Bob: Your children only have one childhood; and as parents, we want their childhood to be as rich and full as it can be. But Drew Hill says a lot of us, as parents, are crowding activities into our children’s lives that, in the end, aren’t going to matter for much.
Drew: Every “Yes,” that we say—if we say: “Honey, you can play basketball,” and “You can play soccer,” and “You can do piano lessons,” and “You can do swim team,” and—fill in the blank—every time we say, “Yes,” we’re saying “No,” to something else. Often, what we’re saying “No,” to is getting to eat dinner together as a family, getting to have more time to read God’s Word together, getting to have time to lay on our beds and read stories.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 26th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Stop for a minute and think about the activities your kids are involved with. Are those really the most important activities for them? Have you left some breathing room for you, as a family? We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re diving into something that I think is at the heart of the video series that we produced, here, at FamilyLife®, called The Art of Parenting, that you guys [Dave and Ann] are a part of. One of the things we talk about here is how important modeling is for our kids and how important it is for us to cultivate a healthy relationship with our kids. To try to parent—absent a good relationship—is just a fool’s exercise; isn’t it?
Dave: Oh, it is; and I’m so glad, Bob, that you have the two perfect modeling parents on your show. [Laughter] That would be—
Bob: It’s your show!
Dave: —that would be Ann and I. [Laughter] Actually, Ann was—she was. I would give her a tribute right now: “She was an amazing parent.” I was the model of what not to do. [Laughter]
Ann: That’s not true. [Laughter]
Dave: They saw what I did and said, “I’m not going to do that.”
But no; I mean, you’re so right; and Drew’s so right—they will do what we do, not what we say.
Dave: They’re going to follow the way we walk, not the way we point; right? That is so key.
Ann: It’s so scary, too; because there were many nights that I would lie in bed and think: “Jesus, I’m messing them up so badly. Please help me!”
Bob: The Drew that you’re talking about is Drew Hill, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Drew, welcome back.
Drew: Thank you for having me. It’s great to be with you.
Bob: Drew is a pastor from Greensborough, North Carolina. He has and still does work with Young Life®; right?
Bob: He is married to Natalie; they’ve been married for 14 years—have 3 children.
Drew: Honey, Hutch, and Macy Heart.
Bob: So, talk to me about Honey, Hutch—
Drew: —our names? [Laughter] Yes.
Bob: —and Macy Heart.
Drew: Well, we were living in Colorado. I was at Denver Seminary at the time when Honey was born. We wanted some kind of southern—you know, a good southern name. That just kind of came across my head one day—I was like, “Natalie, could we really get away with naming our daughter this kind of name?” Natalie was such a great wife that she agreed. Her first name is Catherine; her middle name’s Honey, but everyone calls her Honey.
Hutch was actually the name of my first Young Life guy that I met when I was a college student at the University of North Carolina. His last name was Hutchins, and I named Hutch after him; so Hutch’s name is Hutchins.
Then, when I worked for Young Life in Colorado, our area director had a daughter named Macy that I really loved; but we wanted to kind of more southernize it—you know, with a double name and keep the H’s: Honey, Hutch, and Heart—so we went with Macy Heart.
Bob: There we go!
Bob: Bless your little Macy Heart; right? [Laughter]
Drew: That’s right. I call her “Sweetheart.” I gave her a 30-minute shoulder-ride last night, before I left to come here, around the woods; and it was so special and so sweet. And then I rented a Lime bike—they have baskets on the front—and I didn’t really know what to do; but I put Macy Heart in there, like Elliot did with E.T. I showed her a picture of E.T.—like, “This is what we’re going to do,”—so we E.T.’d all around the park together—it was really fun.
Bob: So, this is not insignificant—what you’re talking about—because it’s at the heart of what you’ve written about in the book, Alongside. If I had to come up with a thesis for this book, it would be that: “The way God parents us is by incarnational engagement—by having a relationship with us and coming alongside us in the journey that we’re on. When we mess up, He picks us up and dusts us off; and when we do well, He smiles. We need to, as parents, recognize that that relational engagement with our kids is as significant as anything else we’re doing spiritually.”
Drew: The incarnation is so crucial to our faith—understanding the embodied presence of God Himself—Jesus, you know, God with skin on. When I’m speaking with teenagers, I’ll often say: “[Jesus is] God with a bod,—John 1:14—God put on skin and moved into the neighborhood.”
That’s what we have to do, and that’s our invitation that God has given us to do with our children—is to actually move into their world—treat them as experts in their thing and become learners; and come to their world, as a baby, just as God did with us. Hey, we don’t know what we’re doing, as parents—you know, come to them with this humility of a baby and say, “We want to be with you, even if it means us looking like a fool.”
Ann: Drew, how do we do that when it feels like they’re pushing us away and they don’t want to have anything to do with us?
Drew: You know, I think it’s going to take a lot of quantity of time in order to get the quality of time that we want. I think it’s going to be so important—if we look at what Jesus did as He took 12 people and He spent every day, walking alongside them—being with them and, yet, modeling for them what it looks like to go and be alone with His Father to begin the day—and walking through life, daily, with them.
If we really want to have an impact and influence our kids, and lead them to Jesus, then it’s going to take a lot of time of us just actually doing what Deuteronomy says—Deuteronomy 6, verse 7 says: “Impress these things on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
What are these things? He’s talking about the Shema—the great commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Well, when are we going to do that unless we’re spending time with our kids?—impressing these things upon them—talking about them when we’re at home with them, or we’re walking along the road, when we lie down, when we get up. It’s going to be us creating these spaces throughout our days—in the morning/in the evening.
When is the last time that you’ve taken a walk with your kids? You know, so often, before bed we’re stuck watching Netflix or whatever it is that is captivating our attention. What would it look like to just simply say: “Hey, I want to do what Deuteronomy 6 says. I want to walk along the way with you. Would you just take a walk with me?” Your kids will push back on that—you know, they’re like: “I don’t want to do this. I want to finish watching this Netflix show.”
Well, instead of taking them by surprise, give them a little bit of a heads-up and say: “Hey, we’re going to start something new. As a family, every Sunday night, to begin our week, we’re just going to do a family walk together,”—some nights, we’re going to walk all together; some nights, just mom and son will walk together—“We’re just going to do a 15-minute walk.” Give them [warning] ahead of time so they know to expect it. Create it as a rhythm of actually getting to walk alongside them. You’ll be surprised—I mean, there will be a lot of awkward, uncomfortable, boring—“Not sure what I’m doing,” / “Why am I doing this?” moments—but over time, it will add up; and it will give your kid a space to open up to you.
Bob: Drew, here’s what moms and dads have to recognize—the culture in which we live today is exerting powerful influence on our kids, and saying, “You will be affirmed, and accepted, and liked if you’ll conform to what we say matters,”—that’s for every middle-school kid—that’s what they’re trying to determine in life—is: “What will get me affirmed, and accepted, and liked by other people?” So if the culture says, “This is what I need to do…” they’re ready to try that; because the hunger to be accepted is huge.
Moms and dads, inherently, have more power than the culture has in their kids’ lives; but if they back off, the culture will fill that gap pretty quickly.
Drew: That’s right. I mean, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12—he says, “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, I urge you, brothers and sisters, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, as holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So he gives this plea: “Hey, don’t conform; but be transformed.”
But how does he begin that?—do you remember what I said there at the beginning? He says, “Therefore, in view of”—what?—“God’s mercy…” What we have to do is—we have to show kids that we’re not just giving them a to-do list to transform them/to make them a better person, but it is all in response to being loved. We can only love because He has first loved us. If we want to walk alongside kids, then the best thing we can do is realize that we have a God that wants to walk alongside us.
Dave: So, talk to the parent—because I’ve been that parent—I’ve been the pastor, on stage, preaching the Shema: “Love the Lord God with all your heart.” I’ve been the parent, on stage, preaching Deuteronomy 6, “As you walk along the way, teach them to love God.” But I’ve also realized it’s an overflow—if I don’t have it, I can’t give it away.
So, the parents listening are just like us—they’re running, crazy, from this event to that event—even all our kids’ activities. I’m sitting here, thinking, “How in the world do I find time to cultivate this walk with God that I can overflow into my children?” What would you say to them?
Drew: It’s really hard, and we have to make really hard decisions. Natalie and I, thankfully, are walking through this now with younger kids. A lot of our friends have older children; and as a pastor, working with parents who have teenagers, I’m getting to walk alongside them and learn from them.
But I’ve realized that every “Yes,” that we say—if we say: “Honey, you can play basketball,” and “You can play soccer,” and “You can do piano lessons,” and “You can do swim team,” and—fill in the blank—every time we say, “Yes,” we’re saying “No,” to something else. Often, what we’re saying “No,” to is getting to eat dinner together as a family, getting to have more time to read God’s Word together, getting to have time to lay on our beds and read stories. If you can do it when the kid’s younger, then it gets way easier.
Now, some of the listeners today are listening to this and feel like: “Man, I’ve already messed up,”—you know, like—“I’ve said ‘Yes,’ to too many things; our kids are just too busy,” and “If I yank that away from them, they’re going to hate me,”—you know—“They’re not going to want to talk to me if I say, ‘You can’t do this anymore.’”
So, instead of mandating it, when kids get older, we have to have these conversations with them and allow them to have input in that. Often, the best way to do that is to invite other people into that conversation; because so often, they don’t want to listen to you, as their parent; but they’re willing to listen to someone, who’s maybe in between your age and theirs. So, what would it look like to invite somebody over for dinner—who is a college student, or a young adult, or kind of someone like a spiritual aunt or uncle to them?—and say: “Hey, we’d love for you to tell us your story. What do you think about when you look back over your high school experience? What would you have done differently?” Allow our kids to hear and learn from them; it’s often a good and sneaky way to allow them to hear the truth.
Ann: So Drew, how would you encourage parents to start that process?
Drew: Often, we can use rites of passages with kids as turning points or mile-markers in their lives. We had a kid at our church, who was turning 16. His mom called me and said—she’s a single mom—she’s like: “I don’t know what to do for my son’s birthday, but I know you’ve talked about how important it is to really celebrate this milestone. Can you help me?” We brainstormed together and came up with a list of about 20 guys who had some kind of influence in his life—invited them all over to her housel. We had a cookout, a bonfire, and a time where we all looked at him and spoke truth over him and said, “This is what we see in you,” and we prayed for him. It was such a powerful night to do together.
I talked to the mom about how important it was to create, almost, a personal board of directors for kids; so when they graduate from high school, you have folks who can write you recommendation letters; you have folks who can come around you and give you really nice graduation gifts—but don’t just do it for that!—do it because we need one another. I mean, so much of Scripture is written to the plural—it’s written to the church—not to individuals. We have to function, as a church, together. This is not for the faint of heart—it’s not an easy job—it’s not one that a parent can do on their own. That’s why the parent needs the church to come alongside them and say: “Help me raise my kids. I need you to be a spiritual aunt and a spiritual uncle.”
Ask your child, when they turn 12—say: “Hey, on your 13th birthday, I want to have a celebration,” and “I want you to begin building a personal board of directors that you’re going to meet with, quarterly or once a semester. These are going to be men and women in your life, who have wisdom that they can give you; because there are going to be a lot of times you don’t want to hear from me.” Give them a chance to begin building that on their own: “Hey, come to me with a list of who five people would be that you maybe would put on that team.”
Dave: Yes; we’ve also discovered—and it was amazing to see God answer this prayer—we got on our knees, as parents, when our kids were—what?—seven/eight years old, knowing they’re headed into teenage years—and started begging God for a mentor for each of our three sons. We didn’t know if it would be the same person/different person—didn’t know how God would answer it—but once you started praying that, then, we’re walking around, looking with our eyes—like, “Could there be one?” Frank shows up—he’s an attorney in our church. Just like you said—it’s like a board of directors pouring into them; literally, changing them as much as we ever did.
Drew: But here’s why we don’t do that—is because we are captivated by shame. It is like we’re in this prison of shame; and we feel like, “I don’t have it all together, and I can’t trust anybody else, because they don’t have it all together either.” It’s like we’re in this prison, and we can’t get out of it.
Well, how do we get out of it? Well, it starts the same way that everything involved in our faith does—we have to confess that we don’t have it all together; we have to admit that we need help. We have to cry out to the Lord: “Rescue me. Save me. I need help; I’m desperate upon You.” We are wanting our kids to be dependent upon us, as their parents; we have to model that by being dependent upon the Lord as our only hope.
Ann: I had a very pivotal parenting moment when three of our sons—they were all teenagers—and I was so frustrated with all of them. I had to get out of the house and go on a walk and talk to God—and honestly—vent to God. So I’m on this four-mile walk—
Bob: It took a long time! [Laughter]
Ann: It did; I’m not kidding—the whole time, I was praying and venting to God. I was saying: “God, are You seeing this?! Are You seeing what CJ’s like?! Are You seeing what Austin’s—are You seeing what Cody’s doing?!”
I’m afraid—I think, so often, we’re afraid, as parents, of failure; so I’m saying, “Okay, Lord; tell me what You think about CJ.” I’m telling you—God spoke to me through His Spirit in my mind—I heard Him say, “Isn’t he the most delightful human you’ve ever encountered?” I was like, “No! [Laughter] I am not seeing it!”
The more I asked Him about it, He painted a picture to me of how He created CJ and how He took total delight and fascination with who he is. Then I did Austin, and then I did Cody. I went home from that long walk, and I saw them with new eyes—I saw them the way the Father saw them, who created them. Instead of speaking death, and hopelessness, and fear into them, I started to see them in a new way.
Now, mind you, I was still frustrated, at points; but I have never lost that picture of who God said they were. It made me realize, “I need to ask the Father, more often, what He thinks of my kids.”
Dave: It is amazing; I didn’t go on that walk, but I did watch—you know, Proverbs 18 says, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.” I watched her speak life, as a parent, into these boys, now, with a different mindset.
How important is it, as a parent or anybody coming alongside somebody to mentor them, to speak life?
Drew: Yes; there’s a whole chapter in Alongside that is called “Crowns.” It talks about just holding crowns above kids’ heads and letting them grow into them. You know, we call them a prince or a princess when they’re a child; but so often, by the time they get to be a teenager, we don’t treat them like that—we see the cracks. But what would it look like to see the light of Christ shining through those cracks and being beautiful?—and holding that crown above their head and speaking truth over them?
We’ve started really asking a lot of the students in our church to start serving as leaders. We’ve, essentially, given them keys to the church—actually, some physical keys, where: “Hey, you have a key to this sound closet. You’re in charge of the sound team,” “Hey, you’re on the worship team, even though you’re 14 years old. God’s given you a beautiful voice. We want you to, not just be on the team, but we want you to learn and grow to be a worship leader.” How can we point out these gifts that God’s given them and call them to step up and grow into those gifts?
Bob: I remember hearing a dad talk about just what you’re talking about—he said, “I would look for”—what he called—“directed delights.” “I would see, ‘What did my child delight in, as a child?’ and then I would come alongside and help direct that delight in a Godward direction.” He said, “I’d put fertilizer around that; I’d help fund that.”
He said: “One of my kids liked to draw. I would talk to this son about, ‘How could your drawing be something that would point people to Jesus or would cause them to think about God?’” He said, “I bought him an art desk; I bought him paper; I bought him a pencil set with all different kinds of pencils.” He said, “I was happy to invest in those kinds of things, because I wanted to see what was delighting him be moved in a Godward direction.”
I think for moms and dads to stop and say: “What is it that our kids find delight in?” and “How can we help them thrive in that area in a way that’s going to be pleasing to the Lord?” That just helps gives them a sense of: “This is the person God made me to be, and I want to grow into that”; right?
Drew: That’s beautiful.
I remember—after I was out of the house, my parents took another loan out on the house. I think they’re still paying for it—45 years later here—[Laughter]—but they renovated our basement. It was just a rough basement, but they put—we call it the “Boom-boom Room”—they put carpet that you’d find in a skating rink in there and all these really colorful couches and chairs. It wasn’t a huge basement, but they created it to be this space where kids could come and hang out and be together. There’s a keyboard down there, and a TV, and video games, and a soda-top table.
It was a really fun place; but they did it because my sister loved people. She would always be going to other people’s houses to hang out; but they wanted her [to invite others] over and use that gift of hospitality that God had given her, so they invested in this room. Over and over again, I would hear my mom talking about kids coming up the steps, from the basement, and just sitting at the kitchen table and talking with my mom—and her getting to kind of be a second spiritual mom to these girls, who were my sister’s age, when they were seniors in high school.
When we invest in the things that they’re passionate about—and when we give them those art lessons or create a space for them to be hospitable, we are really calling out the imago Dei in them; we’re calling forth the image of God in them—we’re calling forth that image that God had created them to be—a creator. We are all creative people, and so many high schoolers have this gift of creativity that we have to call forth in them. It’s a great point that you’ve made.
Dave: You know, we started this conversation with sort of the word, “pursue.” God pursues us—even when we’re running away, God pursues us.
We, as parents, now, pursue. Everything you just said, you can’t do unless you’re looking, and analyzing, and saying, “God, give me a heart to pursue, to pursue, pursue,” and you come alongside. I mean, the title of your book is awesome. It’s just like God comes alongside us; and we come alongside, and we draw out greatness. It’s a great word.
Bob: Well, and it’s a great book too. It’s a book that gives us strategies, as parents, on how to walk alongside our kids and to draw out their own understanding of the imago Dei that God has printed on their soul. We have copies of the book, Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel, by Drew Hill. You can go to our website to order your copy. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, the title of the book is Alongside. You can also call to request your copy of the book. The number to call is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask for your copy of Drew Hill’s book, Alongside.
You know, we have had the opportunity this week to get together with some of our friends and radio station partners from all across the country. For some of them, it’s the first time that they’ve had a chance to meet you guys, Dave and Ann, face to face, and to get to know your story. To help them get to know you better, we provided a lot of them with copies of your new book, Vertical Marriage. We’d like to do that same thing for regular FamilyLife Today listeners, who would like to get to know you guys better.
The book, Vertical Marriage, does a great job of helping us understand what’s at the center of your marriage; and at the same time, you’re giving great instruction and help for all of us as we navigate our own marriage relationship. We’d love to send you a copy of Dave and Ann Wilson’s book, Vertical Marriage, as a way of saying, “Thank you for your ongoing support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.” FamilyLife Today is listener-dependent. The reason we’re on the air today is because there have been friends, in the past, who have said, “We believe in what you’re doing, and we want to see it continue.”
It’s easy to donate; you can do that online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, we’d love to send you a copy of Dave and Ann Wilson’s book, Vertical Marriage, as our thank-you gift when you make a donation today. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, as we’ve been talking about the importance of presence with our kids today, we’ve had the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, present with us and listening in on this conversation. Welcome back, David.
David: Thanks, Bob. It was such a good conversation. It reminds me of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3—he said, “I planted the seeds; Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” I think it causes me to ask, in my own kids’ lives, “What are the gifts and passions that have been planted into my kids?” And for all of us to ask: “What has been uniquely implanted in the kids that we have and the grandkids that we have? How can we figure out ways to fertilize and to water the things that have been put inside of them? What are skills, and experiences, and people we can expose them to?”
I encourage us to ask God for vision—for eyes to see what He has already planted in the children that we have that He wants to grow, even if it’s something we’re not that interested in. I think I’m challenged. I invite all of us, not just to have a theoretical conversation about it, but to think, “What’s one way, in the next 48 hours, we can take a step to cultivate what God has put in our kids?”
Bob: I always come back to Ephesians 2:10—our kids “are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works,” that He’s already laid out for them. Our job, as parents, is to help figure out: “What are those good works?” and “How can we point them in the right direction and let them go?”— right?
David: Let’s call them out; yes.
Bob: That’s good. Thank you, David.
Tomorrow, we want to talk about what we do, as parents, when our past includes things we’re not proud of. Do we expose our kids to that? When do we bring them in on our story enough to let them know about the parts that we’d rather keep hidden? Drew Hill’s going to join us to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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