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who should disciple our children?

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Amidst all the busyness of life, taking care of two toddlers and working on my thesis, I want to jot this down.

I started the journey to Masters of Divinity when I was in Uganda (mid 2014). Now I am almost done. I need to write a thesis and then that’s end of it.

To my surprise, I felt God wants me to write on discipleship and parenting. Given I am a father of two, this topic weights heavily on my heart. Wai Jia and I have many late night discussions over this topic.

The problem I see is that we often outsource discipling to our church through children’s program. Whether it is Sunday School or church camp, we naturally assume this is where kids best to learn about Jesus.

There are a few reasons to this. Here are some of my guess:

  1. We are too busy to disciple our children – between working, taking care of the house, and our own hobbies, we have no time to disciple our children. We live in a fast-paced culture. Why do I need to do it when my church has fun programs to teach them?
  2. We do not think it is our duty to do so – just as we ourselves go to church for feeding, it just makes sense for our children to get feeding from the church. This is borderline consumerism. Whether it is conscious or not, since we ‘pay’ the church (through tithes), we expect them to do their job.
  3. Our children won’t listen to us – we think our children need fancy programs to keep them entertain and to learn about God. I would say this is a half-truth. Yes, I can’t compete with songs and cute cartoons or puppets, but our children listen to us a lot more than we think.

Here is the problem I see if our children only get discipleship from the church. Barna Group did a survey that shows 99% of Evangelical pastors and spiritual leaders will agree that parents are the most important factor to shape a child’s spiritual formation. Yet, most churches do not invest in teaching/training parents to disciple their children. So here’s the problem. If a child learns best from his/her parents about Jesus, doesn’t it make sense for us (and the church) to focus our efforts and resources on helping parents to disciple their kids?

In another study, most parents will choose a church based on whether they have a good children’s program. So this means that parents will choose a church program to disciple their children instead of doing it themselves.

There is a phenomenon going on in all churches, young adults, even though those who grew up in church and attend youth programs religiously, leave the church. This is known as the missing gap (source: You Lost Me). If children’s programs are working, we shouldn’t have this problem (at least this is my guess).

With all this in mind, here is my thesis title (still in rough form):

Discipleship from within: A look at Biblical Parenthood as a role model for the church to disciple the next generation.

I am going to explore what if we switch the roles between parents and church around? What if parents are the ones who are discipling the kids as the prime focus. I ain’t to say ditch the church programs but to use it as a supplement. Would that be the way to reduce the missing gap? Would that also help build a better family because family members are actually spending time with one another and communicate about God and faith?

Even though I am only a father for 4 years (that’s the age of my oldest daughter), I am fully convinced that children learn about faith, Jesus, God, and what does it mean to follow Him, at home and not at church. Whatever happens at home, good and bad, my children will see it and they will see whether we are really living up the faith or just Pharisees (pay lip service).

This is what I envision. Of course, this is still rough form and as I work on my thesis things may will change.

What if the leaders of the church intentionally spend time discipling their own children? This may mean they commit less time at church per say. But they set as a role model and example for the other church members. This also help to reduce the ‘prodigal’ son syndrome which happens to ministers’ and leaders’ children who rebel from the faith.

What if each parent takes full responsibility to disciple their own children? You, parent, may think, I am not equip to do so. It is a trainable skill, just like anything else in life. The best part is this help build the relationship between parents and child. This is already an issue in the church where many family have broken and torn relationships.

As this is not just an academic activity, this is something Wai Jia and I have committed to do with our children. This is one of the reasons why we decide to homeschool them. I don’t think this is the only path (homeschooling). Yet, I can see that because of this path, I grew a lot closer to my children. My 4 year old, may be young, but she already knows what is good and evil. I don’t believe that children are too young to learn anything spiritual. We just need to get down to their level and walk along side with them. This is what discipleship truly is….hmm isn’t that what Jesus did with His own disciples? 🙂

With this, I am excited. I am excited because I always thought I would write about missions for my thesis. I really feel like God guides me to do this.

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