Generational Discipleship for the Great Lakes Conference of the Brethren in Christ and as a pastor at Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. She is widely recognized as a speaker and author in the areas of generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and family ministry. As the mother of three children, she is familiar with the challenges of faith at home and pastoral ministry. She along with her husband Luke share a love for the church, their community, and the global work of peace and restoration through Jesus.

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