Shepherding Little Souls
As we seek to make disciples at home, shepherding our children toward faithfully following Jesus themselves, there are two separate areas of discipleship that we must wisely consider: offense and defense. Offensively, we must work hard to help these young souls cling tight to God, His Word, and His Church. Defensively, we consider and protect them from all the ways Satan can attack to distract, discourage, and destroy them.
In a sense, we must think like a shepherd. What are those things that our sheep need to thrive, and how can I make sure they have them? Where are green fields to nourish them with food? Where is clean water to quench their thirst? These are all offensive questions – vitally important and worthy of our attention. But, we must also consider the defensive ones as well… What predators might attack tonight? How can I protect the sheep from harm that might lie before them tomorrow?
In a class entitled Faith-Filled Family offered through the Emmaus Institute in January 2020, we offered some training on how to approach discipleship of children from both the offensive and defensive mindsets. Below you will find some notes from this class, as well as an audio recording of this teaching if you would like to explore it deeper!
Let’s Play Offense!
As parents, our greatest desire is to cultivate deep, healthy spiritual health in the lives of our children. We want them to love, treasure, and follow Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength! Of all the many things that we can do toward this end, researchers have found that there is one thing that had the largest impact on a child’s spiritual health as an adult, and it was this – the child regularly read their bible while growing up.
The question we must all ask ourselves is this: How then can we as parents help immerse our children in the scriptures as they grow? Toward that end, here are two offensive strategies to help.
1. Teach them to study scripture faithfully!
From a young age, teach your children to follow the habits of studying the bible in a faithful way with these four steps – read, observe, interpret, and apply. We read the scripture slowly and carefully, looking up words that we do not understand. Then we ask ourselves questions about the passage, trying to observe what is happening. Thirdly, we interpret the passage in its context, trying to understand what it teaches about God and man. Last, we apply it to our lives, asking ourselves how we can live faithfully to what we have been taught.
2. Connect what they are studying at church back to the home!
At Emmaus, our Kids Ministry seeks to immerse your children in the scriptures each and every Sunday. We have a variety of excellent strategies and resources to connect what they are learning on Sundays throughout the week back in your home. For more information, listen to the audio from this class above and check out The Bridge Class from our Emmaus Kid’s Ministry.
Building a Strong Defense!
As we immerse our children in the Word of God, one of the things we must be mindful of in our parenting is all of the sobering passages that are in the Bible concerning Satan. The Bible is very clear – Satan is real and he desires to destroy you and your family. His schemes will always be to interrupt your discipleship with threats and temptations to keep your family from walking in faithfulness to God. Here are just a few passages that remind of us of this reality.
- John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
- 1 Peter 5:8-9 – “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
- Ephesians 6:11-13 – “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
It is our duty as parents to seek to build strong defenses that protect our children as much as possible against Satan and his schemes. This being true, let’s briefly explore one place where Satan seems to be really targeting young people today – screens and technology.
Statistics show that children ages 4-17 spend an average of 4.65 hours every day consuming technology. The vast majority of teenagers are on social media, dealing with cyber bullying, social envy, and even cyber predators. Early research is showing us the impacts of all of this are incredibly dangerous on young hearts and minds.
Some of the most startling statistics as related to all of this show dramatic increases in exposure and consumption of pornography. A study from 2008 of 560 college students showed that 93% of boys and 62% of girls had been exposed to pornography before the age of 18. Another study showed that only 32% of teens and young adults would call viewing pornography “immoral.” In the same study, among 18-30 year olds, 79% of men and 76% of women acknowledged viewing pornography at least once a month.
These statistics are deeply alarming. The age of the internet has awakened an enormous evil playground where Satan is targeting our children. We must develop strategies and safeguards to do our part in protecting them from exposure, even while proactively teach them to follow Jesus over the temptations of the world. We must play defense! Here are four strategies to help build a strong defense.
- Set limits and filters on all screen time.Technology has its place, but we must help to keep it limited to that place. Investigate and become an expert in parental control technologies, and install it on all devices in the home. Some great ones worth exploring – Covenant Eyes, and Circle.
- Promote creation over consumption. In the age of technology, we are becoming a lazy people, defaulting to consuming things (entertainment, information, etc) rather than creating. Andy Crouch in his book Tech Wise Family offers some brilliant advice for how to help promote an environment at home that values doing and creating more than sitting and watching.
- Model Healthy Behavior. At the end of the day, we cannot expect our children to practice restraint with technology if we refuse to. Set limits for yourself, install filters on your own devices as well, and help teach your children the importance of not “playing with fire”.
- Pray Diligently. In Ephesians 6:10-20, in a passage on engaging in spiritual warfare with the full Armor of God, Paul concludes this powerful text with an instruction for us to pray – “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph 6:18) This teaches us that prayer is one of our most valuable weapons against Satan. Pray for your children diligently, and ask God to protect them each and every day from Satan and his schemes.
In all of these things, we require help from God. Which reminds us that we ourselves must be walking faithfully with Jesus each and every day as well. Let us seek to follow Jesus closely, that we may develop strong offensive and defensive strategies as we make disciples of our families at home!
Note – This article has been condensed from the third week of content in Faith Filled Family – a 3-week class offered by our Emmaus Institute in January 2020. For a detailed overview of the entire course, please click here. Also, listen to our recording from the Week 3 Class – “Shepherding Little Souls” – from the Emmaus Institute Podcast below.