We are a group of homeschooling parents helping each other disciple our children while learning speech and debate skills, with the ultimate goal that they will grow in faith, virtue, and knowledge.
In the Great Commission, Jesus commissioned us to “make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. As parents, we are charged with the specific responsibility to make disciples of our children by teaching them. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7. That teaching is not just to be in formal settings (like sitting in a house listening to a teaching), but also while walking along the way, and when lying down, and when rising up. In Biblical times, a lot of time was spent walking, so there was a lot of time to disciple children.
Many of the most poignant lessons Jesus taught his disciples were taught to them along the way, while they were going from one place to another. Jesus taught his disciples that he was Lord of the Sabbath while they were picking grain in a grainfield. (Mark 2:23-28.) He taught his disciples that he had power over the wind and the sea while they were traveling across the sea. (Mark 4:35-41.) He used his disciples’ prideful discussion “along the way” to teach them about being the servant of all. (Mark 9:33-37.) He taught them to pray in faith through the withering of the fig tree, the first part of the lesson while walking past the leafy, but unfruitful tree, and the second part when going back past the tree at a later time and seeing it withered. (Mark 11:12-14, 20-25.) These are only a few examples of Jesus teaching his disciples while “walking by the way.”
In the same manner, we desire to teach our children while “walking by the way” of learning speech and debate. Speech and debate provide many poignant opportunities to teach our children in the ways of the Lord. There are several facets to this. First, we highly encourage all club families to participate in the Apologetics event. This event forces us to consider foundational and difficult questions, and to develop reasoned and apt responses. Some of the Apologetics questions are systematic theology questions regarding the nature of God and authority of scripture. Others are voiced as if a skeptic was asking the question. Both provide ample opportunity for studying and defending the faith. Second, competitive speech and debate is a stressful exercise, which often brings out latent spiritual or character issues that can be addressed by parents. If a child does well, they may be tempted to pride. Or if a child does poorly, the child might be tempted to despair (which is often a manifestation of pride). While working through Apologetics questions, students often start asking questions that they might not otherwise have considered. This provides an excellent opportunity to discuss deep things of God and difficult questions with students and to help them bolster their faith. Sometimes, students will receive feedback from parents and others in the club, but will reject that advice. Then, they will do poorly at a tournament and receive the same feedback on their ballots. This helps parents to reinforce the wisdom that the “way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Prov. 12:15. These are only a very few of the many opportunities that competitive speech and debate provide for discipleship.
It is vital that parents be integrally involved in this process. Parents have the ultimate responsibility to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4.) This requires that parents know the hearts of their children. To know the hearts of our children, we need time with them and opportunity. This is why it is essential that parents devote time to being integrally involved in this process: the open-hearted opportunities for deep discipleship cannot be scheduled, but you must be ready when they come. Competitive speech and debate provides many such opportunities, but parents must be with children to take advantage of those opportunities. For this reason, we do not bring in “pro” coaches as a matter of course or have only some parents do all of the coaching. All of the club parents come together to be part of this process.
Lastly, and almost as a side benefit, students that participate in competitive speech and debate increase in their ability to reason and cogently articulate that reasoning. The ability to speak well is uncommon and will provide a platform for our children in the future. We are training them to speak boldly and to change the world for Christ.