Maybe you read the title and you are already overwhelmed. You hear the words "family discipleship" and you have no idea what that can or should look like. I am assuming for the sake of this article that you are reading this because you either a) want to start doing family discipleship but are not sure what it would look like or what it would involve or b) you are already doing something but are looking for additional ideas.
Let me start by just quoting Ephesians 6:4 - "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." As men and as fathers, we bear the primary responsibility for the discipleship of our children. Here is what I do not mean. I do not mean that everything that involves the discipleship of my children must come from me. In our home, Carlee does a tremendous amount with our children while I am at work during the day. She reads the Bible with them every morning at breakfast and I am not there. I don't mean that you as a husband and father have to do it all. God gave you a helper. You work on this together as a team. What I am saying is that when we give an account before God someday, God will look to me, not my wife, to give an account for whether or not we did our best to teach our children about the gospel and about God. So my point is simply this... Men are called to take a leading and active role in ensuring their children are being discipled and they are to actively participate in that. So, to that end, here are three ways men can lead in family discipleship in December.
1) Talk with your wife and make a plan together
Take a moment tonight after the kids have gone to bed and sit down with your wife to discuss some ways that you can work together to teach your children about Jesus and Christmas in December. This is a time to share ideas and come up with a plan together. Carlee and I sat down recently and discussed this. When I was a kid, my parents brought a tradition of advent calendars back with them. An advent calendar is a box with doors for every day in December leading up to Christmas. Behind each door is a small chocolate. Our plan is that every evening we will sit down and read a Christmas devotional as Finleigh eats her chocolate. The Jews did something similar to this. They would have their children recite memory verses and then they would put a drop of honey on their tongue so they would associate the sweetness of the Word with the sweetness of honey (see Psalm 19:7-11). That's our plan for December.
2) Keep it simple and realistic
Often we feel like family discipleship has to be a difficult and complex thing. Not so. The key is to do something. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it being as simple as reading for 5 minutes from the Bible, sharing the gospel, and then praying for your children. In our home, we try to weave this into the natural rhythms of our family life. We have always read to Fin before she goes to bed. It's part of her bedtime routine. So as she has gotten older, we have simply started reading The Gospel Story Bible (link here) to her. One story every night. It's simple and achievable. If we miss a night because she is too tired or because we didn’t plan properly, we don't try to make it up or feel bad. We just pick up where we left off the next evening. It took some practice to find what works for us, the same will probably be true for you. As with everything else in parenting, consistency is the key.
3) Lean into your pastors for resources and help
As a pastor, I love it when people come to me with a desire to be obedient to God's word and seeking assistance. That brings me joy not only to see that desire, but to come along side people and see that desire realized. Your pastors exist to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4:11-14). Our joy is increased as we are able to do that. If you're feeling like you don't know what to do, talk to your pastor. Express your concerns, barriers, and desire. Invite them to help you work toward accomplishing the spiritual goals you have as well as equipping you toward greater joy in obedience.
A note for wives
If you are a wife who is reading this and desire your husband to act on this, let me encourage you with some very practical ways you can help him. First, pray for him. The burden of leadership can feel crushing. Pray for strength and courage and resolve. Second, encourage him. Find ways to encourage him as he pursues this. Look for opportunities to thank him or point your children to being thankful for a father who is seeking to point them to Christ. Third, help him. Help him come up with ideas and remind him when it's time to do family devotions. Gather the kids together and get them excited about it. Forth, follow as he leads. You might think you can do it better, you might feel like it's not happening the way you would like it to, but follow as he leads in this.
An invitation to Arbor Drive families
For those families within Arbor Drive, I want to say something specific to you. If you want to start or get ideas for family discipleship, please get in touch with me. I want to invite your family over to our house for dinner and to participate in our evening family discipleship. We are far from perfect, but we learned from watching others. I had no idea what this should look like until I saw it modeled for me. I would love to show you what we do and help you take whatever you like and implement it in your homes.
I'll close with some resources that you might find helpful as you take up my challenge to do family discipleship over the month of December. Click on the title for the link.
A Family Devotional by Joel Settecase. Joel is a pastor friend of mine in Chicago that is putting out some great family resources.
The Gospel Story Bible. This is a great resource that walks you through the process as you read. If you're feeling like you don't have enough foundation to do something on your own, I recommend this.
Good News of Great Joy. This is published by Desiring God and is excellent if you have kids that are middle school to high school age or if you don't have kids and are looking for a resource for you and your spouse.
It is my prayer that those of you who read this will be convicted of the great joy and stewardship we have as parents of being the primary means by which our children hear the gospel. May God bless you as you seek to honor him in your homes and show your children the joy of knowing Christ.
Husband to Carlee, Papa to Fin and Ainsley, Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne., and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh and Ainsley, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast