The Ingredients of Family Discipleship


by Tad Thompson

Almost every evening around ten o’clock, I am drawn downstairs from the family room to our kitchen with a gnawing craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is one of my favorite moments of the day. Waiting there in the pantry, simply for my indulgence, is a homemade loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a little bear-shaped squeeze-bottle full of honey, and a bag of potato chips. The other necessities await me in the fridge: an ice-cold carton of milk and cherry jelly.

Most evenings this ritual plays out perfectly, except for those rare, sad times when some key ingredient is missing. I can live without the chips or the honey, but every so often there is no milk, or we are low on peanut butter, and my hopes for the perfect PB&J vanish.

Some ingredients are simply necessary. This is one reason why I find cooking shows to be an exercise in frustration. When these chef-gurus prance out into their professional kitchens—the kind missing the one wall where the TV cameras go—all the latest high-end culinary equipment is at their disposal. They know things about preparing food that we mortals cannot grasp. Worst of all, they regularly cook with ingredients that have never once been on any shelf in my local supermarket. What is the point of showing people how to cook with ingredients they don’t have? Without the right ingredients, everyone knows that a recipe is useless.

Maybe you feel a similar frustration when you hear a pastor announce that it is primarily your responsibility to disciple your children. Perhaps you have inventoried your spiritual pantry of biblical knowledge and, if you are honest, it is not as well-stocked as it needs to be. You know you need ready access to fresh, useful spiritual ingredients if your children are to become, as the psalmist wrote, men and women who set their hope in God. But you’re not quite sure what those ingredients are, where to get them, or how to prepare them.[Tweet “As parents, the call to family #discipleship only ends when we die. #parenting”]

Tell you what, let’s go to the supermarket—a really nice one. It’s a supermarket of biblical truth. As we stroll the aisles and review the wares, you are probably going to feel overwhelmed. There is so much your children need to be taught! That’s OK. Embrace that feeling. Your sense of helplessness will push you to rely on the grace of God as you take the exciting journey of family discipleship.

Perhaps your children are not exactly children anymore. If so, remember that your call to family discipleship only ends when you die. You have a lifetime to cultivate truth in the hearts of your children. Even when they are adults with their own families, you should lovingly and prayerfully encourage your children in their walk with Jesus. The nature of the parental role changes as our children mature, but its essence does not, and we are called to steward faithfully all the days the Lord has entrusted to us.

As we walk through the supermarket of biblical content, I want to show you seven “aisles”—seven categories—of biblical truth. Thinking in categories helps us to understand and teach God’s Word clearly. Imagine a supermarket that stocked its shelves randomly. Trying to find a particular item in aisle after aisle of jumbled chaos would be a nightmare. In a similar way, approaching the Bible without appropriate categories will often produce a certain bewilderment. But categories help us think and teach far more effectively.[Tweet “Learn the 7 key ingredients of biblical #discipleship. #parenting”]

Theologians have worked for centuries to compile the biblical data into accessible categories. The seven key categories covered in Intentional Parenting are:

  • The Gospel
  • The Big Story (Biblical Theology)
  • The Big Truths (Systematic Theology)
  • The Great Commission
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Christian Living
  • Worldview

Yes, it’s a formidable list. Yet it helps create a manageable structure, ways of thinking about how and what you ought to pass along to your children. In fact, if you will commit to learn from each of these seven categories, you will have all the right ingredients at your fingertips for a lifetime of fruitful learning and teaching.

An adapted excerpt from Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson. Click here to learn more and read another sample.[Tweet “This looks like a good way to create a structure for family #discipleship. #parenting”]  
Intentional Parenting; Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson


Learn More