6 Ideas to Help You Train Your Children to Worship Corporately

Over the course of the next few months, most families will return to church. If your church is anything like mine, it is going to look different for a while. Currently at my church, children’s classrooms are closed and all children must accompany parents into worship. If your children are new to corporate worship, here are a few suggestions that may be helpful as you train your children to worship corporately:

  1. Discuss worship expectations with your children. Jen and I use to tell our children that we expected them to be calm (because we have three boys who couldn’t sit still), quiet (because we children who do not understand what an indoor voice is), and pay attention. Three things. That’s all we needed them to remember. Calm. Quiet. Pay attention. Some of our children learned quickly. Others tested boundaries and needed loving guidance with a whisper in the ear, a squeeze on the thigh, or even an invitation to join me in the hallway to be reminded of expectations. Children who did well were praised generously. If children are brand new to corporate worship, expect that quick learners will do well after a few weeks and slow learners will take a few months.
  2. Provide tools not toys. We want children engaged, not occupied. It’s great that children are present, but our goal is their participation. Rather than bringing cars, coloring books, or legos bring a notebook, Bible, and pen. We encourage young children who cannot read to draw pictures of what they hear. Older children are expected to take notes and listen attentively. For accountability, we often have our children go down to the senior pastor and show him notes. We attend a church of 5,000 people, so this can happen in small or large churches.

  3. Teach your children the music you sing at church. We purchase songs that we sing at church and listen to them at home. It’s not forced, but informal. We play worship music while children eat breakfast or clean and in the process they begin to become familiar with the worship music. Guess what happens at church when they hear music they know and like? They sing! You can help your child by sitting in a child-friendly location so they can clearly see the front of the worship space. We allow our smaller children to stand on a chair when we stand to sing.
  4. Suckers! Our goal for children was always busy hands and quiet mouths. When the pastor began his sermon, we would pass out a sucker to each of our children. The sucker usually helped a child pay attention for about ten minutes. If a child was particularly squirmy, we would provide a second sucker or even a piece of gum. We would also strategically place the youngest children closest to a parent and the older children at the end.

  5. Say no to bathrooms and screens. We learned quickly that some of our children suddenly had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t hold it during the sermon. We made it a practice to encourage children to go to the bathroom before the worship service and only gave permission to use the bathroom in rare instances. We initiated the “Are you going to wet your pants?” test to determine if the bathroom was necessary. We also do not allow screens during the service, unless it is to access the Bible or use an app to take notes. As parents, we try to set a good example by not texting, using social media, looking at fantasy football scores (particularly hard for me during football season), or checking email. Our children learn the value and form of worship by watching us. We want the affection of our heart and the focus of our mind to be on worshipping Christ and; therefore, we try to eliminate all distractions.
  6. Ask questions on the ride home. Invite your children to share what they liked most about the sermon or a comment that stuck out to them. Sometimes our children will laugh about a funny story that was shared and this is fine! It means they were listening. Other times, children will ask a clarifying question about what a word or concept means. This is simply an opportunity for you to see how your children are processing the sermon and to see what really grabbed them.

Like learning anything, it takes time for young children to learn how to worship corporately. If worshipping as a family is new to you, just getting your children to sit quietly without embarrassing you or distracting others is a big win! As a father of five, I’ve been there. I’ve been given the evil eye as someone glanced over their shoulder at me due to a loud child. If that happens, just smile and don’t take it out on your child. Be gracious to yourself, your children and others who have children. This is a season where extra grace is required.

While we need an orderly worship service, the sounds of children are a sign of health for families and churches as it is a means to pass on faith to the next generation. If you are willing to do the hard work to teach and train your children to worship corporately, your children will reap the benefits of being part of the larger church body and learning to worship.

If you want to learn more about worshipping corporately as a family I encourage you to purchase the book Parenting in the Pew, which has many practical and helpful ideas. Truth78 created a children’s worship notebook that helps children follow along with a sermon and our children have found this resource helpful. Of course, if you haven’t purchased a Bible for your child, consider getting one so the child can bring it to church for worship. May the Lord bless you as you train a child to worship God!

Discipling Your Grandchildren is available now!

As a grandparent with a passion to impact your grandchildren for Christ, do you sometimes struggle to find fun and meaningful ways to disciple them and leave a lasting legacy of faith? Help is at hand in Discipling Your Grandchildren, which contains lots of suggestions and ideas to help you do just that. We wrote this book to help you apply the biblical methods of family discipleship from Deuteronomy 6 into everyday life by providing hundreds of ways to help grandchildren know, love, and serve Christ.

You can order Discipling Your Grandchildren here.

What Others are Saying

“Every one of the 30 million Christian grandparents in America should have a copy of this inspiring book in their homes. Every church should have it available in their library.” Valerie Bell, CEO Awana

“This is a treasure trove of ideas that will revolutionize how your grandparent and the impact you will have on your grandchildren.” Cavin Harper, Founder of The Christian Grandparent Network

“There is no more loving or sacred role than that of being a godly grandparent to the children entrusted to your family—this book shows you how!” Dr. Wess Stafford, President Emeritus, Compassion International

Overview of the Book

Discipling Grandchildren is organized around eleven topics that most grandparents experience with children and grandchildren. There are ninety-six different sections, with hundreds of ideas all designed to help you be an intentional disciple-making grandparent. Each chapter contains a list of ideas, concisely explained, often in bullet point format.

The ideas in this book are not random or purposeless. They are a means to a greater end. Of course, disconnected from the biblical purpose of discipleship, they become just another activity with a grandchild. We encourage you to read each idea with discipleship in mind and utilize them toward that end.

Table of Contents

  1. What Does the Bible Say About Grandparenting?

Five Characteristics of a Disciple-Making Grandparent

  1. Gifts, Encouragement, and Prayer

Gift Giving, 10 Graduation Gift Ideas, The Gift of a Bible, Connect Through Texts, Build Your Grandchild’s Library of Good Books, Books to Give and Enjoy Together, Giving Gifts of Experiences, Journaling Together, Praying for Each Other, 30 Scriptures to Pray for your Children and Grandchildren

  1. Intentional Meals

Long Distance Dinners, Bake a Simple Recipe Three Different Ways, Checklist for Successful Meal Times with Small Children, Practice Mealtime Manners with a Tea Party, Learn About Missions by Enjoying an Ethnic Dinner, Preparing Dinner with Bible Ingredients, Thanking Parents with a Dinner

  1. Teaching God’s Word and Telling God’s Work

Disciple Grandchildren Using a Good Book, Wonderful Things in God’s Word, Utilize Your Skills by Teaching What You Know, Participate in Education, Being a Good Friend, Teaching Biblical Manhood to Boys, Go on a Virtual Tour of Israel, Take Notes in Church, Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Biblical Worldview Detector, Tell about Past Generations, Share Your Faith Story

  1. Reading and Memorizing the Bible

Check Out Unusual Verses, Make Magnets to Memorize a Verse, Use Objects to Memorize, Bible Character Biographies, Memorize the Books of the Bible, Summarize the Books of the Bible, Discuss the Sermon, Study the Bible Together, Take Photos to Illustrate a Verse

  1. Sharing the Gospel

EvangeCube, The Wordless Book, Romans Road, Share the Gospel Using Five Fingers and Five Verses, Dirty Water Experiment, Challenge Children to Think About Their Faith, Answer Hard Questions, Share Your Faith Story, Teach Children to Make Right Choices, Write a Psalm

  1. Serving Together

Get Involved in their Activities, Practical Service Opportunities, Develop a Talent or Skill Together, Take a mission trip together

  1. Relationship Building

Build Traditions Together, Make an Unfinished Photo Album, Send Unusual Mail, Celebrate the Start of a New School Year, Rubber Band Fight, Backyard Camping, Nerf Gun War, Family Fantasy Football League, Connect with Grandchildren via Social Media, Celebrate Major Milestones, Listening to Your Grandchildren, Visiting Great-Grandparents, Relating to Teens, Respect the Wishes of Non-Christian Parents

  1. For Your Home

Checklist for Successful Overnight Visits, Host Grandparent Camp, Welcoming Grandchildren into Your Home, Make and Use Prayer Cards, Honor Grandchildren in Your Home, Explore Your City, Stay Home Together, Write Notes while Visiting, Share Bedtime Stories from a Distance, 21 Activities With Grandchildren

  1. For Your Church

Launch a Grandparent Ministry, Participate in National Grandparents Day, Include Grandparents in Child Dedications, Participate in GrandCamp, Start a G@P group, Organize a Photo Scavenger Hunt

  1. Holidays

New Years Ideas, Valentine’s Day Ideas, St. Patrick’s Day Ideas, Easter Ideas, Ideas for the Spring, Memorial Day Ideas, Mother’s and Father’s Day Ideas, Ideas for Summer Vacation, Fourth of July Ideas, Ideas for Fall, Halloween Ideas, Thanksgiving Ideas, Christmas Ideas, Birthday Ideas, Ideas to Celebrate Spiritual Birthdays

Example from Chapter 1: 10 Graduation Gift Ideas

Be creative and share your faith heritage through your gift giving this graduation season. Above all, think memory with meaning. If possible, be there to celebrate with a grandchild in person.

1.     Personalized photography: frame a memorable event of the graduating grandchild, even better if you are in the photo together.

2.     Overnight bag: invite your grandchild can come see you, especially if he or she is going away to college.

3.     Heirloom jewelry: pass on a special piece to your college bound grandchild and write a note that it is a reminder that you are with him or her.

4.     An experience: purchase tickets around what interests your grandchild such as music or sports. Be creative. continue to make memories, even as they grow older.

5.     Talk time: ask your grandchild to teach you how to use Skype, Marco Polo, or Zoom so you can stay in communication. Choose the method that works best for you.

6.     Handwritten letter: tell them you love them, are there for them and you will be praying for them during this next season of life. You may want to include specific Scripture you will pray.

7.     Scrapbook of memories: create a book of photos and journal things you did together.

8.     Family memento: share its meaning, when you received it, and why you are passing it on to your grandchild.

9.     T-shirt quilt: order or make a quilt using a grandchild’s old t-shirts. You will need to collect a grandchild’s shirts from camp, school, and family trips. You can find a company online by googling t-shirt quilt. Send them the t-shirts and they do the rest.

  1. Gift cards for gas, restaurants, clothing or electronic stores where they shop.

During a Pandemic What a Child Needs Most is Hope in God

Hope is one of my favorite words. Hope is the promise of a great future. It is the confident expectation that all things will work out for us. Hope is full assurance in a certain future. Right now, it is easy to lose hope because the future appears uncertain and the outcome of the next few months are unknown.

I’ve had numerous people reach out to me and state, “I’m scared” or “I’m surprised I’ve been so anxious.” If we are honest, most of us have had moments of worry. Most of us face uncertainty in some form right now. We all have something to lose such as health, home, finances, a or a job. I’ve joked that my 401k is now a 201k. It can be hard to have hope when the rhythm and routine of our days has been interrupted and the future looks dark.

Let us remember that we have an enemy that wants to steal our hope, but God assures us in His Word that we have a great future. Christians are to be hopeful people because we trust in a good God. Our hope should radiate the brightest when the world is the darkest and the most important place this needs to happen is in your home. Hope manifests itself as joy (Rom. 12:12), love (Col. 1:4-5), boldness (2 Cor. 3:12), and perseverance (2 Thess. 1:3). 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says that the foundation of our confident hope is the grace of God.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Right now, all of us want comfort for our heart. I encourage you to take a moment of self-reflection and ask yourself this question: Where am I looking for comfort and hope? For many of us, we are looking to the wrong source. Psalm 42:5 is clear, “Hope in God!” This is the most important thing your child needs to hear during a pandemic, or for that matter, at any time. Everything may not turn out exactly how we envision and we may face temporary trials, but we can have unshakable confidence in a great future because we have a good God.

A Word About Fear

Anxiety and fear is the result of trusting in self or others. Fear is born out of a desire to control the future. We cannot control the future and that’s why we become anxious. The Bible lists many causes of fear, which are future-oriented. They are things we cannot control such as dread of disaster (Prov. 1:33), death (Heb. 2:15), physical attack (Gen. 32:11), natural disasters (Ps. 46:2-3), and evil (Ps. 23:4). Take time to read and discuss these passages with your child. Ask them if any of these examples are causes of fear in their heart.

Remind your children of the great truth of Isaiah 41:10, which states, “Do not fear.” This is a bold, strong command. There are no conditions that make fear acceptable, other than in God alone. It is important to note that if God commands us not to fear, then the presence of fear in our heart is sin. If we have been fearful during the pandemic, let us confess this sin to God. Why is it a sin to fear? Fear is the manifestation of unbelief in God. Will God keep His promises? Is God trustworthy? Is God good and gracious? The answer to all these questions is YES!

The biblical answer for fear is trust in God. As a family, open up God’s Word and read God’s solution for fear in these passages: Prov. 29:25 (trust in God), Ps. 56:4 (trust God), Is. 26:3 (Focus on God), Ps. 112:1, 7-8 (Fear God), Prov. 3:21-24 (Wisdom and obedience), Phil: 4:7-8 (prayer), and Ps. 55:5-8 (Take shelter in God).

Praying as a Family

Prayer is form of trust. In prayer we admit we are dependent upon God and we seek His care and His help. The best thing you can do with your family at this time is pray. During difficult times regular family prayer reorients our focus, reveals our dependence upon God, and reduces our fears. Prayer may not feel remarkable, but it is God’s answer in times of need. Philippians reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer is not an extra, but an essential habit for our home. Our excuses for prayerlessness have been removed. We have time and our calendars are open. The Coronavirus may limit our ability to be physically present with our friends and extended family, but our prayers transcend time and geographic location and are an important form of ministering to others. In addition, the ministry of prayer is something that the youngest child can do. In Psalm 8:2 we are reminded that age does not limit the effectiveness of prayers, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” God accomplishes his purposes through the prayers of the young and old.

So parents, pray. Gather your children and invite them to pray. What should you pray about? Let us pray with our children for God to heal those affected, provide wisdom for leaders making decisions, give peace to our heart, fill us with calm assurance in God, and for the gospel to advance.

Fill Your Child With Hope in God

The Bible tells us that we can be confident in God and can have full assurance in Him

because He has good plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). God has plans for each of his children and it is a good plan! No one can hinder those plans. Nothing can thwart those plans, not even the coronavirus.

Colossians 3:21 provides a specific command to fathers (but equally applies to mothers), “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” The goal of a good father is to raise children who are not discouraged. To be discouraged means to lose heart, become disinterested, or have an unmotivated resignation toward life. We are not to raise that kind of child. We are to raise the opposite of discouraged, which is hopeful, joyful, and confident.

If fathers are given a command to avoid one kind of parenting, then it implies we are to pursue a different kind. We are to pursue the kind of fathering that gives hope instead of discouragement and confidence instead of fear. So fathers, don’t discourage your child in this time of uncertainty, rather fill them with hope in God! Teach your child that they can rejoice in times of suffering, knowing that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” in God (Rom. 5:3-4). Don’t discourage them. Teach them to hope in God. Help them fix their gaze on God, not on the uncertain circumstances that surround us.

The Coronavirus provides you the opportunity to talk about where we put our trust and where we look for hope. Use this opportunity to build up your child’s God-confidence. Work to root out self-confidence, government-confidence, money-confidence and replace it with God-confidence. Our hope is not in the government. Our hope is not in our money. Our hope is not in ourselves. We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most common phrases in the Bible is the phrase, “Do not be afraid” and it is often followed with the words, “For I am with you.” Our confidence is in God, for He is with us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). He offers His help to us right now.

When the world is broken and all else fails, God will be there. We have a reason to hope. Our hope is rooted in the character of God. He is our refuge in time of need. The Coronavirus will pass. The days of social distancing and quarantine will come to an end. Not because an elected official out smarted the virus, but because God is sovereign and He is on the throne. God has not abdicated the world to sickness. He has not left the throne. God is in control. We are to put our trust in Him and Him alone.

Remind yourself of these biblical truths and teach them to your children. Let the promises of God’s Word and the unchanging character of God’s nature wash over your household at this time, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant” (Ps. 35:27). Be glad in our good God today and filled with hope for tomorrow!

Navigating Three Grandparenting Landmines

Larry and Sarah sat in my office, visibly frustrated. Tears came to Sarah’s eyes when she spoke, “I think the discipline of our grandson has driven a wedge between us and our son. We used to be close, but that has changed.”

Larry began to explain what happened, “Our son and his wife went away for a seven day vacation to Hawaii and we offered to take their three children. We thought it would give us some extended time with our grandchildren.”

Sarah chimed in, “Yeah, but instead it’s caused a lot of problems. We learned we were not prepared to deal with media and food choices as well as discipline.” Larry stated, “There was some misbehavior from our oldest grandson Nathan and I had to deal with it. Nathan snuck out in the middle of the night and was out half the night. Someone called me and made me aware that it happened.”

Sarah jumped in, “We never expected to have to deal with this sort of thing as a grandparent. It kind of caught us off guard.” Larry continued, “When I found out it happened I sat him down and told him he betrayed our trust and that he was not going to be able to go out with his friends until his parents got back.”

“And that isn’t all,” Sarah added, “We were shocked how much time our grandchildren spent on their phones texting friends and watching stuff, so we had them put their phones away after dinner each night. Two of the three grandchildren were picky eaters and refused to eat half of the meals I served. I wish I would have known about their media and eating habits before they arrived.”

The frustration was evident on Larry’s face, “The most difficult thing was when Nathan texted his mother, who said he was allowed to go out with friends and use his phone. It caused a big disagreement. I told Nathan that his mom and dad had given us the authority while they were gone and we were going to stick with our decision. We were given the responsibility and authority and we acted upon it. We had hoped to build memories with our grandchildren, but instead we experienced conflict that’s caused division in our family.”

Larry and Sarah’s boundaries were appropriate, but they were not on the same page as their children. Grandparents are partners with parents working together to encourage a child to know, love, and serve Christ. In order to successfully partner together, parents and grandparents must be on the same page regarding numerous topics including how and when grandparents are to enforce boundaries while watching a grandchild. This article will equip you to partner together by having a conversation with your adult child that focuses on three sticky subjects grandparents often face: discipline, media, and food.

Discipline

The first topic to discuss with your child centers around what to do when a grandchild is under your care and is disobedient. The more time you spend with a grandchild, the more important it is for clarity around this topic, especially if you watch grandchildren weekly or for an extended period of time. Here are two examples of questions you might consider asking your child.

How would you like us to navigate discipline? In general, you want to learn if your child wants you to administer some form of discipline or wait until the grandchild goes home and allow the parent to deal with the child’s disobedience. If a child prefers that you do not discipline a grandchild, then ask your child how he or she envisions boundaries being enforced at your home. If your child wants you to administer discipline, then it may be helpful to talk about specific examples such as what to do if a child refuses to go to bed or is repetitively disrespectful. Ask a couple of questions about “What should I do if…?” The goal is not to insinuate that grandchildren have behavior problems, but rather to communicate expectations and reduce surprises.

What discipline methods do you want us to utilize? Your aim is to arrive at an agreement about the methods you can utilize to discipline a grandchild in your care. What is your child’s preference about time outs, grounding, taking away a personal item like a phone, or other methods you might use? Do you have the freedom to spank a younger grandchild or does your child view this as their responsibility? Most grandparents do not want to spank a grandchild, but some grandparents watch grandchildren on a weekly basis and have been asked by their children to do so in order to maintain consistency in a grandchild’s life. You want clarity about how you should discipline a grandchild at your home.

Media

When my oldest two sons were in preschool, they were blessed to spend a couple afternoons each week at their grandparent’s house. One day, they came home and begun talking about a Star Wars movie that they had seen at grandma and grandpa’s house. I was disappointed because I had envisioned watching Star Wars at some point in the future as a fun father and son activity. I asked their grandparents if the boys had watched Star Wars at their home. As it turned out, the boys had only watched a commercial for a new Star Wars movie. It reminded me not to jump to conclusions and helped me realize I had expectations about television and movies that I had not communicated. It led to a productive conversation about media usage when grandchildren were at their home. If you have never discussed this topic, here are some questions you can ask to clarify media expectations for a grandchild:

  • What movies and shows is a grandchild allowed to watch?
  • What video games can a grandchild play?
  • How much time do you allow your child to spend on devices such as iPads or smart phones?
  • Would you like us to ask permission before watching something a grandchild has never seen?

If parents are conservative in their media choices, air on the side of caution with the use of technology in your home. If parents are liberal in their media consumption, do not speak poorly to a grandchild or be condescending to adult children about their choices. If you are going to establish media boundaries that a grandchild doesn’t have in his or her own home, you can do this by stating that at grandma and grandpa’s house we only watch television for an hour per day because we want to spend time having fun together.

Your goal is to learn parent preferences, discover unstated expectations, and arrive at an agreement about what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding screen usage at your home. For younger grandchildren, invite your child to provide a list of parent-approved shows or send movies that a grandchild can watch. For older grandchildren with a phone, ask your child to share how the phone is used at their home. Is the phone allowed in the bedroom at night? Can the grandchild text or call others? Is the grandchild allowed to go on the internet? You will build trust if you let your child know that you want to honor his or her media preferences when a grandchild is at your home.

Food

Craig approached me with a big smile on his face and asked if I wanted to see a picture of the vegetable drawer in his refrigerator. His mischievous smile told me that I wouldn’t see carrots or lettuce. “Sure,” I said, intrigued by what I would find. Craig pulled out his phone and showed me a picture of a fully extended vegetable drawer that was halfway filled with full sized candy bars of all varieties. “I love to feed my grandchildren vegetables and they love to eat them,” he said with a chuckle.

While there is nothing wrong with feeding grandchildren “vegetables,” have you ever asked yourself where this idea of grandparenting comes from? Who decided that a grandparent’s job description includes spoiling grandchildren with large amounts of sugar?

The truth is that Craig longs to be a good grandparent. He’s doing what he thinks grandparents do and that comes with a daily quota for sugar distribution. Craig loves his grandchildren and he wants them to love Jesus. But without realizing it, Craig’s approach to grandparenting created frustration because his son purposefully limits the amount of sugar his children consume.

Craig’s experience with sugar and Larry and Sarah’s experience with picky eaters is not uncommon, which is why a third topic to discuss with your child revolves around mealtime and food preferences. For some parents, food is a major issue due to food sensitivities, allergies, or eating habits. Generally, if there are food issues that matter to your child or grandchild, it should matter to you. Here are a handful of questions that you can ask your child to gain clarity about what food to serve to a grandchild at your home:

  • What are your food preferences?
  • How can we accommodate specific eating habits?
  • Are there any special diets, allergies, or sensitivities we should be aware of?
  • What meals, snacks, and drinks are your children’s favorites?
  • How much sugary foods and beverages are allowed?
  • What would you like us to do when a grandchild refuses to eat a meal or does not eat everything on his or her plate?

If your adult children or grandchildren have different eating habits or preferences than you, accommodate as possible. One of the secrets to making grandma and grandpa’s house special is food that everyone enjoys and feels good about.

Initiate a conversation

Larry and Sarah were not prepared for some common problem areas that grandparents often experience with grandchildren. I hope that Larry and Sarah’s painful experience encourages you to initiate a conversation with your adult child about some sticky subjects that often are overlooked, but are important to discuss so that you can be on the same page with one another. You can do that by simply inviting your child to grab coffee or casually bringing up one or more of these topics on the phone.

God designed parents and grandparents as partners working toward the same biblical goals, but with different and complementary roles. Wise grandparents do what they can to learn parenting expectations and implement parenting preferences. These three topics should help you get on the same page with your adult child, avoid common problem areas, and strengthen your family by being a disciple-making grandparent.

The Importance of Teaching the Whole Bible During the Early Years

It is not uncommon to hear a well meaning parent or pastor suggest that children cannot handle portions of Scripture and should not be taught key biblical truths until they are older. A ministry leader made the following recommendation about delaying the teaching of topics such of morality, humanity, creation, government, family, and economics, “I would suggest a starting age of at least 11 since [the author] presents ideas for which younger children probably lack enough familiarity to reason through what he is saying.” That type of recommendation is opposite the pattern and priority of Scripture.

Paul speaks about the importance of the early years in salvation and spiritual growth when he said to Timothy, “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Psalmist states, “O God, from youth you have taught me” (Ps. 71:17). The early years are critically important and we must not buy into the lie that children are too young to handle the deep truths of Scripture and wait to teach children the whole counsel of God’s word.

James Montgomery Boice recognized that the habits of youth often become the habits of adulthood. He states, “The decisions of youth form habits that guide us from that point on and are hard to break. If we form good habits when we are young – reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, enjoying the company of God’s people, going to church, rejecting sin, and practicing to be honest and do good – these habits will go with us through life and make good choices later in life easier. If on the contrary we make bad choices, later we will find good choices harder to make and the bad habits nearly impossible to break.”[1]

JC Ryle, an English pastor that lived from 1816-1900, has a strong warning for all parents and grandparents to heed, “What young men will be, in all probability depends on what they are now, and they seem to forget this. Youth is the planting time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of man’s mind. By the shoot that springs up we can judge the type of tree that is growing, by the blossoms we judge the kind of fruit, by the spring we judge the type of harvest coming, by the morning we judge the coming day, and by the character of the young man, we may generally judge what he will be when he grows up.”[2]

JC Ryle continues, “I say it because experience tells me that people’s hearts are seldom changed if they are not changed when young. Seldom indeed are men converted when they are old. Habits have deep roots. Once sin is allowed to settle in your heart, it will not be turned out at your bidding. Custom becomes second nature, and its chains are not easily broken. The prophet has well said, ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (Jeremiah 13:23). Habits are like stones rolling down hill–the further they roll, the faster and more ungovernable is their course. Habits, like trees, are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak when it is a sapling–a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full grown tree. A child can wade over the Thames River at its fountain-head–the largest ship in the world can float in it when it gets near the sea. So it is with habits: the older the stronger–the longer they have held possession, the harder they will be to cast out. They grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. Custom is the nurse of sin. Every fresh act of sin lessens fear and remorse, hardens our hearts, blunts the edge of our conscience, and increases our evil inclination.[3]

If you are discouraged by these comments due to an adult child or older family member who has not embraced Christ, then I want to remind you that there is always hope for transformation in Christ. The Scriptures are full of individuals who trusted Christ later in life such as the prodigal son who returned home, Nicodemus sought Christ to be born again when he was old, and the thief who trusted Christ at the end of life so no man may despair. If you are prone to worry, the Bible reminds you that the remedy is to trust God and bring your burden to the Lord in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7).

Research creates additional urgency as to the importance of the early years in the discipleship of young people. A survey from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) found that 63% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 4-14, with the median age being 11.[4] The same survey also found that 34% of individuals become a Christian between the age of 15-29. According to this study, 97% of individuals become a Christian before the age of 30.

A child’s beliefs, his or her worldview, is almost fully formed by the age of 12. Before a child becomes a teenager, his understanding of the world, views of God, perspectives about morality, convictions about Jesus, and a long list of other topics is nearly complete.

Delaying doctrinal training, abdicating discipleship to pastors or schools, or avoiding difficult topics is a recipe for spiritual disaster. It is important to note that beginning early is not a guarantee that a child will embrace Christ or live biblically as it is the power of the Gospel, not the correct methods that change hearts. However, we are wise to recognize and utilize the patterns and principles of Scripture and resources that help us shape the beliefs of the next generation.

[1]James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, An Expositional Commentary, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing House, 1998), 977.

[2]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (Nelson South, New Zealand: Renaissance Classics, 2012), 6.

[3]JC Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, 6-7.

[4]National Association of Evangelicals, “When Americans Become Christians,” accessed March, 26 2019, https://www.nae.net/when-americans-become-christians/?inf_contact_key=3fe6d503a91e14eb09034cd02b6b233081cb00e0c63e6f917e88c5746d3481dd

Five Characteristics of Biblical Discipline

Jeff and Jessica sat in my office, clearly distraught. “Our four year old runs our home,” Jeff said, “and we don’t know what to do.” “We’ve tried everything. Positive reinforcement. Ignoring bad behavior. Rewards. Threats. Time outs. Lots of love. Nothing seems to work.”

Tears welled up in Jessica’s eyes as she recalled a story that had become routine in their home. “It started as a simple trip to the store to get milk and eggs, but ended as another parenting battle.” “I told Ethan to shut off the television and get his shoes on. Ethan was watching one of his favorite cartoons and ignored me.” Jessica cracked a smiled, “Sometimes, I wonder if he has a hearing problem, but I had a few things to get ready before leaving, so I didn’t press the issue.”

Jessica continued, “After a few minutes, I poked my head into the living room and said,” ‘Come on Ethan. It’s time to go.’ “Ethan half-heartedly responded and told me,” ‘Not yet mom. The show isn’t over.’ “I could feel the frustration growing and this time my voice grew louder as well.” ‘Ethan. Let’s go!’

“I waited a few moments to see if Ethan would respond, but it became obvious he had no intention of getting up. At this point,” Jessica admitted, “I snapped. ETHAN!” “That got his attention and he got up slowly, inched his way to the television, and took in every last second he could.” “When he reached the television the pleading began.” Ethan begged, “But mom, can’t we wait until the show is over? It won’t take long. Please mom.” “I was so frustrated,” said Jessica. “and told Ethan, No! We have to pick up milk and eggs so we can make your sister a birthday cake before she gets home from school today.” Ethan just kept pushing, “But mom. Please mom.” At this, I yelled, “ETHAN! I TOLD YOU TO GET YOUR SHOES ON! SHUT THE TV OFF!”

“Ethan knew I meant it this time, but his pleading turned to defiance. He shut off the television and complained all the way to the back door. With his shoes in hand, he started to cry. It wasn’t a sad cry. It was a mad cry. It was an ear-piercing, neighbors-can-hear-it-through-the wall cry. And it turned into a full-blown temper tantrum complete with kicking and screaming as Ethan thrashed on the floor.”

When it comes to discipline, there are lots of parents like Jeff and Jessica that are frustrated and confused, lost in a sea of opinions, and unclear how to correct a child. Jeff and Jessica want to be good parents, but they don’t understand the biblical principles of discipline or how to apply them to parenting.

Biblically, it is helpful to understand that discipline is a key component of discipleship. Discipline is the problem solving side of parenting that recognizes something is wrong in the heart of the child. Hebrews 12:10 tells us the goal of discipline is holiness that yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:10-11).

God commands parents to discipline children (Prov. 19:18; Heb. 12:9-10; Eph. 6:4). God didn’t call parents to the task of discipline without telling us how to accomplish it.

With that in mind, let’s explore five characteristics of biblical discipline:

  1. Biblical discipline begins by establishing parental authority.

God has given parents authority over children. You are in charge, not because you are bigger or smarter, but because God has placed you in authority to act on His behalf. If you are unclear about your authority as a parent, you will not provide the spiritual leadership your child needs. There will be a lack of consistency, boundaries will regularly change, passivity will permeate the home, and a child will lose respect for you. If you abdicate or share authority with a child, you can expect problems just like Jeff and Jessica.

Our culture swings between two faulty forms of authority, harsh control and permissive freedom. God instructs parents to exercise authority, not to make children do what we want, but to train children to live obediently under God’s authority. As a parent, you must exercise authority because your child is required by God to honor and obey you. When a child disobeys a parent, ultimately it is God who is being disobeyed because the child is rebelling against the authority God has placed in the child’s life.

Parental authority is often compromised when children are young. Your goal is to establish your authority as early as possible. The earliest battlegrounds seem minor, but they set the pattern for all other areas. Bedtime, mealtime, and what children wear need to be under parental control. Children should not be given the freedom to decide when they go to bed or whether they will attend church as children quickly learn that parents are sharing authority. As children age, a precedent is established that is repeated in other areas of life and results in a painful battle for authority between parent and child.

If you are a new parent and you wonder where to begin, start by establishing your parental authority in love. Obedience is the foundation upon which all other teaching is built. Without obedience parents cannot begin focusing on character development or spiritual growth. The Bible states that obedience is the first commandment with a promise (Eph. 6:1-3). It will not go well in your home if children do not learn to respect your authority.

  1. Biblical discipline is an expression of love.

Discipline is the tool God has given parents to deal with a child’s sin and save a child’s soul (Prov. 23:13-14). Discipline helps our children move in this direction and deters them from destruction. From a biblical perspective, discipline is an expression of love (Heb. 12:6-7). Love is what makes discipline beneficial. The Bible teaches that the absence of discipline is unloving (Heb. 12:8). Correction without love, done in anger, is what makes discipline abusive. The parent who exercises authority in gentleness and kindness will generally find that a child does not resist or run.

  1. Biblical discipline focuses on the Gospel.

Your primary parenting problem is that your child is a sinner (Ps. 51:5; Gen. 8:21). The author of Hebrews helps us diagnose a child’s behavior as a “struggle against sin” (Heb. 12:4). Disobedience, at its heart, is rebellion against God, not to be excused as brain development or misdiagnosed as a disorder. Discipline, done correctly, points children to the cross where they see the depravity of their heart, understand the need for a Savior, and want to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

Parents must understand their child’s behavior in terms of heart motivation (Mark 7:21; Luke 6:45) and believe that change is the result of a child internalizing the Gospel and seeking to live in obedience to God. When discipline methodology does not deal with the heart, it strays from a biblical form of discipline. Be wary of anyone, including Christians, who present a model or methods for discipline that is not focused on the Gospel.

The Gospel should be at the heart of all discipline. We must seek to understand the attitudes, action, and motives of a child’s heart and hold out the beauty of the Gospel for a child to embrace. A child’s sin will only wither when the Gospel is brought to bear on it and Jesus is savored as more beautiful and satisfying than the sin.

  1. Biblical discipline leads to repentance.

Biblical discipline is a rescue mission that calls the sinner to repentance. True behavior change begins with conviction. Children will not change if conviction has not occurred. We must pray that God will convict our children of sin and that the child will understand more fully the reality of his or her actions. Discipline should help a child confess to God and the person they wronged. When this occurs, true heart repentance has happened. Jeremiah 34:15 states, “Recently you repented and did what was right in my sight.” Repentance combines two things, a recognition of wrong and a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. We should help our children recognize the difference between worldly sorrow (I’m confessing because I was caught) and godly sorrow (I’m confessing because I’m grieved I sinned against God).

  1. Biblical discipline applies God’s methods in Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 is one of the most helpful passages on discipline. Paul tells us that God has given us the Bible for teaching, reproof (conviction), correction, and training in righteousness; it is to be used for these purposes. All four of these items are critical in the discipline and instruction of children, but for the sake of space I will simply provide a few comments on correction.

One reason God has given parents the Bible is for the purpose of correcting a child. In other words, the Bible has the power to correct. The word “correct” literally means to straighten up what is wrong and reform. Parents are to use the Bible to treat spiritual problems. God has given us, in the Bible, all the tools to address attitudes, actions, thoughts, and motives that do not align with the character of Christ. Anxiety, anger, complaining, a child who will not submit—all these parenting issues and more are dealt with in Scripture. The Bible is given to us as the means to bring about repentance, confession, and righteousness. Of course, the Bible itself does not do these things, but it is in the pages of Scripture that we come into contact with Jesus.

For far too long the church has tried to integrate non-biblical sources with Scripture to address the topic of discipline. The resulting marriage has produced bitter fruit. The Bible is robust enough to provide us with all the categories and concepts we need to correct children. Let us use it for that purpose.

Why Homeschool? 15 Reasons We Choose to Home Educate Our Children

  1. Education is a parent’s responsibility. God commands parents to bring up children in the Lord. Education is a means to that end. Parents who homeschool have the opportunity to limit the competing voices that children hear and teach all subjects from a Bible-centered curriculum.

  2. Education is discipleship. Children will become like their teachers. Luke 6:40 states, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” If we want our children to love Christ and live like Christ, it makes sense to place them under the influence of individuals who will help toward this end. Education is best learned by doing life together.

  3. Biblical worldview training. Public schools teach a secular view of science, history, math, gender, marriage, and justice. When a child marinades in this view for 16,000 hours, it is very difficult to train a child to think biblically about all of life. High percentages of children absorb secular views even while trying to follow Christ. Studies have shown that Christian children who attend a public school and attend church weekly are familiar with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, but do not think biblically about politics, economics, education, or social issues. The students tend to think like secular humanists.

  4. Class size. Many schools selling point is small class size. What is better 15 to 1 or 5 to 1?
  1. Socialization. Homeschooling allows children to receive a higher percentage of adult socialization. Children do not become mature, godly adults by being around immature, ungodly children. They mature by being around people who are older, wiser, and further along in their walk with Christ (Titus 2:2-6). Homeschool children who are socially awkward typically have socially awkward parents. It is worth noting that there are also plenty of socially awkward public and private school children.
  1. Academics. Studies consistently show that homeschool children do better academically than public and private school children. Many colleges recognize this fact and recruit homeschool students.
  1. Tailored education. Homeschool children can go at their own pace, learn subjects of interest, and do so from curriculum that is Bible-based. Education, at least for our children, is enjoyable. It is a delight not a duty. Parents can attend to the unique educational needs of each child rather than teach to the masses.
  1. The price is right. Average cost per child, per year of education for our family is approximately $500. Sure beats $5,000 or $10,000 per year, per child.
  1. Flexibility. The school calendar does not control the family calendar. Children are free to build friendships, serve God, work, learn life skills, and the family is free to go on missions trips, vacations, or daily outings as they wish.
  1. Family time. Time with children is not limited to evenings and weekends. Love for many children is spelled T.I.M.E. Homeschool families have plenty of time together.
  1. Support. There are more resources available to help parents homeschool then ever before. My grade school children are in band and gym classes and we are part of a community of homeschool parents, which provides support to help us with any homeschool questions or needs. Gone are the days of homeschooling alone.
  1. Extra-curricular opportunities. There are countless opportunities for homeschool children to be involved in athletics, music, and countless other activities. An incorrect assumption is that homeschool children have little opportunity to interact with peers or be involved in activities outside of the home. Nothing could be further from the truth. And, because homeschool children do many of these activities during the day, their calendar is not over-scheduled.
  1. No homework. Tired of the homework hassle? Tired of evenings spent working through projects, papers, and profiles? Homeschool children have time to do these things during the day giving them greater freedom to participate in church, build friendships, and invest their time in other ways.
  1. Adequate sleep. Studies consistently show that children need a high volume of sleep. Early school start time requires children to wake-up earlier than their body is ready. Homeschool children have the option to begin their day later, thus avoiding over-tired children.
  1. School in pajamas. Who doesn’t love being in comfortable clothes!

Understanding Biblical Authority: 3 Categories of Illegitimate Authority

Every child will look to an authority to determine truth. The authority the child chooses will determine what the child believes and how the child lives. To choose the Bible as authority means that a person believes the Bible has the right to decide what is good and bad, right and wrong, true and false and to direct how he or she lives.

Authority is not a popular concept. We like to have authority, but not to be under authority. Man in his depravity will continue to rebel against the Bible as truth and God as the ultimate authority. The Apostle Paul tells us that rebellion against God and his Word is natural since man is born spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 3:10-18), blind in his understanding (Eph. 4:18), and unable to accept the things of God because they can only be understood spiritually (1 Cor. 2:14). Only redemption by the Holy Spirit making the sinner spiritually alive can change this reality (Eph. 2:4-5). Newness of life results in illumination of the Bible. The new believer can now understand that the Bible is the Word of God (1 John 2:20). Those who do not have God as their Lord will not have His Word as their authority.

Young people often believe the lie that freedom is acquired by being their own authority. Freedom is not found in the absence of authority, rather it is experienced by submitting to God’s authority and living within His boundaries. The commandments of God in the Bible are a means of liberation and the wisdom of the Bible is a path to blessing. Whenever we put happiness before obedience, we will be destined for misery. Those who place themselves under the authority of God’s Word will experience joy.

God is the source of all authority. The Bible gives absolute authority to God over all his creation. God is the all-powerful creator all things (Gen. 1-2) and owns the earth (Ps. 24:1). Psalm 62:11 states, “power belongs to God.” Jesus claims, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The titles “Lord” and “God Almighty” declare that God has authority over all the earth.

The Bible is our ultimate authority because it is from God. We do not give the Bible its authority. The Bible is authoritative regardless of what we believe about it. We must decide if the Bible will have functional authority in our life or if we will live according to a different authority. The Bible is our authority when we acknowledge it is true, embrace it, submit to it, and walk in obedience to God’s Word. The supreme authority of the universe has given us His Word; therefore, it must have authority over us.

Many Christians claim the Bible is their authority only to choose a different authority by their actions. Christians look to many other sources for authority. Here are three of the most common that I’ve observed.

Three categories of illegitimate authority

  1. Science

Secular voices have convinced many Christians that the Bible is unsophisticated, outdated, superstitious, and unscientific. Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Community Church, stated “When religion and science conflict, at the end of the day if you are an honest person, science must win!” Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but you can’t deny science.” In reality, nothing could be more absurd than thinking human ideas are a more reliable source of authority than God’s Word in the Bible. Science is servant to Scripture, not the other way around.

Science becomes an illegitimate source when authority is deferred to human experts. What is science? Science means knowledge. Science is a means to learn about the world God created. The Bible is God’s book of science. It contains the foundational truth about biology, history, geology, anthropology, and astronomy. The Bible is an infallible science book. When we create and discover, we are using the laws of physics and chemistry that God has put in place. The laws of science exist because God created an orderly world. The Bible is our scientific authority because the Word of God tells us how God created the world and how the world works.

  1. Pragmatism

Pragmatism is an approach that determines actions by the results one desires. It first determines what results are preferred, then decides the actions to achieve the desired outcome. Without realizing it we have become answerable to what works. If giving a reward results in a well behaved child, wonderful, but if not, threats or ignoring negative behavior may be more effective. If teaching the Bible will attract children to our school or church, great, but if not, focusing on academic rigor or entertainment may be a more effective strategy.

Pragmatism becomes an illegitimate source when authority is determined by personal experience. Pragmatism occurs when we look to our personal experience for direction rather than God’s Word. Pay attention to the question, “Does it work?” When this phrase becomes the justification for a decision, you know pragmatism is occurring. Ultimately, pragmatism is the result of biblical ignorance or a lack of confidence in the power of Scripture to do what it promises.

For example, let’s consider evangelism. When we look to artificial methods to stimulate conversion or manipulate emotions to get to a desired end, we know that pragmatism is at work. God does not need us to make the Gospel relevant. There is not a single creative idea that will bring the spiritually dead to life or contribute to a person’s salvation. Paul tells us what brings about salvation, “How from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is able to bring about salvation because it brings us into contact with Jesus.

  1. Man’s Word

The Bible is often replaced by man’s authority, which can take many forms. I worked with a pastor who always wanted to make decisions by surveying the congregation rather than applying the wisdom of the Bible. Christians often turn to psychology to solve their relational, marital, or emotional problems rather than the provision that God offers in His word. The church has even attempted to replace God’s Word by declaring itself as the ultimate authority.

Historically, there have been times when the Word of God has been placed under the authority of the church with priority given to its creeds, counsels, articles, and tradition. The Roman Catholic Church is founded on this principle. In their view, the Bible is the Word of God because they have decreed it to be so and confirmed this reality in numerous infallible church councils. There is a major problem with this view. Who authorized the church to make this kind of decision? What is the source of authority to do so? The church can affirm the authority of Scripture, but it is not the source for it. Mark 7:8 points out what is happening, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

Martin Luther argued that the Catholic Church and the Pope did not trump Scripture. Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms in April 1521 and was ordered to recant his beliefs about justification as well as ecclesiastical and biblical authority. His reply left no doubt about his source of authority:

“Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Ultimate authority belongs to God and God alone. The Bible is to be the foundation for every area of life. Like Luther, we are to be captive to the Word of God. Far too many Christians have a diminished confidence in the Bible. Jeremiah 5:30-31 states, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority.” An appalling and horrible thing has happened in my homes, churches, and schools – man’s word has become the authority. The Bible is God’s Words of truth that determines how we live, not surveys, psychology, or even the church.

How does the Bible have functional authority in our life?

It is one thing to say the Bible is our authority, it is another to submit to the Bible as our authority. We must come to the settled conviction that the only authority we have comes from the Word of God. Here are four functional ways the Bible has authority in our life.

Turn to God’s Word for guidance. We must develop the pattern of looking to God’s word for answers and guidance. Psalm 24:4-5 can be our prayer, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your path. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Test thoughts and ideas with God’s Word. We must learn to cultivate the habit of the mind that filters everything through God’s Word. Paul exhorts us to “Test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Take every thought captive with the Bible. We must critique arguments from a biblical perspective and discipline our mind not to allow ungodly ideas to take residence. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us how to do that, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Teach the Bible. We must communicate the whole counsel of the Bible to young people. The Apostle Paul gives Titus this assignment, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). Titus is given the responsibility to speak with authority, which comes from the Word of God. Our teaching is not to be occupied with object lessons, good suggestions, or pithy axioms, but God’s Words from the Bible.

Our authority as parents, grandparents, pastors, and educators comes when we teach and preach the Word of God. This is your responsibility. The Bible is to be your content and curriculum. Titus 2:15 gives three methods to teach the Bible: “speak, exhort, reprove.” Speak the Bible so a young person hears and understands it. Exhort so that you persuade a young person to believe and apply God’s Word. Reprove by holding a young person responsible to obey and submit to the Bible. We do not invent the message. It is our responsibility to deliver it with faithful interpretation and passionate proclamation so that they understand, believe, and obey God’s Word.

Jesus is our example. He taught authoritatively. In Mark 11:28, Jesus was confronted by the Chief priest, the scribes, and elders who were troubled by Jesus authority and asked Him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus did not quote rabbis, rely upon the latest research, point to his title or educational degrees, or suggest it was his extensive ministry experience or communication skill that gave him authority. Jesus tells the religious leaders, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16).

If I walk into your home, your church, or your school will I hear the Word of God taught, read, discussed, sung, prayed, and proclaimed? Or will I hear a different authority? Will I find that you turn to God’s Word for decisions or has an illegitimate authority usurped God’s Word when you need direction? Is your confidence in God’s Word is high or low?

The Bible is to be your authority. It was given by God to parents, grandparents, and pastors to instruct children and grandchildren (Deut. 4:9, Deut. 6:6-7). The Bible is able to bring every child to saving faith (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Paul wrote that all Scripture is from God and is useful for teaching, conviction, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is to be your authority for parenting, grandparenting, and ministry to children.

Characteristics of a Disciple-Making Grandparent

The Bible has hundreds of references to grandparenting, but these references are often missed because the Bible uses phrases such as children’s children, son’s son, father’s father, or forefather to speak of grandparenting.

One of the most common passages of Scripture utilized for family discipleship is Deuteronomy 6:4–9. The Christian community limits the application of Deuteronomy 6 to parents, but based on the context of Deuteronomy 6:1–2 it has a broader application that includes grandparents.

Moses gave the community a charge to love God and diligently teach young people the commands of God. Moses states the commands of God are for “you and your son and your son’s son” (Deuteronomy 6:1–2). The reference to “son’s son” means that Deuteronomy 6:4–9 is not only for parents, but grandparents.

Almost every grandparent that I’ve met wants to connect deeply with their children and grandchildren and make an eternal difference in their lives. The Bible equips us to do that. We are going to explore a number of biblical principles that will help you disciple future generations.

Here are four characteristics of a disciple-making grandparent:

  1. Disciple-Making Grandparents view grandchildren as a blessing, not a burden.

Do you remember what you felt when you learned that you would be a grandparent? Were you enthusiastic or ambivalent? Excited or anxious? Motivated or mad? Did you view your new grandchild as a blessing or a burden?

This first point deals with our heart. Your attitude about being a grandparent reveals much about your heart and what you believe about grandparenting. We want our attitude toward grandparenting to reflect God’s attitude toward grandparenting. What is God’s attitude toward grandparenting?

The Bible tells us that it is a blessing to know your grandchildren. Psalm 128:6, “May you see your children’s children.” The ministry of Grandparenting is to be received as a blessing not rejected as a burden. The grandparent who has a poor attitude toward grandparenthood in general or a grandchild specifically is at odds with God’s plan.

Every grandchild is created in the image of God and is therefore his sovereign plan for your life. Every grandchild is to be highly valued regardless of gender, race, health, or personality. Every grandchild is to be received with love and embraced as God’s good design for your life.

Grandchildren are a blessing. Do you believe that? Or have you felt resentment because of the cost of grandparenting? By nature, grandparenting requires sacrifice. It requires us to die to ourselves and our wants. Dying to ourselves is the exact opposite message you are fed by culture – you’ve done your time, now go play and travel.

If you’ve ever wished a grandchild wasn’t born or that you never became a grandparent, you’re not alone. I’ve met many grandparents who won’t verbally admit that they view a grandchild as a burden, but harbor these feelings in their heart.

If you struggle to receive a grandchild as a blessing, pray that God would soften your heart and change your attitude. Ask God to give you his love for a grandchild. Some of us need to release our plans to the Lord and choose to trust God’s sovereign plan for our life even when life turns out different than envisioned.

We must allow the Bible to shape our view of grandchildren. The Bible tells us that it is a blessing to have grandchildren. Proverbs 17:6 states, “Grandchildren are a crown of the aged.” That is a significant statement that speaks to the incredible value of grandchildren. Interestingly, it is not wealth, health, career accomplishments, or social status that the Bible says are the crown of your life. That honor goes to grandchildren.

A crown bestows honor and represents a high position in life unmatched through any other source. Your attitude and actions should reflect the value given to grandchildren by God in Scripture. We talk a lot about giving a blessing to grandchildren. Grandchildren are the blessing that God has given you. Have you received each grandchild as a blessing and does your attitude reflect it?

  1. Disciple-making grandparents understand the biblical purpose of grandparenting.

What is the purpose of grandparenting? My research discovered that only about 1 in 4 Christian grandparents have clarity about that question. If you are interested in a deep dive into the biblical role of a grandparent then I want to encourage to get Biblical Grandparenting or Grandparenting, but for now I’ll summarize this by saying that you must have a settled conviction on this truth: God designed grandparenting. He created it. Grandparenting is God’s idea.

Colossians 1:16 states, “All things were created by him and for him.” Grandparenting was created by God and for God. This is an important point for all Christian grandparents to understand because everything God creates, including grandparenting, he creates for a reason. If God created grandparenting, the natural question that arises is, why? God must have a purpose for it. What is grandparenting meant to accomplish?

God created grandparents to partner with parents to raise the next generation to know, love, and serve Jesus. Grandparents and parents are teammates working toward the same biblical goals. We are fellow laborers created to point grandchildren to Christ and raise help raise them to spiritual maturity.

Grandparents are the adjunct servant of the godly parent and the spiritual surrogate of the ungodly parent.

What do I mean by that? God designed parents as the primary disciple-makers in a child’s life and he created grandparents as a secondary, but important influence. If parents are raising children in the Lord then grandparents support and encourage parents to fulfill the task God has given them and reinforce the work of the parent by investing directly into the spiritual life of a grandchild. In this case, you are discipling the disciple-makers. If parents are not raising children in the Lord then grandparents need to lovingly encourage parents to take seriously the responsibility God has given them. Children who are not actively discipling present an opportunity for grandparents to invest more heavily by stepping into a more prominent disciple-making role in the life of a grandchild.

Family discipleship is one of the critical reasons grandparents are needed. You are in an excellent position to encourage an adult child to prioritize the discipleship of children.

God created grandparents with a unique role and a specific function and your job is to enthusiastically embrace God’s design. When we reject the design, we reject the designer. Grandparenting is not a take-it or leave-it cultural creation whose purpose and meaning change with each new generation. God did not create grandparents as an unnecessary, optional appendage to the family. God created grandparents to play a crucial role in the spiritual development of grandchildren by linking arms with parents to work toward the same goals of raising future generations to know, love, and serve Jesus.

Every grandparent needs clarity on an important question. How much discipleship is happening in your child’s home? You need clarity so that you know how best to spiritually invest as a grandparent.

  1. Disciple-Making grandparents are actively involved with family.

Research reveals that the quality of a grandparent and grandchild relationship is based on the frequency of interaction. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to develop a deep and intimate relationship with limited contact, which reduces the spiritual impact of grandparents.

Researchers Cherlin and Fustenberg researched the amount of time grandparents spend with grandchildren and found three categories of relational involvement:

  • Detached: 26% of grandparents. Detached grandparents often urge children to be self-sufficient and independent which creates an emotional distance between family members, resulting in grandparents being remote figures in their family’s life.
  • Passive: 29% of grandparents. Passive grandparents are careful to keep their distance, do not press for additional time with family, often feel burdened by the responsibility of being a grandparent, and are sometimes ambivalent but still feel the role of grandparenthood is rewarding. Detached and passive grandparents tend to interact with grandchildren less than once or twice a month.
  • Active: 46% of grandparents. Active grandparents spend a lot of time with grandchildren, have a positive view of being a grandparent, regularly share their opinions, and gently tell grandchildren when they disprove of a choice or behavior. Active grandparents tend to interact with grandchildren at least once a week or more.

How often do you interact with each grandchild? Children and grandchildren spell love T.I.M.E. If your interaction is infrequent, a simple way to increase your impact is to increase your frequency of interaction. Texting, letter writing, phone calls, and face-to-face visits are all tools grandparents can use to increase interaction. Whether you live close or far from family, the smart phone is an essential grandparenting tool.

Psalm 92:12-15 provides a picture of active grandparents. The psalmist uses the picture of a palm tree to make his point; “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our Lord. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’” (Psalm 92:12–15).

Date palm trees bear hundreds of pounds of fruit well past 150 years of age and are a picture of what God expects from grandparents in the later third of their life. The psalmist teaches that righteousness in old age results in the continued production of spiritual fruit.

Psalm 92 shouts a truth that all grandparents need to hear: age does not impair fruit-bearing capabilities. It enhances them. Psalm 92 reminds grandparents that the latter years of life ought to be spiritually productive years for the purpose of declaring the nature of God to others. American culture attempts to convince grandparents that they have little to offer. Nothing is further from the truth. This passage speaks against the American ethos of retirement and reminds grandparents to be fruitful disciple-makers to their dying day.

Grandparents need to reject the narrative that the purpose of old age is a life of leisure and self-indulgence. The example of the palm tree suggests that a fruitless existence is not a category the Bible recognizes. God’s expectation for palm trees is also true for grandparents: to live is to bear fruit, even in one’s old age.

  1. Disciple-making grandparents make themselves available to help.

Today’s parents feel overwhelmed and grandparents can help. Huffington Post declared that overwhelmed parents are so common that it is a “national crisis.” Parents are overworked, family life is overscheduled, and your adult children often feel overwhelmed. The result is high levels of stress that leads to irritability, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Paul states, “Older women, train the younger women…older men, train the younger men” manage the home and character training (Titus 2:3-6). God’s design for the family is for the older to help and train the younger. Many of your adult children need help and are looking for a mentor. When I was a pastor in Rochester, MN my wives parents moved one mile from us. We did life together. They helped us in tangible ways – parenting guidance, home repairs, and took our kids twice a week. It was a blessing.

Today’s parents often struggle under the weight of child-rearing and the endless tasks that come with parenting. Here are a couple examples from young parents:

“Now that I am back to work full time, I get up at 5:00 a.m. to get the kid’s lunches ready. I often find myself doing laundry at 10:00 p.m. Last week I was picking up groceries at the supermarket at 11:00 p.m. I’m so exhausted at night when I got to bed, I can hardly talk to my husband, much less make love with him. I don’t like living this way, but I’m not seeing a way out.”

“When it comes to parenting, our work is never done. Things shout at us from every direction, making it easy to get perpetually stuck in doing mode. Help Sammy with his spelling words! Take the splinter out of Shannon’s finger! Do the dishes…feed the dog…sign the permission slip…get the boys in their bath…!”

“It doesn’t matter what causes us to be overwhelmed. Sometimes it can be a culmination of little stressors – orange peels left on the floor, peanut butter on the stairs, sassing back by the eight year old, kids that don’t want to go to bed, bills piling on the counter – or it can be just that life is deciding that at this moment it’s simply going to be hard. Money stuff. Relationship issues. Sickness. Death. Kid issues.”

Parents aren’t just overwhelmed by endless tasks, they are also overwhelmed by the volume of opinions about how to parent. Facebook feeds are full of opinions about nutrition, education, health care, and athletics. Academic research presents compelling arguments from different perspectives on media consumption, brain development, vaccinations, and a long list of topics parents should consider. Family and friends offer varied philosophical approaches with strong views about sleep training and discipline. Parents are increasingly taking their parenting cues from sources other than the Bible and are unsure how to raise children to love and follow Jesus. Many parents have quiet fears about messing up their child and are unsure what to do.

Parents often need help with day-to-day tasks of managing a home, a break from children, and parenting guidance from the Bible. God created grandparents to help. My encouragement is to ask how are you doing? How’s your marriage? How can we help? If your adult child does not provide anything, that’s okay, ask again at a later time.

My research revealed that only 1 in 10 Christian grandparents are directly involved with the youngest generation of their church in any meaningful way. The majority of grandparents have limited interaction with the young people of their congregation that amounts to a passing greeting in the hall and results in limited spiritual investment in their lives. Grandparents told me that they no longer disciple the younger generation of their church because they do not think they are wanted, needed, or no longer able to offer something of value to young people. Other Christian grandparents told me they served and now it is someone else’s turn.

In Titus 2, Paul gives an important leadership responsibility to the older generation, which centers on the discipleship of younger Christians. Biblical grandparents are models of the Christian life and teachers of younger generations. The church is in need of godly, mature Christians who will pour themselves into the lives of younger Christians.

Grandparents have a golden opportunity. Who are the children in your church that would benefit from an adoptive grandparent? What help do your children need? There will be times when your adult children feel overwhelmed by life and unsure how to parent. God never intended parents to raise children alone. Instead, God gave families the gift of grandparents to share burdens, to distribute the weight of child rearing, and as a means to provide multiple influences to raise children in the Lord.

Each of these areas, attitude, purpose, time, help have the potential to strengthen relationships and increase disciple-making impact. Which one or two resonated with where you are at today?

The Tale of Two Lumberjacks: A Meditation on Eccl. 10:10

There were two lumberjacks cutting wood. One said, “Before I start, I’m going to sharpen my blade.” The other said, “I have a lot of work to do. I don’t have time to waste.” He went straight into the forest and began chopping. The first lumberjack waited patiently while the blacksmith sharpened his axe. By the end of the day he had chopped down significantly more than the man with the dull axe.

Friend, which of these lumberjacks are you most like?

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (Eccl. 10:10). The truth presented in this passage is that dull axes don’t cut well. They require more time and energy to get the job done. 

The fact is, many of us ignore the Bible’s advice. We are doing our work with a dull blade. The point of Ecclesiastes 10:10 is clear: Wise people sharpen their edge. Sharp edges cut faster and deeper. They are more efficient and effective. Applied to our spiritual life, a sharp edge leads to fruitfulness.

According to the Bible, there are numerous ways to sharpen our spiritual edge. Maybe the best know passage is Proverbs 27:17, which tells us that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Brothers and sisters in Christ are essential for our growth. Psalm 1 provides the most important way to be sharpened: delighting and meditating daily on God’s Word.

Meditating daily on God’s Word

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who…delights in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:3 provides three illustrations, or outcomes, of being sharpened by God’s Word. The Psalmist states that the person who delights in the Word of God and meditates on it day and night will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season,” will be like a tree whose “leaf does not wither,” and “will prosper in all that he does.”

I summarize the three outcomes using the words fruitful, strength, and prosperous. Let’s consider each briefly.

  1. Fruitful

First, you will be a fruitful person when you delight in the Word of God. God’s Word is alive and active and it refines us into Jesus’ image. We are sharpened when we spend time in God’s Word. You know when you have been around these kinds of people because they are encouraging, refreshing, and nourishing. They help us grow. Their words are life giving. Their life is a model of Christian character. Spending time with them awakens, restores, and even convicts us. If you spend time in God’s Word, you will yield fruit. May there be more fruitful people!

  1. Strong

Second, you will be a strong person if you delight and meditate on God’s Word day and night. The Psalmist says, “Your leaf will not wither.” Leaves wither because of a lack of water. When there is a drought, if a tree is not planted by a stream, it will wither and possibly die. At a minimum, a tree without water will not produce fruit. Your leaf will remain evergreen, in spite of heat and drought, if you meditate on God’s Word daily. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can sharpen your skills, increase your abilities, or develop your gifts and talents through your own effort. Transformation is the work of God, which is why change happens when we spend time in God’s Word. The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to transform us. If you draw your strength from God in His Word, then difficult seasons will not limit your fruit bearing capacity because your roots will run deep. May we find our strength and nourishment from God in His Word.

  1. Prosperous

The Psalmist tells us that “whatever he does, he prospers.” The prosperity Gospel uses this verse to suggest that if we do certain things, our marriage will be healthy, our business will produce great profits, and life will be good. This passage is not God’s version of habits for highly effective people. Psalm 1:4-5 makes a reference to eternity and says that wicked people will be blown away like chaff and unable to stand in judgment. God’s view of prosperity is an eternal view, not a materialistic view. While there may be prosperity in this life, God’s true measuring stick is what happens at the judgment and what lasts for eternity. The Psalmist tells us that the words and deeds of the wicked will be swept away. They are like chaff. They may have accumulated much wealth and fame, but from an eternal perspective their accomplishments are not considered prosperous. These people will stand before Jesus in judgment and learn that they wasted their life. On the other hand, those who delight in God’s Word will flourish and the fruit they bear will make a difference eternally. 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” If you want to build a home, strengthen a marriage, restore a relationship, or make an eternal impact then sharpen your spiritual edge by spending time in God’s Word. 

Christian, if you are not spending time daily in God’s Word, then you are like the first lumberjack who gets up, goes about his business, and heads straight to the woods with a dull axe. We tell ourselves that we are busy and that we have a lot of work to do. While we punch a few things off our to-do list quickly, in the long run, our spiritual impact will be limited and suffer.

I’m impact hungry and my guess is that you are as well. No one wants to waste his or her life. I want to make a difference in my home and in this world for Christ. Ecclesiastes reminds us that before we start chopping, our edge needs sharpening. That happens as we spend time in God’s Word. May you sharpen your axe today.