Eight Guidelines To Keep In Mind When Building Young Adult Christians Who Can Stand Firm
"To master Kungfu, the training must be severe.”
Thankfully, this isn’t Kungfu.
When it comes to training his powerlifting athletes, legendary (and yes, controversial) strength coach Louie Simmons is fond of saying “to master Kungfu, the training must be severe.” He says this to explain the extremely hard training he puts his athletes through.
It is not for the faint of heart. But his Westside Barbell Conjugate Method produces results, and many of his athletes continue to swear by it even after leaving his gym.
When it comes to discipling your kids towards allegiance to Christ and passing the baton of faith to them, it can feel very overwhelming. “There’s honestly not enough time in the day!” to adequately combat the challenges the world throws at them.
It can feel like mastering Kungfu. But is it? Must you devote Westside Barbell like focus and energy to the task?
Well, you do need to be intentional and consistent, but no. This ain’t Kungfu. Keeping a few principles in mind will make the task manageable:
Start by taking your own intellectual formation and education seriously. You do not need to spend hours a day obtaining phd level knowledge (though if you can, that’s great!)--just do something small, and do it consistently, every day. Start here with this game plan. This alone will provide immense benefit to your kids.
It *is* never too late to start formally and explicitly disicpling in the home. If you haven’t done much and your kids are older, don’t let that stop you…
BUT: if you can start early, do so. If you start these family habits early when the kids are very young--1 to 2 years old--it will simply become part of regular life for the kids, and will therefore be normal to them.
In other words, you will get much more buy in from your kids when it comes to things like family Bible reading during dinner, reading time, prayer time before bed, etc, etc if you start those traditions when the kids are very young, and you keep them going consistently for the long haul.
Do a little bit every day and keep it simple
You do not need to preach a 30 minute sermon at dinner time each day that you prepped over countless hours of pouring over the original Greek and Hebrew text.
Instead, just do a little each day, and keep it simple.
Examples abound: pick a piece of classical literature and read 3-4 pages of it a day. Then discuss it afterwards.
The discussion doesn’t need to be incredibly deep--my expectation for my kids, for example, is that they need to have one comment in response or one question in reaction to the reading each time.
You can do the same with the Bible--1 chapter a day.
You can read them a paragraph or standout quote from whatever you are reading at the time, and then have the same kind of discussion about that.
Or read an article from the Voice of The Martyrs Magazine.
Or view a short Stand to Reason youtube video and discuss that, if your kids are older (say, 8+ yrs).
Or buy a family devotional and go through one a day at dinner time. Here is one that’s worked great for us. Here is another.
You have lots of options with what to do. The point is to do something, and do it often. Remember how you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
As previously mentioned, you don’t need to create fresh 30 minute sermons from scratch, or intensely deep devotionals based on a Bible reading.
You don’t need to create anything--the good thing about living now at this moment in the 21st century is that plenty of other people have done that for us, and those resources are out there easily available with the click of a button.
Lean on those resources. Go here for a brief and incomplete list that will get you started.
Use the natural joints of the day
Certain times of the day are better than others, because they are already consistent habits in the home where you are already present with your kids, and it is not a “rushed” time: meal times (especially dinner), morning, before bed, in the car on the way to school, etc.
Use of these times is helpful because they are, as previously mentioned, already habitual and consistent parts of your daily schedule, and you are therefore less likely to miss discipleship times if you pair it with these natural joints.
In our home, mornings and dinner time have worked well. In the morning we are sleepy, but we are all there, so getting up 10 minutes earlier to read literature is when we can get it in, so that’s what we do. Then at dinner time we have a reading more centered on explicitly Christian material, like a reading from the Bible, devotional, or apologetics video. We also occasionally let the kids ask questions and air their doubts, then we walk them through those questions.
The point here is to not just leave this up to “whenever we have time.” Make time by pairing it with something you already consistently do.
Read and use literature
Don’t just focus on reading the Bible or apologetics material. We have an embarrassment of riches in our classical literature tradition that can and should play a formative role for young minds.
Good literature shapes their moral imagination and keeps them enchanted with reality. It helps them exercise their moral thinking in ways that expository non-fiction reading doesn’t.
Unless they go to a classical school, they might not get much chance to deeply interact with our heritage, so create those opportunities yourself in the home.
Kamila and Vaclav Benda were anti-communist dissidents living in communist Czechoslovakia. They would read 2 hours to their 6 kids in the evening; they read Lord of the Rings multiple times, because it captured their moment so well.
Kamila--a university professor--kept this up even when her husband was imprisoned for years as a political prisoner.
Today, all 6 kids are still faithful Christ-followers.
You obviously don’t need to read 2 hours a night to your kids, but spending 10-15 minutes a day simply enjoying (rather than academically dissecting) good lit--poems, short stories, novels, fantasy, biographies, etc--will pay dividends
Meet them where they are at
Take their development level and age into account. When they are young, up to about 4th grade or so, focus on simple memorization--memorizing Bible verses, fables, chatechisms, and the like. This is completely appropriate for that age, and they are really good at simple memorization.
Then when they are in upper elementary and middle school, satiate their natural curiosity by going deeper and begin to explain the why behind the doctrines you’ve taught them. Start to connect it.
When they are in 8th grade and above thereabouts, the focus should turn to mastery of expressing their views with effective rhetoric and clear language. Role play conversations and challenge them to answer questions and challenges.
This follows the classical trivium expressed by Dorothy Sayers. More here.
The point is that there is a different focus at each development stage that closely follows their natural state and where they are at.
Play board games together
Lastly, set aside time to play together, without screen technology getting in between. Connect and have fun by playing cards, dominoes, or any board game, really.
We have a large board game and card game shelf at home that our kids love picking from.
Connecting like this often builds a relational foundation of trust, and greases the grooves of the other parts of our home discipleship.
The main idea is small, simple habits done consistently over a long period of time compound to make big changes. Do you need to do everything? No! Just pick something. So what are you waiting for? Start somewhere and get going!
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