When I first decided to follow Jesus, I was still in college. Three years later I was married. During those three years, I craved the presence of God. I read the Bible, hungry for truth. And the more I read, the more of His life I wanted in mine.
So, I was determined that I would raise my future children in a Christian home, where God was the center of our lives. When I read the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to go and make disciples, I wanted my children to be those first disciples that I could pour my heart into.
Making Little Disciples
In one of Paul’s letters to Timothy, we get a glimpse of two women who did the same. They brought Timothy up with sincere faith in their hearts for God which was later reflected in his own life.
“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”2 Timothy 1:5, NIV 84
I love that we get this little glimpse into the lives of the parents who helped shape the faith of Timothy, a young man who became like a son to Paul and to whom Paul had entrusted the church at Ephesus.
Timothy’s mother was a Jewish Christian and his father was Greek.
“He [Paul] came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek.”Acts 16:1
Commentators believe that because Scripture emphasizes his mother’s belief and not his father’s, that Timothy’s father was not a believer. It is also believed that, because Paul references Timothy fifteen years later as a young man (1 Timothy 4:12), that he was actually a teen at this time.
So, we get this little glimpse into the life of a young man whose mother and grandmother influenced him to believe in God, even at a young age and also having had an unbelieving father.
I want to share with you three approaches we can take as moms to help disciple our children in the ways of the Lord.
First, teach them the Word.
I think we sometimes believe that our kids should get their Bible teaching from church and Sunday school, but the first place they should learn the Word is at home.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds him to continue in the Word he had been taught from infancy.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”2 Timothy 3:14-15
As parents, we should be the primary teachers of the Word to our children. We can do so through bedtime devotions, family worship, or dinner table talks. As we go through daily life–in the car, at the market, etc.–we have the opportunity to use the Scripture to enforce life lessons.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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.”Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Second, pray with your children.
We all pray for our children, but I believe it is so important that they hear us pray aloud with them. When we do, they hear our heart for them to know Christ and walk with Him. We are reinforcing our love for them and establishing their identity in Jesus.
In Hebrew culture, the blessing of children was a big deal (Think Esau and Jacob).
“For sons or daughters in biblical times, receiving the blessing was a momentous event. At a specific point in their lives they would hear their parents pronounce words of encouragement, love, and acceptance. They would hear their names linked with God’s promises and the special history of their people.”Gary Smalley and John Trent, Giving the Blessing: Daily Thoughts on the Joy of Giving, January 5
I believe this blessing should be part of our prayers over our children, so they grow and develop with an understanding that they are loved and cherished by their Creator.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”Mark 10:14
Third, lead by example.
I realize this point is the most difficult to carry out, but with God’s help we can do our best. Many young people raised in church fall away when they become old enough to decide for themselves. Often, the reason is that they witnessed a different message between church and home.
As Christian parents, we are not perfect. But I don’t believe that is an excuse to be lazy in our spirituality at home. We need to live what we believe and own it when we mess up.
My children still tell me I angrily threw a chair one day when we were home schooling. I have no recollection of that, but the fact they laugh about it gives me hope that I at least made it right with them later!
Being an example is not about being the perfect mom all the time; it’s about spending quiet time with the Lord every day, walking in the Spirit with God’s grace, and being quick to ask forgiveness when we do mess up.
“For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”1 Corinthians 10:33b-11:1
Making disciples is about setting an example for others to follow.
So as moms, we can learn from the example of Lois and Eunice, who “from infancy” taught Timothy the ways of the Lord. I’m sure they weren’t perfect, but Scripture says they were sincere.
Maybe you didn’t have a great example yourself. Maybe your child-rearing days are behind you, and you have many regrets. I would encourage you to talk with your children, confessing your sins, and asking for their forgiveness.
You are not responsible for their response but only your obedience. So, be encouraged, because the God we serve is more than able to redeem your past mistakes.
In fact, that’s what He does best.