The discipleship model we embrace is based on the roles for men, women, and children described in the Bible. Again this is not for the faint of heart, nor is it what the world embraces. We believe God works through the lines of authority he has placed in our lives. Christ is over all of course, and we each have a unique and personal relationship with him. But within that, Christ is specifically over the husband, and the husband over the wife (Eph. 5:22-33). This brings challenges for us all, that rub against our flesh. Biblical history takes us back to where it started, in the garden! In the garden, when the serpent came along, where was Adam's leadership and protection? Why was it Eve who was out there talking to the serpent? These are the same issues we fight today. Men being passive, women usurping their authority and leadership (Gen. 3:6). This is not an easy road! It grates against our natural desires and causes us to cry out to the Lord for His help.
We believe the Lord desires that the primary discipleship in the Christian faith should take place along these lines (I Pet. 3:1-7). Men pursue Christ above all, and get direction and leadership from Him, being careful to also seek the Lord's guidance and place themselves under a local church authority as well (Heb. 10:25,13-17). Men, realizing their wives are designed differently and often have insights that can help them be better leaders, they involve their wives in their decisions. Women pursue Christ above all, but also place themselves under the authority and protection of their husbands, seeking their leadership in decisions. They realize it was Eve that was deceived first, they are careful to bring their husband/head into their thought processes. Often Satan will tempt the woman first. She must go to her husband, and seek his advice, leadership and protection in all things. Then there are the children and young adults in the family. They are told in the scriptures to honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1-4). There is no qualification here that the parents are perfect, nor that the parents won't make mistakes. But the promise is, if the children honor and obey, it will go well with them, in spite of the parent's issues and imperfections. Training a child in this way will push a parent to really seek the Lord as they lead, knowing the Lord holds them responsible for leading and discipling the child in the right direction (Gen. 18:19). As young adulthood is reached, the young adult, though still under their parent's authority, will function in a different way. They begin to be included in the parenting circle with the younger ones, their mature spiritual input is taken into account when working with the younger ones (Psalm 78:6). We have found our older children, as they have matured in Christ, have been our eyes at times, have more recently dealt with the same issues, and have enhanced the parenting process tremendously.
So in simple terms, we want to enhance and encourage what God has already set in place as we encourage family discipleship. That would be embracing in the local church the qualifications for overseers, elders, and deacons (I Tim. 3:4 & 12 and Titus 1:6). The elders teach whole families together in the assembly, and moms and dads disciple their own children (Titus 2:1-8). Beyond that, older men teach the younger men and older women teach the younger women.
How do unmarried older individuals, or believers from unsaved homes fit into this model? The same way they did when the model was prescribed in the Bible. And that would be that whole families minister to them as the Lord leads. "God places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). Older widows in the church can have an active ministry teaching the younger women.
To summarize, family discipleship minimizes segregated groups of same aged individuals, and brings to the body the wealth of experience and counsel of those older in the faith. In the family discipleship model, any family with teenagers is its own youth group, with Dad as the youth group leader! There is no one better qualified than him, nor specifically commanded (Deut. 6:4-7) to lead the children that God gave him. But to do this effectively, he must be broken before the Lord, open with his children and wife, and involved with other believing men (older teaching younger) to hold him accountable and spur him on.