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Family Discipleship

Family Reading Bible

Family Discipleship. It’s one of those phrases that strikes fear in the heart of many parents. We know it’s important, we know we should be doing something, and yet it all seems so overwhelming. This article is all about making it as easy as possible. We want you to feel like you are winning, and that you’re doing it in a way that is so simple, it almost feels like you are cheating. That’s the power of music and the power of the family table.

But before we get into tactics, let’s make two things super clear about family discipleship:

First: It’s more important who you are than what you do.
Second: Do what you can and rest in that.

It’s way more important who you are than what you do. Americans emphasize activity. We feel like we’re important when we do stuff, when we’re busy. Many consider it a badge of honor to lose sleep because of work. In the middle ages, they had a name for that person: a fool. It meant you hadn’t managed your time well. But not us modern, enlightened people. We love to celebrate the things that are bad for us, like losing sleep, over work, and deep-fried twinkies. 

But activity does not equal accomplishment. Don’t make the mistake of substituting activity for relationship or success. It’s more important who you are than what you do.

Growing Up there wasn’t much intentional spiritual instruction in our home. And yet my parents were loving, generous, compassionate, and had their own vibrant and growing faith. My Dad was very busy. He was an attorney, he served in the National Guard Artillery. He also flew planes. But every Saturday morning I woke to him and a group of men from the church, kneeling on the kitchen floor, weeping, praying, over the needs of the church. I watched him go down to the homeless shelter and quietly serve meals. He loved us so much, and loved us enough to discipline us and be firm with us. To do the hard thing. He always had us at church, and helped make sure we could go to any camp or event we wanted to. He was there Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and it was important to him. He made sure we were at a church that was Bible-believing at its core. We were surrounded with other families that loved Jesus.

So let’s start with that. If you do nothing else right, be pursuing Christ first and foremost on your own. It will spill over!

Imagine the opposite, where you do all the right activities. You make sure your family gathers every day for a thirty-minute family worship service. Your wife reads aloud from Jonathan Edwards. Your oldest writes new songs for the Saturday night service every week. Each child is memorizing a book of the Bible, which they will quote flawlessly in turn sometime this year. You track the missionaries you give to as a family on the world map that covers a wall in the kitchen. You lead mission trips. You even make your own essential oils. And yet you’re an angry, bitter, micromanaging control freak. You struggle with lust and shame so much so that you have to put others down to build yourself up.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be either-or, but here’s the point: If you emphasize activity over relationship, you probably will push your kids away from the faith.

So: Start with being the right person.

The Importance of Family Discipleship

Now, Here’s why Family Discipleship is so important: We believe it is the most strategic activity for the long-term health and growth of the church. Effectively passing on our faith to our children is the most important thing we can do for the long-term health and growth of the church. It’s more strategic than anything else. Even more important than missions. Sound like heresy? Hear me out.

Let's start with the negative side of this reality.

Studies show churches are struggling to keep their own kids in the faith. The best stats say that somewhere around 50% of kids abandon their faith after high school. The worst 80%. So let’s be generous and say at best, 50% of our kids will say, “no thanks” after high school. This is a real problem. They aren’t just stumbling here and there. It’s not a trickle. It’s not a small leak. It’s a floodgate. They are hitting the ground running away from the faith the day they leave home. This should deeply trouble us. 

For comparison let’s consider the world we live in today.

As of this writing, we’re up to 500,000 deaths in the US. That is terrible, and yet that is 0.14% of the population. But what if this were 50% of the population? Imagine if it were 175 million dead from Covid. Imagine how different our world would be.

And yet that’s what we’re talking about when it comes to kids leaving the church. In comparison, We are in a faith pandemic of the most horrific proportions. This is why we can say with confidence that family discipleship is more important than missions to the long-term health and growth of the church: you can’t out missions that many kids running out the back door. You can’t personally bring in enough people through conversion to make up for what’s going out the doors of our own home.

I grew up in an amazing church, Bible-believing, dependent on prayer, generous people, no legalism. I’m convinced we had the best youth minister in the history of youth ministry. Yet most of my friends that I grew up with in church are not walking with the Lord today.

So we have a choice, we can stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is going to be ok, or we can recognize and acknowledge the truth of the devastating reality we’re facing. Then we can start to move forward.

What do we do to not only stop the leak out the back door, but also help our kids build their faith into a growing love for God and others? Here is a simple strategy that any family can employ even if you know nothing about Seeds Family Worship.

First, two important concepts, then a simple four-part strategy

Two Concepts

1) POWER OF The Family Table

Leonard Sax, in his book The Collapse of Parenting, says one of the greatest predictors of overall family health is the number of undistracted meals the family shares together. Undistracted being the key part - no phones, TVs, etc., but everyone focused on connecting as a family. Of course, the family that eats together every night is going to be much more healthy than the family that never eats together. But here’s the really interesting part. The study Sax cited showed that there was a measurable difference in family health between each meal added. So if you eat together two nights a week, and your neighbor eats together three nights a week, then they will be ever so slightly healthier than your family (feeling judged?).

So here’s the encouraging part: JUST ADDING ONE MORE MEAL WILL make a difference. And we haven’t even got to the spiritual side of this yet. We’re just talking about things like, “do we like each other,” and “do my kids finish their homework.”

Now I know a lot of families are going to think, “oh boy… we’re just so busy.” Hey, I get it. Church activities, sports, school meetings, and such keep us all running hard in this activity-obsessed crazy world we live in.

But here we have a clear data point to wrestle with. Eating undistracted meals together is one of the clearest ways to improve overall family health. It’s actually one of the simplest ways to predict things like whether or not your kids will do drugs or graduate high school. You may not see how you can make this happen right now, but if it’s important to you, you’ll figure it out.

Now, Why are family meals important for our efforts to invest in our children Spiritually? Here are some reasons we recommend making the family mealtime the main place you focus on intentional family discipleship:

  • It’s Practical: during a meal, everyone is already gathered and likely used to gathering. Therefore you don’t have to create a separate experience. Many families struggle to start building a family devotion habit, but if you focus on incorporating it into the family meal, you’ve removed one hurdle (getting everyone together). Habits expert, James Clear, says that when you are trying to establish a new habit, a key tactic is to attach it to an existing habit. The goal here is to establish a new habit, more so than creating the next revival that sweeps the nation. Connecting your family discipleship to a time you’re already planning to gather removes one barrier to success.
  • Power of attraction: A second advantage is that food attracts. It might be hard to say to your kids, “Hey everyone, let's all gather in the living room to study the Bible together.” You might get groans and maybe even ones that are too deep for words. But when you say, “Dinner is ready. hot food is on the table!” You need to step aside like a bystander in Pamplona at the running of the bulls. If the kids are hungry, you don’t have to beg and bribe for their attendance.
  • Full mouths: another benefit is that if you do want to read something to your family (and this really depends on the age of your children), you can do so while mouths are full at the beginning of the meal, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a chance of getting through it uninterrupted (no guarantees though!)

Ok, so you’re gathered at the table, now what do you do?

2) Keep it simple

There’s a time and a place to read through the entire Bible. I don’t think the dinner table is the place. LESS IS MORE. All you really need to do is to get one little idea in their little heads. In fact, one little idea during a meal, over time, will have a huge influence. You also want to focus on keeping it simple so that you don’t overwhelm everyone, or make it too hard to build some momentum. James Clear also says you should make a new habit so easy to do that you can’t not do it (You might have to read that sentence again). If you want to get in shape, what’s the easiest starting point that you can’t-not do? Want to do push ups? How many seem so simple that you can’t not do it? Ten? Five? How about one a day? How about half of one? You might think, “Well that doesn’t even seem worth my time.” Remember the goal is establishing the habit, not turning into The Rock/Dwayne Johnson overnight. What is something you can shoot for as a family that will help you get started and get a win? Here are some ideas:

  • Go through the book of James. Simply read one verse each time you gather and talk about it. It’s a short book of the Bible, just a few chapters long, and highly, highly practical, even referred to as the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” Does a whole book of the Bible seem like too much?
  • Try the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus’s most famous sermon is so full of familiar ideas that your family will find tons to discuss. You’ll have to read a couple of verses at a time to cover an idea, but it’s just a few chapters (5-7) from the book of Mathew. Take your time and go through it over the course of a few months if you want. Does that feel like too much?
  • How about the Beatitudes. This is a ten-verse section (Matthew 5:2-12) on the front end of the sermon on the mount, again, full of many familiar ideas. Ten verses feel like too much?
  • What about ONE verse a month. Our family served as missionaries in Fiji for six months, and while there we focused on one verse a month (Colossians 3:12-17). We read the month’s theme verse a couple of nights a week and talk about it. It was super simple and yet also super memorable. Does that feel like too much? How about...
  • One verse. Can you just start by focusing on one verse? I studied one verse, Luke 9:23, in my morning quiet times for an entire year, and it was one of the richest years of spiritual growth I can recall. Does one verse feel like too much? How about...
  • ONE WORD? Ephesians 4:32 says, “be kind to one another…” Imagine if your family just had a slightly better idea of what it means to be kind. Try starting with talking about that one word and seeing what happens.

The goal here isn’t to launch a Bible college inside your living room. The goal is to just get started doing something to intentionally disciple your children. Let’s not get hung up on doing it perfectly, but on doing it simply, especially when we’re trying to get going. The enemy wants you to believe you can never do enough, that you can never do it right, and that you will completely mess up your kids just by opening the Bible. Just assume you won’t be perfect. That’s ok. That’s why we’re focusing on keeping it simple.

So that’s the Two concepts.

Now here’s the best news of all. Seeds created a SIMPLE and FREE Four-Part STRATEGY to make Family Discipleship even easier. It’s based on these four ideas:



Seeds Family Worship over the last seventeen years, has compiled almost 200 high-quality Scripture memory songs. And as we’ve written about before, songs make Scripture memory easy, even effortless. All you have to do is play the songs, and kids can’t help but memorize the verses. We selected twenty of these songs and built a one year program for families. It’s all free and it’s all online. You can focus on these twenty verses and not have to worry about trying to memorize all 200. You can focus on one song/verse every two weeks, to help spread them out over a year. All the songs are on free playlists on the major streaming platforms, which you can find at the bottom of the home page.

Using the Songs

Ideally, find a time to just let them play in the background. Don’t make the dinner conversation the main place you listen to the songs. Just let the playlist play here and there - when making dinner, or cleaning up, or in the car. The songs will stick over time.

Also don’t try to convince a kid they will like it if they don’t. “Hey these are great songs. They’re so cool!” Music is one of those things that tastes vary on so much. A song you can’t live without will make your spouse want to run from the room. Instead, just focus on playing the songs at key moments and let the power of music cement the memories.

Now, we said Listen and/or Watch because every song also has a video, and most also have hand motions. If you have kids under five years old, your best strategy is to play the songs here and there, then also let them watch the videos occasionally. You might not even worry about trying to have any kind of formal family devotion time, for the same reason that kids aren’t usually formally educated till they are five or older. They are just not developmentally ready to take on complex concepts before then. But playing the songs/videos will begin hiding God’s Word in their hearts and building a reservoir to draw upon for a lifetime


Step two is to simply read one of the four devotions that go with the theme song. For example, many families have enjoyed memorizing Joshua 1:9, so, you can read one of those devotions at the table. It’s story based, because we’ve found stories to be a great way to engage the entire family. You might even read through this three part series (One, Two, and Three) on the life of John O’Leary and see what your family thinks.


Every devotion has a question at the end to help engage the family around the main ideas of the verse. Simply read the question and see if anyone has something to share. If you’re not used to doing family devotions, don’t be surprised if no one speaks up, and don’t try to force the conversation at first. You might offer your own thoughts if no one else has anything to say, but try to allow time to let others speak up first. If the question is met with silence, feel free to move on. Definitely don’t get mad at anyone for not talking! Remember, the goal is to build the habit, and people will likely be slow to get involved.


Wrap up your time together with a short prayer. If you don’t feel comfortable praying out loud in front of others, simply read the prayer provided (every devotion has a written prayer included).

That’s it!

Some people wonder, “What if I don’t know all the answers?”, or, “How can I lead my family in any kind of ‘devotion’ if I’m not regularly studying the Bible myself? Won’t I look foolish or mess up? I’m no pastor or Bible expert!” We’ve already addressed some of these in a previous blog post, which you can read here.

Ok, so that’s the simple strategy, now what might it look like for your family?

Put It All Together

Here’s what it might look like for a family on any given day: Let’s say you’re on verse 4 in the twenty verse program. That would be Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Morning: Play the “Fun & Easy Family Devotions” playlist in the morning while everyone is getting ready for school. Maybe put the theme verse on repeat.

Mid-Day: Let the youngest kids (2-4) watch the hand motions video for Joshua 1:9.

Evening Meal: Read the devotion. If you have young kids in the mix, you might want to read it on the front end of the meal, when they’re most likely to be busy eating and less likely to interrupt. After reading the devotion, simply ask the question, and then after some discussion, close in prayer.

Bedtime: Look for opportunities to talk about the verse in your normal flow of conversation. If your child struggles with fear, mention Joshua 1:9. You can also look for the story of Joshua and Jericho in any children’s Bibles you might have.

What if at the end of a year your family could say, “We’ve memorized TWENTY verses together.” Wow that would be amazing! This simple program gives you a chance to see that happen. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s never going to be perfect, but getting started and doing something is better than nothing. The songs do most of the work for you. Keep it simple, positive, and keep moving forward. Spend time praying for wisdom on your own and asking God to direct you in all you do!


John Majors

John Majors and his wife Julie have a passion to help parents intentionally disciple their children. They served with FamilyLife for twenty years. They now partner with Seeds Family Worship to create tools and resources for parents to use at the table. They seek to invest in marriages and families internationally, specifically in countries in the South Pacific (their family spent 6 months of 2018 in Fiji). The Majors see the family table as the place where faith, food, and family intersect to create the ideal environment for growth. The Majors and their three children live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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