Discipleship with Children- 7 Principles (Part I)

Last summer, the night before my mother moved across the country to care for her aging and ailing parents, she took me to see the movie Brave.  It was a very appropriate movie for a mother-daughter date, especially when said daughter has herself a head of vivid red hair and a very lively and determined personality.  However, the most powerful moment of this film for me was one where I identified not with the daughter but with the mother.  A violent, vicious bear charges toward the girl and Mother Bear hurls herself between danger and her daughter.

Don’t all of us- mothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, nurses, women-  identify with this mother?  Who of us wouldn’t do whatever it took to save a child in our care?

And I’m sure it is the deepest cry of every Christian parent’s heart to desire their child’s salvation more than anything else they want for that child.

I’ve been studying the book of Mark in my own personal Bible study time lately.  During this time through, I’ve been taking special notice of how Christ taught, mentored, and nurtured his disciples.   Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest has a great definition of discipleship.

“Discipleship means a personal, passionate devotion to a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ” (from July 2)  and  “The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ” (from June 19).

So here are three of seven principles I gleaned from the book of Mark to help develop devotion for Jesus in yourself (which must come first!) and in your children.

1.  A Teacher Takes Time to Develop a Relationship with His DisciplesSAM_7125

Jesus chose twelve men (in Mark 1:17 and 3:14-15) to be his constant companions.  He spent three years living, working, traveling, eating, and fellowshipping with them.  Therefore, He had many, many opportunities to teach them about Himself, encourage them in their faith and to show them how they should live.

We must take time to develop our relationship with Jesus.  We need to spend time with Him every day through prayer and reading His Word, for “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).  Personally, I get up early in the morning (thanks partially to the encouragement of the Hello Mornings challenge, described in my post about Making the Most of my Mornings), before my children wake up so that I can spend a little time with the Lord.  This practice gives me the strength to take on my day.

We must also do this with our children.  They are our companions for a few years on this journey called life.  Investing time in developing a relationship with our children is vital that we may be given opportunities to disciple and shepherd their hearts.  Play with them.  Read to them.  Make fun memories with them.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Most importantly, encourage them to spend time developing a relationship of their own with Jesus by modeling it, providing them with a Bible and journal, teaching them how to pray, and giving them time.

2.  A Teacher Identifies with His Students

Mark chapter one describes how Jesus entered and identified with His creation: He became a man, was baptized, and suffered temptation.  He identified with us, became like one of us, so that He could not only most importantly die as a substitute for us; but he could also therefore sympathize with us and help us in our troubles.  Hebrews 2:18 says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”   The author of Hebrews then encourages us to boldly approach Him, our King, in our time of need.

That Jesus would let go of His glorious and divine attributes to become a humble man so that we might live and lean on Him is amazing.  This should spur us on to greater love and devotion as His disciples.  And encourage us to go to Him when we are in trouble.

As teachers and disciplers of our children, we can learn from Christ’s example.  We should take the time to identify with our children, to sympathize with them in their struggles and weaknesses.  After all, we were children once.  We know how powerless and frustrated they feel.  If we take the time to think about things from their perspective, we can sympathize with their anger or sadness.  As we sympathize with our children, trust is built and the relationship is strengthened.  Then when they are in trouble, they know they can come to us.  We have thus been given a precious opportunity to point them to Jesus.  For it is in trouble when we all see most clearly our need for Jesus.  Then we can carry them or walk with them into His presence through prayer and by His Word.

3.  A Teacher Uses All Opportunities to Teach Truth

As Jesus walked through Israel with His disciples, completing His mission with them as His companions, there were many “teachable moments”  where He took the time to reveal truth and meaning to His disciples.  When He spoke in parables to the crowds (Mark 4), His disciples were curious as to what His stories meant.  Jesus used that opportunity to explain the truths behind His teachings to them.  He performed many miracles and taught a lesson to His disciples in many of them.  During their holiday feasts and celebrations, Jesus took the time to explain the deeper meaning behind their traditions.

Many of these “teachable moments” were written down by the disciples so that we have access to them in the gospels.  Christians also have the gift of the Spirit that reveals truth, helps with understanding God’s Word and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  This deeper understanding we can have deepens our devotion as disciples of Jesus.

As parents, we have a captive audience in our children.  As homeschool moms, we have even more time with our children and therefore so many “teachable moments.”  This past week, I’ve helped a child through a fight with a sibling over toys, a compromise in what game to play, and how to do a difficult task.  Things may come up in line at a grocery store, at a play date at a park, or while watching TV that give an opportunity to share the gospel, explain a truth or wise principle for living, or just point to the glorious grace of God.

Pray for your eyes to be open to these “teachable moments.” Pray that you do not get caught up in academics, or a To Do List and ignore this precious opportunity to do the work of the Kingdom.  These moments where are children are open, asking questions, and curious are moments when their hearts are soft and their ears receptive to truth.  Let us seize those moments and rejoice in them.  And let us not worry about the things that don’t get done instead.

Next week I will talk about the final four principles for discipling children.


2 thoughts on “Discipleship with Children- 7 Principles (Part I)

  1. Pingback: Discipling Children: 7 Principles (Part 2) | Following Footprints

  2. Pingback: Discipleship with Children: Seven Principles (Part 3) | Following Footprints

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