Habits of a Disciple-making Family

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 describes a disciple-making family. These are parents and a wider community who are focused and motivated about the faith they are passing on to the next generation. There is no time in a child’s life that they are not being shaped by ideas. Ideas are all around them and are constant. For the Christian parent, it is all about helping children be shaped in a Godly way. How do we do this in a modern, constantly changing world?

Building positive family discipling opportunities must be intentional and organic. It will be a set of habits and attitudes that everyone must learn. Habits can be difficult to learn together and will take perseverance. Don’t give up because it is hard. Anything worth doing will be challenging. Keep trying!

There are many wonderful and powerful opportunities for passing on faith. As parents, we need to be constantly on the lookout for creative opportunities to connect with our children and develop their faith, sometimes as a whole family and sometimes one to one.

Here are some examples from around the world which can help you think more holistically about family discipling. Thanks for all those who contributed practical ideas from the Global Children’s Forum (GCF) community. We have grouped them in different categories.

Walk the talk

It is true that children learn more from what they observe of you than what you tell them. They watch how you treat people, how you prioritize your time, use technology, have generous attitudes or not, take time to read/study the bible alone, or give gratitude to God regularly. Telling them to do these things without your example will be next to worthless. We must ‘walk the talk’.

Shared mealtimes

A key to connecting in a busy family is at meal times. Make this a priority for at least one or more meal a day. Family research has pointed to mealtimes being very significant in connection and positive culture building far beyond the act of just eating food. Just google ‘the significance of mealtimes for a family’ and you will see many articles.

At these shared mealtime parent can develop some habits/traditions that embed a Christian culture in the family. Here are some ideas.

  • Take it in turns to give thanks at mealtimes (grace).
  • Make up a unique family grace each new year. Write it up for everyone to remember.
  • Prepare and cleanup the meal as a team, not just mother. Have a roster to encourage everyone to contribute at different times. Fathers can be a powerful example here.
  • Share discussion at the meal. Share one high (good thing that has happened that day), one low (not so great thing that has happened that day) and where you saw God turn up.
  • Read the Bible together.
  • Pray together. Each person share something or someone they would like prayer for.
  • Have a set of discussion question cards in the middle of the table. One child takes and reads a question each night/week for everyone to answer. Eg What are you thankful for? What do you hope for? Tell us about a new friend you’ve made recently? What have you been learning about lately? These sorts of cards are commercially available too. [Look out for a ‘Chat Mat’ to use at mealtimes being launched soon – Aim Lower Journal will keep you posted].

Devotion times

There are many ways you can do devotions together. It can be separate to meals or done after a meal. It could have different names. Family altar, Devotion, Blessing time, or God time. Call it what you like. Here are some ideas.

  • Worship together. Sing. Play instruments together or put on CDs, YouTube or Spotify song mixes. Say an attribute of God such as ‘kind’ or ‘powerful’. Then ask each person to say how they have seen that attribute in their daily lives recently.
  • Altogether or in pairs. Pray before you open scripture, that God would show you what you need to see.
  • Study the Bible. Choose a passage that the children will be able to understand. Work through a book such as Mark or Philippians. It can be helpful to build skills in handling scripture by asking the same generic questions each time. This is a type of discovery Bible study (DBS).

– What do we learn about God?

– What do we learn about humans? Me?

– How does this passage point to Jesus?

– What will I do to respond to become more like Jesus?

  • Helping children to complete handouts from church or Sunday School can build a bridge. Display you children’s work around the house.
  • Write up and decorate Bible verses to remember as a family on a blackboard, white board, screen saver on the computer, or on a poster. Make it creative.

Special Milestones

A child’s life is full of milestones. Growth in height, age, accomplishments, school and work are all times for celebration. They are times to say again and again, ‘We are glad you were born. You enrich our lives in so many ways and we delight that God loves you and wants you to serve Him.’

Here are some way to celebrate special milestones in unique ways. Eg Birthdays or special achievements.

  • Take the birthday child away for a day or overnight on an adventure.
  • Invite only guests who have known the child since birth.
  • Give them a symbolic gift to remind them they belong to God and can serve Him. E.g. shield, watch, camera, book, study Bible, etc.
  • Make a small video of the event on a mobile phone.
  • Only invite the number of friends to the celebration that corresponds with their age. E.g. if they are turning 5 the maximum number of friends would be 5.

Mission

  • Remind kids to give in church offerings. Help them find ways to earn money to give.
  • Take children when you do neighborhood mission. You may visit someone in need, help someone do their shopping, be part of an outreach, or clean up local refuse. The child’s experience of working beside a parent can be profound and will invite further conversation.
  • Take you children on a journey such as the disciples took for Jesus in Matthew 10 and Luke, 9 and 10. Pray that God would open opportunities and see how God answers your children’s prayers.

Fun

  • Use games to build bonds within a family. The games could be indoors (board games), outdoor (modified football or cricket etc) or an experiential game (i.e. blind challenge in pairs, or building a tower out of straws etc). Sometimes men feel they can contribute in this area and this helps them connect more closely to the family and bring about positive affects for everyone. Playing seems to open up communication and trust and provide a base for many other activities.

Good resources to investigate

Family/Parenting Websites/Resources
Devotions & Ideas for families to do together
  • https://www.max7.org/en/resource/7waysfamilies– a wonderful resource of ideas for families to do together.
  • http://www.geekedoutsoul.com/category/we-make-the-road-by-walking-2/ – This site has a weekly emailed devotions for families complete with videos clips and more called ‘We make the road by walking’. In its words “Bible conversations for a new kind of Christian family.”
  • https://d6family.com/splink/ – The D6Family site also features a free weekly email to help families engage in spiritual conversations, teachable moments and life lessons together.
  • The BibleMax curriculum https://www.max7.org/en/library/BibleMAX has materials for families that accompany at least some of the units. All the preschool units called First Steps, include a weekly take-home paper for parents to use in reviewing the lesson with their children as well as a letter to parents for each unit that explains what will be taught and activities they can do to further the learning at home. The key to using all of these is to personally engage with the parents to encourage and support them. They won’t often do them if you just give them a piece of paper!
Training
Partnering & Networking about Families
Other Websites
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3 thoughts on “Habits of a Disciple-making Family

  1. You may also like this website filled with devotions,stories, and activities that encourage parents and children to learn about God’s big story, his love and plan for all peoples, and his strategy to reach and bless the nations through families just like theirs.
    Weavefamily.org

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