The day your child is baptized is not the end of your journey of dedicating your child to God. In many ways, it is only the beginning. For many Christian parents, the baptism of their child seems to lift the burden of the responsibility to point their child towards God. After all, your child has made the crucial decision, right?
Actually, although baptism is what makes us a Christian, we often forget there is another piece to being Christian. Baptism is definitely about forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternity in Heaven and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is also about becoming a disciple of Jesus. Yet somehow we often forget to teach our children exactly what that means and how it affects the way they live their lives.
Once your child has become a Christian, how do you encourage him to live his life as a disciple? How do you communicate to her effectively what a disciple of Jesus will do every day? How do you mentor your child into discipleship as modeled by the Apostles and other disciples of Jesus?
There are probably many things you can do, but I think these are essential aspects of any effort to create disciples.
- Make sure your child understands what a disciple was back in the time of Jesus. Fully comprehending your role as a disciple of Jesus is not required for baptism (see baptism study for more information on baptism), but it is a part of becoming a mature Christian. Since we really have nothing comparable in our society today, your child will need to be taught what a disciple was and how they lived their lives.
- Help your child begin to develop his own personal relationship with God/Jesus. This means encouraging your child to pray to God about everything and to read her Bible daily. If these are new habits, your child will need your help and encouragement. This is not a consequence scenario, but rather an opportunity to be supportive of your child’s growing relationship with God. You may want to join him in his activities or mention interesting scriptures you are reading or things about which you have been praying. Ask your child how you can help her build her relationship with God. She may have ideas which would not have occurred to you.
- Consider studying the Bible with your child to discover what behaviors and attitudes God expects from Christians. The New Testament is full of very practical daily living advice for Christians. James is a great book for a new Bible reader. I and II Peter and I, II and III John are also relatively short, easy to read and practical. Help your child map out what these scriptures would look like when lived out in his life. Teach her how to put them into practice with the people she encounters on a daily basis.
- If you haven’t already, introduce the concept of making all of your decisions through the filter of godly principles. WWJD has been criticized as trite, yet in many ways, that is exactly what we need to ask ourselves as we make every decision. If your child brings a dilemma to you for help or you have your own decision to make, model how to filter the possibilities through what you know about God’s principles. Then teach your child how to take that information and make a godly decision.
- Help your child discover her place in God’s Kingdom. God has gifted your child with talents and gifts he can use to serve God. God places opportunities to serve Him in front of Christians every day. Help your child develop his talents and discover ways to use them for God. Teach her to see the opportunities God gives her to serve others and share her faith. Help your child realize he is an important part of the Body of Christ.
- Encourage your child to develop meaningful relationships with other disciples of God. Find a Christian mentor for your child. Invite other Christians to join your family for meals. When you attend worship, spend time helping your child develop relationships with other Christians – not just the ones his age, but Christians of all ages.
There are many ways to help your child become a faithful disciple of God. Hopefully these suggestions will help you guide your child as her faith begins to grow and develop. In time, your child can grow to be a disciple of Jesus in the first century meaning of the term. I would love to hear what else your family has done to introduce your children to the idea of discipleship. Please share your ideas with us in a comment below.