Parents, it’s up to you to disciple your kids. You’re probably familiar with the Great Commission, but did you know that after Acts 21 the word disciple isn’t found in the New Testament? After Acts 21, the disciple making relationship is primarily described through parenting language. In Thessalonians, Paul describes his parenting of the Thessalonians as both maternal and paternal. In Timothy, Paul calls Timothy his true son. Peter refers to John Mark as his son. These similar descriptions are not an accident. God intends for disciples to be made by spiritual parents, not spiritual institutions. And that’s a good thing, because institutional parenting stunts growth!
My wife and I are currently raising four kids. Our oldest is nearly seven. We also have a four-year old, a two-year old, and our son is 4 months old. So how are we discipling them at this young age? To be honest, we’re doing a lot of specific and intentional things, but in this post, I want to share with you about our family meetings.
Every Sunday, as we gather for dinner, we have an agile family meeting. Normally, I remind everyone that it’s that time of the week again, but when I forget my four or six-year old happily reminds me. They look forward to this time and each child is eager to contribute.
The meetings aren’t complicated or arduous and they center around just three questions:
1. What went well this week?
2. What didn’t go so well?
3. What do we need to focus on next week?
So how does it help our kids (and us) develop into disciples? Let’s look at each part of the meeting:
The first question helps develop the ability to reflect. In our fast-paced world it’s easy to simply do what’s next. Reflection is a shared experience that allows us to both celebrate and learn from the past. When we reflect in the context of family, it protects us from misinterpreting our experiences. In a family, the protection is heightened since we're often reflecting on shared experiences!
Kids (& adults) are excited to share about fun times! Sometimes they talk about the fun they had with friends or the special dessert we all enjoyed. All the remembering strengthens our connection to one another. As we think back over what went well, reliving those fun times, smiles and laughter fill the room. Sometimes we’re surprised at how recent an event was, other times it seems like the week has passed quickly. Recalling the good is a healthy life pattern that lead us to gratitude.
The second question also helps us reflect, but this time it’s about not-so-pleasant things. Each week, we agree with Scripture that “each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” Looking back on the challenges of the week helps us see our need for God and one another. Though we’ve struggled, we’ve survived. None of us are so strong that we don’t struggle. None of us are so weak that we're unable to offer something to support another.
Right now, they are quick to share where their sibling has struggled. So and so didn’t listen or had an accident in their pants or broke a toy. We encourage them to think about what didn’t go well for them. As parents, we model by sharing both inner and outer struggles. Facing those things together develops love and trust among us. The kids haven’t yet shared any inner struggles, but I expect that our modeling will give them the freedom to reveal bruises and hurts we’ve caused one another or experienced from those outside our family. Facing our struggles together will help us to develop perseverance and resilience.
The third question draws our attention to the immediate future. What’s coming up? In light of what’s coming, how can we prepare? It’s been said that, “If there is no plan, you don’t intend to do it.” Since our family has a clear mission statement, we have clarity about who we intend to be and what we intend to do. A key principle of disciple making is intentionality. As we interact over this question, we recognize our ability to act and to influence. Our recognition of these things also develops our sense of responsibility.
Our kids do really well with this one. Often they self-correct their own behavior. For example, if they’ve been leaving their things around their house, they’ll bring up how they need to focus on that. Sometimes they even bring up ways we can help each other (gentle reminders). Not long ago, there were a couple reminders directed my way as I’d left my things out! I love this because we’re in it together and are partnering together to become the type of people God’s called us to be! This question leads us to love others by being a good neighbor. This requires the ability to assess, respond, plan, and carry out.
I wish I could say that this meeting structure was my idea, but it’s actually adapted from agile management methodology. Regardless of its origins, we’ve bent its methods to fit around our mission statement, so the meetings help us to be and make disciples. Answering these three questions together helps us develop some very important disciple making muscles, reflection, awareness, gratitude, love, perseverance, intentionality, and responsibility.