FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Dad: A Godly Model

with Dennis Rainey | June 15, 2017
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Dennis Rainey shares the value of dad as a minister and model. A wise shepherd leads his sheep at a pace at which they can thrive at and prosper. Part of that equation is being a godly model for his family, too.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dennis Rainey shares the value of dad as a minister and model. A wise shepherd leads his sheep at a pace at which they can thrive at and prosper. Part of that equation is being a godly model for his family, too.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dennis Rainey shares the value of dad as a minister and model. A wise shepherd leads his sheep at a pace at which they can thrive at and prosper. Part of that equation is being a godly model for his family, too.

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Dad: A Godly Model

With Dennis Rainey
June 15, 2017
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Bob: Back in the early ‘70s, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young told us all that, as parents, we ought to teach our children well. The question for us today is: “Are we purposefully teaching our children anything?” Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: I’ve got, in my stuff, a sheet of paper—“Twenty-five Things I Am Teaching My Children”—little things like: “Becoming a man of character,” / “Becoming a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit.” What top five values are you imparting to your kids?

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. As a dad, what exactly are you teaching your children? And are you being intentional about it? We’ll hear more from Dennis Rainey today. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. With Father’s Day in view, we thought we ought to talk about the responsibility we have, as men, to be dads if God has given us the privilege of being fathers. To do that, we’ve unearthed some—  


Dennis: —fossils!! [Laughter]

Bob: Exactly!

Dennis: I never thought of myself as being a fossil; but on tape, I am!

Bob: We carbon-dated—

Dennis: There may be some listeners who think I’ve even begun to look like a fossil.

Bob: We carbon-dated this audio, and it goes all the way back to 1994. You and Barbara were speaking at a Weekend to Remember®marriage getaway. Folks will hear you referencing “Letter ‘A’” and “Number 1,” because you are taking folks through an outline at the getaway.

Dennis: If folks want to go to the Weekend to Remember, they can expect messages like this. You’re not going to hear a vintage message.

Bob: No!

Dennis: But you’ll hear a relevant message to the issues you face today at the Weekend to Remember.


Bob: We’ve already heard in this message—you talked about the importance of dad being a manager in the family. But there’s more to it than that as we hear in Part Two of the message.

[Recorded Message]

Dennis: Not only is Dad the family manager, he is also the family minister—not your pastor, but you!

“Letter ‘A’: He shepherds his flock.” First Peter 5:2: “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily according to the will of God; and not with sordid gain but with eagerness, nor yet as lording it over those allotted you to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

“Point ‘B’: A good dad ministers to his flock by caring for their needs.”

“Number 1: He considers it to be a privilege to care for them.” He does it voluntarily, the Scripture says.


“Point 2: He makes them a priority.” He does it with all eagerness. His calendar reflects it. He spends time with his kids. And it’s not just the quality of time; it is the quantity of time—it’s both—it’s not either/or.

One of my favorite things to do with our kids—and although, it’s becoming a little bit of a problem—is to take them out on dates. I’ll never forget the first date that I had with Ashley. She was a little over three years’ old—chubby cheeks / hair coming out the side with little ribbons. I called her on the phone from the office—I said: “Ashley, this is Dad. I would really like to have a hot date with you tonight, Sweetheart.” Well, I heard this little laugh and giggle in her voice—she says: “Mommy! Daddy wants to take me out on a date!”

Barbara was all prompted—they went back in the bedroom / they got [her] all dressed. I pulled up in front of the house, went to the door, [knocking sound] knocked on the door. There’s Barbara—and I said, “Yes, ma’am; is your daughter home?” [Laughter]



Ashley was around the corner in the dining room there; and she’s laughing, and giggling, and stuff—I mean, it was great!

She comes out, and we hold hands; we walk down the steps of the front porch, out to the car. I walk around the door and opened—we had an old Rambler then that I married into—it was a bench seat. I let her sit right there by the door, closed the door, started driving down the road. We’re talking, and we’re laughing about what we are going to do.

I said: “Let’s go to one of these places where you can just eat what you want to eat. We can just pick and choose.” We go to this restaurant and we get chocolate pie, chocolate milk, and chocolate ice cream. [Laughter] And we laugh about what mom would be saying right now—[Laughter]—if she only knew that we were having all this sugar! [Laughter]  Then, after that, we went to the movie. It was great!



She crawled all over the seats. It was Bambi. I mean, she ate popcorn—we spilled it—and Cokes. We did it all—we did it right!

Well, after the flick was over, we were driving home, and there was only the little green light of that Rambler speedometer shining in our faces. I turned to her and I said, “Ashley, what was your favorite thing about tonight?” I’ll never forget this, guys. Before she answered, a thousand thoughts raced through my mind—I thought: “Well, let’s see. It’d probably be the chocolate pie she really liked / thought that was cool. No;”—I thought—“it’d probably be the popcorn / we laughed about that a lot.”

And her little arm just reached over and patted me on the shoulder; and she said, “Just being with you, Dad; just being with you.” Guys, I became a pool of butter, right there, sitting. [Laughter]

You know what she exemplified, gentlemen? She exemplified what all your children really want—



—that’s to be with you. They don’t want your stuff / your things, and titles, and accumulation—never! The relationship?—yes! If your son is nine years, you have nine years left. If he’s twelve, you’ve got six years left; and if you’ve got one that’s sixteen, you’ve got two summers left to begin to impact their lives before you turn them loose to go to college / to lose them. What are you going to accomplish in those years you have remaining with those children? What’s your vision? Where are you headed?

“Number 3: He shepherds and leads his family by being a model,” / by being an example.

“Number 4: He meets their needs.” He shepherds and cares for them.

A good shepherd never moves faster than the sheep can follow, though, guys. Some of you are going to come back from this conference, loaded for bear! You’re going to go back and take your three-year-old and want to teach him the entire pre-marriage training. [Laughter] It will short-circuit the poor little fellow, right there!


Write these down, guys:

“What’s your plan for”—Number 1—“sex education?” You got one?

Secondly: “What about a fire drill? Do your kids know what to do in an emergency?” What if they walked in and found Mom passed out?—do they know what to do? Have you talked about that with them? Have you trained them how to handle a crisis?

“What about self-protection?”—when you’re met, after school, by a bully and his friend, like I was? They tried to make me eat a—a dead sparrow. [Laughter] It wasn’t very tasty—they were bigger than I was. [Laughter]

“What about de-programming them?” Do you know what words they are hearing at school? Ha-ha! I wish I could take you into our kitchen the other night and let you overhear a story that they had—trying to explain an obscene gesture our kids had seen. Oh, man!


You talk about a great conversation. I bet I turned 54 different shades of red before that baby was over. You know what? It was great, because I had a chance to get the Bible open—and had a chance to talk about some of these things, and I learned some things myself. Interesting!

Look at the 23rd Psalm, just the first sentence: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Write a question there: “Do my kids want?” Are you shepherding them / caring for them? “Helping them lie down in green pastures,”—making that home a security station?

Could I give you a fifth point to add to your outline before we turn the page? “He tells them he loves them.” Guys, do you take those kids and hug them and run your hands through their hair? I pray every night with our kids. I always put my hands on them, because I think there is something about touching that we need to have lots of in the family today.



The last point: “Dad is the family model.” I’ll never forget a quote that was given to me, by Albert Einstein, to a group of young scientists in the laboratory one day. These young aspiring scientists were seated there. Einstein pointed his boney finger, pushed his glasses up on his nose, and he says, “Gentlemen, try not to become men of success; rather become men of value.” I thought, “What a great word for our culture today,”—to impart this to our kids: “Son, I want you to become a man of success—no, no, no, sonnot a man of success—that’s what the world will tell you. But I want you, son—I want you to become a man of value.”

Well, gentlemen, to do that, we’ve got to be a model—“Letter ‘A’” here says: “Dad must model God’s truth in his own life.” You’ve got to ask yourself the question, gentlemen, as I’ve asked myself: “Where do you want to succeed?”—


—and a second question: “Where must you succeed?”

Gentlemen, if you and I do not raise a crop of young men, who know what it means to be men, then who is going to lead our corporations, our factories, our banks, our nation in the future generation? Today, I believe America’s greatest problem is in the family unit; because we are not creating a crop that is whole and total for the next generation. We are creating a bunch that are broken by divorce in the home, and a lack of a model, and kids who don’t know what it means to be a man. When you’ve got the women’s lib movement moving in and redefining what it means to be a woman, what does that do to all the men?—makes them very insecure.

So guys our work is cut out for us. You and I’ve got to model for the generation that is coming up what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father.


Look at this verse [Psalm 78:72]: “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart.” Guys, I fail. I am sorry to admit, but my humanity is still with me so much. I wish I could strip it away.

The other day, Benjamin and I were out on our property. Our house is located on a ridge overlooking a lake—it butts up to some property the city owns / it’s a park. The park has no road, just a trail through it. It’s just the boonies—there’s just millions and millions of trees there. Our view of the lake is being taken away by these pines and oaks that are growing up.

I got right down to the edge of our property line to begin to eliminate a few of these pine trees and oaks that were taking our view away. There was this big oak that was just this far across the property line on the city. I looked at that and I looked at the property line—I said: “You know, these property lines aren’t that exact anyway out here. We’ll just get our chain saw out, Benjamin; and we’ll take care of that.” [Dennis makes a chain saw sound and a tree falling]



All the time, I’m looking at these little orange markers on these trees, where they mark the property lines—it’s only that far across the line.

Well, I’m out on the porch, reading my Bible. I look down the hill; and there’s that tree down there still, pointed down the hill. I remember Benjamin saying, “Isn’t that on the city property, Dad? [Laughter] “No; it’s just about that far. I mean, property lines aren’t that exact. I mean, hey, millions of trees—they’ll never miss it.”

You know what? I got to where I didn’t even want to go out on our back porch and look at our view; because the Lord, Himself, began to go [honking noise from Dennis]. I looked at that tree and I go: Oh, man! You’ve got to be kidding me. Have I got to go to the city and confess my sin?” [Laughter] The Lord said, “Yes!”

So, I call down to City Hall—found out who I had to confess my sin to. I was trying to find some oblique engineer down there who wouldn’t care. [Laughter]


You think the Lord would let me off like that?—never!  My sons listened to me on the phone. Finally, I had to call a guy, who’s almost a neighbor—oh, that’s really good to call a neighbor, who works out there. I said: “I cut down a tree and I’m wrong. I want to make restitution.” I tell you guys—that tree is still down, and it is a memorial to my humanity—and it stinks! But you know what? I taught my son through that—I said: “Your dad made a very, very serious error here; but he corrected it.” I tell Benjamin, and Samuel, and my other children: “You know, your dad may not be perfect, but he really wants to do what is right.”


“What a man is determines what a man does,”—that is an awesome statement—the character of the man determines that man. A great statement I heard once: “You do not build a marble tower out of the mixture of mud and manure,”—that’s exactly right.

“Point 2: A man’s character is shaped by his relationship with God.” There’s where the real hope for me lies, gentlemen—is that God has not given up on me. He really hasn’t; He still loves me.

“Point ‘B’: Dad must transfer God’s truth down through the generations.” Psalm 78:5-7 talks about a relay—a relay. I used to run relays. There are several ways to lose a relay—slow starts, sloppy handoffs, and running out of line. We did it all when I was in high school—it was a crummy relay team. [Laughter]

You know what? I want to get out of the blocks, as a man, and start. I may fall and stumble, but I’m going to get back up. If you find me, 20 years from now, you can ask me if I’m still running; because, gentlemen, the marathon is cross country.


It’s not just the guy who finishes at the finish line who makes the impact—it’s the guy who finishes with his torch still burning. I want to run, and I want to—I want to give that torch to my children. I want them to carry it to the next generation; because this next generation is going to have fabulous, incredible opportunities for preaching the truth of Jesus Christ. The light always shines brightest in the darkness.

“Number 1: Dad must have the Word of God in his own heart.” Gentlemen, our lives may be the doorway through which sin can gain entrance into our family’s life; or it can be a doorway and a window where fresh air of truth can enter our homes and our children and permeate their lives.

Look at “Point 2: Dad uses daily opportunities to equip his children.” He is diligent:



“These words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.” Underline those words: “…shall be on your heart.” It’s like a 50-pound sack of flour—it shall be a burden, gentlemen! “As the sun comes up every day,”—the Hebrew says here—“it should be on your heart.” You should be burdened by your responsibility to lead, and care, and shepherd, and minister, and model it before your kids.

You, literally, should be stooped over, guys, by the burden—a little weighted every day to lead your family—“…and you shall teach them”— because you’re burdened—  “diligently to your sons, and you shall talk of them when you sit, when you walk, when lie down, when you rise up.” In other words, you shall teach as a way of life—you watch a commercial, and it communicates wrong values / use that opportunity to say, “Hey, what did that just tell us right there?” Some of those commercials are R-rated.



I’ve got in my to-do pad here—where I keep all my stuff—a sheet of paper that started out being “Twenty-five Things I Am Teaching My Kids.” It is right across the page from my to-do list: “Twenty-five Things I Am Teaching My Children.” It started out being 25 / it’s now up to 40—little things like: “Being faithful in little things,” “Becoming a man of character,” “Becoming a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit.” It reminds me, gentlemen—as I look at all my stuff on my list, which is always full—of what is going to be important beyond this next day that I face to the future. “What top five values are you imparting to your kids?” You got 5?—10?—15?—25?—take your pick.

“Point 3: Dad structures formal teaching times to instruct his children.” [Proverbs 4:1]: “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction.”


Well, in conclusion: “What is a successful dad?” Three points to answer that question: “Letter ‘A’: A successful dad must be gripped with the importance of his responsibility to his family,”—he needs time with his children. Secondly, “Point ‘B’: A successful dad must ask God to do a work in his heart,”—he needs a touch from God. And “3: A successful dad must persevere as a leader by conquering fear and failure,”—he needs toughness in his heart. Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb, and yet no one would consider Thomas Edison a failure. We are to learn from our failures, and persevere, and be tough to finish the race.



Gentlemen, there’s a great question asked in “Point D: What kind of legacy will you leave?” You see, gentlemen, I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts; when, suddenly, I recognized that I, Dennis Rainey, had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it is a great relief.


Bob: Again, we have been listening to Part Two of a message from a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. If you didn’t recognize the speaker’s voice, it’s because it’s 23 years ago that that recording was made, back in 1994. You were speaking at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. I know the getaway is all about marriage; but we feel like it’s important, in that context, to say a little bit about being a mom and a dad; right?


Dennis: We do. I just want to say to the dad, who’s listening, who doesn’t feel like he’s done his duty. Pick the subject that we’ve talked about here—being a family minister, a family model, the spiritual leader of your family—just make it the focus of a prayer:

God, would You help me, as a helpless parent / a helpless dad, assume this responsibility, with excitement, with the privilege of impacting the next generation, and give me wisdom to know how to address the needs of my family? Help me to value my wife—and her opinions and her values, as a mom—and what she thinks is important. Give us unity, as a couple, and help us anticipate the issues that we are about to face in these next seasons of parenting.



Bob, I think if a dad will pray an honest prayer—and what dad hasn’t felt those emotions of: “This is a heavy weight. Who can do this thing?”

Bob: Right.

Dennis: This is an amazing assignment, both in terms of privilege, but also responsibility. But cry out to God—He’ll meet you in your point of weakness. I think He loves the prayer of a helpless parent.

Bob: And keep sharpening the saw too—I mean, keep growing, as a husband and as a father. Keep seeking ways to remind yourself of what is true and to grow more in your faith and in your assignment. Look for people who can mentor you. Get equipped with resources like the book you’ve written—like the book, Stepping Up—a great book for men to read to help them understand what it is to be God’s man.

Or get tools like: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date, or Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys—resources that are available so that you can feel confident addressing the issues you are going to face, as a dad.



Get the Passport2Purity® kit / get the Passport2Identity for older kids—take your kids and have some of these experiences with them. Here, at FamilyLife, we want to equip you for this role that God has called you to. You can go to our website,, to see the range of resources that are available to you, as a dad.

Again, the website is If there is something you know you’d like to order, call 1-800-FL-TODAY and you can order by phone. Again—either, online, at or call—if you have any questions or you want to place an order—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

By the way,that’s what we are all about, here, at FamilyLife. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We want to help every home become a godly home.


So, the resources we create, the events that we host, our website, this daily radio program—it all has one goal in mind—that’s to help you live out the most important relationships you have in this life: your relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your kids and the rest of your family.

I want you to know—every time you donate to support this ministry, you are helping others with your donation. You’re providing access to the content we have, here, at FamilyLife to young husbands, young wives, moms and dads, who are in the beginning stages of raising their kids. You are expanding the reach of this ministry with every donation. We are grateful for the partnership we have with you. If you are a regular listener to FamilyLife Today, maybe you’ve never made a donation; we would love to hear from you. You can donate, online, at; you can call to donate at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”


Or you can mail your donation today to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to have a chance to hear from a man whose life and ministry was profoundly marked by his own father. You’ll meet Pastor H.B. Charles tomorrow as he talks about his dad and the role his father had in his life. Hope you can be with us 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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

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