While setting priorities for the new year, I have noticed that almost all of my goals and plans involve family. I have been remembering a lot of good memories with my kids. You should have seen their faces the night they were all around the campfire and I came bellaring out of the woods like a wounded mule.
We have tried some crazy stunts. One time I hooked a tarp to the back of the truck and dragged them on it, around the yard. Another time we popped a wheelie while hauling firewood. Once we fought a half-crazed horse onto a trailer (it was funny afterward). Just last month, we made our first video together for the church Christmas play.
In the new year, I want to help my children reach new maturity levels. I want to be a better parent. I want to minister to more families by equipping dads and encouraging moms to stay true to their calling. Even in our local church, our vision is to involve the whole family and strengthen the God-created organism called “home.”
How involved were you with your family last year? What goals are you pursuing for your home? Maybe these thoughts will help you with setting right priorities for your family in the new year.
Getting a vision for parenting
I am not hosting a free room-and-board program for my kids until they are old enough to provide for themselves. God has called me to parenting (I know because He gave me children) so I can help develop them into citizens of heaven who bring Him glory in all they do. Children are not a burden but a ministry.
Modern parenting is more like a course in crisis management and logistics training. Biblical parenting is about character development by personal interaction, friendship, and growing in God together. In other words, it is a lot of fun.
When I was single, I thought I had a good walk with God. When I first got married, I had to work through a few snags, but still felt okay. I did not become a deep person in the Lord until He sent me children.
Spiritual growth comes through trials and tribulations. So far, God has sent me five of them and they are a perfect mix of my wife’s and my traits (unfortunately for them, they share too many of my faults). Before children, I could not see my own issues. Once I started seeing a reflection of my own failings in living color in my home, I got serious about growing as a person.
Getting a vision for personal growth
I can pose as religious and impress a lot of people. I can preach a good sermon and hear people swoon with appreciation. I cannot, however, keep up a pre-meditated image and polished performance at home. My family sees who I really am. More than anything else, this motivates me to be real and deep in Christ.
While I believe part of setting right priorities for the new year includes dads doing devotions with their children, I know some things may be more important than that. How I treat my kids when we are doing yard work together is far more important than what I say with a Bible in my hand. Do you want to get your kids to live right and grow up to be responsible citizens? First grow yourself.
A friend was complaining to me about his public-schooled teen who was not showing interest in the things of God. He said he tried to bring him to every church event and youth gathering but it was not working. I told him to take the boy fishing. You will do more to win your children to your faith by winning them to yourself first.
Jesus did not lecture and preach all the time. He sat in a boat with His disciples. He went camping with them. He took long walks with them. He involved them in ministry. Maybe if I spent more time doing those things with my disciples (my children) they would want to hear what I have to say when I open the Book. It’s simple: get on the trampoline with them. Let them help you make cookies (and a big mess). Take them to the park and get on the swings with them—stay away from the old folks bench!
Getting a vision for many generations
I invited an elderly widower to spend Christmas with us this year because he has no family who wanted to spend the holiday with him. He turned down the invite, but I could not help pitying him. I felt the same way about a retirement age woman whom we also invited over because she is out on the street and none of her children will help her nor even call her.
God, help me to never do whatever it is that people do to divide their families like this. I do not see my children as a bunch of kids I must raise until the joyful day they are finally out of my house. Yes, I want them out of my house and on their own as soon as they are ready, but I want to be a part of their lives. I want to be a feature, not a forgotten. I am contributing to their success because theirs is my success.
I cannot raise a together-for-the-holidays family by scolding and berating. I have to participate in their lives. I could make them hate me by sending them out to pick the green beans all summer. But as much as I hate bending over to pick anything in the garden, I do it to be a participant in their lives.
As much as my workload and schedule allow, I stay involved in the daily, boring activities of their lives. This is where true discipleship happens. This is where hard work, honesty, patience, and compassion develop. Christianity is not a textbook religion. We have too many bookish believers already who can put on the Sunday image, but drop the charade the rest of the week.
Setting right priorities for the new year with family in mind
Will you be another Steve Jobs who amazes the world yet disappoints his own children? Be another Mary or Joseph by providing a stable place for offspring who will change the world. Not just Jesus, but also their son James and their other children turned the world upside down.
I used to think my ministry as a writer and pastor was more important than my family. Then God showed me that my family was my ministry. I do whatever else I can for God after my family is taken care of. I involve them in my calling as much as possible. One day they will continue my legacy (or infamy if I so choose).
Godly fathers participate in their children’s lives, not just on birthdays and vacations, but all the time. Media, society, and work will steal all our time away from our most precious asset. My decision to be involved in the lives of my children has kept me back from some ministry opportunities. I am taking three times as long as most people to finish my master’s degree because I want to be there for my kids.
I could bring home a lot more money than I do. My education alone could earn me six figures. My work experience alone could earn me six figures. I found a job listing last year that offered to pay $200,000 a year for someone with my education and skills. The offer made it clear that the job involved a lot of travel and would not be suited for a family man. Thanks, but I’ll pass. I would rather have a morsel of bread in a house with joy than everything I want in a strife-filled home.
I know I bring home strife when I am absent from the home too much. Every kid hates the dad who is gone long hours so he can buy expensive stuff only to come home and gripe that they do not appreciate it. You cannot make up for week-long neglect by a weekend together. I will have all the time I want to get filthy rich after my kids are grown. Right now, I am setting right priorities for my family. I have to rededicate myself to these often—like every day.
When my kids have struggled with covetousness toward those with better things, I have asked them if they would rather have their parents involved in their lives or have us gone all the time making the money for them to live in luxury. They chose us, thank God!
Modern society has engineered our culture to make children an expense. My wife and I have never taken food stamps or WIC. My children are not a crisis, but a planned part of our lives. People ask me how I feed so many kids. I tell them I don’t. They feed themselves.
My wife and I have worked to restructure our lives so the children are truly an asset. We produce a lot of our own food by gardening, raising livestock, and keeping a milk cow. Everyone in the home has a vital function to keep us going.
No one is a victim who cannot actively participate in their home. Your job or life situation do not limit you. Only your desire. If you really want to put family first, God has given you the creativity to make it happen. It starts with the heart. Bring joy to each child every day.
Home education for us is more than staying away from the big, bad public school. It is a journey. We use this opportunity to appreciate God more as we learn about His world and expand our minds together. I would never let someone rob me of the opportunity to educate my children.
If you do not have a family, pray God will help you prepare for or begin that family this year. Not everyone is called to marriage and not every couple is called to have children. But support those who are. Encourage other families into teamwork and togetherness, not division and distraction.
Although we claim to love God first and foremost, we cannot truly love God with out setting right priorities for family by developing our spouses and children into His image.