I’ve been a Dad for over 10 years now. Which means I know just enough to know that I don’t know very much. One thing we have always aimed to do with our kids is to give them Jesus; to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). While I’ve stumbled as a Dad who seeks to point his family to Jesus, by grace I believe I’ve stumbled forward, learning a few key things about discipling kids.
Of course, every family is different. Every life-stage of a child presents unique opportunities and challenges. I have 5 children ages 4 to 10. I don’t talk to the 4-year-old about Jesus the same way I do with the 10-year-old. Likewise, there are discipleship conversations with my son that will be different than ones with my daughter. They have different questions, struggles, doubts, and interests. But there are Biblical principles that guide us regardless. One place where these principles are clear is in Deuteronomy 6. Here are a few principles I’m learning from this passage as I stumble forward in parenting…
Give Yourself Jesus First
It’s so obvious that it’s easy to miss. You can’t give your kids what you don’t have. We desperately want our kids to trust God; to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). The best place to start is the pursuit of God in our own life. Before we’re commanded to teach our children, God first tells us to love him with our own hearts. Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says,
 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
Kids have an uncanny ability (especially as they get older) to sense what you really care about. If following Jesus is just something that happens in the margins of your life, but is not of ultimate importance, they will know. But if your soul clings to God (Psalm 63:8); if seeking God through prayer is the norm in your home; if gathering with the people of God is a priority, your kids will know that Jesus matters. They may not treasure Jesus yet, but they should know that you treasure him.
Give Them Jesus Formally
Deuteronomy 6 goes on to say,
 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Sit down with your kids in your home and teach them the scriptures formally. There’s freedom in the specifics of this, but the principle is simple; regularly and faithfully teach your kids God’s truth. Right now formal teaching in our home means reading through The Gospel Story Bible, aiming for at least 3 times a week. We use this resource for our kids curriculum at church as well so this provides consistency. The questions are great and they usually open up a great discussion. Then we’ll sing a song together and pray.
With the older three kids (8, 9, 10) we are walking thru The New City Catechism together. This is a great resource for summarizing basic Christian doctrine. We aim for three times a week and discuss one question and a related passage each time. The app has prayers, commentary, and even memory songs. Each kid has their own copy of the children’s version of the catechism so they can study and memorize.
That’s it. Sometimes it’s nice and quiet with great reflections. Most of the time it’s loud, crazy, and filled with interruptions. But that’s ok. We’re forming habits. The practice itself sends the message: “Jesus is valuable to this family. The Word is life.”
Give Them Jesus Informally
Notice how Deuteronomy 6:7 doesn’t just limit our teaching to a formal time. We’re to talk about Jesus with our kids in our house, as we walk, as we go to sleep, and when we wake up. In other words, always be ready to give your kids Jesus. At the dinner table, on the way to baseball practice, as you put them to bed, after a fight with their siblings, or a bad day at school, etc. Some of the best spiritual conversations with my kids have been in the most unexpected and informal places. Some of the most meaningful conversations about faith have come from real-time disappointments and victories.
Not only should you be ready for these moments, but you should seek to cultivate them. Pray when opportunities arise (not just before a meal or during family devotions). Ask them questions about spirituality as you go about normal life. In doing so, you are creating a culture within your home where spiritual discussion is the norm, where prayer isn’t weird, and where Jesus is valued.
Give Them Jesus In Secret
Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer doesn’t prepare us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” How true when it comes to giving our kids Jesus! What we desire most for them is something that we alone cannot give; salvation. Therefore, we must plead for our kids, begging God to send the wind of Holy Spirit blessing upon our efforts to teach them. The greatest work of our parenting is hidden in the quiet places of prayer.
We must pray for their conversion, protection, physical well-being, future, friends, faith, career, etc. Most of all, we must pray that they would consider all things loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).
As we pray for our children, we are rightly recognizing that God is the one who sovereignly wills and works in the lives of our kids. As we seek to give them Jesus, prayer helps us recognize that it is ultimately God who must give them Jesus.
There is a mountain of wonderful resources for parents pointing their kids to Christ. Here are a few of my favorites.
- The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski
- The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones
- ESV Children & Youth Bibles
Kids Books About The Gospel
- Sojourn Kids Books
- Don’t Blame The Mud: Only Jesus Makes us Clean by Marty Machowski
- Ligonier Ministries Children’s Books
- Exploring The Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids by David Murray
- My First Book of Questions & Answers by Carine MacKenzie
- A Baptist Catechism for Kids (PDF)
- New City Catechism
Books For Parents