Jesus calls us to be disciples. Dictionary.com gives several definitions of “disciple,” the most general of which is, “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.” The Greek agrees with this general definition in the word mathētḗs (μαθητής), defined by Strong's Greek lexicon to be “a learner, pupil, disciple.” Discipleship could be said to be the process of helping someone become a pupil that adheres to and follows Jesus.
Parents care about their kids. So, it’s good and right that Christian parents care enough to disciple their children to grow up to be solid believers themselves, effective for the Kingdom. As various discipleship resources have become more plentiful, the question naturally arises: is there one simple plan for effective discipleship for youngsters? The simple answer is “yes,” and the formula isn’t particularly complicated: teach and meditate on God’s Word, discuss God’s Word, and coach putting it into practice and sharing it with others.
Memorize and Meditate
Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:1-6), and followers ought to get to know what Jesus said and get to know the Word made flesh. There is thus value in helping followers of Jesus commit Scripture to memory. “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) Begin the discipleship process by helping children memorize and meditate on the Bible (Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:9-11, 105). Memorization is not the goal, but rather the beginning of the process of effective instruction.
God is specific in His instruction to the Jews on how parents ought to use the Word to teach their children (Deuteronomy 6:7), so continue by discussing Scripture with those you are mentoring (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Deuteronomy 6:7). Discussion helps engender understanding, a vital foundation for applying God’s Word.
Practice and Present
Jesus explicitly says that his disciples should do what he says, not merely pay lip service (Luke 6:46), so put rubber to the road by coaching students to apply God’s Word in their lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Luke 6:46; James 1:22-25, Galatians 5:16). Because we are admonished to tell others what God has given us, part of that obedience ought to include sharing what we know (Matthew 28:18-20). Presenting God’s Word also has the added benefit of forcing the student to work through the concepts in Scripture, resulting in a solidification of biblical ideas firmly in their mind.
Discipleship doesn’t require a curriculum. It requires intentional, Biblical study followed by intentional, Biblical conversation followed by intentional, Biblical opportunities for application and communication. Discipleship isn’t a curriculum. It’s seeking God first in His Word and then leading our children to do the same.
Bible Quest™ is thus a tool in the parent’s toolbox, effective in organizing the process of teaching children to know, understand, and work through the Scripture. It’s easier to stay on track when you have a plan.
First, help kids memorize Scripture and meditate on God’s Word, the Equip Phase in Bible Quest. During the Equip Phase, Bible Quest helps your students commit God’s Word to memory with a variety of tools designed for each particular part of the process. Memorization of Scripture helps to build a repertoire of excellent contextual thoughts and language with which students can develop clear, compelling, Biblical communication. It also gives students mental fodder for reflection on the meaning and importance of God’s Word. Biblical information such as people, places, and chronology helps to put context in the mind of the student as they read and study God’s Word for the rest of their lives.
Bible Quest can help organize Biblical memorization and meditation, but the solution is ultimately God’s Word.
Second, have deep conversations about God’s Word with your students during the Empower Phase in Bible Quest. At their most basic level, these discussions (called Explorations) should center on biblical questions that the student either thinks through or else researches in order to increase their understanding. Explorations may also entail simulations, craft activities, or other interactive strategies for context. The various Explorations in Bible Quest, then, are mostly included to add diversity to the way in which Explorations are presented or engaged. However, at their core Explorations are fertile soil for intentional, scriptural interactions with a parent or mentor. In short, “read the Bible, then talk about it.”
When you are reading Biblical narratives to your students, I recommend doing so AFTER you've studied the grammar already. One of the coolest things about narratives is that they are instantly dialectic - they have the capacity to introduce new grammar within the construct of a plot, meaning that the pieces of information are automatically related to each other correctly. If a student already has familiarity with the characters and some of the themes in a narrative (through memorization!), reading it becomes not only more immersive for the student, but their mind is able to form even more connections in the process. This simple ordering of the educational process can make a profound difference in dialectic understanding for the student.
Bible Quest adds one element to this portion of the process with Exercises, intentional activities that help students foster the skills necessary to study God’s Word effectively for the rest of their lives. Meditating on Scripture Word-by-Word is thus a fantastic basic Exercise for students that are ready to move into the Empower Phase and Explorations. Exercises are included to continue to increase the student’s aptitude in using their Biblical knowledge for maximum speed, accuracy, and potency. Excellent ability to use knowledge and strong depth of understanding contribute to a student’s ability to apply the Bible to obstacles, questions, and conundrums in real life. Such students are ready for Expeditions.
Bible Quest can help to facilitate discussions and aptitude-building activities, but in the end, the solution is God’s Word.
Finally, begin the real process of discipleship by leading students to apply God’s Word and share what they know with others. In Bible Quest, the final phase of the process includes activities called the Expedition Phase. While being the most ill-defined of all Bible Quest activities, Expeditions are also the most exciting part of the system. They provide opportunities for students of the Bible that already have knowledge and honed understanding to apply God’s Word and communicate biblical truth to others. Students start by generating a topic based off of the material they’ve studied, then choose what to communicate and in what context to say it. Once the Expedition is over, mentors help students debrief so that they take home the correct lessons from their experience.
Of course, mentors should point students to a correct understanding of Scripture and adherence to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This is why biblical application ought to be done in the context of mentorship; every person needs to work on different things at any given point in their walk with Christ, and so the kinds of things that a student will work on at any given point will necessarily vary as well.
Bible Quest can help identify great presentation topics and inspire creative ways to share God’s Word, but the solution, in the end, is God’s Word. Memorize God’s Word. Read it and talk about it. Practice it and share it with others.
The solution for discipleship begins with the study of God’s Word through memorization and meditation. It continues with discussion about spiritual things through the lens of the Truth of Scripture. With mentored application and presentation of biblical Truth, students are prepared to continue this pattern for the rest of their lives. If Bible Quest can help, that’s fine, but the real solution is God’s Word in the context of the work of the Holy Spirit.