How To Disciple From the Heart

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How To Disciple From the Heart

By Callie Milling
I first attempted to intentionally disciple my oldest when she was around a year old. I started making a list of everything I would do with her—the lessons I would teach her, the stories we would read, and even what we would discuss (she talked extremely early).
After about a month, I found myself stretched and stressed. I was not being patient with my sweet little toddler or loving her well. I couldn’t figure out why I felt even more worn out than I usually did. Eventually, I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself when it came to discipleship. I was living and discipling robotically from a list instead of out of an overflow of my heart. It was a hard lesson to learn, but it changed everything about how I disciple my children.
Leading your children to a rich knowledge and deep love for God can’t be done by making discipleship a completely cognitive process—the heart also has to be engaged. In the middle of those, between the head and the heart, is where the Holy Spirit works. True discipleship is more than a transfer of information, it’s living out a passionate love for your Savior.

Model the Value of Time With God

Instead of getting up early to read my Bible before my daughter woke up, I waited until after breakfast and we would cuddle up on the couch together. After a while, she started grabbing her little picture Bible and bringing it onto the couch with her. I had my coffee. She had her juice. The sweetest little moments happened simply from her imitating me as I spent time with Jesus.
Now that I have three kids, this isn’t as easy. I tend to read Scripture at the table while we’re all eating breakfast and sometimes I read aloud, but most of the time I just have my time while they talk and eat. I’ve seen the simplicity of modeling being in God’s word consistently. Most days, I’ll have my deeper study before they wake up and then read Scripture again at breakfast. It has deepened my time with the Lord while also helping my kids see with their eyes that time with God is a priority to me and that it should be for them, too.

Incorporate Discipleship into the Things You Already Do

Pull your children into the things you’re already doing. Singing? Teach them the song. Reading? Read it out loud. Praying? Ask them how you can pray for them in that moment. Struggling? Within reason, tell them how God is walking you through it. Find your family’s unique way of following Jesus together (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
We tend to overcomplicate discipleship. It’s really just inviting someone to walk through life with you and intentionally pointing to Jesus along the way. When we follow Jesus, passing down the faith we have comes naturally. By living out the gospel in front of your kids, there are so many opportunities for them to see how it connects to every part of their life. You don’t need to fret over the perfect set of Scripture cards or bedtime books. Although those things can add value, what is really important is making the gospel applicable to your children’s lives. Discipleship is not so much a series of formal lessons but a natural overflow of your own heart.
Your kids won’t always have fancy discipleship tools at their disposal and you won’t always be with them to walk them through tough moments. However, they will likely always have dishes that need to be done, clothes that need to be washed, jobs to do diligently, floors to sweep, churches to serve, and communities to love. Every day we have the opportunity to disciple our children by faithfully following Jesus with joy and humility, practically living out biblical truths when, yet again, you have to mop up spilled milk. Jesus didn’t merely tell His disciples how to live, He showed them, and we are called to do the same. Just as Philip told Nathaniel he had found the Messiah, we can also invite our children to daily “come and see” (John 1:46).
Our faith is not an unreachable and private thing we do hidden away from those in our lives. It should be accessible, relatable, and joyful. So rather than adding more things to your to-do list—which in turn will likely cause you more stress— invite your kids into what you’re already doing, even when it’s hard. The fruit of your faithfulness will last for generations.
Callie Milling is a mom of three and a pastor’s wife who is passionate about creating a Christ-filled home. She spends her days homeschooling, reading, and doing her best to lean on God for all the strength and wisdom that life requires. You can connect with her on Instagram @athomewithcallie.

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