“I want to do more to disciple my kids at home. I want them to be prepared, and I know the challenges they face are real. But it's so overwhelming.” This is a common objection and response to my admonition to parents to more actively and intentionally disciple and educate their kids.
Part of me gets it. Life comes at you fast. Often the last thing you want to do after a long day of work is to stay “on,” playing the role of teacher too. Throw on top of your job all the daily rigamarole of taking the kids to all their activities, not to mention keeping all that straight, paying the bills, running the household, etc….well yea it’s a lot. Who has the time and energy to not only play teacher, but stay on top of the cultural trends that can change the direction of the wind at a moment’s notice? In response, some perspective, if I may: First, I’m not talking about a full on home schooling initiative in the home. If your family decides to go that direction, great. There are a ton of resources and help out there to make that endeavor more manageable. You don’t have to create the curriculum from scratch and do it all yourself. Don’t do it alone--there are people with expertise and other homeschooling families that can come alongside you. Do it in community with other people. But: that is not the only discipleship/educational game in town. Not all families have the means and space to do that. Parents should seek to educate and disciple their kids no matter what schooling choice they make. If you have a 9-5 (or even a job with longer hours) and your kids go to a school during the day, there are still meaningful and manageable things you can do with them outside of school hours.
Second, you don’t need to make grand initiatives and gigantic changes. If you think you need to, you can. Again, more power to you. But don’t feel like a failure if the grand and gigantic are out of your reach. Instead, do something small, do it consistently, and then add more small things over time as you can. The slight edge done consistently over time adds up to a lot. Kaizen. I take much the same approach to getting educated in philosophy and apologetics yourself so you can answer your kids questions and be a better witness in the world. No need to get a phd in philosophy. Just read 20 minutes a day. Play an audiobook on the way to work--one that stretches you intellectually, not the typical Christian bookstore feelgood stuff or the rah-rah Christanese self help books. Watch one less Netflix show before bed and use that time to read. Efforts like that add up over time if done routinely. When it comes to discipling your kids, start small there, too. If you have older kids, 5th grade or older, maybe at dinner simply play a short youtube video of a well-known apologist giving a quick answer to a common challenge, and then discuss it. Do that 3-4 times per week. Start there, then add. Or: 3-4 times a week at dinner time, read interesting paragraphs, sections, or quotes from whatever you are reading yourself to the kids, and ask them what they think about it. Or: get a free subscription to the Voice of the Martyrs magazine, and read through the articles during family time. Pray for unreached people groups at the same time. Or: read a chapter or two of the Bible before bed each night, and encourage your kids to ask at least one question or make one comment in response to it. Keep track of your progress with a chart. Sometimes your kids' comments and questions will fall flat, but sometimes not. The point is to train them, through the routine, to value God’s word, to pay attention to it, and to chew on it. If your kids ask a question you cannot answer, great! That’s a chance to say “I don’t know, let's research it together tomorrow to try to find an answer.” Maybe call into an apologetics call-in show and ask your question together. There are lots of ways to get started. The point is to…..get started. With something, however small, do it routinely, and then build on that as you are able. Third, speaking of youtube, you don’t have to create content from scratch! You don’t have to create these amazingly deep and engaging Bible study devotions. Don’t put that on yourself! Lean on the many resources out there. They do the trick just fine. Examples include but are not limited to: *First Catechism--for very young kids, ages 2-6 *The Ology--for a little bit older, ages 5-11 *Small Devotionals, Big Beliefs--ages 5 and up *Stand to Reason youtube channel *Red Pen Logic youtube channel *Maven youtube channel There is a *ton* out there--the above list just skims the surface and will get you started. As you venture out and continue in your own education, you’ll encounter other resources you can add to the list, and you’ll have other ideas of how to expand your discipleship in your home. The Maven youtube channel regularly references lots of extra resources for parents, so make that a frequent go-to in your own life. Fourth, don’t take questions and doubts personally. Encourage them to ask questions. If they don’t, you ask them the questions! Don’t necessarily see questions as a challenge to your authority. Many times, kids have honest questions. If you shut them down, hand wave them away, tell them to “just have faith,” or launch into intensely emotional lectures with raised voice, they won’t stop asking questions...they’ll just stop asking you questions. There are plenty of competing voices vying for their attention, and they will turn to them instead. Fifth, try to find some set time where you can make it regular. Maybe that’s 10 minutes in the morning during breakfast. Maybe that’s dinner time, or right before bed. Make it a no-screen time: turn off the TV, put the cell phones away, and allow space for connection. Set that time aside, protect it, and make it habitual.
Sixth, realize that yes, you might need to make some sacrifices. You might need to slow down to allow more space and energy to disciple your kids. The typical suburban life, with it’s overscheduled and activity filled busyness, might be more likely to lead to that coveted scholarship 10 years down the road (then again, maybe not), but is it *really* the healthiest way to live, both for you, your kids, and your family? Does junior really need to be in 3 sports at a time, plus piano, plus SAT prep at age 8, plus Boy Scouts, plus recycle club volunteering, plus, plus, plus? I exaggerate, but only slightly. If you rarely have the space and time to sit down as a family over a meal, that might be a sign. We definitely have our kids do activities and sports, but we have limits. Our rule in our house is one sport at a time, per season. It has served us well. Give your kids space to explore (note: best if you keep screens to a minimum, otherwise the space will be filled with meaningless scrolling), to breathe. It’ll be better for you, too. It is worth it. You do not need to keep up with the Joneses.
So yes, the task can *feel* overwhelming. Emphasis on the word *feel.* If you keep the above principles in mind, that should serve to cut things down to size and show that it is less daunting that you might feel.
You can do this.