“Daddy,” my six-year-old leaned over and whispered in my ear, “should I change it to baseball? Because that’s what our family does”— and I was reminded that family discipleship can be far simpler than we sometimes think.
With the dawning of imperial favor in the early fourth century and the crumbling of the Roman Empire in the fifth, the primary locus of Christian practice drifted from homes to dedicated institutional structures. Especially in the early Middle Ages, there appears to have been a loss of the ancient model for discipleship in families. Generations grew less literate, and training in Christian traditions increasingly became the domain of professional clergy in ecclesiastical institutions. In the latter centuries of the medieval era, church leaders called anew on clergy as well as fathers and mothers to embrace more active roles in the Christian training of children; this training consisted primarily of memorizing prayers, creeds, and the Commandments. Prayer primers and catechetical books even became available to assist parents. However, feudal responsibilities frequently removed fathers from their families for long periods of time, especially in noble households. Even when children did learn commandments, creeds, catechisms, and prayers in their homes, the instructors were often mothers or perhaps godparents rather than fathers. Recognizing this movement away from previous practices, sixteenth-century leaders of the Reformation called fathers to recommence their role as primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives. According to Martin Luther,
If we would re-instate Christianity in its former glory, we must improve and elevate the children, as it was done in the days of old. … It is the chief duty of the father of a family, to bestow more, greater, more constant care upon the soul of his child than upon his body—for this is his own flesh, but the child’s soul is a precious jewel, which God has entrusted to his keeping.
Such a model for family ministry did not, however, exclude the possibility of age-organized classes for the discipleship of children, at least among the English Reformers. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer required pastors to spend one half-hour on Sunday afternoons, at least once every six weeks, instructing children in the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. By 1552, this had become a weekly pastoral responsibility.
Interested in more about models of family ministry? Click here.
“Jesus gave his church one mission: make disciples. As a church planter I’m consumed all day with the work of disciple making, but the most important disciple making in my life happens with my three sons. The mission Jesus gave the church is the same mission we have as parents: make disciples.”
Parents have a primary obligation to make disciples in their home. Thinking of fresh ways to accomplish this task can wear out even the most imaginative parent! “Because parenting is just plain crazy and exhausting, and because every parent I know is very busy, I thought it would be helpful to share 10 tips for discipling your kids,” says Justin.
These tips are refreshing, creative and are sure to help any parent inject vitality into the task of discipling their children. Check them out here.
HT: Justin Buzzard