God has a sense of humor. Over a 20-year span He gave Pat and me five children. I am not sure God laughed about it, but we sure laughed a lot and cried a little, in the midst of it. A friend of mine said insanity is inherited—you get it from your kids—and he wasn’t far off. There are times, dealing with teens in the midst of adolescence and raging hormones, you think you may lose it. However, you can learn a lot from your children, and I wouldn’t trade one lesson learned for all the tea in China, however many metric tons that may be.
Solomon wrote, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward, like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5). Some have larger quivers than others—but regardless of the size of your family—children are a “gift,” a “reward” and are like “arrows” to be dispatched toward targets. And, if God gives you children, you are truly “blessed.”
A few years ago I was scheduled to speak at a Leadership Conference on “The Family,” and was struggling to put something together that would be coherent, truthful and challenging for couples in ministry. So, as part of my preparation, I decided to send my grown kids a 14-question survey about their home life growing up: what worked—what didn’t—what they needed that they didn’t get—and what they had that should have been eliminated. Now, these children God gave us are Daren (48), Julie (47), Mark (43), Timothy (41), and Deborah Sue (29).
To complicate matters further, my kids spent all their growing up years in a pastor’s home. Everybody has heard horror stories about PK’s (Preacher’s Kids), so I thought I would document it, and see what I could learn. What I learned was amazing, enlightening and humbling. The responses to my survey brought tears and laughter, joy and pain—But it was real.
Though each child filled out the survey on their own, there were some amazing similarities centering on things that were important and worked well for them and in them, as they matured. After analyzing the survey results in my unprofessional way, I was left with 8 Core Values—Family Priorities. Here are the ones that most influenced my children for good. I hope they will be helpful to you who are blessed with children of your own.
Family Meals—Gathering the family around the table scored high. During these daily times, enjoying food and talking about the day, laughing about events, talking about challenges and even admitting blunders was a powerful, wonderfully blessed thing. There is something powerful about breaking bread together. We always tried to make the family table a safe zone, where we could all share anything, without facing scolding or correcting.
Family Day—Designating one day per week as Family Day where we would spend time playing games, going to parks, riding bikes, enjoying picnics, or just hanging out playing basketball or Frisbee was valuable. Memory makers do not have to cost a lot of money. When my grown kids get together and reminisce earlier days that begin: “Hey, remember when we….” it is nearly always something that didn’t cost much money but made a memory for a lifetime.
Trips Together—for family reunions, vacations, or just getting out of town. Traveling together in a car for a day or two may frazzle your nerves, but your children will learn things about you and each other that they did not know—good and bad, that can help them mature.
Daily Talks—even when they don’t want to talk, and say “nothing” when you ask them if anything is wrong. Don’t let a day go by without spending a little time talking to your child, asking about their day, and inquiring about their activities. This is especially important when they come home from school. Kids carry so much inside, that you, as a parent, need to bring out and discuss—but it takes time and commitment.
Be their Number One Fan—by enthusiastically supporting their activities. If your children play in the band, sing in the choir, play baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, runs track, are on the debate team, or builds robots, BE THERE in the stands rooting them on! They are looking for you.
Daily Devotional—whether at breakfast or some special time, pray, read Scripture, or some daily devotional story, as a family. In this way you demonstrate the value of spending time in the Word and of praying together, especially during times of crisis or family emergency.
Personal Accountability—for each family member’s actions is imortant. Teach them to work, stick with it and not quit or give up, as they do chores, jobs or make other commitments. This includes non-negotiable family activities, like attending Sunday School, Worship, Youth and other church activities. These family things we do together.
Apologize—Parents make mistakes too, and should own it when they are wrong. Children see our mistakes before anyone else. When you apologize for mistakes and failures, your influence will rise, not fall, in their eyes. Once I embarrassed Daren by wrongly calling him out in church. As soon as we dismissed I took him into my office and apologized. He shocked me no end when he said, “That’s OK Dad, we all make mistakes!”
As you work through your responsibility to God as parents, I pray you adopt priorities and core values that will honor God, bless you, your children, and their children, for years to come.