This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I have my sister-in-law, Emily, here with me. We’re super excited today to talk about a basic question in motherhood, but something that seems more difficult in practice, and that is, “How do I disciple my children?” But before we get to that, we want to ask you guys for a quick favor.
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Laura: We’re going to start off today talking about our personal fears when it comes to the terms “discipling our children.” Emmy, you want to kick us off and tell us a little bit about what’s hard about discipling our children?
Emily: I just worry that I am literally not clocking enough minutes talking about Jesus-y things [laughter]. So I get to the end of my day and just feel like, “Oh, did I spend enough time getting down at their level and explaining things in light of the Bible and in light of the gospel?” Or, “Is my example maybe communicating that I love something more than Jesus?” Yes, that’s bad [laughter]. If I said enough things about Jesus, maybe my life looked differently.
I guess in general to sum that up, it’s feeling like, “I am not enough; I am not doing a good enough job at this. What is the line? No matter how much discipleship I do I feel like I've not done enough?” There you go; not enough [laughter]. What about you Laura?
Laura: Oh, very similar, but a little tweak on that. Clocking the number of hours is definitely a very true fear, but also that I’ll say something wrong. Theology is so complex, and the deeper and the more that I learn and get into it, I feel like I know how much room there is for error. So when I am trying to bring those truths down to my child’s level, I get so twisted up inside that I can hardly even speak about it. Or I just feel frustrated that I can’t articulate it in a way that I think is both clear and theologically sound. Therefore I become sort of ineffective in that way.
But I definitely would agree with you Emily; it’s just a base fear that I am not doing a good enough job, or that I am not doing it well, and that they're not going to become Christians just because I am not doing my role right.
Emily: It’s all my fault.
Laura: Yes, exactly. [laughter]
Emily: Which is a really common underlying fear for moms. And when we get a lot of these questions about discipleship at Risen Motherhood, the questions have a lot to do with time. Like, how much time do I need to put in to be discipling my children? What do they learn organically? What do I need to teach them? When can I start? (Particularly for moms that have babies and toddlers.) We’re just wondering what the first step is. Then people wonder about things like, “How much is my job versus the church’s job versus my neighbor’s job, or whoever?” Also, we’re wondering what are our sins and failures doing to our children in our effort to disciple them?
And finally, what kind of resources do I need to make or buy or own or craft? [laughter] What activity do I need to be coming up with in order to disciple them? These are all questions we get on a regular basis. And we experience those questions too.
Laura: Totally. We get it. And we want you to hear that you’re not alone in this question. I think every Christian mother in the universe is asking these same questions, but we want to demystify it just a little bit and talk about is, “Hey, what really is discipleship?” kind of like Discipleship 101 for moms. We also want to give you guys hope in the midst of this and what has been found hopeful and truthful for us—we want to share that with you. So let’s just start with defining what is a disciple. What does a disciple mean?
Emily: Yes, my little vocabulary mind was thinking [laughter] “Oh, there's a disciple noun, and then there's ‘to disciple,’ which is more of a verb.” Thinking about it in terms of a noun, a disciple refers to Jesus’ followers in the New Testament; we see it as a wide reference, like, “Any person who is following Jesus.” But also we hear him referring to that 12 small group of people as his disciples.
In general, disciples were, again, people who learning from him how to follow God, how to love others, and how to share the gospel; so, people who were following him with an intent to learn something.
Laura: And sometimes these people were religious or they were wealthy. And sometimes they were really lowly people; the unlikely people, unqualified, uneducated. But all of the disciples recognized one thing, and that’s their need for grace. They knew they didn’t have the right knowledge or they didn’t have all the abilities. They had things that they needed to learn and the ultimate goal for them would be to be sent out to go and make other disciples.
Not that they were just stuck to Jesus’ side—although that happened often—they were with him, following him in all sorts of settings, but also that they would eventually go out and duplicate those efforts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Emily: And one thing that is really interesting when you look at the disciples is that it was difficult to tell the true disciples from the false disciples. Some people followed Jesus around all the time and they looked like they were learning from him and doing things in his name. But even Jesus acknowledges, “Some people are doing things in my name,” but we’re going to find out later that they were not authentic. We also know that Judas was in his tribe of disciples and he turned from Christ. Therefore, it’s just something to keep in mind that on the outside sometimes it can be hard to tell who an authentic disciple really is.
Laura: Then if we move to ‘disciple’ the verb— to disciple—this is having someone follow you around and learning from you about obedience to God and sharing the gospel with others. The biggest key in some of the observations we find about discipleship in the New Testament is that it’s through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who equips, transforms, and produces any good fruit out of someone who is discipled.
Emily: We also see it strongly tied to the local church, and what God is doing in a church body, as all of the members are coming together with their different gifts, abilities, and resources, and helping one another follow Christ and perpetuate the spread of the gospel.
Laura: And really, “to be disciple,” you’re learning by watching and by doing, so it’s a lot of exposure. It’s doing life together; its being in relationship and we see that, as Emily mentioned, in the local church. This is the primary mission of the believer—to disciple others.
Emily: That’s kind of a fly-over of discipleship in general, because it’s important to know what it is we’re actually talking about here. But as we were going though that, hopefully that pinged a lot of things in your mind like, “Oh, this sounds a lot like what we’re naturally doing in motherhood as we have these little people coming alongside us, living life with us, learning what to do and how to live, and most importantly, how to follow God as they are living life beside us.”
Laura: So as we shared previously, a lot of these disciples were uneducated and unequipped, and it’s very similar to our children. They come to Jesus in need of grace, and we are in need of grace ourselves. We feel unequipped and unqualified for the task ahead, but God gives us the Holy Spirit that produces the fruit in our lives, to do the discipleship work that he's asked us to do as we grow in maturity and obedience to him.
Emily: I think much like we've talked about culture—how we all have a culture in our family—the question is not, “Do you have one?” it’s, “What is it and what is it communicating?” We’re all discipling our children in something because they're following us and learning from us and figuring out how to live. The question, therefore, is what are we discipling our children in? We hope it’s the gospel [laughter].
Laura: We hope it’s the gospel, and if you are like us, you are hoping that that is the gospel. Although sometimes, like Emily and I shared at the beginning, we’re like, “Oh, what are we discipling to them?” Just wanting to make sure that that’s what it is. But let’s just talk through the actual gospel to get a little bit of gospel hope on this topic.
Emily: In Genesis in creation, we see God give Adam and Eve this creation mandate, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” And then in the new covenant we see that modeled as Jesus is saying, “Go make disciples. Be fruitful, fill the earth and multiply these disciples and teach them to obey God.” It’s kind of this mirror image, as you can see. This is part of God’s design for humanity—that we would multiply image bearers and everybody would be worshiping and giving glory to God.
Laura: Of course—and you know where we’re going with the fall—we cannot live out the Great Commission perfectly. Now we have divided affections and worship, and we’re hypocritical in the things that we say and the things that we do. We deny Jesus in moments of weakness, and we lack faith in God’s plans. We experience a lot of those same things that we saw the disciples in scripture experience. But with restoration, we know that God works through our weaknesses, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we depend on him through his word and prayer, and we stay in community with the local church.
Emily: And we can be hopeful because some day he is going to complete this work of discipleship by conforming us fully to the image of Christ, and we will reign with him with our brothers and sisters forever. Ultimately it’s not up to us to complete that work or to have done it perfectly, or be enough because for those who are in him, he is going to cause us and our children, who are in him, to persevere to the end, and we can have hope in that. The next question is, “Okay, how? What do I do in order to live this out as a mom?”
Laura: There's an easy answer and a hard answer, which we’ll talk through. The easy answer is just live faithfully as you can as a disciple of Jesus in front of your kids and bring them alongside you, in whatever you're doing. For example, you’ve heard us say all these things on the show, but if you're praying, have them pray with you. If you're reading the Bible and they ask questions or they want to know what you're doing, have them sit and read with you. If you go to church, bring them with, and if you're serving others, try to include them in the way that you're serving them.
If you need to repent, do it in front of your kids; show them what it looks like to confess your sin and to repent in turn and follow Jesus. There are so many ways; it’s just natural that whatever rhythms that you're doing as a believer, those are things that you just want to naturally bring them into.
Emily: But the hard truth is that we don’t always live as faithful disciples, and so there's nothing to bring our kids into if we’re not living that out ourselves. That really is where the challenge and the struggle and those feelings of failures come in, because we are all humans. We have these dry seasons, and we are not faithful in doing that each and every day.
We therefore thought we would give a few practical tips as this gospel-minded approach to motherhood and discipleship if you're feeling like, “Yes, I am not faithful and I want to continue to grow in this. What do we do next?”
Laura: The first thing is to invest in your own relationship with God. The primary thing that we can do is to have an authentic relationship behind closed doors. If your kids are going to do as you do or to follow you, it has to be a reality in your own life. This is something that Emily and I have talked about so often in our own relationship of the dry seasons, “What do you do in those?” Or the parts where you feel like God isn’t as present as normal, or you don’t feel like there's love and devotion, and you're not oozing love for God.
Emily: One thing that can be hard is as we go through transitional seasons or times when schedules are busy. I know something Laura and I have experienced is where you wake up in the morning and you are met with urgent need after urgent need. Pretty soon you go a few days, and hey, you're surviving without God right at your side, or at least that you're perceiving him to be right there. That then turns into weeks and maybe that turns into months for you, and there can be this awkwardness that develops. Then you feel like, “Oh well, I haven’t been meeting with God. I haven’t been intentionally worshiping or intentionally talking about these things.” How do you break that and change and repent and go back? That’s a reality that a lot of us face in the early years of motherhood, especially.
Laura: It’s so true and it can feel, like Emily was asking, “How?” The answer is far less complicated than we want to make it out to be [laughter], because I even remember saying to Emily the other day, “I don’t really feel like reading my Bible,” but I know the answer isn’t to stop reading my Bible. I know that the answer is to get back in to God’s word and to live by faith and to trust that dry seasons will change into seasons of fruit and redemption and sweet seasons of relationship with God. And just knowing that that’s the ebb and flow of the believer’s life. I think too, continuing to invest, as I was saying, in your faith. Even though you may not feel all of the emotions, you're still reading theologically sound books, listening to worship music, singing worship songs at home, and praying to God. The answer is to just keep doing what you're doing and to keep living life as a believer.
Emily: And that shame or that wanting to pull back is the Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden thing happening in our hearts, where they sinned against God. And their response was, “Okay, I am going to go and get away from him now so that I don’t have to be near him.” We have to remember the gospel in that moment—that Jesus has paid for that and he's absorbed the wrath so that we don’t have to go hide in the bushes away from God. We can keep going back to him, and that’s really hard to feel that that’s true, but we have to keep remembering it, like Laura said, and live by faith.
That brings us in to point two which would be remain connected to a community of believers who love God and are faithful to his word and are saturated in the gospel, because they're going to help in this endeavor. So yes, kids follow their parents and are discipled by them, but they also watch and learn from other adults too. This may be grandparents or teachers, great friends of your family, or church leaders. It is a good thing to immerse them in a life of people who love God and know him and follow him.
Laura: The last one would be, as we said previously, pull them alongside you. Whatever you're doing, keep involving them. For some examples, this is where that investing in your own relationship with God overflows. Therefore if your kids interrupt you in quiet time, that’s okay. Let’s not have a fast and hard rule that’s like, “Mom sits and reads her Bible over here and the kids have to play there and not speak to her.” Well, I think that’s appropriate [laughter] in some situations, I won’t lie.
Let them come down next to you and draw with you, or read their own little Bible. Bring them with you to church; even a baby. This just shows them what the regular rhythms of a believer look like. And just having regular conversations with them; often if I am not careful I miss a lot of opportunities to disciple my kids in an intentional way verbally. What I mean by that is that sometimes my kids will say something that seems a little bit off and I am like, “I don’t think I say so or talk like that.”
Instead of telling them, “Hey, don’t say that,” I may ask them, “Hey, where did you hear that?” or, “Why did you say that? Do you know what that means?” Often this opens a really good door for us to have a deeper conversation about what certain words mean, why certain people say different words. And I found that to be one of the most helpful ways for me to have really intentional conversations with my kids through things that are naturally happening in their lives.
Emily: And this little bonus point here [laughter] is we need to look for ways we can fill in the gaps. In the New Testament, we see Jesus pulling his disciples aside and he's almost providing this extra commentary for them like, “Okay, here’s what happened. Let me explain to you in detail what this meant.” Although they were still left wanting [laughs].
But he challenged them, he rebuked them sometimes, he looked for ways to reconcile and help them. Therefore, for our kids this may look more like family Bible reading time or a specific morning prayer time every day or doing specific service projects together with the intent of explaining why we do service. This may be a little bit more formal sometimes, because we see a gap where we need to explain something really clearly. Catechisms would be another example, but I know for our kids, even with movies and stuff, sometimes I’ll show them something—I am not talking about something ridiculous or extreme—but something that’s a little bit pushing my boundaries because they really want to watch it. I’ll sit with them and we’ll pause and talk about things like, “Okay, this is a great example of a time I can provide commentary and say, ‘Hey, I’ll just compare it to what we’re learning in the Bible.’”
Laura: That’s a really good one, and there are lots of creative ways that moms do this. Talk with your mom friends and see some of the ways they’ve set up opportunities for learning. We hope that this has been an encouragement to you today. We have a lot of other shows, resources, and articles that have been written on this subject and we will link all of those in the show notes.
Head on over to risenmotherhood.com, there's a big old button called “podcast” on the top right you can click on and easily visit all of our show notes for all of our shows of all the time. Check us out on social media; we’ll be writing more about this topic this week @risenmotherhood.com, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. And as Emily mentioned at the beginning of the show, we’d love it if you had time to give us a rating or a review over on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
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