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Minivan Discipleship

By Charissa Toeller

"So what did you think about the Not A Fan video tonight, Luke?" I asked on our way home from Midweek last Wednesday.

I was curious about my 12-year-old's thoughts. He's one of the youngest people participating in our Not A Fan groups, and I was particularly curious how a boy his age responds. While he got the main ideas of the content, there were some things that needed a little more explanation. My younger two kids are in childcare during Midweek, but they jumped right into discussion with us. They peppered me with questions. I asked questions, too: "What does the Bible have to say about ________?" It was a lively discussion, and I was so pleased and thankful for my kids' understanding of what God has to say about some tough subjects.

This wasn't an isolated incident. We've developed a routine of minivan discipleship in our daily lives.

My kids have a lot of energy. My greatest desire is for them to know and love Jesus, but like most families, we struggle to implement consistent discipleship routines. I could tell you a lot of things that we tried that didn't work very well. Most of them involve sitting still for devotional time. Somewhere along our trial-and-error, I realized that my kids absorb discipleship best when we're driving. Why? Seatbelts. And also because we built a routine around a routine we already have to do! Now it's part of our daily rhythm, and we use that foundation to have fruitful discussions as topics come up naturally.

Let me share a couple of things that make minivan discipleship work for us. Maybe something you read here will spark an idea for you and your family.

  • As soon as we get in the van each morning, I call out a verse from Psalm 118, "This is the day…" and the kids finish the verse: "…that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (I'm not always feeling glad. We have A LOT of hard mornings, but we use this verse to remind us to be thankful for God's blessings.)

  • We pray, thanking God for the day. If the morning was rough, there's extra time confessing, asking God's forgiveness, and asking for His help to treat each other better. We try to pray regularly for the kids' teachers and classmates who don't know Jesus. We pray for focus and God-honoring character at school, and I love to pray that the kids will do these things for God's glory and not only to make themselves smarter or to please their teachers. (That's Colossians 3:23.)

  • Sometimes we listen to scripture-based songs. If I am feeling particularly frustrated or disappointed in our morning, God-centered music is especially helpful. "First Things First" by Shane & Shane is my absolute favorite and helps us center our day on seeking God first.

  • Most of the time we practice scripture memory. Mark 12:30 is a go-to since it's what Jesus said was the greatest commandment and what God gave the Israelites to teach their children as they come and go, and sit and lie down: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Yes, I have to memorize the verses before I teach them since I'm driving! But that means it's discipleship for me, too!) A lot of our verses have to do with our character, but lately, we've been learning verses that tell the Gospel.

  • Sometimes, after we've memorized certain verses, I prompt them with a question. (i.e. How does God want you to treat people who are mean to you? "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.")

  • We talk about topics on the kids' or my mind. This is where the concepts and verses we've memorized in the Bible get applied!

A quick tangent: I LOVE asking questions. I can give a pretty good parental lecture. But my kids are pretty good at tuning me out. I find that when I ask them what they think about something, and what they think God thinks about something, I can engage them in meaningful dialogue. I can also turn just about any statement into a question to ask. If I need to lead them to a specific answer, I'm not afraid to give a ridiculous either/or question, like, "Does God want you to be mean to your sister or be kind and compassionate to your sister?" Questions don't have to be profound and well thought out!

My favorite part of this unconventional approach to family discipleships is that it mirrors an important thing that God wants from us - He wants to be with us "on the go", not just at church or with a devotional book in front of us. My kids hear me talking about how I want the Bible and prayer to influence my decisions, and they realize that they can do it, too.

Maybe something I've shared would work for you, or maybe it will spark an idea of a unique way for you to invest in the spiritual lives of those closest to you! Either way, it's worth pressing on to invite God into your life.

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)


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