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Passing on the Baton of Faith

with Greg and Rhonda Gunn | July 6, 2004

Greg and Rhonda Gunn, developers of the "Family Vision Weekend" seminars, encourage parents to lay a foundation for future generations by crafting a family vision statement.

Greg and Rhonda Gunn, developers of the "Family Vision Weekend" seminars, encourage parents to lay a foundation for future generations by crafting a family vision statement.

Passing on the Baton of Faith

With Greg and Rhonda Gunn
|
July 06, 2004
| Download Transcript PDF

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Bob: As parents, all of us have dreams for our children, but do we have goals?  Here's Rhonda Gunn.

Rhonda: Actually, at age 12, we came up with some 15 qualities that we would like for the children to attain by age 15.  So Greg -- Hannah was our oldest, and when she turned 12, he took her out on a date, a real neat dad-daughter date; gave her a promise ring, and presented her with some qualities that he wanted her to attain, and it was really refreshing to her to strive for those goals.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 6th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  What kind of goals would you establish for a 15-year-old?  We'll hear some of the things that were on Hannah's list.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us as we get a little vision test, a little vision adjustment today, right?

Dennis: We'll challenge you to think about what is your family's mission statement?  And I'll tell you what a great job we did on this, Bob.  In 1990, our family got together for a -- well, an extended vacation.  We were all together, we were in Northern Minnesota, nearly froze to death up there.

Bob: How old were the kids at this point?

Dennis: Well, 1990 -- let's see -- Ashley was 15 -- no, she was 16, because she backed our brand-new car that we got just for this trip -- she backed it into a Dog 'N Suds …

Bob: … a hot dog stand?

Dennis: Yeah, you know, they had the speakers that are there when you pull in, and I was sitting in the passenger seat, and I was saying, "Now, Ashley, when you back up -- you've got to be careful, you're going to …

Bob: … shhhhccckkkkk, just like that, right?

Dennis: She completely creased a brand-new car.  But that wasn't the highlight of the summer.  The point was while we were there we worked on our family mission statement.

Bob: So the kids are 6 to 16 at this point?

Dennis: That's right.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: Our family mission statement was so well crafted, along with a list of core values for our family, that I cannot remember a single thing we wrote down.

Bob: Do you have it written down somewhere?

Dennis: Bob, we had it on easels, we had volumes of material.  But today -- we couldn't land the plane, though.  You know, everybody had their little piece they wanted to add to it, and the mission statement was, like, 12 pages long.

Bob: It needs to be simpler than that.  Is that what you're saying?

Dennis: It needs to be a little simpler, so we're going to help you today.  We're going to go to a couple who will teach you how to write a mission statement in four words or less. 

Bob: So crisp, so precise, it's impossible to forget.

Dennis: In fact, Greg and Rhonda Gunn joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back.

Rhonda: Thank you so much.

Greg: Thank you.

Dennis: Rhonda, what is your family's mission statement?

Bob: She's cheating, she's looking.

Dennis: Don't look at it.

Rhonda: The mission statement, I know that.

Bob: What is that?

Rhonda: "Laying the foundations for many godly generations."

Bob: That's a good one.  That's pretty simple, that's memorable, right?

Dennis: Hold it, hold it, hold it, say that again.

Rhonda: "Laying the foundations for many godly generations."

Dennis: You know, you almost did it in four words.

Rhonda: Almost.

Dennis: I was kidding at the beginning.

Rhonda: You were, and I almost did it.

Dennis: You and your husband amaze me.  Greg, how did you get it down to those few words?

Greg: Well, we just actually put our pen on the paper and said, "Lord, reveal to us what you've called us to accomplish in this generation, so that we truly can have many godly generations."  We thought, "Well, Rhonda, that's it."  That became our family vision statement. 

Bob: You didn't have to edit back from …

Greg: … we did.  I mean, it took longer than that, but …

Dennis: … it wasn't 12 pages long, I'll bet.

Greg: No, it wasn't, and we didn't have, you know, four or five kids helping.  But that is really, truly, a great idea.

Dennis: Now, wait a second, you didn't have four or five kids helping.  You have seven children, so where were they?

Greg: Our oldest was …

Dennis: … where were they?

Greg: They were all at home while we were on our Family Vision Weekend.

Dennis: I see.  So some of them had not yet been born.

Greg: Right.  We just had three.

Dennis: That was our mistake, Bob.

Bob: All of them had been born.

Dennis: And they were all involved in the process.

Bob: Okay, that's tip number one for our radio listeners.  When you do your vision statement …

Dennis: … early …

Bob: … leave the kids …

Dennis: … real early and get a sitter for all those under 16.

Bob: Well, you guys didn't stop with a mission statement, though.  You came up with a passage of Scripture that became the Gunn Family Passage of Scripture, right?

Greg: Yes, yes, we did.

Bob: What is it, Greg.

Dennis: No, no, no.  In fact, Rhonda has it committed to memory.

Bob: She's got it open.  I want to see if Greg knows it from memory.

Dennis: This is the Gunn Family Mission Passage.

Greg: Very good.  In fact, the whole chapter of Psalm Chapter 25, kind of became the Gunn Family Chapter but specifically verses 12 and 13 -- "Who is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord?  Him shall He teach in the way He should choose.  He himself shall dwell at east, and his offspring shall inherit the land."

Bob: And he did that from memory, too -- pretty good job.

Dennis: He did.  And his wife was looking at the passage as he was doing it.

Bob: She was reading along.

Dennis: How did he do?

Rhonda: He did excellent.  I'm very proud of him.

Dennis: Now, your Family Vision Statement says you want to lay the foundation for future generations.  You believe that that vision statement is like a compass and a rudder.  How so?

Greg: Well, a vision statement is something that is timeless; that you probably will not be able to accomplish in your lifetime, and you want it to be such that every generation would be able to pick that up and say, "Well, I'm going to try to get closer to that family vision.  And so each generation, then, will look at that vision statement and say that has become their compass.  Like a compass, where there is no landmark in sight, that compass -- you can still go in the right direction by following the dial.

 It also acts as a rudder, just like on a ship.  No matter how the wind is blowing or how the waves are blowing, no matter what's happening in that particular generation that your family is in, if they'll look at the vision, that vision will act as a rudder to keep that ship going in the right direction.

 It also acts as a telescope where a generation can look into that telescope and see what it's going to look like when we actually get there.  So the family vision literally becomes a compass, a rudder, and a telescope for each generation.

Dennis: In hearing you talk about those three, and I missed one -- I missed the telescope, Bob …

Bob: … yeah, that's all right …

Dennis: … but in thinking about those having a compass, having that rudder and that telescope -- all of those bring about a sense of security for a couple who are leading a family, but it also creates security for the children as well.  You actually believe when a vision statement is hammered out, it creates a fresh sense of identity for a family.  What do you mean by that -- that concept of creating an identity for your family?

Greg: Well, there are two types of families.  There is what we call an "interdependent family," where each family member is looking into the family to get all of their needs met.  Then we have what we call the "independent family," where each one or all of the family members are looking outside the family to get their needs met.  And the way you create an interdependent family is by developing a healthy family identity -- something that you can identify with.  It's amazing, as you know, all of us know people who are absolutely rabid fans of some football team or baseball team or -- you know, it's amazing.  Where does that capacity come from -- to just become an absolute rabid fan?

I've got a buddy of mine that's an absolute, has rabies for, the Dallas Cowboys.  Now, he has never been to a Dallas Cowboy game.  Anyone mentions Dallas Cowboys, they immediately identify him with that team.  And, good or bad, he's not one of those fairweather fans.  He's in there with them, good or bad.  I thought if that capacity exists for a team that doesn't know him or like him, how much more could we build on that if we could tap into that identity for our own family.

Bob: You think about the power of that identity, and then you tie it back to the illustration you used before, of the compass and the rudder and the telescope.  I'm thinking of being out on the ocean in a boat without those three things.  If you had no compass -- you look around, every direction, it's the same.  You know, if the sun doesn't come up, you don't know where the east is, if it doesn't go down, you don't know where the west is.  Everything looks exactly alike.

Dennis: Whichever way the wind is blowing.

Bob: That's right.  If you've got no rudder, even if you knew which direction was the right direction, you couldn't get there because it's the rudder that helps steer you, and if you've got no telescope …

Dennis: … I'm waiting to hear how you're going to do this …

Bob: … if you've got no telescope, then you can't see beyond just what your eye can see -- your vision is limited to what is on the horizon.  You've got the telescope -- how'd I do?

Dennis: Good job.  He pulled it out.

Bob: Now, all of a sudden, you can see farther than the naked eye can see, and you can look -- well, that's why the guy is up in the crow's nest on all those old boats, and he's the guy who says what?  "Land ho," and everybody cheers, because he's looking at the telescope.  He can see the land on the horizon, he knows they're going in the right direction.

Dennis: And you never know what's over the horizon for your family.

Bob: That's right.

Dennis: Families will go through difficult experiences, difficult times, and I would have to say, although we didn't have the crisp four or five-word vision statement like you guys had, and we failed miserably in our efforts to try to get it down to a few words, we did have a sense of direction and a sense of vision as a family.  And I've seen our children rally around one another.  It's real.  A family does contain the type of commitment that was meant to cement human beings together in the most difficult of times.  How have you see your family, Rhonda, rally together around your vision statement and create a positive sense of identity?

Rhonda: We have found that where family identity is strong, peer pressure is very weak, and we have found that to be true in our family.  It's been so awesome to have, where there's an identity, where they feel like they're part of a team, a unity.  Our Gunn Family Cheer, Family Nights, you know, those things that bring unity to the family.

Dennis: Hold it, hold it, the Gunn Family Cheer?

Rhonda: Family Cheer.

Dennis: We had a primal scream, but …

Bob: … I don't think that's what they have in mind here.

Dennis: That probably came about as a result of our 12-page vision statement, Bob.

Bob: I thought maybe it came about as a result of the car being backed up into the post at the Dog 'N Suds and the crease in the Suburban.

Dennis: Okay, I've got to hear the Gunn Family Cheer -- scream …

Bob: … cheer.

Dennis: Cheer.

Greg and Rhonda: Way up on a rooftop, banging on a tin can, who can, we can, nobody else can.  Gooooooo Gunn Team!

Bob: Yeah.  Wooooo.

Greg: The kids love it.

Dennis: I wish our listeners -- we need a cam in here, Bob.  We need a camera that goes on the Internet.  They should have seen Greg.  He had the hand roll and everything on that.

Bob: He got the motions going, I saw that, yeah.  Doing little cheerleading moves while he does it.  You know, from this foundation of a vision statement, you have gone to some new areas.  I know you've come up with goals for your children at different developmental stages, and you get away and refresh these goals periodically.  Give me an idea, Rhonda, of what are some of the goals you've got right now for your 17-year-old daughter?

Rhonda: Actually, at age 12, we came up with some 15 qualities that we would like for the children to attain by age 15.  So Greg -- Hannah was our oldest, and when she turned 12, he took her out on a date.  A real neat dad-daughter date; gave her a promise ring, and they signed a covenant together that he would watch over her for unqualified men in her life and present her with some qualities that he wanted her to attain.  It was almost like -- we had it framed and hanging on her wall.  It was almost like an artist rendering of looking into a mirror and seeing exactly what goals we had for her, and it was really refreshing to her to strive for those goals.

Dennis: Well, actually, you have one of these for each of your children?

Rhonda: Absolutely.

Dennis: Is that right?

Bob: But -- just give me a few of them.  What are some of the things that you wanted to see cultivated in Hannah's life?

Rhonda: The very first thing we put down is that we wanted her to be more excited and interested in what was going on in her family than her friends.  We wanted her to be interested in her siblings.

Bob: And at that particular age group, the pull of the pack is just starting to kick in, isn't it?

Rhonda: Absolutely, absolutely.

Bob: So to set that out in front of a 12-year-old -- did she go, "Yeah, that's what I want for my life?"  Or did she go, "I don't know if I want that or not?"

Greg: Well, actually, the way we were instructed on this is that this would actually act like an artist's rendering of a building project.  You show someone what it's going to look like when it's finished, and we wanted her to see what she was going to look like when she turns 15.  This was a quality that we wanted her to have, and so that became our first, number one.  We wanted them to be more excited and interested in what's happening in their family than in their friends.

Dennis: And I like giving the vision for this when they're 12.  You're not playing defense at this point.  You have a chance to play offense and give them that vision.  In a matter of months, and I mean literally six to 12 months, you could give that same "vision" to a 13-year-old, and they'd go, "Oh, man, you've got to be kidding me.  I've got to like my brother?  I've got to hang out with them?"  But that's all the more reason, while they're younger, before the adolescent static is on the line, to give them a vision of what it needs to look like at age 15.

 What's another one, Rhonda?

Rhonda: One of my greatest ones is number six -- being kind and courteous, even when you're tired and don't feel good or just don't want to.  Now, I struggle with that myself -- being kind and courteous even when you don't feel like it.

Dennis: That's too convicting.  Could we move to another one?

Rhonda: Let's move to another one.  Oh, being polite and well-mannered, that was another one that we thought was very …

Dennis: … Barbara would like that one.

Rhonda: Yes, yes.

Bob: Now, as you're explaining these to a 12-year-old, you're saying we already see some of these qualities at work in your life.  We just want to see them grow and mature and kind of move from being a bud to being a flower, right?

Greg: Very good, in fact, I actually started talking to the girls, Rhonda and I both, when they were six, seven, eight years old.  We would say, "Now, when you turn 12, we're going to give you the 15 qualities that are going to help you have the most wonderful life, the most incredible family, the most awesome marriage, but we cannot tell you any of them until you're 12.  But when you're 12, I'm going to take you out to dinner, I'm going to buy you a promise ring, we can go anywhere you want," and the girls were going, "I want to go to Chucky Cheese's."  You know, the seven-year-old, and so by the time they got to 12, they were way past Chucky Cheese's, but they made me spend a lot of money on that dinner.

Rhonda: You were salting those oats.

Greg: That's just it.  You know, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink, and what we did was salt their oats.  So that when they got to the trough, they were thirsty, and we just did that over a period of time.  Even with our younger ones now, I'm saying to them, "I cannot wait until you turn 12.  It's going to be incredible."  And we had them sign a father-daughter covenant that day, and then we had our pastor sign it as well with us, that he would also pray for us and our daughter, this covenant that I would protect them from unqualified young men, and they would get my permission before they …

Greg: … go team.

Rhonda: Right.

Bob: You haven't taken a son through the 12-year-old …

Rhonda: Not yet, no.

Bob: When will that happen?

Greg: We've got about seven more years before he's 12.

Bob: Do you anticipate it being a different experience?

Greg: I do.

Rhonda: I'm sure it will be.

Greg: Yeah, still don't know quite yet what it will be like, but I really am excited about taking my boys through this and, just, again, them being so different than the girls.  We're going to work on those 15 qualities in a way that would be more directed to them in what God would want them to be like when they're 15.

Bob: But the idea with all of this is you're trying to be purposeful, proactive, you're trying to paint a vision, you're trying to not just let character develop like a weed.  You're trying to cultivate it like a garden?

Greg: Great analogy and, you know, again, I did everything at work on purpose.  I didn't want to leave anything to chance at work, and so with coming home, I thought, you know, everything I want to have happen at home, everything I want to have happen in my children's lives, now, that's just going to come together by accident.  I mean, why I was so disconnected …

Dennis: And that's why we've offered these broadcasts to encourage moms and dads to be purposeful.  Don't just allow your family to, as Bob said earlier, be in the ocean with no rudder, no compass, and no telescope, kind of running in circles.  And you look at the culture we're in today -- these certainly are not days that you want the culture setting the direction for your family.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: Dangerous, they're dangerous days.

Bob: You don't have your own rudder, but television is happy to provide a rudder for you.

Dennis: MTV will happily supply your teenager with a rudder.

Bob: Yes, "Seventeen" magazine will supply a rudder, if you'd like, and you don't want what that rudder looks like.

Dennis: Exactly.

Greg: We say in the seminar that the world is spending billions of dollars trying to capture the heart and the imagination of our children, and God has given you a specific vision, a specific mission to accomplish that vision.  He's given that to you, and it will capture their heart and their imagination.

Bob: Let's tell our listeners a little bit about the seminar that you're doing.  You're doing these in churches, really, all across the country, where you'll go in for a weekend, get folks together, and help them think through strategically how to come up with their own family cheer, their own family mission statement, vision statement, all of that, right?

Greg: Yes, very good.  In fact, just giving them specific examples of things they can do to create this healthy family identity, again, where family identity is strong, peer pressure is weak, but where peer pressure is strong, family identity is weak.  And so giving them these little methods -- almost everyone we've met has got the right motives.  They just don't know the methods that they can use to apply into their family.

Bob: We've got a link on our website at FamilyLife.com to your website, so if folks wanted more information about how they could have a seminar, they can contact us.  Go to our website at FamilyLife.com and find the link to Greg and Rhonda's website.  That will get you the information you need.

 We also want to recommend a book for parents to read as you begin to wrestle with this whole idea of establishing a mission or a vision for your family.  It's a book by Dr. Robert Lewis called "Real Family Values," and, Dennis, this is a great resource for couples to read together -- and not just to read but to interact on together.  This is not a book you read and say, "Boy, that was good.  That really changed my thinking."  This is a book that should lead you to some action in your family, establishing some family values, some goals, the kinds of things we've been talking about today.

 You can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of that book.  And then also get a copy of your book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family."  In fact, if you get both books together, we'll include either a CD or a cassette of our conversation with Greg and Rhonda Gunn at no additional cost.  Call us for all of the information about any of these resources at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com and all the information is available there.  You can order online.  Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and the toll-free number to call is 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-FLTODAY.  Dennis?

Dennis: You know, it's been our privilege today to spend some time with Greg and Rhonda Gunn around the whole concept of getting a clear statement of vision for your family, and maybe you can identify with how Barbara and I did it -- kind of the trial-and-error method.

Bob: Heavy on the error, right?

Dennis: Heavy on the error, I guarantee you.  You know, we got there, but it was ugly, the way we got there.  It really has been a treat to have you both with us, Rhonda, Greg.  There's one other thing I wanted you to mention, though, and I want to put this on our website, FamilyLife.com.  You created a reading list for Hannah when she was 15 years of age of 25 books that were required reading, and if she read all 25 of these books -- you have a picture of her by a Rolls Royce that you were going to give her. 

Bob: I don't think that's a Rolls there.

Dennis: Oh, I know what it is -- it's a Rolls Canardly.  It rolls down the hill, can hardly make it up the hill.

Greg: Very good.

Bob: One of those.

Greg: That's exactly right.

Dennis: Tell our listeners about these 25 books and what the challenge was.

Greg: Sure.  When Hannah turned 15, we were sitting around, and Hannah was saying, "In a year, I'm going to be driving," and it hit me that I had been to a seminar that a father had paid his son a per-book amount, that if he were to read these books, then he said, "Son, if you'll read these books, and you read in style, I'll use the money, put it into a car fund for you, and then you'll drive in style."

Dennis: We actually did that with our teenagers, but the amount of money we paid them to read would have barely bought a bicycle.  You kind of upped the stakes here a little bit on this experiment here, Greg.  Continue on.

Greg: Well, with seven children, we knew that she was going to have an automobile, so we needed some taxi help in driving kids around.  So we thought, "Why don't we get some real mileage out of this automobile thing," and so we said, "Hannah, we've got a challenge for you.  When you turn 16, if you have read these 25 books, and give us a one-page book report, then we'll buy you a car."  And so she said, "Are you kidding?  This is so exciting.  Oh, wonderful."  I thought, "Honey, did we -- should we have picked 50 books?"  I mean, she looks a little too excited about that.  But she -- really, for the first time in her life, developed this overnight insatiable desire to read and books, honestly, that almost no 15-year-old would pick up to read.  But because they had them on the list, and she had the reward at the end, she, of course, began to really read those books.  And now we have several other books that we're going to add to the other children's list.  We believe we even have a greater impact in all that.

Dennis: You have a hybrid list.

Greg: Yes, we do.

Dennis: Can we post that on the website, too?  I think there might be some parents who would be very interested in ripping off that list of hybrid books.

Greg: Amen and, in fact, as you know, the power of books, the power of reading, it really did change her life.  And a benefit came from it even greater than we'd realize, was the fact that all of those books have now given us a lot in common.  Even though, at 40, I had not much in common with a 16-year-old girl, but these books have given us books in common, and now when we get together, we can talk about the things that I learned out of that book, and the things she learned out of that same book, and there were others that I hadn't read, but we let her pick several, and we picked the rest, and it's just been a real blessing.

Dennis: Well, go to FamilyLife.com and get a look at the hybrid list, and you'll also be able to take a peek at the Rolls Canardly.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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