Imagine getting ready to take a family vacation with your kids. You purchase the necessary tickets. You fill your car with gas. You pack your suitcases, and when the big day arrives, you carefully buckle your kids into their seats and off you go!
But what if you forgot to tell your kids where you were going? They might be a little confused, wouldn’t they?
I’m sure that my husband and I will never win a “Parent of the Year” award, because we did just that one year—not on purpose, of course. We loaded our car with suitcases, strapped our youngest into her car seat, grabbed our airline tickets, and headed to the airport, three little girls in tow. The oldest two knew that we were headed to Arizona to visit their grandparents for Christmas, but four-year-old Julia had no clue.
About halfway to the airport, Julia, still smiling and just happy to be with us, spoke up from the back seat.
“Hey guys? Where are we going?”
The rest of us burst out laughing! How had Julia missed the memo? This wasn’t a small trip, after all.
We’ve laughed about that incident for years, but in reality, my husband and I had missed the mark—we had not prepared everyone for the journey.
Sadly, many parents do this on a much larger scale, and it’s not just a trip that’s miscommunicated. Often, parents forget to communicate where they’re going as a family, which leaves kids confused and misguided about the family’s purpose.
The most effective parents I know are those who communicate a vision to their kids—those who say, “This is who we are. This is who we follow. And this is where we’re going.” These are parents who take into account the unique giftings, talents, and challenges within their family and work together toward God’s purpose for their family.
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives his disciples one last important charge before he went back to heaven: “Make disciples.” Now, sometimes we read this charge with overseas missionaries in mind—they have gone out into all the world and are making disciples in other lands. But did you know that as a parent, you also have a wide-open mission field right in your own home?
I heard a wise man say recently, “Discipleship is simply teaching people what it means to be Christian.” I’ve thought about those words so many times because they have helped me see that the concept of discipleship is really very simple. Although the reality of faithfully and daily discipling our kids can be hard, discipleship is simply helping our children see what their faith in Jesus means in the day-to-day. Discipleship is our most important job as a parent if we want our kids to keep following Jesus into adulthood.
When we craft a family vision, we’re asking our kids to take this journey of discipleship along with us. We tell them who we are and where we’re going as a family. We teach our kids the characteristics of the Christian life that we value most. We help them see that living a life of following Jesus is the most fulfilling and exciting way to live.
How do we begin to figure out a vision for our family? Start by asking why. Asking why helps us get to our motivations and causes us to be more intentional about discipling our kids. Asking why helps us understand our family’s purpose.
Why Disciple Our Kids?
If I were to ask ten parents about their main goal for their children, nine out of ten, maybe even ten out of ten, would answer, “I want my kids to be happy.” Happiness, contentment, satisfaction—these are high on our priority list for our children, if we’re honest.
Interestingly, most parents would not name material possessions above happiness. Not many would say, “I want my child to be rich” before “I want my child to be content,” because they instinctively know what research bears out: money doesn’t buy happiness. Essentially, even the world knows that ultimate happiness comes from within—a deep, inner satisfaction—and that’s the kind of happiness most of us want our children to pursue.
The inner satisfaction, or “happiness,” however, is not something we can conjure up on our own or “will” into our lives. True satisfaction can only come from Christ.
Jesus wants abundant life for us and for our kids. He tells us in John 10:10, “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.” This is the goal of our discipleship—to show our kids that following Jesus is the only way to live. And if this is our goal, then we must point our kids to Jesus. All the time. Every day.
As our kids head toward adulthood, what they need most is not financial security; it’s spiritual security. Our vision for our family should be to help point our kids to the security that they can only find in the gospel so that we can, together, shine the light of Jesus into a dark and dying world.
Here are a few questions that might help you formulate a gospel-centered vision for your family.
What are some of the unique characteristics of your children? What are some things they have in common and how are they different?
How can you take the unique combination of personalities, interests, passions, and needs in your family and formulate them into a gospel-centered vision for your family?
How does the gospel influence your family’s purpose? How might thinking about your family in light of the gospel change what you’re focusing on today?
Shelly Wildman is a former college writing instructor, a wife to her college sweetheart, and a mom to three adult daughters. She’s the author of First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Disicpleship. In her free time, Shelly loves to mentor young moms, and to read, write, and travel. Find her at her website or at Instagram.