How do I disciple a child?
Jesus final words before He left the Earth were to 'Go and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.' Matthew 28:19-20. Max7 helps describe the life of a follower of Jesus. They live a 'maximum' life 7 days a week forever. John 10:10.
Imagine young people all over the world doing just this; following Jesus to the 'max, 7 days a week'. Following Jesus, means having a relationship with Jesus and living their lives with him and for him. This Max7 web portal provides a variety of free resources to help and guide you to encourage young people to follow Jesus and grow in their faith. This encouragement that a mature Christian gives to others to follow Jesus is called discipling.
The task of discipling is sometimes difficult. However, we need to remember the rest of Matthew 28:20; that Jesus would always be with us; helping and guiding us by His Holy Spirit. He is the one who ultimately disciples, we are His hands and voice through which He works in the lives of young people. Young people are learning and growing rapidly and need significant people in their lives who are safe and wise. As you disciple a child, you will become a great gift to them at a very foundational time in their life.
This time in history is unique. There are over 2 billion children in the world and many have not yet heard Jesus of or put their trust in Him. We need to find new ways to evangelise and disciple the children God has given us in this generation. The 'Aim Lower' video is a powerful tool to help local churches rethink the strategies they use to reach and disciple young followers of Jesus. Max7 reflects the message of this video and part of the reason why everything is open-source and free.
Jesus discipled His followers in a number of different ways; with large groups, small groups and individuals.
Jesus discipled people in a large group.
He chose 12 disciples to lead and teach for 3 years. Max7 has a number of programs to help you lead a group of children and help them grow as Christians. BibleMAX is a dynamic program that can be run with 5 to 200 children. In these lessons children are active and engaged as they learn about the Bible. They are challenged to make small decisions every week to follow Jesus more. There are also other programs to help you run a large group.
A new approach to discipling is sweeping across the sports fields of the world. Ubabalo is a clever resource to help mentor and disciple young people in the context of a sports coaching session. Many sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball are included in the program. This is ideal for teenagers and older children.
Sometimes we can run out of creative and engaging ideas to help us share God’s truths from the Bible with children. Our lessons can feel boring and we are frustrated because we know it is so important to lead and teach children well. 7Ways leaders guide gives you lots of new ideas about how to interest children in every part of a lesson. There are ideas on exploring a Bible story, memorising Scripture and praying together, as well as many other ideas. 7Ways is also a companion to the BibleMAX lessons. It is a springboard to help you come up with your own ideas. You can even upload your own ideas to Max7 and share them with people all over the world.
As a leader who disciples children, it is important to sharpen your skills and learn new ways to connect with children. Max7 offers Training Modules to help groups of leaders catch a bigger vision of discipleship, learn more about children and how they learn and develop greater skills in leading a group. As leaders we need to be discipled ourselves and learn and grow as we lead younger Christians.
Jesus also discipled people in smaller groups;
2 or 3 at a time. He engaged them with good questions and challenged them to think more deeply. Max7 encourages leaders to build skills in small group discussion and mentoring. The 7Ways guide provides advice to leaders who need to develop a range of open-ended questioning skills to help challenge and equip children to think in God’s ways. The BibleMAX lessons have structured small group time where leaders can give input into the lives of children each week.
Jesus discipled individuals.
Jesus had the gift for helping people 'one on one' even though He was extremely popular and had many people around Him constantly. Jesus found time to be alone with God, and He found time to be with individual people too.
When you are discipling a child one on one, keep these things in mind.
- There must not be even a hint of improper behavior and so never be alone with a child. Always have other people in view.
- Be a disciple yourself and be accountable to someone who is a mature Christian.
- Make friends with the child and their family and find out about their life.
- Be yourself, explore unique about you and unique about them and see what you both have in common. A common interest in sport, music, art or animals is a great springboard for friendship.
- Meet regularly with the child in a safe place where others can always see you.
- Encourage them to read the Bible and pray regularly. Model these activites for the child, doing these activities with the child and explain what you are doing and why it is important.
- Encourage the child to disciple another child and tell others about their friendship with Jesus.
- If you are discipling a child as part of a large group, find time to sit down with them and talk and pray together before or after the group meeting. Never show them favouritism in the group.
- Be worthy of the trust that children have in you. If you are not trustworthy with young people, you should not lead a group of children or disciple individual children.
God designed families as the most important place for the next generation to be raised as God's people. Discipling is most powerful when it occurs authentically in families as well as within the local church family. Max7 includes resources useful to families who are exploring God's ways together.
Max7 also recognises that many children will not have the ideal family situation to help spiritual discipleship happen. Therefore, the local church family is vital in fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission to make disciples.
What is a disciple?
A disciple of Jesus is a follower of Jesus. They are are in the process of deepening their relationship with God and they are being equipped to grow in their faith in God. In Colossians 1:28 we find how they are equipped.
- They are presented the Gospel (proclaimed),
- They are challenged (admonished),
- They are taught with wisdom.
All this happens in the context of a relationship. Paul wrote to the Colossians church as a friend who loved them deeply and wanted them to passionately follow Jesus every day of their lives. (Colossians 1:29) Discipleship is always part of a good relationship so invest time into this.
A child disciple of Jesus
Though children look different all over the world because of diversity in race, culture, clothing and material possessions, a child who is a follower Jesus and is being discipled authentically will develop a deeper love for God and others which will show as they value and spend more time doing these things;
- Talking to God (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
- Reading and studying the Bible (John 8:31)
- Going to church or Bible club to spend time with other Christians (Heb 10:24-25)
- Telling others about Jesus (Matthew 28: 18-20)
- Growing and changing to be more Christ-like (Ephesians 5:1, 8-10 and Galatians 5:22-23)
- Serving others with good works (Ephesians 2:10)
Things to remember about discipling:
- Discipling takes time. It is a commitment by the discipler to get beside a child or adolescent for a number of years. Often things move slowly. Sometimes growth is slow and we need to be patient.
- Discipling should be based on encouragement more than rebuke.
- We cannot make someone show the character of a disciple if they do not want to love and serve Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is a heart process not just a change in behaviour.
- Pray regularly for the person or people you are discipling.
- Remember that as a disciple of Jesus you are also in the process of growing and changing to become more like Jesus. Be honest about your walk. This will help children to see that your relationship with God as a follower and with them as a discipler is authentic.