This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.
1. Family discipleship is part of the Great Commission.
In Matthew 28, the resurrected Jesus Christ, standing on top of a mountain with nail marks in his hands, tells his followers 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). We call this the Great Commission—the summary of all that the Christian church is supposed to be committed to until Christ returns. In the call to make disciples everywhere and to teach Christ’s commandments entirely, we can be absolutely sure that this imperative includes those disciples we will make in our own homes. You cannot call yourself a follower of Christ if you are committed to making disciples in your neighborhood, but not around your kitchen table. The spiritual leadership of your home is your job, commissioned by God, and it would be a dreadful dereliction of duty to overlook it.
2. Family discipleship is important.
It should be enough to say that family discipleship is important because God commands it and he deserves our worship, but even important assignments often lose out in the competition of necessary things that plead for our attention. Family discipleship is a vital component of what it means to be a Christian parent, and it stands above other parenting responsibilities. Parenting is full of significant tasks. From housing, clothing, and feeding to affection, play, and education, there are innumerable essential aspects to being a mom or dad. But what good will it do our kids if they have every “thing” they need, but they do not know their Savior? What good is an education in math and science if they cannot make a moral choice nor have any reasoning behind why it is important? What good is a family home if they do not know Jesus who has gone to prepare an eternal place for those who follow him? Discipling your family is indispensable for every aspect of your child’s life as well as for the life to come—and it far outweighs all the rest of your responsibilities.
3. Good family discipleship is mostly ordinary.
Just because it is important does not mean that times of family discipleship will need to be the highlight of every day. Family discipleship, at its best, is an ordinary part of your family’s normal rhythm. The spiritual leadership of your home can—and should—take place in such a smooth and natural way that it is often unremarkable. Leveraging the moments in which your family already interacts on a regular basis throughout the day to talk about the commands of God and to live them out makes following Christ routine.
4. Raising righteously abnormal kids is a counterintuitive and vital component of family discipleship.
In an increasingly secular culture, it is likewise increasingly critical to equip Christian kids with the audacity it will take to be countercultural. Today’s children need to not only be taught what is true but how to distinguish it from what is false and how to boldly stand up against a torrent of opinions to the contrary. While my parenting instincts tempt me toward raising a child who is broadly admired, the call of God on my life is to raise a family that is ready to be hated for following Christ. It takes intentionality to raise a generation that is valiant enough to be righteously abnormal.
5. Family discipleship does not make you responsible for the salvation of your kids.
Preach your guts out, read the Bible everyday—all-day—and still, you could not force your children to follow Christ any more than you could force God to save them. Your child’s salvation is never a credit to perfect parenting. Likewise, you should not beat yourself up if your child runs from God despite your best efforts. It is just as true for your child as it is for you that “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). It is a blessing, therefore, knowing that God could save us even without our own efforts, and despite our mistakes that he still invites moms and dads to be part of how he disciples and saves a new generation of followers.
6. Family discipleship should be a team effort that includes both family and church.
While parents have the potential to be the most influential people in a child’s life and the home is intended to be the primary instrument and environment for discipleship, parents are not expected to carry this burden alone. The church cannot be where we “outsource” the discipleship of our children, but neither should it be ignored as a significant component of Christian ministry to and with the family. The best version of family discipleship involves an entire community of believers working in concert with the parents in spiritually raising children.
What a blessing to be invited into how the Lord shapes and saves a human soul!
7. Family discipleship is unapologetic indoctrination.
Teaching your children all that Christ commanded is not a way of giving them the “Christian religion” as an option for what truth they may end up selecting or following. Family discipleship is training your family in what is true, without regard to the condescending opinions of those in other camps. You are equipping your kids with a lens by which to see the world as it truly is, broken and in desperate need of a Savior. I believe that Jesus Christ meant it when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So what good do we do our kids to tell them to “choose what is true for themselves” if we know there is, in fact, only one fountain of life in the desert of this world?
8. Family discipleship will affect behavior, but it is not a means to manipulate your household.
It can be so easy, and therefore so tempting, to misuse the word of God in order to serve our own needs. Family discipleship should never be twisted into a means of getting your family to do what you want by intimidating or threatening them with the word of God. Manipulating the behavior of your children by portraying God as angry at them when they do wrong and happy when they do what you want robs them of the beauty of true grace that always loves us better than we deserve and calls us to obey out of joy and love, not out of coercion or scare tactics. It is easy to raise a Pharisaical child who pays lip service to God but whose heart is far from him. Family discipleship pleads with the Lord for heart transformation, and that will lead, consequentially, to a heart that delights in obedience to the Lord.
9. Family discipleship is not the path of least resistance.
As important and significant as family discipleship is, no one is promising that it is going to be easy. Kids of all ages can resist accepting what their parents have to tell them, or rebel against the instructions from their mom or dad. It requires a righteously stubborn persistence and gentle gracious patience to properly spiritually lead a family. We all make mistakes as parents, but may it never be that the biggest mistake we make is giving up on the call of God in our life to lead our family simply because it is not easier.
10. Family discipleship can be incredibly rewarding and often leads to the incredible work of the Lord in the life of the family and child.
If you are discipling your family, then I assume you follow the God of the universe. If he is for you, tell me, who can possibly be against you? No one wins against your God. This child he has entrusted to you is his, and it is no accident that he has put him or her in your care. Yes, we work out our salvation with great sobriety and caution, but with no lack of confidence and courage that the Lord who began faith in our heart can do the same in the lives of our dearest little ones. What a blessing to be invited into how the Lord shapes and saves a human soul! With Christ as your King and God as your Father, you can absolutely do this! Of course, your family may not change overnight; and yes, you will make mistakes. Even with all the resistance, flaws, and failures along the way, there is no lack of hope for what the God who made the universe can do in the hearts of those he chooses according to his purposes.
Adam Griffin is co-author with Matt Chandler of Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home through Time, Moments, and Milestones.
Popular Articles in This Series
What does it mean that God condescended in Christ and dwells with us through His Spirit?
From the very beginning, Eden was not meant to be static; it was headed somewhere.
Thomas Schreiner shares 10 important things you should know about the biblical covenants—the backbone of the biblical story.
What is Christian ethics and what role should it play in the life of a believer?