FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Mile Markers

with Kennon Vaughan | August 20, 2021
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Are you needing a game plan for discipling your kids? Kennon Vaughan gives some simple ideas for marking milestones in their lives.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

Are you needing a game plan for discipling your kids? Kennon Vaughan gives some simple ideas for marking milestones in their lives.

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Mile Markers

With Kennon Vaughan
August 20, 2021
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Ann: One of the things you did with our boys, as they were growing up, is you had some—

Dave: We played a lot of sports.

Ann: Yes, you did that; [Laughter] but you had some mile markers with the boys when they turned significant ages. One of those was at 13—you would take them on a trip—and you would do some pretty significant things with them.

Dave: Yes, I actually read Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis when I was a young father—knowing I never had a dad/didn’t have any mile markers in my life with my dad, especially spiritually—I just knew, “Boy, I have a chance to change a legacy here. I have a chance to start a new path for the Wilson name and for the spiritual heritage of our name.” So yes, that book gave me some markers.

The 13-year-old was a big one I could go through with CJ, and then Austin, and then Cody. That was a pivotal moment for manhood; but especially for my son, to impart my faith down to the next generation.

Ann: 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 or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: We’re talking about discipleship in the home. We’ve got Kennon Vaughan back with us. Man, you have a passion for this topic, not only as a pastor of Harvest Church in Memphis, but President of Downline Ministries—which, again, you can tell us a little bit about that if people missed that—but really more as a dad of five sons, you want to do that very thing, pass onto the next generation.

I’m telling you—if anybody missed what we talked about previously—“Don’t miss it; go listen. We talk about the peg in the morning, the peg in the evening to sort of lead your family.”

Ann: Kennon Vaughan is back with us, and we’re excited to have you back with us again.

Kennon: Thanks, Ann. Thrilled—not just to be able to talk about this topic so central to my heart and just all of our lives—as parents/as Christian parents, we want to honor the Lord and disciple our children; and yet, it’s a difficult thing to do—it’s an intimidating thing to do; at times, it feels overwhelming—at times, we don’t feel like we know where to start.

I’ve just learned, in my 20 years of vocational ministry, most good, Jesus-loving, God-fearing, Christian parents would love to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord, as Paul says, but have no game plan—

Ann: Right.

Kennon: —just don’t know how to do it. I didn’t either; Kathryn and I were the same way.

We’ve been married 15 years, have 5 sons, 13 down to 3 in the ages. We realized, along the way, that we didn’t have a game plan. It was kind of like: “We’re not going to accidentally stumble into faithfully discipling our children. We’ll never do it perfectly, but we sure do want to do it intentionally. If there are a few things we’re going to do in life, let’s, at least, go for it on this one.”

Talking about the pegs, just start every day in God’s Word—something very short, very simple—it puts all of our minds on truth.

Dave: Earlier—and again, if they missed this, I don’t want them to miss this—it is messy. I mean, you’ve got a three-year-old; there are kids running around a little bit; there is loudness; there are things falling off the thing; right?

Ann: We know, as our kids got older, then, you have teenagers that are at times like, “Uh! Do we have to do this?”

Kennon: Yes, sure; don’t want you to get too idealistic of a picture of that time. [Laughter] It is not faithful worshippers, Bibles open, and highlighters in hand. [Laughter] Yes, it’s kids that, at times, are trying to stay awake, or frustrated with one of us or with each other, or a kid that is spilling milk all over the floor, or just general shouting.

Again, in the midst of the mess, they will catch on to the rhythm of: “Hey, we’re a family that starts our day with God’s Word, even when it’s messy/even when we’re frustrated.” There are discipleship opportunities in all of that; it’s a rhythm.

Ann: And let me say here, too, Kennon—that with, now, adult kids—we’ve recognized that our kids may not have grasped, at those ages, the principles that we are teaching; but they are seeing, “This is something that our parents are really passionate about.” They are seeing our love for God. They may not remember all the details of the teaching that day; but they know that God’s Word is significant, and they know that we are going after God.

Kennon: Yes; so two things about that, Ann; that’s a great point. I remember—in my three years, walking closely with “Soup” Campbell, a godly man discipling me—people ask me all the time, “What did he teach you?” I’m like, “I can’t pinpoint a lesson, but I can point to a lifestyle. I know him and his heart, and what makes him tick, and what he is passionate about, and his favorite food,”—which is pork chops and raw onion—“You know, I did life with him. That translates”; in 1 Corinthians 3, you become like who you behold.

That’s why Paul invites the Thessalonians in Corinthians: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” That’s why Jesus invited the twelve: “Follow Me.” Those kids are following you; they are following you into God’s Word each morning.

Dave: Talk about the other peg real quick—

Kennon: Yes.

Dave: —and then let’s talk about milestones.

Kennon: Sure; in the evenings, there is something special for us about getting on our knees, just kind of humbling ourselves, recognizing our need, and praying. Even when my oldest was three, and I started the tradition, I didn’t have some grand plan. I just was praying, and he was climbing on me. It was kind of sweet, but we just kept going.

Somebody challenged me once: “You’ve got 7,000 nights with that son until you, Lord willing, launch him off at 18.” I started thinking, “You know, there is a lot of ways I will fail; but I would love to, as close as I can, pray with him and over him 7,000 times.” We kept having boys, and they keep adding to the train. It’s just been sweet to watch them become pray-ers. I get to know them and their heart through that time, and they get to know me and my heart. We walk together.

You start with a little of God’s Word, and you end with intimacy and prayer. I just promise you’ll have a lifestyle that provides opportunities to point them towards Jesus and the gospel all throughout the day.

Ann, one thing you said, too, reminded me there is an old Jewish maxim of a disciple asking the rabbi, “Hey, why did God tell us to put God’s Word on our hearts and not in our hearts?” The rabbi said, “Well, we can’t—the way we are, cold and callous toward God—we can’t really put it in our hearts; but when life happens, and our hearts break open, God’s Word—if it’s on our hearts—it’ll fall in; it will seep in.”

Kathryn and I always keep that in mind. If our kids seem disinterested, or even rebellious, we’re going, “You know what? Let’s keep shepherding them by putting God’s Word on their heart, and let God break them”; you know? I don’t want that for them, but it’s going to happen—life is going to happen—and God is going to lovingly break their hearts intentionally. We want what falls in to be that Word that every day we are gently putting on their heart/putting before them as best we can.

Dave: Okay, talk about some of the other things you do. You mentioned like these mile markers, or—

Kennon: Yes.

Dave: —or rites of passage, or whatever you call them.

Kennon: Yes; read the same book you read—that was helpful for me—by Robert Lewis; he has become a friend—and just been challenged by men. Again, Kathryn and I say, “Let’s try and be as intentional as we can,”—knowing amidst the mess, amidst the distraction, and amidst our own failures—we wanted to put down a blueprint that held us accountable. We didn’t just want to wake up one day—everybody says: “It goes by so fast,” “Before you know it, they are gone,”—well, we said, “Well, we can kind of see that beginning to happen: the balls are spinning, and plates are spinning. Balls can be dropped if we don’t have a plan, so let’s go ahead and etch some things in stone that we will do.”

As I said, “etch…in stone,” it reminded me of a simple tradition we have. We have Joshua stones. Anytime something happens that’s a unique working of God that we witness as a family. If we are praying for someone’s salvation in another family, and that person comes to Christ, we will write down how God answered that prayer. Or some way God moves to overcome a significant struggle in one of our lives in our family—we’re honest about those; we pray about these things together—and we take a Sharpie® and write it on a big stone and have it in this chest.

Every once in a while, on a Sunday night, we will pull out the chest; and everybody will reach in there and grab one. Then it’s really fun; they will read the date, and they will read the little summary; and I will tell the story again. We just recount God’s faithfulness, which gives you so much courage and excitement and hope toward continuing to pray for God to move. It’s an example of a really easy tradition that has brought great fruit, I would say, in my life and in my sons’ lives of living expectant lives for God to show up in their lives and in the lives we are praying for; so little things like that.

I started to mention on the last show—we, having five boys—rites of passage is a good word. We said, “What are significant ages and significant lessons, and how can we align them in a special way?” We chose eight, ten, thirteen, and sixteen. I do something on their birthday—give them kind of a gift of where I’m going to take them at some point during—I give myself a 12-month window—but during that year, as a kid turns eight, we’re going to do an overnighter.

That overnighter is real intentional. I’m going to get away with that son. The goal for me, in that overnighter, is to tell that son: “What is unique about him,” “How did God uniquely create you?—what have we seen?—what do we delight in?—what do we cherish?” “How exciting to think that God has knit you together in your mother’s womb, exactly like He has.” I have intel from his brothers/from his mother—I just pour into him his unique design and how much he is loved—that there is no/ he doesn’t ever have to perform for that. I want him to live a life, assured that he’s one of the greatest joys in our lives and one of the most important pieces of our family.

It’s really just to bathe him in: “God knows you, formed you, loves you, has gifted you. We delight in that, can’t wait to call those gifts out, and see those play out in your life.” And let him know how loved he is.

Then with the ten-year-old—Dave, you’re not that far ahead of me, but a little ways—I think these things used to be necessarily later; but now, they are earlier—just a conversation on gender and sexuality; biblical manhood is what I call that one—that we want to understand the birds and the bees. I want to be the first one to introduce them to all of what is coming in middle school. Again, that used to be something we encouraged parents to do around 13; now, they are encouraging parents to do this around 10/11.

I began to open their eyes to God’s design, and the world’s ideas; what we believe and why we believe it. That one has a little bit more of a teaching component. We go somewhere fun that that child chooses, so that one is usually an out-of-towner.

Then at 13—which I just got my first 13-year-old—that is one where we do something you guys did. Ceremonially, we invite all of the family over: do a big fire, and have everybody write down/we actually give them some stones of remembrance, and we write down a character quality that each person sees. Every person has written a letter that they give that son; they speak those qualities into their life that they see and the potential that they have.

Then, again, I try to do a getaway trip, where I talk about, “What does it mean to be a noble man of God?” So just have character qualities that we begin to talk about that are also kind of family values of ours.

Then, at 16—have not gotten there yet—but that is when I take each one on a mission trip and say, “I want you to see the world/see what God is doing among the nations; and from this moment on, you’re a part of that and never turn back.”

Dave: Yes; it’s interesting, as you hear that—first of all, it’s beautiful—I mean, literally, my mind is listening there, going, “Oh, I can do that.

Kennon: Yes.

Dave: “There are markers. I can do that.” But often, we get afraid as parents, like, “What do I do on the actual trip?”

Kennon: Well, yes.

Dave: So FamilyLife has some great resources: Passport2Purity®, Passport2Identity®—it gives you a template; it gives you sort of a game plan—it’s like: “Yes, we know; it’s not something you just/so here you go. You don’t have to use everything in it, but you can really do it.”

You just gave a model—

Kennon: Yes.

Dave: —for what it looks like. I never thought of the stone thing—

Ann: Oh, I know; isn’t that a good idea?

Dave: —the Joshua stones—what a beautiful memory.

Ann: Yes; I’m also thinking about this—if you had a daughter, you’d probably do the same thing, the same ages—but would your wife take them on that trip?

Kennon: Certainly; I can only speak, in a limited capacity, as a father with sons; but absolutely. Again, the whole deal is—and Dave you said it—people might be like, “Oh, you’re a pastor; you probably know what to say. I wouldn’t know what to say!”

Ann: “Pull out your sermon.”

Kennon: Yes, that’s right; but listen, again, having these pegs in life in the morning and evenings will help.

If you put it on the calendar, though—I’ve learned something—folks that feel completely intimidated and overwhelmed—you put that trip on the calendar, and that kid may be nine; but as you get there, you know what you will do? You will say, “Well, that trip is coming up; I need to figure out what I’m going to say.” [Laughter]

Dave: Exactly.

Kennon: You will start asking friends, finding mentors, going to your local church pastor, going to FamilyLife for resources. Hey, I’m not worried about it; if you put it on the calendar and commit to ‘I will,’—this is the same thing Kathryn and I/we will mark these moments—the resources won’t be your problem; the problem is if those become an excuse.

Dave: Yes.

Kennon: Put it down and do it. Yes, mothers with daughters.

Look, if you are a single mom [with a son], invite a man in. Good gracious, if there was single mom in our church—I’m even thinking of one now—if she were to ask me to do this with her son, who I have coached in baseball before—I love him—I wouldn’t blink. What better can we do than to help point young men toward the gospel and be that surrogate father in that kind of an instance?

I would just say, “Choose to be intentional.” Traditions are one way to do it; pegs in the mornings and in the evenings are one way to do it; there is no perfect way to do it. But I think what I’m susceptible to is not doing it; so for me, it’s accountability. It’s a reminder of what is truly important in life: “What is God calling me to do, first and foremost?”

Kathryn and I are going to swing and miss a whole lot; but once they are launched, we want to look back, amidst all of the failure and all of the missed opportunity, and say, “Hey, we’re really thankful we didn’t short-cut those traditions. God has used those, and we believe there will be fruit from that for the rest of their lives.”

Ann: I have to imagine they are probably all anticipating their trips.

Kennon: Oh gosh! They can’t wait; yes.

Ann: Right!

Kennon: They are either on an on-birthday or an off-birthday. If you’re at an 8, 10, 13, 16, that’s a really exciting year, which there is great accountability in that; but “Dad, what are we going to do?” They can’t wait for it; it’s so special. Just the/again, just the time that you are taking to speak truth into their minds and hearts will win you the opportunity to point them towards Jesus and the gospel for all the days to come.

Don’t be afraid to be afraid; but step into that fear. Put down—spend some time with the Lord, meditating on how to make that time/that trip special—on what you could: who you could involve, what resources you need—just like any project we do for work or anything else that takes a whole lot of our time and emotional capacity, we do it; because it’s important to us. There is nothing more important than this; so we want to exhaust all the physical, emotional resources we need to make this a special mile marker/defining moment in their life.

Ann: You guys, talk to the mom that’s listening, that hears this and just weeps, because she thinks, “My husband will never do this. He’s not a believer,” or “He’s just not on board with this kind of thing.” She longs for it, especially for her sons. How would you encourage her?

Kennon: You know, first, there is general grace that God’s given us that fathers need to pass onto sons in some of the areas that we’ve talked about. Even in that scenario, as that woman, I would still invite your husband into a process, where, “Hey, it’s going to be hard for me to help him become a man. There are some things he needs from you. What if we did this?—what if, at eight, you just told him his place in our family and qualities he has?” This isn’t overtly Christian;—

Ann: Yes.

Kennon: —this is a dad and his son. And “What if, at ten, can you have the birds-and-the-bees talk with him? I think that will be more effective; he will need to go to you as a resource for the rest of his life, not just me. I’m going to pray that God is going to use that time.”

I mean, you can still invite him to be a dad through the general grace of what a dad is meant to give a son, and only a dad can give a son. And if the dad is unwilling to even do that, then, again, I would invite you: “Get involved in a local church, where there are godly men/there are pastors that would love to come along and fill a gap. I didn’t have that specifically in my life. Again, I had a great dad, who taught me a lot of things; but a spiritual father, I didn’t have. There were some men, who filled the gaps for me, who invited me to their home to be a part of Bible studies; because they knew that would be something that I would need.

To this day, when I see those men, one of them is named Ken Wilson, and he is on the board of Downline. He is an elder in our church, but that relationship started when he invited me into his home to be a part of a Bible study. His wife cooked for me, and there was another man who led it. Ken just invited a few of the guys in my age; to this day, I thank him for that.

If you are a mom, that’s a tough situation; but be intentional. There are godly men that God—you pray for them—God will provide them to fill that gap and how to really point your son toward Jesus as he becomes a man.

Dave: Yes, I had pretty much the same experience—single mom, no dad—she did the same thing: she would go to coaches; she would go to men that she knew in our church and ask them to be sort of a father role model for me in a certain season. I found out later. It didn’t even feel weird—they’d invite me over to their house; they’d invite me to a different deal—and those were the men; my mom was intentional.

But I would say this—even Ann, as you were asking that—my heart right now goes to the guys listening, and say, “Dude, this is your moment. Step up and be”—and I know some of you are like, “I’m just not good. You guys are both pastors,”—it doesn’t matter. You can be intentional to say—

Guess what? I’m a little older than Kennon; so we’ve got grown sons, married with grandkids. When we were young parents, older parents would say, “You’re going to blink, and they are going to be gone; you’re going to launch them.” We’d be like, “Oh no! That’s not going to happen; it’s going to be forever,”—because you are in the toddler stage, and it’s chaos. I can tell you: “You blink; you’re launching them.”

I would say, “Seize the day, guys.” Get intentional; decide to step up, even if you don’t know what you are doing. Your effort God will use; because you have a call, and it is to make disciples in your home. It’s the most important thing you’ll do—as a man, as a husband, as a dad—and you only have this moment for this moment, so seize it and grab it.

Kennon: Yes; that fires me, Dave. I tell those dads—as good as you think Dave and I might be at doing this—your son doesn’t want Dave or me to do this.

Dave: Nope.

Kennon: They want you to do it. You’re the one that is larger than life in their eyes; you’re the one that is their hero. So for you, in the midst of your inadequacy, to trust the Lord with this—that you be intentional with it, and He might use it for His glory and their good—you’ll never regret that.

Bob: All of us, as moms and dads, have a charge from Scripture to raise the next generation—point them to God, teach them the works of God and the ways of God—not only from what’s in the Bible, but from what’s in our own lives/our own walk with God. What you are going to care about most is the quality of their relationship with Jesus. Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking with Kennon Vaughan about this today; and of course, here at FamilyLife, we have a number of resources designed to help you disciple the next generation.

One of the things I’m thinking about is our Art of Parenting® video series, which talks about the priority of discipleship among other subjects that we talk about—we talk about building character in your kids/discipling your kids; we talk about helping your kids live on mission—there is so much covered in that video series. If you’ve not gone through the Art of Parenting with a small group or online on your own, let me encourage you to do that. You can find out more when you go to

I also want to mention the ministry that Kennon Vaughan gives leadership to; it’s called Downline, and there is a Downline Institute. We’ve had a number of people from our church, who have gone through this nine-month program. It is an intensive Bible training program to help you get a better understanding of the Scriptures, start to finish, to help you grow deeper in your faith.

Downline Institute is available, virtually, all around the world. They are about to kick off the fall Downline season. If you’d like to study at the Downline Institute, you can find out more when you go to There is information on our website about how you can save some money off the tuition by letting them know that you heard about Downline on FamilyLife Today. Again, go to for more information about the Downline Institute; and make this the year that you get serious about your study of Scripture and your walk with the Lord.

You know, what Dave and Ann have been talking with Kennon Vaughan about today is really our heartbeat, here at FamilyLife. Our goal as a ministry is to help effectively develop godly marriages and families, to train and equip husbands and wives/moms and dads to live out their faith and to share their faith with others.

David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife, is here with us; and David, our hope is, in the months ahead, FamilyLife can accelerate the work of this ministry and reach more people more often.

David: Absolutely; our aim—what we are all about—is connecting more people to Jesus and passing it on. There are four pillars of our mission that we seek to live out; and one of them is families discipling families. It’s Jesus’s way: the extraordinary blessing of every follower of Jesus being able to walk with Him and then pass who He is—and His truth and the beauty of His gospel—to other people in their home and in homes around them.

We want to do everything we can to reach one more home/one home at a time, with the principles of marriage and family that are found in the Scriptures, and the beauty of the gospel, and how we can walk with Jesus, and experience His presence in our every day. We want every person on the planet to know that opportunity and experience the joys of walking with Him.

Bob: Yes; and we want to ask you to help us extend the reach of FamilyLife in the months ahead. Here is how you can do that: we’ve got a team of folks, who we refer to as Legacy Partners—these are monthly donors—people, who support this ministry on a monthly basis. They are the financial backbone of everything we do, here at FamilyLife.

Our prayer, during the month of August, is that in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard, there would be two families who would step forward and say, “We want to join you and become a new Legacy Partner. We believe in the ministry. We benefit from the ministry. We want to see it continue in our community, and we’re willing to make a monthly investment to see that happen.”

When you become a Legacy Partner today, we want to say, “Thank you,” by sending you, first of all, a copy of Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents. Secondly, we’d like to send you access to more than a dozen messages from Dave and Ann—some have been featured on FamilyLife Today; some are brand-new—you’ll have access to those messages.

And we want to send you a certificate that you can use for yourself, or you can pass onto someone else. As a couple, you can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We’re kicking off the fall season of getaways very soon; and we’d love for you to be our guest at an upcoming getaway as a way of saying, “Thank you for joining us as a new monthly Legacy Partner.”

You can find out all the details about this when you go to our website,; or it’s really easy just to call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I want to know more about being a Legacy Partner.” We can take care of everything over the phone with you. We look forward to hearing from you. Please pray that we would see new Legacy Partners in every city where FamilyLife Today is heard, and pray about whether you should be one those new families.

And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about what moms and dads can do to help adolescent daughters, who may be struggling with insecurity or fears; that is common among young women. If your daughter is experiencing any of that, we’re going to talk about how to address that on Monday. Sissy Goff will be joining us, and we hope you can be back with us as well.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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