Recently, I sat down with Guy Wilcox to discuss how they seek to equip their parents to disciple their children. Guy serves at University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, AR, working with both students and music ministry.
I thought I would share how he uses The Disciple-Making Parent in his context and might be an encouragement to get something like this started in your church context. At UBC, he takes men and women through 10-week studies on parenting. You can see the details below.
Chap: Why did you choose The Disciple-Making Parent?
Guy: It covers a lot of different parenting topics in a practical nature, whereas other parenting books only cover one or two kinds of topics. The chapters are short; it’s got questions at the end of each chapter. In particular, what I looked for is what was something that was accessible to men, so we started using the book as a book study.
Chap: How do you format the study?
Guy: I basically just took the ten sections that you have in the book and did a 10-week study. The first time I did it, I did two chapters at a time, but that’s too little information and too long of a book study. So, doing a 10-week study worked great.
Generally, we had two men’s studies and a women’s study. For the men’s study, one would meet in the morning, and one would meet in the evening on a different day, depending on when guys can do it. For example, a guy could come on Tuesday at 6:00 AM sometimes, and then he could go on Thursday nights at 7:00 PM other days.
For the women’s study, we held it during youth on Wednesday night. Hopefully, the dads can watch the younger kids, but I would specifically ask people from different generations to be a part of the group.
Chap: Did you lead all the studies?
Guy: I didn’t lead all of them; I had an elder lead the evening study for men, and then I would find a lady in the church, usually who’s older, and then sometimes I would pair them with a young mom. I would say, “Hey, can you guys co-lead this class together?”
Chap: Why did you choose to do men and women only?
Guy: I believe that you can do a book study as husband and wife, but you’re gonna get different answers. A man is not gonna talk about what’s struggling in the home, typically, with his wife there. Unless they’re in a private counseling session and things have hit the fan, then maybe they’ll open up, and they’ll talk.
But what I’ve found is if you get a group of guys together, they’re willing to talk about the really hard things like:
“I don’t know what to do; we’ve never even had dinner as a family. We live in a small apartment, we don’t have a table, and we eat in front of the TV every night. And I don’t like it, but I don’t know any different. I don’t know how I’m gonna lead us to not do that anymore.”
Or maybe they’re having really problematic children or older men who feel like they’ve failed, and they’re willing now to admit it because they want to help guys not do that anymore.
Chap: Who do you recruit for the study?
Guy: One helpful thing is having different generations in the groups was being able to identify with different struggles and challenges. They both bring different elements to the study, different questions, identities, and struggles.
I wanted people who had no kids yet, but were interested in parenting and wanted to do it. I wanted couples who were expecting. I wanted parents who had kids in preschool or elementary school, or high school. Also, people whose kids were already out of the house.
One thing that I found surprising in being specific about who I invited to the groups—separating them by moms and dads—it’s a good way to encourage single moms or single dads so they don’t feel left out or ostracized.
Chap: Is it harder to get men or women into the groups?
Guy: I know in our setting, the women are more likely to read a book where the guys want to talk about hunting and fishing.
So, how do you encourage them?
One thing that I found is if you’re not doing the book study yet, prime the pump by taking one guy through it. You have to dig a little on him. I grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma on a poultry farm, working in chicken houses, the nastiest job on planet earth. And so I can relate to some of those types of guys.
But you just have to ask them, “Jim, do you think it’s your responsibility to teach your kids about the Lord, or is it Terry’s responsibility?” Ask him straight up. You don’t have to be best friends with him, but you have some trust between you two.
You just got to take baby steps, trying to help them see that it’s not that intimidating. That’s what I have seen in the past, I’ve had some guys that didn’t want to do it, and I just basically begged them and told them they needed to do it, and they’d come along and do it.
Chap: How do you recruit for the study?
Guy: I would put an invite out to the whole church to take part in these book studies. But, I would personally ask the types of people I wanted in the group to help me lead the group in the questions and the answers.
You want older men to be training younger men. You want those older guys that say, don’t do it the way I did it. We did it this way, and it worked to pour into those younger guys. It worked because it develops relationships around things besides sports.
It’s a group of guys or gals who have done this book study together and can say, “I know Matt cares about his kids’ discipleship.” And they can go to him and lean on him when things are hard.
Chap: What challenges have you seen doing the study?
Guy: It’s hard for your dads and moms that have high schoolers that feel like they’re not discipling. However, it’s still worth them doing it.
Even if your child is 18, you’ve got the rest of your life to take steps, as best as you can, to be a biblically faithful parent. You don’t die when they leave the house to go to college or move out.
Therefore, what can we do? Let’s talk about that. How can you have conversations with them? Purposeful discussions, even at the dinner table when they come back home.
Chap: What fruit have you seen doing the study?
Guy: The groups have been super encouraging the amount of growth I’ve found from our church. This church had a history of emphasizing the role of parents and discipling their kids in the home. Deuteronomy 6 is written on the wall in the children’s wing. When you walk off the elevator, it’s the first thing you see.
But what we have is—I feel like this is the evangelical culture today—we have people that want to disciple their kids. They feel like they should do it. They feel like God tells them to do it, but they don’t know how to do it.
Parents are afraid of messing up their children; they’re afraid of confusing their children. They’re worried they’re going to be bad at discipling. So, just giving them some tangible things, baby steps, and that process has been beneficial.