By Mike Berry
Even though the sun was shining and the temperature had reached a warm 82 degrees, it felt dark. The day before had been different. The day before I had stood with my two best friends in the middle of Soldier Field in Chicago, witnessing one of the greatest live shows in history—the U2 360 Tour!
It was amazing, inspiring, well-produced, and just a great show overall. (I sort of geek out over good productions.) Later that evening we sat in our hotel lobby in downtown Chicago, talking the night away, as close friends do. We talked about the concert, life, our families, and the beauty of the day. It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening.
But that day was over. The reality of this new day we were facing washed over my wife and me like cold water from a bucket. She and I sat in an outdated, bland office with our 8-year-old son in northern Indiana, filling out paperwork. He was in denial as to why he was there. Maybe we were too.
In less than an hour we would make the two-and-a-half-hour drive south to our home near Indianapolis without our son. He would stay in residential care for the next four months.
It was painful for so many reasons. We were wounded, ashamed, embarrassed, and shocked. Our decision was not how we imagined this whole parenting thing back when we first started a family. But there we were, driving up every weekend to see our son. We hoped, prayed, and even begged God to change him. His behavior had reached dangerous levels. Our family was in crisis. We had been brought to our knees.
Placing our son in a residential facility for behavior was just a symptom of a larger problem. At some point we had hit a wall. We had run out of gas spiritually. We made the harsh realization that, while we were doing so many things as a family in the name of Jesus, we really weren’t spending time as a family with Jesus. There’s a big difference. Our family’s heart had become a spiritual desert.
Through our difficult season, we made a decision. It was time to fight. Fight like we had never fought before. It was time to fight for the heart of our family. It was time to recreate. In order for us to grow as a family in Christ, we knew we had to create meaningful moments of growth.
But, how? In an age of mass-media, mass-technology, and fleeting time, how could we ever create meaningful spiritual moments for our family? I’m talking about moments that impact and move our children to grow deeper in Christ. Moments that bind the heart of our family together.
Perhaps through your struggles and painful moments you’ve asked yourself the same question when it comes to your family’s spirituality. It begins by understanding a few simple yet important truths:
The more time we spend with our children, the more fertile the soil of their hearts will become. Why? It’s simple really: time spells love! We love what or who we spend the most time with. And we spend the most time with what or who we love.
We will also cheat on something—we will either cheat time with our families to spend more time with a hobby or our job, or we will cheat time with our hobby or job to spend more time with our families. One is going to get cheated. We have to decide which it will be.
Do you realize that you are the greatest spiritual influence in your children’s lives? It’s true.
In Deuteronomy 6 Moses brings a charge to Israelite households. In verses 5-7 he says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you rise” (English Standard Version).
What he’s talking about is influence—spiritual influence that you take very seriously as you raise your children.
As parents we are in a huge fight. In fact, it’s the greatest fight we will ever engage in. It’s the fight for our families, our children, our spouses, and our future. It’s a fight that I have been well aware of for the past 15 years, but I so easily find myself disengaging from it time after time. Hard to admit, but it’s true.
Last year I realized that nearly every day during a work week, I would come home after being engaged in some great battle or immersed in life-changing conversations with people I barely knew. (This happens often as a minister.) Then I would immediately disengage from the most important people in the world: my family. The most important moment had to happen when I arrived home—I had to get into the great fight for their hearts.
So now that these simple truths are out there, you and I must take action. It’s one thing to recognize truths, but it’s an entirely different thing to be proactive about them.
With these truths established, here’s what I believe you and I need to do if we want to see the spiritual lives of our families change:
The spiritual growth of your family will not just happen by accident. You have to be intentional. You have to intentionally set aside time for your family to pray together. In the midst of overwhelmingly busy schedules (which we all have), you have to, as the leaders of your family, declare time and space for growth opportunities to happen.
If we rely on fate or chance (and you’d be surprised how many parents do this), the chances are slim that it will happen. Set up a target and never take your sights off of it. Remember—intentionality creates momentum. And momentum gets results.
Intention without direction gets you nowhere. In his book, The Principle of the Path, author Andy Stanley says, “Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination.” If you intend to create meaningful spiritual moments for your family but you aren’t actually moving that direction (meaning proactively working on it), you will never end up at that destination. It’s not rocket science!
If I intend to travel to Columbus, Ohio, from Indianapolis, Indiana, but I get on I-70 West toward St. Louis, I will never reach my destination. Why? Because I’m going the wrong direction.
If you want to create moments of growth for your family, if you want to continually impress upon your children the timeless truths of God’s Word, you must be directional.
If you want to see change happen in any circumstance, you must be consistent. Consistency is how you apply the commitment you’ve made to spiritual growth. If you decide to do family devotions together, choose a time and be consistent with it.
Consistency produces results. Consistency forges healthy patterns for living. When it comes to spiritual growth, that’s a pattern you want to see take root in your family’s life.
The beauty of living in the year 2014 is that we have unlimited resources available to help us create meaningful moments. National worship leader and musician,
Yancy (www.yancynotnancy.com), has created an app incorporating music, devotions, activities, and prayers called “Roots for the Journey.” This is a simple and easy-to-use app that has many great things for the entire family.
Another resource that I’ve personally come to love, because it’s brief and helps with my ADD, is the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. While this might be considered a “personal” devotional, I believe it’s perfect for family devotions. Let’s be honest—time is moving at the speed of light. And while we’d all love to have a solid hour to spend reading God’s Word as a family, it’s just not reality. We need something that keeps us in the Word and also keeps us moving.
These are just two examples of spot on, but not time-consuming, resources that can help families create spiritual moments that last a lifetime.
The encouragement is this: it’s never too late to get your family on the right track. Start today. Start now! Your family’s heart depends on it.
Mike Berry is the Student Ministries Pastor at East 91st Street Christian Church, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He and his wife, Kristin, have eight children, all of whom are adopted.