FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Making Disciples at Home

with Melissa Spoelstra | June 27, 2017
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Author Melissa Spoelstra, a mother of four, shares some ways she disciples her children. Spoelstra stresses the need to be in God's Word regularly and to instill a love for the Scriptures in children from an early age. Parents are mentors to their children, and they also encourage their kids to seek out mentors who can help them grow spiritually.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Author Melissa Spoelstra, a mother of four, shares some ways she disciples her children. Spoelstra stresses the need to be in God's Word regularly and to instill a love for the Scriptures in children from an early age. Parents are mentors to their children, and they also encourage their kids to seek out mentors who can help them grow spiritually.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Author Melissa Spoelstra, a mother of four, shares some ways she disciples her children. Parents should encourage their kids to seek out mentors who can help them grow spiritually.

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Making Disciples at Home

With Melissa Spoelstra
June 27, 2017
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Bob: Have you spent time reading your Bible at all today? Do you remember what you read? What was that time like for you? Here’s some counsel from Melissa Spoelstra.

Melissa: If you’re just reading it to check it off—if it’s just like the vitamin pill that—“Oh, I should take it, it’s good for me. I got it down,” it will not draw you closer to the Lord in the same way as if you’re looking to know Him—with a heart to seek Him. David—when he’s instructing his son Solomon—he’s like, “Serve and worship with a whole heart and a willing mind!” And he said, “If you seek Him, you will find Him.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How can you get more out of your time in the Bible—and how can you help your kids develop a love for reading the Bible as well? We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I know you’re kind of big on Matthew 28:19-20. You’ve known those verses for a while; right?

Dennis: I have.

Bob: When did you first learn the Great Commission—do you remember?

Dennis: That’s a good question. I think—more than likely—when I was a college student and I heard Bill Bright speak. He was challenging all of us young college men and women to go to the world with the greatest news that had ever been proclaimed. He would say, “What’s the greatest thing that has happened to you?” Well, that would be receiving Christ—

Bob: Right.

Dennis: —and being forgiven. What’s the greatest thing you could do for someone else? Introduce them to the Forgiver—introduce them to Christ—so they can know His love and forgiveness. He challenged us with that—and so infected me that, I’m sorry—I’m kind of like him now—I get up every day now thinking, “How can I be a part of the greatest mission ever given to a human being?”

Bob: For those who may not be familiar with that passage, it’s at the end of the book of Matthew, where Jesus says to His disciples, He says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Then He gives them a charge, He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all people—” Well, you’ve got it open—do you want to read it?

Dennis: No, you’ve nailed it. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Bob: The reason I bring up the Great Commission at the beginning of this conversation is because most of us think that to fulfill that, we have to leave home and go somewhere—to the marketplace, to our community, we go door-to-door, we go out on the street corner or we go to another part of the world. But for moms and dads—we are given an in-house mission field that we have a responsibility to fulfill those verses in the hearing of our children; right?

Dennis: Right. The original Great Commission training center was the family. He gave parents the charge to model a love for God and to train their children to do the same.

That’s really your assignment. And we’ve got a guest with us today—Melissa Spoelstra—who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Melissa.

Melissa: Thanks so much.

Dennis: She’s written a book called Total Family Makeover: Eight Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home. I think what you’re hitting on here, Melissa, is what you’ve found with your four children—your husband is your pastor, and so you guys are all over this in the church, but you begin your ministry at home.

You’re really—I think—scratching something here that is an itch within the Christian community—I don’t think most parents really understand their assignment to make disciples.


Melissa: What is the greatest thing that I would want for my child? What are my hopes and my dreams for my child? Is it the “American Dream”? That they’re successful? That they have a house? That they get married? Is that my end-goal for them—or do I want them to be faithful followers of Jesus, knowing that that is the way that leads to life? Following their calling, and finding that hope, because life will—it’s like playing “Whack-a-Mole” living, you know? It’s like you put your head up and it gets beaten down. All of us have storms—all of us have difficulties—life will beat you up.

And sin brings suffering. It does! So why do we want them to go down a path that will bring even more suffering than life’s already going to throw at them? We want to be intentional in teaching them these spiritual rhythms—these disciplines—these things that we can do to show them how they can stay connected to this God who loves them.


Bob: I’m just curious—at what point in being a mom you started to recognize, “Oh, this is my mission field—these are disciples—these are not just cute kids for me to take care of and feed, but I have a spiritual responsibility.” Did you know that before they were born, or did it dawn on you at some point as you were raising them?

Melissa: That’s a great question. I would say having the privilege of knowing Christ from a younger age—we wanted to have a godly marriage, and we wanted to have godly children. We knew that this was our primary responsibility—but I don’t think I understood the “how”—what that task would look like—the tall order—

Dennis: Yes.

Melissa: —because it doesn’t look beautiful all of the time. I mean, the first time we sat down to do family devotions, it was an epic fail, you know? The kids were the wrong ages and at the wrong stages, the material wasn’t right—I think I had in my mind this vision of what it meant to make disciples at home—what it would mean to pass on my faith to my children. It hasn’t looked anything like I expected that it would.

Dennis: You mentioned earlier that you began these eight steps in discipling kids with prayer—teaching them about prayer—teaching them how to pray. You then talk about training in the Scriptures—giving them the truth. I just want to comment on that—if there’s ever been a time when parents need to pay attention to training your children with the truth, it’s today.

Melissa: Yes.

Dennis: Because they’re walking off into a world, even in elementary—in the elementary years—that is going to rob them of their innocence. They’re going to convince them of lies if they don’t know what the truth is—and I can’t say it strongly enough!

You—as a mom—took advantage of a resource that FamilyLife created to help bring truth into the life of a pre-teen before they entered the adolescent years. Why don’t you share with our listeners about Passport2Purity—what it is—and how you used it with all four of your children?

Melissa: It was just a valuable resource. I grew up in a southern family where nobody talked about—you wouldn’t even say the word, “purity”—much less “sex”—so that was never explained to me—it was just “figure it out as you go.” My husband and I knew we wanted to do something a little bit different with our kids.

Someone introduced us to the Passport2Purity, where he started with our son and took him away for the weekend. He used just some awesome object lessons—which are so great with kids! Sermonizing with kids is one of the things I’ve found just doesn’t work. You just keep talking and they’re not listening anymore.

Dennis: Yes! [Laughter]

Melissa: So the great thing about Passport2Purity is you’re going to put together a puzzle, or you’re going to have some real things that they can see. It gave us a language to continue to speak—just some verbiage. Things like “running with the herd,” and “getting too close to the cliff”—and talking about your purity in a way that they could visualize it—going back to some of that training and some of that teaching that was very much from the Word of God.

Dennis: The reason you could do that is the Passport2Purity experience is all in a kit.

They’ve got a student’s manual that is a guide to help them begin to plot their way through adolescence. It actually is built around the concept of what’s found in Daniel—where he made up his mind in advance that he was not going to defile himself by eating of the king’s food.

I think one of the big problems with young people today is we’re not challenging them with a high enough standard—so as they enter into adolescence, they’re easy prey for their peers to convince them to do what all of them are doing. But if you can help them think through what is right before they face it—and coach them—and encourage them, and then have a dialogue all the way through adolescence—because you didn’t just take them away for a day and then never talk about it again. You guys have talked about it all the way through the teenage years.

Melissa: Absolutely! We’ve continued to ”check in” with them. Something my husband and I talk about is that if you aim for nothing, you hit it every time—so we want to aim for our kids knowing and loving God—especially when it comes to that area of purity. But, at the end of the day, we want them to be able to feed themselves spiritually—not just that they were spoon-fed it always.

Think about when your kids were little. My daughter, Rachel, was “failure to thrive.” She didn’t want to eat. I’m going to the doctor, and I’m crying as she’s falling off the growth chart. I remember thinking, “Is this what God thinks about us when we don’t grow?” I was just desperate! It consumed all of my thought and mind that she wasn’t thriving—that she wasn’t growing. The doctor said, “You need to put her in the high chair and try to feed her three times a day. It may take two or three weeks, but you’ll wear her down.”

My husband, one time, was like, “Here! Let me take over.” [Laughter] He came, and he was patient at first. By the end of it, he said, “Next time, let’s just wipe it over her bib and her face and all over the place and say we did it!” [Laughter] But do you know what happened? She eventually began to eat. Then, she eventually progressed to being able to feed herself. And isn’t that what we want for them spiritually as well?


In the beginning, we’re going to feed them—we’re going to share with them—we have to model being in God’s Word and learning His truths. We found just by sharing, when we put them to bed, one truth that God had taught us in our own time in God’s Word. “Hey, I was reading in the Proverbs, and it says gossip separates the closest of friends.” “Hey, I read the story of Elijah today. It was amazing! God was in the still, small voice.” One or two little nuggets. If you every night add those up—not every night—we didn’t do it perfectly—but if we had that aim for something—

Dennis: Right; right.

Melissa: Let’s say you aim for it seven times a week—you’re going to do it every night—and you only do it three—that’s three times more than if you didn’t aim for it at all.

Bob: Right.

Melissa: We have this fear of failure—if I start something I might fail, so I just won’t start it. Instead, I think we’ve got to never stop starting! Just like with our physical health. We’ve got to keep at trying to take care of the body that God has given us. That means starting new things. Sometimes it works for a while, and then we realize it’s not working anymore, and we transition, but man—when it comes to God’s Word—I mean the power of life and death is in His Word!

I want them to know how to feed themselves so that they can continue to grow—so they will not be “failure to thrive” as young adults—and as young marrieds—and through the rest of their lives.

Bob: I want to remind our listeners that we started the conversation by saying these are things that parents must be modeling so—before you sit down to instruct your kids on what time in God’s Word looks like—they need to see that mom and dad spend time in God’s Word and that this is important to them. They need to hear you talking about God’s Word in your normal conversation—they need to know that when something comes up, you can pull out a Scripture that’s something you’ve memorized.

When that’s happening, they get the non-verbal picture that this really is important. But, I’m curious, did you teach your kids how to study the Bible? Did you go through Bible study methods with them?

Melissa: In a very simple way that they can understand it. I mean, this is the thing—we don’t want to overcomplicate it.

I think moms and dads out there are going to say, “Well, I can’t do that. I’m not a Bible scholar. I haven’t learned all of this.” I challenge moms—if you’re not in God’s Word on a regular basis—if you’re not already in a Bible study or you don’t have a reading plan—go to the Proverbs. They’re chock-full of parenting wisdom, and here’s the beauty of them—you can miss a day and always catch up. You can say, “Okay, whatever the day of the month it is, that’s the Proverb I’m going to read.” If you miss tomorrow, you can pick it up the next day, and you haven’t missed context.

Bob: Right.

Melissa: So start small—and just begin sharing whatever it is that God is teaching you. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.

But we did—there are three questions that I think are really important as we approach Scripture. I believe we need to be a little bit like that little monkey, Curious George, who’s with the man with the yellow hat—he’s always tinkering with things. He’s so curious! I wanted to teach my kids to be curious with God’s Word. So we have three questions we approach God’s Word with, and I still do this myself when I open the book. “What am I going to learn about God?”

If you’re just reading it to check it off—if it’s just like the vitamin pill that—“Oh, I should take it, it’s good for me. I got it down,” it will not draw you closer to the Lord in the same way as if you’re looking to know Him—with a heart to seek Him. David—when he’s instructing his son Solomon—he’s like, “Serve and worship with a whole heart and a willing mind!” And he said, “If you seek Him, you will find Him.”

“What am I going to learn about God?” is the first question. The second question is, “What am I going to learn about people?” “What do I see in this book?” And here’s the great, encouraging thing—those people in there are a mess! I mean, look at Joseph’s family! You want to talk about dysfunction? His dad was married to two sisters who didn’t really like each other—and then their housemaids! Imagine—it’s just—!

Yet you see God using flawed people in amazing ways! When you read it—when you open it’s living pages—and you look for what people are like—you go, “Okay, God used flawed people.” But God is holy! You read it! You see He wants you to obey—not because He’s this cruel father who wants to force you into submission—because He made us—and He knows what’s best for us!

He knows that following His way—living your life for Him and His kingdom is actually what brings joy to the heart. Serving and loving is actually better than receiving—it’s actually better than what the world’s message is for our kids. So the third question—

The first one—“What am I going to learn about God?” The second one—“What am I going to learn about people or about myself?” And then, the last one is just—“Is there something God may be trying to speak to me today through this message that relates with my circumstances?”

Dennis: Yes.

Melissa: “Is there an application here for me?” I’ve taught my kids there doesn’t always have to be—but shouldn’t we ask the question? Shouldn’t we say, “God, do you have?”—because how many times have you asked a question—and God—for me—most of the way He speaks to me is through His Word.

Bob: Right.

Melissa: He just answers questions—He confirms direction. It doesn’t say in here who I should marry or where I should go to college—but He uses it though His Spirit. We increase the Holy Spirit’s vocabulary in our children’s lives when they learn to read and study and approach God’s Word curiously—asking questions.

Dennis: Okay, we’ve talked about the first two principles of how you disciple your kids. First is prayer—explaining it and training them to do it. Then, secondly, getting them in the book—the Bible—and experiencing God in the Bible—not just having it be a book of “do’s and don’ts” —but a book that is guiding them into Life, Himself.

Melissa: Yes.

Dennis: The third area is mentoring. I’m just curious as to how you speak to a child about mentors because—obviously, a parent is going to be a mentor as they train their children. Did you actually introduce your children to other spiritual mentors?

Melissa: Absolutely! I’ll start with—we are their first mentor—of course! So what are the kind of coaching questions that as a mentor, you want to ask your child in the spiritual—when it comes to spiritual things?

But, again, I needed to model it first. They needed to see that I need a mentor—that I had someone that I was calling because, “Mommy doesn’t know everything. Mommy needs Jesus—and mommy needs a mentor.” Then, as they got older—not when they were super young—but especially as they entered the teen years and the adolescent years—you start to lose the voice in their life a little bit.

For my son—he began meeting with a young college student on a weekly basis—just going through a book. I just pointed out to him he was doing it, “You’ve found a mentor.” There were—when my girls were freshmen in high school—two senior girls that began to invest and pick up my girls to take them to youth activities and have that car time together—they would meet for coffee. Again, just pointing it out to them.

Dennis: I want to stop you there, because did you set those relationships up?

Melissa: No—I did not! That’s part of being part of a church family and a church body and being on a spiritual path.

Dennis: So some older—an older—boy spotted your son and said, “Hey, let’s get together and study a book.”

Melissa: Absolutely.

Dennis: And some older young ladies discipled your twin daughters.

Melissa: Yes, and then my youngest saw all of this mentoring going on, and heard us giving the positive reinforcement—that’s a big part of this coaching. What does a good coach do? Give positive reinforcement. So she was like—and she was only maybe 11 or 12 at the time, “I need a mentor! I’m the only one in this family that doesn’t have a mentor.” So I said, “Hey, let’s go look around at church. Look around.”

That’s the thing about being a mentor, especially as a parent. Look around at who you want to be like. My mentor is who I want to be when I grow up. She’s not perfect, but the way she speaks to her kids, the way she exercises these spiritual disciplines, her love, her patience, is what I want to be like!

I didn’t go up to her and say, “Hey, can you be my mentor?” —I began calling her—I began getting together with her—I began asking her questions. So, with my daughter, Rachel, let’s train—“Let’s go look. Let’s think through the people that we know.” She landed on a 16 year-old girl at church, and she approached her and said, “Would you meet with me once a month—would you spend some time with me?” They began to do it for all of the years until that girl just graduated and went to college.

That’s the thing. Mentors aren’t always for life—sometimes they’re for a season—people move—so Rachel’s already got on her radar, “Okay, she left for college. I need to find another person.”

Bob: My sons—if they were here—would tell you that they heard over and over again from me, “Look around. Find somebody who is five to ten years down the path from where you are—somebody who you look at and think, ‘You know, when I’m their age, I’d like my life to look like theirs,’ and then say, ‘Can I buy you lunch? Can we get together? Can we play basketball? Can we do something?’”

I said it over and over and over again. Now, if a parent says stuff like that, and they don’t see the mentoring process happening, would you ever—as a parent—try to engineer it? Go to somebody and say, “Hey, would you ask my daughter out to lunch?”

Melissa: If the Holy Spirit led me, I would! That’s one of those things that you just have to prayerfully approach and ask the Lord for instructions and for nudges—for confirmations on those things.

My daughter—the other day—I can’t stand how teens these days watch one YouTube video after another! [Laughter] I’ve challenged them about it! It’s not like there’s anything inherently wrong—it’s like watching four dogs that somebody made sweaters for and they put all of these sweaters on them. So, I’m saying to my daughter, “Have you done your chores?!”

“Yes, Mom!” “Have you cleaned your room? Have you done your homework?” And she’s like, “I’ve done everything! This is how I relax.” I said, “Have you read your Bible?” She said, “You know, we made goal sheets, Mom. On mine, I wrote my goal was to read my Bible two days a week—and I’ve already done it this week.” Of course, I said to her, “Do you just eat two days a week?! Do you think that’s enough?” She rolled her eyes.

Well, mercifully—that weekend—she went off to a church camp retreat weekend thing, and they challenged her to read her Bible for 68 days straight. She comes home, and she’s telling everybody about it. I overheard her talking to someone else and saying, “You know, I had originally only planned to read my Bible two times a week—but, would you only eat two days a week? I need to read the Bib—” I’m sitting there going, [emotion in voice] “That! Wait! I said that—and you rolled your eyes!”

I think we need to remember this as parents—just because they don’t want to receive it, doesn’t mean we stop sharing the truth.

Dennis: You don’t know when they’re really listening either.

Melissa: You don’t!

Dennis: They roll their eyes back and yet, the truth of what you say, and the relationship that you have in place—those kids soak it in—soak it up. They know what the truth is—it resonates with their heart.

I just encourage moms and dads. I’m not talking about turning you into a preacher for your kids—where you’re sermonizing in their lives all of the time—but I am talking about speaking the truth and guiding them. They desperately need parents all the way through adolescence! Don’t back out of your 13 year-old’s life when they want you out of their life—because they don’t know what’s best.

You need to step in—model—teach—and share the truth with them—and hopefully they will soak it in like a sponge. It may not show up for a year—it might not show up for ten years.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: But it’s there in their souls and in their hearts.

Bob: You talked about the importance of being a part of a faith community—a part of a church—a local church—where you’re plugged in. That’s where you’re most likely to find the kinds of mentors that your kids need—and ultimately, that all of us need—as we are on our spiritual journey.

Melissa, you talk about it in Total Family Makeover—and I know your husband’s a pastor, so this idea of not just being casual about our relationship with the local church, but being really engaged and involved in the life of the church—this is vital. I hope a lot of our listeners will add to their summer reading list this summer a copy of your book, Total Family Makeover—and not just read it, but highlight it and pull some action points out of the book.

We’ve got copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order online at, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. The book is called Total Family Makeover, by Melissa Spoelstra. Again, order online at or order by phone at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

You know, talking about the importance of the local church—it’s something that we feel strongly about here at FamilyLife, and you will often hear us say—when it comes to financial giving—“Your local church ought to be your first priority in terms of where your giving goes.” I hope all of you are active in a local church—and I hope you’re supporting that church financially.

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Now, tomorrow we want to talk about how tired we are, and how important it is to have rest built into our schedule and into our lives—especially if we want to grow spiritually—that’s a factor! We’ll talk more about that tomorrow—hope you can tune in.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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