“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) Notice that Paul did not say “single parents;” he was speaking to every parent. We must identify ourselves as Christian parents in the Lord. Twenty-two million children in the United States go home to one parent; of those 83 percent are women. I’m assuming they are all not Christians because only 5 percent attend church. (1)
If you are a single mother looking for a man to train your children, you could possibly misinterpret the verse above, assuming that it singles out “training and admonition of children” for fathers only. That’s not however what Paul had in mind. According to Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “because the whole of his teaching has been, as we have seen, that the father is the one who is in the position of authority. That is what we always find in the Old Testament; that is how God has always taught people to behave; so he naturally addresses this particular injunction to the fathers. But the injunction is not to be confined to the fathers; it includes mothers also.” (2)
Being just a Christian parent is not enough for our children. We are called to be His disciples at least 262 times in the New Testament. (3) In order for us to disciple our children, we must be a disciple of our Lord ourselves for our children to see that discipleship in our lives.
Discipleship will perhaps mean giving up TV programs such as “Monday Night Football,” “Desperate House Wives” and “Lost.” (There is not much to find in “Lost” anyway.) Giving up time-wasting entertainment is just the beginning, discipleship will cost us everything. (Luke 14:33) The basic root meaning for disciple is “to be a learner” but there is so much more than that. The lexicons tell us that it means ‘one who shares a close and intimate relationship with a person.’” (4) We can see this intimate relationship in Acts 9:4 “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
We often put our children’s salvation as the number one priority on our prayer list. There is nothing wrong with praying for our children’ salvation but there is a greater command in Scripture. This is a greater command in scripture that we must obey first in order for our children to understand what salvation is and who has accomplished that for them. The Bible commands us to bring up our children in the “training and admonition of the Lord.” Parents, please sit down for a minute and think about your “bringing up” of your children before the Lord. I think if we honestly count, we will count more “bringing downs” than “ups.” We all fall short! But praise the Lord, there is still time for us to “bring them up” for Him.
Here are top ten ways that a single parent can disciple like Jesus:
1. Family Bible Reading. This is first on the list, not because it is most important but just to get your family started with reading the Bible with one chapter each evening. I suggest Proverbs as a good book to read through together. It won’t take long for your children to notice the word “wisdom” and “knowledge” repeated throughout Proverbs. When you are done with reading Proverbs, move on to the Psalms. In Psalms, you can teach your children about prayer.
2. Family Prayer Meeting. There are countless books on prayer but there are hardly any that are dedicated to family prayer. As a Christian parent, we may desire to give our children a good education in the hope that they will have a good career in their future but our children’s prayer life must be our very first mission. J.C. Ryle wrote “If you train your children to anything, train them at least to a habit of prayer.” (6) Teach your children how to keep a prayer journal.
3. Family Bible Study. Parents, don’t hold back on the doctrines! Don’t even think for a moment that children are not interested in Bible doctrines. I use John F. MacArthur’s “Fundamentals of the Faith” lessons to teach our seven and ten year old children. You can also find other DVD lessons that go along with these lessons.
4. Family Devotions. Pray with your children each morning before you take them out to the bus stop. Praise God for this wonderful book by Marty Machowski “Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.” It is a perfect devotional book for mornings right before they go to school. Keep your children’s face before God.
5. Family Worship. I call my family together for family worship on a regular basis. “Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come in his presence, and how unfit to worship his Majesty; and therefore earnestly ask of God the spirit of prayer.” (7) I will preach a topical expository sermon to my family. For single mothers, if you have a teenage son you can ask him to preach a sermon to your family.
6. Family Social Fellowships. On a regular basis we invite unbelieving friends and relatives over for dinner. Family social fellowship is not about bringing out the choicest red wine, rather turning water into wine for the glory of God! Parents, do your best not to turn down any invitations from your unbelieving friends’ occasions. The Scripture says that our Lord’s earthly parents “went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.” Luke 2:41 Our Lord attended a wedding with His disciples. (John 2:1-2) Although Jesus did not “join the clubs” of unbelievers, He did make visits to some of their events. Like Jesus, make sure that you keep your children in your presence for their protection.
7. Orphans Visitation. I Care About Orphans Ministry estimates that 500,000 children in the United States are currently in the foster care system. (8) The key point here is not about telling our children that it is better to have one parent than none, rather it is about obeying God’s word “But Jesus called them to Him and said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Share gifts and the gospel with orphans. (Luke 18:16) Parents remember that you are training your children to “think on these things” (Philippians 4:8)
8. Widows Visitation. This was the very first ministry established by the early church’s Apostles in Acts 6, especially in 1 Timothy 5:3 Paul mentions to “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need” and James writes that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27)
9. Elderly Visitation. “Rise in the presence of the aged, show honor for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32) If there is a word that has lost its meaning for decades, it will be the word “honor.” Parents, you know the story of Joseph when he was told “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons to see their grandparent Jacob. Now, when Jacob was told “your son Joseph has come to you,” Jacob rallied his strength and sat up on the bed. We can expect a similar reaction from elderly people that hear that we have come to visit them. The greatest honor from Joseph was when he “bowed down with his face to the ground,” to show honor to his aged father. (9)
10. Evangelism. “And he who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30) Just as the Father sent Jesus into this world, so He sends us into the world. (John 17:18) The Great Commission commands us “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) The Great Commission is meaningless if we don’t train our children to “do the work of an evangelist.” (2 Timothy 4:5) I highly recommend all Christian parents to read Jerram Barrs’ book “Learning Evangelism from Jesus.”
We must train our children to know God, not just know about Him. By knowing God, they also learn that they came from Him. “If our children don’t know where they came from, it is hard for them to know where to go.” (5) With that, let us put on the whole armor of God and start our ministry of training and admonition of our children.
2. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9
3. The Cost of Discipleship by John MacArthur http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/90-23.HTM
5. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones The Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith
6. The Duties of Parents by J.C. Ryle
7. The Directory of Family Worship
9. Genesis 48:1-12