How to Disciple Children: When You Walk Along the Road

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Read Part 1 (“Where Children’s Discipleship Begins”) & Part 2 (“How to Disciple Children: When We Sit at Home”) of this series.

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

During the school year as I travel to work, I pass the same scene each morning.  A father and son walking hand in hand to school, the dad balancing his coffee in one hand and the boy skipping along, his backpack bouncing up-and-down as his head tilted towards his dad, obviously sharing stories with his hero.  Each day, same scene. Until one day when I was late to work.  On that morning, I saw the father returning from the school.  Gone was the playful gait and gentle stride.  In its place was a determined pace and intentional stride. Instead of a child’s hand, he was holding a phone to his ear.  Instead of an easy smile, there was a businesslike attitude.  The coffee cup long emptied was shoved inside a pocket as he hurried along to the next destination.

And I smiled.

Because my guess would be that the phone was always with him…but intentionally ignored during that walk to school.  My guess is that his business was always on his mind…but intentionally set aside during his morning conversation with his son.  My guess is that urge to hurry was always there…but intentionally metered to match the pace of his child.  There was intentionality in that morning moment as they walked along the road.

Whether you actually walk along the road, or like most of us today, drive along the road, it is easy to overlook this moment for intentionality.  Our plugged-in world lets us take our work life, our home life, and our personal life with us every mile we travel.  But that doesn’t mean we have to!  Here are some great opportunities to be intentional about the times we are away from our home.

In the Car

This seems to be the most opportune time for families to connect in today’s world.  When you are all together in a car, take advantage of the moment to worship together, pray together, or talk together.  Some fun ways to do this would be to create a mix on your phone or ipod of family worship favorites and SING together; create a prayer request list that you keep in the car and pray for there; or  fill a jar with Car Talk topics that you can discuss on longer rides.  One of the families at my church have chosen to pray each time they get in the car and guess who always remembers to remind them – their preschool-aged son.  He loves that car time is prayer time and it’s a habit they have intentionally developed.

Highways and Byways

If you have a longer trip planned as a family, you can be intentional in thinking what you may encounter along the way.  Often at intersections in the summer, there will be people in need asking for help.  Consider creating Blessing Bags to hand out and share Christ’s love.  Focus on the Family offers Adventures in Odyssey and Radio Theater stories that are great to listen to as a family on long family trips and incorporates Scripture and testimonies into engaging dramas.  Playing the State License plate game becomes even more fun if you think of someone you know who lives there to pray for or Google some prayer needs for that state.

On the Road

If you live in a small town, you might go for walks or bike rides around town.  Not only can these be really fun family times, it can also be a moment with a purpose.  Take a walk to a local ice cream shop and have a family faith talk.  Ride your bike to the park and find a way to serve (pick up litter, clean up the playground, hand out water bottles to park goers).  Or just do a prayer walk together around your neighborhood, impressing on your kids the greatest commandment of all – to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

The goal of these moments isn’t to hijack family fun time or to “spiritualize” everything.  The goal is to be intentional with the moments you “get” to spend with your family.  The whole car ride doesn’t have to be centered around faith conversations, but even if a moment of it is, it sets a tone that says, “We know that God is with us, every day, everywhere we go, and we are excited about welcoming Him into each moment with us.”  And can you think of a better impression to leave on your kids’ hearts?  Me neither!

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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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