Responsive Discipleship

Have you ever considered your parenting style? A quick search of psychology journals can offer a myriad of advice on the topic.  Responsive Parenting is a parenting style that involves responding to and teaching our children while keeping four key components in mind. These components are for parents to be: prompt, emotionally supportive, contingent, and developmentally appropriate.


Recently, when reading an article, I realized how perfectly the components of Responsive Parenting fit into how we are to disciple our children in their faith. Below I have taken the four components of Responsive Parenting and applied them to the discipleship of our children to create a responsive model for us as parents.

Four Components of Responsive Discipleship: 

1.         Prompt

Prompt discipleship entails a parent to be present and aware of things going on in their child’s life in order to respond to their child quickly. A quick response to our child doesn’t mean we necessarily have a quick fix to their problem, but rather an assurance that we will quickly come to their side to walk with them through their problem. We will not delay to help them search for answers in God’s Word or pray for and with them exactly when they need it—not a month later. Prompt discipleship gives security within the parent-child relationship. Being prompt also prevents our children from searching in all the wrong places or from all the wrong people for solutions. When we are prompt and involved we may also prevent our children from finding other ways to deal with and cover up the emotional pains of life.

We frequently see in the Psalms David asking God to help him quickly in his time of turmoil and distress. One example is in Psalm 71:12:

Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me. 

Psalm 71:12

David communicates the human need for knowing God is there for us always. When we are available and respond promptly to our children, we are modeling the love of a present God who comes quickly to offer help to His children. 

“Prompt discipleship gives security within the parent-child relationship.” Marcy Martin #parenthood #discipleship


2.         Emotionally Supportive

The purpose of the author’s words in Hebrews 10:24-25 is a calling to persevere in the faith, and he states one of the main components of doing this is being emotionally supportive to one another. But the author is clear that to be encouraging we have to spend time meeting together. In parenting, this is quality time when our child is offered emotional support or encouragement to grow in their faith.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

Here are some practical ways to emotionally support our children in their faith:

  • Spend time together doing a devotion or reading through a book of the Bible together. 
  • Read or text them an encouraging Scripture.  
  • Take them to Church! And not just the worship service but also: Sunday school, discipleship groups, youth camps, children’s game nights.
  • Help your child discover and use their spiritual gifts! This is such an exciting part of Christianity that we often don’t prioritize with children. But it can add so much joy to our walk with Christ when we are using our unique gifts to serve Him. 
  • Help them build friendships with believers. I’m not saying that every friend has to be a Christian, but it sure helps to have a couple of like-minded friends for accountability and to enjoy life with.
  • Encourage a love of Christian music by going to a concert together or jamming in the car.
  • Ask your children ways you can pray for them. (If you have a quiet teen try asking them this in their rooms at night after the lights are off) 

3.         Contingent:

The word contingent is defined as “determined by conditions or circumstances that follow.”[i] If our interactions with our child are contingent, it would mean we as the parents are responding based on the conditions and circumstances that are affecting our child’s life at the moment. In Proverbs 15:23 this is called an apt reply and a timely word.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!”

An example of an apt reply would be offering comfort in times of sadness, rejoicing with them in a time of celebration, offering wise counsel in a time of decision making, or correcting them in a time of poor choice making. And the result of making our response contingent and specific for our child is stated in Scripture as good for the receiver, and joyful for the giver. 


4.         Developmentally appropriate:

Making discipleship developmentally appropriate means we are teaching our children on a level they can understand. But it also means that our child is developing or growing in their knowledge and faith. We are continually challenging them to know God more and understand their faith on a deeper level. For example, a bedtime story and prayer is an effective way to teach a two-year-old how to have a quiet time. However, as our children grow in their ability to understand concepts of their faith they should be given the opportunity to do so. Then they can learn to defend their faith and fully experience His love.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13: 11-13

When we offer our children discipleship that is prompt, emotionally supportive, contingent, and developmentally appropriate, we are helping them grow in their relationship with us and (more importantly) with God. Marcy Martin #parents


As Christian parents, discipleship is the main focus of our parenting. We should focus less on correcting behaviors and more on developing within them a heart that loves and listens to God. When we offer our children discipleship that is prompt, emotionally supportive, contingent, and developmentally appropriate, we are helping them grow in their relationship with us and (more importantly) with God.


[i] www.vocabulary.com

9 thoughts on “Responsive Discipleship

  1. Some great stuff here Ms. Marcy. While my children are long gone from home, I can see how I can apply these things to the kiddos in our AWANA club at church. Some of us “big kiddos in Christ” too. God’s blessings ma’am.

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    1. JD, I agree. When I was writing this I was kind of thinking how it really could be a model for discipleship of anyone. Blessing to you as well and thank you dearly for your consistent encouragement!

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  2. “When we are available and respond promptly to our children, we are modeling the love of a present God who comes quickly to offer help to His children.”

    Your entire piece is great! And the point I quoted felt especially tender. I am grateful for your words 🙂

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    1. Aww… thank you Charla. I love how you used the word tender. Isn’t it important that we show or children the tenderness of God.

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  3. Marcy, these are great ways to look at how we disciple our children, and you have such good practical ways to put them into practice. Thank you!

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    1. Kathy, thank you my friend. I am constantly challenged to disciple my boys and love to think on the best ways to do that for them. Especially through these teen years.

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  4. Marcy, this point and others you shared combine to create faith-building teaching in a home. This one is key to me: “When we are available and respond promptly to our children, we are modeling the love of a present God who comes quickly to offer help to His children.”

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    1. Thank you Jeannie! With all the distractions of life it can be to be present for discipleship…. but it’s the most important thing we do as parents. ❤️

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