As Christian parents we want to be producing fruit that lasts in our children. It is interesting to watch the way the children of Christian parents choose to live their own lives. Many of them take the faith of their parents and grow even more strong and more rooted than the parents ever could have been, while others turn their back on the faith of their parents entirely. I have struggled for years to see what makes the difference. Why do some children follow the faith of their parents while others cause so much pain when they reject Christ and walk away?
When I first became a parent, I assumed a large part of my parenting life would be spent punishing and correcting my children to bring them to faith. I was told sin was in the heart of my child and it was my responsibility to drive it out. This obsession with discipline wasn’t because I loved inflicting pain, it was because most of the parenting conversations I heard focused on it. I read tons of parenting books, and all of them seemed to come back to this concept over and over.
I believed that in order to raise a “good Christian kid” I would have to have the best method of Christian discipline. This was the only way I could save the soul of my children and keep them in the faith.
A LIGHT COMES ON
I tried to follow the methods but started noticing that my mood and behavior were dictating their outcomes far better than the method of discipline I was using on any given day. When I was well-rested, and not rushed the day goes so well. These days, my children didn’t need many corrections. However, on the days I was pressed for time, or grumpy myself went horribly.
I was focused on the wrong conversation. I needed my sin drawn out. The more I lived a life in front of them that was producing the Fruit of the Spirit the more I could see His fruit in them as well.
This started me on a quest to study the ways that Jesus discipled the people who followed him. What I found was very interesting. Other than pointing out specific sins in rebuke. He only became angry two times that we have recorded (both of those were in the temple when he turned over tables to make way for worship). That I found, he never used punishment as a way of teaching his followers.
HOW DID JESUS DISCIPLE?
HE WALKED WITH THEM
What we see as a repeating theme through scripture is that by working alongside people. This is a method taken from Old Testament teaching “Impress them (the laws) on your children. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut 6:7.
There is power in repetition and living daily life together. He didn’t save his teachings for just sermons. Jesus answered questions, and he pointed out things that would be important even if they didn’t see the importance until after his death.
HE TAUGHT IN FRONT OF THEM
The disciples had a front-row seat to the teachings of Jesus. He opened the scriptures in front of them and taught them about God, sin, and salvation regularly. Later in the New Testament, we get a great verse on this. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17
In his teachings, he used object lessons from real life (a child called to the midst, salt, Roman coins, etc). He taught them through stories (pearls of great price, sowing seeds, tales of the vineyard. The things that he pointed out and the objects he used were things that would be seen often and recalled to mind what he had said.
HE LIVED BEFORE THEM
Jesus was an example of not only what it meant to live a perfect life. But the way he lived through specific events taught us what it looks like to live in faith. He slept through the storm trusting that God was larger than the storms. Jesus called for a disciple to care for his mother, even as he was dying. He brought a child to himself and emphasized the importance they held. The things he did and the way he lived revealed his priorities. It is a mystery how observing a life of faith produces fruit in others, but in Matthew 5:6 we hear that it does. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
HE ATE WITH THEM
Some of the best lessons that Jesus taught were done over food. Jesus kicked his ministry off at a wedding feast. He ate with “sinners” earning himself criticism but making disciples in the process. His final meal was intentionally set up to be a call of remembrance.
The reason is quite simple you don’t have to drag people (especially growing kids) to food. Food is something that we as humans eagerly crowd around. During the moments of gladness surrounding food, it is a beautiful time to hear what people are really thinking, to ask and answer questions. Even if those same people wouldn’t attend a sermon, or eagerly come to your devotional time, they will come with gladness to eat.
HOW THIS CHANGES THE WAY I DISCIPLE MY KIDS
WE PRIORITIZE FAMILY WORSHIP
I prioritize taking the time to specifically teach my children the faith. Dedicated time to read them the Bible, or stories from the Bible, memorizing together verses from the Bible, and learning songs that hold the truths of His Word cannot be replaced. These may not always be something they WANT to do but I have found a few things to make it easier. Doing it before bed when they want to stall and stay awake longer. Using visual tools or connecting the lessons to a treat are sure-fire wins! I find this often leads them to prompt ME to teach them.
God promises that his words do not return void. Even if we don’t see the immediate fruit, we can trust that it is still in their hearts and the Holy Spirit can use it for His glory.
WE LISTEN TO RICH MUSIC
We love to sing and teach hymns to help disciple our kids. I worked hard to findother things I’ve found are specific albums that are scripture verses set to music. I also love singing Scripture to them as they fall asleep. Finding little ways to add discipleship through songs is a lovely way to plant seeds in their hearts.
I READ THEM DEEP STORIES
I have found the best way to teach children lessons is through stories. They will cuddle with you for hours as long as you keep reading books. There are so many beautiful books that teach about Jesus without being preachy.
CULTIVATE THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IN MY HEART
More than any other tool in the belt, producing fruit that lasts in my own life is what I’m called to do as a believer. I can have the best lessons, help them memorize all the scripture, sing them the best songs, and read the best stories, but if they do not see Christ in me it is going to be as annoying as listening to a cymbals only band.
What I am called to most directly is to follow Christ myself, when I take the time to cultivate and produce His Fruit of the Spirit in my own life, it is salt and light to my children.
I don’t have the responsibility to create my children’s authentic walk with Jesus. I am called to my own walk with Jesus. With the seeds I plant I can trust the Holy Spirit to drive sin out of their hearts in the way only He can!