Why did you decide to write Parental Guidance Suggested?
I was in my twentieth year of student ministry and having over one-hundred fifty students participating in youth activities on a weekly basis. As a result, students were getting saved and the youth ministry was growing. I was enjoying what many would consider “success.” Then one day God graciously began to show me that there was something horribly wrong. Slowly, the Lord began to show me a disturbing undercurrent of instability that was rocking the moral and ethical foundations of many of the students that I was ministering to. Large numbers of students were filling the student center on Wednesday nights to worship and praise the Lord. Then by Monday these same students were posting pictures of themselves on social media of the latest weekend “unchaperoned” parties. It was obvious they were living two different lives.
For some time I could not understand what I was doing wrong. Then the Lord revealed to me that I was missing a key component of real success in youth ministry…I was not discipling the parents of these students. I was proficient at discipling students at church but my best efforts were not enough. I needed help and the Lord showed me a much better plan. I needed to encourage parents to follow God’s plan outlined in Deuteronomy 6 and Proverbs 22:6. Parental Guidance Suggested is the tool I developed and use to disciple moms and dads so they can be the primary disciple-maker of their homes. I have discovered that when parents learn God’s Word, do God’s Word, and teach God’s Word in their homes, not only does it make my youth group better it makes our church and community better as well.
The layout of Parental Guidance Suggested is a 5-week training, why 5 weeks? How does a 25-day journey turn into a lifestyle of discipleship?
The reason Parental Guidance Suggested is broken down into five short days of reading over five weeks is simple; parents’ schedules are overloaded and their time is valuable. This format gives parents time to meditate on the small bitesized portions of each day’s reading to discover what the Lord wants to reveal to them. As parents progress through each week the Holy Spirit has more than enough time to teach and empower them to become the disciple-maker the Lord has called them to be. Parental Guidance Suggested helps parents face the facts of God’s Word and challenges them to examine their own discipling methods while at the same time encouraging them to implement new habits to form a natural lifestyle of discipleship in the home.
You wrote, “Parents are outsourcing their responsibility of discipling children to others.” Briefly, why do you think parents do this?
In our culture we have people who mow our yards, keep our kids while we work, clean our clothes, educate our children, wash our pets, etc… You name it and it can just about be done by somebody else (AKA:Outsourcing). We as Americans have become very accustomed to and in many ways dependent on the convenience of outsourcing.
Outsourcing occurs for many reasons. People are too busy to accomplish certain tasks themselves, don’t have the expertise to do a particular job well, or would rather pay someone else to do something for them so they don’t have to do it themselves. I’m not anti-outsourcing; however, the Bible is clear that one of the primary responsibilities of parenting is to disciple your children (Deut. 6:7). There are many reasons why some parents outsource this God-given responsibility.
– They feel they are not qualified to teach their children on Spiritual matters and leave that to the “paid professionals” (ie. pastors, staff, etc…)
– They find themselves so busy that they are overwhelmed with the thought of adding one more thing to their already full plates.
– They don’t see the importance of intentionally teaching the Truths of Scripture to their children.
Parental Guidance Suggested shows God’s expectation for parents to disciple their children, but many parents feel overwhelmed by the task. How does your book empower parents to take the first step in disciple-making?
Parental Guidance Suggested is designed to dig deep into the simple yet profound Truths of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Proverbs 22:6 one small bite at a time. Each day’s reading assignment should take the average reader ten to fifteen minutes per day to read. Because of the easy-to-use format, Parental Guidance Suggested slowly and methodically helps the busy parent learn what the Lord desires as the disciple-maker and provides them practical ideas to interweave God’s Word into a natural rhythm of their family’s daily life.
You cite statistics that show parents are the most influential person in a child’s life. Do you believe that parents have overlooked the amount of influence they possess?
YES! This is one of the biggest misunderstandings I find parents have. Many parents believe that peers, teachers, coaches, and others are more influential in their child’s life than they are but this is not true. With that said, let me give you a most recent example. At the high school graduation recognition service at our church, we asked each student to complete a short survey before the event. One of the questions we asked was, “Who is the most influential person in your life?” All twelve, eighteen year old students said, “My parents.”
Each section in the book is laid out in days and at the end of each section is a portion called Home Apps. Why did you decide to include this section in the book?
Parents are busy people. With the countless demands placed on them by their families, occupations, social and church activities, many parents struggle to keep all the plates spinning. Each “Home App” is strategically placed at the end of each chapter to help parents practically and naturally apply God’s Truth in their home as they “sit at home, when they go down the road, when they lie down, and when they get up.”
How can a parent, with so many things to juggle, disciple their kids?
Parental Guidance Suggested is written with two important principles in mind. In the first part of Deuteronomy 6:7, God says to parents, “Impress” My Word onto the hearts of your children. Simply put, the Lord wants parents to be their child’s primary discipler which can be a difficult task but there is good news. After the Lord commands moms and dads to disciple their kids, He next shows in the latter portion of Deuteronomy 6:7 how easy it is for busy parents to disciple their children in the natural flow of life. The Lord says to talk about His Word “when you sit at home, when you go down the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.” In other words, as you live out each day make it a point to talk about the Lord and the great things He has done.
In Parental Guidance Suggested the impression is made that for a parent to disciple their children, they have to be a disciple. How have you seen this book impact discipleship in the lives of parents?
The parents who have read Parental Guidance Suggested and allowed the Holy Spirit to be their teacher have taken incredible strides in their walk with the Lord. I’ve seen parents more determined to go deeper in God’s Word, more persuaded to genuinely live out their Christian faith, and more driven to seek out mature believers to be their accountability partners. However, one of the greatest examples I’ve seen has been a dad who after going through Day 13 was convicted about how little time he spent praying for his children. He made up his mind that he was going to start praying diligently and specifically for his kids. Occasionally I see this father and ask him if he’s still praying for his children and he always responds with a huge smile and a resounding yes!
Your book has a list of things a parent can do to be a better disciple-maker in their home. What do you believe to be the most important thing a parent should do to disciple their child?
Without a doubt, the most important thing a parent should do to disciple their child is to be a fully surrendered disciple of Jesus Christ themselves. This must be their first priority. Before they can attempt to become a true disciple-maker their lives need to be saturated with a love and passion for the Lord. As a result, discipleship will be a natural outpouring of their lives.
A partnership between church and parents seems to be the theme throughout Parental Guidance Suggested. How does this look within a local church?
The church and the parents must have a strong working relationship. The church is commanded to “train up the saints to do the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). When the church’s goal is to provide teaching, training, and equipping to parents this gives moms and dads the needed resources and confidence to go home and teach, model, and intentionally disciple their children. Also, parents need to utilize other church ministries (Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, etc…) and other key church leaders to partner with them and be other positive voices that echo their Spiritual goals in their child’s life.
On page 34 you wrote, “Discipleship with every child begins at the home.” Can you unpack this statement?
Deuteronomy 6:7 clearly states, “Impress them (God’s commands) on your children.” Moses was speaking directly to parents in this verse and pointing out who the Lord expects to be their children’s primary discipler. Moses goes on to inform moms and dads to, “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down (home implied) and when you get up (home implied).” There is no question, the home has been designated as the focal point of discipleship.
At the end of the 25-day discipleship training, what should a parent do next?
One of the goals of Parental Guidance Suggested is to help parents have a complete knowledge of Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Proverbs 22:6, and God’s overall design for family discipleship. When parents complete their 25-Day Journey they will have a new passion for family discipleship, an increased motivation for their children’s Spiritual future, and the necessary tools to make disciple-making within the home a reality.
Mark, as a family pastor how do you implement this book into your ministry at the local church?
Implementation of Parental Guidance Suggested is simple. We offer this resource as a six-week small group parenting study once a year. Whether parents are bringing home their first child or their youngest is nearing the time to move out of the house, Parental Guidance Suggested is a great first step in laying a critical foundation that moms and dads can build their family disciple-making strategy on with the future in mind.
Dr. Mark Smith and his high school sweetheart, Sherri, have been married since 1987. The Lord has blessed them with four wonderful children Abby and her husband Justus and Adam and his wife Ashlynn. Mark has served in student ministry for over twenty years and is currently serving as Family Pastor at Lakeview Baptist Church in Hickory, North Carolina. Dr. Smith graduated from North Carolina State University in engineering, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity, and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary with a Doctorate of Ministry and is the author of Parental Guidance Suggested and Home Sweet Dysfunctional Home.
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