Terence Chatmon: Challenges of Today’s Families (3 C’S)
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Feeling overwhelmed? Author Terence Chatmon offers three challenges for parents to raise spiritually alive kids.
Terence Chatmon: Challenges of Today’s Families (3 C’S)
Dave: Here’s a stat for you that I just saw.
Ann: I always like stats.
Dave: Here we go—see if you agree with this—78 percent of Christian parents leave the spiritual development of their children to the church and/or the Christian school—
78 percent. What do you think?
Ann: That’s actually lower than I thought it would be.
Dave: That’s because I just made it up. [Laughter]
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 FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Based on the reality of talking to parents, [and me] being a pastor for 30 years, you think it’s higher than that—that [parents] sort of leave it to the church, or the school, or—
Ann: I think parents feel overwhelmed—they don’t know what to do: their schedules are so busy; work schedules are crazy—and so I think, as parents, we think, “What’s the best thing we can do?” So yes, we think the church can do it; schools can do it.
Dave: What’s the stat?
Ann: I don’t know.
Dave: Do you think it’s above 80?
Ann: I have no idea.
Dave: Well, I think we have someone in the studio that can help us. We’ve got Terence Chatmon back in the studio at FamilyLife Today. I don’t know how many times you’ve been on FamilyLife, but welcome back.
Terence: Thank you, Dave. I think I’m going for the record: I think this is my fourth time. [Laughter]
Dave: Is it?
Terence: You guys keep inviting me back! I’m coming back for the food; and of course, for Ann. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s what it is; I know it’s not me. [Laughter]
Last time we had you on, you were talking about this moment in your life. Let me give a little bit of background, or you can tell us a little bit. I don’t know exactly what you did with Coke® and Johnson & Johnson® but you had quite a career in the business world. Talk about that a little bit.
Terence: Yes, I was just blessed enough to have opportunities with Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Citibank. For the last 22 years, been in Atlanta. What brought me there was the Coca-Cola Company.
Ann: How old were your kids when you moved to Atlanta?
Terence: They were probably between seven and ten years of age.
Ann: And you had been married how long?
Terence: Married in ‘82 and we moved there in ’95.
Ann: Okay; you were climbing the corporate ladder.
Terence: We were climbing the corporate ladder. As a young man, at 36 years old, leading the Coca-Cola Company, the number-one beverage company in the world, it was just a dream come true; but the Lord had other plans. [Laughter]
Dave: If I remember, you go on a little retreat with your wife, somewhere around the 15-year mark.
Ann: Yes, take us back there.
Dave: She said something that changed the future of your family; didn’t she?
Terence: Our anniversary trip, we decided to go away and just have a conversation on: “Where we’ve been,” “Where are we today?” “Where we’re heading to/where we’re going,”—thinking about our kids, our life and so forth—and do a lot of discussions/a lot of things. We had a great time.
A question came up that really challenged our life and really set us in motion, even for today; and that is, “Are the kids prepared to defend their faith after high school?” We’ve heard all the stats: 75 percent of our youth have faith flight, and leaving the church after high school, and so forth and so on. And the stat you talked about earlier is actually
Ann: Ah, come on!
Terence: Ninety-five percent of parents are really abdicating the responsibility to disciple their children to the church, to camps/Christian camps, or Christian schools. We were in that 95 percent, although I was a youth director in the church. I was very active in the church—I was training up a lot of kids—but we were leaving that up to the church and to my wife.
What we decided, as we looked at that question, the response was: “No, they’re not prepared to defend their faith after high school.” They were between eight and fifteen years of age at that time. Her response was just so perfect: “Well, what are you going to do about it?” [Laughter]
“What am I going to do about it?! What are you going to do about it? What’s the church going to do about it?”—right?
She said, “No, that’s your responsibility. It’s our responsibility.”
Dave: She threw it on you.
Terence: “But you’re the spiritual leader of this home; it’s time for you to step up.”
The refection was really: “You know what? I need to take that step forward and be intentional.” It’s not that we weren’t doing the things that most parents would say are intentional in raising them up. To deal with certain questions and certain issues, so as they go through circumstances in their life, whether it’s good, bad or whatever—that they run back to the cross and they know how to do that—that’s the responsibility we took on and began to be very intentional in our discipling of our kids.
Dave: What did that look like? Because it sounds like before, you were like most—
95 percent of us—getting your kids in church, maybe a Christian school or camps. You develop a plan. Did you start a whole different family thing?—I mean, you just added that on or what happened?
Terence: We’ve learned that practicing Christians, if they’re intentional—that 75 percent of faith flight—reduces down to 30 percent; it’s a significant reduction.
We started with basics. I knew how to plan—from places like Coca Cola Company and Citibank—so I started to think about those type of things: “Do I have a vision for my family?” “Where am I going? Where am I taking them?” “Where’s the Lord leading us?” Because the Lord doesn’t want our best; He wants His best for my family.
Ann: Terence, what do you think most families, their goal would be: “My kids would be…”—what?
Terence: A lot of what we do, in terms of distractions:
- Performance; right? We want our kids to go to the best schools, get the best jobs, etc.
- Secondly, we want our kids to either be some type of athlete or some type of great performer—
Terence: —successful; right
When we think about success, and what satisfies us, we think about what I call worldly things that make us a success—and we brag about it; right?—because our kids are doing well in school, our kids are succeeding at sports, or whatever.
But they’re failing as the spiritual person in the household, and they’re struggling, and they don’t know what to do and where to go.
Dave: I think you just described almost every family, whether it’s in the church or not. They need a greater vision, which is obviously what happened in your life as well.
How about now? Because, even if you think about the family when you were doing that in the ‘90s, we’re in a different world right now—there are all kinds of pressures on families—and especially, on us as parents. What’s that look like for a family in 2022?
Ann: Yes, what are families facing?
Terence: Dave, it hasn’t changed. In fact, the beauty is we’re seeing the fruit of our labor now; because our kids are in their 20s and 30s, and they’re having kids—right?—so now, we’re grandparents. We’re watching them parent, and we’re watching the fruit of that labor.
To be intentional, it doesn’t change, whether it’s in the ‘90s or whether it’s in the 2000s. We still need to be purposeful and intentional in interacting and engaging with our children: “How do we pray with our kids?” “How do we teach them intercessory prayer?” “How do we read God’s Word and study it together?”—just this basic—“How do we worship together and have conversations?”; etc. That doesn’t change; it never will change, because His Word is always faithful and true.
But what we’re seeing [personally] is: our kids go through struggles today, or just parenting today, they’re reflecting back on our devotional sessions that may have taken place over the last five, ten, fifteen years. We’ve been doing this, by the way, for twenty-one years.
Ann: —which I remember, the last time you were on, you said you were still doing it remotely.
Terence: We still are doing it remotely; we have a little thing called Zoom/virtual every other Sunday, because we don’t see them at home. They’re all out of the house—thank God for that; right?—our own home and food. I do rob their refrigerator, from time to time, when I visit. But now, every other Sunday, eight o’clock, we’re having our family devotional sessions; and we haven’t missed in 21 years.
As you may recall, we’re on a theme—where each year, we’re on a theme—it’s called The Three C’s:
- The first year it’s about Connection. We study what we believe and the foundations of our faith and the tenants of our faith, etc.
- The second year is all about Commitment: “How do we live out what we say we believe?”
- And the third year is around Commission. It’s not just about us: “How do we serve/how do we teach them how to share the gospel message about the Great Commission?”
This year, we’re back into the year of Connection. This is our seventh rotation of: Connection, Commitment, Commission.
Dave: It’s interesting: connection in a world that’s disconnected right now. What a perfect theme; for obviously, you’re talking about connection with God, but talking about connection with one another?
Terence: We are probably in this most disconnected place in society today. Here’s a stat from the latest Barna study: 77 percent of our youth are dealing with some type of mental anxiety, depression, etc. But what they’re really doing is searching for meaning/identity, and they don’t know where to find it. They’re looking at all the wrong places; i.e., social media, the world, etc.—when the Lord has already defined it and given us that purpose and meaning—is to glorify Him. But how do we do that if we’ve never been taught?
As a parent: “Oh, do I want to do the right thing?”—if I’m not equipped to know how to do that—and I’m dealing with kids, who are feeling depressed, and can’t get out of bed, and can’t go through situations—"How do I begin to have conversations with them now when they’re dealing with such anxiety?”
Ann: I have so many friends, who their kids are struggling, right now, with those issues. I’m thinking of the listeners, who are facing that; and they’re on the edge of the seat, like, “Yes, tell me; what should I do?”
Terence: The answer’s always “Jesus”; right? [Laughter] But we’ve got to go a little deeper than that.
Terence: It’s real, and we need to face that it is real. It does not depict you as some type of parent—good, bad, or indifferent, or not capable/you didn’t do your job—no, not at all.
The mind is a very powerful thing; it’s a very powerful tool that we have. The mind, in some cases, can tell a child that they’re not worthy, or they’re not capable, or it brings them into somewhat of a depressive state. Sometimes chemicals have to deal with that; but other times, it’s not chemical imbalance: it’s just a mental depression that people have to be awakened out of. For me, as we talk to parents around the country: “Be intentional to affirm your child; to speak with them; to give them positive feedback; also, to give them real feedback and to have conversations.”
Real case scenario: my son was, unfortunately, a victim of the pandemic. He faced a situation, where he was laid off, due to his company consolidated as the company was bought out. He had done a fantastic job for them for four years. He felt like he was betrayed; he felt like the company didn’t honor their side of the agreement.
They sold the company—which is normal—and the company moved to another state. They released everyone in Atlanta—that’s normal—but all of a sudden, he falls into this deep level of depression. It’s subtle; all of sudden, he can’t get out of bed; he can’t even begin to do his resume, because every time he does his resume, or attempts to, it triggers a state of depression in him that he can’t get out of.
What happens: we need to come around him and, of course, we’re going to pray for him. But I love the way the family has come around—and had conversation and encouragement; even helps him with his resume—and then say: “Hey, let’s connect you with people who can get you out there and going again.” We can’t do the job for him, but what we can do is encourage him—
Ann: You’re cheering him on.
Terence: —to cheer him on.
Dave: How did it go with him?
Terence: Well, he’s in that process right now.
Terence: The idea is he’s coming out of it: he’s beginning to have conversations; he’s beginning to get his confidence back; he’s beginning to believe in himself again, because his skills are there. He’s an amazing design communication director; but yet, he’s struggling as: “How do I get started?”
Dave: Yes, here’s what hits me: it’s interesting to think that a son, who came out of your home—where you, as parents, were intentional about: “We want to spiritually develop our kids,”—still, they’ll struggle. It doesn’t ensure a perfect kid, who’s not going to go through a hard time/end up having a hard time, getting out of bed. Sometimes, I think we think: “If I do everything right, they’re going to turn out perfect; and everything is going to be fine.” He still needs people in his life/connection.
Ann: That’s what I was thinking—it’s that other “C”—it’s that connection: you guys have surrounded him.
Terence: Imagine, if we hadn’t been intentional over the last 21 years, we may not ever know of his situation. But now, what it has done is unite us in the Spirit; so we can have these trusted conversations that it’s okay to show weakness/it’s okay to say, “I’m not capable.” In fact, I believe he’s in a great place; and let me tell you why. Because there’s a difference in brokenness and being wounded. I believe he’s in the state of brokenness, which is a great position to be in.
Now, he may not agree with that right now; but when you’re broken, there’s only one place to really find true healing and that place is at the cross. Because at the cross, we see an amazing picture: an image of Christ hanging there, suffering, due to nothing He was really guilty of; but yet, He suffered; He bore our sins on that cross. As a result, we find hope because, now, we understand He sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf.
We always say: “We’re praying for you,” “We’re thinking about you,” etc. Those are good Christian things to say—but to be present; to help him reflect on God’s Word—what he’s seeing now is that God is truly faithful, and He’s true. As much as we see it—because, as parents, we want to jump in and save them; right?—we want to jump in and make a difference—but as I said to my wife, “Sometimes, we just need to let God do His work.”
Ann: That’s so hard. I just said this to Dave and our kids: because I love them so much, I hate them being in pain; and I want to fix them/I want to get them out of it. So many situations—where you hate for you kids to go through pain, but you’re praying that God will use it—that’s where you guys are.
Terence: That’s exactly where we are; it’s a good place. Many will say, “Oh, woe is me,”—but we say, “Yay, God!”—right?—because we’re seeing Him work. Now, here’s the thing I’m saying to my son: “Make sure you’re journaling during this time; because what I want you to see is the mighty finger of God, moving and acting. Really, He’s becoming real to you in a way you’ve never experienced Him before.”
I believe we go through these phases of maturity, because I don’t think He can give it all to us at once. We start, as these babes in Christ—we’re on fire; we’ve just been saved; Holy Spirit—and all of that; right?
Dave: It’s like marriage.
Dave: It’s like marriage: the feelings are high.
Terence: —feelings are high; we’re feeling good about it. We’ve just walked down the aisle and said: “I do,” and “Boy, this is it!”
And then, life gets in the way; those little guys start running around—your life becomes a whole different—but then we, in here, we see just amazing love of Christ Jesus: He’s real.
Ann: You’ve taken us from having this conversation with your wife—as a successful businessman, you decide, “I’m going to pour into my kids,”—you start discipling them, being very intentional, pouring into your kids. And then, you took it even further in your career. Share that: what you ended up doing.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Terence Chatmon on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear how he changed his prayer in just a minute.
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Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Terence Chatmon and how he needed to make a slight but significant change to his prayer.
Terence: Well, it never ends because this is a process—sanctification—this is a process. One of my prayers, early on, was: “God, how can You use me in a mighty way?”
Ann: It’s a great prayer.
Terence: It is. But you know, Ann, I’ve learned that I need to change a word in there [Laughter]; because He doesn’t need me at all. Instead of me saying, “How can You use me in a mighty way?”—I’ve changed that slightly to say—“God how can You trust me?” and “How can I trust You in a mighty way?”
For me, it just changes things—because, right now, we’re trusting God with our children, with our life, with our ministry, etc.—and that next phase is: “How do we come alongside parents, who want to do the right thing?” I'm an optimist now: “They want to do the right thing; but sometimes, they just don’t know how, and they feel helpless; they feel hopeless.” We have the answer in front of us, but it’s hard to grasp it as you’re going through these situations; right?
Now, we’re coming alongside parents with a new discipleship process to help them deal with these struggles and to let them know they’re not alone; that is called our Master Family Champion Program. “Parents, there’s help for you. You don’t have to go through this alone. We have people who can come into your life,”—because I believe that one-on-on discipleship is the answer for many of the parents, who are struggling with these type of situations and every situation.
Dave: How do you come alongside? What’s that look like?
Terence: You know about our workshops—our workshops, where the parents come in, and they learn about this written planning process; and they begin to be intentional—but we’ve found, once they complete that plan—and it’s not about the plan—about
36 percent of those parents, which is really a great number, implement the plan.
Years ago, we discovered something: when you put a discipler along with a parent, and coach them along the way, that 30 percent number goes to 96 percent.
Terence: Now, we’re seeing, out of 100,000 parents, who have been trained,
96 percent are implementing the plan at home. Now, discipleship is truly taking place.
However, they need something more; so each month, we come alongside and provide a virtual coaching opportunity for them, where they now can ask the questions; they can hear different scenarios from different parents, and they know they’re not alone.
Dave: Basically, a virtual parenting coach.
Terence: Exactly; ongoing—but they’re around the years of Connection, Commitment, and Commission; so the progression is happening—maturity, if you will, is happening—in real time, in a real way, with real parents and real coaches. But the solution is biblically based.
Ann: I’m sitting here, thinking: “Every parent, who has kids under their roof, should do this,” “Why wouldn’t they do it?” and “How do they do it?”
Terence: This is not a checklist. What this is about is a life experience, where every day, we’re living this type of life: we’re going to the cross. That’s the difference in what we’re doing—instead of that help list/our self-righteousness-type of list—this is a Christ-righteousness list; so every day, we’re saying, “I’m not capable. I am broken; but at the cross, I find my strength.”
It’s an online program; it’s about 20/30 hours. We certify them; and then they can be trainers and coaches for parents, that we spoke about, to make a difference in their life. You talk about an impactful ministry that’s generational; that’s what this ministry is about.
One of the things we’ve lost is our patriarchs in the church. This is a way to re-activate those patriarchs in the church to make a difference, because they’re not done yet. Pastors—you and I know, because I’ve been a pastor—we can’t do it all; it can’t fall on us; right? We need support. We need to produce leaders and multiply those leaders. This is an opportunity to multiply the leadership in your church; but more importantly, parents, it’s the opportunity for you to be that spiritual leader in your home.
Ann: Thanks, Terence, for all you’re doing. What an impact you’re making.
Terence: Thank you.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Terence Chatmon on FamilyLife Today. We’ve got a link to Terence’s website, Victorious Family, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can find it there.
You ever wonder about where that line is between what’s constructive criticism and what’s actually tearing someone down? Well, Ann Wilson’s words seem so relatable to me; she says, “How many times have I used my words to tear Dave down and to destroy him, thinking I was helping him and doing good, when all the time, I had this power to influence to be able to speak life into him.” So good. Could your relationship use a shift toward using words to respect and cherish each other? Check out our marriage studies at FamilyLifeToday.com, and use the code, “25 OFF”; that’s 2-5-O-F-F to save today, and beef up your communication, so your marriage becomes more life-giving for both of you. Again, that’s at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson will be talking with Josh and Jen Mulvihill about the true value of being intentional with your kids: the things that they need to know before leaving the home.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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