Judges is one of the saddest books of the bible, and one of its saddest verses comes following the death of Joshua: “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)” The word “know”, in Hebrew, is the same word used for intimate relations between a man and woman (cf. Genesis 19:8), the implication being that knowing God is a deeply personal project. So, discipling the next generation is as much an invitation to relationship as it is an invitation to a doctrine class.
Therefore, perhaps it is not surprising that in the bible much of the discipleship of the next generation is found within the intimate confines of the home. It is parents who are called to “Train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6)”, and parents who receive the exhortation:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
As exciting as becoming a parent is, it is also fear inducing for most of us as we contemplate taking on the responsibility for a helpless little one who comes into the world with huge needs and pretty much no marketable skills! If they need us to teach them how to eat and talk, does it not stand to reason they need us to teach them about God as well? Likewise the exhortation from Deuteronomy is scary and exciting. The comprehensive nature to teaching our children is intimidating, but the encouraging thing to note is how natural our instruction can be. You don’t need to be a seminary professor, you simply need to love the Lord and take his word to heart, then live out your faith as you sit with, talk to, and walk beside your child. For example, a walk in the woods or a day on the ski slope is an opportunity to thank our Creator God for “giving us all things richly to enjoy.” Or when siblings offend and hurt each other, it is a chance to “gospel” our family and encourage forgiveness, just as we have been forgiven.
We have great families at CBC Ilderton, and I deeply appreciate your concerns to better reach our next generation. The staff and elders are working to strengthen our support of family discipleship as we anticipate re-launching in-person ministry programming later this year. In the meantime, I commend a new book by Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin called, Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home Through Time, Moments, and Milestones, which presents a clear and practical framework through which parents may grow in effective disciple making.