Have you ever tried to begin regular family devotions only to see them go by the wayside within a week?
We know all too well what happens. We have great intentions. We get our Bibles, kid’s devotionals, set a time, and by day three we can’t even get everybody together, let alone get them to pay attention.
As a mom, that’s when the guilt sets in. You may even feel ashamed, thinking you don’t know enough to disciple your kids or teach them about Jesus. You hear other people’s kids reciting verses and telling Bible stories you know your kids have no clue about. It feels great. Not.
But let me assure you, you’re not alone. In our survey of over 700 parents, we found discipleship, feeling inadequate as a mom, and not having enough time as three of the top five parenting struggles today.
So what’s the answer? How can we begin teaching our kids to love God and love others without feeling guilty or otherwise bribing our children (and maybe our husband too) with ice cream?
First, embrace the joy of being messy and inconsistent. If you don’t give yourself grace in the process, your family discipleship times will likely cease.
One of the greatest insights I got on this came from our interview with Matt and Lauren Chandler on our In This Together podcast. When we asked them what family discipleship looked like in their home, their answer was, “messy and inconsistent.” I audibly sighed in relief. Can I safely assume you’re sighing in relief too? Fist bumps all around.
Secondly, embrace the rhythm of discipleship in your home. Instead of a formal, sit-down family devotion time, the Chandler’s have ongoing conversations with their kids about how their faith intersects with their everyday lives.
Our kids are younger, but we find the same thing works much easier and more naturally in our home. We now keep our eyes out for those golden moments—when our kids are dealing with something in real life that intersects with God’s greater story.
Our son, Landon, recently experienced an unfortunate incident at school that left him very afraid of going back. As a parent, it was heartbreaking. But it provided the soil for the best conversations about God as our Fierce Protector, and how He really hears us when we pray.
Before this, Jesus was an abstract concept to him. Now, He’s becoming more real. He’s the Guy in his corner. Always. Even when mom and dad can’t be there. A hard but golden moment where our son experienced God as the fearless One, not where he just learned about Him.
We look at it as handing our kids a different spiritual tool to add to their tool belt as they face new circumstances, all the while learning about who God is and how He feels about them.
We all learn best when something affects us personally. These are the lessons that stick.
Third, use the four key times of the day you’re already given. My husband, Josh, and I created an online community and discipleship tool for parents called 22:6 Parenting. We wanted to be intentional about raising our kids to know and love God, but honestly, we were busy, tired, and lacked creativity. So we created what we needed—something that fit our kid’s stages and family dynamic.
Based on Proverbs 22:6, we created monthly mile markers, or biblical themes, our kids needed—Finding Courage, Building Confidence, Feeling Accepted, Controlling Anger, etc.
To disciple our kids without adding anything to our already busy days, we built the content around the four key times of the day Moses describes in Deuteronomy 6.
With two versions, including one for preschoolers, the material is created in such a way that you can apply what you need to fit your family. Like a recipe, just put it in a bowl and stir. Make it to the taste of your family. And take the pressure off yourself.
If it sounds up your alley, we’d love to have you join the other grace-filled and imperfect parents like us in the community! You can click here to learn more and even receive a FREE PDF called 7 Ways to Disciple Your Kids.
Fourth, focus on your own spiritual growth. The single biggest change-maker in my life has been making myself wake up before the rest of the house. Time in the quiet. Alone with the Lord—my Bible, a journal, and worship music.
I’ve come alive again. Growing in my desire to get the Word into me. To pray with authority. I’m becoming a softer, more compassionate person. Even finding passion and delight I thought I had altogether lost in the early years of motherhood.
If I look back to who I was in the “survival years” of babies, I’m most proud of this one decision. God has done all the work, but I kept showing up, allowing Him to. And now my kids have a very different mom.
When we take personal responsibility for our own faith, it naturally overflows into every part of our lives. Our kids learn a lot more about walking with God by watching us messily walk it out each day than they do from learning the “right lessons.”
Fifth, create healthy family rhythms. In the 22:6 community, we’ve discovered that most 21st century families function in one mode—GO. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the art of slowing down, finding rest, and being quiet.
Growing up, I saw my mom most mornings sitting in her special chair in the sunroom reading her Bible. You’ll still find her in that chair today. Beside it is a framed quote, “Make time for the quiet moments, because God whispers and the world is loud.”
As moms, there is very little quiet in our lives. But the noise isn’t just coming from our kids. Voices scream at us from our screens, social media, the news, podcasts, email, texts and Netflix. Unless we turn off the noise, we won’t hear Him. Our kids won’t either.
Set limits on your phone and your kids’ devices. We have a 24-hour screen fast from Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown. We also have a no screen rule during dinnertime and bedtime. These times of the day are ripe for discipleship conversations that are often missed when everyone is distracted.
Finally, His love, not rules, is what makes family discipleship work over the long haul. Remember, we will be messy and inconsistent. But discipleship should never feel like shame. That’s fear-based living—and perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18, CSB).
To make family discipleship stick, our kids need to see how God’s love is changing us.
As that happens, teach them about His character in the mundane. Love them through the golden moments. And remember, especially remember, to model grace in the messiness and inconsistency of it all.
Christi Straub, M.A., M.B.A. is a native Canadian, wife to an American, and momma to two feisty preschoolers. She and her husband Josh are the cofounders of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower marriages and families. Passionate about families in her generation, Christi writes and speaks on helping moms discover their identity and have marriages they’d wish on their children. Her honesty, wittiness, and transparency are contagious which you can experience by listening to The Dr. Josh + Christi Podcast. When she and Josh aren’t working together, they’re playing trains or having tea parties. (And trying really hard to put the phones away.)