I love working with kids and families. Of all the things I could have spent my life doing, this is truly an honor. Even greater than this has been the wonderful privilege of being Julie’s husband, Yancy and Whitney’s dad, and Sparrow Rocket’s “G”! Being an Orange thinker you’ve heard me say this before, “What you teach and train your children about God matters to Him!” It’s my responsibility, priority, and privilege as a parent to do this. But it’s also my responsibility, priority, and privilege to teach them about marriage and family by setting an example and modeling God’s Word. You’ve also heard me say, “What happens at home is more important than what happens at church.” God’s original plan for world evangelism and the mission of the family is laid out in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your heart. 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.” How do we do this? In my book Connect With Your Kids I give you 12 things you can do as a parent to connect your kids to God. Here’s just a few to get you started.
#1 Family ministry starts at home.
Decide you and the inhabitants of your household will serve the Lord. You’ve heard Josh. 24:15 a thousand times, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” What does this mean? It’s simple; make Jesus an everyday part of your lives. Live out what you’re asking the families at your church to do at their house.
We never did devotions as a family. Instead, Julie and I still to this day take advantage of every opportunity to apply God’s Word to the thinking of every member of our family (including each other), so they will not allow a stronghold to be formed. A stronghold? Yes, I define a stronghold as wrong thinking that does not line up with the truth of God’s Word.
As a parent be careful what and who you allow in your home. It’s easier to start strict when kids are young and relax as they get older and allow them to make good choices based on the Bible. The bottom line is that parents must be an example!
#2 Love your spouse the way you want your child’s spouse to love them.
I don’t know why we think we can have a strong family and not have a strong marriage. Great marriages are a work in progress and happen when you make it a priority. You’ve heard me say if you aim at nothing you hit it every time. You need a plan to make your marriage strong. Whatever you did to win your spouse’s affection is the same actions you need to choose to keep their affection. Spend as much time together as you can. Also spend quality time; have a plan for your time together. Communicate well. Learn to be a listener. Be intentional when it comes to dates, trips, and make special times together a regular part of your life. Set a night to be date night and make it a priority. Just like we want our children to see we love the Lord first and foremost, let your spouse see firsthand that other than Jesus there is no person on this earth we love more than them, including our kids.
#3 Spend lots of time with your kids.
My kids are my third priority, so when it comes to controlling my schedule and not letting it control me I have to make making time for my kids a lifestyle choice. Julie and I chose from the beginning of us becoming parents that it was both of our desires to be a close family. Even though our kids are grown this is still a priority. Because of the time we invested when our children were young they make time for us now that they are grown. Our children know they are always invited to go on family vacations. Sunday lunch is a special family time for us. Long before my girls ever went on a date they had dates with Dad. I’ve tried to make the time I have with my kids all about them, not just including them in things I want to do. I’ve tried to not miss anything that was important to them. If I worked hard to plan the times at church I have with the kids of my church, why don’t I look for ways to make off days and evenings special for the kids who live at my house.
#4 Seek to understand how God made each member of your family differently and allow them to be different.
My wife and I are very different and I believe different is a good thing. I’m a spender and Julie is a saver. I am overly generous and she can be a little tight. We need each other. Our kids are a different mix of both of us. Even though our girls had the same parents, ate the same food, and lived in the same house, they’re as different as night and day. I realized when I first started working in the local church that God makes us all different as part of His plan. We are the body of Christ and just like every part of His body has a different purpose and function so do the members of our family. Different personalities call for differences in how we parent, how we discipline, and how we communicate our love, as well as how we communicate information. Celebrate how differences, strengths, and gifts of each family member, then dare to speak in their language in a way they can receive and understand. Dare to be an encourager. To encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope, to spur on; to give help to. Be a helper, an encourager, and a cheerleader for every member of your family, especially your mate.
#5 Be open and honest at all times.
Admit your mistakes and demonstrate repentance. Why do we try to hide our mistakes from the people who see them the most? My mom taught me, “Things are not as bad as I think they are.” She also told me, “I’m not as wonderful as I think I am; it’s always somewhere in between.” Our families know firsthand our struggles and inconsistencies. What makes the difference is when we don’t try to hide them or pretend they’re not there, but admit them and let our family members see we’re doing something about it. Your family needs to learn from your example of godly repentance. You see, there’s a big difference between “I’m sorry” and true repentance. Repentance calls for different behavior. When your family sees you modeling repentance, it’s easier for them to apply it in their own lives.
Establishing a family ministry starts with our family. Others will follow your example! It’s never too late to make right choices. I am so thankful we serve a God who is the God of a second chance for me and my family and the families I get to minister to at church.