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. Acknowledgment 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?
Add to that the overwhelming sense of existential dread at the very thought of adding one more thing to an already full schedule and it’s at this point though that it is tempting to say, “Forget it. The kids will just have to get the Jesus stuff at church.” And that kind of thinking leads to a relinquishing of our unique responsibility to raise our children in the faith as well as a willingness to overlook the very real fact that parents, not ministers, have the greatest influence on their child’s faith whether they are intentional about it or not.
Enter the Gift of Everyday Discipleship
Could it be that when the charge to “impress these things upon your children” was given in Deuteronomy 4, it wasn’t a just call to family devotions? That perhaps what God had in mind was a bit more involved than that? What if instead of adding another thing to our calendar, we sought for ways to intentionally invite Christ into what we are already doing? What if instead of saying, “There’s no time to do more” we started saying “We are going to let God do more with our time.”
In that famous Deuteronomy passage, there are four discipleship moments mentioned: Getting up in the morning, going to bed at night, sitting down at home, and leaving the home (along the road). Throughout the world, these things happen every. single. day. We all wake up, we all sleep, we all sit, we all go.
I find it so interesting that these are the times that God said, “Talk to your kids about Me.”
The most ordinary, normative moments of the day become extraordinary moments to disciple our kids in the faith.
So, back to that original question of “How do we do everyday discipleship at home?” By simply inviting Christ into your calendar, into each moment, into each activity. It starts with just one comment, one reflection, one pause to turn our focus from the temporal to the eternal.
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.
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.
This prayer doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. In fact, simple is good; it’s easy to remember and repeat daily. Something 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.”
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.
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, consider downloading some Bible Stories or books to listen to as a family. These stolen moments on a car ride can turn into longer discussions down the road.
Older children/teens? Podcasts! There are some great podcasts out there that explore history and story. Remember, Jesus is with us everywhere and He is the greatest storyteller. Listening together to these podcasts can open up conversation that allow us, as parents, to introduce our children to a providential God who shows up all through history.
The final time God specifies is “when you lie down.” Kids are fantastic stallers when it comes to 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.
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Many parents express frustration about 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 then don’t provide the training, experience and resources needed for them to feel adequately prepared for that work.
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NOW OPEN: REFOCUS MINISTRY COHORTS 2024
Are you interested in going deeper into your understanding of generational discipleship, lifelong faith formation, and intentional discipling community? ReFocus Ministry Cohorts provide ministry leaders with the opportunity to expand their leadership skills in a twelve-week shared learning experience.
Facilitated by Christina, a cohort group of 4-6 individuals from multiple faith organizations meet weekly to explore and apply the principles of leadership in generational discipleship, intergenerational ministry, and church culture transition.
About the Author
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.
Interested in having Christina visit your church, speak at your conference, or coach your team? Christina speaks on a wide range of topics related to children, youth, and family ministry with a unique focus on connecting generations for discipleship within your church. Her personalized approach allows you to pinpoint the needs of your community and gain the insight that you are looking for. Whether this is a volunteer team training and pastoral staff meeting or a ministerial conference, her experience and knowledge will help you determine the next step forward in creating lifelong disciples.