Ask Rooted: What Do You Wish You Could Share With Parents About Discipling Students At Home?

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Mike McGarry, Pastor of Youth & Families at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Norfolk, MA:

I wish you knew how much your teenagers are watching you, even though theyll never admit it. They know whether or not you love the gospel of grace or if you talk about grace without ever giving it. They know whether or not your priority for them is a college scholarship or a deep and abiding love for Christ. They know if youre still in love with your spouse or if you merely tolerate each other. The best thing you can do for your kids is to draw near to Jesus and to walk in his love—because your kids will likely become a less-filtered version of who you are behind closed doors. Please dont hear this as judgment or a call to “do better!” but as a simple reminder that most of the time, its not the big things, but the little things you do without thinking about it that make the biggest spiritual impact.

Ben Birdsong, Minister of Students at Meadow Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL:

We live in a world of experts. Parents take their kids to the tutor for math, the musician for lessons, and the coach for agility skills. So the temptation is to assume that like these other experts, parents are to drop their students off at the church for the youth pastor to disciple them.

Biblically and practically, discipleship is to happen in the home. The Bible calls parents to model and teach the truths of the faith to their kids. Practically, parents have a front row seat to their kids’ personal and spiritual development. They are the ones modeling grace when a student fails. They are the ones present to help a teenagerinterpret the difficulties of living in a broken world. Parents have the time and access that even the most committed youth worker doesnt.

Discipleship at home means simply entering into your teenager’s spiritual journey with God. Being there to ask questions. Taking time to listen, care, and speak truth. As you grow as a parent and your child grows into his or her own faith, you are taking the time to be a conversation partner—teaching truth and pointing your student to the hope of the gospel. Parents, you are the driver of that conversation. We as youth workers are here to be a resource for you and a cheerleader as you and your teenager grow in grace together.

Liz Edrington, Fellowship Groups Director and Young Adults Coordinator at North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN:

“Discipleship” can be an intimidating word. I often find that people feel unsure of whether or not theyre “doing discipling” right—or they say that they dont know how. Discipleship is nothing more or less than following Jesus alongside someone else. When we open up about our struggles to be in His Word, to know how (or what) to pray, and to follow Him, we invite teenagers to be honest with their questions and struggles. And when we share about the ways we experience Jesus throughout our week, seeing His beauty, provision, or reminders that He is with us, we invite the same. Imagine how much time Jesusdisciples spent with him walking from place to place; did any less “discipleship” happen there than when he was explicitly teaching them from the Word?

Our kids are formed as much, if not more, by the ways they see us living out our faith, from reaching out to friends for prayer when were worried to confessing when weve hurt our spouses and repenting before our kids. I am reminded of a time my mom wrote a tithe check when I knew we were struggling financially. I was so angry at her, as a 10-year-old who thought she should be using our money more wisely. Yet I still remember her gracious response to me, telling me, “All money is His money, and this isnt something up for grabs.” Living life honesty before the throne and before our kids, staking our lives on His work and not our own, is a significant part of discipleship.

Dave Wright, Coordinator for Student Ministries in the Diocese of South Carolina (Anglican):

I wish someone had taught me about discipleship at home when my kids were growing up. It was a sort of vague expectation without any instruction in my church. Like many in my generation, I relied on the church to disciple my kids, and we supplemented that with prayer and random conversations about faith at home.

The truth is, we can disciple our kids at any age by simply sitting down and reading the Bible with them. Obviously this is relatively easy when kids are young because reading with a child is very natural. Yet the same approach can work with teenagers. We can simply read a passage together, then discuss what it means and how that applies to our lives. Then pray together asking God to help us put his truth into practice. Starting this with teenagers can be awkward at first, but the discomfort is far outweighed by the end result.

Seth Stewart, Student Pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, OK:

Whenever I onboard new volunteers who happen to also be parents, I always ask them, “What is the difference between parenting and pastoring?” I ask that because Im concerned the parenting choices of my volunteers (dating age, movie selection, cell phone usage) may be imposed on the children of other parents. I want my volunteers to wrestle with the idea that pastoring students does not always mean parenting them.

While not all pastoring is parenting, all parenting is pastoring. Each family will have their own culture and rules that determine everything from bedtimes to college choices. But as parents saved by Christ, our first job is the same as a pastors—to continually place before our kids the greatness of God, the gravity of sin, and the grandeur of the grace found in Jesus Christ. The advantage parents have over pastors is that, as parents, we can do this daily (not just on Sundays). We have the opportunity to continually sow the seeds of the gospel, while clinging to the promise of 1 Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

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