During a week packed full of interviews, I came to a realization that broke my heart. As I heard story after story from college student applicants, I saw a common thread of “I prayed to become a Christian when I was (somewhere between the ages of 7 and 14), but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I think I really did make that decision then, but after a lot of struggling with it, I really started living as a Christian when I was in the youth group.” That story told me that about 10 years ago we didn’t know how to (or just didn’t) walk alongside those kids who made decisions for Christ. We didn’t teach them what it really means to live for Jesus, help them understand that just because we don’t know something about God doesn’t mean that we can’t be in a relationship with Him, or help them develop habits and a Scripture-based belief system that would bring growth in that moment and down the road.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Scripture seems to teach us that repetition is key. I know that is difficult when you see kids on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays if you are lucky. Without this blog post becoming a novel, here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the huge responsibility of discipleship for kids:
1. Encourage, Equip, and Educate Parents (just for the sake of all Es)
Parents are with their kids an average of 480% more than are. They are setting up what normal is for their kids and building the habits and thought processes that will stick. Encourage them to have spiritual conversations and teach them how to do so. Give them as many resources as you can. For the sake of your time and the space here, I’ll leave expounding upon that up for another post. This is the most important thing in discipling kids.
2. Get involved in the lives of the kids in your ministry. I don’t mean ask them questions about what they like on Sundays. I mean go to their soccer games, eat lunch with them at school, plan events to really connect with them…do whatever it takes to be an active part of their life. ((Note: you cannot physically disciple every child. I have seen some ministries do it very well by pairing a child or two children with an adult – that way that adult can be involved in that kid’s life individually. Call them and see how they are doing. Take them to dinner sometimes, just for fun. TRAIN these adults in how to connect with kids.)
3. You also can create Bible studies or community groups by grouping discipler/disciplee pairs together. This is just another way to provide an outlet to connect and guide these kids.
4. Get to know those who teach the kids in your ministry. They spend 7 hours a day with them and are having a huge impact on their life, whether they know it or not. Encourage them! They, too, have quite a responsibility.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list of ways to disciple kids. What are some of your ideas? What are some of the resources you use or give to parents?