Esther-Praise, 4, and Sarah-Faith, 6 and with their favourite steamed cakes. All photos courtesy of Cliff Tam.

My girls love the little steamed cakes at our local bakery. But one day, to my girls’ disappointment, they had sold out. My older daughter burst into tears.

Whenever my girls cry in public, I jump into defuse mode.

“This is so embarrassing. Why are they making a scene?” I would think.

But on that particular day, I held back. I am glad I did.

I asked my daughter this question instead: “Whenever you go out with Daddy, has there ever been a time when you had no snack?”

She thought for a while and replied: “No.”

“Exactly,” I said. “I know you are sad that there are no little steamed cakes today. But you can choose something else, right?”

At that moment, I also felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to go further.

I explained to my girls that as their earthly father, I take care of their daily snacks. But we have a Heavenly Father, our God, who takes care of our daily needs.

There and then, as my girls tried to grasp the kingdom of God in their little brains, the Holy Spirit taught me how to disciple my children as a father.

After explaining to my daughter how our Heavenly Father provides, she thought for a moment before racing off to pick another bread from the bakery.

How much does she understand? I have no idea. But I do hope I placed a small deposit of spiritual truth in her heart.

That day, I also learnt that my role as a father is to empathise with my daughter so that she feels the love of her Heavenly Father from her earthly one.

Daily discipleship

It is common for us, myself included, to think that if our children experience an extraordinary miracle from God, they will believe in Him.

Or that this will happen if they go through a particular fun programme or listen to excellent testimonials.

I am not against these experiences — they are building blocks for our children’s spiritual formation.

But I am proposing that we should not despise ordinary activities as they have the potential to sow spiritual truths in our children’s hearts.

Formerly a church pastor in Canada, Cliff decided to become a stay-home dad when he and his wife moved back to Singapore for her to fulfil her bond as a medical doctor in the public health sector.

In the Gospels, Jesus spent three years living with His disciples. The disciples did not attend school or attend Christianity 101. Their school was living and travelling with Jesus.

Jesus performed so many miracles that many accepted Him as the Son of God. Yet, He used everyday, ordinary events to explain the kingdom of God to others.

Birds, farming and building houses are analogies that His audience would understand. He even spoke the common language at that time: Aramaic. 

Jesus also had a close and intimate relationship with His disciples, conversing with them after teaching the crowds. 

Similarly, we have a special relationship with our children.

We live with them every day. We eat and even sleep together (especially when they cannot or will not go back to bed after a nightmare).

Who is responsible for teaching the next generation about God? It is us, the parents.

Don’t miss the opportunities in the ordinary

In the Old Testament, God also instructed Moses that parents ought to teach their children God’s commandments at home.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

There are four ways mentioned for parents to teach their children about God. It is when they sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up.

These are ordinary, everyday activities — not some extraordinary, supernatural event.

The truth is, we are discipling our children – intentionally or not.

Thankfully, I was able to share a spiritual truth from an ordinary activity that day. But I struggle to do this all the time because I am often too busy trying to get stuff done.

Sure, I want my kids to know Jesus. But I want to get my stuff done too. At times like these, I am not able to see the discipleship opportunities in my mundane tasks.

But at other times when I want to share about Jesus, my kids just want to play. Sometimes they ask spiritual questions, but such discourse only happens when they are ready.

What happened at the bakery reminded me that I always need to be ready. Whenever such a precious moment arises, I must stop doing whatever I am doing and focus on what God wants me to teach my children.

Cliff’s older daughter Sarah-Faith on a day when the steamed cakes were – thankfully – in stock.

Things would have been very different if I was rushing that day.

I would have yelled at my kids and dragged them off as they screamed their lungs out. Then, I would have threatened to spank them because they were disobeying me.

But then I would have missed an opportunity to disciple them. 

You may be thinking: “Cliff, you don’t understand my situation. I am too busy and have too many important things on my mind. I don’t have the luxury of discipling my children.”

Indeed, being a parent is very hard as we must juggle many needs simultaneously. But if our priority is to help our children inherit the faith, then discipleship must also take priority.

The truth is, we are discipling our children – intentionally or not. Church can only do so much because our children are there only once a week. But at home, we see them every day.

Sunday School is great for my kids. I appreciate the hard work of the volunteers and ministers who put together these programmes. But no one in church can replace me as a father to my girls.

Seek help from the Holy Spirit

To be honest, I am one of those men who are not good with kids. But as the spiritual leader of the household, I know I have a Helper (John 14:15-17, 26) whom I can seek for guidance.  

There are many times when I do not know what to say to my children. But when I seek the Holy Spirit for help, I am amazed at the creativity He gives me.

Sometimes, it is an example that my girls can relate to, like with the little steamed cakes. Other times, He gives me an activity to show who He is.

I am not saying this to gloat. But I am saying this as a reminder to us parents that God wants our children to know Him, and He has provided the Holy Spirit to help us.

The Tam family: Cliff and his wife, Wai Jia, as well as their daughters.

Discipleship can be easy because the Holy Spirit is with us, and we can use everyday examples to point our kids to who Jesus is.

God wants us to do so, and He will provide the grace, support and creativity to speak His truth.

If you are a parent, I encourage you to take the responsibility of discipling your children by slowing down, finding ordinary activities to share about Jesus and seeking the Holy Spirit for help.

In Galatians 6:9, Paul wrote: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

What we sow in our children will never go to waste.

So let us keep finding new and creative ways to show who Jesus is to our children in our everyday lives!


“If you do not have their hearts, you will not have their minds”: Rev Dr Peter Tan-Chi on how to disciple our children well

“Will you just sit with me?”: A mother learns the ministry of presence

5 perspectives on parenting to help you build a family of faith

About the author

Cliff Tam

Cliff Tam is a missionary from Canada who is married to Wai Jia. They have two wonderful girls, Sarah-Faith and Esther-Praise. A liver transplant survivor and Ironman triathlon finisher, Cliff lives in deep gratitude to God for a second chance at life. Find out more about his writings and weekly webinars at www.clifftam.com.