How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children?

Most pastors would affirm our priority is first to shepherd our family, then to shepherd the church.  Yet, I fear many pastors are laboring hard to shepherd the church to the neglect of their family.  The Lord in His kind providence, challenged me several years ago about this as my neglect in this area had become known.  However, it was not another pastor that challenged me.  It was through an out-of-town friend who is a pharmacist and faithfully serves as a deacon in his local church that exposed my neglect.   His effort and model to shepherd his seven children both individually and regularly in addition to their regular family worship challenged me, convicted me, inspired me, and put my pathetic efforts I had made thus far to shame. 

This faithful father shepherded his seven children by taking one morning a week to meet individually with each of his children.  Seven days in a week–each of the seven children got one morning each week with their dad.  They prayed, read scripture, talked, and read a book of that child’s choosing.  Inspired by his amazing example, I came home and established a similar model in our home that I remain faithful to this day.  Here is what I do to individually shepherd my four children regularly in addition to our regular time of family worship, as well as implications attached to it:

1)  Monday through Thursday each child gets a day and on his or her appointed day stays up 30 – 45 minutes later than their siblings to meet with me before bedtime.  I thought they would be excited about it for a few times, but then grow bored with it.  Not so.  Years later, they look forward to that time more than anything, which provides a natural accountability when you are tired from the day and are tempted to skip for that evening.

2)  We read the passage I am preaching for that week, discuss it a bit, then we read a chapter from a book they have chosen to read.  At the end, I take time to ask them how they are doing and how I can pray for them.  This is a great way to see how they are really doing and teach them what are good things to be praying for others.  Then, I pray for them and take them to bed. 

3)  One of the greatest joys to my wife is her watching my effort with our children and lead our family in this way.  The last thing she feels is left out (just in case you were thinking that).  Our wives’ desire for us to make regular, deliberate, spiritually meaningful efforts to care for our children will mean more to her than I think we realize or understand.  I find this especially true for our wives who are stay at home moms who labor hard in this task of shepherding their little hearts all day with little break.

4)  My efforts with my children have put me in a position to challenge other men in my church to do something similar.  It has been amazing the way our fathers in our church have embraced this and the way it has empowered many of them to see they can spiritually lead their families with deliberate efforts.  Fellow pastors, the obvious needs to be acknowledged that you cannot challenge the men in your church to do anything you are not making a faithful effort at.  Regularly and individually shepherding your children’s hearts is certainly one of those efforts that we must model for the men in our local church.  Their failure to do it could be a reflection of your failure to model it.

Fellow pastors, leaders, and faithful men in the church, may the Lord use this blog post to bring a similar awakening that I needed that the Lord brought through my dear friend  many years ago.  Then, dear brother, act upon it and start today to back up what most of us as pastors and fathers acknowledge with our lips, but fewer actually do.

Posted in Discipleship, Home and Family
35 comments on “How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children?
  1. Kris Drees says:

    Brian,

    I am very thankful for the example in this area that you were to me. I like your idea for taking time after bedtime to spend with your children. I have done it a little differently. With my oldest little girl I simply left 30 minutes or so early to take her to preschool and we used this time sitting in the car to go over a children’s catechism and memorize some verses. The catechism and verses have been a great launching pad for conversation about God and the state of her soul. I have found that it is difficult to be consistent, but well worth the effort. Thanks again for your encouragement/example.

    • Kris Drees says:

      I forgot to mention that I have been careful to pick verses that emphasize the gospel, rather than verses that try to train behavior. I think this is especially important since my daughter is only 5 years old.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Thanks for your encouragement, Kris!

    • Donn says:

      Dear Pastor,

      I am very grateful to God and to you for this post. I’m going to start this time of sharing and bonding tonight with my daughter who is 2 and a half. and with my wife. this post really touched my heart and has challenged me to follow the father heart of God.

  2. Gary Boal says:

    very helpful post, thanks Brian

  3. louiswlyons says:

    Good advice indeed. I wish all parents (fathers in particular) felt the importance of spending time speaking to their children and teaching them spiritual things.

  4. Eric Honsberger says:

    I praise God for your example and encouragement. I want to be faithful in this area. Do you have any advice for when to begin such a practice? Our boys are 18 months and 3 weeks. May God continue to bless you in your shepherding.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Great question, Eric. Start now getting into the habit of both family worship and meeting individually with your children. Though your children will understand very little (your youngest – nothing yet) it will be a good discipline for you to establish the patterns now. I would begin with your 18 month old. Read a bible story to him. Pray for him and with him. 10 – 15 minutes max. Trust me, in 5 years you will be grateful you established this before they could remember when you did. In addition, regardless the age of your children, your wife will be greatly encouraged by your efforts, which I think is reason enough to start now.

      I hope that is helpful.

  5. I sounds as if you have found a way to spend time with your children that will be remembered well once they are grown up. Hopefully, it will keep the doors of communication open for you as well during the teenage years.

  6. Mark Heath says:

    this is a great post, thanks for sharing. I would like to try out these ideas with my own children.

  7. This was a really good read and I thought you made several good comments about how families are supposed to have a regular time together. Keep up the good work!

  8. Rob says:

    The after bedtime time in our family is for mom and dad. We date every night. I spend time shepherding the kids during the day, but 8:00 p.m. is it. They go to sleep and my wife and I can have time with no kids. Maintaining the relationship is one of the most beneficial things we can do for our kids; as an example and just plain old good. I realize each family runs on different schedules, and each family has different challenges, so my input here is in no way a criticism of any, just an encouragement.

    Wonderfully blessed with a big family, we have tried to teach them well. The thing that we have realized over the last few years is that outsiders notice the difference in the way our family interacts in public. That distinction has given many opportunities to evangelize. If we all live Dt 6, even those without their own biological children, we will glorify God, and raise up the next generation to do the same.

  9. Aaron says:

    Thank you so much Pastor Brian! I am starting tonight! My wife and I are really excited and it also caused us to rethink our time together as husband and wife!

    You are being used by God both locally and throughout!

  10. Shawn Timmons says:

    Thank you!!

  11. Selah Helms says:

    These are great suggestions and great counsel for young families. When our four children were young, my pastor husband initiated a weekly “date” time with each that enabled him to connect with them spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It gave him more opportunities to walk them through the issues of their hearts and help to answer their hard questions. This was especially valuable habit during the transitional years into adulthood.

    Now that our children are grown and out of the house, they still consult with their father and enjoy a warm, responsive relationship to him as adults. The payoff is high, when they now want to establish similar homes as the one in which they were reared.

  12. Lee says:

    …and don’t have more than seven kids. Good message. Will try.

  13. Paul C says:

    Really helpful and challenging post.

  14. Ellen says:

    My husband has been wonderfully faithful at praying and reading a children’s Bible every night with our oldest. He’s 3. Another thing that he’s been doing is using a hymnal to sing with Seth. They pick out hymns to learn together. It’s been wonderful, and I am so blessed to see his faithfulness to teach Seth.

    I have wondered how to implement this with the baby, too. He’s 13 months. The idea of switching nights sounds like a perfect solution. Thanks for sharing this…

    Oh, and when your toddler starts belting out “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” at the local pool, that’s when you know you’ve truly reached cool parent status. =)

  15. Best practical advice post I’ve read over the past week. Thanks for sharing. I don’t have children (yet?), but it’s something I need to remember when I do.

    I have a question, though. Do you/when do you do a family devotion or something like that?

    I was thinking about my current schedule, which rules out most nights already. With a daily, family devotion in the morning, it seems tough to work in the meetings too. Not that I’m necessarily against radically changing my schedule, but I’d love dig a little deeper into how all this plays out in practice with other responsibilities.

    Maybe I need to just be sure not to have seven kids.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    • Brian Croft says:

      Good question. Never too early to think about these things. As a father of 4, trust me, your current schedule will radically change when that first child, Lord willing, arrives. Family devotions for us typically happen towards the end of dinner as we are already sitting down together and engaged with one another. The other common time for us is we gather together on a bed and do family devotions just before bed time.

      Saturday night, we try to meet together at night and I will use that time to prepare for the Sunday Morning service and that really helps them participate better as children in the service when they know what is coming. I hope that is helpful.

  16. Joe says:

    Thanks for the example, advice, and encouragement. I’ve tried many things over the years, and had varying degrees of success. I’ve read the Bible, various Bible story books, and other related / topical books, sung hymns, and memorized scripture. We’ve also been involved in several other kid oriented programs (like Awana) that have helped provide content / format.

    I still struggle with keeping things going and trying to keep the kids involved. They’re 12, 9, 8, 6, and 4, and their interest and attention are as variable as their ages. I’m usually off to work before anyone gets up, and don’t get home until after 6:00, so managing my time well is also a struggle.

    Do you have any other recommendations regarding resources that I (we) could use as reference /guidance / inspiration? I’d mouch appreciate that.

    Thanks again!

  17. PointSpecial says:

    Hi Brian, I appreciate your message here! I have two 21 month old twin boys and something I’ve struggles with is spending time individually with them. They share a room and are together ALL the time. I’m wondering if you or anyone you know who has done this (such as at bedtime, like you noted) do it with other children in the same bedroom, or if they all have different rooms. I want to be able to give my sons 1 on 1 time, but if they’re both in the room together, by nature it won’t be 1 on 1.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    • Brian Croft says:

      Yes. Whoever’s night it is, take them to your room to read with them while the other goes to bed. I now read in my room with my kids because our 3 girls share a room. It works as one on one time and it feels very special to them. If they share a room, even more of a reason to make sure you have time alone with each of them.

      I hope that helps.

  18. Ryan says:

    Thank you. These are beautiful thoughts worthy of all adaptation.

  19. What an encouragement this was. Thanks

  20. Sam says:

    Brian, thank you for your humility and for sharing these thoughts. I have a 2 year old and we are expecting our second child within the next few weeks. I love this idea of 1-on-1 time before bed, and of starting this while they are little. Thank you!

  21. Terry Lange says:

    How do you attempt to disciple a child who does not know Christ yet? My son is 6 and he will read the Bible – using the plan from David Murray but does not stick with it. What can I do to teach him the Gospel outside of Sunday School, Church, etc.

15 Pings/Trackbacks for "How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children?"
  1. […] Individually Shepherding Your Children — An encouraging and practical post to help fathers in our efforts to shepherd and disciple our kids, not just as a family, but individually as well. […]

  2. […] This article from Brian Croft is especially applicable to me as our family will be expanding very soon. (A friend) shepherded his seven children by taking one morning a week to meet individually with each of his children.  Seven days in a week–each of the seven children got one morning each week with their dad.  They prayed, read scripture, talked, and read a book of that child’s choosing.  Inspired by his amazing example, I came home and established a similar model in our home that I remain faithful to this day.  Here is what I do to individually shepherd my four children regularly in addition to our regular time of family worship, as well as implications attached to it: […]

  3. […] Croft provides excellent advice for parents who desire to pastor their children – How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children? Those who know me will sense that my heart is very similar to Croft’s. In fact, he writes, […]

  4. […] such practice is biblically and practically important.  You can read the rest of his article here. VN:F [1.9.3_1094]please wait…Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)Tags: bedtime, brian croft, christian […]

  5. […] out as a Brave, but that was just a start…. – Good practical advice from Brian Croft about how he individually shepherd's his children. – Leadership lessons from the shirtless dancing guy. Funny and kinda cool. – Andrew Peterson on […]

  6. […] Just one additional note on chapter 10.  I came across another excellent resource for advice on carving out time to disciple your children.  It was helpful to me, and I hope it will be for you too.  The article can be found here. […]

  7. […] Brian Croft – How Can I Make Sure I Am Individually Shepherding My Children? […]

  8. […] 1) How can I make sure I am individually shepherding my children? […]

  9. […] time goes a long way.  My weekly efforts to accomplish this is described in this blog post about individually shepherding each of my children.  I would recommend for your to establish a similar practice.  Because the demands of ministry on […]

  10. […] I individually read and pray with each of my children throughout the week (See this previous post), I also get to dialogue with them as individuals about the passage I am preaching and can ask […]

  11. […] husband with a young family shared that he read a post on my blog 2 years ago about shepherding your children by meeting with each of them individually in a given week.  Much like I shared this example affected me, he mentioned that this post changed his family […]

  12. […] and disciple our children individually and weekly.  For info on how to accomplish this, see this previous post.  … other posts by […]

  13. […] While this blog is specifically written for pastors, much of his advice applies to all men, husbands, and fathers. While skimming through old posts this morning, I came across this entry sharing some thoughts how we as dads can do a better job spending 1-on-1 time shepherding our children. You can find that entry here. […]

  14. […] Well said.  Pastors, before our wives can be mindful to serve us in our efforts, we need to make sure we are being diligent to shepherd and disciple our children individually and weekly.  For info on how to accomplish this, see this previous post.  […]

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