At a recent session meeting I was talking with the elders about discipleship. The issue of discipling our children being a priority came up, and I shared my concern that many fathers were not taking up that Biblical responsibility. One of our elders wisely pointed out that we are all discipling our children. The question is, what are we discipling them to become? What a great insight.
The reality is that we are all discipling our children to become something. Generally children want to please their parents, so they will gravitate to the things that they perceive are important to their parents, particularly their fathers. I found this to be true in my home when my children began to perceive that Ohio State football was a priority for me, and they became huge fans. The irony is that they still do not know all the rules of football. They don’t know more than a player or two by name. They don’t know what other teams are in the Big Ten Conference. All they know is, dad loves Ohio State, hates Michigan, and so do we!
As funny as that sounds, it bothered me. Is that what they see in me? Is that what they perceive to be most important to me? Recently I actually asked my children what they thought was most important to me. I was pleased with their responses. It confirmed for me that while I am far from perfect, I am on the right track as a father. They said obedience to God was my number one priority. Thank you Lord! My morning devotions and family devotions were also high on the list. No one mentioned the Buckeyes.
I tell you this because I am absolutely convinced that it is critical to be intentional in discipling our children, to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) The beginning of this verse challenges fathers to do this. Not the church, not mothers, no one else…fathers. It is our job, men. If it is important to us to raise our children to one day confess Jesus as Lord, and to live their lives according to God’s wisdom, we must be intentional.
Deuteronomy 6:6-8 gives one of the earliest biblical challenges to men to teach their children God’s ways. “These commandments that I give you today shall 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” These commandments are first to be on our hearts, and we are also to impress them upon our children all the time.
There are many ways to do these things, and you will have to determine which ways will work best for you and your family. One way that I am convinced should be non-negotiable piece is daily family devotions. It may sound intimidating and time consuming, but it is critical. I know there are a lot of men who will say they don’t know enough about the Bible to lead their family in devotions. Many will say their wife is more qualified, knows the Bible better, and has better answers. That may be true. But God has called you, men, to lead your families. I understand your concern. I even understand your fear. I may have more Biblical knowledge than Jill, but she relates that information to the children far better than I do. So how will that work? I can tell you, it takes practice, patience, and conversations between husband and wife. But it is worth it!!
If it truly is important, you must make time. I know there are so many things vying for your time. I know there are many activities, jobs, school work, etc. But what is most important? In the end, what is most important? If there is an activity that is crowding your time, ask yourself if that activity is more important than discipling your children to become the Godly man or woman they were created to be. If that activity can do a better job of that, so be it. But I honestly do not know of any activity that can do that better than a willing father.
The world will say that you cannot sacrifice your child’s experiences. They must participate in many activities to keep them busy and make them well rounded. But the Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12). “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6). Look at any statistics you want and you will see that bringing your children to worship on Sunday and raising them in a “good” home will not get the results you hope they will. We must disciple them to be what we want them to be.
To help men lead their families in daily Bible reading and prayer, I am developing monthly family devotional guides. The first of these guides will be available in the next week here on our website, free to download. I will continue to add to them over time, and encourage any man who wants to talk about practical ideas, to email or call me. I want to help men lead their families as God intended.