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Topic: Spiritual Formation

Leading Your Family in the Way They Should Go

December 16, 2013

by Joshua Crutchfield

Have you ever taken a trip to a place you were once very familiar with, only to discover that the place has completely changed? Over time, land once filled with trees, streams, and wildlife is now filled with shops, parking lots, and people buying things. Each time I go home to visit family, I feel like I need to bring my passport for how foreign it feels. The only trees there now are evergreens for sale in front of the grocery stores. For everyone who has experienced something similar, the typical response is one of reminiscence and shock over how different everything is. Of course, this is what comes with time—change.

Similarly, some parents remember vividly the day their child entered this world, but now barely recognize the resident living in their home. Once the house was filled with laughter over the banker cheating in monopoly, now it is filled with arguments over what time curfew should be, what kind of friends should be around, and so much more. At some point, parents find themselves questioning where they went wrong with raising their child; wondering how they can bring their little boy or girl back; and wishing they could bring joy and laughter back into their home. Like the fruitful fields turned to parking lots, these parents notice how much their children have changed. How did their home get to this point and how did their children end up taking this path?

The Way They Should Go

You may be familiar with the proverb “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 HCSB). The verse appears to be simple and straightforward: teach your children to walk with God so that they will walk with Him when they are older and will not walk away from Him. We tend to focus on the second part–the not departing–assuming that we’re adequately teaching them “the way they should go.” The principle in the verse is discipleship: the way parents lead their children will not be departed from easily.

Parents are making disciples of their kids every day, it’s just a matter of what kind of disciples they are making.

Consider the values, traits, and skills that you and others invest in your kids and how much time is spent instilling those qualities: in one year, the average youth will spend over 1,000 hours in school, over 1,400 hours watching television, over 600 hours playing video games, and over 300 hours in sports related activities. In the same year, they’ll spend under 40 hours in church, under six hours in prayer, and under four hours reading God’s Word. For parents wondering what happened to their children, they must consider the way they’re leading them–after Christ or after the world–because that’s the way they are going.

Three Ways to Disciple Daily

For many parents, the stress and heartache of trying to change the course their kids are taking can feel overwhelming and even insurmountable, but this feeling should not prevent us as parents from taking the steps necessary to leading our families to Christ. The key isn’t striving to be friends with our kids, but faithfully being their parents—godly parents. This means we must be disciples of Christ ourselves before we can lead our kids to be His disciples. The steps below aren’t new ways to be disciples, just reminders of the old ways. But too often they’re disregarded. We have to make a daily, concerted effort to follow Christ. It’s not enough to tell our kids what to do, they are watching to see if we live it out.

1. Read your Bible together

This is an obvious step to being a disciple, yet this step is one of the most omitted disciplines within Christian families today. The major reason families do not read their Bibles together is the intense time constraints they have for their daily routines. While this is not a legitimate excuse not to read God’s Word, it is one that plagues our homes. One way to remedy this situation is to find a time that all of your family sits down together. Read the Bible together during breakfast or dinner. Instead of watching that sitcom you’re recording on the DVR, spend the thirty minutes in the Scriptures as a family. If there is no time when all of you are together, you need to readjust your priorities and your schedules. Nothing is more important than spending time daily with your family.

2. Pray together

You’d think this would go without saying, but even as individuals, we spend very little time praying. With our fast-paced lives, we set aside little time for our own spiritual development, let alone the spiritual development of those in our care. We must be intentional in our growth and the growth of our children. Take time before school to pray. If you drop your kids off, pray for them and with them on the way to school. Pray with them before they go to bed. Make prayer a part of their daily lives by setting the priority to pray with them just as you set the priority for all their other activities.

3. Memorize Scripture together

If we as parents are going to invest in the spiritual development of our children, Scripture must be the foundation. Select a verse at the start of your week and encourage your family to hide that verse in their hearts. Practice reciting the verse while you are with your kids in the car going to school or whatever practices you may be going to. Go over previous verses memorized and watch the effect it has on your home.

Each discipline seems elementary, and they are. Without these foundational practices, however, you can’t expect yourself or your family to follow Christ. We must make an intentional effort to lead our children, each and every day, to follow Christ. Becoming diligent practitioners of the elementary disciplines will help us to become deeper, more passionate followers of Christ. You are leading your family, be sure you are leading them in the way they should go.

Joshua Crutchfield has been married for close to seven years. He has two children, with one on the way. He pastors Trenton First Baptist Church and is a PhD student at Dallas Theological Seminary.  You can follow him on twitter @j4crutch.

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