Written by Teresa Goodnight
What’s your discipleship plan for your tiny tots? Teens? It’s surprising just how many parents want a plan, but simply have been so busy they haven’t taken time to implement it. I get it. Life is busy. Basketball season leads into baseball season, which leads into summer baseball, then into football right before it kicks into basketball again. Girls go from dance to cheer to their own sporting events—sometimes all at once. With multiple children and multiple activities, I’m surprised parents can even remember where to be and when. But busy is a distraction used by our enemy. Don’t be fooled.
I have one four-year old. I’m not sure how it happened, but going into the fall, she was enrolled in two dance classes, gymnastics, swim lessons and t-ball, where I ended up being the coach for the Y. I just kept saying yes to opportunities before us. We were involved with two churches, attending services on the weekends and Monday nights as well. All of a sudden, I thought “Wait, Wha???” How did I let my little tiny preschool muffin become so busy we barely had a night at home without somewhere we needed to be.
SHAME ON ME. No. Really. I had good intentions, wanting her to get experiences in things while she was younger to figure out which ones she liked best. Hmmm. Where’s that proverbial road paved with good intentions supposed to lead? Yeah. I know.
We were barely energetic enough for our evening prayers. We neglected our night time Bible reading before she went to bed. All of our good “Choose Life” kinds of choices we established became secondary to trying to keep up with our overwhelming commitments. She was stressed out and FLAT OUT worn out. So were my husband and I. We were just one completely exhausted family.
It’s easy to see how ridiculous these decisions were when I write them down. I hate to even share them. They were even ridiculous in the middle of living them. Halfway through T-ball, I let her miss the remaining practices while I went to coach. It was just too much.
No wonder we’re turning out kids who head off to college and walk away from their relationship with God. What did we teach them to prioritize? Anything and everything over Christ.
It’s easy to get your family wrapped up in things that burn up in the end. There is a healthy way to be active in fun things, but also to carve out that very important time for the family to grow together in Christ. That time with Christ does not need to be the victim of a busy schedule. It is the most important thing Christians can do for our children—discipling them. It has to be THE priority. Everything else has to be somewhere down the list.
If I had asked my daughter what our priorities for her were as a family, I’m sorely afraid Jesus would have been left off the list. He was just shoved in between things that didn’t matter as much. She didn’t know the aching in my heart to get refocused from the mess I created. She just knew what she was experiencing and what she saw. She felt herself wanting to say no to a church service for some down time at home to play. Can you honestly blame her? SHE’S FOUR. (Insert face palm here.)
Imagine how much more chaos there would be with two or three or FOUR children? No wonder we’re turning out kids who head off to college and walk away from their relationship with God. What did we teach them to prioritize? Anything and everything over Christ.
If you don’t think they are being shaped by these decisions we make in our life, think again. No. Really. Stop and think again. Now.
This is serious.
We have to course correct. It’s not a life or death situation. Or is it? It’s actually even more than that. It’s an eternal destiny situation. It’s a path leading them to NOT “Choose Life.” In fact, it is teaching them to value anything and everything over that beautifully abundant life that Christ came to offer us.
They will become and do what we teach them to become and do. Our primary responsibility as Christian parents, aside from food/shelter, which I would argue is still secondary, is to teach them how to walk with our God. It is to teach them who He is; it’s to show them how to live a life WITH Him.
How in the world can anything else be more important? How as children of the King could we not prioritize their inheritance from their Heavenly Father?
There are some of you who are getting it right. I commend you. However, I know statistically from the seven out of ten walking away from Christ at college that we are NOT all getting it right. In fact, we’re getting it very, VERY wrong. The numbers don’t lie. My own ridiculous choices cannot be excused. (Just one of us should have heard my husband protesting in the background). I played right into it even as I am painfully aware of the warning signs.
The liberally focused temperature of our nation doesn’t lie. Many current Millennials actually believe that what they feel about love, fairness, and the way the world should operate is of greater importance than what God actually says in His word. Many aren’t even referencing the Bible in their belief systems. Where do you think they learned that behavior?
If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’re going to get the same results. Thinking that outcome will change if we don’t change is actually Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. If you don’t make a change today—we will watch 70% of our children walk away from our King of Kings and Lord of Lords into a life without God. That’s not ok for me. I doubt you are ok with it either. Do YOUR choices for YOUR student reflect that it’s not OK? Are you stumbling busily down that same pathway paved with good intentions?
It’s 2020. Let’s make this the year we “Choose Life” for our children. Jesus is the way, the truth and He is THE LIFE. Reprioritize whatever needs kicked to the curb and kick it. Ask yourself “Is this choice making a “Choose Life” choice for my child?” If not? Why in the world are you choosing it?
What does “Choose Life” look like for your family? Here are a few guidelines if you need a pattern to follow.
Pray together as a family. Meal-time prayer is fine, but it shouldn’t be the only time. Teach your children to present their requests to God. Help them to understand what that looks like. My four-year old has led our family in prayer many times since she was three. She asks for our prayer requests and if there’s anything troubling us. My heart leaps to hear her do it. I have to believe God’s heart experiences greater joy than mine at her little prayers.
Study the Bible together as a family (and engage your village!). It’s God’s word. Write it on their hearts. It holds the keys to life. Teach it to your kiddos. My daughter attends a Bible-teaching Christian school, which is a integral part of our discipleship plan for her. The school had her memorize a long chapter for her Christmas show. We worked on it several nights. Then, while in church, our minister was reading it in a different translation than she learned. She began to challenge his words. She knew God’s word. She was able to use it as plumb line to assess whether her minister was in alignment with God’s word. Imagine how she will be able to put everything through the filter of God’s word if we keep writing it on her heart and sealing it in her mind when she’s heading to college? Study His word together. That brings me to the next one!
Ask yourself “Is this choice making a “Choose Life” choice for my child?” If not? Why in the world are you choosing it?
Bring in the village you need to help you wherever you can. There are people who will invest in your kiddos at church. Make sure you check out the programs. Make sure they are actually teaching your kids with a discipleship purpose. Church is not just a social connection (although Christian social connection is critical OF COURSE!). It needs to be a “Choose Life” connection, connecting them to Christ. For us, a Christian school is part of our village. It’s not everyone’s. My husband and I wanted her to not learn to separate God from everything else in her world. We wanted God wrapped up all in it everywhere. I honestly feel we need the help. Again, not everyone does. If you need them, we are blessed in Tulsa to have a wide variety of prices and high quality educational programs.
Live out your faith in service as a family. Where that is for your family can only be determined by you. How has God gifted you and your family? Volunteer and live it out. Millennials today complain of words with no actions. Hypocrisy speaks louder than faith without works. Paul says faith without works is actually dead. There are so many ways to live out your faith just inside your local church. But, also live it out with your daily choices so that your children can see how it looks in everyday life. For example, when a friend asks you to pray for them, stop and do that with your children if they are around. Let them see God is just a part of it all. He’s always just in your day.
These are just a few ways but they affect our core. There are so many more options out there if you just look for them. Make your plan. Write it down. Put the plan into your schedule. Make the plan a top priority. Then, make it happen.
Everything else on the schedule that is optional should clear the way to make time for you to “Choose Life” with and for your family. There is no greater legacy. There is no greater gift you can leave them. This is actually THE ONE that matters.