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Discipleship within the Family




Discipleship within the Family

Jessalyn Hutto

Today, we are blessed to hear again from Chelle Stire–my high school mentor and dear friend–on the topic of discipleship. This portion of the interview focuses on discipleship within the family. Chelle and her husband Kris live in Albania as missionaries with their four daughters ranging in age from 10 to 16.

Can you share a little bit about the joys and challenges of discipling your own teen and preteen daughters? How do you purposefully seek to guide their spiritual formation?

The joys, blessings, and wonders of discipling my 4 daughters are something that frequently bring me to thanksgiving and worship of the Lord.  As they get older and I see each of them growing in their understanding of who God is and in their personal relationship with Him, I am filled with a great sense of awe, that I get to be a part of it.  In my pride, when I was a youth pastor’s wife, I felt that my gifts, words, wisdom, or example were vital to the growth of those young girls.  I saw their growth and maturing in the Lord as something of my accomplishment (although I would have attributed it to the Lord due to my correct theological understanding that it is God who brings to completion that which He began).

However, with my own daughters, I see how often I parent/disciple in sin, discipline in anger or don’t discipline in laziness, portray an idolatrous love for comfort, materialism, and self, and speak harsh, unloving, critical, and slanderous words to or in front of them.  The fact that they are desirous to love the Lord and walk in His ways just amazes me because I model it so poorly to them.  I savor those moments when I find them reading their Bibles, singing a worship song to the Lord, talking about God to their friends, or grappling with the real challenges of growing in the knowledge of the Lord.  I don’t think I really appreciated those moments as a youth worker because they weren’t my own flesh and blood.

I love the quiet hour that I get with each of my girls once a week when we have “our time” together.  With Breanna (age 10) we have been reading through books with a verse/passage at the beginning and then a story/biography that helps understand the verse (like School Days with the Millers and Missionary Stories with the Millers by Mildred A. Martin).  With Whitney (age 14) and Sierra (age 13) I am are currently going through a book called Growing Little Women: Capturing Teachable Moments with Your Daughter by Donna J. Miller and next we will go through A Young Woman’s Walk with God by Elizabeth George.  Kaitlyn (age 16) and I are finishing up Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick and then we will start Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.   I have been amazed at how open and sweet our fellowship has been and how it has transformed our communication during the day.  They really look forward to that spiritual connection and I find that I love to snuggle together and talk about what God is teaching us together.  I Thess 2:7-8 expresses Paul’s heart of love to His children in the faith like a nursing mother who tenderly cares for her young.  Often I just want to sit with them in my lap (yes, even my 16 year old) and enjoy their presence.  At times like those, I can understand and share with them how God must really love for us just to WANT to be with Him and not have to DO lots of things to prove or gain something from Him, but just BE with Him.  I love to hear their concerns, joys, questions, insights, and struggles.  I am a blessed woman to have such wonderful and open relationships with my girls.

Homeschooling has greatly enhanced the discipleship opportunities because I can interact on a spiritual level with each girl about a myriad of different situations each day (why they are having a bad attitude about math, what is the motivation behind their laziness with chores, what time management has to do with worship, what it means to work heartily for the Lord even when it’s just a school project, etc).  Having them at home lets me see and deal with so many more “teachable moments” on a consistent basis.  Kris and I have seen a tremendous increase in spiritual hunger and growth since I have been homeschooling.  (As a caveat, I am not a die hard homeschooler.  We commit each year to pray about the different academic and spiritual needs of our girls and are open to public, private, and homeschooling – we have done all 3.)  The reward of taking those moments and instilling a Biblical understanding of life worship (not just having a weekly youth meeting, discipleship time, and daily quiet time) is vital to a spiritual longevity that will continue when they leave our house for college and to begin their own homes.  Discipleship with my own children has also taken on a more full orbed dimension because I get the privilege of guiding and teaching them in all areas of their lives and make the spiritual connection to the mundane daily duties as well as the overtly spiritual aspects of life.  Those connections are what will help them make the transition from growing up in a Christian home with Christian standards to living for Christ when they on their own and encounter temptations and struggles that we didn’t give them rules about.

This is our goal – worshippers of God, not rule followers that make us look good or make them feel better about themselves.

How has being in a culture of 1st generation believers impacted your own ability to be discipled by other women? How has it impacted your marriage?

There are no older women that I have been able to be discipled by in the past 6 years and I miss that tremendously.  I have peer discipleship relationships that encourage and challenge me, but I sense the loss of older women speaking truth into my life.  On the other hand, I have really had to lean more heavily on the Lord for my spiritual stability (not on a mentor, women’s Bible study, counselor, or program).  I realized, when we had been in Albania for about 6 months, that during my years in American churches I had become too dependent on other women to provide counsel, affirmation, friendship, encouragement, or even exhortation.  Also, Kris and I had to learn how to connect on a spiritual level that we had not done before.  I had usually gone to other women first to discuss my fears, frustrations, lessons from the Lord, questions, or random thoughts.  On some level I thought that Kris wouldn’t really understand me and it was so much easier to connect with women that I replaced him as my spiritual leader and guide with other women or a best friend.

This weakness in our relationship became very apparent when both of us went from multiple gender specific discipleship relationships, Bible studies, accountability groups, and leadership meetings to practically nothing at all.  I had always appeared “strong” and self-sufficient to Kris and I had undervalued the vital ministry of praying for my husband’s spiritual life.  All of a sudden I was a wreck and telling Kris I needed more from him because I was floundering and struggling to make sense of the spiritual wilderness I was wandering in.  He, himself, was navigating his own spiritual, ministerial, and cultural challenges and we didn’t even know how to really help one another because we had become accustomed to other men (for him) and women (for me) to carry that burden.  It was an extremely beneficial time for our marriage once we figured out what the problem was.  I am so thankful to God for deepening my dependence on Him and for strengthening my relationship with Kris during these difficult days.  I do miss those discipleship relationships, but I am thankful that Kris has been able to help me grow and mature.

To read more valuable wisdom from Chelle, visit these two posts:

  • [intlink id="13608" type="post"]Discipling in a Foreign Culture[/intlink]
  • [intlink id="13518" type="post"]Discipling as God Disciples You[/intlink]

I look forward to sharing one more post with you from this interview next week in which Chelle shares some final reflections on the topic of discipleship.