FamilyLife This Week®

Strong Families

with Bryan Carter | August 15, 2020
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Bryan Carter talks about seven habits healthy families have, starting with having our priorities in line and paying special attention to how we spend our time.

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  • About the Guest

  • Michelle Hill

    Radio has been ingrained in Michelle for most of her life. This love for radio has taken her to various radio stations and ministries in places like Chicago, Alaska and other snow covered terrains like her hometown in north central Iowa. In 2005 she landed on staff with Cru/FamilyLife®. While at FamilyLife she has overseen the expansion of FamilyLife Today® internationally, assisted with the creation of Passport2Identity™-Womanhood and is now the host of FamilyLife This Week®. For the last 15+ years Michelle has been mentoring young women and is passionate about helping them find their identity in God. She also has a fascination for snowflakes and the color yellow. Michelle makes her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Bryan Carter talks about seven habits healthy families have, starting with having our priorities in line and paying special attention to how we spend our time, on FamilyLife this Week.

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Strong Families

With Bryan Carter
August 15, 2020
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Michelle: When you’re sitting around the table, eating dinner—you know, with your favorite people—do you ever find yourself challenged to stay in the present and not check the screen of that thing that you have in your back pocket? Here’s Bryan Carter.

Bryan: One of the greatest challenges to many of our relationships—whether it’s the husband and wife or it’s us with our kids—is technology. We’re grateful for the access that it provides, but it also can disrupt families. We all understand our phones in this world of technology. One writer in one study said that 60 percent of people can’t go more than an hour without checking their phones. We all need some tech-free time.

Michelle: Some tech-free time: can you go an hour? No, no; wait!—can you go half an hour without checking your phone, so that you can listen to this show? We’re going to talk about seven habits to help our families thrive on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. When I was a little tyke, there was a popular TV show on called The Waltons. It followed the life of a rural Virginia family during the Great Depression on through World War II. John Boy—he was the narrator of the show, and he was also the oldest of six kids—he lived with his mama and daddy and his grandparents on the family farm. The Waltons were a tight-knit family. They had each other’s backs through all the tough times. They fought, but they apologized. They laughed/celebrated well.

They were the quintessential 20th century American family. Now, okay; that’s a TV show. You could even be saying, “That’s fictional! That’s made up! That’s a fantasy.” But is that how families are supposed to be?—tight-knit, holding each other up? How can we, here in the 21st century, build a strong family that represents all those characteristics of a strong family?—those strong, Walton-like ties that many of us long for.

You know, there’s a man I know, who is passionate about families and building families. He’s so passionate that he gives of his time to this organization of FamilyLife®. Bryan Carter serves on the Board of Directors at FamilyLife. He is already a full-time pastor and has a family of his own. He’s a busy guy, but he loves family; and he wants to see families thrive, so he helps give leadership and direction to FamilyLife.

Bryan recently gave a message [about] seven habits of healthy marriages and families. I want you to hear some of that message. Now, we’ve only got half an hour, so hold on; buckle your seatbelt; take a deep breath; put your cell phone on “Do not disturb”; let’s dive in! Here’s Bryan Carter.

[Recorded Message]

Bryan: Families are incredibly important; marriage is incredibly important; but it can also be somewhat messy at times as we find two sinners, saved by the grace of God, trying to love one another in a healthy way. The good news about relationships and families is this: “We don’t have to figure it all out on our own. We don’t have to just watch what we see in the media or watch what we see in the culture. The Scriptures actually give us direction on what it requires and what it means to have a healthy family.”

For a few moments, I want to lift up these seven principles that I hope can help you and help me as we seek to build strong, and vibrant, and healthy families. Here is the first one: “Faith: Healthy families are committed to God first.” Healthy families are committed to God first. You find this taught in Joshua, Chapter 24, verse 15, where it reads this way: “Now, therefore fear the LORD, and serve Him in sincerity and faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the river in Egypt and serve the LORD. For if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”


Healthy families have a commitment to faith; they have a commitment to God first. This is modeled through the life of Joshua. As the people of Israel are now settled in this new land, they become torn around all the temptation that’s around them. Their loyalties and their focus get pulled away to worshipping idol gods; but here, Joshua calls them back and says, “No, no. We cannot give into this temptation of worshipping someone else or idol gods. We must make sure that God is the focus of our lives.”

We, too, face this same dilemma—all of us—whether it is to worship our kids and to make sure they are successful in every way, or whether it is to worship our jobs and our careers, or whether it’s that we’re tempted to worship our own personal happiness and personal ambitions. We must always remind ourselves that the most important thing in our personal lives and in our family must be God. We must keep God first.

Jesus was asked, in Matthew, Chapter 22 [verses 35-38], “What’s the greatest commandment?” He replied in these words: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Every family must make God the priority. We must make sure that God is not a list of our options; but instead, He is the priority for all of our lives.

The question is: “How do we live this out?” Three simple ways we can live this out. The first one is prayer. There is a great book in the back of the room called Two Hearts Praying as One. It’s a book written by Dennis and Barbara, where they begin by telling the story of, early on in their marriage, asking a couple that had been married 25 years, “What’s the secret to a healthy marriage?” They simply replied this way: “We pray together every single day.”

One of the ways we keep God as the priority is to bring prayer into our marriages and to bring prayer into our homes to make sure that prayer is not just something that we do in case of emergency. It’s a weekly time [as a family]; we gather and say, “How can I pray for you?” A husband and wife gather—and catch a hand before the night goes away—and saying, “How can I pray for you?”

Not only prayer, but also Scripture—Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. We ought to bring Scripture into our homes. It’s Scripture and the Word of God that gives us direction about life, that gives us direction about our problems, that gives instruction about what God expects from us.

Then, lastly, worship. There is something about our church involvement/there is something about worshipping together, as a family, that allows us to be able to get closer with God and to become closer as a family. You know the studies that say: “Ninety-four percent of Christians make a decision for Christ before the age of eighteen.” Worshipping together, as a family, helps to keep God first/helps to keep God as the priority.

Not only faith—but then, secondly: “Healthy families are committed to each other.” You find that in Genesis, Chapter 2, verses 24 and 25, where God presides over the first marriage/the first wedding. He says these words: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The man and wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”

It is here where God establishes family/establishes marriage. It is no coincidence that He establishes it by establishing a covenant relationship/a covenant between the man and a woman and God. Marriage was never designed to be a contract. Marriage was never designed to be just an agreement or a piece of paper; but marriage was designed to be a covenant between a man and a woman and God.

It is this covenant that represents commitment. Healthy families/healthy marriages—they have a commitment to one another. When people are committed to one another, it allows that relationship to have confidence and stability. It changes the context. You remember, in the Old Testament, there is a book of the Bible called Ruth. In that book of the Bible, it tells a story of this woman/this woman by the name of Naomi. Naomi is married to her husband; has two sons. Unfortunately, they move out of Bethlehem, and there, in this new territory, her husband dies and her two sons die. In that context, it put her in an incredibly difficult position.

She then goes to her daughter-in-law, Ruth. She says, “Ruth, go back home. You can start your life again.” And there, in Ruth, Chapter 1, verse 16, here’s what Ruth’s response is to her mother-in-law, Naomi; she says, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go, I’ll go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Ruth could leave, but Ruth displays an unusual degree of commitment. She basically says these words, “I am with you no matter what happens in your life.”

That’s what every family needs/that’s what every marriage needs—someone that loves you and is committed to you—no matter what happens in your life. Commitment simply means this: it means to choose God’s best for another person. It’s the husband choosing God’s best for his wife/a wife choosing God’s best for her husband. It’s a parent choosing God’s best for their children, and children choosing for one another. It is this idea that: “I am committed to you. I’m not just committed to you in the good or the bad; but I am committed to you because you are a part of my family.”

There is something about commitment that provides an unusual sense of stability to a home. It often starts with a man that’s committed to the relationship; and when the husband is then committed, and the wife is then committed, it creates a home where that commitment begins to build a network, and a friendship, and a depth to that home.

Shaunti Feldhahn in her book, For Women Only, says this—and her research reveals—that the number-one need for most women is security. Security that she is talking about is not defined by finances alone; it’s really this emotional connection or a committed relationship. She wants to know: “Can she trust him?” When she knows that he is committed to her, it gives her—and gives her family—such an unusual sense of love and accomplishment. This is what our kids cry out for when they long for us to be at their events and at their games and be involved in their lives—it is that commitment that gives them confidence.

Not only does it require faith and commitment—but next—time together/time together: “Healthy families prioritize time together.”


Michelle: Bryan Carter, talking about healthy marriages and families, and those habits that we need to put into our daily lives with our marriages and families. I could just listen to him all day. Isn’t he great?!

Did you catch those first two habits? Committed to God first, and then committed to each other. You know, I did a little research on habits. It takes 18-254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for new behaviors to become automatic. So if you’re going to start working on these habits—and you’re thinking, “Oh, my goodness! This is going too slow!”—well, forming new habits does take time; it does take time.

Hey, we need to take a break; but when we come back, Bryan Carter is going to talk about the third habit of prioritizing time together. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in two minutes. No cheating with your cell phone!

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are learning some new habits today. We are learning the habits of healthy marriages and family. Pastor Bryan Carter is helping us understand seven habits of healthy marriages and family. We are smack dab in the middle of his message.

He started off by talking about, “We need to be committed to God;” then, “We need to be committed to each other.” Now he’s talking about something that really makes it work: “Prioritizing time together.” Here’s Bryan Carter.

[Recorded Message]

Bryan: In Mark, Chapter 3, verse 14, Jesus—the words are written this way: “He appointed twelve, designating them apostles, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach….” It is in this text, Mark 3, that Jesus is beginning His earthly ministry. As He begins His earthly ministry, He selects these twelve disciples. These twelve disciples, as you know, probably weren’t the most-likely to succeed in their graduating class; but He picks these fishermen; He picks these tax collectors; and then the text says, “He appoints that they might be with Him.”

Those three words are significant; because it means that Jesus said, “These guys are going to one day lead the church; but in order to prepare them, they need time with Me”; because Jesus understood that time together impacts our relationships. He could have chosen any way, but they spent time. They were together when that boat got caught up in the storm. They were together when He began to teach that Sermon on the Mount. They were together when He did that marvelous miracle of feeding 5,000 with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. They were together when Lazarus was brought back to life. They were together when there was that conflict over who would sit on the right side and the left side of Him.

But do you know what happened as they spent all that time together? It bonded their relationship; it connected their hearts with Jesus Christ; it connected their hearts with one another; and it prepared them for the future that lay ahead. See, healthy relationships prioritize time together. There is a direct link between the time together that we spend and the quality of our relationship.

The Washington Post did an article that stated that the quantity of time a person/a parent spends with their adolescent children has an enormous affect. There is something significant about the time that we need—together as a couple/together as a family—that helps us build strong and healthy relationships.

What does this look like in the context of our own relationships? Some have suggested that we ought to all have some tech-free time. We all understand our phones and this world of technology—one of the greatest challenges to many of our relationships, whether it’s a husband and a wife or us with our kids—is technology. We are grateful for the access that it provides, but it also can disrupt families. One writer in one study said that 60 percent of people can’t go an hour without checking their phones. We all need tech-free time.

We all need to examine our relationships and say: “Okay; what’s a timeframe? What are the rules?” One couple has a little box at home, and everybody puts their phone or device there at a certain time; or when they have dinner, they all put them away. Our kids need boundaries with technology because, without it, they will struggle even connecting with others because of the impact of screen time and tech-time.

Not only tech-free time, but also mealtime. There is something valuable about a date night. There is something valuable about a family meal together that allows us to talk, and share, and connect together. There is something valuable about being able to have time, where you can just spend uninterrupted time sharing and connecting with someone else. We need this; it builds our relationships. We need one-on-one time, where fathers are dating their sons or their daughters, where we’re taking—it’s this one-on-one time that’s incredibly significant.

One of the things I think we’ve all discovered in life—that, sometimes, when you’re trying to build relationships, whether it’s with your husband or your wife or your kids—sometimes, it’s in those random moments, while you’re riding in the car, that you find significant connection points when you least expect it; but it all requires that we have time together.

Here is the last one—some fun time together—there is something about fun that bonds us together. There is something about laughing together, and sharing together, and escaping together that allows us to build stronger and stronger relationships.

When my wife and I first got married, she said to me, “I want to take a family vacation every year.” I said, “Oh, man, I did that as a kid. We went to visit Grandma every single summer.” [Laughter] She said, “No! That doesn’t count. That is not family vacation.” She said, “Family vacation means you go, and you do something fun; alright? It’s not just visiting relatives. It’s not just being at Grandma’s house.” I am so thankful that every year we’ve been together, we’ve been able to do a family vacation. It has brought so much joy to our home. It’s made so many memories; and it’s allowed us to bond, because time together makes a tremendous difference in our relationships.

Here’s the next one, friends: Appreciation—appreciation, appreciation—“Healthy relationships: They accept and they appreciate one another.” If there was ever someone that modeled how to accept people and how to appreciate people, it was the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to go much further than back to the passage we read before in Mark, Chapter 3. He shows His acceptance and appreciation of people simply by the disciples that He picks. I mean, the fact that He would pick these twelve—some tax collectors, some fishermen, a publican—the fact that He would even pick them shows His acceptance of people.

There is something about acceptance that can be transformative in our lives. There is something about acceptance that builds healthy marriages and builds healthy families, because the truth of the matter is that all of us long to be accepted and valued. We long to be appreciated for who we are, for our story, for our wiring, for our own unique makeup. We long for this; we long for this. Healthy families and healthy marriages—they model this incredibly well.

We won’t admit it often, but our self-worth and our identity can be fragile. It speaks volumes when family members will recognize and appreciate one another. Like some of you here in this room, we all are very different from our siblings. I’ve got three children, like some of you in the room, and all of them are incredibly different. I mean, you would think, growing up in the same house under the same roof, they’d have a lot more similarities; but they are night and day at times. We have to constantly watch ourselves to not make one be like the other but understand they are unique, each one to himself or herself. God wired them that way.

One of the joys of parenting is to learn how to accept them for how God has created them. As a matter of fact, it’s in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul writes to the Corinthian church and tries to correct them; because they are so busy comparing and competing instead of celebrating them for who they are.

Here is the next one: “Communication: Healthy families express open and frequent communication.” Ephesians, Chapter 4, verse 29, says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” How we talk to one another matters: how you talk to your husband or how you talk to your wife; how we talk to our children.

Our families are a place where we learn communication. The text says this: “The goal of communication is not simply for me to get my feelings off my chest or just to express myself alone, but the goal of communication”—the text says—“is to benefit the person who is listening,”—it’s to benefit the person who is listening. The goal of my communication is to make sure that I’m always thinking: “How can I help the person that I’m talking to? How can I convey how I’m feeling? How can I convey how their actions impacted me?”

We all have the ability to use our words in a healthy way. When you become a follower of Christ, He gives you power over your tongue; He gives you power over your words. How we communicate matters! What the text is saying—that how we communicate, it matters; he says we ought to build each other up.

How do we build each other up? We ought to build each other up by speaking the truth in love. Our relationships do so much better when we speak the truth in love: when we convey our real feelings/when we convey the true things that happen. There are two words that all of us need to embrace: transparency and openness. When we are transparent in our communication/we are open in our communication, it allows the other person to see who we really are. When we hide behind insecurity/when we hide behind untruths or half-truths, we put up a barrier in our relationships. They want to love you for who you are. They want to know you for who you are. It only happens when we build each other up by speaking the truth.

He says build each other up, also, by learning how to listen to one another. Someone said that one of the greatest ways you can show someone that you love them is to learn how to listen to them. It’s to be unhurried and uninterrupted. Our wives/they long and husbands long to be fully heard. I’ve been in training on learning how to listen for quite a while. For 20 years, I’ve been learning/I’ve been in training in learning how to listen. I’ve learned that the key to listening is to ask a whole lot of questions.


Michelle: Are we committed to God? Are we all committed to each other in our families? Do we prioritize time together? Do we accept and appreciate one another in our family?—that’s huge! Do we express open and frequent communication? Those were the five that we listened to from the message, “Seven Habits of Healthy Marriages and Families.” There are two more, and they are: “How do we know how to resolve conflict?” Resolving conflict is big! And then, building on that: “Can we face suffering together?” You know, you’re probably facing that right now—this whole summer has opened up a can of worms in so many areas of suffering—how are you doing with that?

Well, to listen to Bryan’s entire message, and get those last two points expanded, go to our website, That’s, and we will have a link there to listen to Bryan’s entire message on the “Seven Habits of Healthy Marriages and Families.”

Hey, next week, we are going to continue talking about these strong family ties; specifically, your teens. Jaquelle Crowe is a young adult. She’s also an author already, and she’s going to be sharing what her parents did to help guide her and to correct her. Her dad, Sean, is also going to join her; and he’ll be sharing the difficulties and struggles—but also the joy—of walking his daughter through those teenage years. I hope you can join us for that.

Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.

Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.


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