This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Book review: Raising Disciples

Natalie Frisk and I have something in common: Our earliest memories of Sunday school include damp, musty church basements. Many assumed these places were where we kids learned about God. But, lucky for both of us, we also had homes with loving people who guided us and answered our faith questions and taught us to pray.

Raising Disciples
Raising Disciples

In Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter for Our Kids, Frisk helps adults understand how to nurture faith in children.

A curriculum pastor at The Meeting House Church in Toronto, Frisk blends theology and discipleship, encouraging us to point our kids “to Jesus at every turn.” This is a task not just for Sunday school teachers, youth leaders and pastors. Guiding children of all ages toward Jesus represents the highest form of calling for all of us.

Too often, Frisk says, we parents, grandparents and friends of children are guilt-laden. We recognize we should do better at guiding children in their faith development, but we don’t know what to do or how to do it.

Her premise comes from Deut. 6:7: Talk about what we believe at home, on the road, when going to bed, when getting up. In each chapter her “down-in-the-dirt discipling” comes through, asking us to consider the faith of children to be even more important than our own.

So why do we often create barriers for children and youth to learn about God? “We diminish kids: their feelings, their ideas and their spiritual lives,” Frisk writes as she reflects on Matthew 18. In some churches youth and children’s ministries come second to those of adults. Worship is for adults only.

“What’s your posture toward your kids these days?” the author asks. “Is a shift needed in your stance toward your child?”

One important chapter for adults to grasp focuses on the difference between a morality-centered faith and a ­Jesus-centered one. Dos and don’ts, Frisk says, get us nowhere with kids.

“We need to frame our spiritual conversations with our kids as being about Jesus rather than rules, traditions or morals,” she writes.

Most of the second half of the book describes how to nurture the stages of spiritual development, based primarily on theologian James Fowler’s 1995 book Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development. Frisk offers chapters for discipling ages birth to age 2, ages 2 to 5, ages 6 to 10, ages 11 to 13, ages 14 to 18, and even young adulthood and beyond.

For the youngest, she suggests one-sentence prayers and listening intently to the child for what might sound incomprehensible but “may be them telling you about Jesus in some way.”

For ages 6 to 10, she suggests sitting with Jesus: “We simply close our eyes, take deep breaths and imagine sitting with Jesus.”

Surprising to me was that Frisk also offered suggestions for discipling young adults, including those with children.

“Let your kids parent their kids,” she advises grandparents, along with “Let your children/ grandchildren know you are praying for them.”

I appreciated her personal stories and her list of resources, especially her suggestions for the best age-appropriate Bibles, beginning with a Bible word book for infants through age 1. It’s obvious the author has nurtured children, youth and families in Jesus’ ways.

As I started reading, I believed this would make a great study book for a class or group of parents with young children. As I continued reading, I became convinced this is a book for all of us. Yes, some is written for teachers of children, but if we believe we are the family of God, we are all raising disciples, aren’t we?

June Galle Krehbiel is a freelance writer and copy editor. She teaches fifth-grade Sunday school at Eden Mennonite Church, Moundridge, Kan.

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