Thursday, April 26, 2012

Family Vision

Why do you parent how you parent?  That's a loaded question, I know. And, chances are more parents can not answer this question than can answer it. Sure a lot of parents can drum up an off-the-top-of-their-head kind of answer, but not usually something that offers substance and meaning.

Here are some more questions to think about:

Why are you a stay-at-home-mom? Why are you a working mom?

Why are your kids in a public school or private school or charter school or home school?

Why do you save or spend or invest your money how you do?

Why do or don't you attend church? Why do or don't you participate in ministry?

Your answers to these simple questions reveal a lot about your parenting priorities and family vision. The issue isn't, necessarily, whether there is a right or wrong answer to these questions. The issue is that you have an answer. Too many parents haven't spent time thinking about parenting outcomes, about spiritual results, and about tangible steps to guide their family toward specific goals.

There is hardly a parent out there that hopes for the worst and plans for the mediocre. But, likewise, there aren't too many parents taking intentional action to shepherd their families toward thought-out goals based on an articulated, God-centered vision.
Enough is enough. It's time to be intentional because too much is at stake to be nonchalant.

Do you want academically-smart kids or spiritually-grounded kids? Athletically-inclined kids or ministry-minded kids? Famous and well-off kids or humble and generous kids?

Maybe, just maybe, as I parent my kids in light of what God has directed in his Word, my kids will be smart (though they won't gain science or math brilliance from any gene I've passed on).

And, maybe, just maybe, as I parent my kids in the grace-filled sacrifice God asks, my kids will be athletic all-stars (though they won't develop hand-eye aptitude from any coaching on my part).

And, maybe, just maybe, as I parent my kids in surrender to God's kingdom-building agenda, my kids will be well-known and well-off (though it won't be from any financially-astute or business acumen techniques I can share).

It's really not a decision of either/or, but of both/and.
My kids can love Jesus and still make millions. My kids can memorize the dictionary and still serve their church. My kids cannot, however, discern the difference of priorities or develop the wisdom to determine appropriate action without first being taught by me to know what is true and right and pure and important.

That's a big task. A really, really big task that far too many parents don't give intentional time and energy and effort toward.

I'm reading "The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling" by Debra Bell and my highlighter can't keep up with all the material I want to mark. True, it's a book about homeschooling, but consider her thoughts about establishing a family vision:

"Working backward is a nifty math strategy my kids have learned to use, and I find it's a pretty useful approach to life as well. Therefore, your first step is to decide where you want to be when you complete your last step in the... journey. In other words, step one is to determine your destination. (p.12)

"When I don't have a clearly delineated vision guiding my decision making, my life becomes chaotic. I waste time looking at all my options and heading down paths with no destination in mind. I meander aimlessly and accomplish nothing. I become 'double-minded' and 'unstable in all my ways' (James 1:8), rethinking decisions over and over again and growing weary and discouraged. (p.14)

"Throughout history, God has consistently given a vision to His people: the promise of a coming Messiah, the hope of Christ's return, our future perfection in Christ - the list goes on. Why? So we will continue to be motivated and disciplined to press on." (p.14)

Our family is a far cry from perfect and we are a long way off from arriving anywhere close. But, since there's little value in talking about what ought to be important to families without sharing some personal specifics, I'll highlight a few things Grady and I endeavor to demonstrate to our kids.

At a high level, our family vision is this: To know, love, and serve Jesus. The specifics of how we intentionally work to teach and model this to our kids permeates everything. For example:

We purpose to show our kids that knowing Jesus happens in the littlest of things and in the biggest of things. In short, knowing Jesus happens in every minute of every day. How? Daily devotions. Praise music. Prayer times. Discipline. Seeking forgiveness. Admiring creation. Showing respect to others. The list goes on. Since my kids are, at this point, home schooled, the opportunities to stop and discuss how decisions and actions and consequences do or don't honor Jesus happen round the clock - literally.

We aim to show our kids the satisfaction that comes from giving to others what God has first given to us. They know "Daddy works hard to get money to take care of our family and buy us things," but they also know that "Daddy works hard to get us money to give to other people." They watch my husband pull the car off the road to hand a gospel tract and a small meal to a homeless man - almost every Sunday. They watch me make and deliver hospitality meals to families in need. They choose an item from cupboard to donate to the Food Pantry at church. They are young and don't always understand, but we want to be crystal clear in showing them that just because we can do or buy something, doesn't mean we should do or buy that thing. Imagine how life-changing it will be if they grasp that personal wants are best fulfilled by first  meeting God's wants of loving others before self.
We seek to show our kids the joy and delight that comes from serving our church and God's people around the world. For being as young as they are, they seem to have an understanding already that loving and serving other people takes time and money and work. They know it because they watch a Dad say no to a lot of things so that he can say yes to ministry opportunities. They know it because they see me chatting and praying with girls at a picnic table while they run and play at the park. They know it because they see it's a central part of how our family does life and how we organize our time.

Your family vision may look different, sound different, and be in an entirely different place altogether. But my question is, do you have one? Do you really have one? A family vision that you know in your mind, believe in your heart, and demonstrate with your actions. A family vision that gives your marriage strength in the journey and that gives your kids comfort in the difficulties.

"Where there is no vision ... the people perish." Proverbs 29:18. What's yours?


  1. so proud of you and your precious family! Thanks for sharing!

    from: Another privileged home schooling mom!

  2. Wonderful post, Sarah. I couldn't agree more--the times that I find myself floundering are those moments where I forget my priorities (or get confused about what they are). Your example of intentional parenting is SO encouraging (and know I say that knowing full-well that none of us are parenting perfectly).