How do you get your family to operate as a team? Jefferson Bethke gives his insight to start creating a family legacy.
About the Guest
FamilyTeams.com, an online initiative equipping families to live as a multi-generational team on mission. They live in Maui with their daughters, Kinsley and Lucy, and son, Kannon. To say hi or to learn more, go to: jeffandalyssa.com.
How do you get your family to operate as a team? Jefferson Bethke gives his insight to start creating a family legacy.
Ann: So Dave, you were the chaplain for the Detroit Lions for over 30 years. How many head coaches did you go through?
Dave: Well, when you lose football games, and you don’t win seasons, you get new football coaches. [Laughter] I went through, I think, 12.
Ann: Okay; so based on that, how important is it to have a head coach that can really lead the team well?
Dave: Oh, it’s critical! In fact, I saw it happen so many times; I could tell you when the coach lost the locker room. Sure enough, when the season ended, he was fired; they got a new guy; and it lasted two or three years. Again, I saw that 12 different times. You’re bringing this up, why? [Laughter]
Ann: Yes! “So what’s that have to do with family?”
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife App.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
As we think of ourselves as parents/moms and dads, do you think that we’re the coaches of our teams?
Dave: Yes, we’re the head coaches.
Dave: We really are. And we can lose a family, too, if we don’t do it well. I know we’re not the only ones who think that. We have Jefferson Bethke in the studio today. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Jefferson: Thank you. It’s fun to be back.
Dave: You know, your new book, Take Back Your Family—
Dave: —you talk quite a bit about this. I know many people know you, because you wrote, originally, the book, Jesus ˃ Religion, which became a New York Times bestseller.
Dave: Well, this one, Take Back Your Family, obviously, now you’re writing as a husband/as a dad—
Ann: So you’re speaking; you’re an author; but you’re super-passionate about families.
Jefferson: Yes; what we talked about last episode, some of the bigger-vision stuff, but I think what you guys are/I loved where you land on this next one with coaches and teams. That’s one of the core things we care about. We believe that God designed families to be strong teams; right?—teams that can actually go on mission for Him in His world to do the Garden mandate of reigning, and ruling, and subduing—all of these things is in the model that Jesus teaches us, by the way, which isn’t with overt power, but actually, sacrifice, love, etc., just in the same way that Jesus reigns and rules.
Dave: Okay, back up one second;—
Dave: —because we did hit it a little bit in a previous session about reigning and ruling.
Dave: Give us a picture of God’s design for the family. What do you mean by that?
Jefferson: Yes; so when you go back to Genesis—right?—where we get all of these original concepts of creation, of sin, of sexuality, of family, of marriage—all these different types of things—you see that God’s original design for family was to be/He created something to bring His reflection, divine goodness—that’s what it means to be an image-bearer essentially, too, by the way—and His blessing out into the world.
He didn’t create robots; He didn’t create a board of directors; He created a male and a female; right?
Ann: Yes, He didn’t create businesses to do that.
Jefferson: No, exactly!—which they can,—
Jefferson: —but that wasn’t His kind of, you know,—
Jefferson: —Step One or Intent One.
What He did is He created a family; that was His first idea. God was like, “How do I want to bring My goodness and blessing into the world? I’m going to create”—you know, it’s the long phrase that we use—“I’m going to create a multi-generational family team on mission.” And all of those phrases:
“multigenerational” comes from that “be fruitful and multiply.” Like you can’t do this project unless you have a bunch of kids; and those kids have to have a bunch of kids.
And then “team”; right?—“multigenerational family team”—a team, you actually wish to have people who are not like you; right? “I need someone who can fill in the gaps that I can’t,” and so that’s the team part.
And then, “on mission” would be, you know, how God says to: “be fruitful and multiply”; make beauty out of chaos; reign and rule; you know, “subdue”; all different types of things.
That’s off the original blueprint for family. Now, obviously, it’s also not a coincidence that the first place that Satan wanted to enter was in a family/in a marriage. The very first place he attacked, and the very first place that the curse fell, was through a marriage and a family. That drama’s been playing out ever since.
I do believe God has a vision for strong family teams. I think a lot of us, we hear that, and we think, “Oh, it must be the two parents, and the two kids, and a nice dog,” or whatever. It’s like, to me, the thing that is strong and powerful about the family team concept is it’s actually not the Western nuclear family concept.
To be a team just means to be a team: so some teams are going to have one coach; some teams are going to have two coaches; some teams are going to have a huge team; some teams are going to have a very small team; some teams are going to go through difficulty; some teams are going to have trades—I don’t know—you know what I mean? All those different types of things. I actually like that analogy, because it lets everyone fit; do you know what I mean?
Jefferson: When I think the nuclear ideal—this picture we have of getting the two parents, two kids, and a dog—a lot of parents of the families feel weighed down by shame with that; because they’re like: “I can’t be that,” or “I don’t look like that,” or “I’ve lost my chance,” or whatever.
When [it’s] this concept of, again, a team/a family team—and even on top of that, single people fit—the scriptural model is like links in a chain. It’s a web; and you are connected to a web, whether you’re single, whether you’re married, etc.
Dave: Yes, and when you started talking about that, one of the first thoughts I had was: “That helps me”—or any husband, any mom,—
Dave: —dad realize: “Our role is significant!
Ann: I was going to say,—
Dave: “It’s God’s plan!”
Ann: “We’re necessary.”
Jefferson: Yes, 100 percent.
Dave: It’s like, “Oh, I just thought we were this little…” No, no, no! God designed the family—
Dave: —to have a major impact. You say a multigenerational mission—
Dave: —to be outward-focused and impact the world.
Jefferson: Yes; the analogy I use in the book, which I think is helpful for some people—and of course, like analogies and metaphors, it breaks down at some point; so don’t poke it too hard—the way I say it is: “God created parents to be coaches. A lot of times, in the West, we default to babysitters”; right?
Jefferson: A babysitter is very successful, and you will pay them lots of money if they can do pretty much one thing: keep your kids safe.
Ann: Yes, and alive.
Jefferson: —and alive!
Jefferson: Keep your kids safe and alive; okay? And fed and entertained are maybe two and three; okay?
Now, no one would put any of those values under a coach’s job description. Now, it’s almost the opposite; right? I would even say sometimes coaches are trying to stretch players to a borderline of—not unsafe—but do you know what I mean?—just like a nudging. The way I put it in the book is: “I had coaches, growing up—because I played baseball my whole life—they believed in me more than I did. They had a vision of me that was farther than I could ever even picture; so they would push me there, because they knew—not because they didn’t like me or didn’t want me to be safe—but actually, they had a better, bigger vision for me.
That’s what it means, again, to be a coach. Coaches are primarily about future when babysitters are more about safety. Coaches are primarily about the mission; coaches are saying: “Here’s/we have a practice schedule,” “Here’s what games look like...” “Here’s where the championship is…” Those, by the way, are all very great metaphors for a family: “What is your championship?” “What is your mission?” “What do practices look like?” “What’s the point of you guys [your team] existing?” Again, a babysitter has none of that.
Another analogy, too, I don’t like in the West, is when we call families “the nest,”—you know what I mean?—like kids are flying the nest, or empty nest, or whatever. That’s a horrible analogy for family; right? Little birds start to grow up: they feed them a little; they keep them entertained; and then what do they do? They essentially kind of kick them off the ledge and say, “Well, figure it out”; right?
Ann: —and they never come back there.
Jefferson: Yes, they never come back; exactly. They never come back; and some of them die, because they fall off; and they can’t fly. That’s just like a horrible analogy for the family; right?
I think it should be more like: “Yes, you should go out,”—but again, it’s this reigning, and ruling, and stewarding, to then also kind of create a web—this multigenerational web of impact/of mission—of all these different types of things.
I use a bunch of examples in the book of families, who are doing this well. It’s difficult, and it takes decades! That’s the thing, too, I’ve got to tell people: “This is not like, ‘Do this wisdom, and your life will be better in five minutes!’”
Ann: You have something called your Scouting Report/—
Ann: —the Bethke Scouting Report.
Jefferson: Well, yes! This was just a fun little tool. Again, you can lean into the team stuff so far, because it’s such a perfect metaphor; right? There are only really two genres of our marketplace that do teams very well, and the family doesn’t—like we talked about last episode—because we’ve turned to consumer-oriented since the Industrial Revolution.
Jefferson: But there are still two places that do it really well: and it’s business, and it’s sports. Yes, I use a lot of sports analogies. One that I did there was: I realized, when I was playing college baseball, we always filled out these things called Scouting Reports on the other team: you know, “This person throws this many miles/hour”; “He has a good slider”; “He tends to do this in these pressure situations”; etc. It’s just like really knowing the other person.
I thought that was a fun thing to do for our own team. It’s a fun little way to encourage families, where I just say, “Hey! Can you fill out a Scouting Report on your kids?” We have it on our site, FamilyTeams.com. But it’s like: “What do they love?” “What do they not love?” “What are maybe some proclivities of sin?” or “What do you feel like the lie is they’re most tempted by?”—that’s a big one I think parents need to know! “That kid: what is the false narrative and lie, at a macro- level, they are most susceptible to?” I think every kid has like one or two.
Jefferson: You know, it’s just like this lie creeps in their head, gets in their brain, and Satan uses it: “So what’s the truth to that lie?” Your whole family comes alive when you start writing that stuff down and communicating it.
Ann: You know who else needs that?—is parents.
Jefferson: Exactly, yes.
Ann: Because I’m thinking of a husband, who feels like: “I’m not a good member of the team.
Ann: “I don’t have what it takes.
Ann: “My background is so messed up; I’m so flawed.
Ann: “I’m so wounded; I have nothing.”
Dave: He needs a wife, [who] will tell him how great he is. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes! For a spouse to say, “Here’s what you’re adding to the team…”
Dave: Well, let’s talk about this. You’ve got, you know, championship teams/great teams, have great coaches,—
Dave: —who understand the roles of their players.
Dave: You’ve been talking about understanding your family members: a Scouting Report.
Dave: What about a family that is blended?
Dave: You know, so we’ve got Ron Deal joining us. He’s the president of FamilyLife Blended®. That is all Ron thinks about.
Dave: And he’s a gift to the world. Ron, welcome to FamilyLife [Today.]Let’s talk about what this means for a blended family.
Ron: Hey! It’s good to be back with you guys again. Yes, I appreciate you invited me in. It’s a really important and interesting conversation for us to have; because there are lots of people, who have family structures that are wide and varied: single-parent families, blended families, adoptive families, multi-generational families living under one household.
You know, I think one of the important things that I’m hearing, embedded in what Jefferson is saying—and I hope I don’t get this wrong, so feel free to correct me if I am—it’s something I’ve been talking about for years. You know, sometimes we get so focused on structure that the message we inadvertently give to people, who don’t look like that nuclear family of the ‘50s and ‘60s, is that: “Somehow, you’re messed up, and wrong, and bad; because you don’t have this structure: two parents, 2.2 kids living in the home.”
What I hear, embedded in what you’re saying, is: “The qualities and attributes that are functional/that make up health are things that are true of every family structure.”
Ron: I mean, I think that’s, biblically, very important for us to stop and think about. All of the things that Jesus talks about that we need to do, and who we need to be as people, has nothing to do with the structure of your home. It has to do with who you are, how you live, and how you invite other people into that process beside you.
When you’re talking about family team, think about a team that is highly functional: people play their part; they’re getting better at their role and their place in the home. It doesn’t really matter whether you have 40 players on the team or 30 players on the football team, with a bunch of people sitting on the sideline. What matters is that people are doing their part.
Ann: Ron, what happens, though, when you’re blending a family, and you now have these new stepkids—
Ann: —and you’re excited about your team; but your stepkids are thinking, “I don’t want to be a part of this team, because I was on a team before. I’m still wanting to be on that old team.”
Ron: Yes, there are definitely difficulties trying to get to definitions of relationships. Thinking back to the Detroit Lions, every time you got a new head coach, somebody was bound to say, “You know, I still like the old coach.”
Dave: Oh, yes! [Laughter]
Ron: But then there’s somebody else on the team saying, “No, no, no! We need some fresh perspective. This person is going to be great.”
Well, okay; so we have some people that are loyal to the head coach and some people who are not. The head coach is trying to find his way; he’s trying to navigate in. You know, as you guys were talking, I was thinking, “You know, stepparents, adoptive parents, foster parents—they’re sort of like assistant coaches—there’s still a dad out there; there’s still a mom out there somewhere.
Jefferson: Yes, that’s such a great metaphor for it.
Ron: “But now, somebody else is stepping in and coming alongside—not replacing, not firing, not moving that other person out of the child’s heart—but now, ‘I’m an additional person.’” I think, if a stepparent came in with that mentality, that would be an advantage, because they would be thinking, “I’m here to assist.”
Jefferson: Yes, you’d welcome it.
Ron: Exactly; “I’m here to come alongside. I’m here to just help teach you something that you don’t already know. But I’m not trying to be the head coach.”
It’s that diplomatic, wise approach that allows for the relationship to develop and for adult and child to begin to figure one another out. Over time, those relationships are going to grow and evolve.
Dave: Yes, and I think—you know, as you’re talking, Ron—in a blended family, and even in a not-blended family, you have assistant head coaches arguing and disagreeing.
Dave: I’ll never forget, one year—you won’t believe this—we started out in Detroit 6-0. Nobody in the room will believe this! [Laughter] We were 6-0.
Jefferson: Oh, that was the lie we wouldn’t believe; that’s what we wouldn’t believe right there.
Dave: Yes, right there.
Jefferson: You won some games! [Laughter]
Dave: You can look it up, but I think it was 2007. [Laughter] We were 6-0.
Jefferson: “Nobody would believe this: we won a game.”
Dave: I think we were on the cover of Sports Illustrated, like, “Look at the Detroit Lions.” [Laughter]
Dave: Nobody knows this on the outside;—
Jefferson: —because it just imploded?
Dave: —there was an implosion with the coaches!
Jefferson: Yes, and that kills everything.
Dave: It wasn’t the players. We had an offensive line coach say, “We’re not running the ball enough.” The offensive coordinator said, “We’re winning ball games,”—blah, blah, blah. And guess what we ended up?—7-9.
Dave: 6-0—we won one more game—
Jefferson: You guys lost; yes.
Dave: —and lost all these games. That can happen in a family!
Jefferson: —100 percent!
Dave: Talk about that a little bit; because, I mean, if you’re saying a family’s like a team,—
Dave: —it’s got to be a winning team. How do we keep from imploding?
Jefferson: That’s a good question. [Laughter] I don’t know if I can answer that; that would be for all of you guys, [Laughter] with more age and more wisdom.
The only thing that shot to my head, when Ron was talking and you guys were talking, is: “I love the team metaphor here, because it’s endless. It’s endless on how valuable—you can extract/like it’s one-to-one; it really is one-to-one—what’s valuable for a team here: with communication; with learning roles; and even when you talk about, on the bad side, with coaches disagreeing, then that breeds conflict and toxicity.”
One little tip that I would say, too, that I think is helpful is—you know, there’s actually a lot of research to back this with sports teams—it’s actually real, not just metaphor—where, basically, the better the head coach and a captain’s relationship is, the better the entire team is and the more successful they are. That’s another little side nugget, too, that I talk about, too. But basically, as the oldest goes, everyone goes, generally; or at least, you have a very uphill battle if the oldest goes—you know what I mean?—you want to bring everyone back in.
I think sometimes, we think, “coach”; and we think like, “command,” or whatever; when really, it’s about capturing the heart; it’s about capturing the relationship. You know those relationships—you’ve seen it on sports teams; right?—where the coach and the captain almost have like a best friend feel, even a mentor/mentee; there’s a connection there.
I just really tell parents/like encourage: “Lean into that as much as possible in capturing the oldest’s heart.” It’s crazy how it’s a little bit of almost an incredible strategy.
Ann: Let’s talk practicality;—
Ann: —like: “How do we do this if our family has just been going with the culture? We’re just flying; we’re going fast; we feel like everybody’s going a different direction. What are the practical steps we can take to bring our family back in?”
Jefferson: I played sports my whole life. For me, I remember one toxic team I was on, where there was division; no one was feeling it/whatever. And the coach just pushed a hard “eject” button. I can’t remember exactly what he did; but it was basically just like: “Everything stops, and we’re going to solve this! We’re not going to try to keep going. We’re not going to try to just let this kind of bleed out.” I think we even went on some retreat or something.
Kind of like: I think families/I wish they earlier/earlier in the journey, would be like: “All hands on deck.”
Ann: —like: “Put the brakes on!”
Jefferson: “All hands on deck! This—the relational part—needs to be solved.”
Dave: “Hit the pause button”; yes.
Jefferson: Yes; so I just think that’s huge. But I don’t know; Ron, what would you say?
Ron: You know, I like that. What I would just add is—going back to Ann’s question—you know, when things are hard, you go to the Head Coach. That’s sort of the ultimate: “Alright, let’s all get on our knees. Let’s all get humble about who we are.
Ron: “The change is going to start with me.”
You know, sometimes, it’s easy to say, “Well, we’ve got these people over here, and these groups over here, and these players are not doing their part.” It always starts with me; I always do my gut-check. I look in the mirror; I go to the Lord; I say, “Who am I supposed to be?” And I go to work on that! That’s where it starts.
Now, I think if you get a bunch of coaches and players, who do that, all of a sudden, it’s a softer environment to look at each other and go, “Now, we got to deal with what’s hard between us,” and forgiveness gets more easy. Mercy just sort of shows up over the situation. There’s always that humbling-down process that starts the change in the right direction. It doesn’t mean it’s easy at that point; but at least, we’re moving in the right direction.
Ann: That’s good!
Dave: Yes, that’s a good word.
I’m thinking this—and again, you can take the analogy way too far—[Laughter]—but let’s do it, because we’re doing the sports analogy.
Dave: I’ve often watched, even when I played—but especially in the NFL, watching the Detroit Lions—there would be times, where the players would call a players-only meeting.
Dave: And it’s when everything’s falling apart; we’re losing, losing, losing.
Dave: “We need to get the coaches out of the room; we need to talk!” I remember one year, my son was a Detroit Lion. He’s playing on the team, and they had a players-only meeting. And all of us, [who] aren’t allowed in there are thinking, “What’d they talk about?” I had a son in there.
Dave: I said, “Cody, what did you guys talk about?” He goes, “Dad, it was the worst meeting ever. Nobody led; nobody stood up.
Dave: “It was sort of like, ‘What do you guys want to say?’” Nobody really said anything; it was a waste of time.
Dave: But here’s the thing—tell me if I’m right or wrong—when the coaches called a meeting—like you were saying, Jefferson—if things need to happen, there’s a pause button; we say, “We need to get on our knees; we need to do this.”
Dave: Something great happened when the coach was a part of it and said, “Okay, maybe I’m missing something; but there’s something wrong on this team. Let’s talk.” And the coach—of course, we’re talking the parents—are a part of the meeting; and they’re willing to be, like Ron said, humble enough to say, “Are we doing something wrong?
Dave: “Are we leading in the wrong direction? Let’s talk.” That’s when something great can happen in a family; am I right?
Dave: When the parents are a part of that players-only meeting/the kids-only meeting.
Ann: But I love what you said, Ron. The parents have gone before the Father first.
Ann: And they’ve asked for His wisdom, His direction, and for the Holy Spirit to lead us.
Dave: —and they lead the family better.
Jefferson: Yes; I was going to say the same thing. I was going to say, when parents lead in repentance,—
Jefferson: —I think it’s so powerful. It’s compelling; that’s the best word for it.
Dave: Yes; my final thought would be there might need to be a meeting tonight in some homes.
Jefferson: Yes! Totally, yes.
Dave: Yes; in a sense, there’s got to be a listener, saying, “We’re at a crisis point.
Dave: “Nobody’s doing anything. If I’m the head coach,” or “If we’re the head coaches, it’s a time for a ‘Come to Jesus’ time for me and for us.” It could change the trajectory and the legacy of the family.
Jefferson: Yes; and in our family community that we have, we’ve seen that.
One thing that we tell people is: “If there is a lot of tension, or anxiety, or whatever around this, call a team meeting”,—right?—like that? “But also set a ground rule of: ‘Nothing is off limits.’”
Ann: Oh, that’s good.
Jefferson: Set that tone of like: “You get one; if you say this tomorrow, you’re grounded!” [Laughter] But I think sometimes, when it’s at that place—
Jefferson: —if you’re not letting the full honesty bare/if you’re not letting the full—and if you’re a parent, I think just preparing your heart, ahead of time, to just take it. Just listen; just take it.
Jefferson: And I feel like most of us parents know, if you’re prepared for that mental state, you can take it. It’s just not—when you’re reactionary, you don’t [take it well].
Jefferson: Let it breathe; let them say what they want to say. I think it can be really compelling.
Dave: We used to call that “the last two percent.” In other words, we’d have a meeting—
Jefferson: Yes. [Laughing]
Dave: —everybody would say everything—and then, right before you close the door, you go, “Wait, wait, wait.
Jefferson: “The real stuff!”
Dave: “Is there a last two percent you held back?”
Dave: And usually there is.
Jefferson: That’s good!
Dave: Like, “I was totally honest, but not completely.” And that last two percent often got you to a place you were never going to get.
Jefferson: More honesty and more love.
Bob: Listening to Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Jefferson Bethke about healthy family communication. I’m thinking about how our families really are the home team. When we get together, we need to have huddles; and we need to have locker room meetings; and sometimes, we need to just get heart to heart with one another. We need to keep the lines of communication open; but we need to recognize, in the midst of all of this, that we’re on the same team. We’re supporting one another; we love one another; we’re for one another; we’ve got each other’s back. In that environment, where everybody feels secure and safe, there can be real strength, and real health, and real hope.
Jefferson Bethke has written a book that addresses that very issue and helps families build a strong home team. It’s called Take Back Your Family. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online to order your copy of the book, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is Take Back Your Family by Jefferson Bethke. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Ask for your copy of the book, Take Back Your Family, by Jefferson Bethke.
We recognize, here at FamilyLife, that it’s hard for families to keep the home team strong. There are a lot of factors working against us in this culture that are trying to push us apart rather than bring us together. Your family has probably experienced some significant challenges in the last year. At FamilyLife, we’re here to help. We’re here to provide practical biblical help and hope for whatever the challenges you’re facing in your family are.
I want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are, not just listeners to FamilyLife Today, but those of you who are the shareholders/the supporters of this ministry. You’re the investors who make this ministry possible for yourself and for others in your community and all around the world. Thank you for your investment in the ministry of FamilyLife.
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And we hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how important it is for families to have a family mission, and how important it is for families to recognize they have a common enemy—everybody in the family—there’s an enemy who wants to take you out. Jefferson Bethke is here, again, tomorrow; we hope you can be here as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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