Our busy lives necessitate a review of what is important lest we get swallowed up in the tyranny of the urgent. Following is a simple guide to help fathers keep the edge in the discipleship of their children.
Key #1. Ensure That Your Children Know the Gospel
Fathers do well who intentionally present the gospel and pray regularly for their children who have not made a profession of faith. Without intentionality, days can turn into weeks. Weeks can turn into months. Months can turn into years. Many valuable opportunities are lost. Family worship is a great tool. Family worship that keeps Christ as the message provides many natural opportunities to present man’s sin and its consequences, the beauty of Christ, probe a child’s understanding of these truths, and lead them in a faith commitment to Christ.
Just as important is to be intentional about teaching how growth in Christ is also a work of faith in Christ. By faith, we believe that our new identity in Christ is in fact a present reality and also provides us blessings that through the Holy Spirit, give us the power we need to confess sin, repent and live for God’s glory. Christian growth is not a performance art. As Jesus told his disciples, “the work of God is to believe on him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Effort is required but the focus of the effort is our faith–applied.
UCH has a simple tool that helps fathers lead the family in a study of identity. Our Who Are You? booklet takes a look at 12 identity statements that can be studied individually, as a family, or as a Small Group to motivate growth in Christ. To learn more about Who Are You? click here.
Key #2. Equip Your Children to Minister in Your Home
Puritan Thomas Manton wrote, “The home is the seminary of the church and state”. Manton’s words capture so well the core truth that the home is where God designed us to learn how to live the gospel. This is not just a call for parents, but siblings, too. All who are in Christ are simultaneously members of two families: our nuclear family and the church family. Siblings are spiritual brothers and sisters who not only share the chores. They can learn how to speak the truth [the gospel] to one another in love (Eph. 4:15, Rom. 14:15, Gal. 6:1-2). Is gospel encouragement in the daily vocabulary of our children? That sets the bar high! But are we teaching them how to do this? Do they see that this is important for each other’s growth? The more effective we are as fathers at teaching this, the more we will see it also in our churches.
Key #3. Encourage Your Children to Pursue a Healthy Connection with the Local Church
Do your children attend a small group with you? Do they participate on some level in the meeting or are they dismissed at the good part? The small group that I lead is about as diverse a group in age and interest as there could ever be—somewhat to the chagrin of my children at times. There are no teens for my teenage children to relate to. This has been a real test of commitment on the part of my children and also a real opportunity to learn about authentic covenant community. But they are not alone in needing to take an interest in the younger and older members. Older adults need (and in fact do) to take an interest in them.
We all need to intentionally engage one another in God’s very diverse covenant family. This is not always easy. But that is what God has called us to do—for his glory and our own joy! In our small group and on Sunday mornings we see kids assist in leading worship even sharing God’s work in their lives with the entire church. Most get up at a predetermined part of our Sunday service to go over to a person needing prayer to pray for him or her. There is real fruit there that gives great hope that these children will be strong leaders in the homes and churches of the future.
Key #4. Engage Unbelieving Neighbors
Finally, we need to encourage our children to minister evangelistically to other people. Participation in the annual summer youth group community project is good of course, but there’s more. Paul taught that we are missionaries to our neighbors (Acts 1:8). We are extensions of our local church in this regard. It is a joy to hear neighbors discoursing about faith when they are engaged by children. Our children can make a huge impact for Christ. I confess that I am challenged by this but I’ve also seen gratifying fruit.
IMMEDIATE IDEA! Consider inviting an unbelieving neighbor over for Thanksgiving/Easter. Yes, it changes the dynamic a little but we have found it to be quite powerful and fun. The gospel can be naturally included when we talk about the real Thanksgiving or Easter story.
Reaching out to the lost with the hope we have in Christ is integral to our calling… and is a great joy! To read more about reaching out to our neighbors, please check out my recent series on the topic, here.
At this moment in the history of our country when there is rabid anxiety and fear, consider that God is certain. As fathers, we are in a unique position to give the ones we love the most—our children—what they need the most. Let us strive to be faithful to disciple our children in these simple four areas.
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