Family Discipleship with Different Ages

March 02, 2023

Also Available on:

Apple Podcasts
Listen on Spotify
Google Podcasts
Amazon Music

Trying to incorporate family discipleship or family worship in your home? Today's question says, "how would you recommend family discipleship with an age difference between kids?" In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz provides insights and strategies on how to best approach family discipleship in a home with children who vary in age.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can be equipped to get the kids in your care carefully evaluating every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "how would you recommend family discipleship with an age difference between kids? I have a 12 year old and a five year old." I was so happy when I saw this question come through because I think this is a question that probably a lot of parents have, especially if you have multiple children, whether it's two children or five or six children. When there's an age difference, it can be confusing knowing, okay, how do we actually lead family discipleship or family worship when we have kids of varying ages?

And so my recommendation is thinking about both doing some things together as a family as a whole, and then some things separately one-on-one with your children. And now when thinking about doing things together, especially if you have a 12 year old and a five-year-old, a huge seven year age gap, and that can seem like, oh my goodness, what could we possibly do that would be engaging for both of them? And now one thing I really want to address and make sure that we have clear here is that our culture just has this faulty idea that every single thing that we need to do with our kids needs to be entertaining, where that's not what life is about. I mean, think about your job, whether you work outside of the home or whether you're a parent full-time, that there are many times when our jobs are not entertaining.

There are many times when we don't feel like doing our jobs. There are many times we might even feel like quitting our jobs, but we choose to faithfully remain where God has placed us because we know it's what we need to do to honor God. So this idea that our kids need to be entertained all the time is just a faulty idea. Another idea that's faulty is that we need to constantly break people up into groups of ages and stages, that really when you look back throughout human history, families have done things together for most of human history, that it isn't until the past 200 years that we've really started breaking people up into ages and stages. Now, this really stems from the public school system that when the public school system was developed in the US by people like Horace Mann and John Dewey, they started breaking up kids according to grade level for several reasons.

First, it is easier to just teach all five year olds or to just teach all seven year olds or just teach all 14 year olds. There's something that's a little bit easier in that you can kind of work with everybody on the same thing. But as you dive down into the writings of those founding fathers of education, what you find is that they had a very distinct goal as they were developing public education in the US and that they wanted to develop a humanist society. So basically a society that is good without God. And it's really hard to develop a society that doesn't have a belief in God because first of all, children are just born with a natural predisposition to belief in God. And second family ties run so strong. So once children were brought into the public school system and they weren't seated next to their siblings or their cousins, it was a lot easier to break down the Worldview that parents at home were working so hard to instill that when children were isolated from all the other members of their families, it was a lot easier for the teachers in the school system to instill their Worldview in the children.

And so we've just very sadly, we've let this model creep into the church and the Christian community, and we divide kids up by their ages. And then even as adults, we divide people up into their stages. Here's where the young marrieds go, here's where the singles go, here's where the empty nesters go, here's where the octogenarians go. Go. And that's just not what we find in the Bible at all. We find people of all different ages and stages that are supposed to be together, that are supposed to be worshiping God together, being discipled together. And so it's really important that as we're thinking about family discipleship, that we not just think, oh, I have to entertain my kids and I have to make sure that every single thing is developmentally appropriate for each age level, and maybe I should just split my kids up and do things separately. There's a time for that. But the majority of discipleship should be done together as a family unit.

We need to be careful not to buy into this humanist system that we've inherited from the public school system. So now in actually thinking about what to do together when you're talking about family discipleship, I mean just the basics. Read scripture, and pray together. Those are two really important things. Now when you're doing that, what a five-year-old can handle and what a 12 year old can handle are very different. So we need to make sure that we are setting age appropriate expectations. We can't expect that a five-year-old is going to sit still and listen to scripture, be read for 30 minutes. We might not even be able to expect a 12 year old to do that, but just make sure that we have age appropriate expectations that we're telling our five year old, "okay, we're going to do this for 10 minutes, and when we're doing this, this is what I expect of you. I expect you to be seated on the sofa. I expect your not to be getting up and jumping and running. And I also expect your lips to be zipped." And then practice.

If you go back and listen to other Foundation Worldview podcasts and webinars I've done, I've just talked about creating muscle memory in our kids. And when we are really diligent about creating muscle memory and making sure that our kids are meeting our expectations in very short spans of time, we can slowly build that up over time. So with the five-year-old, maybe you're just going to have it be for 10 minutes a day and set those very clear expectations. It might be okay if your child has something in his or her hands if they need to be playing around, fiddling around with that, as long as it's not distracting them. Then for your 12 year old who might be capable of so much more, probably is capable of so much more than your five year old, actually involve him or her in some of the leadership there. You can actually have your 12 year old do some of the reading, lead some of the prayer time so that they are feeling some sense of ownership in it. Especially with once kids are 11 on up and they're starting to come out more on their own and they're developing their own identity and starting to be a little bit more independent.

Start including them in more of the decisions as you're thinking through what book of the Bible, to study next is a family, get your 12 year old's input and say, "you know what? For our next book study, I was thinking of either going through Ephesians, which is a letter in the New Testament that Paul wrote, was thinking of Matthew one of the gospels or was thinking of the book of Joshua, of when God's people in the Old Testament conquered the Promised Land. Do you have any thoughts? Is there one book that you would like to go through more than the others?" Not giving them full reign of just "so what do you think we should do?" Because still at 12 years old, they need some guidance, but giving them options and letting them weigh in and take some ownership in this. You can even have your older child or older children guide the younger ones. That's what we always recommend in Foundation Worldview when our curriculums are done in churches where they group maybe first graders through sixth graders together, we love that. We love seeing kids of all ages grouped together. We recommend that they use the older kids to help guide the younger kids because it's amazing what can happen when you give a child some responsibility.

I was always shocked at this when I was teaching third grade at a Christian school that some of my students who were just very irresponsible and not highly motivated. Once a month, we would go to another school in a lower income area in the city and we would work with bilingual kindergartners and we would read a story with them and do a craft with them. And I would always partner the students one-on-one. And I was always amazed at how some of the students that were so irresponsible and not motivated at all when they were in the classroom with me, that once they were put in charge of someone else and they realized that they had a responsibility there, that they suddenly became so much more mature and responsible and motivated.

And so I'm not saying you know, that we hand over all parenting responsibilities to older children that's unwise and unfair to them, but giving them some more responsibility over the younger child or children that can really develop in them some leadership skills that we want to develop as we're discipling them and growing them up in God's word. So this is some things to do together. Now, when thinking about discipling children separately, that's always a good idea, at least in part because we want to develop these one-on-one relationships with our children. Whether we have two children in the home, whether we have 12 children in the home, we want to make sure that we're investing in these one-on-one relationships. And I've mentioned before how when I was growing up, my mom, every night we would have what's called special time, and she would just take 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each of us, and it would start with my sister because she was the youngest.

And we'd go to bed first and my mom would take 10 to 15 minutes with her, then 10 to 15 minutes with my brother, then 10 to 15 minutes with me as the oldest. And so just investing that one-on-one time, we would frequently read through scripture together, we'd read through other books together, we'd pray together, just talk. And so that was a really foundational time I know for myself and for my sister and for my brother. So if you can think about when in the day do you have five to 10 minutes, 15 minutes that you can spend one-on-one with your kids in this discipleship process? When you're thinking about your five-year-old, this is a time when you could include a storybook bible. Now, if you followed Foundation Worldview for a while, that we recommend that you don't use storybook Bibles all the time, and we don't recommend you use them after the age of seven because children really should be immersed in God's word.

And even at five in family devotions or family worship together, they should be immersed actually in scripture. But this is a time when you could go through a storybook Bible or some other Christian picture book. You can work through short, shorter passages of scripture together and read through those passages and talk through them. It's also a great time to go through a catechism where you're teaching your young child sound theology. The New City Catechism is a great resource for this. You can get it free. Just download an app on your phone. You can get the kids version. It's all free. There's songs that go along with it. I know that I have many friends who have young kids who by the age of even four or five, their children have memorized all 52 questions and answers in the New City Catechism. And it comes up later as they're having real life discussions about things. They're able to then ask their child this question and their child knows the answer, and they can talk about how this applies to real life. So those are just some basic things that you could do with your five year old.

Now when you're talking about your 12 year old and thinking, okay, what actually could you do with a 12 year old that's developmentally appropriate? Definitely reading scripture passages more in depth. You can even have your 12 year old read scripture on their own, and then you read on your own, and then you come together and discuss the things that you've learned. If you've taken your children through Foundation Studying the Bible Curriculum, we give all sorts of skills for equipping kids to soundly, read, interpret, and apply scripture on their own. And one of the things we suggest that they do is when reading a passage, look for truths about God, truths about humans, and then truths about God's big redemption plan that he's unfolding throughout the entirety of scripture.

So that's something you could do. You could assign your child a chapter to read and look for truths about God, humans, and God's big plan. And then you do the same and come together and talk about what you found. Because at this age, you're wanting to develop more independence that you don't want your child to be dependent on you for his or her time in scripture. You can also work on memorizing longer passages together. Really by the time a child is eight, they can begin memorizing entire chapters of scripture. And if that sounds intimidating to you, if you've never memorized an entire chapter of scripture, just take it one bite at a time, one verse at a time. It doesn't have to be a whole chapter, but just starting to memorize longer passages of scripture together. And then as is appropriate, you can even go through age appropriate books on topics, especially when you're thinking about talking with them about sexuality, books on that, books that are going to take them through the objective nature of truth. Books that are going to talk with them about the truth of the Christian Worldview. Those are things that you can do together.

So in this family discipleship, just really encourage you to think through what are some things that you can do together? What are some things that you can do separately? A resource that I always love to recommend for Family Discipleship is a ministry called Visionary Family Ministries. That's Visionary Family Ministries. It's run by Dr. Rob and Amy Reno, and they have seven children, and they have done just a great job of developing a model of holistic family discipleship and what that looks like. So highly recommend that you check out Visionary Family Ministries to get other ideas for how to disciple your kids. Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. As always, if you found this content beneficial, please consider liking subscribing, writing a review, and sharing this content with those that God has placed in your sphere of influence, just so we can equip as many adults as possible to get the kids and their care, understanding the truth and the goodness and the beauty of the Christian Worldview. My prayer for you today, as always, is that as we leave this time together, God would continue to richly bless you as you faithfully disciple the children he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

Share this article

Related Posts and insights

Teaching Apologetics to Children: A Parent's Guide

In this episode, we tackle the important question of how to teach apologetics to children under eight. Elizabeth Urbanowicz explores practical strategies for helping young kids understand and defend their faith through concrete, symbolic, and abstract stages of learning. Tune in to discover how to equip your children with a strong foundation in the Christian worldview.

Talking About Our Past Sin to Kids

Today's question is one that we receive multiple times every year from different parents, and this question is, "How can we teach our children to understand and follow God's good design for sexuality when we as parents have not done so? Is it wrong to admit this to our children?"

Beyond Good Guy, Bad Guy: Teaching Kids Biblical Good and Evil

Today's question says, "I'm struggling to explain morality and the gospel to my five-year-old in fairytales. She often categorizes characters into all good or all bad, and I don't think it should be as simple as be good like Cinderella. Do you have any advice?"