No one should expect to be the world’s best football player the first time they step on the field. Likewise, no one can expect to be the greatest trumpet player with only a few hours of practice a week.
Why is it that we expect to be able to act just like Jesus in His great inspirational moments when we don’t do the things that He did in His quiet moments? Sometimes we want the wisdom of Jesus without the work. Spiritual disciplines are practices that connect us with God and make us stronger spiritually. Here is a list of spiritual disciplines you can do along with your family as part of family discipleship:
|Spend time alone apart from distractions. Set aside a certain amount of undisturbed time. Whether it is 15 minutes or an hour, place yourself in an environment where you cannot be distracted. Try to empty your mind of all of the “to do’s” and invite God into your alone time. Pray to Him if you want or just slow down and let your thoughts dwell on godly things.
|Don’t speak for a certain amount of time each week. Try to stay silent for at least an hour. Make sure you choose to do this at home or a place where people know that you have made a weekly commitment to silence.
Fasting & Prayer
|Abstain from food or anything else that occupies your time in order to spend time in devotion to God. By not eating, you will feel the weakness of your body and realize how you are reliant on God. Fast and pray once or twice a month in order to give God your devotion.
|Use your money for purposes outside your own needs for a specified period of time. For a month don’t spend your money selfishly. Don’t buy music, rent movies, eat out, or take any trips to the mall. Use the money that you would normally use for yourself and give it to others.
|Give up something you want for the sake of the needs of another or for God. For a month, look for opportunities daily to give up something for another. If nothing comes up on a daily basis then think ahead about someone whom you can sacrifice for.
|There are several different ways you can practice the discipline of study.
1. Memorize 2 Scriptures a week.
2. Read a commentary.
3. Spend some time slowly reading and thinking about a book of the Bible.
|Focus on your whole life being worship. Think about how daily actions promote your worship to God or take away from it. Read Romans 12.
|Practice being grateful and thankful. Express encouragement and thankfulness to others. Each day before you go to sleep write down or tell someone what you were thankful for that day, and what things you should have been thankful for.
|Give your time to the church, service organizations, the elderly, or others you know. There are many things your local church might need. There are also many nonprofit organizations that are in desperate need of volunteers.
|Take deliberate steps to pray regularly and with purpose. If you struggle finding the words, start by praying the Psalms until you find words of your own. It helps to get started with someone else’s thoughts so we can express our thoughts better.
|Make a commitment to read the Bible in a year. This is a big commitment. If you choose this one, feel free not to strain yourself by adding other disciplines throughout the year. If you read three chapters a day on Monday through Saturday, and then five chapters on Saturday, you will finish the Bible in a year. There are many strategies to reading the Bible in a year that you can follow (for example, check out Tina Wilson’s Step into Scripture). You can search online for the strategy that you like the most.
My recommendation would be to pick one of these disciplines to focus on for a month or two. If you have a teen, have your teen do the same. Talk weekly about how it is going. Ask questions such as: Is it going well? What is working best for you? What is hard about it? Does it help you focus spiritually? Why?
By training your kids in spiritual disciplines, you are, in some ways, cutting some of the dependence that your teenagers have on you spiritually by allowing them to grow on their own, while you grow too. In this stage of their spiritual life, you will be more of a supporter by checking in and talking about how it is going very casually when it seems like they are open to conversation. Every few months pick new disciplines to focus on together.
“My recommendation would be to pick one of these disciplines to focus on for a month or two.”
Want to know more about the disciplines? There are two fantastic books on this: The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. Your eleventh or twelfth grader may be too busy or unwilling to read these books. Reading these is not required to be successful in practicing the spiritual disciplines. You may want to read parts of these books and highlight portions that you find interesting to share with your teen. A good process would be to read at least the first few chapters of The Spirit of the Disciplines and treat Celebration of the Discipline as a reference book to explore the details as you practice a particular discipline.
There are many other disciplines. Most of them are mentioned in Celebration of Discipline. Make sure that you stay committed to your disciplines of choice for the amount of time that you designate. If you start strong and fade out, then your teen will also. Make sure that you keep up with your discipline even if your teen is struggling to keep up with his/hers. Don’t guilt your teen into doing it, but continue to share what rewards you are gaining from your focused time.
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 3–4.
Excerpted from Joel Singleton, Family Discipleship Blueprint (Renew.org, 2023).