A Family on a Mission
About the Guest
- Kevin DeYoung on family devotion fails. (1 min. video) https://www.familylife.com/podcasts/familylife-today/art-of-parenting-video-clip-kevin-deyoung-on-family-devotions/
- Download the Family Values Exercise, a tool to help you prepare today for the decisions and transitions that will affect the next stage of your family’s life. https://www.familylife.com/values-exercise/
- Has the FamilyLife Today® podcast and resources helped you? Learn more about becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife. https://www.familylife.com/legacy
Shelly WildmanShelly Wildman is an author, speaker, and former writing professor who is passionate about raising the next generation for Christ. She speaks frequently to women’s groups and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College and the University of Illinois at Chicago, but her most important life’s work has been raising her three daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for thirty-two years and live in Wheaton, Illinois.
What does it mean to live on mission? Shelly Wildman believes that if parents want kids who are on fire for the Lord, the parents must have a committed relationship with Christ themselves.
A Family on a Mission
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 5th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’re on a spiritual journey just like your kids are; but do your kids see you on that journey?—or do they think that somehow you’ve arrived? We’re going to talk about what intentional discipleship of our kids looks like today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. If you were to go to your adult children—you’ve got three sons, married, all in their 20s/early 30s?
Bob: Okay; so if I were to go to your kids today—your sons—and say—
Dave: Oh, please don’t! I know where you’re going. You’re going to say, “What’s the Wilson mission?”
Bob: No; I’m not going to ask them to define the mission—although that would be interesting. Could they define it; do you think?
Ann: No. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; they could. Of course, they’d say it perfectly. Do you want me to call them right now?
Bob: Yes; let’s try that. [Laughter] I gave the phone number for your son, Cody, to our engineer Keith. I think we’ve got him on the line—Cody, are you there?
Cody: Yes; I’m here.
Bob: Okay; so we’ve got—this is your son, Cody Wilson; right?
Ann: Yes; it is.
Bob: Do you want to say, “Hi,” to him?
Ann: Hi, Cody.
Dave: How are you doing?
Bob: So, Cody, we’ve been talking with your mom and dad, here, on FamilyLife Today about intentional parenting. First of all, my question for you was: “Were they intentional as parents? Did you feel like they were living on mission and had a focus for what they were doing as they raised you guys?”
Cody: Yes; I think they’re definitely intentional. I think, sometimes, with the busyness of life, that can look a little differently—especially, for our family. If you know my parents, they are not the best at planning things. [Laughter]
Cody: It wasn’t like, “Hey, this week, we’re doing this at this time.” They’re just never going to function like that, regardless of parenting—just in life in general. So, I think the intentionality—I do think they had a vision for my life, for my brothers’ lives, for us as a family. I think a lot of that vision was carried through in their personal lives and with our family; and because of that, I think a lot of what, I would say, I learned would be the idea of—like so much was caught in addition to being taught.
Cody: So, I think because their lifestyle was so authentic and genuine—in how they pursued the Lord and, also, the joy and the authenticity they lived with at home—it was an intentionality that was pretty organic, if that makes sense.
Bob: It does make sense. Your dad was telling me that there was some kind of a Wilson family mission statement or motto or something. Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you remember anything like that?
Cody: I have no idea. [Laughter]
Dave: Thanks, Cody, you’re making me look really good. It’s okay; we’ve got to go now.
Bob: No; no; no.
Dave: That’s enough. [Laughter]
Bob: No; what was it you said was the Wilson family mission?
Dave: Ann and I talked about raising L3 warriors—and warrior was a key word—that would impact the world. L3—Cody, you remember the Love, Lock, Live?—so love God and others;—
Cody: Yes; for sure.
Dave: —lock arms in community; and live open-handedly. That was, sort of, ours.
Bob: Like at family dinner, you weren’t saying, “Let’s all chant the Wilson—
Ann: I would have liked to have done that, but that wouldn’t have flown.
Dave: She would have loved it.
Bob: Cody, do you remember thinking, “I’m being raised as a warrior”?
Cody: Yes; I mean, I think definitely. I think I heard words like that. I would say, being a kid, I thought I would probably think it was pretty weird if my parents were like, “We’re raising you to be an L3.” I would be like, “That’s not cool to be.” You know what I mean? [Laughter]
Bob: I do.
Cody: I feel like I—I feel like, especially, words are so important. I think most of my life I don’t think I ever remember my parents speaking negative words over me, in the sense of my identity or who I was. I think that every single word that I heard was complimentary and really powerful in the sense of “You’re a leader,” or even things being “smart” or “athletic.” I think those were the things. Again, those are just overarching themes of day-to-day life, where there was intentionality. Then there is just—like I think they really believed that about me, so it was an overflow of what they really thought. It was organic in that sense as well.
Bob: So, let me have you think back to, maybe, high school graduation. If I could take you back to when you were 18 years old and say, “Cody, I want you to answer this sentence for me: ‘My parents will think I’ve really been a success/I have accomplished what I’m supposed to accomplish if I….’ and then you complete the sentence.” What did you think your parents cared most about for you when you were 18 years old?
Cody: I think, ultimately, they just wanted me to be following Jesus.
Bob: So, at the end of the day—because you had athletic gifts; you were smart; you had speaking gifts/leadership gifts—but at the end of the day, you would say what mattered most to them was: “Is Cody following Jesus?”
Cody: Yes; I mean, I think I would say that at the time. Now, looking back, I don’t know if they would have viewed me as a success or a failure based on something I did, honestly. They probably just wanted me to be happy in the sense of living a life of purpose and of joy and doing what the Lord made me to be.
I mean, I think even God, as a Father—He finds delight when we delight in Him. I think any father finds joy when their children are in joy. I think beyond success, they probably would have ultimately wanted me to live a life of joy and of purpose; and ultimately, within that, being the person God made me to be and having a thriving relationship with Him.
I think, probably, with my dad’s history of being a chaplain for the Lions and with my own history of playing sports—like I don’t think it’s like, in any sense like, “Man, you played college football,” or “You get a scholarship,”—that wouldn’t mean like you’re a success because even those things can be fleeting. I think, for me, it was definitely way more eternal in the sense of legacy, calling, and my relationship with Jesus.
Bob: Whether you remembered L3 warrior or not, you got the big picture. Thanks for taking time with us, Cody. Do you want to say goodbye to your son?
Dave: Yes; thanks, Cody; that was awesome.
Ann: Bye, Cody. I thought you were going to say—
Cody: Appreciate it.
Ann: —your dad wanted you to play in the NFL. [Laughter]
Cody: That’s true.
Dave: And you did; that was sort of fun. Actually, you want to hear something from my perspective?
Dave: When Cody was in the Detroit Lions’ locker room, and he locker-ed right beside Calvin Johnson, so, it was pretty cool to walk in there and see a possible Hall of Famer, Calvin 6’6” and then Cody, my son, 5—how tall are you now, Cody?
Dave: Yes; he’s 5’8.” [Laughter] So, anyway—
Dave: —okay; you’re 5’9.” Here is my point—I always sort of thought, “If this could ever happen, it would be the ultimate dream, as the Lions’ chaplain and his dad.” Then, when he ended up, co-pastoring with us at our church, I realized that NFL dream was too small. I mean, I’m getting teary thinking about what we get to do together now, as father/son, leading a congregation to go on mission. It’s so much greater. You know, the NFL—that was a neat, little thing for a while—but man, this is—this is the ultimate—
Dave: —to raise sons and daughters, who are warriors for the kingdom.
Cody: Could I add something else I thought would be a good story?
Cody: Well, I was just thinking—because I think this is really important, and this is what I’m talking about—like organic; like it’s funny. When I think about intentional things, I remember way less the conversations that were had—obviously, there were important ones—but like things that are burned into my memory. I remember waking up, being in high school, and walking through the kitchen.
Our deck was in the back. For some reason, my mom would always—you always had dumb bells out there. [Laughter] You’d be working out on the deck; but I remember walking by and seeing her on her knees and her hands lifted, and her like worshipping Jesus in the midst of—I don’t know if she was working out or whatever she was doing—but like those are the visceral memories that were, I think, honestly, way more intentional and impactful a vision of what it looks like to follow Jesus, even in my own life.
I’ve heard the quote: “You teach what you know but reproduce who you are.” Obviously, you imitate what you see; so it’s—sometimes, it’s like: “You want to be intentional; your lifestyle is going to be the thing that is copied—not what you say—so be intentional with the way you are living, because that’s going to create something that’s going to be reproduced.
Bob: That’s great. Thanks for sharing the story; and thanks for sharing some time with us, Cody.
Cody: Yes; appreciate it. Thanks.
Bob: Talk to you again.
Ann: See you.
Dave: See you.
Bob: Well, we kind of sprung that on both you and your son; but hearing him reflect on that, you can kind of look back and say, “In spite of whatever we didn’t do, should have done, did poorly, God still moves in the midst of our imperfections to accomplish things.”
Ann: It’s interesting because I remember, when they were little/when he was little, so many nights, lying in bed, thinking: “I’m a bad mom. I’ve blown it. I yelled at them.” I think that the shame piece can come over us, as moms, that we feel disqualified.
Bob: We have a guest who is joining us today, who we haven’t introduced yet; because we got sidetracked with your son. [Laughter] Shelly Wildman is here. Shelly, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Shelly: Thanks so much.
Bob: Shelly has written a book about intentional parenting. The book is called First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship.
Shelly, part of what we just heard from Cody is that, even if you are not intentional about what you’re doing, if you’re intentional about who you are being, that may be the more important thing.
Shelly: Oh, absolutely. Cody said some wonderful things that I was like, “Oh, yes; yes; that’s it!” He used the word, “authenticity”—that you guys were so authentic, and that’s what he picked up. I have parents ask me, all the time, just: “What can I do? What can I do? I feel like I’m doing it wrong. I’m messing up.” I just keep saying: “Just be authentic. Be yourself. What you have in your heart—that is going to flow through to your kids,”—which is also a caution to us, as parents. We have to be where we need to be with the Lord in order to pour into our kids.
Bob: Well, and as we worked on the video series, the Art of Parenting®, and Dennis and Barbara Rainey wrote a book by that title, one of the things that we wanted to make sure we communicated was that this model of what you are is what’s most significant. In fact, if you are teaching your kids the right stuff, and you’re not living it,—
Bob: —that may be more spiritually detrimental. If your kids are seeing hypocrisy,—
Bob: —it’s almost like it would be better for them to see authentic lack of spiritual passion than for them to see an inauthentic, verbalized, “Yes, we’re all about Jesus,”—and then, “No, we’re really not.”
Ann: —the lifestyle isn’t matching.
Shelly: Right; right.
Shelly: You know, that’s not to say we don’t all mess up.
Shelly: We absolutely do.
Shelly: But, when we, then, can come to our kids in humility and say: “You know what? I really did mess up, and this isn’t how God wants me to act,”—that idea of, again, being authentic in our humility is so important.
Dave: You know, what’s really interesting that—I don’t know if it’s recent research—but youth pastors are always trying evaluate, “How is our youth ministry doing?”
Dave: You know what they recently, sort of, discovered? We get these kids in our youth group—middle school/high school—they get really involved. Usually, there is a weekly meeting; there are retreats. There seems to be fire in their bellies with these kids on their walk with Jesus—really effective. Then they go to college, and they grow up, and they walk away from the faith.
They [youth pastors] are like: “What are we missing? What isn’t sticking? What isn’t working?” You know what they found out? The kids that stay are the ones that come home from the retreat and go to a family that has the same values/is living it out, authentically, in front of them.
Dave: The ones that go home to families that aren’t living it—often, it doesn’t stick. It’s like: “Man, you want to impact a high school kid? Don’t have a great youth ministry; have a great family ministry.
Dave: “Help those families really walk with God.” As you talk about this in your book—“it’s an overflow.”
When I was a young dad, especially, we are exhausted.
Dave: We have no time—we’re trying to work, trying to raise kids, trying to get them to bed, trying to get them to all the sports activities. How does a mom and dad keep their fire in their own spiritual walk real so that it can be an overflow that is caught by their kids?
Shelly: Yes; you know, I think, you have to be committed to having that relationship with Christ in your own life—and encouraging each other/nurturing that in each other.
Also, something just occurred to me, too, is wrestling in front of our kids. Sometimes, I think parents feel like: “If I am wrestling with some element of my faith, I don’t want my kids to see that. They might see that as a chink in the armor.” But you know? I think kids really want to see that you are wrestling with your faith—that your faith matters enough to you to talk these things through.
Bob: Well, here’s why that’s important; because, when they face doubts,—
Bob: —and they will—
Shelly: —and they will.
Bob: —if they think: “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Mom and Dad never faced doubts.”
Bob: Then they think, “I’m just different than Mom and Dad.” Then they will start to drift—
Bob: —because they feel like: “I can’t get to where Mom and Dad are. I can’t be that person.”
Dave: They’ll struggle in private—
Shelly: Absolutely; absolutely.
Dave: —because they are afraid to admit.
Remember when CJ, our oldest, came to you [Ann] with something he didn’t think was right about believing in God because—remember? He wasn’t even 12 years old. You know, like he is so intelligent. He was like, “Why would God command no murder—
Ann: Oh, it was—he was four, actually.
Ann: He was four years old, and we were reading the story of David and Goliath.
Ann: I was reading it, and it was to the part where David cut off Goliath’s head. CJ stopped and he said: “I don’t understand. I thought the Bible said we weren’t to murder. Yet, David murders Goliath; and that’s okay. I don’t understand. Where is that?”
Dave: Here’s the funny thing about it.
Bob: Wait; wait. What’s Mom’s answer to that question?
Ann: I said, “Hey, Dave, how would you answer that?” [Laughter]
Bob: Pastor Dave?
Shelly: Exactly; good answer. [Laughter]
Dave: Honestly, she did then; but as CJ became 10/12—and he’s got a really sharp mind—he would doubt.
Dave: I remember Ann coming to me one time—remember? She was freaking out, like, “He’s not believing.” I’m like, “This is awesome”; because I struggle with those things. It’s like we can talk; because he’s got a dad, who has asked those hard questions: “Let’s ask them together.” What was almost a freak-out moment was also—it’s just what you said—“Let’s struggle together.”
Shelly: That shows our kids that it matters enough to us to have those same struggles with them. That was, often, our dinnertime conversation. I mention in the book, we kind of got an “F” in family devotions; we weren’t that great at that. [Laughter]
Ann: But that’s so encouraging to hear; because I think a lot of families have a picture, like, “We should be sitting down talking.” “What went wrong? Why didn’t it work?” I always thought, with girls, it would work.
Shelly: Oh, no. Oh, it was—
Ann: Because with boys, it didn’t work.
Shelly: No, it was terrible; it was terrible. Then, we felt this awful guilt—
Shelly: —terrible, terrible guilt; because I’m sure everybody else in my wonderful church was doing it just right, and we could not get it right. But you know what we did was—we talked about those questions, and we struggled together.
Bob: I will tell you what. Just for the encouragement of our listeners, if you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, there is a video clip there. Kevin DeYoung, who is a pastor, shares about their family devotions; and it’s a mess for them, too.
Shelly: I’m so glad. [Laughter]
Bob: So, if you want some real encouragement around your house, you can go and watch the video of just Kevin talking about—this is a part from the Art of Parenting video series—but it’s just that clip of him talking about family devotions.
I think we have to recognize that the Deuteronomy 6 model that we often hear about—you have your family devotions in the car, and as you are on a walk, and as you are at the grocery store. That’s not to say that you don’t have formal times of teaching—
Bob: —times you get the family together and open the Bible—or that you can’t, at dinnertime, just say, “I’m going to read three verses—
Shelly: Yes; for sure.
Bob: —“and then we’ll ask if anybody has anything to pray about.” I mean, you can keep it really simple; but just know that there is not a requirement in heaven. They don’t look at you, when you get to heaven and go: “Okay; look, we saw the family devotions. You did get an ‘F’ in family devotions.” [Laughter]
Shelly: “You failed.”
You know, what I also—what I mention in the book is—I looked at the life of Jesus. He had disciples; we are discipling our kids.
Ann: Well, it’s interesting because I did think that, as a mom: “My number-one job is to be a discipler of my kids first.” I had this thought, like, “As a discipler, I should always have something that God put in me,”—it made me desperate for Jesus. I realized, “If I would go five days and I never mentioned Jesus, like, ‘Whoa! I haven’t invested my own personal time with Him to hear God of what He’s saying to me in His Word.’” So, it made me cling to Him and say, “God, what are You saying to me today that I can pass on?”
But I think that’s good for us to remember—like, “Is there something going on that is fresh each day?”—not something I’m pulling out, 20 years ago, that God did. Our kids are looking for that; and even dialoguing about that of, maybe: “I struggled today with this…” or “…this thought…” “I read this Scripture...” “I had this conversation…”—that’s just part of our dialogue.
Shelly: Yes; it doesn’t have to be forced.
Shelly: You know, our kids sniff out that hypocrisy in us if we are just like, “Ooh, I have to talk about Jesus today.” It doesn’t have to be forced, but it can be authentic.
In the chapter on prayer, I talk about, you know: “How do you develop a sense of prayer in your kids?” It’s really hard, I think; but one of my daughters said to me, “Oh, Mom, talk about praying,” in the car. That was one of those examples of—you’re having these deep conversations in the car, and you don’t really know either what to say or how to respond. I would often just say, “Okay.” We’d pull in the garage; and I’d just say, “Can I just pray for you right now?” I’d put my hand on their arm, and we would just have a quick moment of prayer; but I felt like, “Okay, that’s the right response at that time.”
Dave: It’s amazing that she remembers that.
Shelly: I know it.
Dave: And you didn’t even think of it, —
Dave: —but it impacted her.
Dave: I would add this—and it’s in your book—is, as a parent, you’ve got to be there.
Shelly: You do.
Dave: I mean, if we’re called to be the disciplers of our kids, you can’t do it when you’re not there. It’s interesting—just Sunday, Ann and I, together, spoke on parenting at our church. I shared something that most people didn’t know.
I said, “Twenty-nine years ago, we started this church, and many of you weren’t here; but I stood on this stage in the first year after my wife had said to me,”—first chapter of Vertical Marriage book—“‘I’ve lost my feelings for you.’” I realized a lot of that was—“I’m not home, and I’m not there.” So, I said to her, “You need me here to help put the kids to bed. When do you need me? I can’t be here every night. I can’t be here every morning. What would you pick? Morning or evening?” She said, “Evening.”
Steve Andrews and I said to the congregation—because his marriage was in trouble as well—and it’s sort of a historic moment that nobody in church ever has heard before. We said to the church: “We’re not going to be available to any of you in the evenings anymore as your pastors,”—it was a smaller church at the time. “But if you want to meet with us, our wives have said the morning’s the time—so 4 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m. we’ll be there—7 p.m., we’re going to be home, lying in bed with our boys and our daughters, praying, reading Scripture, helping our wives—
Shelly: That’s great.
Dave: —“put them to bed.” Here is what I shared.
When we shared that stage, we thought: “The congregation is going to applaud. They’re going to be like: ‘Way to lead. Way to show us.’” They got mad. We heard more complaints like: “Wait, wait, wait. You’re our pastor. I work all day; the only time I can meet you is evening.”
We said: “Sorry—
Dave: —“this is something…” Now, I can look back, over 30 years later, and go, “One of the best decisions we ever made.” Being there to pour into disciples—they’re not perfect—but man, I’d just say to every husband, every dad, every mom listening, “Do whatever it takes to seize those moments, because we know.”
Shelly: —because it’s a season, too.
Shelly: You’re not—probably now, you take evening appointments—
Shelly: —if you have to—
Shelly: —because you don’t have kids at home. But during that season, you needed to be there.
Bob: Be there, abide in Christ, and be authentic about your relationship with Him so that your kids, who don’t remember anything you ever said to them, do remember you on your knees—
Bob: —out on the back porch/do remember that your relationship with Jesus was the real thing—
Bob: —and that you were living that out and you were there enough so that they could see it.
Again, it’s not that you can’t do—a lot of what you talk about in the book—these are things that are the activities that can surround that.
Bob: But that’s the foundation of it all; don’t you think?
Shelly: Yes; for sure.
Bob: That’s the baseline for this; and it’s on that platform that you, then, start to build the structure of intentional discipleship for your kids. Shelly’s outlined that in a book called First Ask Why, which a book that we’re talking about this week. The subtitle is Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship.
We’ve got Shelly’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the title of the book, First Ask Why—order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329 to get your copy of the book.
Let me just say—this subject of intentional discipleship is at the heart of the video series that FamilyLife produced called the Art of Parenting. It’s a companion to Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book by the same name. It’s exciting for us to see how many individuals and churches—how many people are hosting Art of Parenting groups in their neighborhoods, having a small group with the parents of their kids’ friends all coming over, once a week, to go through this material—churches are using this in class settings or in small group settings.
The ministry of the Art of Parenting is expanding worldwide. We’re seeing tens of thousands of families go through this content in Central and South America; and because of your support during the month of August, we’re moving forward with translating this material into Arabic and into Mandarin. Thank you for helping us take full advantage of the matching-gift opportunity we had in the month of August. We appreciate your partnership with us.
In fact, we need your partnership, day in and day out. The cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program, keeping our website up and active, making this content available through a variety of platforms, the events we host, and the resources we create—you make all of that possible when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You can do that easily. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Keep in mind, when you do, you are making practical biblical help and hope for marriage and family available to hundreds of thousands of people all around the world every day. So, again, thanks for your partnership.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation with Shelly Wildman, talking about our most important priority, as parents; and that is, the intentional discipling of our children. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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