Helping Parents be the Primary Disciple Maker

March 07, 2023

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How do we help parents be equipped to disciple the children in their care? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, speaks to parents and church ministry leaders about how we can help parents see the need to be the primary disciple makers to their children, and how this can be modeled for other parents.


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 equip the children God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical Worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm so excited you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question is one that I'm sure many people listening or watching this podcast have wondered before. The question says, "any advice for helping parents see the need to equip themselves to disciple their children?" Now, I'm making the assumption that most of you listening and watching are either parents who already see the need to equip yourselves to disciple your children or your ministry leaders or Christian educators that are wanting the parents of the children God has placed in your care to see the need to equip themselves and for them to be the primary disciplers of their children.

So first of all, just want to commend you for just knowing this and understanding that God has called you as a parent or God has called the parents of the children in your care to be the primary disciplers of those children. Now, this is something that is very difficult, especially in our western culture because we have just as a church at large, have just kind of bought into this model where children are dropped off on Sunday mornings in some Sunday school or kids' ministry class, and then parents go to "big church" and then parents pick the kids up and they're expecting their kids have gotten a great Bible lesson and many of them think that's enough for the week where we know that that is not enough. So a lot of times when people ask this question, they're thinking about, okay, what program can I run to help parents see the need of this?

And so this is where I think we need to really have a mind shift if we want to help other parents understand their need to be the primary disciplers of their children, and that involves any equipping themselves. And so I would encourage us to focus less on programming and more on actually being the body of Christ. Yes, there is a time and there is a place for programming. We see this model in the New Testament in the Book of Acts when the first disciples when they started this program for feeding widows, and then the Hellenistic Jews were upset because they felt like their widows were being overlooked. And then we see the disciples put a program in place to solve this problem. However, we also see in the New Testament that most of the discipling is not done through programming. It's done through the body of Christ faithfully being the body of Christ in the local church.

So I would encourage those of you who are watching or listening, if you want to help other parents in your sphere of influence understand their role to be the primary discipler of their children, model this. Model what you believe other families in your church in your sphere of influence should be doing that no one's going to follow what you are not modeling. And now if you're watching or listening and you're a church ministry leader, I know this is a huge temptation for you to want the families in your church to do something. So you set up a program and then you don't necessarily do that in your own home where it is vital that you as a ministry leader be doing this in your own home. Because I mean, even when we think about the biblical requirements for an elder, the biblical requirements for an elder or a synonym for that is a pastor, is that this elder is shepherding their wife and children in the fear and instruction of the Lord that someone is not qualified to be an elder if they are not first shepherding their family.

So whether you are in the formal role of a pastor or an elder or a ministry leader at your church, or you are a layperson or you are a Christian educator, each of us needs to make sure that we are modeling this in our own homes. This is something that is important for me as well. Those of you who followed Foundation Worldview for a while know that I'm not married, I don't have children of my own, but I am a member of a local body of Christ, and I am involved with the families in my church in ways that I hope that I am helping them disciple their children. And this is something that I've even asked those who I'm very close with in my local church to just call me out when they see me ever teaching something through Foundation Worldview teaching something in a podcast or a webinar or an interview or a curriculum, and then they don't see me modeling that in my own life because anything that I am teaching, I first need to be modeling in my own life.

And that's the same with all of us. So now the question becomes, okay, so how do we do this? Well, first we just need to make sure that we're discipling the children that God has placed in our care, that we are the primary disciplers of them. If you're not sure how to do that, we have tons of previous podcast episodes and webinars talking about raising children who know and love and trust Jesus. So check those out. If you're thinking about, okay, how do I actually model this for people in my church community? Start having people over into your home that this isn't just something that we model in the church building. It's something that we should be modeling every day of our lives, and we need to have others from the church body over into our home when they're in our home. We should be modeling what we should be doing every night, doing some form family scripture, reading and prayer or devotions either before or after dinner or as we're tucking our kids into bed, we need to make sure that this is taking place in our home and then that we're modeling it for others and others aren't going to see these in the home moments if we don't have them over and just in the home.

I know that this is something that both my pastor and his wife now currently and my pastor and his wife in Chicago were so good at that. I was just talking with a friend from church recently and she was telling me how so much of what she does with her children, she learned through being in the home of our pastor and watching him and his wife disciple their children. And I know the same is true with my pastor and his wife in Chicago that many of the other families and single individuals learned so much just because they would have us over their house for dinner all the time. And then they would just include anybody who was over at the house in family scripture reading and the family would read scripture together and pray together, and the kids would memorize catechism, and then they would sing a hymn together before they got tucked into bed.

So just inviting people into our homes and inviting them into the daily parts of our lives. Rosa Butterfield talks about this in her book. The Gospel comes with a House key that you just model your daily lives before others, whether those are believers who come into your home or unbelievers. Also start asking others questions not to put them on the spot, but to get them thinking after they see family devotions or family worship or scripture reading or prayer done in your house. Then ask them, "you've now seen what we do, what has worked for you?" And you might get some really good ideas from others or you might hear from them, "we've actually never read scripture together as a family, or we don't pray together as a family very often." And so not like you're putting them on the spot, but just asking them a simple question to get them thinking, how am I doing this?

And the home is the best place for this to happen. I was just having a conversation this weekend with a dear friend of mine and she did not grow up in a Christian home, but she came to the youth group at the church where I attended, and my parents, they led the youth group and they had the kids from the youth group over their home all the time. And a lot of times they would just be doing normal life with us as a family. And this friend, she told me how so much of what she is doing with her two little ones, now she's modeling after what she saw my parents do in their home because she didn't have that example. So if we just open up our homes and invite people in, we're practicing what we hope that they will be doing with their families.

And then if we're thinking about, okay, well we can't have everyone over our houses, that's true, but we can have different people over at different times if we're intentional. But we can also, there are times to about some more formal programming. That's not where we want the root to be. We want the root to be just in the daily life of the body of Christ and practicing hospitality and modeling what it looks like to disciple our children well.

But we can think about some more formal programming that we could do, whether it's offering a class at church or offerings, just a little tidbit at the end of a Sunday school class or a sermon thinking about parenting. And so a great ministry that I've mentioned before is Visionary Family Ministries, that's led by Dr. Rob and Amy Reno. They have a lot of great series that you can go through with different parents in your sphere of influence. Also, another great series is Getting to the Heart of Parenting by Paul David Tripp. That's another great series to take other people through.

Now, a lot of times the problems when we try to do more formal programming is that people don't actually buy in. When I was a child, unfortunately well, this part wasn't unfortunate. I've always been very observant. And the unfortunate part of that is as a child, it made me very nosy. So the story I'm going to tell you, I actually don't even know if my mom knows that I'm aware of this, but because I was so nosy and used to listen to my mom on the phone when the conversation she would have on the phone when I was growing up, one of the things I know is that she and my dad, at one point, I think I was probably around 10 or 11 years old, she and my dad wanted to start a Bible study at our church that was based on marriage.

And what they did is they identified several other couples in the church that they thought could really benefit from an intense look at biblically, what is marriage? How do we actually fulfill our biblical calling as a husband or a wife? And because I listened to her phone conversations, I know that each of those couples that my dad and my mom approached said no, that they said they didn't have the time or they said they didn't think that they needed it. And something that I observed is over the next four years, each of those four couples that my parents invited to be part of that marriage Bible study were divorced. And I remember as a 14 year old thinking, oh my goodness, what might have happened if they had actually invested the time coming to this study? And so that's the problem is when we think about programming, there are lots of great resources out there, but a lot of times people aren't going to invest that extra time.

And so that's why I'm saying if we can actually start really being the body of Christ and having people over to our homes, people might not sign up for a five week or 10 week parenting course that's offered at the church, but if we say, "hey, I'd love to have you, you and your family over for dinner, what's a good time in the next two weeks when you could come over for dinner?" People are much more likely to say yes to something like that. And if we can start then making that consistent and modeling for them what they should be doing in their homes, we're probably going to see a lot greater change because we cannot create in people a hunger for learning or a hunger for growing. But what we can do is we can model for them what that looks like. And then when they develop that on their own, then they're going to start to seek out what they should be doing.

Another thing to think through if you are actually in a leadership position at your church is thinking about what are some ways in which your church might need to actually pull back on kids programming to actually equip parents to be those primary disciplers of their children? Maybe should you start having children in the corporate worship service for longer or for the whole time maybe should you cut back on some of the programs that you offer and instead start educating and equipping parents on how they can disciple their children at home. And this is something that can be done from the pulpit, a sermon on parenting on discipling our children, and then actually giving out resources. Those resources that I mentioned before, visionary Family Ministries, the Paul David Trip series, Getting to the Heart of Parenting, we at Foundation Worldview, we offer bulk license family licenses for churches where you can buy bulk licenses of our family licenses for our curriculums at a reduced rate. So then you can redistribute those to the families in your church so that you can actually walk them through, okay, this week, like we're going to go through unit one, lesson one, which is talking about why should we bother reading the Bible and all the families that do it implement that together so that they actually have a tool that's walking them step by step through how to disciple their children.

Now, I know if you're a church leader, this is something that probably sounds a little bit intimidating, the thought of potentially pulling back on kids programming, because that's probably going to lead to some families at your church, leaving your church. And that is a scary thought. But two things to think through there is, first, if you're actually educating the parents on why this is happening, you can curb a lot of that disappointment or complaint or potential leaving if you're actually educating the parents.

And then second, really evaluating what is the mission of your church? Are you just trying to reach as many people as possible so you can get as many people in end door as possible? Or do you really want to very effectively impact the lives of different families with the truth of the gospel? And while the American church model is very much get as many people in the door as possible, we'll pat ourselves on the back for those numbers. When we look at Jesus' ministry, Jesus did just the opposite. He never sought out the crowds. In fact, many times he sought to thin out the crowds, but he sought to intentionally invest in those that he knew would be receptive and would be those who would then disciple and spread the gospel after he ascended. So that is just a word of encouragement and exhortation, hopefully, for those of you who are in church leadership.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. As always, if you found this content beneficial, we'd ask that you consider liking subscribing, writing a review, just so the algorithms start showing our content to more people. And as always, as we leave this time together, my prayer for you is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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