Myths About Discipling Our Kids
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Chap BettisChap Bettis is the author of The Disciple-Making Parent, The Donut Date Journal, Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in the Home and numerous other resources for the family. He is passionate about helping parents disciple their childr...more
What’s truly important when discipling our children? Chap Bettis talks about the myths we often believe about discipling our kids.
Myths About Discipling Our Kids
Bob: When you have spiritual questions, where do you go for answers? For that matter, as you’re seeking to raise your kids to follow Christ, where do you go for wisdom or for counsel? Here’s Chap Bettis.
Chap: I heard someone say, “Stop googling Google®, and start googling the church.” You know, you’ve got older people in the church who will be happy to share some thoughts, where you’re saying, “Hey, how did you handle this when your kids were younger? How are you handling it now?” Why do we believe that, on this most important task, we should know how to do it without any help?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 12th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. All of us, as parents, need help as we raise our kids. The question is: “Where do we go for help?” We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I read this quote from Spurgeon that I just found myself going, “I needed to be reminded of that again.” He said, “If our children lose the crown of life, it will be small consolation that they have won laurels of literature and art,”—or sports—[Laughter]—I’m just throwing that in for you; he didn’t say “sports”; but the point, as parents, we have to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. I remember Tim Kimmel—our friend, Tim Kimmel—years ago, saying,—
Dave: Oh, yes!
Bob: —“A lot of parents are thinking, ‘I want my kid to get into a good college, have good grades, make good friends, get a good job.’” He realized we’re putting our ladder against the wrong wall if we think that’s what’s most important.
Ann: Well, interestingly, Bob, I was sitting with a group of pastors’ wives years ago; and we were talking about parenting. I said, “What do you want? What do you want for your kids?” I was really interested in their answers. You know, I was surprised; because almost all of them said, “I just want my kids to be happy.”
Ann: And I’m thinking, “I don’t want my kids to be happy! I want them to be warriors! I want them to mark their generation for Christ!” A lot of times, that happens when they’re not happy.
Ann: I think that’s just a good question of: “What are we aiming for?”
Dave: Yes, and I read that same quote; because I know what book we’re talking about. [Laughter] I read it probably about the same time you did. I was challenged because, you know, I’m a pastor; but I’m a coach. When I watch my kids play sports—and one made it all the way to the Detroit Lions’ locker room—I thought that was it.
Dave: “How could it be any greater than having Cody locker beside Calvin Johnson? This is it!” And when he’s out of the NFL, and pastoring with me, God hit me and said—
Dave: —“This is so much better!” Not that your son or daughter has to be in the ministry with you, but I had the opportunity to do that. It reminded me of that quote; it’s like, “This is what really matters—making disciples who make disciples.”
Bob: Third John 4 says, “There’s no greater joy than to know that our kids are walking in the truth”; and John’s talking about his spiritual children—
Bob: —but how much more for our biological children?—“no greater joy”! And there’s no greater pain for a parent than when your kids aren’t walking in the truth.
Chap Bettis is joining us on FamilyLife Today. Chap, welcome back.
Chap: Thank you.
Bob: Chap is an author/a speaker. He’s got a book called The Disciple-Making Parent,that we’re talking about this week, and a number of other resources. In fact, you’ve got a website called TheDiscipleMakingParent.com. You are committed to helping moms and dads understand the priority of discipleship and understand how to accomplish that as they raise their kids.
Bob: The Spurgeon quote is one you’ve included in your book. You talk in your book about some of the myths parents have about parenting. I thought this was really good.
Dave: Oh, yes! They’re—I mean, you mention three myths. You know, they sort of come off of some of the stats you quote in there, which are sort of scary that:
60 percent, or almost 60 percent, of kids that were in church every week of their life, when they hit the age of 29, they are not even going to church. As parents, we see those kinds of things; we’re like, “Oh, my goodness! What do I need to do to be a disciple-making parent?”
I love where you’re like, “Well, here’s the myths that we all have…” I’d love to have you talk about them; I’ll read them, and you talk about them. The first one was: “Myth Number One: The perfect environment will guarantee that my children follow the Lord.”
Chap: Well, that’s just not true; period. [Laughter] You know, what was wrong with the garden that Adam and Eve turned away? What did Jesus do wrong with Judas? You know, sin comes on the hard drive of our kids’ hearts; you know? And yet, we try to get the perfect environment.
Bob: Every parent—Mary Ann and I felt this way; I think Mary Ann more than me—it was like, “Give me the recipe.
Ann: Oh, absolutely!
Bob: “I will follow this recipe to the letter, because nothing matters more than my kids being where they [need to be]. So just tell me what to do.”
Ann: —“and not to do.”
Bob: Yes; “If I need to stand on my head for 30 minutes per day,” [Laughter] You know, “If I need to read them the Bible for 15 minutes at night,” “Should it be 15 or 20, which one works?”—every parent is looking for that formula. There’s no formula; is there?
Chap: Well, that’s the thing. In the introduction, I talk about this as a playbook or a guidebook.
Chap: This is an active process. You’re actively coaching: you’ve got different dynamics in your marriage or if you’re a single parent; you’ve got different dynamics of family and of church; of their personality themselves. It’s an active, hands-on process, where you’re using discernment. There is no formula; it’s not like baking a cake.
Dave: Yes; “Myth Number Two: The ultimate goal of my Christian life is to have my children follow the Lord.”
Chap: Well, that’s a good thing; it is a really good thing, but it can’t be a god thing—it can’t be our idol.
Bob: I read that one and I thought, “But that feels right!”
Ann: That does feel right!
Bob: “That is my goal, to have my kids…”—I mean, if this really matters, shouldn’t that be the biggest thing?
Chap: But then, they’re actually controlling my walk with the Lord. You know, my joy is in the Lord, not in my circumstances. If we have a teenage meltdown, well, then I’m down in the dumps because: “Oh, no! My child’s not going to walk with the Lord!” Or if they’re an older prodigal, it’s incredibly painful; but it’s not the ultimate thing. I’m going to follow the Lord no matter what.
Jonathan Edwards—that was one of his resolutions: “Resolved: I will follow the Lord, even if no one else does.”
Ann: Well, you talked about it’s easy to let our kid become an idol. Talk about that, because I see that all of the time. It’s just easy to fall into that without being aware.
Chap: We live in a child-centered culture. I think that is the hardest way Christians have to be different. My son played baseball. I was complimenting another dad on, you know, his son, who was really, really good. He said to me—he thanked me—and then he said: “After all, what else is there?” I thought [sarcastically], “Yeah; this is it; this is it.”
And yet, for us, we want our children to see that we serve the Lord. I mean, I’ve said it this way, “I will die for you, but I will not live for you,” —you know?—“I would give my life, but I’m going to honor the Lord. I live for something bigger than you.” Putting our children at the center of our universe—that’s way too heavy of a responsibility.
Chap: You know, like it just changes the dynamic of the family now, where they’re controlling them and, as we were talking about before, if they’re upset, “Oh, my world is out of whack!” “Well, no!”
Chap: Part of being a good parent is sometimes your children don’t like you, and that’s okay! In a similar way, to say, “You know, my children are not going to control my life. I want to serve them and serve them in a way of maturity,”—which sometimes brings hard times—“but, ultimately, I serve the Lord.” And then, if I’m married, then my spouse is second in importance.
Dave: And it’s really easy—I know we’ve all done it—to let your children determine your happiness based on how they’re doing.
Ann: Oh!—especially for moms; I don’t know about dads—but this can rule my emotions.
Dave: It can rule, I think, dads as well; I don’t know if it’s different for moms. I know for me—and I’ve seen this often—you know, when your child is young, you’re going to church; you’re teaching them all the stuff; you’re reading Bible verses at night; you’re playing all the great music; and their faith seems strong—they receive it, and they’re awesome!—and then they become teenagers. [Laughter] They start asking questions and, maybe, they start sneaking off and doing things.
Ann: —or say, “I hate going to church!”
Ann: And your dad’s the pastor! [Laughter] That’s awkward.
Dave: Or they start partying, drinking, or whatever. Then, as a Christian parent, you think, “I failed,”—it’s your idol—because idols determine your happiness, and you’re seeking life in that. I think parents, at that moment, think, “I’ve failed; the future is going to even get worse.” I always say, “Don’t judge your parenting when they’re teenagers. Wait until they’re 30.” And now, I have a 34-year-old; so I say, “Wait ‘til they’re 40!” [Laughter]
But do you know what I’m saying? We used to sometimes get in a little bit of an argument [Ann and Dave], because I would say, “I want them and expect them to fail.” Well, I don’t want that; but you know, it isn’t the worst thing in the world if they get drunk. Again, I’m not—you never want that to happen—but I’m like, “Maybe God’s going to use that to get to the disciple that we’re trying to raise ten years from now/five years from now. This could be a pivotal moment. It’s okay!” We get to be a part of them understanding what they did, sin-wise. Five years from now, they’re going to be at college or whatever, and we’re not going to know. At least, now, they’re still under our roof; we can help walk them through the journey out of that valley.
Bob: Yes; the reality is your child’s sin nature is going to emerge in some way—
Bob: —in their life. It could emerge as pride and self-righteousness.
Bob: It could emerge as thinking, “I’m doing it all right; therefore, I’m one of the good people”; right? We have to be aware that, just as our sin oozes out of us, your child’s sin is going to pop out of them. If it pops out as they got drunk one night—nobody wants that, like you said—
Bob: —but if it pops out that they think they’re “Miss Perfect,” that’s as much of a problem. This is part of disciple-making; right?
Chap: Well, yes; and if I can speak to both of those things, it’s especially moms who are so invested in their kids—
Chap: —to say, “My identity is not tied up with my kids. My identity is in Christ; and I want to be a faithful parent—not a perfect parent—
Chap: —“not even dependent upon the outcome!” Our kids’ salvation is not by works; so it’s not by their works, and it’s not by our works. We can’t have the perfect environment. Sin comes on the hard drive of our kids; so yes, especially the identity.
And then, Dave, what you were speaking about, with coming out in the teen years, I include in the book/in one of the chapters on prayer—just praying that secret sin would come out, but that’s God’s grace!
Chap: Because you would rather them get caught stealing at 14 than 24—
Chap: —when you can deal with it and talk about it—sometimes, I’ve seen where that’s the time to say, “Hey, are you really following the Lord or not?”
Chap: Hopefully, the church is giving/parents are giving each other grace, and saying, “You’ve been faithful; and this is good, that the sin nature is coming out.”
Dave: That gets into your third myth, which is, “It’s all up to me.” You know, as a parent, you think, “It’s all on me.” Your answer to that is you need a body/you need a community. Talk about that a little bit; because I think sometimes, in the church, we can almost hide; because we think our kids need to be perfect, and everybody else’s kids are, because we’re all church people.
Ann: We’re afraid of judgment.
Dave: We just sort of hide, and we become isolated; because we don’t want to walk in and say: “Hey, I’m really struggling,”
Dave: “My kid’s really struggling.” We just want to say: “But the church is there to say, ‘How can we come alongside you?’”; right?
Chap: Yes, yes. Well, we could go all the way back to “Make disciples.” The command is surrounded by two promises: “All authority has been given to Me,” and “I am with you always,”—so the Holy Spirit—“Lord, show me,” “Give us wisdom.”
Part of that wisdom comes from the church body. I heard someone say, “Stop googling Google, and start googling the church.” You know, you’ve got older people in the church, who will be happy to share some thoughts; but they’re afraid of telling you things, because they don’t want to appear judgmental—you know, like the old church lady, who’s going around condemning.
You have to be humble; and find other people, where you’re saying, “Hey, how did you handle this when your kids were younger? How are you handling it now?” Why do we believe that, on this most important task, we should know how to do it without any help?
Dave: It’s interesting to think of how your kids will learn from the people you’ve connect them to at the church as well. I love the story in the book, where your daughter says, “I want to become like…”; and you were thinking—tell that story.
Chap: Well, it was just spontaneous. We had a great church community. What I love about the disciple-making parentis—it was watching other families, who had these same thoughts and who were of the same bent—as we were working together. You know, you’re pouring your life into your kids. Then, finally, they get old enough, and they’re starting to be self-aware, and they say—I think it was my oldest daughter—she said: “Oh, Dad, you know who I want to be like when I grow up?” I’m like, “Yes, your mom and dad; right?” [Laughter]
She said, “Mr. Knessetal [spelling uncertain] and Mrs. Wright—they’re just so joyful.” I was like, “Ugggghh, okay.” [Laughter] No; actually, that’s really good!
Chap: That’s really good that we’re in a community. As a six-year-old, she’s observing. I think that’s part of the issue to realize: is the people/our friends are influencing our kids; so we want to be around people who love the Lord; and also, I am a person who is influencing your child.
Dave: I remember, when our three sons were very little, Ann and I started praying for mentors in their life.
Dave: Because we knew, as they grew older, they were going to receive truth better, sometimes, from somebody else than just mom and dad.
Chap: And they see all of the mess in your/our house.
Dave: I remember we just started praying—and had no idea—“Is God going to answer this? Who could it be?” And I’m sitting here now—with a 34-year-old, 31-year-old, 29-year-old—and I’m like, “Oh, my goodness! God provided Frank; God provided Ryan; God provided Rob.” You know, it’s really interesting—Frank was an attorney in our church. He started leading a small group for our oldest son, CJ, when he was in middle school; right?
Ann: He was 11.
Dave: Yes, 11 years old; they still connect! And they’re all, you know, married men now. I’m like, “Look at what God did with Frank!”
I remember one time, Cody was in a group—my youngest—in high school; and they were all down in our basement. You know, Rob’s leading that group. I just thought, “This is awesome!” Then I thought, “I wonder what they’re doing down there?” I opened the door, and I didn’t want to go down; but I just stuck my ear down the stairwell. I hear them talking—these middle school boys—about sexual temptation. I’m like, “Man, that is awesome that somebody else is talking to them about that! [Laughter] No, I did! I just smiled, and said, “Thank God for Rob, stepping into the really tough issues that middle school boys are asking questions about and giving them the Word of God.” It wasn’t me—not that I don’t need to do that as well—but what a gift, you know, the church can be to helping you raise disciples!
Ann: Chap, take us into your family. What does that look like? What does it look like with you and your wife, over the years, as you’ve discipled your kids?
Chap: Well, I think I’d back up and say one of the things that I hear from parents, even church-going parents, is: “I can’t do this. I don’t know what to do!” You know, if you look at the life of Jesus: Jesus taught the crowds, and He made disciples; He healed the sick, and He made disciples; you know, He went to a wedding, and He’s making disciples. This is integrated into our life.
It’s not like, “Okay, we have to do this intense program for three weeks or thirty weeks,” or whatever. It’s just part of life, where—as I’m doing life, as I’m taking care of my house, going out for a trip, as I’m taking care of the in-laws, or whatever—I’m also making disciples; I’m thinking about that. They are routines that are part of my life; I’m thinking about that: “How is the gospel being passed?”
I think, if you look at the life of Jesus, there were five things—I’ve sort of narrowed it down to five: model, love, teach, serve, and pray.
Ann: Those are good!
Chap: He models it; we’ve already talked about that before: “Are our kids seeing me read my Bible?”—so positively—“Are they seeing me read my Bible?” “Are we going to church?” And like we talked about earlier: “Do they hear me talking about Jesus?”—so positively modeling. I think that’s a big thing, thinking about that for my wife and me.
And then loving—model love: “Is there love in our home?” You know, our home is meant to display the Trinity. Fundamentally, the question: “Is there joy in our home? Are we reflecting the joy of the Trinity?”—not all the time; not perfectly; I know you know—“But is that our goal?” “Are we emotionally-connected?” One thing I did to stay emotionally-connected—try to stay emotionally-connected as a busy pastor—was I would take my kids out on donut dates. I think that’s just a very practical thing/a big win for dads/busy dads—you know, 45 minutes/5 bucks.
Ann: I love that you have a little letter that your 22-year-old daughter wrote. This is what she said: “I can remember clearly the excitement of my eight-year-old self when it was my turn to go out with Dad. Every few weeks we would drive to a donut shop right down the road. Not only did I get to stuff my mouth with colorful sprinkles and strawberry milk, but I got Dad all to myself. He would ask questions like who my best friends were or my favorite subject in school. All of my answers were written down in a maroon journal that was just for my dates with Dad. This was a sweet and cherished tradition that carried on for many years.
I was teary, reading that, thinking, “As a young girl, this showed so much that ‘You’re important to me. I want to know you, and I want to know about your life.’” I bet that relationship with that daughter and all of your kids is still close, because you took the time. You were intentional to be with them, and to even write it down; that’s genius!
Chap: It continues. And then, obviously, my wife has done that.
And guys—it’s somewhat different—guys like to be shoulder to shoulder, you know, rather than face to face sometimes.
Dave: Yes, it’s not a date; it’s a hang out: “Let’s go hang.”
Chap: Yes; right?
Bob: What we did—I called it Manhood Training” with the boys—
Bob: —we’d go out on Saturday morning for a biscuit or something. I’d say, “This is Manhood Training.” We would talk about: “How does a boy become a man? —what does that mean?” That was part of how we tried to do it with our boys; so yes, dates with the girls and—
Ann: I did it, too, with our boys.
Chap: Part of, I think, what you’re also doing is—you’re making deposits—because then there are times when there are withdrawals. There were a couple of guy dates—sort of “Come to Jesus” dates—[Laughter]—“We need to talk about how you’re acting and why it’s not okay.” But what was cool was that the context was already there; so it wasn’t like you were invading their room: “Okay; we need to talk about this, so we’re going to have a serious talk.” There was a time and a space to say, “This is important; here’s some correction.”
Dave: And I think it’s key to also say, when they become teenagers, that often ends for mom and dad because they’re pulling away. We think, “Oh, they don’t want to be with us.” The opposite is true.
Dave: They are pulling away; they should pull away; they’re becoming adults. But we have to pursue; because that time is still precious to them, even though they may never say it out loud. It’s critical!
Bob: And your disciple-making responsibilities don’t end when they hit 12.
Bob: So you have to be adapting and changing. You’ve got to have a book like Chap’s book to help you navigate through these years.
Chap, thanks for being with us and for taking us into this content. This is so good!
Chap: My joy!
Bob: Yes; well, we have got Chap’s book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for the book, The Disciple-Making Parent. In fact, if you are interested in the audio book, Chap is going to make that available to all of our listeners for free. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information on how you can download a copy of The Disciple-Making Parent audio book for free. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
If you’d like to order the paper book, it’s available for order online as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, let me also mention FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting®video series. This series is a great course for you and others to go through together and talk about the essential components of raising healthy, strong, godly kids. Information about the Art of Parenting is available online as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You know, during the challenges all of us have faced over the last 12 months, here at FamilyLife®, we have become freshly aware of just how significant you are as friends of this ministry, especially those of you who support this ministry as donors. David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife, is here with us today. David, we recognize now, more than ever, just how critical and how important our FamilyLife donors are.
David: Yes; as you look back at this yearend, I just want to express my gratitude. There are seasons in life where you feel how extremely dependent you are, whether that’s personally in my own home with Meg and our kids and walking through 2020, or whether that’s as a ministry at FamilyLife.
Man, we were at a point, at the end of the year, where we really did need the family and partners to come alongside us to continue ministry in the ways that, really, we love providing in providing biblical help and hope to marriages and families. You came through! We are so grateful for the ways that you have partnered with us and allowed us to be set up in this new year to keep ministry going strong and to keep ministry going strong at a time when it’s still really needed in the home. Just once again, thank you so much!
Bob: Yes, we do appreciate you; and we look forward to the ongoing partnership in 2021.
And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to talk about introverts: how significant introverts are, how powerful they are, and what they can do to leverage how God made them to have an impact on our world. Holley Gerth joins us to talk about that tomorrow. We hope you can join us for that as well.
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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