By Jane Robinson
Different leaders use different phrases to talk about discipleship differently. No matter how one words it, discipleship is at the core of ministry’s mission. But how do we help our children understand what it means to be a disciple—a concept that can feel so abstract and foreign to our modern culture? Here are a few ways to explain to kids what discipleship really means.
A Disciple Is a Follower
As the twelve disciples followed Jesus, they got to know him and trust him, and he worked in their lives in such a way that he changed the world through them! The disciples were regular working men, not religious experts. When Jesus called them to follow him, they probably weren’t believers in him as the Messiah. But they were about to go on a discipleship journey that involved getting to know him more each day, growing to trust him, and realizing what he’d done for them.
Kids need to know there is no qualification to begin this journey. It’s the journey of discipleship that Jesus uses to grow faith and understanding.
When you use phrases like “notice Jesus’ actions,” “listen to Jesus’ promises,” and “imagine how [person who met Jesus] felt,” you are inviting children to start a relationship with Jesus in the same way that the followers in the Bible experienced him. You’re helping them to know Jesus better and love him more. And remember, we know the rest of the story: Jesus is alive today, and he is still calling to common people to follow him and to be in relationship with him.
A Disciple Is Committed
At some point in the discipleship journey, we realize that there is a problem in our relationship with God that we can’t fix on our own. Then we realize the gift of grace—that God sent his Son to live a perfect life on our behalf, to take the weight of our sin, to die and pay the ultimate price for us, and to rise again so that we may live eternally with him.
When this realization hits us, whether it’s in a moment or over the years, we are overcome with love for him. With his Spirit living in us, we live for him and make a difference in this world because of his love.
As you talk to children and their families about this, remember that everyone is on a different part of the journey. Regardless of a child’s stage in their journey, emphasize these universal truths. Challenge yourself to use different phrases so that their minds and hearts are stretched to realize the enormity of God’s love and grace.
A Disciple Is a Brand Ambassador
“Go and make disciples.” These are Jesus’ famous words as he commissioned his disciples—probably the words we use most often in connection with discipleship. These words ring true for even the youngest disciples in your care.
According to Indeed, the role of a brand ambassador involves:
- developing social media strategies to engage people
- developing product marketing campaigns
- measuring engagement and conversions (a Christian word)
Of course, Jesus is not a commodity, nor are we creating marketing campaigns and counting conversions. A brand ambassador is a metaphor for a disciple, not an exact description. As a brand ambassador, it’s much easier to do your job when you believe in and are committed to the brand.
Children are smart and socially savvy. When they are following Jesus, learning his Word, knowing his grace, and living with loving hearts, they can join us as partners in making disciples. They understand their audience of peers, and you can help them learn how to talk about Jesus.
One way to encourage them is to “bring a friend.” Another way might be teaching them to approach others with empathy and understanding. When you encourage this, you’re helping them to be the “light on a hill” and draw other children to Jesus. Still another way to encourage them is to equip them with age-appropriate resources, like the ones offered by CTA—try out the Dive into God’s Word product collection.
When you teach children about discipleship, you are showing them the way to follow Jesus, what commitment to him looks like, and how they can help others get to know him.
Editor's note: Jane Robinson is the Director of Marketing at CTA, Inc.—Christ to All.
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2022 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.