Sunday, July 3, 2011

Family Discipleship

One of the things you may (or may not) know about me is that I am a former Children's Ministry Director. One of the things I was (and still am) passionate about is Family Discipleship. We feel strongly that the parents' primary responsibility is to come alongside their children and disciple them. We are to model for them what it is to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ and guide them as they embark on their spiritual journeys. Unfortunately, there is a major disconnect for many families in this area.

From my personal experience, I see how my parents tended to my emotional, social, physical and academic needs, but they "outsourced" my spiritual development to the Christian school and the church. They didn't know how to do it any differently. Maybe they felt inadequate. They dropped me off to a children's pastor or a youth pastor and saw those people as the "experts" and spiritual things were not discussed in my house without an air of uncomfortableness. I've found that this is not all that uncommon still in the church today. The church and the Christian schools should be partnering with parents to raise their kids: not doing it for them. Parents need equipping, not replacing. Parents have to stop being so passive and be intentional.

Michael's family was the same way. When we got married and started our family, we said that was one thing we wanted to change for our family. We wanted to start a new legacy. It's not always easy. Some nights, I just feel like screaming at the child who has disobeyed for the 935th time that day and my flesh wants to yell, spank his butt and send him off crying to his room. It takes time to sit and explain to the child why it is important to obey. It takes time to pull out that Bible and give them a word from THE Word. It takes a lot of self-control (especially on my part) to pray with the child to ask for forgiveness and for help in making better choices. However, we are seeing the fruit of our efforts.

This is our primary reason for homeschooling our children. Yes, academics are important to us and fortunately, it doesn't have to be one or the other. We can have a strong emphasis on academics and a strong emphasis on their spiritual development at the same time. We are in the trenches with them all day. We are there when the frustration over a math problem turns into a discussion of James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. ) or 2 Corinthians 4:8 (We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.) or Philippians 4:13 (I can do everything through him who gives me strength.) It's not always pretty, but we are doing much more than filling their minds with academic knowledge. We are pointing them to the Father. We are showing them how to go to Him, "our very present help in time of need". They have seen us push aside the textbooks to spend time praying for a friend who was ill or to go serve someone who needed us that day. We're teaching them about life as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes that means spending an afternoon loving on His people, sometimes it's cleaning the house (even when we don't want to) before daddy comes home.

There are many reasons we choose to educate our children at home, but if I had to choose my top reason, this would be it. We are able to be intentional with our children each and every day. I get to spend time investing in their lives. Honestly, when Robert was in traditional school, I found myself frustrated at how little I saw him during the week. Mornings were filled with getting dressed in uniform, packing lunches, eating breakfast, getting out the door by 7:15 and carpooling across town. The afternoons were spent doing homework, running to sports practices, music practices, eating dinner and getting ready for bed. I was exhausted and had to do it all again the next day. I felt like I didn't know what was going on in his life. He came home (from his Christian school) asking about things I didn't think I'd have to address in kindergarten. Things are simpler now. My days are busy keeping our home running while educating the kids and wrangling a toddler, but I think about how these times will pass all too quickly. We won't ever get these days back and we're committed to making each and every day count.

I will say, my house was cleaner when they went to school. :-) Now the tables are covered in science projects, art projects and textbooks, but I wouldn't have it any other way! I just will NOT wear a denim jumper though, so don't ask.

*Disclaimer: NO, I don't think that you can only disciple your children if you homeschool. I know many great families who are intentional with their children and they send them to public and private schools. God has led *our* family to educate at home, but it certainly is not the only way to be intentional and to disciple your kiddos! :-)

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