Family Discipleship Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

There’s no getting around it: Christian men are called to be the spiritual leaders in the home.

But out of all of our responsibilities, spiritual discipleship in the home is one of the things we struggle with the most.

The reasons are legion:

  • Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s a job for the professionals
  • Maybe our job demands too much, and we’re already spent by the time we get home to the family
  • Maybe we just don’t know how

I want to share with you what I believe to be the best way to lead your family (with children or without) closer to God, and to do it consistently and with confidence. In the video above and in the article below I want to share with you the 3 main elements/steps of daily family worship. It’s so simple, and yet so powerful in the spiritual growth of the family. So let’s get started.

…or maybe not.

Maybe you’re thinking- “Whoa there partner! Hold it right there. My time is precious and I don’t know if I want to spend the next 10+ minutes watching your fancy-shmancy videos or reading your bloggie shmoggie. Who are you to be telling me how to disciple my family? You’re not a pastor. You’ve never been to Bible school. What do you know about family discipleship?”

You know what? You’re exactly right. I am not a pastor. And I’ve never been to Bible school. I confess. I know, in the world of instant access to whatever we want, at the click of a button, 10+ minutes watching a video or reading an article by just some ordinary Christian guy, it’s asking a lot.

Here’s my aim. I want to share with you, not as an expert, but as a normal Christian brother-in-the-Lord. I want to share with you what I’ve learned along my 10 year family-discipleship journey- a 10 year journey marked with inconsistency, mistakes galore, arguments, and moments where after I explain a portion that we’ve been reading my children, with up-turned brow, simply look at me and say, “Dad, I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” and me responding, “Don’t worry about it, you will when you’re older.” Yes, 10 imperfect years,  but these have also been 10 years of family devotions crowned with the following:

  • Feeding my children daily from the word of God & seeing them grow in their faith.
  • Washing my wife with the water of the word & seeing her grow in supporting my leadership efforts.
  • Seeing the family as we come before Him daily & experience a oneness that many families can only dream about.
  • Growing in my own walk with the Lord & learning how to lead my family closer to Him.

We’re not perfect by any means. But we’re growing. And that’s exactly what I want for you and your family.  You can do this! You can crush it at family discipleship. And someday be able to look back on your life and say, “I gave it all. I did my duty. Thanks be to God.”

(Side note- In this article I mention the importance of family worship in the upbringing of the children, but this does not negate the dire need for family worship in families without children or where children have already left the home. Devotions with your wife is so powerful, and is another great opportunity to get some snuggle time. Bonus!)

Step #1- Pray as a Family

Every family is different in the order in which they do family worship, but I want to focus first on the element of prayer. Prayer should be the first thing that we see in the Christian life. God’s word exhorts us to “Pray without ceasing“(1 Thess. 5:17).In Eph. 6:18 it says- “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”  Prayer is a good indicator of a Christian individual and Christian family’s dependence on God. We need to do this together as a family everyday!

Focus on What Really Matters

There is so much vying for our attention everyday. Our minds and senses are constantly being bombarded with the various tasks, activities, interruptions, and distractions that fill our waking hours. When the family slows down and makes a united effort to connect with God it helps to bring us back into God’s reality, and helps us to refocus our hearts and minds on what’s most important.

How do we do it?

Some of us are new Christians and don’t really know how to pray, let alone lead others in prayer. Jesus helped out his disciples by modeling how to pray in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is a great place to start when we’re trying to model and train our children how to pray:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13)

Read and memorize this verse as a family. It is a wonderful model for Christian prayer.

Model Prayer for the Little Ones

If you have young children in the home, then it’s a good idea to train them to pray by having them repeat after you- word-for-word at the beginning, until they can do it by themselves.

There is also a helpful acronym (That I did not come up with) that you can use to remember the different elements of prayer (A.C.T.S.):
Adoration- Praise God in your Prayers. Speak of His Goodness.
Confession of sin- Model for the children how to confess sins to God
Thanksgiving- Give thanks for God’s many blessings
Supplication- Ask the Lord to provide you and your family with the things you need, both material and immaterial things.

You can also pray about personal, family, church, and national concerns.

Maintain a War-time Mentality

I like how John Piper describes prayer like a war-time walkie-talkie, and that it should always be done in light of our overall mission in life- “That His name be glorified, and that we might live for fruitful ministry.”

This imagery is helpful because it reminds us that we are in a war, and of our need to keep connected with our commander-in-chief in order to successfully accomplish the mission he has for our lives. We must train our children how to pray while they’re still under our roof.

Someday they’ll be off to face the world on their own or in their future families. Let’s train them to use their walkie-talkies well.

Final Reminders about Family Prayer
    • The heart of your prayer- Maintain a healthy balance between joyfulness, and reverence when you pray. Let the children hear you pray with utmost sincerity.
    • Avoid repetitive or long prayers (Matt. 6:7), because they become a burden to those who are your captive audience.
    • Likewise, avoid prayers made in haste. This is often done before meals, when prayer has become nothing more than a lifeless habit. When we respect the tradition, but lack sincerity, it shows an irreverent attitude toward God. Our children will learn from this.
    • Never shame or yell at your child for making innocent mistakes when they are learning to pray. Model, correct, encourage, and guide them when they are learning to pray.
    • Remember, that we pray to God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus.

Step #2- Read the Bible Together

What is the standard of the Christian life? How do we equip ourselves and our family for fruitful living? How do we train the next generation in the ways of God?  The answer to all of these questions can be found in the Bible. For God’s word is:

• Our daily bread (Deut. 8:3)
• Our source of faith (Romans 10:17)
• Our light of guidance (Ps. 119:105),
• Our comfort in hard times (Ps. 119:5)
• Our sword in the battles of life (Hebrew 4:12)
• Our everlasting standard (Isaiah 40:8)

The Whole Bible Makes a Whole Christian

The apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 )

In the Bible, God has given us everything we need to grow in our faith and disciple our family. But we need to read it in its entirety to be fully equipped for the Christian life. What a great opportunity you have (while your children are still under your roof and under your authority) to open the word of God to them and teach them on a daily basis.

We’re Training for Battle With What?

If we’re trying to build a strong spiritual foundation for our children, and train them for spiritual warfare, it’s going to involve a lot more than buying them Christian T-shirts, listening to Christian radio while on the way to school, or sending them off to youth group on Wednesday nights. Sadly, for many Christian families, that’s the extent of their weekly devotion to God.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

“…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,…” (1 Peter 3:15)

Can we and our children cast down worldly arguments? Are we ready to give a defense of our faith? In order to train ourselves for the battles we’ll face, we need to hear God’s word daily in the home! We need daily familiarity and practice with the sword of God’s word.

Areas Where We Need to Improve

Two of the major problems affecting the church today are:

  • A lack of scripture reading in the home
  • A lack of Bible application in our daily lives

We only hear portions of the word at church, and those words rarely translate into action in our homes during the rest of the week. We need to bring family Bible reading back into our homes; into the place where we can actually apply it to our everyday lives.

We’re bridging the gap between the hearing and doing. And this is how we can build stronger families which can withstand the storms of life (Matt. 7:24-27).

An Army Waiting to Join the Battle

When the Bible is only read within the 4 walls of our Church buildings; and when ministry is narrowly defined as work done by full-time workers in the church; the result is that the majority of the church becomes inactive. There becomes a massive disconnect between the hearing God’s word and the day-to-day application of it in our lives.

Think of all the families and individuals who are sitting on the sidelines of the great spiritual battle simply because they don’t hear God’s commands on a daily basis, or because they aren’t “called into ministry.”

All Christians care called into ministry- the ministry of obedience to God’s word.

Ministry should not be limited to only that which takes place in our places of worship. Think of how much more we could accomplish for the Kingdom of God if every Christian family worshiped God daily in the home, and took the initiative to engage their neighborhoods and communities with the light of the Gospel! The impact would be world-changing!

Sergeants on the Sideline

As Christian men, we are called to be the spiritual leaders of our homes; the sergeants of our very own home squad. The enemy of God has labored hard to distract, confuse, and dishearten so many Christian men into spiritual inactivity in the home. And it’s time that we rise up and answer the calling. It’s not an issue of ability, it’s an issue of calling. God’s has called men to lead, to protect, and to provide  (Eph. 5:22-27). So let’s do this!

The Bible Reading Journey

On any journey you have to do 2 things:

  1. Pick your Route– Decide what direction you’re going to travel
  2. Set your Pace– Decide how fast you want to travel

The same thing can be said of when leading family devotions. You need to decide how you plan to read through the Bible, and at what speed. I strongly agree with the saying that, “The whole Bible makes a whole Christian.” Remember (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So with that in mind…

Pick Your Route

To start off you can use a yearly Bible reading plan (see below), and just stretch it out to however fast or slow you think is good for your family. You can find some that go from start to finish; some that alternate daily between Old and New Testaments; and some that go in chronological order.

For this you’re really going to have to test the waters and see what works best for your family. If you progress really slowly, then I recommend you chose a Bible reading plan that alternates between old and new testament readings. You don’t want to spend 5 years waiting to get to the Gospels! The important thing is just to start! Just pick a course, and then make adjustments when needed.

Set Your Pace

As for the pace you take through the Bible, it will probably change during each season of your life. When your children are smaller you might start doing shorter passages each day. Then when the children are older you might move through larger portions each day, or split up the reading into morning and evening sessions. When you first start out, you can experiment and see what works best for your family.

A Few Reminders
  • Your Family’s Journey Through the Bible Will Be Unique
  • Be Flexible and Open to Change Depending on Your Family’s Circumstances
  • Read the Bible in Joyful Reverence
  • Discuss What you Read
    • Summarize what you read, and explain in simple terms
      Making connections and comparisons with some other relevant Biblical principles or experiences your family has had
    • Ask your children questions and allow them to ask questions about what you’re reading
    • Set up rules for when interruptions are allowed
  • Prepare Ahead of Time
    • Skim through the passage ahead of time
    • Think of some good questions to ask your family
    • Do a Deeper Study- Feel free to reference a study bible or Bible dictionary for more info on that day’s scripture reading
    • Never make the excuse that since you haven’t prepared for family devotions that you’re not going to read the scriptures to your family. You wouldn’t deprive your children of their daily food. Likewise don’t deprive them of hearing God’s word on a daily basis.

Bible Reading Plans

Here are links to 2 websites with various Bible reading plans you can use in your daily family worship. (One of my favorite websites of all time- very helpful)

YouVersion Bible App (with Bible Reading Plans)

for Apple Devices
for Android Devices (I’ve downloaded and used this one on my phone and it works great!)
for Windows Devices

Step #3- Praise God as a Family

The Bible is filled with verses on the importance and blessings related to singing to God. Here are just two:

  • Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96:2 )
  • “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 )

We sing during the Church’s Sunday morning meetings, but we should also cultivate a daily habit of singing to God in our homes. We miss an important blessing if we neglect to praise God during the other days of the week.

Yes, we should sing of God’s goodness, sing of our need of Him, sing of His greatness, sing of our mission in life, and sing of the great doctrines that we hold to be true. It has a solidifying effect on our faith, and encourages us in our daily walk.

Keep Singing Time Enjoyable for Everyone
  • Keep it short and sweet. If everyone has a song they’d like to sing, just sing a few verses of each song. Otherwise it will drag on too long. Variety and brevity are key.
  • Start by singing the songs you already know (Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace) and add more songs later
  • Remember why we are singing, and who we are singing to
  • Choose theologically sound, God-glorifying, and mutually-edifying songs. Hymns and Psalters are good but not the only option.
  • Encourage the singing of new songs to the Lord. “O sing unto the Lord a new song:” (Psalm 96:1 )
  • Avoid jam sessions and solos (it’s an entire-family activity)
  • Beware of theologically shallow songs that tend to have a “gimme-gimme” feel to them, those that promote man-centered pop-psychology, those that are mind-numbingly repetitive, emotionally-charged, or those that make Jesus out to be just one of the guys!
  • Play instruments while you sing
  • Sing along with a music CD or songs on your phone.
  • Buy music downloads, cd’s, and song books for the songs that you want to learn as a family. Buy a good hymnal, praise book, or better yet, make your very own “Family Hymnal” out of the songs your family likes to sing!
Song Resources
(The Website does have fingerstyle tab for sale, but the alphabetical hymn listing songs are all free and include guitar chord progression)

In Conclusion

With the 3 elements of Prayer, Bible-reading, and Singing, and just 10 minutes a day, you can begin to confidently lead your family closer to God. Feel free to start with whichever element you want, but make sure to include all three in your daily family devotions.

Stay at it until you’ve established a regular habit. It might take several days or weeks to get some momentum. You’ll probably make mistakes along the road, just like I did, but that’s just a part of growing and maturing. Don’t get stressed-out about making it perfect. Just do what what you can, one day at a time.

These 3 elements are so foundational to the Christian life, so start doing them in your home every day of the week. Start today, before you go to bed. Or tomorrow morning before the kids go off to school and you head off to work. Just get started.

But be warned– as you begin to feed, disciple, and train your family through daily family worship when you’re in the home or when you’re “about the way,” everyone will begin to see how the scripture applies to every area of life, and see how the hearing can lead to the doing. The family will be awakened to a whole new world possibility in the Kingdom of God, and yearn to take action.

Dear brothers, this is the greatest need of our day.

Question: If your family already practices daily family worship, please let me know how you do it in the comments below. Or if you haven’t started yet, please let me know what’s the biggest challenge you face in getting started? 

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