Born Disciples: On Raising Kids to Follow Jesus
Article by Natalie Frisk
In the sixth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Klompstra. She was enthusiastic about two things: math and physical education. Now, I realize that these two things may be a bit of an odd combination, but Mrs. Klompstra married the combo in a way that really impressed the love of both subjects into the lives of many of her students, myself included. I recall running around our school track while reciting math times tables. I remember doing various exercises while repeating vital math rules. Math and physical education were exciting to Mrs. Klompstra and they became exciting to me, too. I was discipled into it.
In similar fashion, I’ve met some lovely, young vegetarian children who have lectured me on the value and ethics of vegetarianism for our own bodies and for the planet. They have a strong belief displayed in how they live it out and aren’t afraid to share it. I’ve also met some highly enthused young sports fans who are excited about the players on “their team,” know stats by heart, and religiously watch game after game of their team – fully committed to seeing their team achieve victory. I’ve also met children who are passionately artistic. They wear their creativity on their sleeves (sometimes, quite literally). They live and breathe an artistic way throughout their entire lives. When I think of each of these children, this is what I know to be true of them: they are discipled into these habits, or ways of being, by passionate parents. We are all discipled into something. It’s true. A disciple is merely a pupil, a learner, a follower. It is someone who learns from the teachings and ways of another. Generally, we become what we are taught to be. I think that this is especially true when the teacher (or disciple-maker) is passionate about what they are teaching and how they are living that out themselves.
Now, I realize that there are some people within the wonderful world of Christianity who are hesitant to “push” too much emphasis on encouraging children to be discipled in the way of Jesus. There are those who want to give space to their children so that they don’t feel pressured into Christianity. And while I think those thoughts are well-meaning, I believe they are misplaced. I, too, want my children – and frankly, all children – to come to know the love of Jesus and follow him as a disciple. And the way in which I do that is live my life so that my faith in Jesus is so passionate and contagious that my child, too, wants to follow in the way of Jesus. In the same way that my vegetarian friends instill their values into their children, I instill the (higher) value of life in Christ to my child. This isn’t removing an “option” from them, but rather, it is offering them a very solid foundation. Will there be areas they need to “deconstruct” later? Oh probably. We all do this with the beliefs and values from childhood, or rather, from our family of origin in general. We all mature like this. It’s important for us to solidify what we believe. But it does not mean that we wait until children are older to disciple them. We are constantly discipling our children in all sorts of areas. If we wait to disciple them in the way of Jesus, we are merely displaying to them that children do not have spiritual value – and Jesus shows us (Matthew 18:1-10, Matthew 19:13-15), that this is just untrue.
And so, I think as we live and move and exist in this world, being conscious of the ways in which we are discipling our children – intentionally or unintentionally – is important. We are constantly implanting our values into the lives of our children whether we mean to or not. And, for each of us, it is imperative that we make our priority to connect to Jesus regularly in our own lives. Our kids can smell a hypocrite a mile away. Our passion for Jesus has got to be genuine. And when our kids see the joy and depth of our commitment, it will become invitational to them too. Because, so often, we become what we are taught to be. We are all discipled into something. What are we discipling our children into?
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash.
Natalie Frisk serves as the curriculum pastor at The Meeting House – a multisite church in Canada, overseeing the development of kids and youth teaching from birth to end of high school. She’s been in pastoral ministry for over a decade in an ever-changing multisite landscape. Natalie is presently working towards a Doctor in Practical Theology (McMaster Divinity College) with a focus on the spirituality of children. She is the author of a new book, Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter to Our Kids (Herald Press, 2019) that is presently available for pre-order now.
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