FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Dad’s Role

with Dennis Rainey | June 14, 2017
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When a man becomes a dad he does not fully grasp both the immense challenge and rewards. Author and speaker Dennis Rainey shares how a dad must win as a manager of his family. What kind of imprint did your dad leave on your life? What kind do you want to leave on your kids?

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • When a man becomes a dad he does not fully grasp both the immense challenge and rewards. Author and speaker Dennis Rainey shares how a dad must win as a manager of his family. What kind of imprint did your dad leave on your life? What kind do you want to leave on your kids?

  • 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.

When a man becomes a dad he does not fully grasp both the immense challenge and rewards. Dennis Rainey shares how a dad must win as a manager of his family.

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Dad’s Role

With Dennis Rainey
June 14, 2017
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Bob: Do you ever find yourself intimidated as a dad?  What is it that intimidates you?  Here’s Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: I’ve got a good friend who is the president of a corporation. He said: “You know, Dennis, I’ve been able to lead our employees—some 700 of them—to nearly 100 million in sales; but when I sit down at the breakfast table or the dinner table with those little kids,”—he said—“I’m scared to death to say anything to lead them spiritually. I don’t know what to do!  How do I lead them?” 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. One of the things Dennis Rainey likes to say is that courage is doing your duty in the face of fear. So, do you ever find yourself scared to do your duty as a dad?  We’ll hear more from Dennis today. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I have to believe some of our listeners are saying:



 “That doesn’t sound like Dennis Rainey!  Are you sure that was Dennis Rainey?”—what we just played.

Dennis: In another life. [Laughter] This was in 1994—we had six kids, ages 10 to 20. That was in Pittsburgh.

Bob: FamilyLife Today had been on the air for two years—

Dennis: Right.

Bob: —at that point.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: You and Barbara were right in the thick of—

Dennis: We were in the thick of it. I think—well, let’s see. We would have had four teenagers—three or four teenagers—at that time.

Bob: Yes; and you and Barbara had gone to Pittsburgh to speak at one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. One of the things that we always talk about at the getaway is the importance of a dad being a dad and a mom being a mom, and we kind of spell out what the job description is for moms and dads. And you were speaking in Pittsburgh about your job as a dad.

Dennis: And it’s one of the messages the speakers fight over; because who doesn’t totally enjoy just talking about the weighty responsibility of shaping the character, the conscience, and the spiritual life of the next generation?



Bob: So, here is a little vintage audio from FamilyLife Today, going back to 1994—Dennis Rainey—as he said, in another life—[Laughter]—talking about being a dad.

[Recorded Message] 

Dennis: “Dad”—just the very word evokes an emotional twinge in our hearts. You and I, as men, have been given the responsibility—not only of leading, loving, and caring for our wives—but also the sacred privilege of being a dad. Gentlemen, there are little eyes watching us like little radar units focusing in on us, wanting so much and so desperately to be loved by a man called Dad and to have that approval that they so desperately need.

Letter “A” in your outline says:



“Dad is the leader of his family. He is a manager,”—a manager. You are the manager of your home. I love what Benjamin Hooks writes here—he says, with tongue in cheek: “He who thinketh he leadeth, and turn around to find no one following, is merely taking a walk.”  [Laughter]  Dad is a manager; and as a manager, he leads his family in a direction: “Where are you headed, gentlemen, with your family?  Where are you taking them?  Where are the horizons?  Where are the vistas you’re going for?” 

May I let you in on a little conviction of mine?  I believe one of the reasons why the Christian family has lost its saltiness and flavor is because we, as men, have no vision for the future.



Our vision is all encircled in material things. We are not taking a tribe of people—or a woman and children—in a direction of value, and character, and posterity for the future. Gentlemen, if we don’t—if we don’t go forward and take our families in that direction, then who will? 

If you and I abdicate—and give up, and step back, and become passive, and let someone else take over and become the manager—then, someone’s got to lead. Do you know who it usually is?—our wives. There are far too many homes today where men are there in title only, but they have given up. They have become passive—another word for passive is lazy.

Guys, I work hard, too; but you know what?



Instead of plugging in the tube—and unplugging from reality and just becoming that amoeba that wants to relax—I fight it!  Somedays, I don’t win; but I’m winning more than I’m losing at home.

“Point ‘B’: Dad’s heart helps him shepherd his family. He is a minister.”  I’ve got a good friend who is the president of a corporation. He said: “You know, Dennis, I’ve been able to lead our employees—some 700 of them—to several million in profits / nearly 100 million sales—but I can tell you the truth, Dennis,”—he said—“When I sit down at the breakfast table or the dinner table with those little kids, those kids looking me in the eye—those beady little eyes”—he said—“I’m scared to death to say anything to lead them spiritually. I don’t know what to do!  How do I lead them?” 

Look at Malachi 4:6. This is a great one—I’m claiming this for our generation:



“And He will restore the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”  We need a fresh revival of men, who unashamedly love their children / who’ve got a relationship with them and who will deny gain and success to make their families work. What are you building, gentlemen?  Are you building relationships or kingdoms? 

I’ve got a question in my notes. I want you to write it down: “What do you remember most about your father?”  As you think about that, let me tell you about my dad. I can recall him slamming the door when he came through the doorway at 5:30 or 6 o’clock in the evening—it rattled the entire house. He wore Old Spice aftershave, and he always smelled like propane or gasoline, which he pumped for nearly 45 years.


I can recall, as a young lad, crawling up in his lap and going to sleep against his chest and his hairy arms, smelling his perspiration of a hard day’s work. And I can recall, as I grew up, how I would walk in—I would take his newspaper, and I’d pull it down, and say, “Hey, Dad, let’s play catch.”  More than often, he would lift his tired body out of that seat of that easy chair that wore his imprint. He would put on his mitt and go out front in some grass that was browned by August and play catch with a young boy.

They used to call him Hook Rainey. They called him Hook Rainey because he was a lefty; he had a curve ball that would go in there and just fall off the table, they said, right before it came to the plate—Hook Rainey.

I remember going, at Christmastime with Hook Rainey, to deliver Christmas presents to people who were poor.



And I remember a funeral that brought out a third of the town—500 people. You see, he didn’t live in a big city, where you could mask it and hide it. He did business, day in and day out, where he grew up. One man said upon his death—he said, “I never heard a negative word about Hook Rainey.”  His integrity was beyond imagination—the highest. He would let people cheat him before he would take advantage of them. Today, although he is dead, he lives. [Emotion in voice] He lives in the memory of a man who watched him—who, today, draws on his integrity and the model in my own life.  I miss him.

I’ve got a question I want you to write down in your notes, gentlemen: 



“How do you want to be remembered?” When your boys come to a FamilyLife conference 25/30 years from now—with a young lady they’re getting ready to marry, and they sit in this room—what are they going to say about you?  Gentlemen, every one of us in this room is going to leave a legacy of some sort. Whether you have children or not, we are influencing people by the virtue of where we are in our culture and in our society. What will be the legacy that you leave? 

“Point ‘C’: “Dad’s character provides the basis for how he leads. He is a model.”  Look at Exodus 18. The context for this passage right here is—Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, comes up to him one day and says, “Moses, you’re going to wear out the people and yourself too.”  He says, “Moses, you’ve, basically, got to delegate and find some leaders.”  Jethro gives Moses some key advice on the qualifications for whom to entrust with responsibility and to give that responsibility to them:



“Furthermore, you shall select, Moses, out of all the people, able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain. And you shall place them over them as leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”  You know what is central to this right here? Write one word underneath here—“character.”  And we’ll find out in just a moment that leadership demands character.

Dad is, first of all, the family manager—“’A’: He must manage his household and keep his children under control.”  First Timothy 3:4 says, “He must be one who manages his own household well keeping his children under control with all dignity.” 

Could I ask you a question?  “What would happen if you switched the energy you give your business with the energy you give your home?—and you gave the energy that you now give at home to your business / and the energy you now give at your business to home?



“What would happen to your business / what would happen to work?—what would happen to home?” 

I know that’s an unfair question; because we work many, many hours away from the family unit. But many of us are so caught off guard by this that we give almost all our energy. The problem is—not that we would want to switch it 100 percent—but there would be some kind of balance in our life here, gentlemen. We’ve got to have it—the next generation demands it. Management demands that we be close to the people we manage—and that means time / that means being close to them.

There is a principle of archery here. If the target was set up over here, by that wall over there, and I pulled back—if you guys know anything about my abilities in archery, you’d clear out—but if we moved the target on this stage, then, maybe a few of you guys here ought to move.



Why?—because error increases with distance. And you and I, as the managers and leaders of our home, must reduce the distance between us and the people that we lead. You can’t lead from afar—you’ve got to be there! 

“Point ‘B’: “Dad manages by being prayerfully dependent upon God.”  Prayerfully dependent upon God—asking God to help him lead: “God, I don’t know what I’m doing. If You don’t lead me up from here, I’m not going. And I can’t lead if You don’t help me lead and give me wisdom of what to do. Help me head off things at the pass before we get into a crisis.” 

Gentlemen, most men today lead like a goal-line stand on defense. Their backs are to their own goal line there; and they are protecting it—trying to keep the enemy from running over from a yard out.



But guys, that’s not the way we need to be leading. We need to have an offensive plan that’s marching at mid-field—that’s going for a touchdown. Too much of parenting today is defensive, and it needs to be offensive parenting. As the managers and leaders of our home, that responsibility begins with me as the head of my home.

Look at this verse, Proverbs 24:[3,4]: “By wisdom, a house is built. By understanding, it is established. And by knowledge, its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”  Underline these words, would you?—wisdom, understanding, knowledge. Let’s look at those in reverse order.

First of all, “He manages with knowledge.”  I like a statement that Jim Dobson’s father wrote to him in the ‘70s. I’m going to read this to you because Dr. Dobson, who has had a powerful impact on the family, was influenced by his father also.



His dad wrote him this letter about his own misplaced priorities—he says:

Your daughter is growing up, Jim, in the wickedest section of a world, much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born. I have observed that the greatest delusion is to suppose that our children will be devout Christians simply because their parents have been or that any of them will enter into the Christian faith through any other means other than through their parents’ deep travail of prayer and faith.

But listen to what he says:

But this prayer demands time—time that cannot be given if it is all signed, and conscripted, and laid on the altar of career ambition. Failure for you, at this point, would make you a mere success in your occupation—a very pale and washed out affair indeed.


He read that on the way to a speaking engagement in Hawaii; and, not long after, decided to film his film series that’s now been seen by millions. “He manages with knowledge.” 

Do you know what’s going on around your kids?—what the trouble they are facing?  Look at Proverbs 27[:23], here: “Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds.”  A good shepherd’s got to be close to the sheep and care for them carefully and watch over them.

“Number 2”—look at this: “He manages with understanding.”  He knows what’s going on, and he knows what they have to handle. Do you know what one of the key things your children and mine have to learn how to deal with?—is failure—not just succeeding, but learning how to deal with their own failures. I love a statement that Lincoln made to the nation torn in the middle of the Civil War. He said—and I quote: “I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise.” 



You see, as fathers, we can get so focused on where our kids blow it that we miss the point of teaching them, through their failures, and teaching that little boy to become a man—to be faithful / to be responsible—or that little girl, through her mistakes, how to become a young woman and a lady.

“Point 3: He manages with wisdom.”  I want you to write a definition of wisdom out here: “Wisdom is skill in everyday living.”  It takes the raw pieces and components of life and fits them together to make something meaningful, skillfully. Are you a man of wisdom?—taking the components of life and training your children / equipping your wife to make meaning out of this? 

Chuck Swindoll writes a little statement that is called “My Dad.” I want to read it to you, because it talked about how his dad used all three of these as he raised him:


My dad died last night. He left like he lived—quietly, graciously, with dignity. Without demands, or harsh words, or even a frown, he surrendered himself, a tired, frail, humble gentleman into the waiting arms of his Savior. Death, selfish and cursed enemy of man, had won another battle.

As I stroked the hair from his forehead and kissed him goodbye, a hundred boyhood memories played around in my head: When I learned to ride a bike, he was there. When I wrestled with the multiplication table, his quick wit erased the hassle. When I discovered the adventure of driving a car, he was near, encouraging me. When I mentioned a young woman I had fallen in love with, he pulled me aside and talked to me straight about being responsible for her welfare and her happiness. And when I did a hitch in the Marine Corps, the discipline I had learned from him made the transition easier.

From him—[Chuck writes]—I learned how to open oyster shells, and fix crab gumbo, and chili, and popcorn, and make rafts out of old inner tubes and gunny sacks.



I was continually amazed at his ability to make things out of old pieces, and tie fragile mantles on old Coleman® lanterns, keep a fire going in the rain, play a harmonica with his hands behind his back, and keep three strong-willed kids from tearing the house down.

Last night, I realized I had him to thank for my deep love for America, and for knowing how to tenderly care for my wife, and for laughing at impossibilities, and for some of the habits I’ve picked up—like approaching people with a positive spirit rather than a negative one—staying with a task until it’s finished, taking good care of my personal belongings, keeping my shoes shined, speaking up rather than mumbling, respecting authority, standing alone if necessary in support of my personal convictions rather than giving in to more popular opinions.


For these things, I am deeply indebted to the man who raised me.

Certain smells and sounds—[he writes]—now remind me of my dad: oyster stew, the ocean breeze, smoke from an expensive cigar, the nostalgic whine of a harmonica, a camping lantern and white gas, car polish, fun songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s, freshly- mowed grass, and a shrill whistle from his father to his kids around suppertime.

[He finishes—he says:] Last night, I said, “Goodbye.”  I’m still trying to believe it; but my father leaves in his legacy a well-marked Bible I treasure, a series of feelings that I need to deepen my roots, and a thousand memories that comfort me as I replace denial with acceptance and praise. He died last night, or did he?  The memories are as fresh as this morning’s sunrise.

Wow!  Men, we’re going to leave an imprint for future generations. You and I, as fathers, have one of the greatest privileges—to imprint young lives, who will carry on into future generations.



Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to the first part of a message given to fathers, back in 1994—Dennis Rainey speaking at a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. That may be a few decades old—

Dennis: That’s what I was thinking.

Bob: —it’s still timely.

Dennis: It is still timeless. Dads have got to step up, assume the responsibility, and realize that they’re—they are shaping the next generation. They need to assume their responsibility and do it well.

Bob: You spent a lot of time in the book that you wrote, Stepping Up—you talked about being a dad, a lot, in that book. It was a call to men to step up and embrace our responsibilities, as men; but being a dad is a big part of that.



Dennis: It is; and for a father to reach down to a boy—who’s on that boyhood step, or the adolescent step, or even the early manhood step—and to coach him about what it means to grow into manhood and assume the responsibilities that men must embrace. Then, set their focus on the steps ahead of being a mentor and a patriarch. By the way, the word, “patriarch,” is not a dirty word. It is a noble calling when you do it God’s way.

Bob: That’s something that you spend some time on in your book, Stepping Up. You talk about the steps of a man’s lifetime—the journey that we’re all on—from boyhood, to adolescence, to manhood, to mentor, and then, to patriarch. It really is a noble thing to aspire to. In fact, I’d encourage our listeners—if you’ve not read Dennis’s book, Stepping Up, or if you have read it and you know someone who would benefit from a copy—



—you can order it from us, online, at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.

Of course, there are other resources that Dennis has written for dads. There’s Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date. There’s the Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys book, and there’s the video series for men—the Stepping Up® video series that would be great for a group of guys to go through or for fathers and sons to go through together. Go to or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’d like more information on the resources that are available or if you’d like to order.

I think the point is—we all ought to be trying to grow as men, as husbands, as dads. Do something intentional so that you can be a better man—a better husband / better dad—a month from now than you are today. Really, that’s behind all we do, here, at FamilyLife. Our goal is to see every home become a godly home. That means that the first step is growing in godliness, as an individual and, then, knowing how to apply that in your marriage and in your family.



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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear more from Dennis Rainey about what God has called us to as fathers. There’s more to it than just being the family manager, which is what we heard about today. Dennis will unpack more tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with 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.

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

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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