6 Ways to Create Kingdom-Minded Families
At my church in Castle Rock, Colorado, we’re starting a new message series this week called The Hard Words of Jesus. I have the pulpit this Sunday, so I’ve been thinking a lot this week about one of the harder things that Jesus said:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-26)
While there is a lot that needs to be said to understand this passage properly in its context, it occurs to me that the possibility of a “conflict of interest” is dramatically lessened when we’re following Jesus together as a family, rather than following Jesus as individuals and trying to care for our families as though they were distinct acts. When push comes to shove, our first and foremost always loyalty has to be to Jesus, but the more Kingdom-minded our families are as a whole, the less likely it will be that we will have to choose one over the other.
But how do we develop families who make loyalty to Jesus easier rather than harder? Here are 6 ways to cultivate families that are devoted to Jesus together:
1. Talk about what God is doing in the world.
A lot of Christian families have a family devotion or worship time together which is a great thing, but developing Kingdom-focused families requires more than just reading Scripture, praying and worshipping together. It requires developing a way of looking at the world through the lens of expectation that God is active and that we can be a part of what He is doing. One of the best ways to do this is to regularly ask questions like “What have you seen God do in our community recently?” or “What do you think God wants for our country right now?” or “Where in the world can we most clearly see God moving right now?” And of course the follow-up to all those questions is “How can we be involved in what God is doing there?”
If you’ve never seen it, you might check out Operation World, a book that is put out every few years with information about what God is doing in every country in the world. It’s a great resource to use in helping your family cultivate this awareness of what God is doing.
2. Make Kingdom-concerns a regular part your family prayers.
It’s possible to do this even if your family is currently only praying at meal times. For years our family has had a basket of rocks on the kitchen table. Each rock has the name of a missionary or family friend with particular needs written on it. Before we pray for a meal, we select a stone and pray for the person whose name is on the rock. It doesn’t take long, but it keeps our family thinking beyond itself. (a big "thank you" to our friends, the Lindsey family, for that idea!)
3. Involve your children in your own serving.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a rather disappointing trend among Christian families. Even some of the most devoted Christian parents will often show up at church to serve at something and park their kids off in a side room to watch a movie or play on an iPad while mom or dad is “busy”. Why not find ways for your kids to be involved in your acts of service? Yes, it will probably take a little longer to get the job done when you have to find age-appropriate ways for your kids to be involved, but the long-term benefits are more than worth the extra time it takes. When we park our kids while we serve, we’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity to help our children see themselves as active participants in the life of the church and, ultimately, the Kingdom of God itself. But this goes for more than just your children…
4. Serve together as a couple.
In my opinion, one of the most important pieces of advice my wife and I give young couples during pre-marital counseling is this: find a way to serve Jesus together. Not only does it foster the right context for your relationship – that is, your devotion to one another takes place in the larger context of your first and primary devotion to Jesus – but it also gives you the opportunity to see God work through you as a couple. This does lots of great things for your marriage itself.
In far too many Christian couples, the husband has his areas of ministry involvement and the wife has hers…while they make arrangements between them to make sure the kids are watched while mom and dad are off doing “their” ministry (see #3). Of course, we all have unique gifts and should use those gifts as the Lord leads, which will often mean that husbands and wives have distinct areas of ministry involvement. That’s right and good. But make sure there are at least some regular ways that you’re serving Jesus as a couple, too.
5. Spur one another on.
Unfortunately, sometimes even Christian husbands and wives can actually deter one another from absolute devotion to Jesus. That happens for lots of different reasons which are beyond the scope of this resource, but ask yourself this question: am I making it harder or easier for my wife/husband to be fully devoted to Jesus?
It seems to me that there are three stages to spurring one another on to full devotion to Jesus: First is the permission stage: give your husband/wife/child permission to be involved in Christian fellowship, accountability relationships, Bible studies, ministry opportunities, etc. The second stage is the support stage: make it easier for them to be involved in Kingdom things. Offer to watch the kids for your wife/husband or take over some of your child’s household responsibilities when they conflict with particular ministry opportunities, etc. The point is to encourage their ministry involvement by actively contributing to a context in which it can happen. The third stage is the involved stage: become an active participant in your family’s devotion to Jesus. Ask your kids what happened at youth group or in Sunday School. Talk to your spouse about what they learned at their Bible study and ask application-oriented questions like “How would you like to see us put that into practice as a family?”
6. Let your kids go to serve God as He calls them
This one’s hard and it’s easy to be conflicted. We love our kids and we want the best for them, but we also want to keep them safe…and near. So on the one hand, we want our kids to love Jesus above all else and to be willing to do whatever He calls them to, but on the other hand, we don’t want our kids to experience hardship or get involved in things that will take them away from us. Listen, those two desires are often mutually exclusive and, for the Christian, there can’t be any doubt about which desire has to be set aside.
A friend of mine has told me that she was once in a church missions service where the pastor issued an invitation for families to publically express their willingness to let their kids be missionaries. This wasn’t a call to the kids to commit to being missionaries or a call to families to go put their kids on a plane anytime soon. It was just a call to parents to be willing to let their kids go to the mission field if that’s what God called them to. Of the several hundred people there, only three parents were able to express that willingness.
If you want to cultivate a family dynamic that encourages rather than discourages loyalty to Jesus above all else, you have to be willing to let your kids go wherever God leads...even if it’s a way from you for a time. So tell your kids that you’re willing to let them go wherever God calls. Better still, encourage them to seek God’s will and even look for ways to spur them on in their pursuit of Him. But whatever you do, don’t hold so tightly to your children that you create the very context in which your kids have to choose between loyalty to Jesus and loyalty to you.
Now, obviously, there’s a lot more that could be said on this subject. We’re barely scratching the surface here, but you see the basic idea: loyalty to Jesus will rarely cause a conflict within a family if the family itself is devoted to Him above all else, but this is something that we have to intentionally develop. I’d love to see your other ideas for creating Kingdom-minded families, so use the comment box below to share them!