I have written a number of time on this blog about how the best way to reach and disciple children in the church is to equip the parents. I have said it here, here, here, and here among others places. I am not at all convinced that the answer to raising godly young people in the church is more programmes and extra youth ministries. The answer lies in equipping the parents and encouraging them to take seriously their God-given responsibility to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Of course, it’s all very well saying that, it’s quite another thing doing it. How do we equip parents to effectively disciple their children? Sometimes we hear things like this and people begin to worry that they just aren’t able. I think we often over-professionalise everything and make stuff so much more complicated than it needs to be. These things can, more often than not, put people off for fear of getting it wrong and not being able. This, I think, is a mistake.
So, what can we do? How do we equip parents to disciple their children? What can parents reasonably be expected to do? In no particular order, here are some things.
Talk about Jesus with their children: this is pretty straightforward. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were encouraged to keep repeated the shema over and over again. The key to it sticking was repeating it, talking about it when they get up, go out, leave the city, come back again. Keep repeating it in your home. This seems like a simple and effective approach to the gospel in our own homes.
Read the Bible with their children: You don’t have to do special family devotions. You don’t have to have a particular time of day. You don’t have to even make it particularly formal. You can do it individually with your children or altogether as a family. But you can read the Bible with your kids.
Do some Bible notes with them: If your kids are quite small, you might want to take more of a leading approach with the notes. If your kids are a bit older, you might want to let them do the notes themselves and then ask them a bit about what they have been reading and doing. But it is pretty easy to get some notes and let your children read the Bible for themselves and get a little bit of straightforward comment on the passage.
Keep bringing your children to church: So long as you are going, they can come with you. If you are prepared to make them go to school – even if they will fight you on it – I am not sure why you wouldn’t do the same so far as church is concerned.
Find ways to help parents engage with sermons: I am convinced the greatest value of Sunday Schools is not the teaching that children receive in it (though I am sure this is often valuable), but it frees parents up to listen to the sermon undistracted. This child-free period of concentration will better equip them to go home and talk about what they have learnt together later. However you do it, help parents engage as fully as possible with your weekly teaching.
Provide deep teaching: We have a weekly theology breakfast in which we cover serious theology. We have midweek groups where we dig into the sermons in more depth and discuss some of the theological issues that come out of it. We apply scripture directly to our lives. We equip parents best when we recognise everyone is capable of engaging deeply.
Provide resources: We regularly give away books that help parents get into the Word. We give away childrens books so the kids can get into the word too. We encourage parents to read those children’s books with their kids. We encourage them to apply the theology they have learnt to their family setup. We encourage parents to get notes and do them with their children. I quite like 10ofthose devotional dippers because they are nothing more than a conversation prompt for talking about Jesus, but they’re quite an easy but helpful one. Whatever you use, encourage people to use resources.