by Taylor Norris/ August 20, 2020
When we look at discipleship and community today, it begins to look really different and potentially non-existent according to our measures. Without discipleship, we are not able to continue to grow and develop our spiritual formation. Without a community, we would live a very isolated life with little to no contact with people. (Sounds familiar?) Now more than ever, everyone is solely responsible for their spiritual growth. I mean that there is little to no opportunity for churches to gather in masses like we did before COVID-19 came into the world. Is it impossible? No, but we do have to get creative on how we accomplish discipleship and community because we need and desire it in our lives. I believe that this starts in the home. If we can begin to develop a child's spiritual walk and formation at home, I think we might see life the way God intended us to live.
While I believe the church plays a pivotal role in advancing the gospel, have we created programs and services that have stunted the opportunity for true discipleship and community? With families' lives busier than ever with schedules commanding them rather than them commanding their schedule, has the church enabled for the family for them to take a back seat at spiritually discipling their children? I understand that we are in a culture of "just do it for me already." For example, we would rather pay an extra dollar to have an apple sliced for us and put in a bag than spend 2 minutes to slice up the apple for ourselves. This also transcends into our current state of community and discipleship. We would rather have people teach us about the Bible and be challenged than to take personal responsibility with our walk with Christ. I believe this is why we have such a deficiency in biblical literacy.
When I have talked with parents and asked about their parenting, I have seen some similarities in how discipling kids is similar to parenting. I do not advocate that if we know how to disciple a kid, we know how to parent. However, there are some commonalities. For example, discipling a child is displaying and teaching them to love and follow Jesus and providing a biblical foundation to understand God's character. Parenting is the essence of teaching God's nature within their own family so that their children will love and follow Jesus for their whole lives. Here is a theme we see in Deuteronomy 6:7 (NLT) , "Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road when you are going to bed and getting up." Through this verse, we can see that discipleship of children is not just at church, but it is a constant habit that needs to be in their lives. Because discipleship to children is a lot like parenting, when we partner with parents consistently, we set an incredible foundation for a child to love and follow Jesus while modeling God's character. When we do this, we begin to have discipleship within the community and support the parent of being the primary spiritual influencer and the birthplace for discipleship for the child's faith and walk with Christ.
In a world and culture that would buy the bagged apples, this also transpires to discipleship at home. Parent's schedules with marriage, work, school, and kid's activities dominate their schedules. As a Kid's Pastor, I have realized that parents will do anything for their children, which involves them having an incredible time. If a child loves sports, parents will shift their personal schedules and community so that their child can be at sport’s practice or tournaments on the weekend. I will be the first to admit that I develop a service with a kid's experience in mind. I love it when a kid has the look of "service is over already?!" when their name is called, that’s how I know that they have had a fantastic time. The chances of them being back increases because their parents see that there is value in their lives.
In this same perspective, what if we as society viewed discipleship not being at the church but at home. Instead of the perspective of discipling and teaching them about Jesus, what if we shift the perspective to allowing them to stand on our shoulders to reach higher and further than we ever could? What if we passed on lifelong memories and moments in their lives that they would pass on to their children and grandchildren? If we looked at this perspective, it goes further than our lifespan here on earth, it becomes a collective effort with the parent and the church. What if we provide the space for parents to develop a community with each other and give information on resources so parents can know how to implement them and see the value of community and discipling their kids. Instead of us just teaching about Christ, how about we shift from sharing bible stories to sharing God's characteristics and how we can apply them to our lives? Discipleship in a child's life is not just the parents or the church's involvement, we need both to be involved so that children can truly change the world and stand on our shoulders and reach higher and further than we could. Let's leave a spiritual legacy in our families that will impact future generations to come.