Parenting can quickly become about survival. Let’s be real. For most of us, that’s how it starts. You are a sleep deprived, diaper changing, baby burping machine! The survival mentality only intensifies when you later add in high school baseball games and cheer practice. No matter the life phase of your family, there is a gravity to just trying to get by. It pulls us in and what was once necessary becomes a habit. If we aren’t careful (or should I say, intentional), this is where we can live. Your family was made for more than mere survival and raising up young disciples of Jesus requires intentional preparation.
I read a statistic the other day that was jarring. 95% of the time that you will have with your kids will occur in the first 18 years of their lives. The last 5% is spread out over the rest of your life. Now is the time for us to make an impact! Now is the time for us to deeply pursue our kids and to shepherd their hearts closer to their Creator. I’m not saying anything that you don’t know. This isn’t new information. My hope is that it is a helpful reminder that intentionality trumps survival any day of the week. Which leads us to the question that matters most: How can I intentionally lead my family?
Before getting to the answer, we need to address the obstacle. Survival is all about reacting to situations/environments, but intentionality is centered upon preparation. Here’s what I mean. If your child is ready for a salvation conversation today, are you equipped to have that conversation? What about baptism? How about addressing sin or forgiveness or hell? Most of us, as we attempt to keep our head above water, forget to prepare for these conversations. Even if we know the answers to these questions, we are likely ill-equipped to share answers in age-appropriate ways. This leads us (when asked) to avoid the conversation, to stumble through it, or to delegate them to church staff. But you are the primary disciple-maker of your kids. No person alive is meant to have more influence within your family than you!
Are you ready for the mind blowing, over the top, crazy solution to solving the intentionality gap?
Practice. Wild right?
No one waits until the football game starts to learn the playbook. That would be a surefire strategy to lose. And yet, with parenting, we try to learn the plays while running down field. We need to practice the plays in advance. We need to prepare for the questions, that when they come (and they will) we are ready.
Let’s get practical.
Ages 0 – 2:
If you have a child under 3 years old, you have an incredible opportunity. You can practice sharing the Gospel to your kids daily without fear of messing up their theology! They aren’t going to remember! This is a time that God gave you to prepare in a low-risk environment. I encourage any parents in this stage to share the Good News with their child every night at bedtime through a random toy in his/her room. Do it through something in their room because discipling your kids is about meeting them where they are. The reason you do it through a different object each night is to better equip you! If you are able to effectively share the Gospel with a didgeridoo (true story), a lion toy, and a unicorn lamp, you’re ready for anything! You are going to stumble at first, but you’ll be a pro in no time.
Ages 3 – 10:
If your child is 3-10 years old, they are able (and desiring) to have all the conversations! The challenge is that Christian language is designed for adults, but the measure of your understanding is your ability to explain these things to children. Complete this challenge and evaluate how you did. Define the following words in a way that a 5-year-old can understand:
It is harder than it looks! You likely have an internal, working definition for each of these words, but explaining them to a child is still a great challenge. Discipling your kids is less about having a seminary degree and more about sharing truth in a way that the listener can understand. Please note, that you are still regularly sharing the Gospel with you child through this phase.
Ages 11 – FOREVER
It is at this age that you can start having more mature conversations, but it is also where they are going to ask some difficult questions. At this age you are going to have conversations about salvation, end times (I kid you not. This was a favorite topic among the teenagers I led as a Student Pastor), baptism, and so much more. At this point, there are two major things that I encourage parents to do. The first is to practice with the person that is discipling them. If you don’t know how to lead a salvation conversation, that is why you are being discipled! Have a salvation conversation with the person discipling you. This kind of role playing will better equip you as you intentionally prepare! At this point, I have been “led to Christ” by dozens of people that I have had the chance of shepherding. After this mock conversation, debrief it with them and ask what you could have done better or different. This is a chance to learn and grow!
The second thing you should do is practice these 8 words: “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.” You are not expected to have all the answers! Be humble enough to acknowledge
this and wise enough to not leave it there. Walk beside your child as you find the answers together and just like that, you are teaching them to uncover truth for themselves!
One blog post is not going to be enough to equip anyone for the great challenges of intentional parenting. This is why it is so essential that parents are actively being discipled. Each of these life stages are opportunities to practice alongside mature believers in preparation for sharing truth with those who need it most. Survival had its time, but now is the time to be intentional.
Director of Next Gen Ministries