Recently I have been engaged by a number of young parents with questions about when to begin making disciples of their young children. How early is too early? When is too late?
There are a number of reasons that parents wait to begin making disciples. But delaying can cause parents to miss valuable opportunities that can only be seized when children are young. Here are some reasons that parents wait:
- Their infant can’t understand God’s word.
- Their child is not interested in the Bible.
- They think discipleship is for older children.
- They believe they are wasting their time teaching young children.
Some of these reasons are misconceptions believers have about discipleship. Some thoughts flow from the evolutionary-centered world we live in. Other reasons are simply lies from the devil! You should start early in making disciples of your children. How early? It is wise to create a discipleship environment prior to the time your children are born, and then to begin the discipleship process as soon as they are born. The Bible reminds us of this fact, “and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15. Here are ten reasons why you should start early:
10. You will develop in your children an appetite for Scripture. In the same way that feeding your infants mashed potatoes will give them an appetite and preference for mashed potatoes, reading Scripture to them creates an appetite and preference for God’s word. Children learn by exposure. They learn to speak by hearing you speak. They will learn to love God’s word by hearing it spoken by you. Read the Bible to them from birth; you are exposing them to God Himself! The Bible says in John 1; “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” Invite God into your infant’s life by reading His word aloud. If you wait until your children are older, you will meet some resistance.
9. Appetites developed early in life stay with you for life. During my childhood I developed an appetite for secular music with lyrics that are clearly opposed to the teachings of Jesus; those lyrics certainly do not glorify Christ. Those songs were a negative influence on my behavior. Today I still have an appetite for those songs and the negative messages are permanently etched on my mind. You too may have developed an appetite for entertainment that does not glorify Christ. Cultivate an appetite for entertainment that is Christ honoring! You can make better choices for your children and give them lifelong God-glorifying appetites. Take full advantage of that opportunity.
8. Your appetite for God’s word will grow. That will change your family! As you begin to feed on the Bread of Life frequently, you will develop an appetite for God’s word. As you begin to share Scripture with your children, they will soon enjoy the traditions of godly living you establish by focusing on Christ and His Word.
7. Your child will develop a preference for the sound of your voice.There are many voices that will compete for your child’s attention. Will you train your children to love the messages on ungodly television programs and videos? Will you train your children to love the voices and teachings of unbelievers? Will you train them to love the lyrics in secular music? You are called by God to make disciples of your children. As you obey that calling early, your child will tune in to your voice and the voice of the Master. Doing that early will serve you well later.
6. Your child will develop a heart for serving others. As you do what Jesus did in taking your disciples into the world to minister to others, your child will see in action the way Jesus impacted the world. As you pray for a sick friend, your child will learn to pray for others. As you share your testimony, your child will learn to be a witness.
5. Your relationship with your child will deepen early; that will pay lifelong dividends. Jesus was constantly with His disciples. He asked questions to know them better. He focused on each one. He taught them all day long. He showed them how to minister. He protected them. He laid down His life for them. In summary, He loved them. The result was deep relationships with His disciples, and they changed the world for Him. Will you love your child like Jesus loved His disciples? Like Jesus, develop deep relationships with your children early by doing what Jesus did.
4. You will become better equipped now in making disciples. As you begin the task of making disciples, you will begin to grow. You will become a better teacher. You will seek out resources to help you improve. You will begin to impact your world around you. Then as your children reach their teen years, you will have grown into an excellent disciple-maker.
3. You will make better lifestyle choices earlier. When you respond to the Lord’s command to make disciples, you will begin to make better choices about the way you spend your time and other resources. Choices about your jobs, your debt, your possessions and your entertainment will be centered around your decision to make disciples. Your desire to glorify Christ will impact the way you live.
2. You will reduce or eliminate teen rebellion. Extra effort invested in young children will pay huge dividends as they become teens. In spite of the world’s message that teen rebellion is normal, many Christian families do not experience this modern-day phenomena. Teen rebellion takes an enormous toll on families. Instead of losing years or even decades to unproductive, harmful behavior your child will be more likely serve the Lord early in life.
1. Making disciples early will align your family with God’s priorities earlier. Jesus showed us how to make disciples and then commanded us to do what He did. The earlier we begin to take up the task of obeying Christ, the sooner we can experience the abundant life the Jesus promised; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” John 10:10.
Although our family was serving the Lord when our children were born, we did not begin to intentionally disciple them until our daughter was nine and our son was five. We missed some opportunities. The Lord has been gracious to us in “restoring what the locust have devoured,” and for that I am very thankful. But if I could do it over again, I would start when they were infants.
Start early! You won’t regret it.
Article from Disciple Like Jesus