Moments Teach the Characteristics of God
You have the divine task of teaching your kids who God is and what he is like. Taking advantage of spontaneous chances to either point out or verbalize your trust in who God is are prime educational opportunities. It is one thing to teach about God’s faithfulness in an evening lecture around the dining room table. It is quite another to espouse that he will always do what he says he will in a moment when you are feeling forgotten or afraid and reading that “he will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6), or that he will truly “give you rest” and that his “yoke is easy and [his] burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30) in a moment when you are feeling overwhelmed by the weight of your responsibilities.
Your children’s instincts and desires will often tell them to act in a way that departs from the path of God. Those are moments to remind them that God is wise, that he knows what is best. When your children are facing pronounced difficulty and can’t understand “why God would let this happen,” you will be ready to remind them that God is always in charge, that no one wrestled control away from God, that God is always good, and that their circumstances are not cruelty from God nor are they beyond his reach to intervene. When your child struggles with prayer, you’ll be quick to emphasize that God wants to talk with us. These heartfelt and profound truths sprinkled throughout your family’s interactions are a simple yet significant part of leading your family spiritually.
It is a great comfort to a child to know who God is and what he is like. If the goal of our discipleship is trust in Christ, then any moment we can use to tell them about Jesus and his trustworthiness is a step in the right direction. Remind your children of what God has done in the past and what you see him doing in their lives now as well as what you hope he’ll do in the future. God is a personal God, and you have the chance to continually reintroduce your family to him while praising him for who he is and what he’s done.
Moments Teach Godly Character
The ultimate example of what God has done for your family is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A thorough and clear understanding of the gospel will greatly benefit your family discipleship moments. It will bless your kids to know that everyone needs Jesus, that Jesus came to save sinners, and that he is merciful; God does not give his children the punishment they deserve. Lead with a gospel perspective that reminds your family of the grace and forgiveness of Christ as well as our daily battle to joyfully walk in obedience to our loving heavenly Father. Teach them all the praiseworthy attributes of God, because you desire to see them praising God with their whole being.
Your job is to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). This requires frequent course setting and course correction. Your children’s character will tell you a lot about where their heart is with the Lord. “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, / by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (Prov. 20:11). Being both an encourager who fans into flame the godly characteristics you want to see and a disciplinarian who addresses the missteps is essential work for you as a Christian parent. You will find your family both forgiving and affirming one another as saints—sometimes in the same moment.
Family discipleship moments are prime opportunities to point out ways to walk in godly character. One of the best ways to disciple your kids in godly character is to seek ways to encourage your children when they demonstrate various fruits of the Spirit. Look for a chance to spontaneously point out and celebrate your child’s joy, delighting in things that honor God. When things get difficult, say a quick prayer together for peace, a calm confidence in God’s goodness and power. You’ll never run out of chances to talk about patience, being slow to anger, waiting kindly and quietly.
Sin and Grace
Of course, everyone’s character is flawed. That is why it is essential that you address sin in your child’s life through gospel-centered family discipleship moments. You will frequently be presented with opportunities to teach your kids about both the seriousness of sin and God’s generosity with grace. You want to encourage freedom from obedience to our sinful thoughts and emotions, and to call your children to walk in grace-driven integrity.
But because we all sin, we must have regular moments of repentance. You will foster merciful and loving conversations for your children to confess their sin and turn away from it to follow Jesus as you extend forgiveness, releasing them from their wrong. You will also lovingly institute appropriate consequences as well as point them back toward holiness and accountability. You will remind them often that God’s love does not ebb and flow with their behavior, and neither does yours, but because he loves his people he has called them to a better way to live. This will be a well-practiced routine in any Christian household.
Remind your children of what God has done in the past and what you see him doing in their lives now.
Leveraging moments to disciple your children will often involve the direct use of God’s word applied to your situation. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). You will find a list of ways to use Scripture in family discipleship moments at the end of this chapter.
It is important here to acknowledge the common and often subtle temptation to abuse the Bible to suit your own needs and desires in behavior modification. It is easy to slip into a habit of applying what God has said in order to manipulate circumstances so you can get what you want. Family discipleship is not about using Scripture as a means to get your own way. A disciple is not a marionette, a bridled child whose strings you pull when and where you wish. Your child is an apprentice invited to learn and practice under the loving guidance of a caretaker. Parenting is about godly concern for the benefit of children in the name of Christ, not worldly coercion for your own selfish sake.
We use God’s word because it is perfect. It will never pass away so it will be there for your child long after you are not. Scripture is a gift of wisdom from the Lord, something children are in desperate daily need of.
This article is adapted from Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home through Time, Moments, and Milestones by Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin.