How we shape a child’s heart


My grandma was a wonderful lady with a funny name.  Actually, her name Vinnie was fairly normal compared to my two grandfathers: Burt and Ernie (yes, those were their real names).  Grandma, who passed away in 2016, was a sincere follower of Jesus, an armchair Gospel preacher to anyone who visited her, and a big influence on my early walk with Christ.  I’ll never forget staying often at her house as a kid, together watching shows like The 700 Club.  Sometimes (forgive me while I digress) we watched Magnum P.I., which she liked for Tom Selleck, and I liked for the helicopters and the girls in swimsuits.  When one of these appeared on the small screen (girls, not helicopters) Grandma suddenly barked, “Matthew, cover your eyes!” so that my purity would not be compromised.  Sometimes I peaked through my fingers, but perhaps that’s for another blog post.


I was fortunate to have godly family like my Grandma and a wonderful dad and mom to help shape my heart as a follower of Jesus.  My home was probably the most important incubator for my spiritual growth and discipleship.


There was church, too.  I was in church every week.  There was Pastor Roy, Pastor Rick, and Pastor Russ, all tremendous mentors and models of faith.  I also had great Sunday school teachers and youth leaders, and they certainly made a huge investment in my spiritual walk, too.


In my life, the influence of HOME and the CHURCH together shaped my heart.


Samuel and Timothy, two young men in Scripture, shine bright light on this principle: The home and the church working together can have a powerful effect in shaping a young heart to follow God.




Home is the place where discipleship begins.


Consider young Samuel.  For his first few years before he went to live at the tabernacle, he lived at home with mom Hannah and dad Elkanah.  We deduce that Samuel’s discipleship process began there at home, because of what we know about his dad and mom:


The Parent modeled faithfulness and spiritual leadership.  (I Samuel 1:3 & 1:21) “Year after year [Elkanah… with Hannah] went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh.”  The family’s rightful spiritual leader, dad, spearheaded the family’s whole-hearted, consistent worship to God.


The Parent modeled worship.  Hannah’s outpouring of praise in I Sam. 2 rivals Mary’s heaven-shaking “magnificat” prayer (Luke 1) as the most beautiful and powerful expressions of worship ever!  Surely some of this deep love for God rubbed off on impressionable young Samuel.  And when she followed through with her vow to give Samuel to the Lord, (I Sam. 1:28) “Now I give him to the Lord,” she was performing the ultimate act of worship.


Now consider Timothy in the New Testament.  He was most definitely discipled at home, and Paul’s heart-felt letters give great insights.  Sadly, there’s no mention of dad.  But Paul gives great honor to Timothy’s two most significant godly influences: grandma Lois and mom Eunice!  Never underestimate the influence of a godly grandma!


The Parent & Grandparent modeled sincere faith.  (II Tim. 1:5) “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”  Like Hannah, these women showed young Timothy what a life of faith looks like, being determined that the boy would become a strong third link in their family’s chain of faith.


The Parent & Grandparent taught him the Scriptures. (II Tim. 3:15) “And how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Who can you guess was teaching Timothy the Bible as an infant?  Grandma and mom, of course! …perhaps with a little help from rabbinical school later on.  Timothy’s early understanding of God’s Word served as a vital foundation for his later ministry as a pastor.




For both Samuel and Timothy, the time came when their primary spiritual influence moved from the home to “the church.”


As the child Samuel grew up, he left the godly home of his mother and father, and was raised by priest Eli at the tabernacle.  Eli became a spiritual leader and mentor to Samuel.  I know what you’re thinking: Eli’s spiritual leadership of his own family stunk, and his sons Hophni and Phineas, though they were raised in church, were called “scoundrels [who] had no regard for the Lord.” (I Sam. 2:12)  Nevertheless, Eli became a vital spiritual influence for Samuel.


The Teacher taught him how to serve the Lord. (I Sam. 3:1) “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.”  In this way, he learned much and saw much in God’s house, both the mundane and the marvelously mysterious.


The Teacher discerned God’s call on his life. (I Sam. 3:8) “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.”  A mentor’s essential role is to recognize and declare divine destiny on a child that the child doesn’t see himself.


The Teacher taught him to hear and obey God’s voice. (I Sam. 3:9) So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”  The ability to hear God speak became the defining characteristic of Samuel’s life as a prophet.  There’s a poetic irony in Samuel’s name, which means “[God] heard”, but in a larger sense in Samuel’s life, Samuel learned to hear God.  He learned this from Eli.


Paul had a similar roll in the spiritual life of Timothy…


The Teacher was willing to be a spiritual father. (II Tim. 1:2) “Timothy, my dear son.”  Paul came alongside Timothy and was willing to make a profound investment of his time and energy into shaping him.  A spiritual father is far more committed than merely a spiritual friend.


The Teacher imparted gifts of the Holy Spirit. (II Tim. 1:6) “The gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”  Paul understood that both Timothy and the discipleship process must be Spirit-directed and Spirit-filled.


The Teacher diligently taught him. (II Tim. 1:13) “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching.”  A pattern, as in a woven tapestry, is painstakingly laid through careful thought and time, thread upon thread, line upon line.  A pattern soundly woven is both strong and beautiful.  To thrive in ministry, Timothy would need such a pattern of sound teaching.


The Teacher modeled all aspects of a disciple’s life. (II Tim. 3:10-11) “You… know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me… the persecutions I endured.”  Not just by telling but by showing, Paul taught Timothy how to be faithful to Christ both in delight and in difficulty.  Paul’s was a life of deep integrity, a “Do as I do,” twenty-four-seven kind of walk with Christ, which would become Timothy’s model to emulate.




God used my Grandma to help shape my life.  In His wisdom, he arranged for BOTH my home and my church to lay the essential foundation of a disciple of Christ.


The home and the church working together can have a powerful effect in shaping a young heart to follow God.


What are some ways that the home and the church can partner together in this vital task?  Are there ways to make this process strategic rather than haphazard?  What methods have you tried to foster cooperation between the home and the church to achieve the same goal?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Matt Drew has been a kids’ pastor for over 20 years, and a dad for 17 years.  He, his wife Christine, and four kids live in Mt. Morris, NY.  He currently serves as associate pastor of Celebrate! Family Church of Leicester.  Most people find Matt’s hobbies to be strange.  See some of them at facebook.com/getsetgoworkshop