The family is a God-ordained reality. It is not just a social construct or an institution with puritanical roots that can be thrown off as if it were an outdated, repressive practice. The family is God built, God designed, God-glorifying, and necessary. You may not have taken a step back lately to consider “the family” but it is a foundational part of life. It is the framework that God created and purposed to point us to Himself and to shape us for Him. This key truth is too often forgotten in our culture today. Regretfully, the idea of Gospel-centered family structure is often seen as a burden or an archaic system from the past when it should be seen as something to be developed and defended. The family matters to God, therefore, the family should matter to His people.
At Crossings, we have to think about the bleeding edge of culture because, as stewards of God, we are called to reach the next generation with the gospel. As we work for and walk with students, one reality that we consistently have to confront is the broken family structures that dominate the lives of many of our students. I was shocked to learn that Kentucky leads the nation in homes where at least one parent is incarcerated. [i]
Single parents, incarcerated parents, divorced parents, cohabitating un-wed parents, same-sex married parents, etc. These were much less common just a decade ago. Now the term “family” is shifting and being stretched at a rate that is seemingly impossible to calculate. Despite that, the Gospel remains unchanged. The Lord refers to Himself as our father. Christ calls the Church His Bride. Paul uses the familial terms and even refers to the body of Christ as a whole as a family. The family matters to God. Christians understand that the family is not just under attack from the culture but that we also have another very real enemy that desires destruction. The attack on the family is dangerous because it robs children and the world of the beautiful picture of the Gospel, which is the family. Gospel-centered family structure places our natural father in the position to point to God, their heavenly Father, and creates a nurturing environment that instructs the Word of God as the ultimate truth.
This month we want to help you fight the good fight for your family whether you are a parent of any kind, a high school student, a grandparent interceding for your family, or a pastor/church leader seeking to encourage the families in your church. Crossings would like to give you some thoughts to help you fight for families!
Dr. Timothy Paul Jones in his book “Family Ministry Field Guide” gives some amazingly practical advice on how to lead your family. This week I want to cover one idea he addresses called “faith talks” and next week I will look at another idea he shares called “faith walks.” Dr. Jones says, “The purpose of faith talks is to restore Christian parents to their God-ordained role as teachers of God’s Word in their children’s lives.” [ii]
You have a calling as a parent to foster a spiritual environment that points your child towards God. You cannot save your child, but you can set the table of their life in such a way that they see themselves as sinners, Christ as the only savior, and surrender to Him as their only option. The scriptures are consistent in their exhortation of parents to teach their children who God is and what His Word says. Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:15
Parents can do that in a number of ways. One way is by living our lives in such a way that they see our faith in God and His Word. Another way is through teaching, which means speaking God’s Word and wisdom to them. Faith talks are the action of teaching children the Word of God through intentional conversations with them.
Faith Talks with Younger Children
I have three very young children (4, 2, and 6 months old). I work a full day and then come home to chaos. I am usually retrieving someone or something from a toilet or discovering what has been broken at our house for the first 30 minutes after I step through the door in the evenings. After dinner, I try and take over for my wife who has been home with the kids all day by bathing the boys and then putting them into bed. I have limited time with them so I try and make most of the time that I do have with them. The obvious time for faith talks, in my busy life, is bedtime. I try to read to them Bible stories as much as I can at bedtime and ask them questions to help get them familiar with who God is and what He does. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones has been a huge blessing to our family in this endeavor. [iii] The more interactive that I make that time, the more my boys tend to engage and hold on to what we have talked about. We recently read ready through Sally’s book “Found” which is her adaptation of Psalm 23. [iv] I would ask my boys questions about what they were seeing on each page and when we got to the page where the lamb walks through the dark valley only to find his Shepherd there with him, I made my boys scream “God Loves Me! I am not afraid!” They went wild, which isn’t that hard to believe, but I can still hear them saying it weeks later. I pray for them that these truths would settle into their little hearts and that, as God leads them forward into what He has for them, it would come to mind often. Our faith talks are simple like that for the obvious reason that their minds aren’t ready for much more right now. I want to teach them what I can at this point and make it highly interactive and repetitive so that it sticks in their little hearts. Faith talks with younger children need to be intentional, repetitive, and on their level, because their little minds are learning the world from what you show them but their little hearts are also desperately in need of God’s grace to help them come to know Him and His love for them.
Faith Talks with Teens
I don’t have teenagers of my own, but I was blessed to be parented by Godly parents and I have been blessed to have some men around me who have parented their teenagers in such a way that I was instructed well. A good friend of mine, Brad Sykes, is a realtor and Christian radio show co-host in Jacksonville, FL. I met Brad when we served together on a local council for a men’s ministry that was pouring into men in Jacksonville. Brad is the kind of guy who stands out in every room he steps into but what caught my eye was that he had his sons in every meeting we had. They stayed beside him, talked to him, and laughed with him a ton. If you watch many television shows or movies with parents of middle/high school-aged students you will notice that they talk to each other as little as possible and when they do it’s angsty at best. Brad’s boys were good boys (so were his girls) and they loved their dad. They loved being around their dad. They loved talking to their dad. I think that was largely because Brad talked to his kids. Faith talks with teenagers look more like pursuit and enjoyment, rather than endurance and distance. It looks like discipleship, is what Brad would say. You pursue your teenagers and let them know you want to walk with them, you care about what they think and feel, and you desire to be near them. You throw out the notion that your teenager is going to rebel and hate you. Instead, you chase them. As you talk about life, you pour the gospel in. Teenagers are hormonally overcharged and need help discerning life. They need hope. They need you. They need your words in their ears often. Pray for them and their struggles. Buy them books and pay them to read them (my dad would pay me to read books when I was in MS/HS). Put them around voices that will point them to God. Faith talks with teenagers require intentionality, pursuit, and consistency.
Faith Talks with Older Children
I am 34 and now have my own kids. I need my dad’s voice in my ears now more than ever. There are few weeks that go by that I don’t feel overwhelmed or even (depending on the season) despairing and depressed. There is just so much on my shoulders at times and rarely much clarity on where things are heading. My dad will call me to check in, text me something funny, or email something he’s reading and it means more to me than I doubt I could express in a blog. If you are a parent with older kids, your voice is not over; your kids need you to speak hope into their hearts, truth into their lives, and love into their pains. Faith talks now look like a friendly coach in a way I could have never imagined they would have. I need my dad to laugh at the things my kids do and tell me that the same things happened with me when I was young and that it gets better. I need my mom to text me that she’s praying for me when she knows I am dealing with intense scheduling or major transitions. I need both my mom and dad to continue to engage me because their words still shape and mold my view of life, situations, and God. There is no parental retirement. If you have college-age students, please know that they aren’t out of the house spiritually. Parents still have a voice that young-adults desperately need as they are trying to navigate life steps on their own. If you have children that have young families, they need you to buy diapers, provide some free child-care, and to help them learn how to speak truth to their families. Don’t sit this one out, you need to speak into the lives of your adult children. Faith talks with adult children look like being available, supporting, and helping them as they navigate obstacles regularly.
Your words matter. Your children need to hear you speak God’s Word, God’s wisdom, and God’s way into their hearts and minds at all ages. Children are a blessing from the Lord and you will be sanctified as a parent just by having them in your life. You have a responsibility to them to speak to them about faith regularly and rhythmically. As you intentionally set aside regular time for this, you will see the Lord use your words to help shape your child.
I heard Danny Wuerffel share some of his testimony while I was on staff at FBC Jacksonville. Danny was the former University of Florida quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 and led UF to their first national championship that same year. He went on to play in the NFL for several years before retiring to lead Desire Street Ministries. He shared that, as a kid, he would be in important games playing and instead of hearing all the noise or being intimidated by the other team he would hear a voice in his head saying, “Danny, you’re so smart. Danny, you’re so strong. Danny, you’re so brave.” He heard that voice as a college football player in key games or in difficult moments instead of the roar of a crowd or the screams of Coach Spurrier. In the NFL, he had the same experience regularly; this voice in his head encouraging him despite what was happening around him. He said he never thought much about it until he had his own son. His mom had come over to the house to watch his son one night and as Danny was getting ready to leave the house he heard that voice again. As he walked down the hallway it got louder until he realized it was coming from the nursery. When he looked in the room he realized that this whole time it had been his mom’s voice and as he watched her whisper those same phrases in the ear of his son. He recognized that his mom had said those things over and over to him as a baby and as a little boy and they had lodged in his heart and in his mind and had guided him throughout his life in the most difficult moments. Parents, please know that the words you say to your children have power. They will encourage them, strengthen them, prepare them, and hopefully point them to Jesus. You need to develop the rhythm of faith talks with your child because the Bible exhorts you to do so and your child needs you to.
Have you heard about our parenting conference in November, Leading with Love? We want to equip you biblically to lead and love your kids on a day-to-day basis. We want to show you how to stay centered on the Gospel and to use God’s word to teach your children as they learn to navigate the challenges of growing up. Come hear Chap Bettis, author of The Disciple Making Parent along with David and Sally Michael and Randy Stinson.We are holding the conference on November 4 at Jonathan Creek and November 11 in Louisville at Highview Baptist Church. For more information, visit here.
[ii] Timothy Paul Jones. Family Ministry Field Guide: how your church can equip parents to make disciples (Kindle Locations 2376-2377). Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition.
[iii] The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Every-Whispers/dp/0310708257/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506701078&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+storybook+bible