Children become disciples of Jesus by invitation, not demand

Book Review: Raising Disciples: How to Make Faith Matter for Our Kids.
Natalie Frisk. Herald Press, 2019, 210 pages.

June 2, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 12
Ken Ogasawara |


Author Natalie Frisk brings her own parenting experience as well as years of pastoring children and youth into this engaging book, full of practical points on how to be intentional about teaching our faith to our children. She is the curriculum pastor of the Meeting House, an Anabaptist church with headquarters in Oakville, Ont.

She largely avoids writing about what to teach our kids; rather, she focuses on the how. This means that most parents on the wide spectrum of Christianity can learn and be encouraged by this book. She emphasizes in every chapter that at every stage of a child’s development, we must keep pointing toward Jesus, what she calls “Jesus-centred parenting.” She acknowledges that “[w]hile we won’t be able to protect our kids from every speed bump or pitfall, we can set them up to have the very best opportunity to know, love and serve Jesus. That’s what I believe it looks like to raise a disciple.”

An important point Frisk makes at the beginning of the book, which I appreciated, was “the guilt trip clause,” recognizing that there is enough parental guilt being experienced already, and she didn’t want this book to contribute to more of it. In fact, being gracious with ourselves and our children was a recurring theme, with Frisk acknowledging the many challenges facing parents and kids today, in the various stages of their development.

True to her role as a curriculum teacher, Frisk ends each chapter with a “Try this at home” section with questions, exercises or tips based on the preceding chapter. For example, at the end of a chapter called “Outsourcing Discipleship,” where she cautions against relying exclusively on Sunday-school teachers or youth leaders to teach our kids about Jesus, she asks, “Think about who plays an important role in your child’s spiritual growth. What are some intentional ways that you can connect and collaborate with them?”

One of the most important lessons I gleaned from this book was Frisk’s reminder that, regardless of the thing we’re trying to teach our child (praying, reading Bible stories, going to church), it must be an invitation, not a demand. She emphasizes the diverse ways that children connect with spirituality and church community, and how important it is to invite until we find a way that resonates for them.

Or, as she discusses in the later chapters for teens and young adults, we have to give room for questions, for dissonance and even for rejection of the church, as frightening or discouraging that might be. But Frisk reminds us of the story of the Prodigal Son, of that patient father who continued to love, even as his son made decisions that pained the father. This is an encouragement to be ready to receive our child with love and open arms, not judgment. This was another beautiful reminder of the grace with which we need to view our parenting (and grandparenting), and our children, knowing that the spiritual journey is long and often difficult.

The author has succeeded in writing a clear, easy-to-apply book that is full of practical examples and insights into the unique spiritual needs of children at various stages in their lives, and how we, as parents, grandparents and mentors, can support them in their spiritual growth with love, patience and grace.

Ken Ogasawara is a hope-filled father of two young daughters. He attends Shantz Mennonite Church in Baden, Ont., and serves as a communications specialist with Mennonite Central Committee Ontario.

Raising Disciples is the Common Read book for Mennonite Church Canada for spring and summer 2021. To borrow or buy a copy, download discussion questions or view an interview with the author, visit

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