The Rhythm of Discipleship
About the Guest
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Adam GriffinAdam Griffin (DEdMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the lead pastor of Eastside Community Church in East Dallas, Texas. He previously served as an elder and spiritual formation pastor at the Village Church. Adam co-wrote Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home through Time, Moments, and Milestones with pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church in Dallas, Texas. Adam lives with his wife, Chelsea, and their three sons Oscar, Gus, and Theodore, in Dallas, Texas.
Adam Griffin coaches parents on what it means to disciple their children. Griffin shares how his family opens their home for hospitality as a way to evangelize their neighbors.
The Rhythm of Discipleship
Bob: All of us, as parents, want our kids to fit in; right? Adam Griffin says we ought to rethink that.
Adam: One thing that we should talk about that’s really, really important in family discipleship is we are trying to raise kids that are very used to being different, when you’re trying to raise a Christian kid; because our culture is increasingly secular. One of the most important things for us to remember to raise a Christian right now—is not to raise a kid that’s ready to be the most popular kid in school—[they’re] ready to stand up for what’s right, even when nobody else wants to.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 4th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How can we raise kids who fit in and yet still stand up for their faith at the same time? We’ll talk more about that today with Adam Griffin. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We need to do this again. A few years ago at our church, we got together three couples, who are now empty nesters. We had an evening where they shared with the parents in our church what they would do differently if they were parenting again.
Dave: Great topic.
Bob: You get parents together and ask them, “Tell us about your parenting”; and most of those parents can go, “Here are the mistakes we made…”—right? We overlook some of the victories. We’re aware of the fact of things we wish could have done differently.
But these empty nesters had a lot of great insight into some of the very practical things that they were doing. These younger parents were eating it up.
Dave: I’m sitting, right now, beside an empty nester named Bob Lepine. Bob and Mary Ann: what would you share?
Bob: I think we’d go back to some of those things we wish we’d done differently. We talked this week about trying to model goodness and forgetting that we needed to show our kids that we’re fellow strugglers and that we mess up and confession/repentance. I remember a guest on FamilyLife Today, who said every discipline encounter he has with his child, his goal is to have that child love Jesus more at the end of that discipline encounter. I thought, “That’s not what I was thinking when I was disciplining my kids.” [Laughter] I thought, “My goal was to get you to straighten up and make my life easier!”—right? It would be those kinds of learnings, where I would go back and say, “Yes; if I had a do-over, I’d do some things differently.”
I’m thinking we’ve got a lot of young parents, who are listening to FamilyLife Today, who would love some coaching. And we have a great coach—
Ann: We do have a good coach.
Dave: Thanks, Bob; I appreciate that! [Laughter]
Bob: —who is joining us this week on FamilyLife Today. I’m talking about Adam Griffin joining us. Welcome back.
Adam: Thanks for having me.
Bob: Adam is a pastor from east Dallas. He and his wife have been married for ten years; they’ve got three sons at home. He has written a book, together with Matt Chandler, called Family Discipleship. In reading the book, I was impressed with the fact that this is something that—you’ve moved from the abstract ideas of: “We need to be about these important topics,”—into some of the very practical: “Here’s how we’re trying to live this out in our home.”
If you were sitting down with a couple, and they told you, “Our baby’s going to be born next month,” and “We want your coaching tips on what we should do in the early years; and then, what we should start getting ready for as our kids get older,” where would you start with them?
Adam: That’s a great question. The congregation that I pastor is very young. We actually have that question a lot. It’s a lot of people having kids for the first time and thinking, “What does discipleship look like from day one/from step one?” One of the things you pointed out that you wanted to do over—and we say that you don’t actually get to do anything over—there are a lot of “try agains”—there are a lot of: “I’m going to try again. I may not be able to do yesterday over again, but I’m going to try again.”
That’s true from day one of parenting. It’s really easy to find things you regret or wish you had done different. But for every one of us, we can come up with an example of what it would look like in each one of our families, whether it’s around this table or around your church. It’s going to be different for every family. The struggle was, when writing a book, I didn’t want to write a book that says, “Here’s what it looks like for the Griffins and the Chandlers.”
Bob: “Here’s the formula...” “Follow the recipe, and your kids will turn out great.”
Adam: Yes; “Just do it like us.” We have some general categories and then, hopefully, some helpful examples that say: “It doesn’t have to look just like the Griffins; it could look more generally like the Griffins.”
I’ll give you an example. Where I live—I live in a neighborhood that is very diverse—and there is a lot of refugees/a lot of people, who have moved here from another country/escaped something horrific—and now they’re trying to learn a new culture. For me, the general principle might be: “Invite your kids into how you want to demonstrate biblical hospitality.” The specific example might be: “In the Griffin family, we try to do our best to welcome those families that are new to our neighborhood—understanding that they’re refugees and new to the culture—to let them know: ‘If there’s anything you need help translating…’ ‘If there’s anything, navigating in the city ordinances or in the city…’ or ‘As you need help finding a job or getting resources…’—that’s why we’re here.” Without turning other people into a charity, helping our kids understand, “This is how we make friends. This is how adults make friends. We don’t do it like you do it; we do it like this. This is how we love our neighbor.”
The general principle will be: “Families, invite your kids into how you love your neighbor.” Kids wait for the bus in front of our home, and this is how we’ve met our refugee neighbors—is as their teenagers and their kids are waiting for the bus, we decided: “Hey, they’re literally coming to us; they’re in our front yard. Why don’t we just go out and offer them something to eat?”—taking donuts, strike up conversations, and then leverage those into opportunities to share the gospel. That’s the driving force behind it—not to create some version, where our kids will just witness it—but we invite our kids; because we want them to grow up, where it’s very normal for them to see their parents evangelizing and discipling.
Being exposed to other cultures has been very good for our kids as well; in fact, one thing that we should talk about that’s really, really important in family discipleship is we are trying to raise kids that are very used to being different, when you’re trying to raise a Christian kid; because our culture is increasingly secular. One of the most important things for us to remember is to raise a Christian right now is—not to raise a kid that’s ready to be the most popular kid in school—[they’re] ready to stand up for what’s right, even when nobody else wants to.
Ann: Walk us through that conversation, Adam. What does that sound like as you’re talking to your kids?
Adam: Even this week—I’ll give you a very present example—we were talking through the story of Zacchaeus in our family discipleship time before I put them to bed. The story of Zacchaeus is a wee little man who comes to know the Lord, even though the entire crowd thought it was a bad idea for Jesus to go to his house. What we talk about is: “Is it always accepted by the crowd to follow Jesus?” or “Does Jesus always do what the crowd thinks is right?” They were like, “No, it’s not.” The language we’ve been using in our house is: “Did you know that following Jesus will sometimes make you weird?—and sometimes make you different? It doesn’t mean that it’s not right; it’s actually righteously abnormal,”—is the words we use in the book.
We want them to be prepared to stand up for what’s right, even when nobody thinks it’s a good idea. That’s because we believe, scripturally, God says, “If you follow Me, people in this world are going to hate you.” If I’m not preparing my kids to be hated by the world, then I’m going to send them out into a world that is very different than what is the reality. The reality is that this world—it’s sensitivities—are offended by many of the things that I believe.
I want my kids ready to be strong—not that they would be intentionally irritating to the world—but that they be ready to believe what’s true, even if it does irritate their friends or the people around them. That’s very different than my parenting instincts that say: “Be universally loved by your kids and those around you,” and “Create kids that are universally loved by their teachers, and those around them, and their peers.” Instead, I’m saying, “Prepare kids to universally love God, no matter what—no matter what their friends think/ no matter what their teachers think.”
Ann: It’s easy today to become so consumed with school/so consumed with sports; we go to church on Sunday. I think a lot of parents feel overwhelmed by homework, and COVID, and you’re doing school online—they feel overwhelmed. Now they’re thinking, “Oh, great. Now I have to have a ministry too?—and my kids have to see me?”
Adam: I think every parent will relate to that—every important thing in this kid’s life. “Are we saying that, now Adam, you’re going to add something else important to this? We’re already stressed enough.”
Actually, what we’re saying is: “Let’s not do the disservice of pretending those things are more important than leading your kids toward eternity”: so we’ll add it to the list and go, “Oh. I’ve also got to do a family devotion.” It’s like: “No, no, no! If you don’t have time for this, then you don’t actually have time for al the sports and activities. This is so much more important. The spiritual leadership of your home is the priority the Bible puts on your family, but we make it one of a list of priorities.”
We tried to write this book in a way to really communicate: “This is not to stress you out with one more thing. This is to help you understand the truth of all the things you’re doing.”
Dave: I think a lot of guys maybe are like me. I coach high school football—you put a defense in front of me—as an old quarterback, I can tell you where to attack it. I walk in my house—and my wife says, “Can you lead us spiritually?”—I’m like, “Uh, what’s that look like? I know what a Cover 2 looks like, and I know how to throw a seam route down the middle and look the…” “I’m supposed to—what? How do I do it? I don’t feel equipped; I’ve never been trained. I’ve been trained in these other areas; I know how to get a sales job done. But lead my family and create disciples—that’s the pastor’s job; that’s the church’s job—that ain’t my job,” or “That’s my wife’s job,”—what do you say to that parent?
Adam: I think that’s the purpose of the book we wrote/was to say: “There are a lot of families out there who didn’t grow up in a home that discipled them. There are a lot of families out there, who are going, ‘I’ve got all these resources: I’ve got a kids’ Bible, and I’ve got kids’ music, and I’ve got kids’ storybooks. But how is this part of a plan? What am I supposed to do with this? Is this occasional? Is it sporadic? Is it every day? Is it all day? What if my kids don’t seem like they’re jiving with it?’”
The book is to help—no matter what your family looks like/no matter how it’s made up—to be able to sit down and get on the same page with your spouse, or your church, or your community with: “What can a very simple plan, that’s engrained in what our life already looks like, how can a plan like that happen in a way that’s not going to stress me out or overwhelm me?” and “It’s going to help me see the permission/the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in it; and at the same time, not minimize the importance of it—to make it something that, where, ‘Every once in awhile we’ll think about that.’”
This is something that we are perfectly capable of doing, not of our own strength or will, but because of the God we follow. God has made this a priority; therefore, we know God has empowered His people for it—not to do it without Him—but to do in and through Him.
Dave: In one section of the book, you actually model for us what you do at night. I’m a guy [rough voice]: “Just tell me what to do; just tell me what to do.” [Laughter] You walk through bedtime. Walk us through bedtime.
Adam: We have a very simple rhythm. Often, it’s just: we read Scripture; we share; we sing; and there’s prayer. That’s very, very simple. Our kids—
Dave: Okay; I got to tell you—some guys just went, “Oh, boy. That’s too much: we sing; we pray…” But I’m guessing it’s just pretty simple; right?
Adam: It is very simple. We sing a very simple song that we sing at church, which is a benediction or a doxology. I’ll tell you—of the people, without busting my wife out—of the two people in my marriage, one of us is not a great singer. [Laughter] Can I say that? It’s still great; it’s still a chance for us to sing with our kids. It’s not goofy; it’s not strange. Singing is something the Lord has called us to.
Not every family is going to sing—not every family is getting out the bongos and the guitar and worshipping together—although for some people, that is it for them; they love that. Maybe they’re putting in the music; they’re listening to it; they’re focusing and meditating.
That’s not my family. My family is: we’re going to read a very short Scripture or story. Often, it’s a parable or a narrative from the Bible. Then, we’re going to ask a couple questions about it—like: “Do you see what I see here?” or “What do you see from it?” The older our kids get, the more complicated those questions can be, and the more vulnerable and honest I am with my own struggles. Then, we’re going to sing something—almost: “As we conclude our time together, let’s remind ourselves to align our hearts around the Lord”; and then we pray together. As our kids get older, we invite them to pray or ask each other what they can pray for. They share those things with each other.
Ann: Do you put your hands in a little huddle?
Adam: We often do. We’ll hold hands while we sing, and then we’ll put our hands in the middle while we pray. It’s a physical ritual that helps focus. My kids—like the way you described your three boys—they can be all over the place. But if we do something like, “Hey, all the Griffins are going to put our hands in the middle. At the end of the prayer, when we say, ‘Amen,’ it’s going to be almost like we’re breaking the huddle.” It is a sweet treat for my family, and it helps them focus. It feels like we’re doing something together.
Dave: You just modeled the Griffin family. I’m guessing the Lepines didn’t look that way/the Wilsons. You can/it’s almost like we can step back and go: “What’s ours going to look like?!
Dave: “Are we going to sing?” “No! We’re not singing!” [Laughter] “Okay; what are we going to do instead?”—what is going to be a Wilson thing or a Lepine thing that makes disciples our unique way? That’s fun to think about.
Adam: That’s what I’m saying—is that the time, moments, and milestones are going to look different for everybody—but the framework itself can work for everyone.
We’re saying there should be some time set aside—we’re saying, “This is time where our family is just thinking about the Lord.” There should be times where we are taking advantage of things throughout the day. And then there are milestones that we are aiming at—pointing toward/celebrating—when the Lord does something really significant. “How do we incorporate those three aspects of the framework into how we disciple our kids?”
Bob: You have life verses for your kids?—you incorporate that into bedtime somehow?
Adam: Yes, absolutely. As we put them to bed—I’ve talked to some friends about this too—it’s one of my favorite things. Some of my friends have written some original blessings for their kids—like, “I’m so proud of you. I love you. These are things I see in you…”
What we’ve done for each one of our kids is—for each one of our kids, we’ve chosen a verse from the Bible that we will share with them every night as we put them to bed. As they’ve gotten older, it’s the first verse that they memorized; now they can say it back to us.
For each one of our kids: for Oscar, it’s from Corinthians; we say, “Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like a man and be strong. Let everything you do be done in love.” It’s a great blessing verse. Also, when we incorporate it into discipline, we’ll say, “Remember how, at night, we’ll say to you, ‘Let everything you do be done in love’? Walk me through what just happened. Do you feel like what’s going on in your life right now is living up to this principle we want to live to, that everything we do is done in love?” The same thing for my other boys with their verses.
Ann: How did you pick the verses for your sons?
Adam: Honestly, my wife and I had a conversation, where we said: “What verses stick out to us from the Bible that would be something we really hope would be true for our sons?” or “What situationally happens in the Bible that we hope we get to repeat in this one?”
For my son, Gus/my second born, we chose the last words of David to his son, Solomon, where he says/basically, he says, “Be a man and follow God.” That’s what we wanted for him. Then, for my son, Theodore/our third born—it was a little bit more like, “There is so much in the Bible that is so good, and we want him to remember.” We settled on Micah 6:8 to give him something clear that was a summary to say: “We want you to be all about justice, and mercy, and walking humbly with your God.”
Hopefully, as they get older, they can appreciate the greater depth; but right now, it’s just words they remember.
Bob: I remember talking to a mom and dad, who would change that every year on the child’s birthday. They’d come up with a verse for the year that was going to be their focus verse. Again, that kind of a regular rhythm—you can have a life verse—but if there are yearly verses, as the kids are growing and in new chapters and in new phases that you can incorporate in—that’s a great way to keep planting God’s Word in the life of the child and keep reinforcing spiritual principles.
Dave: I’m thinking of the dad or the mom listening that are, right now, feeling like they blew it—maybe their kids are teenagers, maybe they’re older, maybe they’re even still young—but they’re listening, going, “Boy. I haven’t done any of this.” What do you say to them?
Adam: One, I’d say, “It’s never too late to start.” One of the best first steps you can take with kids—is to have what we’ve bounced around a lot—is a repentance talk. If you need to sit down with your growing or grown kids—and first ask for forgiveness, saying, “I wish our family had been different. There are some things I wish I would’ve done more. There are some things I wish I wouldn’t have done at all,”—ask for forgiveness/to say, “Mom” or “Dad didn’t lead you the way we wanted.” Just ask for forgiveness.
And then help your kids take ownership on what you want to do going forward: say, “I want to spend more time in the Word together. Is there any way that you have in your mind that you think our family could do that well? Is there a time we have in our week? Is there a meal, or is there a commute, or is there a cross points that our family already has, where we could say, ‘Let’s dedicate some of that time to the Lord’? If it’s a drive to or from church; or maybe it’s, once a week, could I take you out for breakfast?”
Somebody told me they had so many kids; they’re like, “How can I, with the number of kids I have, possibly get involved each kid’s life?” One of the ideas that came from a family with a lot of kids—again, there’s so many things you could do—they said that every month, on the day of the month, that’s the same as their birthday day—so if they were born on the fifth of August, then it’s the fifth day of every month—they spend a little extra time with that one kid. It might be: if they’re older now, maybe write a letter or a text to that one kid to say: “It’s the fifth of the month. I just want you to know today’s your day of the month. I’m thinking about you; I’m praying for you.”
If they’re in their home, maybe they stay up a little bit later with that kid; but they give that child a little bit extra focus. Again, it’s taking the time, like you would in your workplace/like you would in any relationship to say, “I’m going to spend a little bit of time thinking about this, and planning it, and giving it some intentionality.” We’d do that with almost anything else, but we expect parenting to come to us naturally. The fact that we struggle with it—we beat ourselves up over it—instead of going, “This is hard for everybody.” The universal truth is that: “It is really hard to be a parent.”
The other universal truth is that: “It’s really hard to be a kid.” If we can give each other some grace there, to say: “All of us make mistakes. That’s why we have a perfect Savior, who is so willing to forgive, and calls us to something important—and doesn’t say, ‘Don’t try; don’t bother,’—no; He says, ‘I’m the One who’s going to save kids, but I’m inviting you into how I do it.’”
What a grace that we could, with full encouragement and confidence, walk forward—knowing that we’ve made so many mistakes; knowing that other people around us might judge us, honestly, for what we’re trying to do now or what we should have done earlier—however the judgmental world wants to operate here, I can still walk forward in confidence, knowing who I was does not have to be who I’m going to be.
The family the Lord’s given me—even if that child is prodigal—I know that the Father loves to save people. There’s no such thing as a hopeless cause for the gospel. I see that over and over again in Scripture that He—like the father waiting for the prodigal—is so eager to be compassionate. I can be like that, too, as I try to imitate my heavenly Father.
Dave: I would add this, as I’m listening. We talked about the parents’ side. The kids’ side—if you’re sitting, listening/thinking, “Boy, I never got this. I wish I had even ten percent of what I’ve heard today,”—I would say to the child: maybe you’re 20/30; maybe you’re a new parent—“It’s time to forgive your parents. It’s a hard thing to let go of that. Forgive them; get on/become the parent maybe they weren’t.” That was my mission: “I’m going to be the dad I never had.” At some point, I had to forgive my dad for failing in this area. That was okay; that was a step of freedom to become the man God called me to be.
Bob: Do I understand that you’ve got some signage/some Griffin family signage up at your house? [Laughter]
Adam: —Signage. [Laughter] We have a mission statement that we’ve posted in the hallway of our home. Again, for some families, they’d be like, “That’s hokey.” For us, I’m like, “Man, my kids/two-thirds of my kids can’t even read yet; so don’t even image that/it’s not like they’re walking out every day and reciting it, either.”
We thought we should, in order to create a family discipleship culture in our home, we wanted to summarize who we’re going to be and how we make decisions as a family. For us, one of the aspects of our mission statement that helps us make decisions is that it’s: “To know God, to make Him known, and to honor Him in all that we do.” If you take the bus stop, for instance; we say: “There are kids meeting in front of our house. If our job is to know God, to make Him known, and to honor Him in all that we do, what could we do?”
Would it be to say, “Not in my backyard; I’m going to call the city about this,”—or would it be to say—“Hey, the Lord has brought these people to us; they’re right in front of us. What does it look like to make Him known?” and “Does it honor God to bring them donuts?”—I would say, “One hundred percent yes!” [Laughter] Maybe my gluten-free brothers and sisters might not agree with that—[Laughter]—but I would say, “Yes; this is what the Lord’s done for us.”
It also helps us decide what we’re going to expose our kids to—what they’re going to watch/what they’ll listen to—is based on: “Does it honor the Lord? Does it honor the Lord when we do these things?”
Bob: I think that one simple idea—of having a family mission statement and saying, “What are we going to be all about as a family?”
You [Dave] had a family mission statement; right?
Dave: Yes; we did. We don’t have time to get into it, but it’s been a discussion with our sons. It’s really important for the parents to know it, not always for the kids—as long as you know—because most parents don’t even know: “What are we shooting at?” That family mission statement gives it to you. I think there’s a balance of letting them in on it and sometimes just knowing, as parents, “That’s the goal.”
Bob: It comes back to the word we talked about—intentionality/purposefulness—it’s: “Where are we going? Do we have a plan?” “If we’re trying to drive somewhere, as parents, do we know where we’re trying to get to?”—right? To have a map and say: “Here’s where we’re going…” “Here’s what matters…” “This is what’s going to be important to us. These are what our values are…” That goes a long way for moms and dads to have family discipleship happening in your home.
Adam, thank you for the time. Thanks for the wisdom. I appreciate the book and all you and Matt have poured into this for moms and dads, like us, to benefit from.
Adam: It’s really been my pleasure. Thank you.
Bob: I want to encourage our listeners—we’re making Adam and Matt’s book available this week if you’re able to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. Just ask for the book as our thank-you gift to you in exchange for your support. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to donate, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make sure you let us know you’d like a copy of the book, Family Discipleship; we’re happy to send it to you. We’re grateful for your ongoing support of this ministry.
In fact, we are especially grateful for that support in this particular season. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife®, is here with us. David, it’s been a challenging season for our ministry/for a lot of families—a lot of us wondering, “When is life going to get back to normal?”
David: Yes; we project and we hope: “Man, after the election, it’ll be back to normal,” “After the year ends, it’s be back to normal.” What’s true is that this is a type of wilderness season. There’s all sorts of things in the Scripture around wilderness seasons and how it shapes us.
Like many of you, we, at FamilyLife/we’re feeling the effects of COVID and everything going on in 2020. Many of our outreaches have been drastically shifted. But we are so grateful to our faithful financial supporters, who make sure we are able to continue to produce new content that meets people right where they are and helps with the needs that are surfacing during this unique time.
I got a message from a listener, who was impacted by some of our COVID outreaches that we’ve been doing. He said, “Thank you so much for all of the content your ministry is putting out during this pandemic and this unique season. It has been such a tremendous blessing to me, helping to shepherd my two young children through this; helping me and my wife in our marriage; and helping me walk with a dear friend, who is not a believer, and his father suffered through COVID and passed away.”
Again, this is a wilderness season for many of us; and yet, God shapes us in it. We are here for you, and we’re so thankful for how our financial partners have been here for us also.
Bob: Yes, indeed we are, David. Thank you for that.
I hope our listeners can be with us, again, tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how grandparents can be more actively involved in helping to equip and disciple their grandchildren. Josh and Jen Mulvihill are going to join us for that conversation. We hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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