Parenting as discipleship
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
When Jesus called the disciples he simply said, “Come and follow me” (Matthew 4:19-20). There was hope and promise in Jesus’ words. The disciples dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Then, as Jesus gathered the eleven prior to the ascension, he said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). These are the words we use as Christians to further the work of the disciples in the world today. How often do we use them within our own homes though?
Being a parent is hard on the easiest of days. Being a disciple to our children adds an entire new level to what we are called to do as parents. Although this may seem like tacking on an additional parental responsibility, like helping our children use their manners and eat healthy foods, we have a manual for discipleship. In all the parenting books I’ve been given to read throughout the years, my favorite continues to be the Bible.
Think about it, what are your top questions or concerns in parenting your children?
How can I nurture my child to use their gifts to be a successful adult?
When my child talks back, what is the appropriate response?
We want our child to have a servant’s heart. How do we help raise a child to help others?
Each of these questions has scripture to guide us as parents! But the question is: Do we use the scriptures to help us in our parenting? Maybe. Sometimes. I’m reminded of Joshua’s words to the tribes of Israel. Joshua laid out the law for them. Make a choice. Are you willing to toss out the gods of the past or do you choose to serve God? Joshua goes a bit further and relates his testimony: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15)
Making a choice as a family to serve the Lord will change the way you parent. It will change the way your children grow in faith if parenting is also seen as discipleship. What does this mean? It means when we say we will serve the Lord, we don’t just serve the Lord on Sundays. We serve the Lord every day. All day. Our children see us use grace, love and peace in the way we speak to one another, to those who call the house, in how we respond to news on television and in our discipline. Children witness what it means to care for one another as we not only tend to them, but as we encourage them to tend to one another. Sharing is biblical, but do we help our children connect the dots with the stories of the scriptures where sharing is evident? Being kind to those who are less fortunate is part of the Beatitudes, but yet our children may not know the two are related.
Here is the kicker — I’ve saved it for last. Serving the Lord also means worshipping the Lord. Praising God for all that God has blessed us with, guided us through and calls us into. Worship is a way for us to give thanks, but also gives us time to confess our wrong doings and receive the grace we hunger for. Worship is a community event. Our children thrive when they get to know the people with whom they worship. As they grow older, those relationships will be imperative. I still keep in touch with the couple who sat in front of us in church every Sunday because they are wise and trusted “family.”
As my children grow older, I’m thankful for the gospel I not only get to share with them, but live out with them. Allowing your parenting to be a way of discipleship for your family will be a joy. It’s even biblical.
The Reverend Lissa Long is the transitional director for Christian education at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, Charleston.