There are many reasons why a parent might be the solo discipler in the home. Maybe you’re the only parent. Maybe you’re the only parent who follows after Jesus. Maybe your spouse is deployed, or their job requires them to be away for long periods of time, or you are widowed, or your child’s other parent has never been present. Whatever the case may be, family dynamics are much more complicated than neat little demographic boxes we check on a registration form. And that complicates not only our lives, but our discipling relationships with our kids.
One Step at a Time
First, if you’re the sole discipler in your home and are striving to do everything you can to show your kids how to follow Jesus, stop right now and give yourself a high five. And if you aren’t there yet but want to be, give yourself a high five, too. Parenting is hard work and being the only parent discipling your kids makes things even harder.
We must start (or continue) this discipleship process one step at a time. A solo parent can’t do everything, and most certainly can’t do everything at once. There are many things we can outsource, but discipling our kids is not one of them. Whether you are a solo parent or a solo discipler, focusing on one element at a time will allow you the ability to work discipleship into your daily life in a seamless manner. It won’t be perfect because nothing is. But we know that pointing our kids to Jesus is the most important thing we can do, so we must commit to do our very best at the thing no one else can do for us. Our intentionality as a parent is vital and will help us narrow our focus as we move forward in discipling our kids.
Give Yourself Grace
Second, we must give ourselves grace. We are usually much harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. When trying to fill the role of two parents (whether it’s part of the time or all of the time), we can put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Much of the pressure we feel as parents comes from unholy places such as comparing ourselves to everyone’s social-media highlight reel, trying to keep up with every extracurricular activity, and feeling like a failure if our kid will only eat dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for a week straight. The last thing we need is another uncompleted checklist staring us in the face, allowing guilt to creep in where it doesn’t belong. Take a deep breath and remember that even Jesus’ parents lost track of him once on a family trip (Luke 2:41-52).
Discipling our kids is very much about our own walk with the Lord. This is true no matter if you’re the sole discipler or not. But we can’t lead them to something we don’t have ourselves, and when we’re left without backup, our walk with God becomes even more important. When we prioritize our time with the Lord, discipling our kids will become a natural overflow with intentional moments we already have. Let them see us reading our Bible. Though it may be challenging at first, we need to talk with our kids about what we’re reading and how it’s changing our heart. Connection and transparency with your kids will increase as you spend time with the Lord and discuss his work in your life with them.
Rest in The Lord
Third, rest. Rest in the Lord. Rest in the fact that God loves our kids more than we ever could, and he loves us that much, too. Rest in knowing that he will equip every one of us to do what he has called us to do (2 Timothy 3:14-17). And yes, God calls us to disciple our kids (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Rest your body and mind. And teach your kids to rest.
Rest? Really? Yes, really. God commands us to rest and emulates it for us. He concluded creation of the universe with rest. God—he who needs no rest—rested. Jesus reemphasized this in his ministry. We have to break the cycle of busyness and addiction to hurry, allowing ourselves to slow down, to be present with God and with our kids. That is easier said than done, but things worth doing usually are. Though it seems like an exaggeration, learning to rest can change your life and the lives of your kids.
For help developing a custom-fit method of discipling kids in your season of parenting, read Write It On Their Hearts by Chris and Melissa Swain. This article is based on ideas from the book, which offers practical help and advice for Christian parents on how to be intentional with their time to lead their children to Jesus.