Family Discipleship: A Book Review

Series: Book Reviews 

by Collin Campbell January 26, 2021

Family Discipleship is an earthy, rich, and reasonable work focused on the ministry of parents to their children. Each page drips with thoughtful and engaging recommendations on how to love your children by giving them the gospel. The authors, Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin, use the template of modeling, time, moments, and milestones for leading your family.

Before the authors jump into the practical content of their work, they lay a biblically-literate foundation on which to build practices of family discipleship. The authors affirm what Albert Mohler calls the principle of subsidiarity: the smallest unit of influence is the most important.[1] For family discipleship, this means that parents cannot hand off the responsibility of discipling their children to the church, although the church is called to supplement and strengthen discipleship already occurring in the home (55). While family discipleship is of utmost importance, the authors also remind their readers that salvation is from the Lord and that you are not responsible to save your children.

Why would you assume that you can disciple your children if you are not a disciple yourself? The parent who does not love and follow Jesus cannot lead a child to love and follow Jesus. So while active discipleship of your children is integral, modeling a life of discipleship is foundational. This section is valuable for singles or married couples without children, as it reminds us that our children’s observation of our lives will be a facet of discipling them. The authors also realistically observe that repentance of your personal sin in front of your children can be a great place to model what it looks like to give and receive forgiveness.

The second way to actively disciple children is to carve out intentional time into your family’s rhythm to think about, talk about, and live out the gospel (87). Many of us picture family discipleship as one of the parents reading the Bible to their children and explaining the passage to them. While family discipleship should include this, time in the home should also include prayer, memorization of Scripture, and activities such as taking a meal to a family in need together. A simple template for regular and intentional time together is: Scripture, Share, Song, and Prayer (101).

The third way is through moments of discipleship. This just means taking advantage of what would normally be a mundane moment and savoring its eternal significance. Rather than ignoring the flowers in the field on your walk, it means considering the flowers and how God cares for them; and if God cares for them, how much more does he care for us (Matt 6:25-34)! Notice when someone shows exceptional kindness to a stranger and then bend down on one knee to explain to your child, “That is how we reflect the kindness of God to others.” Infuse regular moments with teaching on God’s character and godly characteristics (117-121).

Fourth, disciple your children through milestones. This means “Marking or making occasions to celebrate and commemorate significant milestones of God’s work in the life of the family and child” (135). This means more than simply celebrating a child’s birthday every year; this means highlighting the ways your child has developed godly character over the past year and encouraging them to continue in it. We don’t always plan milestones either. For example, the Chandler family remembers “scan day,” which is the yearly scan to check if cancer has returned to Matt’s brain (137). Spiritually dark moments are worth remembering in your family’s life if they are significant. The important aspect of milestones is to choose important moments from your family history to celebrate on a regular basis.

The best part of this work is the practical suggestions and activities given in every chapter on how to disciple children. I have sprinkled in a few of the author’s ideas throughout this review, but each chapter is filled with a treasure chest of resources for parents. For example, the chapter on moments has an addendum that is filled with verses you can use to disciple your children in moments of fear, joy, or anxiety and a short dictionary of important terms in the Christian faith in language appropriate for children. The chapters always end with questions and plans of action that you can mull over, which my wife and I found helpful in thinking through our own family discipleship.

One concerning aspect of the book is its uncareful use of some Scripture. The authors assume that the “elect lady” in 2 John is an actual parent teaching their children (58). Most modern commentators recognize that the phrase “elect lady” is a figure of speech used to refer to a local body of believers that John is writing to.[2] While this is a matter of interpretation up for debate, one should not be quick to use this Scripture to argue that parents should teach their children as the elect lady taught her children in 2 John. There is not a one to one correlation in these situations. The authors could have developed a more nuanced approach to this text and still applied it to family discipleship. The New Testament does use family language to refer to the church, and the church is charged to pass down the faith to the next generation. In a similar manner, parents are called to pass down the faith to their children. While this hermeneutic takes more effort, it teaches readers to honor figurative language in the Bible and appropriate it correctly.

Despite this concern, I would highly recommend this work for every parent. This book will serve as a gospel-centered resource for every parent wishing to raise up their child in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). It can be an intimidating thing to think about the eternally significant task of proclaiming the gospel to the next generation. Chandler and Griffin teach us how to take advantage of the rhythms your family already has and leveraging them for the sake of the gospel. You don’t have to add thirty different events to your calendar to disciple your children, you just need to take advantage of time, moments, and milestones that you already have. Let us be diligent to teach our children God’s commandments so that “the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:6-7).

[1] Albert Mohler, The Briefing, January 19th, 2018,

[2]  John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 203.