Recently the Lord connected me with Charmé Fletcher, founder of the blog, Covenant Heirs, and coauthor with her husband of Making a Spiritual Discipleship Plan. She found my website through my Keeping God First While on Vacation Devotional and wrote about it on her blog last month. (To see how she used the devotional with her grandchildren, check out her site.)
My husband and I enjoyed using her spiritual discipleship plan resource with our kids to come up with our own discipleship plan for our family. It is an amazing tool and really helped us develop a vision for our family, so we stay centered on what matters most in life. I asked her to guest blog for us to tell you more about this wonderful tool…
My greatest passion is intentionally passing my faith in Christ down to the next generation, starting with our family. I’ve been married to Jeff since 1975. We have three adult children, two sons-in-law, and six grandchildren…our greatest joy in this life! I served alongside of my husband in pastoral ministry for twenty years. We currently offer a speaking ministry to churches and families called Covenant Heirs. Our mission is to encourage and equip parents, grandparents, and others to intentionally live a life of faithfulness to God, with an emphasis on family discipleship. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about us and our ministry. Covenant Heirs Blog: https://covenantheirs.org/
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
Everyone makes plans, right? We plan for our children’s education, for weddings, vacations, retirement, etc. But how many parents are as intentional in developing a Spiritual Discipleship Plan for their family?
Making Christlike disciples in our homes doesn’t just happen! As the saying goes: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Although I’m known in our family as the ultimate planner, looking back forty plus years ago, I regretfully had no idea how to plan for the spiritual development of our three children. Being a young mom and new Christian at the time, this was definitely a learning curve for me and my husband. Like many other well-intentioned Christian parents from our generation, we took our children to church, said our mealtime/bedtime prayers, and attempted devotional time together. Thankfully, our children received much love and biblical teaching through our home church.
Years passed and before we knew it, our kids were raised, and we became empty nesters. During this time, my husband followed a call into pastoral ministry. Shortly into our ministry, we became grandparents, and this is when the Holy Spirit began revealing to me what I had overlooked as a parent. The condensed version:
Parents are the primary spiritual leaders in the home, with the church partnering with parents along the family discipleship journey.
The following Scripture soon became imbedded in my mind and in my heart.
“Hear; O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NIV)
There it is, “Impress them on your children.” We (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to impress upon our children the most important life-giving principles. This happens only when we fully commit to teaching and training our children through God’s Word and by developing a natural rhythm of following Christ in our everyday lives.
I’m now a grandmother of six and am so thankful to have the opportunity to intentionally pass my faith in Christ down to our grands as we walk along the trails in Arkansas, ride bikes, bake cookies, and visit nursing homes together. (To read more about my greatest passion and life mission, please see Covenant Heirs Ministry)
The training my husband and I received from Focus on the Family gave us foundational resources and insight into becoming the spiritual leaders in our home, as well as training families in our churches to attain this God-given role in their homes. We also discovered the D6 Ministry and conferences.
During our time in pastoral ministry, we created a resource, Making A Spiritual Discipleship Plan, to help parents intentionally become the primary spiritual leaders in their homes. In addition to providing this resource, Jeff preached a sermon series focusing on each element of making a spiritual plan, and we presented training sessions for families. This proved to be beneficial not only to church families, but also to our own family.
Our eldest daughter and her husband were fortunate to have had the opportunity to go through Making Christlike Disciples In Your Home training prior to having their first child. Joe and Jennifer are now implementing their spiritual discipleship plan while raising their three children, ages 10, 8, 6. They review their discipleship plan annually and make the necessary revisions to fit their ever-changing life stages and set new spiritual goals and action steps for the year.
Church families realized the importance of developing a spiritual plan while going through the training process. As parents began evaluating their beliefs based on their current value system, some discovered what they valued most didn’t align with keeping God first in their family. They then took the necessary steps to prioritize their values to glorify God. For instance, some discovered they valued spending much of their extra time attending their children’s activities. Of course, there’s essentially nothing wrong with this unless it begins to squeeze out the necessary time it takes to “train up a child.” (Proverbs 22:6)
There’s a family that stands out in my mind who wisely chose to put God first. The parents made the tough decision that their children would not participate in any sports on Sunday if it meant missing family worship at their church. They purposefully began serving together as a family by visiting local nursing homes on Sunday afternoons, using their musical giftedness. These parents valued teaching their children to express their love toward God by serving others.
First, let me say to some of you who may feel that your window of opportunity has passed. It hasn’t! Even if your children are grown, you will benefit from developing your own personal spiritual discipleship plan. And if you have grandchildren, you will be able to share this knowledge with their parents.
Highlights from Making a Spiritual Discipleship Plan:
In this step, you will identify those things that are important to you. Where you spend your time, and how you use your talents and treasures, will give you a clearer understanding of what is guiding your life and the lives within your home. This step is vitally crucial as you discover what you really believe. Becoming a Christ-centered family begins by defining your family’s core values and determining if these core values are in line with God’s core values found in Scripture.
Mission and Vision Statement:
These statements will give you a foundation for leading your family with clarity and purpose. Your mission statement will answer the question, “Why do we exist?” and your vision is a proclamation of what you believe God wants your family to accomplish together. It is what you are striving for and it is the yardstick that measures your choices and actions. Victorious families see life as it is today and as they envision it tomorrow.
Determining where faith was shared effectively or where it was amiss helps parents identify where their present values were formulated, good or bad. Parents are then able to prioritize their values in ways that glorify God.
Developing goals and actions steps to meet these goals is a vital step to having a successful discipleship plan and to measure progress.
At the conclusion of the discipleship planning process, families have an opportunity to make a covenant with God (a written commitment or agreement to faithfully strive to fulfill their spiritual discipleship plan, individually and as a family).
Parents, are you doing everything you can, with God’s help, to raise your children to become faithful followers of Christ? Please don’t assume that taking your children to church and saying a few prayers in the home will do it! Take the time to develop a spiritual discipleship plan for your family.
“We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” (Psalm 78:4, NIV)
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4, NIV)