It may seem strange to look at your family as an “organization.” However, a family operates in much the same way as a small business or ministry. You have a purpose, which may be to provide for the rearing of children and the mutual support of each member. You have policies and procedures usually called “family rules.” Expectations exist for every family member, and there is often a division of labor. (Little Susie puts out the utensils for dinner, Mike cuts the grass, Mom cooks while Dad drives home from work.) You have an income and outgo. (With children in the family, the outgo may easily outpace the income.) Daily operations provide the necessities for the family organization. You even have a headquarters which we usually call home.
When we look from the middle of life, we usually see only the many trees in the forest. However, stepping back and understanding the forest helps us see the patterns of the trees. We can see the paths that lead us out of the forest.
With such a strategic approach, you can live intentionally; you can set and make goals. You can cease being a slave to the urgent and become a servant of the important. By gaining an understanding of the big picture, you have a greater ability to get your day-to-day life on track. Armed with this knowledge, you can live the way you wish. The first step requires some attention. It’s time to step back and review how your family lives compared to how you want to live.
As has been said, “every organization is perfectly designed for the results it is getting.” This pithy little quote on why we are the way we are says a lot. Like many people, you desire something better for your family. However, you probably don’t know how or what to change. Change frightens and perplexes us. Fear tempts us to say, “I’m good enough where I am.” While you feel things are acceptable, as we stated earlier in this book, “God has more for you than ‘good enough.’”
We have developed this method of looking at our family, which we call, “The Seven Pillars of the Christian Family.” The purpose to understanding these domains or “pillars” is to help us integrate our family life. As in any group dynamic, different areas of family life affect the others. For example, let us ask you a question, “What is the purpose of your family?” Some of you will likely answer, “We fell in love, kids happened and here we are. I don’t know the “purpose” or goals of our family.” We actually think this happens far more than people are willing to admit. Is that bad? Not if it leads you to breaking out of the rut of complacency and developing a desire to understand the soul of your family.
This Seven Pillars method takes a holistic approach to looking at the areas in which an organization operates. It presupposes that every organization has a unique character made of its members and their attitudes. The Seven Pillars method helps you look at your family like you would hold up a mirror. Would you do your hair or makeup without looking in the mirror? How might you look in that mirror if you have no idea about how you want to look? (Admittedly, we have both seen that sight in the morning mirror. Not at all pretty.) The Seven Pillars method is a way of looking at the family (or any Christian organization) that gives perspective to its various parts.
Each pillar represents one domain or area of our family life. They correspond to various aspects of life that Christian families will find important in building their walk of discipleship. Taken together they form a balanced view of the considerations that spiritual families creating young disciples will want. Please understand that we do not intend to tell you how to practice your family’s Christian faith. We believe that presumes too much on our part. What we will tell you is this, “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Practice your faith with conviction.”
The Seven Pillars of the Christian Family
We believe that viewing these Seven Pillars through the eyes of faith will enable your family to bring your spirituality into every facet of your life. Reconciling your faith with each Pillar will build a strong home and a close family. By creating a faithful home structure, you teach your children that faith is more that something we put a few hours into every week. By viewing life in this way, you can now experience family life together in a way uplifting every area of life. We urge you to take full advantage of this method of standing back and evaluating what you’re doing so you can go where God leads you.
From the Introduction to Section 4- Reason for Hope
We can jumpstart this process by clearly accepting that children understand God differently than adults do. Children understand God in the ways He designed them– in their proper season. Their little hearts accept truth in ways that life has conditioned out of adults. Who has not marveled at this scene from the gospels?
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
Many preachers have trod these waters explaining the nature of the child, trusting and loving. Yet, this deserves a fuller understanding since we explored how people develop. When mentoring children, we must remember they are more than “pre-human beings.” Children have a life and an integrity of faithfulness all their own. It is not the faith of an adult but perhaps our own arrogance is the same as the disciples, “What does a child have to offer us?” Well, Jesus told us to look to them as a model for our faith.
Perhaps we need to become more discerning in expecting to give them an adult-looking faith at too early an age. Let’s pay attention to their abilities and look to understand the development of their faith in its appropriate season. Parents need to help our children understand God and experience Jesus IN THEIR WAY. This may take rethinking some of the things we know and presenting them in a manner tailored for children of various ages. This process takes form in understanding the Cognitive, Psychosocial and Moral developmental stages of our young disciples. Understanding our young disciples and instructing them in the ways of the Lord is the calling of a parent.
With the Lord of life in the midst of our lives and a commitment to keeping a Christian home, we CAN disciple our children. Familiarity with this growth process can lead us to better communication, better instruction, and most importantly, with greater love and empathy. With Christ welcomed into the midst of our lives, our young disciples develop the most important skill they will ever need: the ability to know, love, and follow our Heavenly Father.
From the conclusion to Section 3- Making The Connection
Let’s consider that teaching scenario again as lived by a Christian parent.
Billy comes home from school and says to his mother. “Mommy, I’m worried about taking my math test at school. I think I understand after my teacher helped me, but I don’t want to mess up and look stupid.” Which scenario works better?
A. Mom turns from her work and says “Well, I understand that Billy, just ask God to help you do your best and to quit worrying.” Then she returns to her work.
B. Mom turns from her work and goes and sits next to Billy and says, “Well, I understand that Billy. You don’t get to see it, but I worry about things too. Right now, I’m concerned about Grandma and her health. It makes me upset to think about her being really sick. I don’t like how I feel when I worry. Do you get all nervous and maybe a little nauseous in your tummy, too? I thought so. Son, when I start to worry about Grandma, or money, or even you I stop myself and ask a question. I ask myself, ‘Self, have you done all you can do to take care of the things you can control?’ When I can say yes, then I pray to the Lord.”
(When an appropriate opportunity presents itself to share our own walk with our children, we should interact with them over our choices and struggles.)
“Remember how God told many people in the Bible to ’Fear Not.’ Well, let’s pray that God will deliver us from fear. I’ll start praying, then when you're ready, you tell God what you're afraid will happen. Then I’ll finish the prayer and ask God to give us the strength to trust Him in everything. Then, I’ll say ‘We give our worry to you God. Do with us what you feel best.’ Then we will say ‘Amen’, and we’ll trust God to watch over us. Then, whenever our mind starts to bring us worry we just tell ourselves, ‘That’s God’s problem to care for!’ and we’ll find something else to think about. Are you ready to pray?” After they pray, Mom and Billy work through the math together.
The mom in scenario A clearly has the right answer. Turn it over to God and quit worrying. However, the mom in scenario B, who shared her own worries and prayed with her child was demonstrating the practical ways she lives as a Christian. She was being in relationship with both God and Billy and helping Billy to learn to walk with God.
Adults have things in their life that a child is not prepared to understand, mentally or emotionally. However, when an appropriate opportunity presents itself to share our own walk with our children, we should interact with them over our choices and struggles. Take opportunities to make any event a teachable moment and a relational moment, for you and your family.
From Section 2 - The Discipleship Process
We live in a culture under the authority of experts. Knowledge is so vast and specialized that certain people, highly trained in narrow fields and letters after their name, tell us what to think about nearly everything. (And celebrities seem to give us their opinion on everything else.) When somebody starts spouting off an opinion we don't like we might respond with, "Who made you an expert?"
We bow to authorities in many areas. Often we have no choice. And worse, many times the experts disagree. How many nights have we looked at the evening news consisting of dueling experts opining on the economy, business, government and everything else of interest. Want to know how to think about something? An expert will tell you. We have been trained to bow to the greater intellect, education, or degrees of an expert.
That is not all bad. Obviously, knowledge is a good thing. My doctor went to medical school and knows more about medicine than I do. Praise God. But still, medical mistakes cost the lives of thousands every year. It is my duty to make informed decisions because the results impact me more than the doctor.
One smart lady gave Todd’s wife Ginny some sage advice about dealing with their son Mitchel's disability. Under pressure to buckle to an inappropriate treatment under a specialist, Ginny’s friend told her, "They may be the expert in their field but YOU are the expert on your child.” Isn't that true?
You are the expert on your family! You are the expert on your child!
From the First Chapter
The world's many dangers make parenting a tricky business. No longer is it enough just to provide the physical needs of our offspring. Instead of the daily challenges faced by earlier generations, we often feel overwhelmed by our new parenting struggles. In real ways, we face obstacles unimaginable to earlier generations of Christians. The challenges and temptations confronting our children would boggle the imaginations of our ancestors.
Every type of sin and vice flaunts itself (and many can be found after a quick search on the Internet). Everywhere we see an invitation to covet and a multitude of opportunities to be separated from our money. We find many appeals to provide salvation through government, through a movement, through a product, through social acceptance, through many things. Our children can easily respond to the lure of other, "cooler" religious messages.
The Opening Chapters of Heritage Parenting
Excerpts from the Book