Luke 2:49-52 tells us about Jesus at age 12. He desired to be about his Father’s business and was obedient to his parents. That passage also says Jesus continued to grow in wisdom. (That’s understanding and knowledge of the Word.) I believe this with all my heart: The voice of wisdom and the voice of the Word is always the same.
Jesus also grew physically and in his relationship with God and others. I believe this should also take place with children we seek to disciple. No matter what’s on your list of discipleship determinants, several steps are key.
For children to become discipled, you must do 3 important things:
1. Become all those things yourself.
My mom used to say, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” What we expect others to do, we must become these things first. I never want to forget that when I point to others, three fingers point back to me!
2. Provide models of service.
A child can’t be discipled unless someone is willing to set an example. Jesus said something powerful in John 14:9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” That’s almost mind-boggling! Jesus modeled the Father so others would know God. Can children understand what God is like from us? They should!
Children must have someone who’s willing to say, “Come follow me as I follow the Lord.” Gone must be the day of saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” We must be willing to set an example of discipleship for kids as well as adults.
3. Give children opportunities to practice living out their faith.
Learning is more than sitting and listening; it’s all about doing. I never apologize for giving people an opportunity to serve and put what they’re learning into action.
Alan Root adds in Disciplification! that Jesus doesn’t expect us to live the Christian life. “It’s so simple, we have a hard time getting it,” he writes. “You see, the Christian life is lived by dying. Dying to having to have everything your own way, that is.”
Discipled Equals Obedient
To be a follower means you aren’t leading; you’re being obedient. That means we obey Jesus. How can we obey? It’s simple: We must know God’s Word and do what it says. That’s the art of being discipled.
I believe children can be saved, live saved, and desire to be about their Father’s business more than they desire the things of the world. We know we’ve been successful at making discipled kids and leaders when they drop their defenses and surrender to Jesus’ control.
To me, the proof of the discipleship process is in the living. It’s not what you know or feel or think; it’s knowing Christ, walking by faith, thinking the Word and doing exactly what it says. That’s the mark of a discipled child!