Cornerstone

Part 3: A Year of Discipleship

“Just because the bulk of what your kids will learn from you will be essentially unintentional, doesn’t mean there’s no place for intentional, structured teaching and discipleship.”

Most discipleship of your children is going to take place during the warp and woof of your daily routines as they watch you interact with God, with others, and as they see you continue to grow yourself. However, just because the bulk of what your kids will learn from you will be essentially unintentional, doesn’t mean there’s no place for intentional, structured teaching and discipleship. In fact, intentional, structured teaching and discipleship should be a part of every season of your parenting. 

That being said, this kind of purposeful instruction and interaction only becomes more important as our kids reach the years when they’re wrestling through whether or not they’re going to make the faith we’ve handed them their own. It’s not a choice we can make for them, and it’s not an outcome we can assure, but we still have a powerful opportunity to influence them and a God-ordained duty to do our best to pass along the good news of the gospel to them.

Again, there are probably lots of better ways to accomplish this goal, but I’m going to share the main components of the intentional instruction I did last year with Harper so that some of it might stoke your own creativity or provide you with a place to start.

Bible Reading

By the end of Harper’s homeschool year he finished reading through the entire Bible, a process that he had actually begun a couple of years before. With this (7th grade) year in mind, I first gave Harper a Bible reading plan at the beginning of 5th grade. I developed a reading plan that would allow him to read through the Bible chronologically (because I think it’s the simplest way to understand how the Old Testament fits together). One chapter was assigned per day, a pace that takes about 3 years to get through the entire Bible. Over the two years that led up to his “homeschool” year, there were definitely months where he would need to read 2 chapters/day because he had gotten so far behind (but doesn’t that happen to all our Bible reading plans!). 

Book Reading

Another piece of our ongoing discipleship that took particular focus during this year was “Dad’s Book List” (an idea I stole from Ben Sasse in The Vanishing American Adult). I’ve developed a list of about 60 books that I want our kids to read before they leave the house. These are books they have to read in addition to their school load (unless they get lucky and one of their teachers assigns the same book I assign). Some of the books on this list are on there because they are classics, some are on there because I think they’re particularly important books of practical theology, and some are the stories of diverse, under-represented voices in our world that I think it’s important for Christ-followers to be familiar with. 

Much more could be said here, but this year of intentional discipleship provided an opportunity to assign a couple more books than I would on an average year. Each week we would sit down and talk through what he had been reading, what he thought about it, what questions he had as a result (and whether he thought the book was any good). 

Bible study

The single most impactful part of the entire year, from my perspective, was the time we spent each week studying through the book of Ephesians. We would sit down and dissect a small section of the book together each week (2 verses at the shortest, 7 verses at the longest). This part of the day would often take a couple of hours! 

As we worked through it, I would ask him questions about what he thought certain words meant and what the sentence structure meant. Sometimes the meaning (or “interpretation” as you might call it) was obvious. But when it wasn’t, I’d have him write down the questions he had. Throughout the year I as blown away by the questions he asked of the text. It gave us such a great opportunity to dig deep into Scripture in ways we hadn’t before.

After spending time answering these questions using my knowledge base, a couple of study Bibles (ESV Study Bible, NLT Illustrated Study Bible), the internet (carefully), and a commentary (if need be), we’d move onto the next step. Next, he would seek to identify a handful of universal principles we could learn from the text. Was there a truth to believe about God or ourselves? Was there a command that all Christians are called to obey? Was there an example all Christians should follow?

And then, from these universal principles, he would identify a handful of personal applications—ways both he and I should be applying the truths of this passage to our lives this week. It built in accountability for us both, as we would revisit these applications the following week, and became the absolute highlight of our weeks.

Catechism

A more structured tool we used throughout the year was the New City Catechism. To be honest, I’m not a huge proponent of rote memorization. I know it can be a really helpful tool, but I’ve always hated doing it, and find it super easy to be done without any connection to my heart. However, I thought we’d give it a try, and it definitely turned out to be a blessing. I basically had Harper memorize the (shorter) answers to two of the catechism questions each week, and it was really cool to see how the truths he was memorizing would pop up in different situations throughout the week, or even in our Bible reading or Bible study.

Sanctification Projects

Next to our Bible study together, the other most significant part of our formal discipleship process was the sanctification projects Harper undertook. Each semester I asked him to pick one temptation or area where he struggled with sin, and we worked more intentionally and intensively on growing in that area.

He chose the area he believed God wanted to work on, and then wrote down:

Then we looked up some specific passages that addressed this area of struggle specifically. From there he made a practical plan to grow, and each week we would check in, provide accountability, tweak the plan, and continue the process.

You wouldn’t need to homeschool your teenager to do these kinds of things. And I can’t encourage you enough to try them out. Of course different kids are going to be at different places. If our children don’t yet have a genuine faith, we shouldn’t expect genuine change from them. However, intentional efforts like this can be a blessing to our kids, especially when they are experiencing aspects of adulthood for the first time, and trying to navigate this particularly confusing season of life.

Scott Mehl

Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.

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