Build a Family Team to Win in Life
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2005 2 Feb
Your family is meant to be a team that works together. As you practice healthy habits together, you'll help each other win in life.
Here are some ways you can make your family a winning team:
• Read together. You can create a team huddle of safety, fellowship, love, and rest from life's business when you read with and to your children often. Reading is fundamental to children's academic success and personal development in life, and reading the Bible is fundamental to their spiritual development. Find age-appropriate books to read together, and use some of them for devotions. Find the best time for your family to share devotional times together and schedule them regularly.
Make devotions fun, simple, clear, and interactive. Illustrate spiritual truths using stories, questions, or quizzes. Adapt your material to meet the needs of children at different ages. Combine information and application, encouraging every family member to act on what he or she has discussed during devotional times.
• Eat together. The time your family spends eating meals together is some of the best time you have for engaging in meaningful conversations with each other. Strive to enjoy each other as you enjoy your food. Plan to eat at least one meal a day together whenever possible; choose the meal during which your family can have the most time together (for most families, that's dinner). Create a simple format for sharing the day's activities with each other. Don't interrogate anyone; just gently encourage each family member to open up about his or her day.
As a parent, model what authentic, vulnerable communication looks like to your kids. Be sure to share at more than just a superficial level. Get to know your family members' schedules and the unique demands they face during the day. Then pray for them and let them know you've been praying for them during your day. Remain consistent but not legalistic with your schedule of meals together.
• Play together. Realize that making time for play is worthwhile because it can bring increased health and happiness to your family. Know that when your children ask you to play with them, they're asking for the gift of your attention. Be responsive by budgeting at least a little time for play into each day. Use the time you all spend playing to teach character qualities you'd like to build in your children - attributes like honesty and teamwork.
Try to design games in such a way as to make it fair for everyone. Remember that each family member has different levels of ability and strive to make games fun and challenging for everyone playing. Focus on camaraderie instead of competition.
• Work together. Understand that work pushes your family in the same direction for a common good. Identify projects that require teamwork, like painting, yard work, or cleaning out the garage. Then give everyone a meaningful assignment and cooperate. Make the work as fun as possible. Teach your kids the importance of doing their best work even when no other person is watching, because God is always watching. Help each family member use the time to discover abilities and develop skills.
After the work is done, celebrate somehow - perhaps through a dinner out or a small ceremony to christen your completed project.
• Worship together. Remember that whether or not everyone in your family feels like going to church on any given Sunday, there's something powerful about just being with other people in God's family. It keeps your family exposed to faithful living. So make it a priority to worship God every Sabbath day in church - either your local church when you're at home, or another church when you're on a trip. Do whatever it takes to find the right church for your family. Make it clear that your family will not debate whether or not you all worship together on Sundays (or Saturday evenings).
Set apart the Sabbath and make it holy by refraining from unnecessary work focusing on Christ together. Strive to model authentic, sincere worship so your kids can see what that looks like. Help your children worship from where they are in life. Give them opportunities to participate in the adult worship service sometimes, giving an offering, taking communion, etc. Identify things that your family members are giving more attention to than they are to God, and get rid of these idols. Make sure that God is truly your family's top priority - not sports, the computer, work, etc.
• Travel together. Realize that when you travel, your family members can build bonds with each other that they couldn't if they simply stayed home. Some things in life can only be experienced on the road. Use trips to teach perspective. When you leave the familiar behind, God can broaden your horizons and give you new insights about your lives.
Plan journeys with specific purposes in mind, such as to fulfill a particular family member's dream or show each other where something significant happened in one of your lives. Be flexible enough to travel spontaneously as well, knowing that God can build your faith as you do. Give each family member his or her own personal space while spending a whole trip together, often in closer quarters than you do at home. Take some trips that lead forward into adventure (such as new discoveries in a national park) and other trips that lead back to roots and tradition (such as journeys to a grandparent's home).
• Hurt together. Lighten each other's burdens by sharing each other's pain. Strive to unify and strengthen your family when you're suffering. During good times, remind your family that there will be bad times and talk about how you might respond to them. Together, read what the Bible says about suffering and how to rely on God's help.
Intercede in prayer for other people who are hurting, and ask them to intercede for your family whenever you need prayer. Rather than asking God why something bad happened in your life (which He often won't reveal until you get to heaven), ask what He wants your family to learn from it. Ask God to use your suffering to draw each one of you closer to Him. Consistently emphasize God's sovereignty.
Lead your family to express genuine gratitude to God when things are good. Count your blessings on a regular basis. When you learn of another family who is going through a crisis, make plans to help that family out together in specific, practical ways.
• Change together. Remember that devoted families navigate the changes of life together and help one another through them. Lead your family to anticipate and prepare for as many major life changes as possible, such as going through puberty, driving, and dating. Understand that change is often God's instrument of growth and opportunity. When major changes come into your lives, embrace the opportunities to be used by God and to trust Him. Adapt to changes as best you can, with God's help.
Soften difficult changes with perks like a fun outing or making a family member's favorite dessert, in order to encourage him or her. Provide oases of security during times of significant change - things like a familiar place or tradition to which your family can return. Trust God for your family's future together.
• Fight fairly together. Try to work through conflict well together. Train your family members to control their anger. Listen to each other and seek to understand each other. Speak positive words that build each other up rather than negative ones that tear down. Know what's fighting for and have the courage to confront a family member if he or she is engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior.
• Dream together. Understand that your family should be a place where each member's dreams can be explored and nurtured. Affirm the uniqueness of each person in your family, and encourage each one to reach his or her fullest potential. Help each family member envision and discover God's purpose for his or her life.
Offer words of encouragement often. Don't limit a family member's dream just because it would be expensive or inconvenient. Ask God to help you want what He wants for your family members - no matter what that turns out to be. Give your kids the precious gift of your confidence in them.
• Serve together. Know that your family is called to be on a mission together for Christ. Discover the thrill of helping to bring God's love to other people. Show your children the character qualities of a servant, such as compassion and humility. Train your family to serve, especially through your local church.
Make sure you're serving with the right motives - to genuinely help someone else rather than to boast or prove something about yourself. Train your family to share their faith as they serve. Go on mission trips as a family.
• Pray together. Realize that if you want God to be central to your family's story, you need to connect to Him in prayer together often. Pray in advance for your family's needs rather than reacting with panicked prayers during crises. Trust your family to God, even during life's valleys. Pray for each other often, and address the whole person when you pray: physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Persist in prayer even when God's answers don't appear right away. Celebrate God's promises and faithfulness.
Adapted from The Home Team: Spiritual Practices for a Winning Family, copyright 2004 by Nate Adams. Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Nate Adams is the vice president of Mission Mobilization at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Adams also served for 17 years at Christianity Today, Inc. An ordained minister, he has authored four books and numerous magazine articles in various Christian publications. He and his wife, Beth, have three sons and live in Duluth, Ga.