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How to Disciple Your Children at Every Age

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Deep roots are important.

And raising kids with deep roots of faith is important.

Why? Because no matter how much we want to protect our kids, dry spells are coming. Life is inevitably hard.

Will their faith be deep enough and strong enough to weather the storms? Or will it wither and fade?

While there are definitely no guarantees in parenting, no absolutes, no formulas, there are some things that parents can do along the way to make sure their children have the best environment for developing deep roots of faith that anchor them and nourish them.

Here are some concrete ways you can disciple your children at each developmental stage:

How to Disciple Your Children During the Awareness Years

(infancy to early toddlerhood)

  • Sing songs about Jesus and the goodness of God
  • Read colorful Bible board books
  • Go to church (even if you have to sit in the crying room)
  • Provide faith-inspired toys (such as a Noah’s arch, toddler friendly nativity, etc)
  • Tell them God loves them daily
  • Pray for them and with them

How to Disciple Your Children During the Excitement Years

(toddler to preschool)

  • Engage in fun hands-on activities and crafts that teach Bible truths and Bible stories
  • Read Bible picture books
  • Thank God together at the end of each day
  • Marvel at His creation around you. Collect bugs, examine flowers, take in the wonders
  • Claim the mundane (bring God in to everyday conversations)
  • Listen and dance to worship music
  • Tell them that God loves them daily
  • Get them excited about eternity with God
  • Pray for them and with them

How to Disciple Your Children During the Foundation-Building Years

(early to late elementary)

  • Hold a regular family prayer time – keep a prayer journal
  • Discuss what was learned in children’s church or Sunday School
  • Sponsor a child in need
  • Participate in service projects together
  • Make time for short daily devotionals
  • Read the Bible at night before bed
  • Practice Bible memory verses together
  • Use misbehaviors as an opportunity to share the hope of the gospel and the sacrifice of Jesus
  • Talk about and seek to practice the fruits of the spirit
  • Play Bible games
  • Put a Bible verse in their lunchbox
  • Help them see those around them with Jesus’ eyes (people hurt others because they are hurting – how can we show them love?)
  • Pray for needs around you as they pop up (an ambulance that passes by, a sick neighbor)
  • Let them see you read the Bible and pray
  • Apologize when you mess up
  • Pray for them and with them

How to Disciple Your Children During the Exploring Years

(middle school)

  • Encourage questions, find answers together
  • Ask questions, let them explore answers
  • Read age-appropriate apologetics (such as Case for Christ series)
  • Bring faith into real life situations often
  • Read the Bible together before bed
  • Ask them how you can pray for them
  • Continue to do things that create an other-orientation (service projects, helping neighbors)
  • Consume faith-inspired media together (movies, books, music)
  • Evaluate the media you consume against the Bible
  • Make time for weekly family worship (either at church or at home)
  • Encourage (don’t force) daily devotional time (buy them an age-appropriate devotional Bible)
  • Have regular discussions about relationship vs. religion; outward obedience vs. heart devotion
  • Help them get comfortable feeling like a square peg in a world full of round holes
  • Make sure your talk (of faith) matches your walk (of faith)
  • Pray for them and with them

How To Disciple Your Children During the Trial Run Years

(high school)

  • Help them hold decisions up to the cross (Is this for Jesus, against Jesus, or neutral?)
  • Create a team atmosphere in your home
  • Bring the Truths of the Bible to bear on the situations they face
  • Encourage godly relationships and peer groups
  • Be available and open to hard discussions
  • Ask probing questions, be genuinely curious
  • Ask them to back up what they believe with truth. Use the Bible as the standard of truth
  • Apologize when you mess up
  • Regularly encourage them to be a light wherever they go
  • Teach them (by example and instruction) how to love those who believe differently
  • Encourage them to examine their hearts and their motives
  • Genuinely ask, “What would Jesus do?”
  • Use the Bible as a band-aid, not a weapon
  • Pray for them and with them

How To Disciple Your Children During the Launch Years

(young adult)

  • Share what God is doing in your life
  • Encourage and acknowledge the work of God in their lives
  • Affirm your trust in them and the foundation of faith they have built
  • Listen to them, love them, and support them
  • Ask how you can pray for them
  • Pray for them

Now you may have just finished reading this list and are now feeling overwhelmed (if you have a little one on your lap) or guilty (if your little one now towers over you). Don’t. Have grace and have hope. God can take whatever we have as far as energy, capacity and skill and multiply it for His kingdom work in your children’s lives. Remember the fishes and the loaves? In the hands of Jesus, a little becomes a multitude.

And if you are just getting started on this journey yourself this post can seem like a fire hose of information. You don’t have to do all of this in order to disciple your children. Just pick one thing at a time and focus on that. Grow, explore, and learn together. Invite them to join you on your walk with Jesus.

Did you notice what every stage has in common? Prayer. If you do nothing else, do that. Ask God to mold, shape, and become real to your children. If you want more tips on specific things you can pray for your children, click here.

I’m sure the second I hit “publish,” I will think of more things to add to this list. And I am quite confident that if you are reading this, you have some great ideas of your own that are not here. Please feel free to share in the comments below so we can all grow together.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed therapist who offers parent counseling services to families in Connecticut. She loves to equip and encourage parents of kids of all ages. CfP is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring teens.

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