This article was adapted from one previously published at Desiring God.
A few years ago we had some friends over for dinner and they announced they were expecting their (surprise) fifth child. As we rejoiced with them over the exciting news, my friend made an interesting comment, “You know, early on in our marriage we talked about how we might change the world by writing a book or getting on the cover of Time, but now we’re realizing our best shot at changing the world is through raising the kids God has given us.” Looking out the window and seeing our small army of children running around in circles made me smile. So often we think our greatest accomplishments will come from outside the four walls of our house, but the discipleship we do right at the “kitchen table” has eternal impact as we raise little ones to love and follow Jesus.
A Call to (Tiny) Arms
What if more moms had this view of their responsibility? What if more of us didn’t see children as a burden, but as a blessing, and as an opportunity to raise up disciples that God could use to impact his kingdom?
At what other point in life do we have such a convenient opportunity to teach, model, rebuke, and encourage the characteristics we desire to see in another person? We have tiny disciples living right under our roof. We have a great opportunity for ministry at our own breakfast table.
There are many ways God uses us to impact our world for Christ, but motherhood is a special opportunity to raise up a new generation of Jesus followers. You don’t need a seminary education or experience on the mission field to disciple your children. The grace of God is sufficient to give us everything we need for the task set before. Here are a few ways to shape their minds and hearts while they’re still living in your home.
1. A Hungry Passion to Meet God in His Word
Everyday our kids see how we choose to use our time. Do they know that spending time in God’s word is a priority for you? Talk at the dinner table about what you’re studying in scripture. Ask them what they learned from the sermon or their Sunday school lesson. Our passion, or lack of passion, for the Bible will be easily absorbed by the ones who spend every day watching us. If you’re struggling to spend time in the Word, ask the God of all grace to give you a desire to open your Bible and be transformed. Persevere in your study, even when you don’t feel like it, and trust that God will use your example in the life of your kids. Help them realize the Bible is the most amazing book we have on this earth!
2. A Prayerful Dependence on God in Everything
Do your kids know you pray for them? A routine question we ask our kids when putting them to bed is, “How can I pray for you tonight?” It’s amazing to me how just those few words can help them open their heart to us and share what’s troubling them.
When we see world tragedies on the news or an accident happen on the highway in front of us, our kids should see that our knee-jerk reaction is to pray for those involved. God hears and cares and desires to answer the prayers of his saints. Even if you’re still growing and this isn’t your current reaction, ask God to help you lean into his wisdom and grace for every situation. Make prayer a habit rather than a rarity. There is nothing too big or too small to pray about.
3. A Contagious Gratitude to God for Everything
“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Gratefulness spills out of a thankful person. And realizing that all our good gifts are given from our Heavenly Father should spur us on to give thanks—both to him and to others. Each day I have opportunities to model thankfulness in my family, whether it’s for the food we’re about to eat or for my daughter unloading the dishwasher.
Maybe you’re struggling to feel thankful in a difficult season. Combat the spiral into self-pity by grabbing a pen and paper each morning and writing down 5 simple blessings. Trust that God is working even in the hard seasons. Point out to your kids the goodness of God shown to you through the beautiful sunset or your new refrigerator, and be thankful! The joy spread through more and more grateful people living in a society can eventually change that society—or family, or church, or neighborhood.
4. A Happy Faithfulness to Your Local Church Family
Our church body is a precious gift. They are our family away from family. I want our kids to know that being with this body of believers is a high priority in life. Attending corporate worship is important. Being involved in fellowship, through hospitality to small group Bible studies to playdates, is a staple part of our life.
As our kids grow, we want them to see and understand the seriousness of church membership and know that church isn’t just meant for when it’s convenient. Even when it’s hard, the baby is fussy, and we don’t ‘feel’ like it, these are still the precious people God has given us so we can bear one another’s burdens. We should make it a priority to be with them, even if it means missing naptime.
5. A Compassionate Heart for World Missions
My husband and I dream about one day being able to take all our kids on a mission trip with us. But for now, as we change the diapers of our 2-year-old and carpool to school, we still have opportunities to give our kids a vision for missions.
Read missionary biographies and talk about their impact for the kingdom (Christian Focus has a great series for young children called Little Lights). Invite missionaries into your home, and let your kids hear them share about their lives over dinner. Encourage your kids to do simple jobs like setting the table or cleaning up toys to earn some money to put toward a World Vision gift of their choice. The other year our kids experienced the joy of buying chickens for children who often had little to eat. Look for ways to serve your own community, from hosting a neighborhood ice cream social to befriending the exhausted mom with the unruly toddler at story hour.
If God has blessed you with children, consider what legacy you’re leaving them that God may use to impact our world. Consider the radical opportunity to make a difference for the kingdom: raise your children to know and follow Jesus!
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127:3–5)