Dallas Willard once said, “Every church ought to ask two questions. What is our plan for making disciples, and is that plan working?”
A plan for making disciples of Jesus is a discipleship plan. As I’m responsible in the local church for students kindergarten through fifth grade, and at home as a parent and grandparent to be a disciple-maker, there are certain skills which must be at the core. These skills should be taught and caught by teaching, practice, and multiple developmentally appropriate experiences over time, in moments, and as milestones.
We call these skills ‘holy habits’ because they are not one-and-dones, but rather repeated as habits. We introduce each one specifically as a Faith Milestone.
Prayer – talking and listening to our great God both by ourselves and in Christian community. This holy habit is practiced individually and in community.
Bible reading/study – God speaks to His people with language to know His heart, His expectations, His love, and His plan for all people whom He created in His own image in The Bible. This holy habit is practiced individually and in community.
Generosity – everything belongs to God and He invites us to accept His gift of salvation through His son Jesus. In response to God’s generosity, we generously bring His goodness into the world through service, giving, and thinking of others before ourselves. This holy habit is practiced individually and in community.
We don’t list worship as a skill because we teach that everything we do which tells Jesus, “I love you!” is worship. Everything! … practiced individually and in community.
Just this last week we offered the faith milestone entitled, I Can Pray. It’s a faith milestone specifically for 1st and 2nd graders. Each little person attends with a big person. We believe what they experience with someone they love and is involved in their everyday life is much more sticky than just attending an event as an individual. Again, we are better disciples in community.
We set up various prayer stations outside using various prayer tools which each student collects to take home. Each little and their big learn together. They practice together. They take the tool home now knowing what to do with it to help them pray to our great God who hears the prayers of His people, especially little people.
Outdoor stations this year included anointing oil, sidewalk chalk, fidget spinners, a yoga mat, dissolving paper, a picture of Jesus, praying with crayons, playdoh, and a journal.
We teach that prayer is both talking and listening to God. When we pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ we claim “Yes! I believe this is true because of Jesus.” The words we use to pray are special to God. AMEN means “truly”, “indeed”, and “so be it.” The prophet Isaiah refers to God as “God of the Amen” or truth (Isaiah 65:16) AMEN might be the most widely known word in the world, because even disciples of Jesus in other parts of the world like China, Japan, Brazil, Nigeria, and Spain, who speak various languages, also close their prayers with AMEN.
Jesus used AMEN at the beginning of His teachings more than 70 times in the New Testament. Each time Jesus started with ‘truly’ or “verily”, He was going to speak truth and He wanted all of His disciples to know it. We say AMEN at the end of a prayer. Jesus said it at the beginning of His teachings because Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life and no one comes to Father except through Him.
There are many other holy habits and we teach those, as well. These are the three we spend a lot of time on because these are foundations of a growing faith in Jesus and these are the holy habits which Jesus did, both individually and in community. The research also reports that these three practices are the most influential in a Christian making strides in their faith and belief in Christ.
“Churches that have a clear path into discipleship…that get people engaging their faith or at least experiencing it, will see greater success than churches that invite you to merely attend.” Carey Nieuwhof, 5 Post Pandemic Church Grow Accelerators
May we be found faithful to equip our littles with the skills to grow in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man on an intentional pathway to following Jesus so that they know what it looks like to love the Lord our God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and love their neighbor as themselves for their whole lives.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘Give careful thought to your ways.'” Haggai 1:7