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Mission-Led Parenting In A Culture Of Busyness

If you have kids, your schedule is most likely filled to the brim with extracurricular activities and sports, and your family is pulled in ten million different directions. Our podcast guests Dave and Ann Wilson of Kensington Church in Detroit, Michigan, share their strategies for determining priorities and developing a mission for raising their kids.


Transcript

Chris Grace:

Hey. Welcome to our podcast on the Art of Relationships. We're your hosts.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm Tim Muehlhoff.

Chris Grace:

I'm Chris Grace. We're with the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. We're here to talk about all things relationships.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Chris, I don't know what it's like for you but when all of our kids were playing sports, we had the schedule up on the refrigerator that looked like an air-traffic controller had put it together. We were all different places at different times. Just little league baseball, all three of our kids played little league baseball. Noreen and I figure it out, sitting in the stands 150 hours. That did not include playoffs. All three of our kids went to playoffs. Every weekend, again, you go to a baseball tournament, a basketball tournament, a soccer tournament. The finals are played on Sunday. If you make it, your family's being pulled in ten million different directions. Pretty soon you're tired. Between you and your spouse, you haven't had quality time. It's just a mess.

Chris Grace:

Our youngest daughter was a year younger than our son. We scarred her by saying, "You will not play softball. You're going to playing baseball for the first three years," so they could all be on the same team, so we only had one practice. She's like, "Dad, all my friends are playing softball". "I don't care."

Tim Muehlhoff:

You're playing baseball.

Chris Grace:

"You're playing baseball". That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

All of us struggle with this. It may not be sports. It may [crosstalk 00:01:32] be the arts. It may be extra curricular activities that are pulling the family in every different direction. Kids are getting started in whatever at younger and younger age. We decided to bring in a couple who are experts in this area. Dave and Ann Wilson have been married for 36 years. He is one of the pastors of Kensington Church in the heart of Detroit. About 14,000 come to that church. Dave and Ann speak for FamilyLife Ministries. They've been doing that for almost 30 years. They have their own ministry called Vertical Relationships.

Dave:

Vertical Marriage.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Vertical Marriage. They, also, in addition to that, love sports. Ann, you did sports in college, right?

Ann:

I was a gymnast.

Tim Muehlhoff:

You were a gymnast. That's awesome. Dave, you were a football player.

Dave:

Yes. Football player, back when we had no helmets or face masks. That's what people think ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Good. Yes.

Dave:

... back in the '70s.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I think your one eye is awesome. I think you look great. Then you had athletic kids, right?

Dave:

Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

You are now in ministry. You have a booming church. You guys are speaking. Then you have these really athletic kids. What effect did that slowly start to have on the family and your marriage?

Dave:

I would just say even as we first became parents, we both, because we were college athletes, we thought, "Our kids are going to be the best athletes." We did, we really did. I don't know if we even said it out loud but we just thought' Division one athletes, our kids." We both had full rides to play, scholarships in college. We didn't pay a dime. I'm not paying for my kids to play college ball. They're going to get full rides because they're going to be great. Then we had them. We were like, "Whoa." Honestly, when I grew up playing sports there was one sport ...

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's right.

Dave:

... and then another sport.

Ann:

Per season.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's right.

Dave:

Now it is a crazy world. I remember our youngest, Cody, was trying out for soccer team. When he was accepted to the team, which is a big deal ... You barely get in this elite level.

Ann:

He was like three.

Dave:

He was, I think, seven ...

Ann:

It's [crosstalk 00:03:40].

Dave:

... or six. The coach calls me and says, "By the way, it's 135 games. If he misses one he's not in." I'm like, "We're not doing that". He goes, "Yes. you are. He's one of the best kids. We need him. I'm an elite coach." They paid this guy.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Wow.

Dave:

This is youth sports.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Wow.

Dave:

He refused to say, "You can't miss one game." We were like, "We're not going to do it." That was one of the things we learned. You don't have to do it all.

Ann:

But, honestly, it's scary because talking to moms at school, they're like, "Oh, is your son in the Federation Baseball?" I'm like, "What's that?"

Tim Muehlhoff:

What's that?

Ann:

"Your son's not in Federation? Oh my gosh? Well, then [crosstalk 00:04:13]."

Dave:

"He'll be so far behind."

Ann:

Then you get this panic mode, like, "Oh no, I need him to be in the best of the best of the best of the best, or my son's going to be a failure."

Dave:

That's right.

Ann:

"Then nobody will like him."

Dave:

I'll tell you what. Are you asking the question, what did we do?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah.

Dave:

Here's what we did. Right or wrong, we developed a mission statement, and we call it a bulls-eye, for what we were trying to raise. Most parents, especially even Christian parents in the church, have never thought through, "What is it we really hope these young men and women become?" I always said, "You don't need to evaluate how you did as a parent until they're 25." Now my oldest is 30, so now I say, "Until they're 30," but it's like you're trying to evaluate when they're 16, 17, "Are we successful?" Don't evaluate it yet. Wait. You're dreaming but the biggest thing is, most parents have never sat down as a couple, or even individually, and said, "What is it we're trying to raise?" They just give into everything. "I want them in this sport [inaudible 00:05:08]," because they don't have a strategy like, "Is this soccer, baseball, is this part of what we're trying to do? How does it fit in, the strategy," because a mission always determines strategy. If you don't know your bulls-eye, you don't know how you're going to get there. That was the first thing we did.

Ann:

That was big, because you're assessing too. We looked at how are kids wired? What bent has God given them? What are they good at? What are they passionate about because our one son hated football but the other brothers would sit. They'd compare their bruises, their bumps and how they love hitting each other. The one was like, "I hate this". He was more artistic. Even to think, "Is that even a wise choice for our time, money and even for him? What has God put on his heart?"

Tim Muehlhoff:

I think you hit on something, that I'll be transparent. I was a theater major, so we thought our kids could be a lead mimes. We know they cannot. No, I'm kidding but here's the deal. You get your kids involved in sports or whatever activity. Then this crazy thing happens in baseball and football. There's the All-Star Team. Is your child going to make the All-Star Team? I realized how much of my identity was in that. Being on the elite team, I want my kid to be on that elite team even though, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "Boy, this is going to be financially too much and time-wise too much," but I'm thinking, "Boy, if you had a son or daughter who is in that particular musical traveling group or asked to be part of this elite after-school program," it's my self-identity that's getting the strokes.

Dave:

It sure is.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's where it's really hard to check that.

Ann:

Great point.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I can't believe how mad I got one time. Jeremy didn't make an All-Star Team. I'm thinking, "I'm going to call that coach. That is ridiculous. Are you kidding me? What kind of ..."

Dave:

You know what?

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's like, "Oh my gosh."

Dave:

I was that coach. I coached all different levels and now even in high school. When you called, [crosstalk 00:07:06] I knew that parent like, "Oh my goodness, Here comes the new Muehlhoff parent. Doesn't have a clue how bad his kid really is."

Tim Muehlhoff:

I called the mime coach. He wouldn't even talk to me. I'd get silence on the other end of the phone. It really ticked me off.

Dave:

That's funny.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'd get angry at him.

Dave:

That was funny.

Chris Grace:

Tell us about your targets. What was on there when you guys thought about this? You had individualized targets.

Dave:

Yeah. Actually, I copied Craig Rochelle's target. I don't know if you have ever heard of him talk about this, ...

Chris Grace:

No, I'm not sure even who that is.

Dave:

... the pastor of Life Church.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Who is that?

Dave:

Craig Rochelle, Pastor of Life Church at Oklahoma. Probably, he wont let you count the biggest church in the country. He just says, "Don't count my numbers but they're all over the world". Craig has six kids, I heard him talk about this years ago. We had written one before this but when he said it, I thought, "That's just well-said. It's real similar to what we did." He said, "Here's what we're trying to raise in our family." Again, each family has to uniquely take it and say, "Is this true? How would we shape it?" We shaped it a little different but it came down to single-minded, Christ-centered, Biblically-anchored, world changers. That was it.

 

One of the things that hit me when I heard that, the first one we're talking about right now, single-minded means most parents, in America or wherever, are like, "I want my kid to be well-rounded" You ask them what's their goal? "I hope he's happy" Their bar is, "I hope he doesn't do drugs. I hope he doesn't ..." That's your bar? What he said was single-minded. We really tried to do this. What Ann just said is, "Each child is uniquely wired by God, hard-wired. You don't need them well-rounded. You don't need them in every theater group and every sport." He's wired as a engineer. Our oldest son is an engineer from Day One. Every parent, you can see it. You know. Is he an athlete? Yeah but is it his gifting? No. He knew it. Was he in sports? Yeah.

 

He enjoyed it but that wasn't ... We were like, "How do we help CJ be great in this area because he's already got ..." Austin, our middle son was artistic. Did they do sports? Yeah but it wasn't craziness. Our last guy had the sports thing. He's the one who played in the NFL. Less than 1/100th of 1% get to that level. He got to that level. We saw Cody. We were like, He's really gifted here. He loves it. Let's help that," but the single-minded thing really helped even before the Christ-centered, Biblically-anchored workshop lectures.

Ann:

What happened too is you celebrate their uniqueness of how God wired them. Even in Psalm 139 when it says, "God knit us together in our mother's womb," if God knit us together, whenever you're ... I actually knit. You guys probably have never knitted but when I would knit, I had something in mind. I was going to use it for a purpose. When God knit us together, he had something in mind. I'm looking at our kids.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's great.

Ann:

He had something in mind. He wants to use them for a purpose. It is not just to play ball or it's not just to sing in the choir. It's something very unique. It could be that but really, it was so fun to look at how has God wired them. Our oldest son, and I think he was seven, he's on this basketball team. I am super intense. Dave [crosstalk 00:10:07].

Dave:

I was coaching this team. We were 0 and 12. We never won a game. She's in the stands going nuts. Bad coaching. You guys are terrible.

Ann:

I was a PE major. I was going to be a coach. My dad's a coach. My brothers are coaches. I'm like, "[inaudible 00:10:21]." I'm coaching from the sidelines of Mom. How [crosstalk 00:10:24].

Dave:

You don't know any parents like that, do you?

Tim Muehlhoff:

No, not [crosstalk 00:10:25].

Ann:

I'm yelling. He stops. All the kids are down at he end of the bucket. They're shooting. They're trying to hit the rebound. Our son is standing in the middle of the court ...

Dave:

Half-court.

Ann:

... looking at the scoreboard, all alone.

Dave:

The game's going past him. He hasn't moved. I'm laughing because I know what ...

Ann:

I'm not.

Dave:

... CJ is doing. He's an engineer. I knew. I literally ...

Ann:

At seven years old.

Dave:

I called time out. I go, "CJ, What are you doing in the middle of the floor there," He goes, "Dad, how does that scoreboard get lit up from the guys pushing the buttons?" Then I go, "Yep. That's exactly what I knew you were doing." Ann's like, "[Inaudible 00:11:02]." We knew then. It's like the parents that get so over the top about, "My kid's got to be a great basketball player," that's not what he was made to d.

Ann:

Why would we want him to do something God hasn't uniquely wired them to do?

Dave:

The funny thing is, coaching middle school basketball, we have tryouts. The first time you actually cut people, myself and the other coach, and every coach knows this, we know in three minutes. 80 kids come. In three minutes, ...

Chris Grace:

You know who is the best.

Dave:

... we can immediately know they have it. They don't. Parents are so subjective. They will not let you tell them that. It's like, "You know what? That's not what he's going to do with his life." "You have no idea." It's like, "Oh my gosh. They really think this is their identity."

Ann:

That's a big [crosstalk 00:11:40].

Dave:

Sure enough, 20 years from now, that kid never did that because that's not what he was made to do. It's so interesting.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I think one of the dangers is that parents, when they do this, it seems like there's a bigger risk. It's not figuring out who you child is, not being able to listen, not being objective enough when it comes to your kid but it seems as if we each also hear God in different ways. We relate to God in different ways. Your young son standing there probably feels more in tuned with God or what he's designed to do when he's doing something that's, let's say, engineering versus in sports.

 

One might be saying, "This is where I sense and feel God's presence." We can be doing some damage and harm to our children when we don't encourage them to say, "Where do you find God? Where do you sense that this what you were made to do," to get up there and doing the art work or to do ballet or to play the piano? That's where I feel God to do miming.

 

It's fascinating how we can actually be encouraging them when we do this, when we set those targets, when we're able to identify that, helping them see and recognize who God is, how he's designed them and how they can best reach him and talk with him and be with him.

Dave:

Even when you come up with the target, and I love that idea, when you actually have to pull the trigger though to say, notice something based on the target. We got asked to speak at family camp. We had never been at family camp before. One of the things that bummed us out about having athletic, active kids is family vacations were a nightmare because there just was no time to do this. We get asked to do a family camp in Tyler, Texas. We agreed to it. Our kids were playing baseball, literally baseball.

 

Sure enough, the All-Star teams are announced. Two of our older kids are on All-Stars. It's the exact week we're supposed to be in Tyler, Texas. Noreen and I get together. We're like, "Are we really doing to do this? Are we really going to say, 'No?'" We prayed about it. I called that coach. They were going to be on the same team. I called the coach and said, "Hey, man. I just want you to know right now you've got extra spots. I'd give them to two kids before you announce because we're going to say, 'No.'"

 

He couldn't believe it. He goes to our church. He couldn't believe it. "Bro, people don't easily say no to this. Hey, your kids can stay with us during that week." At family camp, we would like to have them together [inaudible 00:13:58] but we said, "No," and then had to say to the kids. It came out. They're not on the list. I said, "Michael and Jason, come here. Sit down. I've got good news. I've got bad news. The good news, really good news, you guys were picked for the All-Star team. You guys made it." "What?" "You made it. You were picked but we're going to family camp."

 

They were really upset probably one whole day. Then you know what? We got to family camp. It came up every once in a while. "I could be at ..." We're doing the zip line and all that kind of stuff but Noreen and I have never, ever regretted that decision, ever and wish we would have pulled the trigger more often.

 

Sometimes it's courage to actually ... I think you need a community. You need like-minded parents who look at you and say, "You're not crazy. You are not the crazy one." Did you have a community like that that would back your decisions?

Tim Muehlhoff:

We did. One of the things we were very fortunate to have is a community of families really that we raised our kids ...

Dave:

How nice.

Tim Muehlhoff:

... all the way through teenage years together and the struggles. We're still close to them. It was a dream come true.

Ann:

I think one of the best things we did, even that, we became a family on mission, even to give them the eyes of Jesus for the world. We really did go on not only family camp kind of things but we also took them around the world to mission trips. Every time we did that, they had to say no to something else. That's super hard.

Dave:

I'll tell you one other thing Ann did. She initiated it. When they were all three playing high school football together and I was coaching, we'd get home late. She said, "We are eating as a family every night we can." Most of the nights, dinners a lot of times was at 9:00PM.

Ann:

9:00PM.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Wow. That's great.

Dave:

We sat down. She forced it to happen. That was a really pivotal moment for our family.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Did your kids get to participate in setting up the targets? Did you talk to them about, "This is what we're doing." Was it something that you just said, "This is what we're aiming for for you," or how did you guys do that?

Ann:

I'd like to say that we were awesome and we did all that but not really.

Dave:

I'll say that. We were awesome. Actually, we said it. Then as they got into the teen years, we had more conversations about it. It wasn't before that. It really helped us when they were the youngest, starting there and then following through. Again, we didn't do it perfectly but ...

Ann:

I think that one of the things they saw how unique each of the brothers was. They weren't as competitive in terms of, "Oh, we're all athletes. I'm the better athlete," but they would say, "Oh, Cody's super athletic. That's cool. CJ you're so engineering. You're our tech guy. That's so awesome. Austin, he's so artistic he's a writer." It was cool that they could celebrate each other, how God had put them together.

Dave:

The amazing thing that we did right is I do remember often laying in bed at night, especially middle school, and dreaming with them, praying with them. What is God going to do with your engineering gift? He's got a plan for that. I'm going, "What is God going to do with your love for literature?"

 

I look back now. Now we have the wisdom to go, "Hey, we're old enough to go, 'Hey, we're really old but can look back and see what worked.' They're all three doing something with that gift for the kingdom. It's really cool.

Ann:

Cody's not in sports but even the leadership gifts that he used in sports now as a pastoral kind of guy. It's very cool.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Just like you guys needed parents to support you, I think our parents need peers that will support them in making these hard calls. I will never forget. This is what drove me crazy as a parent. It drove me crazy. There was a youth conference that was going to happen right in downtown LA. There was four kids on the team that wanted to go, four Christians. The coach said, "You go, you miss a practice. The next game, none of you guys play." All they've got to do is miss one practice

 

What happened was they did the practice, missed the first part of the conference, all jumped on a midnight train and got there so they could be there for a day and a half. I just said, "Guys, that's a great decision. I really applaud you." As parents, we all took them down to the train station, said goodbye to these kids getting on a midnight train to Georgia and that kind of thing.

 

Then one time, Jeremy, the same thing but he was going to miss practice. He couldn't make the practice. The coach made him do 500 up-downs. I just said, Jeremy, I am so proud of you for doing these up-downs. I think that speaks really well of you."

Dave:

You did them with him, didn't you?

Tim Muehlhoff:

I think we're out of time on the broadcast.

Dave:

They're called down-downs [crosstalk 00:18:41].

Tim Muehlhoff:

I do half-marathons. I load up on carbs and watch one on TV. I think that's actually ... Hey, this is great. Thank you so much for helping people navigate priorities. I think the target thing is a great idea for families to sit down and talk about what do we want? I think we often under-estimate what we want our kids to be, their physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. It could be the intellectual part of it, as well, right?

Dave:

Oh, totally.

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's school that's dominating everything and overshadowing it. We want to get well-balanced kids. Thank you for helping us navigate that.

Dave:

Thank you.

Chris Grace:

What way to bless them and sending a blessing over their lives by understanding who they are and how God made them. It just really does set up a future for them. What a great legacy. Thanks for sharing that with us, you guys.

Dave:

Thank you.

Ann:

Thank you, Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I think God's going to bless you guys. Next year, I think the Lions are going to win the Super Bowl.

Dave:

I was going to say I [crosstalk 00:19:34] what you're talking about it.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I can feel that.

Ann:

I receive that.

Dave:

I hope you're going to be proud of it.

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