How to Disciple Children: When We Lie Down and Get Up

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These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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.  Deut. 6:6,7

The older I get, the more I appreciate that elusive moment known as “bedtime.”  As a kid, I dreaded the moment.  It was when life stopped and the ultimate time of boredom began.  Like my four-year-old son Caleb does now, I would protest, “But I’m not sleepy!”  But now—oh the bliss of crawling into bed at the end of each day and drifting off to sleep.  In contrast, Caleb adores the mornings.  His favorite time seems to be right when the sun breaks the horizon, prompting him to emerge gleefully from his room, skip down to mine and announce with great joy, “It’s morning time, Mommy!  The sun is up; it’s morning!”  My reaction to the dawn is not as, let’s say, enthusiastic as his.

Regardless of whether you are a morning person or a night owl, there is something about these moments that is significant.  The break of dawn indicates a new day before us “fresh with no mistakes in it” as Anne of Green Gables would say.  And climbing into bed marks the end of that day, fully lived and never to be lived again.  These moments pass us be each day, often without thought because they happen with such predictable regularity.  But if we take a moment and consider the significance, we can see why God would choose these two moments as His final times of admonition to “impress” His commandments on our children.

When We Lie Down

The end of the day brings a time of reflection to our minds.  Even our dreams are used to help us “make sense” of our days and to organize the information we have taken in.  This is a perfect time to sit with your child and reflect on that day’s events.  The moment can be fostered as simply as just asking, “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?”  Be aware that children are consummate bedtime stallers so there will be “those” questions, but many times something that is bothering them may surface and provide you a perfect chance to invite Christ into the conversation.

Another simple but intentional use of this time is to read through the Bible together.  There are lots of great children’s Bibles for all ages that you can choose from and reading a little each night makes a great way to end the day.  Several families I know enjoy doing devotionals; one of the favorites is Jesus Calling for Kids by Sarah Young.

When We Get Up

If you are like me, anything intentional that is going to happen “when I get up” isn’t going to happen until I get some coffee coursing through these veins. But, even if it’s not the second you roll out of bed, morning brings the unique opportunity to set the tone for the entire day.  A hectic morning, a complaining countenance, a grumpy attitude or a quick temper can have negative repercussions all day long. The feeling created by these things can be a bit hard to shake.

What if instead you purposed in your heart to seek for ways to bless your household and consequently your day in the mornings?  Simple acts of serving (packing your kids lunch and dropping in a note of encouragement, fixing breakfast and praying for the family, getting back packs ready while interceding for each child) can make a big difference in the day. And, as a rule, never let your kids leave the house without a hug and prayer.  The simplest blessing like, “God be with Hayden today.  Let him know your love.  Let his path be straight and let him know we are proud he is our son” can create exactly the right tone for the day. And if they hear that every single day, imagine the impact, the impression, of God’s heart you have left upon theirs.

When God established these moments for discipleship at home, I don’t think He did so with some religious requirement in mind.  I think He looked across time and space and said, “No matter what happens, families will be doing these things.  They will be sleeping and waking.  They will be eating and going.”  And in these moments of everyday life, He wants to be invited into our midst, to impress His loving commandments on our hearts, parent and child alike.  There’s no “right” way to do it, but as believing parents leading our homes, we must make sure we do it.

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Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partneringsmallbadge with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at ChildrensMinistryBlog.com

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