Discipleship is an important aspect of one’s call to God. It is commanded by Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[ref]Matthew 28:19, ESV.[/ref] Discipleship is one of the main tasks of one’s response to God when He calls them to action.
Fulfilling the responsibility of discipleship is especially important for the partnership between families and churches when it comes to children. There is a clear call for the parents to disciple their children as it is a God-given responsibility since creation. The church is called to provide support to the parents to ensure future generations of believers.
The partnership between parents and the church is a crucial element that must be in place, so the children will have a relationship with God. To achieve this the church must implement a Family-Equipping Ministry model to utilize both age-appropriate programs and intergenerational opportunities in the church.There is a clear call for parents to disciple their children. – Jason Brown Click To Tweet
The role of family in the discipleship in the home is clearly defined within the Bible. While everyone is called to discipleship, it is the primary responsibility of the parents to disciple their children in spiritual matters. Within families there are clearly defined roles for father, mother, and children.
The foundation for being a good father and mother is becoming one as husband and wife as described in Genesis, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”[ref]Genesis 2:24, ESV.[/ref] Paul in his letter to Ephesus helps to define these roles.
Roles of Each Family Member
The role of the father is to be the head of the household and to bring up the children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”[ref]Ephesians 6:4, ESV.[/ref] He is to set the tone for discipleship in the home for both his wife and children.
The role of the mother is to submit to her husband’s direction for discipleship in the home.[ref]Ephesians 5:22, ESV.[/ref] She is also to be a helper to the husband in managing the home. The role of the children is to honor the parents by obeying them.[ref]Ephesians 6:1-2, ESV.[/ref] With a good understanding of roles within the family, one then can examine how discipleship can occur in the home.
It is imperative that parents themselves are active in their faith because the best tool at their disposal in discipleship is modeling. “As parents model covenant love to their children, they expose them to a way of seeing and being in the world.”[ref]Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick, The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 149.[/ref]
Teaching Your Children
Parents must also teach “their children the awe-inspiring wonder of who God is, how to have a relationship with Him, and to model the difficult beauty of living a life surrendered to Him for the sake of others.”[ref]Michael Anthony and Michelle Anthony, A Theology for Family Ministries. (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), 186.[/ref] Parents must be willing to come beside their children to learn with their children as they explore the Bible and their faith together.
The role of the church in discipleship is defined throughout the Bible. One can trace the command of discipleship back to the time of Moses. In speaking with Israel, Moses states,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”[ref]Deuteronomy 6:4-9[/ref]
A Call to Discipleship
This is a call to discipleship for all of Israel to know God, love Him and raise up a future generation of believers. The church’s role in the discipleship of children is by surrounding parents with love, support, accountability, and prayer. The church can support parents through ministry programs that reinforce what is being taught at home.
“Youth groups serve as the disciple-making communities for middle school and high school students, while children’s programs plays this role for elementary students.”[ref]Timothy Paul Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide: How Your Church Can Equip Parents to Make Disciples. (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011), 83.[/ref] These programs cannot be the only source of discipleship for the youth and children. The church must be in partnership with the parents to ensure that the youth and children are being discipled at home. Additionally, churches need to provide opportunities for parents to seek guidance or a community of support in discipling their children.
Examining the Past
To understand the importance and need of family ministry today, one must examine the historical model of this ministry. During the Middle Ages, “families had little or no access to the Bible.”[ref]Randy Stinson, ed. And Timothy Paul Jones, ed., Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011), 109.[/ref] This forced families to completely rely on the clergy and reinforced Bible illiteracy among the commoners. Parents did take on the task of teaching their children prayer and basic doctrinal statements with the aid of the church and some resources.[ref]Ibid, 111.[/ref]
The Protestant Reformation saw a shift in the responsibility of discipleship in the home. Luther argued that parents were to lead spirituality in the household with the father establishing the discipleship direction in the home.[ref]Ibid, 117.[/ref] This belief also led the idea of worship in the home as “the father led, typically both morning and evening, in devotional exercises that would consist in Scripture reading, catechesis, singing, and prayer.”[ref]Ibid, 123.[/ref]
Disciple the Nation through the Home
It was also during this period that the concept of age-organized gatherings gained traction. “The goal of these age-organized gatherings seems to have been to reinforce young people’s relationship with the larger community of faith—not to separate young people from the congregation.”[ref]Ibid, 125.[/ref]
During the Industrial Revolution, one can see the development of Sunday School as Robert Raikes’ response to adult problems in Gloucester.[ref]Ibid, 147.[/ref] When one examines family ministry through a historical perspective, one can make the assumption that family ministry has slowly evolved into what it is today. It is the response to God’s call to disciple the nation through the home of every believer.
Partnership between Families and Churches is Vital
The partnership between families and churches is vital in the discipleship of future generations. The Family-Equipping Ministry Model would help to solidify this relationship for everyone involved. This model would maintain many of its age-organized ministries with parents becoming more involved in discipling their children within the church.[ref]Anthony, 175.[/ref] This is beneficial for parents as they maintain their role as primary disciple-makers for their children.[ref]Anthony, 175.[/ref]
There are also opportunities for intergenerational relationship building with the church. Members of the church can come along the families to lead or support them. There are some practical ways that the church can help families to disciple children in the home. The church can encourage families to utilize Bible reading plans to help guide families through the Bible as well as memorizing scripture.
Family Prayer and Worship
The church should also encourage parents to establish the habit of praying with their children and spouse. The church should also encourage parents to use mealtimes as opportunities to check in with their children and have conversations about what they have learned through prayer and Bible study. This can be accomplished through setting up mentoring or accountability partners for each parent.
They can also provide resources that can help families establish family worship during the week. The church can provide some intergenerational opportunities to provide additional support for families. One way that this can be accomplished is establishing Home Bible Study groups that will allow the opportunity for members to identify local support around the homes.
Child-friendly Environment in the Church
Additionally, the church can establish an environment that is children friendly within church service. Some ways that this can be accomplished is having a children’s message once a month during service and having children’s church once a month for children-focused worship. The church should also encourage the worship team to incorporate at least one child-friendly song into worship each week.
The worship team could provide some simple instruments such as tambourines or shakers for the children to use during worship to get them more involved in worship. As one can see, there are numerous opportunities for families and church to disciple children daily. It will require commitment from all involved to make this a priority within families and churches.
The Family-Equipping Ministry Model
The Family-Equipping Ministry Model appears to provide the best path to establishing a partnership between families and churches for the discipleship of children. Historically, family ministry has shifted its responsibility of the discipleship of children from the church to the parents and now to a partnership between families and churches.
As already mentioned, discipleship is part of a believer’s response to God’s call on their life. For parents, they are specifically called to disciple their children as it was commanded since creation, with the support of the church. Parents must recognize that they must be active in their own faith to effectively disciple their own children.
The church must be willing to hold parents accountable to the discipling of their children through partnership and must avoid becoming the primary disciple-maker for children, for the best chance at developing future believers. This partnership will need to find the balance between age-organized and intergenerational activities for the benefit of all involved in family ministry.God must be at the center. – Jason Brown Click To Tweet
The most important aspect of family ministry is that God must be at the center of it to ensure that the ministry will be a blessing for everyone in the church.
(This article has been adapted from a scholarly paper submitted by Jason Brown for a course on Family Ministry. He now teaches this course to others!)
Artios Christian College offers a course titled Family Ministry!
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