Building Family Ties with Faith, Love and Laughter
About the Guest
Is your family joyful? Author Dave Stone reflects on the fun days of his childhood and on his parents, who exuded what it means to live out their faith joyfully. Because of that attitude, Dave says, many of his friends loved hanging out at their house.? Dave shares a beautiful story about his race for class president and the consistent prayer his parents lifted up for him as a child.
Dave StoneDave Stone is Senior Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where he preaches Truth to more than 21,000 people each weekend. He and his wife, Beth, have three children: Savannah, Sadie, and Sam, and a son-in-law, Patrick. Dave believes the most practical way to spread the gospel is through moms and dads who model a genuine faith for their children.
Is your family joyful?
Building Family Ties with Faith, Love and Laughter
Bob: Pastor Dave Stone believes there are ways for families to learn important lessons that can still be a lot of fun for everyone.
Dave: We used to do a lot of role-playing. We would say—based upon the age of our children—we would put them on the spot and say: “Okay, you’re invited to a party at school, Savannah. Now, at the party, after you get there, somebody offers you a beer. What’s your response going to be?” Then, the rest of the family dives into the action; and we play the role of everybody at the party. Now, she’s got to make a decision. They got to be really good actors and actresses—laying it on pretty thick. [Laughter]
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today how families can build stronger ties—with a little bit of love and laughter—and a lot of faith mixed in. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I have been convinced, for some time, that one of the missing elements of modern Christianity is joy. You know—I think to myself, “If we were more joyful than we are, that would be a great apologetic to the world.”
Bob: I think a lot of people—if this is what they said, “You know, I don’t agree with all those folks; but boy, they sure are full of joy!” I just think that would have a dramatic impact. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit, and I’m starting to sound like I’m pretty angry about the fact that we don’t have joy. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I don’t think it means that Christians walk around, laughing all the time; but I do think their face needs to be told, occasionally, where they’re going and that they do have a right to laugh. I think our guest on the broadcast today is a kindred spirit. Dave Stone joins us on FamilyLife Today. Dave, welcome to our broadcast.
Dave: It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me, guys. I’ve looked forward to this for a long time.
Dennis: Anybody who could write a book called Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter—I love the title—I really do! It’s a great title, and it really is what a family is all about. Dave is from Louisville, Kentucky. He is the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. He and his wife Beth have been married since 1985. They have three children. He’s actually got a series of these books—that I really like—because they’re filled with all kinds of great stories.
You grew up in a home where your dad taught you a lot about faith, love, and laughter. Describe your home, growing up.
Dave: I grew up in a preacher’s home. There are a lot of people who are drawn to ministry because of that; and then, there are some that aren’t. I think the reason I was drawn to it was the fact that my dad was the same man in the pulpit that he was at home. He didn’t shy away from some of the struggles of ministry. We saw a very realistic, true view of what ministry was all about. Because of that—because of the joys, and the rewards, and because of the challenges—we were drawn to it. My brother is a preacher, as well; and I am.
I think what we saw was a family that could have fun and that could love the church. Someone said to me, “What do you think is your greatest accomplishment, as a parent?” I said, “Well, it has very little to do with me; but my kids are 24, 21, and 18, and they all love the Lord, and they all love the church.” I’m excited about the fact that being a part of a family that has joy is a part of our own family.
Dennis: Give us a snapshot of what your dad did. What are your favorite stories of how he built that faith, love, and laughter into your upbringing?
Dave: There are a lot of stories that come to mind when you say that about my dad. My dad always made traveling fun. We might be driving, and then come off of an exit on an interstate someplace. He would say, “Honey, the car sure is acting funny!” I said, “What?” My brother and I would look at each other; and he would say, “I can’t control where it’s going!” He would slowly start making turns and, all of a sudden, we would end up right in a Dairy Queen® restaurant parking lot. [Laughter] We loved it! After that, whenever he would say: “Honey, I don’t know what’s going on with the car! I can’t control where it’s going!” we would start squealing: “Yes!! Dairy Queen! Dairy Queen!” [Laughter] He made it fun.
Spontaneity is a spice of life that I think a lot of families are missing out on. In John 10, Jesus says, “I’ve come that you might have life and that you might have it to the fullest”—or have it more abundantly. I believe that Christians should be having more fun than anyone else in the entire world. Our future is settled; our past is forgiven. That should radically change the way we approach life. As Christians, are we really having fun? Are we enjoying life? Are we refreshed by it? I think that Christian families should be so refreshing to be around that people say: “What is it about them? There’s something distinctive.”
Bob: Well, you realized that in high school. You had some friends in high school—who came from homes that were not refreshing homes—and they wanted to be at your house.
Dave: The strange thing about that is—and they both came from broken homes—they actually would choose our home over theirs. At their place, they could come in whenever they wanted. They could watch whatever they wanted. They had incredible verbal freedom that they didn’t have at our house. I think back to some times when they would come over. They enjoyed it because they saw a mom and a dad, interacting with one another.
Sometimes, we would walk into the kitchen to get a snack. There would be my mom and dad hugging each other. My buddies would look at that—it was something that was missing in their home. I had this beautiful security, Dennis, of realizing that my mom loved my dad and my dad loved my mom. It was a great thought to go to sleep with at night.
Bob: What can a mom and a dad do, intentionally, to make sure that the atmosphere in the home—the climate in the home—is the kind of climate we’re talking about? How can you purpose that your home is going to be a home of faith, and love, and laughter, and joy?
Dave: Well, there are some intentional steps, I think, that we can take. I think that that security is bedrock for a kid’s faith and, also, for their feeling like, “Man, family is where it’s at!” They need to know that there’s safety and security there.
My junior year of high school—at the end of the year, I ran for Senior Class President. I will never forget—because that’s a very awkward time in your adolescence—you know, you’re throwing yourself out there—“Will you be rejected or accepted by your peers?” I will never forget—even more exciting to me than the announcement, at the end of that day—was getting off of the school bus, and walking about 200 yards toward my home, and seeing, in the distance, this huge poster on our front door. It was in my mom’s handwriting. It just said, “Win or lose, we love you.”
Dave: What they were trying to communicate, to an awkward adolescent, was, “Regardless of how you might be seen by your peers, regardless of what your school decides today, within these four walls, you are loved and you are accepted.” That’s what every kid needs! Every kid needs to know, “I am important and of value in my parents’ eyes.”
I think some of the ways that we do that are through three different times that God gives each one of us with our kids. Travel time with our kids;—
Dave: —we have dinnertime with our kids; and we have bedtime with our kids. Travel time—being the shuttle service to and from school or wherever it might be—their hobbies—those are the times when we have opportunity to encourage them, to lift their spirits up, to let them know that we’re praying for them for the day. Those are times when, in the car, we can take advantage of the fact that—maybe, they’re looking different directions and doing some different things—but we can pour into their lives.
You know, Deuteronomy 6 talks about that: “Impress these commands on your kids.” It talks about “as you walk.” We don’t walk very much with our families, but we do drive a whole lot with them. So, take advantage of that travel time.
The second time is that of dinnertime. Dr. Catherine Snow, from Harvard, did a study where she followed 65 families around. In that time, of eight years, she came away, and she said, “Of more value than play time and of more value than, even, their education is that of the family dinnertime.”
Dave: That’s the hour of power. So, we have to take advantage of that time. It’s a time for teaching. It’s a time for encouragement. It’s a time of teaching them to listen and put the spotlight on somebody else.
Dennis: Share about the Talking Bowl. You actually had an event called “The Talking Bowl”.
Dave: Yes, yes!
Dennis: I wish I had heard about this idea—I really like this.
Dave: Well, it’s pretty simple. There are a lot of things you can do at dinnertime. I know a lot of families are looking for ideas. One thing—like “The Talking Bowl”—you take a bowl and put it in the middle of the table. You fill it up with a variety of different questions: “What’s your greatest fear? What do you hope to do five years from now? What are some challenges that you face with your peer group right now?” You put all these different questions in there. Then, they pull those out; and you just go around the table.
We used to do a lot of role-playing. We would say—based upon the age of our children—we would put them on the spot and say: “Okay, you’re invited to a party, at school, Savannah. Now, at the party, after you get there, somebody offers you a beer. What’s your response going to be?” Then, the rest of the family dives into the action. We play the role of everybody at the party. Now, she’s got to make a decision. They got to be really good actors and actresses—laying it on pretty thick. [Laughter]
Dennis: But you used that as a time to build value—
Dennis: —and to teach biblical truth, practically, around the issues they’re facing in everyday life.
Dave: Yes. If you don’t do that, then, their first experience will be when, all of a sudden, they’re cold-cocked. They’re in the setting, where they have to make this decision. I would rather have them factor through it—think through it, pray through it, and have some examples of what their brothers and sisters have said and mom and dad have said—rather than, all of a sudden, be caught off-guard.
Bob: You talk about drive time and dinnertime—the third time is bedtime. What was the bedtime ritual like at your house?
Dave: Well, for me, growing up, it was a time that now, looking back, I realize how significant it was in my life because, with regularity, my mom or my dad, one or the other, would pray with me at night.
Dave: A very common thread that I would hear from my parents—as they would pray for me—would be, “Oh, Lord, I cannot wait to see how you’re going to use Dave to your glory.” As a result of that, I would fall asleep at night, not wondering if God could use me, but wondering how He might use me.
Dave: You know, my experience has been that your children are more likely to open up to you at bedtime than at any other time. The reason is that the lights are out—they’re in a secure environment. I can tell you, time and time again, when my wife decided, “I’m going to go up and I’m going to pray with Sadie,” or, “I’m going to go pray with Savannah.” I would say, “Okay, I’ll be right here.” She would say, “I’ll be right back down.” Instead of coming back down, three minutes later, it’s forty minutes later. [Laughter] She walks into the kitchen—where I am—and she’s squinting her eyes because she’s been in this dark bedroom for 30 or 40 minutes. I’ll say, “Where have you been?!” She’ll just say: “You know what? They opened up. They wanted to talk.”
Bob: Yes. I don’t know how I got started doing this, or even why I did it, but it was our routine, especially with my daughters, that I was the one who put them to bed. I would take Amy or Katie—and we would typically read a couple of chapters from Narnia or—I have read every Little House on the Prairie book there is—[Laughter]
Dave: Every calamity.
Bob: —I’ve read Little Women and Little Men. I know all of those stories. I mean, I got my way through all of those—reading those books to Amy and to Katie, over the years. After we were done reading—which, by the way, they look back on, today, as a highlight—
Bob: —but after we got done reading and I had prayed for them, I would always end my prayers the same. I think it was just because I wasn’t sure what else to say—you know, that by the time—I would pray, at the end, and say, “And, Lord, I pray that they would wake up in the morning with a smile on their face, and a song in their heart, and joy deep down inside.” Then, I would tickle them when I said, “joy deep down inside.”
Bob: My daughter, who is 31 years old, just wrote a blog post, where she talked about the liturgy of that prayer in her life, every night—how she remembers it; how it spoke to her; and how, even today—
Bob: —what an amazing thought! That something—I didn’t know what else to say, but said it every night; and it still marks them today.
Dennis: Dave, one of the things that you and your wife did was—you, intentionally, taught important character qualities or principles of living. One of those was contentment. You had one of your kid’s friends whose family did that?
Dave: Yes, I think back to so many different folks who do a great job—within our church—of actually putting the attention on others rather than on themselves. My son, Sam—one of the gals at his school, Catherine, had a party at her home—a big birthday party. She put, at the end of the invitation: “You cannot bring a gift for me. You have to bring a gift for Wayside Christian Mission.”
Dave: The plan was—“Okay, everybody come.” Rather than this girl getting loaded up with 15 gifts, like most kids do—instead, bring something or give to someone who’s in need. Anytime we can teach our kids to put the focus on someone else, then, I think, we’re modeling Christ for them.
Think about His act of service when He washed the feet of the disciples. Here it is—the night on which He is betrayed—His last 24 hours with His disciples, prior to His crucifixion—and He goes around and washes feet. He’s the servant! Think about some of the recipients of that. There is Judas, who will betray Him; there is Peter, who will deny Him; there is Thomas, who will doubt Him. We’ve got to show our kids: “How can we get you to wash feet? How can we help you see the value of honoring others above yourself?”
Dave: That’s a beautiful picture when you see families begin to say: “It’s not about us. Instead, we’re going to do something for someone else.”
I think back to some family vacations. We got into a habit of—on our family vacations— we would always try to bless someone. What we did was we pooled all of our money together. The kids had to be involved in this, as well. Each day, they had to find someone that they were going to give some money to and that they were going to bless. As the day went on, we would say: “Okay, whom do you want to give your five dollars to?” or, “Whom are you going to give your ten dollars to?” Then, they had to say why they chose that person.
There were some awkward conversations with some waitresses and different workers at different places; but it was so cool to see a child go up and say, “I’m giving to you because I just wanted you to know that I really like you, and appreciate the service you gave us, and Jesus loves you,” —then, to hand a crumpled ten dollar bill to that waitress—and to watch her burst into tears, as our family walks out, and her chase after and say: “What is this about? I can’t take this kid’s money!” To say: “Oh, no. You have to! He chose you! Do you have any idea how many people he has come into contact with today? Out of all those people, he chose you because he wanted to encourage you.”
The conversations that spawns—and the opportunities—that when you see the generosity and contentment—they work in tandem—they’re brothers. When you are content with what you have, as Paul says in Philippians 4, “I have learned to be content in any and every situation”—when your kids learn to be content, at the same time, they will learn to be generous.
Bob: You made it a priority to teach your kids to always express thankfulness to whoever had prepared the meal—whether it was mom, or whether it was in a restaurant. That expression of gratitude was a value for your family.
Dave: My wife gets credit for that. We usually would try to clean up, at the table, when we were leaving a restaurant. That would spark a lot of conversations, as well. But, whenever we were over at someone’s home, our kids always knew because we had gone over these things—remember how we talked about travel time?
Dave: You’re going to use that travel time as teaching time. So, before you got to somebody’s house—that you’re going to be eating with—you went over things: “Okay, what are we going to do after the meal is over? You’re going to look them in the eyes. You’re going to ask if you can be excused. You’re going to go up, afterwards, and you’re going to say, ‘Thanks for the meal;’ but not only that, you are going to tell them what you enjoyed the most. You’re going to be specific rather than just a generic thanks—‘Thanks for the supper.’”
Dennis: You actually had them go ahead and say, “Could I help clean off the table?”
Dave: Yes. We tried to raise them with the concept of “good, better, best.” I love this because it’s a teaching time, for not just for the kids, but also for the parents. I’m reminded of times, at mealtime, where: “Yes, it’s good that you say, ‘Thank you.’ It is better that you are specific about what you’re thankful for. It’s even best when you say: “You know what? Can I help you clean the table up? Is there anything that we can do?”
A few weeks ago, my wife was out, mulching. A group of kids from the neighborhood went walking past, on their way to go fishing. As they walked past, that group said: “Hi! How are you Mrs. Stone?” She said, “Hi!” Then, they just kept going ahead to go fishing. Well, that’s great!
Then, the next-door neighbor, Kade, came over to catch up with those guys. He stood there, and he talked with her for a minute. After that, he said, “Would you like me to help?” He got down on his knees and said, “I’ll be glad to help you.” She said, “Oh, no, no; that’s okay. Go ahead and catch up with them to go fishing, but you sure are kind.”
You saw all three things there. “Good” was saying “Hi!” to Mrs. Stone. “Better” was stopping to talk to her. “Best” was offering to help out. The sad thing is my son was in the first group. [Laughter] He didn’t offer to help with the mulch!
Dennis: Well, it’s a chore! [Laughter]
Dave: That’s exactly right!
Dennis: Come on—give him a break!
Bob: You know, I remember one time when I asked one of my young sons—I said, “Why don’t you say the grace for the meal tonight?” He did. We all bowed our heads. He thanked the Lord for the food and said, “Lord, please bless the hands that repaired it.” [Laughter] We have laughed about the fact that, “Yes, somebody did repair that food!”
Dave: That’s great!
Dennis: You know what I like about what you’ve done here? There’s a lot of talk about family values today, but you’ve really modeled the generational relay race we’re in. Your dad made a hand-off to you. You share the stories, throughout the book. There’s another story you tell about—when you were teenagers, about being loyal—
Dave: My brother stuck with me.
Dennis: —they had your back.
Dave: They had my back and my front!
Dennis: Go ahead and tell that story because our listeners need to hear it.
Dave: You’re going to make my face red. I’m glad this is radio. [Laughter] My parents did teach us that there were times where there were things just for the family. You stuck up for each other. You’d take a bullet. You’d take a hit for each other, but no one could have ever dreamed that my brother would come to my rescue like he did on this day.
I was at a children’s convention. [Laughter] I was seated there with my brother—we were little kids at the time. For some reason, I didn’t bother to get up to go to the bathroom. I had had a lot to drink and I just chose, for whatever reason, to relieve myself right there. I leaned over to my brother, as the guy was praying up front. I said, “Dude, I just did something stupid over here.” He glances over and sizes up the situation. I thought he would have cracked up laughing and started pointing at me, but something came over my brother. He said, “Okay, stick with me.” He took me to a bathroom, walking right in front of me, so that no one could see me. He went and found my parents and brought them to the bathroom. I came walking out. We had to walk all the way around this huge arena in the hallway. They flanked me on both sides and put someone right in front of me.
Bob: That’s great!
Dave: I like to say that there are times when your family has to have your back. On this particular night, my parents had my front, as well.
Dennis: Dave, you don’t know this about me—what I would say after I hear that, “I’m Dennis Rainey, and that’s real Family Life.” [Laughter]
Dave: Every family has got those stories!
Dennis: We do! That’s the way family was designed—to truly have our backs. We do need to be teaching our kids loyalty to one another. They do get it. At those points of crisis, they do get it.
Bob: Well, you look back at your own life—at those indelible marks that have come—that have shaped you—the memories that stick with you. They’re the times that included laughter, love, and warmth. They’re times when the family was together, and you were doing things on purpose.
I really appreciate the fact that you’ve shared some of the stories from your own family in the book that you’ve written, called Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter. It’s a part of the Faithful Family series. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information on the books that Dave has written, designed to help us build strong, healthy, godly families. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the three books by Dave Stone in the Faithful Family series when you go online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information about these books from Pastor Dave Stone. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and our toll-free number is: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
You know, all that we’ve talked about here today is a part of what moms and dads can do to anchor their kids in a rooted faith—one that produces character; one that produces godly qualities in a son or a daughter’s life. That’s our desire, as parents—we want to see our kids anchored in a faith that will last them a lifetime. We want to see that passed on to future generations.
We had a conversation about that, not long ago, with Dr. Steve Farrar. This month, we are making CDs of that conversation available to those of you who can help support this ministry with a donation. We are listener-supported. When you call, or go online, or mail in a donation, you are joining with us in the mission of FamilyLife. We are linking arms to see every home become a godly home. That’s our goal—that is desire—here, at FamilyLife Today. You can make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Just click the button that says, “I CARE”, when you go online. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Ask for the CDs from Steve Farrar when you call us. Or request the CDs when you write to us and mail in a donation. Our mailing address is: FamilyLife Today, P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, make sure you’re back with us again tomorrow. Dave Stone’s going to be here again. We’re going to talk about raising selfless kids in a self-centered culture. I hope you can tune in for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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