"I want the whole world, give it to me now!" - Those words from Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory give us a great perspective into the microwave culture we're in. It's a culture that wants instant results, immediate change, and gets frustrated when things don't go as well as we'd like. If you want proof, consider the average tenure of an NFL head coach is 38 months, Yahoo has been ready to jettison their CEO less than a year after she started, and your smartphone has gone through more software updates than you can count.
One of the things I've seen as both a parent and former youth pastor is that a lot of times we carry over that microwave mindset to our kids. We want to see immediate change and results (there's a reason why the book Have a New Kid By Friday was such a big seller), and when those don't happen as quickly as we'd like we're quick to move on to a new school, new coach, or complain about the youth or kids pastor. Not that that ever happened to me or anything...
But instead of adopting a microwave mindset, can I suggest we look at a legacy mindset. This takes more time, requires more effort, and moves a lot slower. But it has the potential to produce lasting results. A legacy mindset goes beyond the immediate to the generational. In other words, you can leave a lasting impression in your family that will shape your grandkids and beyond. To get there, ask yourself these five questions:
1. Have I experienced the life change I'm expecting in my kids? You can't lead where you've not been, and for us as parents it starts with examining ourselves. Have we given ourselves to Christ? Have we experienced the fruit of repentance? Are you growing in your faith and dependence on God?
2. Am I demonstrating a consistent walk? Over 1/4 of those who leave the church because of something that happened reported it was because of hypocrisy or judgmental attitudes. Both of these are inconsistent. A judgmental attitude over expects others and doesn't deliver on its own. Hypocrisy says one thing and does another. Are your kids, regardless of their age, seeing that? It doesn't mean you need to be perfect. It does mean you need to be humble when wrong, repent when you mess up, ask forgiveness, and be genuine.
3. Are we making the local church a priority? One time meeting with another next-generation pastor, he asked me how many students we'd have for our weekly worship service. I told him "Sometimes 15, sometimes 40. Depends on if they have something better to do." Babylon Bee did a spoof on this approach as well, with the headline "After 12 Years of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter's Lack of Faith." When we make the local church a priority, we're committing ourselves to be around God's people for worship and fellowship. We're carving "sacred time" for our families.
4. Am I concerned for their soul? I'll never forget one of my doctoral professors sharing his vision for family ministry reminding us all of something incredible: our kids will live forever. When we look at parenting as shepherding our kids' hearts, we see our role as much more than protecting them and making sure they get into a good college. We're working towards them becoming our brother or sister in Christ. Our living rooms in essence become a mission field. And that doesn't change regardless of how old your kids are. So pray for them. Pray with them. Share with them. And point them to the One who can give them much more than you ever could.
5. What will they tell our grandkids? It's funny over the years looking back on what I remember growing up. I don't remember any of the "Full House" talks I had with my parents where they shared some valuable life lesson with me. But I do remember my dad putting on his baseball glove after work to throw with me in the yard, and I remember my mom's reaction when I put Dr. Pepper in her Pepsi cup. When our kids get older and they move out, will they remember their time with joy? Or will they remember cold, distant, unengaged experiences? The good news is you can always hit reset and start building memories that reflect love, faith, joy, and hope.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.