Before I get into how to teach this to your children, the first thing to check is how it is going with you ... Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
By Ron Brumley
This article was originally published in March, 2002. Ron & Linda’s four children are all disciples.
It has been a challenge to try to distill in a few paragraphs the experiences that most helped us in raising our four children to become disciples. Obviously, and of paramount importance, what contributed most to this great blessing is the mercy and grace of our very forgiving and loving heavenly Father. God would be totally justified in striking us deaf, dumb and blind if we didn’t give Him all the credit and honor He is due. Neither our kids nor we would have made it into the Kingdom without the rather obvious intervention of God on numerous occasions. With that foundation, there are several specifics that might be of encouragement to others who are in the process of raising their young families to become disciples.
As with most families, our biggest challenges in child raising came upon us when our kids were in the 12 to 18 age bracket. Prior to that, we were real experts in raising kids. We had all the answers, we thought. We taught classes and workshops and came across as though raising children was a piece of cake. Then came the years of adolescence. One after the other, our four began to question and doubt and struggle with the concept of God, of faith and of righteousness, with who was saved and who was not, and on and on. They questioned our authority and methods and everything about our life. Looking back on this period of time, we now realize how it was very necessary and healthy. Each of them had to experience this process to come out as mature, adult believers who had their own faith, based on their own struggles with God. In the middle of it, we went through periods of doubt, fear and heartache as to whether they would make it or not.
In talks with our adult kids (ages 29, 32, 37, 38) a few themes came up in answer to the question, “what helped you the most in becoming a disciple?” As you read these, listed in no particular order, remember paragraph one:
- Be sure your faith in God is attractive to your kids. Is it obvious to your children that you enjoy your life as a disciple? Greg, our oldest, said that he always felt that we truly enjoyed attending church services. He felt his positive attitudes were formed from years of going to be with his and our best friends. Our kids also need to see us enjoying our interactions with others. We always tried to include our kids when we had people into our home. The relationships within our family should be an attractive feature in the process of sharing our faith. Our kids have told us that seeing us go through trying times (health challenges, kid issues, etc.) and remaining optimistic and faithful have helped them to be faithful disciples as well.
- Both of our older kids related that the foundation of after school Bible studies with mom and family devotionals led by dad, have helped them all their lives to make right decisions and after periods of rebellion, to be drawn back to what is right.
- Linda and I became true disciples in 1987, when the San Diego Church was reconstructed. Our younger two kids were in their teens and they and the two older ones have related that it helped their faith to see us making changes in our lives. Meredith, our second child, said that seeing us become disciples later in life and making the changes that we did inspired her that she too could be open with us, and others, to get her life right with God and be able to change.
- We learned, often the hard way (through painful mistakes), that trying to control our teens bred frustration and rebellion in them. Through much discipling from many people, we came to realize that telling and demanding and lecturing seldom elicited the desired responses. The very wise apostle Paul told fathers to encourage, comfort and urge their children (I Thessalonians 2:12). Affirming and praising and encouraging a teen will much more likely get the behavior you desire and it will also make you friends for life!
- Teens are fascinating and bright and talented and altruistic and fun loving creatures. Parents who are worried and fearful and uptight about their kids often don’t see the goodness that is within them. We needed and we believe most parents of teens need, other disciples in our lives who are much more objective and can help us see and appreciate and enjoy our children.
- We strongly believe, again learned over time, that parents of teens must be very expressive of praise to them and about them. Our teens, male and female, need our hugs and kisses. They need to be held and affirmed and reassured of how awesome they are and how much you like them and love them and treasure them. The world may be telling them quite the opposite, but it won’t matter nearly as much if they hear all this good stuff from you.
- It was very important to us, to the point that we sacrificed having lots more “stuff” to have Linda home when the kids got home. A care giver, no matter how loving, can never take the place of a caring parent. An empty home or apartment for a teen to come home to after school is not as desirable as one where mom is there waiting to talk to. There is so much to be discussed after school and a mom or dad can do it best. I realize this may be a luxury that we enjoyed. I believe, however, that a lot more families could achieve this good thing for themselves if there were a greater conviction as to its importance.
- Gretchen, our third child, felt that one of the things that helped her the most to become a disciple and to stay faithful was the efforts we expended to insure that she had abundant time with her friends at church. San Diego was a smaller, growing church where the families were fairly well spread throughout the county. She had no other disciple kids in her high school. So, we had strong convictions that we needed to do every thing we could to get the kids from church together, a lot. Before they could drive by themselves, this meant that mom and dad did the taxi thing. We were absolutely happy to oblige as we knew how important relationships were for our kids (and to us as well).
“When you break down our walk with God, it is really about gratitude, isn’t it? It is not a matter of do’s and don’ts. As a child in the kingdom, it was hard for me to distinguish this because, while I was under my parents control, my life, as it should have been, was a series of do’s and don’ts and their consequences (rewards and punishments). So, as I started to work on a personal relationship with God it was very difficult for me. My rebellious nature made me feel like I was being deprived by what I ‘wasn’t allowed’ to do as a disciple. In reality, if I had had a grip on all the incredible gifts I had and the ultimate sacrifice God made for me, I would have had a different outlook on being a disciple. In short, I would have been more grateful.
The greatest help in my life as a disciple has been seeing the gratitude of my parents for God and what he has done for them. Through the hard times I never saw my parents complain or worry about what was in front of them spiritually or physically. Believe me, regrettably so, I gave them plenty to worry about. Instead I saw them face adversity with faith and humility. Of anything in my walk with God, this has been the greatest example.
During times of spiritual challenges, I’ve seen my parents mature, and, respected as they are, get humble and ask what they can do to change, instead of getting prideful and depending on themselves to figure it out. When I walked away from God a few years back, my parents asked what they did wrong or what they could change, instead of listing off the NUMEROUS things that I was doing wrong and needed to change. This had an incredible impact on me and was one of the strongest outside influences on my being restored to God.
In times of physical trouble, I’ve watched my parents stare in the face of death and be able to say thank you to God for what they have. I remember talking to my dad the night before he had open heart surgery. I never heard him once complain about his situation. I didn’t hear a fear of dying but rather sadness in the possibility of leaving behind the people he loved the most. (I think I was more scared that he was). Dad’s attitude was due to the security he had and still has in his relationship with God. Having a father that is able to live life with that kind of security with God has been a great example for me. I’ve enjoyed being able to brag about my dad. I think kids need to be able to brag about their parents, as to how they live their lives.”
Linda and I feel like the most blessed people in the world! When we started on life’s journey together some 41 years ago, we began praying to God that He would bless us with healthy, faithful children. We prayed that He would make up the difference (rather huge at times) between what our kids needed from us and what we were able to give them spiritually. He has always been so faithful. As we look on our 38 years as parents we have concluded that a house filled with love and gratitude and joy and faith doesn’t have to be (and never can be) a house that is filled with perfection.
"God...does not tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
I was motivated to come to an understanding of this scripture when I began seeing this happen to my children; when I saw, somewhat from the outside, the whole process of how sin draws and entices, leading each of us to death. I've come to an understanding of this in my own life and have learned how crucial it is to deal with sin when it is in the enticing/tempting stages, but it has been immeasurably scary watching my children go through things, and watching them engage in the fight. As much as I love them, and as much as I work hard to provide the right soil for the field upon which they will be engaging in this fight and the weapons they'll need to fight the battle, there is such a huge feeling of powerlessness. Watching the battle right in front of my eyes, as each of my children have battled with sin and battled to draw close to God, has made me get on my knees more than anything else in my life.
One of the things that we sometimes miss in dealing with sin is facing how enticing it is. IT LOOKS GOOD!!! There is a reason WHY we are drawn to it. We've got to understand that it feels good, it looks good, and there is a great amount of enjoyment in it; otherwise we wouldn't do it most of the time. As I've talked with my kids, this is one of the areas I have tried to explore with them: WHAT IS THE PULL?! What is it about it that makes it so appealing? The only way I can help them is, first, in understanding my own temptations; the things that pull at me. I try, when we talk, to make sure that I share very personally and specifically about not only the sins I've committed in the past, but what the things are that entice me now, both when I have relied on God and fought and won, and when I have failed to fight and sinned.
Satan is sneaky and he must be exposed. He knows how to make things appealing, and we need to have an honest evaluation of what we're drawn to and how to withstand, flee from, or fight against the allure.
San Diego, CA
Written by Lois Schmitt
Dear Parents of Squirming Kids,
OK, Sunday morning services are a challenge. It is an outstanding acheivement if the family arrives on time, all fully dressed, having had breakfast, and in a reasonably good frame of mind. The first hour of service, when the children are present with the congregation, can be especially stress-filled as you concentrate on making sure they are quiet and contained. Oh, the bliss of having these early years behind, and being able to really concentrate on worshipping again!
As you glance around at the older faces in the congregation, those NOT having to sit with squirming kids, you hope you are not annoying them. You might wonder what they are thinking as they watch you hustle kids off the use the bathroom or run outside with a yelling toddler.
Here's what many of us are thinking: "How I wish my children were with me in church again. How I long for the days they were beside me, kicking the back of the pew in front of us and singing their own versions of the songs. I would give anything, anything, for them to return to that innocent, hopeful faith of their childhood."
These are your noisy years - noisy for you and, OK, everyone around you. Now enjoy them for everything they are, and please, please, take the opportunity to use this time on Sunday mornings for all it's worth. I recommend a great book, "Parenting in the Pew," by Robbie Castlemen, which gives very practical tips on "guiding your children into the joy of worship."
Your efforts now to train your children will be rewarded as they, in turn, become faithful adults, with their own squirming kids in service!
Love to all the Squirming Families,