Who Is Responsible for the Discipleship of My Child?

Thoughts from Ed Miller

Continuing the Series on the 10 Challenges Facing the Family

I’m continuing with the series of articles about the greatest challenges facing the family today. This article will address the need for a new paradigm for the discipleship of children and young people.

If you asked most parents, “Who is responsible for passing the faith on to your kids?” they would say that it is their responsibility. The most common strategy for accomplishing that goal is taking the kids to Sunday School and Youth Group at church. The intention is good and our churches are running some fabulous programs for children and youth. But we’re finding that the results down the road aren’t what we’d hoped. Why is this the case?

The main problem is that Christian discipleship is not accomplished most effectively through a program. Programs can be useful components in training, but life and faith lessons are best learned in the midst of the daily routines of life. And where do children and young people spend much of their time week in and week out? It’s in the home interacting with their parents and their brothers and sisters.

Deuteronomy 6 provides us with an excellent model for discipleship at home. We summarize the teaching here by saying that parents should make it a priority to do 3 things:
  1. Build relationships with their children.
  2. Share Scripture together as a family.
  3. Practice faith and discuss spiritual issues openly.

I believe we need to renew our commitment to the tested concepts of mentoring and apprenticeship. One of the things that I loved during my years on staff with InterVarsity was taking students on missions trips. Whether it was an urban mission to Paterson, NJ or an overseas trip to Costa Rica, we lived and worked together every day. We were a “family” and we practiced faith out in the open. We talked honestly about the joys and the challenges. Our lives were all changed during these times.
We need to see the family and the church working together in the discipleship of our children and youth. If you’re a church leader and you’d like to discuss this further with my, I would be happy to do so. You can also look at the free resources we provide on our 4 Levels of Family Ministry web pages.

Will you “Take the Family Challenge”? Let me know what is working in your family or church in terms of discipleship at home. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Milan Tomic

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  1. I really like how you've stated the importance of parents without undermining the role of the church. When apprenticeship is thriving in the home, I have seen the work of the church as a catalyst. What is happening at home is validated by other trusted adults in the child's life - and it gives children a sense that the truth of the gospel is embraced in their family, in other families, and in the church as a whole.

  2. Thanks Graham. There is certainly a need for a partnership between church and home. When they are working together great things happen.