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Ages and Stages for Discipling Your Kids

Ages and Stages for Discipling Your Kids

The different ages of your children will require different ways of thinking through the discipleship process because there are different ways of communicating and making connections with each of them. But rather than viewing this challenge as a problem, think of the privilege of continually looking for ways to make the attractiveness of life with Christ more real to them.

Free Printable – Family Planning Worksheet

Click the image above or on this link to get the FREE printable (PDF) from Terence Chatmon – Family Planning Worksheet

First, involve your whole family in creation of the plan.

When everyone from your six-year-old to your sixteen-year-old is enthusiastically encouraged to weigh in on what you’re trying to do, each child obtains their own measure of owner­ship in it. The more ownership they feel as part of what your entire family is trying to do, the more ownership they’ll begin to develop for their personal, one­-on­-one relationship with Christ. While important for the success of the plan to involve each family member in the process, your role as the leader cannot be underestimated.

I’ve always felt — and the many success stories in business throughout history can attest to it — the leader must be the one who plants the vision. It’s nice to imagine a grassroots vision and energy swelling up from underneath, strong enough to create and sustain lasting change. But leadership, though perhaps not always required in starting to move the needle, is certainly required in order to keep it pegged and pressing forward. This dynamic is as true for families like yours and mine as it is for churches and governments and multi-million­dollar corporations. So if you’re the one in the position of spiritual authority in your home — father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, legal guardian, single mom or dad, whatever the case may be —

ask God to give you a vision for your family, for your children. And faithfully keep that vision before them as the standard you’re following, even on days when not everyone is feeling it quite so much.

Here’s why I say that: everything else (besides the vision) is up for delegation. Everything else is ripe for opinion. By asking and expecting your kids to help you build out this plan, rather than forcing it on them from the top, it will be quicker for them to see how it can really help them with things they’ve sort of been wanting to do or wanting to learn but didn’t exactly know how to go about it. Now they do. Now they can. Now they realize you’re there, actively invested in coming alongside them to help them locate a path that gets them where they’re hoping and needing to go. What’s more, you, too, may be able to see — as opposed to what you’ve been fearing (the rolling eyes, the heavy groans, “I knew they were going to hate this”) — an eagerness bordering on excitement coming back at you, enough to take all your fears away.

Give them the opportunity to dream with you. Give them the responsibility for taking charge of certain things. Give them the reinforcement of your full attention as they start asking the kinds of questions that used to rarely, if ever, come up before you began to deal more systematically and prayerfully with their issues. Let them play a big role in helping determine how this vision of yours takes shape in them in their own lives.

And second, help them develop specific goals for themselves.

Your family, in order to stay united in purpose and in the Spirit, will always benefit from embracing certain spiritual goals in common. The things you do and pursue together will contribute to the shared identity that’s so important to develop in your home. But your individual relationships with each child can really take a light­year leap forward as you help set personalized goals for their particular age or stage of spiritual maturity.

For the little ones, some of their goals may entail an expectation for answering two or three questions after the church service, such as

  1. “What did the pastor talk about?”

  2. “What did it mean to you?”

  3. “How can you put that message into practice this week?”

You can give them a particular chapter to read — Genesis 1, about creation; Psalm 1, about the blessings of obedience; the first part of John 1, about the nature of Jesus — and then plan a special time when you can sit down with them and talk about it. You might set a goal for them to learn the names of the books of the Bible, at whatever speed or pace you feel is realistic. It’s completely up to your discretion.

Where will they learn these things if they don’t learn them from you? Why should the church, or perhaps their Christian school, be primarily responsible for training them in what the Bible teaches? Why should they grow up struggling to know who God is, not sure where the great stories of Scripture are located, unfamiliar with their way around the one Book you say is the fount and foundation of all truth and instruction for their lives? If your kids aren’t shown and shepherded at home how to understand Christ and apply His Word, seeing it modeled by the way you continue to pursue certain spiritual goals and desires, then who will show them?

I was sitting in a Bible study once, when one of the guys in attendance — a single man, young, maybe in his late twenties, early thirties — said something to the group like, “You know, I’ve always had to look outside of my family to try to understand faith. I mean, we went to church and stuff, but I don’t remember my mother or father — either one — ever talking to me about Christ, ever reading the Bible with me, ever even helping me think through how to date a girl — even something as practical as that — in light of what God teaches and what was best for me. I’m left even now, as a grown man, just trying to figure it out on my own.”

I sat there realizing as he was talking that the only reason we don’t hear this kind of testimony more often is because people don’t have places or occasions for saying it. I’m afraid this is the experience of many young men and women who grew up in so­called Christian homes — where Christ, for some odd reason, hardly ever came up in family conversations.

I’m not criticizing here. If I let it bother me, I could kick myself every day for all the opportunities I passed up, whole seasons of years when I never gave much more than a passing thought to helping my kids develop spiritually and fall more in love with Jesus. I may not know all the reasons why we parents shove this honor and responsibility down underneath our other goals and desires and reasons for living, but I promise you I’m personally acquainted with a whole lot of them. And I’m still trying not to be mad at myself about it — simply to receive God’s forgiveness and do something about it.

But what if you set a goal for taking your children, at a particular stage of their spiritual development, through the entire book of Romans, showing them the whole grand sweep of God’s salvation? What if you set a goal for taking them out, at a certain age of your choosing, to a cemetery one afternoon to show them the risk of taking drugs or abusing alcohol? What if you and your spouse actually set a goal for when either or both of you would initiate the first stages of a sex­talk with your kids, not simply giving them a description of the anatomical mechanics but offering a vivid explanation of God’s purposes and why He’s given us the freedom of sexual purity?

Think of the openness you’d be developing with one another if taboo topics weren’t off the table but were part of how you intentionally interacted together. Think of the protection you could provide your children by enabling them to engage in important discussions within the safety of your home instead of within the cruel arena of the schoolyard or the confusing space of their own imaginations. Think of the trust you could earn (or rebuild) by letting them see your humble yet passionate desire to help them thrive spiritually, in ways you, perhaps, never knew until you were grown and making up for lost time.

The sky is the limit for goals you may want to set for your children. No one else knows your kids as well as you do. But you will come to know them even better as you guide them through some intentional age/stage goals to help them develop their growing faith. Best of all, they’ll be coming to know God and His Word even better, putting them ahead of the game, spiritually, for kids their ages and putting them in a position to live out their faith in Him with deliberate devotion for a lifetime.

Excerpted with permission from Do Your Children Believe? By Terence Chatmon, copyright Terence Chatmon.


Your Turn

What is your plan for family discipleship? Come share in the comments. We would love to hear your thoughts!