For most Christian parents, their deepest desire is for their children to come to faith in Jesus. They try to find churches, youth programs, parenting books and other resources to help them achieve this end. However, with so many things in the modern world competing for the attention and devotion of kids, the task can seem daunting. Who would not love a step-by-step program for discipling one’s children?
Mark Matlock acknowledges the temptation to look for specific tactics and tasks. Certainly many popular parenting resources contain tips and ideas for teaching and training children. However, he says that basic behavior modification is not the answer. Believers should not want children who simply act appropriately; they should want children who love and follow after God. Unfortunately, no easy formula exists to ensure this happens.
Instead, Matlock says that parents must live out their faith in front of their kids. Children need to see not only an emphasis on church activity but on Christian community and ministry. He advocates allowing children to see God’s redemption at work in their parents, in their community, and in the world. Cultivating an environment where the gospel can be effective and authentic is essential.
Matlock describes briefly how this worked in his own home growing up, how his father provided him with a safe environment where he could discuss, ask questions, and even fail. He also tells of how the thriving Christian community of which his family was a part gave him additional resources once he reached an age where he did not wish to go to his father. This gives an additional reason for being involved in a local church body; it provides extra people to be confidants and mentors in the faith for children.
Matlock also acknowledges the difficulty in rearing godly offspring in a world filled with so much technology and so many distractions. They play differently than their parents did and interact with people differently as well. Parents need to be aware of this and provide wisdom and guidance as their children utilize these new tools.
There are no easy answers when it comes to bringing up children who will walk with God. Discipleship is hard work, and it requires wisdom and humility. Thankfully, leaders such as Mark Matlock are available to provide guidance and insight on how to disciple effectively in the home. This video is a good introduction to those important ideas.