My parents gave me some fantastic gifts through the years including stuffed animals, a mini basketball hoop, cold cans of soda after pitch and putt golf, and a Yamaha MX175 dirt bike. They even helped me financially through college. But the best thing my parents gave me was discipleship. They led and nurtured me spiritually. I heard about God’s law and my sin, the gospel of Christ crucified and risen for my salvation, and how I should live for God first from my parents. They took my discipleship seriously.
For the next five posts, I’m going to be talking about five essential gifts that you should, dare I say, must, give your kids. And this applies in some ways to parents with grown children no longer at home or even grandparents with their grandkids, but this series is intended most specifically for young married couples without kids or parents with young kids. This series is intended to give parents and aspiring parents five essential things they must do to disciple their children well. None must be left out. All must be top priorities in parenting. All are worth the hard work and discipline required to do them well. All of them are the best gifts to give your children.
Now, it is true, at least in my experience, that most Christians would say that parents are the primary spiritual nurturers of their children. They know and affirm Deuteronomy 4:6-9. Even secular studies show that parents have the greatest influence on their children, an even greater influence than peers. I worked extensively with middle and high school students and their parents for over seven years, I was immersed in youth ministry for years, I even served on my denomination’s youth ministry committee, and I’ve noticed three significant problems in the Church when it comes to parenting.
One, though most Christian parents acknowledge their responsibility to disciple their children, and to some extent, many assume they are doing it, many simply delegate their responsibility, as they do with education, music lessons, and sports, to so-called professionals in children’s or youth ministry. I guess they assume delegating discipleship is faithfulness. It’s not. Parents have the biggest responsibility.
Two, some parents don’t seem to know how to disciple their children effectively. I’m talking nuts and bolts. I’m talking a simple and clear action plan. They are either ill-informed and don’t know what to do or disobedient and refuse to do what they should do. Or perhaps there’s some other reason. Whatever the reason, many Christian parents, who are motivated and diligent in many areas of their kids’ lives, are doing the bare minimum when it comes to discipling their children. Even parents who do these five things are often discouraged at how inadequately they do them. Every parent needs encouragement in how to become more effective in discipling their children.
Three, most Christian parents seem to recognize their responsibility to disciple and nurture their kids. Many even recognize the importance of these five essentials. However, and here’s the third problem, they seem to lose heart as to the effectiveness of the five essentials and often trust other things, other activities, other methods, to bring about spiritual change in their kids. Under the pressure of parenting, many parents become pragmatists. Instead of trusting God to use His means of creating, sustaining, and strengthening faith, they turn to popular opinion and what appears to work or at least draw a crowd. Some parents seem to give up on the lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains of discipleship in order to give their kids sugar because it tastes good and produces a noticeable high, only to realize years down the road that sugar doesn’t satisfy the spiritual hunger of their children nor sustain them through the arduous journey of life.
My intent for these next five posts is not to comprehensively address parenting; there are many important topics I will not address. Feel free to email me questions on those important topics. My intent is also not to give a detailed analysis of these five essentials but rather to give parents a simple framework to work from, to give the skeleton upon which to put the muscles and skin, to give the 2 x 4 structure upon which to put the siding and shingles. My intent is to answer the question, “Okay, so how do I do it? What does it look like practically?”
So parents, if you learn these five fundamentals, if you put them into practice, if you trust the Lord to use them in your child’s life, I believe God will honor your Spirit-wrought obedience. I believe you will see God do marvelous things in your family and increase your gratitude. You will be tempted to stop, to wonder if it’s working, to turn to new fashions, trends, and strategies, but I encourage you to keep giving your kids these five essential gifts and trust God to use His means in His timing to produce fruit in your kids. You want the best for them, right? Then trust the Lord’s best.
I hope you join me for the next five posts. I think these posts will challenge, sharpen, and encourage you, as well as refocus your discipleship efforts. Trust the Spirit to work in your kids, and make sure you are doing the simple and most important things to nurture your kids’ souls. It won’t be easy, you won’t master it, but you can be faithful and grow in these five essential action points. You may give your kids food, shelter, clothing, toys, and great opportunities to succeed, but do you give them the five essential gifts of discipleship?
I also hope you’ll share this podcast series with couples preparing to have kids or couples already parenting kids? Maybe go through this short series with some friends and discuss together how to best implement the ideas in your families and keep each other accountable. My hope is that God uses this series to further encourage and equip parents to faithfully disciple their kids.