How to Disciple Children: When We Sit at Home

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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)

There are a lot of times when we “sit at home.”  Whether it be sitting down for a delicious dinner or sitting down to watch a movie, the times when we are home, at rest and together, can be powerful times of discipleship with our kids.  Many times today, our sitting down happens with a screen in front of us; a phone, a computer, a tablet, a Nabi – a myriad of interactive screens vie for our attention.  In fact, recent studies show that 8-18 year olds spend an average of 7 hrs and 11 minutes involved in some screen media every day (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010). Making time to be intentional about sitting down, together, and participating in something as a family, can be a discipleship moment in and of itself, but since these times are increasingly more precious, it is even more important we don’t waste what we’ve been gifted.

Dinner Downtime

In 2007, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a study that demonstrated that “frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse.”  There’s a big reason for that.  The same study found that “when asked when is the best time to talk to their parents about something that is important to them, nearly half of teens and parents (47 percent of teens and 47 percent of parents) agree that during or after dinner is the best time.”

The dinner table is a prime place to invite Jesus into the conversation and for discipleship to happen. And it can be fun!  Our family does “Highs and Lows” every night at dinner, where each person at the table shares what their High and their Low for the day was.  This opens up opportunities for conversations that are relevant and impactful for us to share biblical truth, meaningful life lessons, and God’s love…over a plate of spaghetti!

Movie Night

I don’t know about your family, but Movie Night at the Embrees’ is a much-anticipated event!  But we don’t go into Movie Night without intention.  We have been known to stop a movie midway and discuss a scene or an interaction through the lens of Scripture or the heart of Christ.  Was that love? Is that how God would have us talk?  Was that the best reaction?  Did that remind you of anything we’ve talked about in the Bible?  These simple questions and intentionality turn a fun night into a formational one with little effort on your part.

Game Night

There’s nothing like a bowl of popcorn and a round of Apples to Apples or Trouble to get my family engaged around a table.  We’re a pretty competitive bunch so Game Night gives us plenty of spontaneous chances to engage the Fruits of the Spirit in real-life.  Games naturally bring out emotions that we often keep in check otherwise so it’s a great place to explore, rather than get frustrated with or irritated about those actions and reactions.  And yes, we’ve been known to stop play in order to pray and invite Christ into our fun and our feelings.

Family Meetings

I’ve heard these called many things, but basically it’s when you call the family together to discuss something of importance to the home or relationships.  This is a more obvious time to be intentional about discipleship but sometimes, the business at hand can take precedence.  One easy way to center these moments around Christ is to start these times together with prayer and end with family affirmations (go around in a circle and share one way the person on your right has blessed you recently). Regardless of what happens in the middle make sure it starts with Jesus and ends with Love.

Remember, practical discipleship at home isn’t about creating MORE things “to do” – it’s about intentionally inviting Jesus into the things you are already doing.  It’s about making that space in the everyday for Christ to do His transforming work and for faith to be formed in each heart.

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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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