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Baby Steps to Becoming Intentional

with Kurt Bruner, Steve Stroope | November 23, 2010

Research shows that young adults are leaving the church in droves. What can you do today to make sure your kids are grounded in the faith while they're still young? Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope tell how they are equipping parents in their church to be the primary disciplers of their children.

Research shows that young adults are leaving the church in droves. What can you do today to make sure your kids are grounded in the faith while they're still young? Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope tell how they are equipping parents in their church to be the primary disciplers of their children.

Baby Steps to Becoming Intentional

With Kurt Bruner, Steve Stroope
|
November 23, 2010
| Download Transcript PDF

 

Bob:   It is almost 50 years ago that Bob Dylan wrote what became an anthem for his generation:  The Times They Are A-Changin’.

 

[Music:  Come gather’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
               Around you have grown
               And accept it that soon
               You’ll be drenched to the bone
                If your time to you is worth savin’
               Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
               For the times they are a-changin’]

According to Kurt Bruner:  When it comes to passing on faith to the next generation— “the times they are a-changin’.”

Kurt:  Perhaps for the first time in church history—think about this—for the first time in church history, those most likely to embrace Christian faith are by and large rejecting it—our own children who are being raised in the church. 

Something is happening here, and I believe it has to do with we are swimming in dramatically different water.  The things that were fine and would work 20, 30, 40 years ago, are not enough anymore.  We have to be more intentional than ever.

[Music:  For the loser now will be later to win
    For the times they are a-changin’]

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, November 23rd.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  When it comes to passing on faith to the next generation, how can we as parents be like the men of Issachar who understood the times and knew how to respond?  We will talk about that today.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us.  I don’t think there is a parent listening today who is going, “Oh, I am not really all that interested in what you guys have to talk about today.  You know, this is kind of one of those secondary subjects.”

Dennis:  “I don’t want to know how to teach my child about God, how to disciple my daughter, how to help my son grow up and make his way through a culture without being overtaken by evil.”

Bob:  If they are walking with Christ when they hit 20, I’m good with that; but it is not really a big deal to me.”  Do you think there is anybody who is feeling that way?

Dennis:  No. No.  In fact, if anything, I think the urgency is increasing among parents today who are feeling like, “How can I get this done?” because they turn on the TV, they turn on the radio, they listen to the type of entertainment that is coming to them over the internet.  It is getting louder and louder.  The white noise of the culture is drowning out parents and their attempts to teach their children about Jesus Christ.

We have a couple of guys who have collaborated together to write a book, It Starts at HomeA Practical Guide to Nurturing Lifelong Faith.  Kurt Bruner and Steve Stroope join us on FamilyLife Today.  Steve, Kurt, welcome back.

Steve & Kurt:  Thank you.  Great to be back.

Dennis:  You guys—You help lead a pretty good-sized little Texas church down there—about 11,000 people attend there.  Family is central to what you are doing there in that church. 

How have you come to this conclusion, Steve?  Has it come about through counseling and picking up the debris and performing triage on couple after couple and families with just what is happening in the culture today?

Steve:  Like a lot of churches in America, we have a lot of families.  In fact, we have three babies born per week in our fellowship.

Bob:  Wow.

Steve:  So it is something—

Dennis:  That is a good way to grow a church!  (laughter)

Steve:  That is a good way to grow a church, but we have been concerned as we have seen the same statistics that everyone has seen that about half of the kids who are growing up in a church in America today seem to be walking away.  We started asking the question, “Are we contributing to that problem?” 

To the extent that we have allowed our parents to think that it is the job of the church to disciple their kids we are guilty of creating some of that.  What we really did, Dennis, we came to our people.  We said out loud, “Guys, it is not our job to disciple your kids.  It is your job.  You can’t outsource that like you do the lawn or like you do cleaning.  We are here to help you.”

Dennis:  Now immediately they said, “Thank you for pointing that out,” didn’t they? 

Steve:  You know what, it is interesting.  You would think they would say, “How dare you tell me that I am going to do all this work.”  They were thrilled when we not only said, “It is your job,” but we said, “We will help you do your job.”  Really, that is the attempt of the book—to give some resources to parents to help them as they disciple their own children.

I think the church of Jesus Christ, is also responsible in every single community to make that declaration.  “Parents, it is your job; but we will stand with you.  We will help you do that.”

There are some great resources out there for churches.  Your organization, Dennis, has done such a great job of providing resources that churches can then turn around and put in the hands of these parents and say, “Yes, you can.  We are going to help you, but you can do this job with God’s help.”

Bob:  What I hear you guys saying is that moms and dads aren’t saying, “We are not interested.”

Steve:  Oh, goodness, no.

Bob:  But they are saying, “We are not sure we are competent.”

Kurt:  We are not confident or—competent or confident.  I’m not sure I know how to do what you are describing needs to be done.”  Steve has said often, “They look at the youth ministries and the children’s ministries.”  In fact, we are convinced that the problem is not what is or isn’t happening at the church.  The problem is what desperately needs to happen in the home.  Why we say that:  If you think about—Bob, Dennis, did you have flannel graph when you were kids in Sunday school?

Bob:  I remember flannel graph.

Kurt:  Flannel graph was cutting-edge technology at the time, right?  That was state-of-the-art teaching children the faith.  I had the same experience growing up.  Look at the children ministries today and the student ministries today compared to what we had growing up. 

The church is doing an outstanding job trying to be as creative as possible to declare the words of Scripture to our children.  The problem is those children don’t seem to want what it is we are describing.  That is an issue that is rooted, we believe, in the home and what is happening or not happening in the home. 

Backing up—to put on the lenses of the typical family like us who is attending a church—We say, “Okay, pastor.  You say it is my job.  Let’s back this thing up a little bit.  Steve, you had as a value statement at the church for 30 years a statement that said, ‘The home is the primary context for spiritual formation.’”

Steve:  That is right.

Kurt:  But the church wasn’t really doing anything to make that easy for families.”

Steve:  Not more than preaching on the importance of family, which we did; sending people to marriage retreats, which are great; but we weren’t equipping the parents—we weren’t intentionally equipping the parents to do their job in the home.  Many times we were working against the family in terms of what we were doing—programming at the church. 

Bob:  So how did you make a shift?  What are you doing differently today than what you were doing ten years ago?

Steve:  Well, first of all, is the declaration that, “We understand there is disconnect here.  Let’s all get on the same page.  The primary discipleship is going to take place in the home.  That is God’s Plan A, okay?” 

Second of all, to provide some good resources for them—not just once every ten years—“The Year of the Family”—you know, with an emphasis that we come back to; but over and over again.  We have done something real interesting in our church—our campaigns. 

That is where we will take a particular catalytic discipline or activity of the family and we will really emphasize it.  One of the campaigns was on prayer.  We talked about the importance of a family praying together and the impact it is going to have on your kids—just to see Mom and Dad praying for each other about specific requests.  It would take a lot of families to the next level. 

Dennis:  We surveyed more than a 100,000 people in the church.  You will find this interesting, having just run that campaign.  A 100,000 people attending churches said that 70 percent of them prayed for their family; 35 percent prayed with their family; less than 10 percent of the couples ever pray together; and less than 2 percent of husbands and wives prayed together every day. 

It is interesting that you have that same campaign in your church because personally, your marriage, your family, will not be the same after asking Almighty God and His power and His authority to take up residence and presence in your marriage and in your family.

Kurt:  I want to go off of that to the typical guy going to our church because we are a church that draws in a lot of people who are from an un-churched background.  They are coming to Christ for the first time and understanding the gospel for the first time.  They hear this challenge, “Listen, pray with your wife.”  “(Gulp!)  Out loud you mean?”  The embarrassment of, “I am not sure I know how to pray out loud.  I have never done that.” 

Steve:  I don’t know the Thees or the Thous.”

Kurt:  Exactly.

Dennis:  “I don’t have the theological training.”

Kurt:  Exactly.  Or, “She’s a better pray-er than me,” maybe or whatever it may be.  What we did in our campaign—we made it very, very easy.  We gave them a “Prayer-at-home Guide” we called it. 

“If you have never prayed out loud, here is some language you might want to use”; or “If you are really nervous, just hold hands with your spouse.  Both of you pray silently.  Squeeze hands when you are done and chalk it up as one of your prayer together moments.”

Steve:  Baby steps.

Kurt:  Baby steps!  Make it as easy as possible because I think we forget how intimidating this can be when they hear us challenge them—particularly church leaders.  We challenge them to do the right thing.  Our passion and our goal is to make baby steps very simple for them to move toward those things. 

Every 120 days—we call the members of our church to create some kind of plan to be intentional the next 120 days.  When they do that, they grade how well they have done the last 120 days in different categories—my marriage, discipling my kids, and so forth.

Well, when we did the very first assessment a few years ago, the reason we ended up doing the prayer campaign is from what we found out.  They are grading themselves lowest on this “prayer-at-home thing,” much like you found in your research.  “They are grading themselves very low on this.  We have to help them; so let’s make it as easy as possible.”  Then we go to the next campaign based on the next area that they are struggling with.  We try to make it as simple as we can.

Steve:  I know there are some folks who are listening who are saying, “Well, maybe my church is not providing those kinds of resources.  How can my church get those resources?” 

We actually have a website that is for pastors of churches of all sizes—small churches and large churches—of how they can get these same resources—how they can get these campaigns and do them in the church.  Friends, don’t wait for your church to get concerned about your parenting, concerned about your marriage.  You can do this thing yourself. 

Dennis:  Yes.  Let’s talk about that for a moment.  Let’s say somebody is listening right now; and they are saying, “You know, I am not in Rockwall, Texas.  I live maybe in a small town that doesn’t have churches that are much larger than 100, 200 people.  They don’t have a pastoral staff that is large that can begin to implement some of these things.  What can I do?”

Steve:  There are all kinds of resources from a lot of great organizations like your own, Dennis, that if  parents will make themselves students of good marriages, that they make themselves students of good parenting practices.  There are more resources today than ever in the history of the world. 

What the parent has to do—they have to take the initiative to say, “Okay, I am going to take the material that is out there.  I am going to make an assessment of what the greatest need for my family is.  Maybe I can’t do everything and maybe it is not going to be perfect, but I am going to start being intentional.”  If you could just come up with one idea a year and graft that into your family, then you would be ahead of most Christian families in this nation. 

Bob:  You know, you get something simple like the Just Add Family kit that Kurt and Olivia put together that we worked with you on.  You take that; you take it home—you have recipe cards for how to engage the family.  If that is all you did; if you did just that one thing over the course of a year, it would have a dramatic impact.

Kurt:  I would go further than that.  I would say, “Don’t do more than one thing.  Start with one thing.”  A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.  I think we get paralyzed about all the possibilities I could do with my family. 

Dennis:  No doubt about it.

Kurt:  That is why we call the church; and I would challenge your radio listeners in the next 120 days, “What is one thing you are going to do to be more intentional than you have been in the last 120 days:  one thing for your marriage, one thing in discipling your children or grandchildren?”  One simple step—that is all you need to take.  God will honor that. 

In 120 days, take another assessment and ask yourself, “How am I doing?” because I guarantee in 120 days the Law of Entropy is going to take place and you are going to find yourself, “Oh, I have slacked off.  I am not doing something.”  “All right.  What are you going to do in the next 120 days?”  Just take it in bite-sized chunks. 

Steve:  One of the reasons we wrote It Starts at Home is we believe there needs to be a practical guide:  “How does this look like in my home?”  At the end of every chapter, we give specific suggestions of what you might want to choose from in order to incorporate this into your own family.  It is just really a step-by-step guide.  It is more of a workbook than it is a book of theology or even parenting hints. 

Bob:  It is all fueled by what you call in the book “The legacy principle.” 

Kurt:  It is—simply understanding that all of us pass on some kind of a legacy to the next generation—good or bad.  You are passing something.  If you recognize you are passing something, the question is, “Am I going to make that principle work for me and for my children or against me and against my children?” 

Bob:  I remember sitting with Al Mohler, the President of Southern Seminary in Louisville.  We were talking about marriage and family.  He made the observation; he said, “You know, each one of us is somebody’s ancestor.”  He said, “If you look into the future, somebody is going to look back at you, as one of their ancestors.”  He said, “When you start to think of yourself as an ancestor, it changes how you think of what your job is, what your assignment is.”

Kurt:  That is true.  I had a mom just the other day stop and said, “I don’t know what to do.  My daughter is making choices I never could have imagined.  She grew up in the church.  This is our church.  What is going on?”  More and more parents we are hearing when their kids are in that 20-, 22-, 23-year-old range, they are saying, “I am shocked!  I don’t know what is going on.  They went to church our whole lives!  What is happening here?” 

I said to her, “Part of what is happening, I believe, is we are swimming in different water than we ever have in the past. 

Dennis:  There is no doubt about that.

Kurt:  Perhaps for the first time in church history—think about this—for the first time in church history, those most likely to embrace Christian faith are by and large rejecting it—our own children who are being raised in the church. 

Something is happening here, and I believe it has to do with we are swimming in dramatically different water.  The things that were fine and would work 20, 30, 40 years ago, are not enough anymore.  We have to be more intentional than ever.

Dennis:  Just talking about the theme of legacy—Bob and I sat down to do, I don’t know, two or three radio broadcasts on legacy.  Honestly, Steve, you are a grandparent.  You are done raising your kids, as we are.  I had not really stepped back to actually evaluate all the different components that comprise our legacy. 

By the time we finished the series, what started out to be three broadcasts became ten because it encapsulates everything you do as a parent to provide memories for your children, to build a relationship with your children, to pass on your convictions, your truths, to challenge them to adopt their own convictions.  It is all about us moving off the scene and our children becoming bigger and us becoming smaller. 

A lot of parents are not thinking that way.  We think, “We are going to have them from now on.”  You know what, they will leave the home.  They will get off on their own and they will establish their own marriages, their own families, with their own set of core values.  The question is, “Whose values and what are those values going to be based on?”

Steve:  I will say this.  I do think there is a great opportunity for grandparents to continue their legacy and continue to invest in future generations even though they have changed their relationship with their own children.  With the technology we have today, you can stay in contact with your grandkids, even living on the other side of the world. 

I think one of the great things about being a grandparent is that you have margin. 

When we were raising our own kids, we were trying to start a church, we were having all the balls in the air—taking care of their physical needs of buying clothes for them and keeping them safe and all that.  Yes, we wanted to care about their spiritual nurturing as well; but that was one of many balls that we had to keep in the air.

One of the great privileges that I have as a grandparent is that I don’t have to bathe the children every day; and I don’t have to get them to school; get them to ball practice.  I can concentrate on that spiritual legacy and invest in those kids.

Kurt:  Steve, not only do grandparents have margin; but they have an enormous influence that I think they underestimate.  I am shocked when I talk to grandparents, how many of them disengage.  They say, “I am done.  I have done that thing, and I am moving on.”  Yet, they possess a power in the lives of their grandchildren that no one else on the planet possesses. 

Steve:  Kurt, bigger than life. 

Bob:  Kurt, we have to real this back.  If we let these two guys get going on grandparenting, we will lose this whole program.  (laughter)

Dennis:  There is a kindred spirit here.  I was just getting ready...

Steve:  How many grandkids do you have?

Dennis:  You don’t want to know. 

Steve:  No.  I really do want to know. 

Dennis:  Sixteen.

Steve:  Sixteen.  Isn’t that great?

Dennis:  It is great!

Steve:  You are a wealthy man.

Dennis:  What an assignment.

Steve:  We could go ahead and dismiss Kurt and Bob.  We could just talk about it.

Kurt:  Can I see all 16 pictures, please?  We would love to see all 16 pictures.

Bob:  No, you don’t want to see them.  Trust me! (laughter)  Trust me.  This will just degenerate right here. 

Dennis:  The thing that I like about what you said there, Steve, is that this is an assignment from God to a grandparent that he or she must assume and accept.  What would you see as your primary role as a grandparent? 

Steve:  I think the primary role is not much different than the role the parent has, except that we get to do it with more margin; that is, to live out the faith in front of your grandkids—to have them see you make mistakes and confess your sin; to have them see you have successes because you are obeying God’s Word; to seeing what you value, what you spend your time thinking about; the experiences that—one of the things that my grandkids say—they say, “Tell me some of those old stories.” 

They want to know stories of my life.   As I am telling them stories of my life, I am telling them about the faithfulness of God.  It is a faithfulness that happened years ago and that God is still alive today and still working in our family today.  I think what I give them—I give them that faith over a long period of time, even though they are hearing about it in a short period of time.

Kurt:  Let me make that real practical.  We did a family night activity while Otis and Gail Ledbetter were in town, who are kind of adopted grandparents for my kids because my wife’s parents are no longer living.  Every time Grandpa Otis comes into town, they have to go to breakfast with the grandkids.  They get to pick wherever they want—it is usually McDonalds or something of that nature.  He said to me at one point, “Kurt...

Bob:  They get to pick wherever they want, and they pick McDonalds? 

Kurt:  They are young, okay?  This is when they were young.  (laughter)  When it is on my dime...

Bob:  No offense to my McDonalds friends; but if I am picking wherever I want for breakfast...

Kurt:  So they would go every time he comes into town out for breakfast together.  He would just sit with them and say, “How is it going?  Tell me about your life.”  He wouldn’t do any formal instruction; he just wanted to have that relationship. 

He said to me at one point, “Kurt, I am doing this every time I visit now.”  That was two or three times a year.  They looked forward to that:  “I got to go to breakfast with Grandpa Otis!”  “I am doing that now to earn the right so that when they are older, I’ll be able to influence their faith.” 

I think, again, grandparents underestimate.  Just spend time with them.  Just send them a text message, if you can figure out how the blasted thing works.  Send them a text message once in a while giving them a blessing saying, “I’m thinking about you; I’m praying about you.”  Keep that connection there.  Then one or two words at key moments in their lives will have an enormous influence.

Dennis:  If you are a parent and you have listened to these pastors talk about a church that is becoming a marriage- and family-equipping center for their community and you are wondering how you can help that happen in your church and your community, I would just like to encourage you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and pick up a copy of their book, It Starts at Home, because I believe the most powerful element in the church is ultimately in the pew. 

They are sitting out there. I believe they are looking for an assignment and want to know how they can live meaningful lives for God.  You know, this can be a way you can do this in your church.  Pick up a copy of this book, maybe take it and give it to your pastor, and then interact with him and say, “I would like to help you maybe have a 120-day emphasis around praying together as a family.”

Bob:  That is the point.  You don’t just pick up a copy of the book and give it to the pastor and say, “Here, do this,” or “I think we ought to do this.”  You need to come with the book; but also come ready to serve and say, “I am here to help make this happen.”

We have a link on our website to the website you mentioned, DriveFaithHome.com, where you talk about how churches are engaging around some of these 120-day projects.  I think it is critical for our listeners to understand your pastor is overwhelmed; he has got only so much he can do.

Rather than just say, “Here, this is a good book.  You ought to read it.  I heard them talk about this on the radio,” and then sitting back and saying, “He is not doing anything with that book I gave him.”  You need to come and say, “I want to help do whatever I can to help pull this off.  Would you look this over, and then see how I can get engaged?” 

You can get a copy of the book, It Starts at Home, when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com.  We will mail it out to you. 

Again, it is FamilyLifeToday.com or call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY (1-800-358-6329).  That is “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “Today.”  Ask for the book, It Starts at Home; and we will get a copy off to you. 

Let me also mention that Kurt and his wife Olivia put together a resource that I think is a great resource for families.  It is a recipe box of family devotion recipes.  That is the best way I know to describe it.  Each of these recipe cards has a simple plan for how you can execute a meaningful conversation, a meaningful experience for your children—just to get them thinking about spiritual issues—about what the Bible has to say about a variety of subjects.  We have information about the Just Add Family Recipe Box on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com as well.  Stop by and take a look at that.

Again, let me just say as we are thinking about Thanksgiving this week and being together with family and having a family celebration, we just want to take a minute and say how thankful we are here at FamilyLife for you and your support of this ministry. 

For those of you who pray for us and for those of you who contribute financially to FamilyLife Today, your donations are what keep us on the air.  In fact, as we head toward the end of this year and start thinking about 2011, hearing from you in the final weeks of the year is critical for going forward into 2011.  Let me just say, “Thanks,” for all you do in helping support the ministry.  We appreciate your partnership with us.

We want to encourage you to be back again with us tomorrow when we are going to continue our conversation about what we can be doing as moms and dads and as churches to pass on faith to the next generation.  I hope you can join us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey.  I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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“The Times They Are A-Changin’, “ performed by Bob Dylan

From the album, The Essential Bob Dylan, (p) 2000 Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

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