Habit Formation & Discipleship: How does habit formation help students to become disciples?
Written by: Mrs. Sarah Roberts
Originally Published in Flourishing: Volume 4, Issue 1
As teachers at Trinity Christian School our goal is more than teaching students traditional subjects such as math, history, science, and literature. Jesus commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Disciples are people who know, obey, and love all that God is and has commanded.
An important element of discipleship at Trinity Christian School is habit formation. The concept of a habit denotes some action practiced on a regular basis. Not all habits are profitable in discipleship. Habits must first be virtuous (i.e. reflecting the character) of God before they are a form of disciplining oneself to become more like Christ.
The goal of habit formation in discipleship is to provide students the opportunity to love God.
The goal of habit formation in discipleship is to provide students the opportunity to love God. Habits allow students to become familiar with what a love for God looks like. Familiarity will allow them to have affection for God. Affection is the first of Lewis’ The Four Loves. He reminded us that the object of our affection, our love, must be familiar before we can love it at all. Lewis said, “it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate.” Once affection exists affection becomes an appreciation for God. From an appreciation comes a commitment to God. And from that commitment comes a willingness to make sacrifices for God. For some students who have an affection, appreciation, and commitment to and for God; habit formation then becomes a practical application of the appreciation that already exists within them. While for others who may not have a commitment to God, habits will create a familiarity of a discipled or virtuous life, which will lead to an appreciation for God and finally a commitment to and worship of God.
There are countless habits that we desire to form in our students to create an affection and appreciation for God. The two most important habits we strive to form in our students are a habit of scripture reading and a habit of prayer.
Paul told us that, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) However our students cannot benefit from all that scripture is, if they do not first have a habit of reading it. For high schoolers the scripture reading required in their Bible classes may be just a checkbox on their homework list. While it may begin as such, students will persevere and (hopefully) become familiar with Scripture which is the first step toward affection.
Prayer is also an essential habit. Moses prayed asking God to see His glory and it was given to Moses. Daniel, when faced with exile, prayed that God would deliver him and God answered his prayers. Jesus, on the cross, prayed that God’s will be done in Him and it was so. There are hundreds of examples in scripture.
A habit of prayer develops in students a practice of communication with God at all times regardless of the circumstances. Paul commissioned the Thessalonians to form a habit of prayer when he said, “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) A habit of prayer may begin as something our students do just because we ask them to. But if we consistently ask, encourage, model, and convey the importance of prayer, then the habit of prayer will give them an opportunity to create familiarity with and an affection for prayer, and ultimately for God.
Discipleship extends beyond the formation of habits, but it is important to recognize the role that habit formation plays in discipleship. As Christian educators dedicated to making disciples of our students we strive to create in them habits in high school that will be a tool for improving their relationship with God and advancing His kingdom. Hebrews 12:1-2 says this, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.”
Trinity Christian School has a great cloud of witnesses equipping students to run with endurance the race set before them. Habit formation is an element of how we equip our students to live in the abundant life God has prepared for them regardless of their circumstances.