A Plan For Building Our Children’s Faith
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Terence ChatmonTerence Chatmon, a successful senior executive in corporate America, served in leadership roles with several Fortune 50 companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Citibank, and Coca-Cola, but he was failing to become the spiritual leader of his home. He was challenged by his wife to chart a course for the spiritual growth of his family and children. After much prayer, he took what he knew from his corporate-world success and biblical teaching to develop one of the world’s most transformationa...more
As Christian parents, we plan for the most important things in life but what about our childs faith? Terence Chatmon has a deep desire to help children fall in love with Jesus, and helps parents develop a plan to foster the faith.
A Plan For Building Our Children’s Faith
Dave: So I’m going to have you try and finish a quote.
Ann: Oh no! It’s a pop quiz. [Laughter]
Dave: You’ve probably heard this quote before, so you’ll probably be able to finish it; but it’s stated this way: “A goal without a plan is…”
Ann: —“a disaster”? [Laughter]
Dave: That’s a good answer; that’s not the answer to the actual quote.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Some French author said, “A goal without a plan is a wish.”
Dave: Have you ever heard that?
Dave: Yes; honestly, it’s like, “If I have a goal, but there is no plan; it’s just a wish.” I hope—if I want to lose weight and I have no plan; if I want to win the Super Bowl in Detroit with the Detroit Lions, and you don’t have a plan—it’s never going to happen.
Dave: Right? I think the reason I bring that up is—if you think about family, and you think about spiritual leadership in your family—don’t you think that is what a lot of us parents do?
Ann: Yes, because we all long for a discipleship process; we want to be these great disciplers of our kids. We long for it; we wish for it, but I think so many of us feel ill-equipped.
I feel like it’s a diet—[Laughter]—you know what I mean?—you have this new plan, like, “I’m going to go on this diet today.” And then you fail; and then you’re like, “See, it didn’t work.” I think discipleship with our families and our kids can be like that: “I’m really excited!”—and—“Oh, they just don’t seem interested, and they are hitting each other, and they are running around. That one didn’t work.” I feel like we can get discouraged.
Dave: Of course, you’re not talking about our kids; they never—
Ann: Oh, of course not.
Dave: —ever did that. Actually, that was almost every family devotional. [Laughter] Tell you what: so many families can relate to that; and that’s why we exist, here, at FamilyLife. It’s a ministry that has helped families, like ours and yours, really stay to a plan and keep it.
It’s so exciting; we have David Robbins with us today, the president of FamilyLife. David, as you think about that, talk about how critical this time of year is for our ministry.
David: Well, I just think about this conversation/I’m going, “This is what we are all about: families discipling their kids; families discipling families around them that don’t know Jesus, taking the gospel to places that there are gospel gaps/where Jesus is not known in that home.” That is what we are about at FamilyLife.
This year is a critical time as we have plans, whether it is for FamilyLife Today and continuing its reach, or to make more small group resources so that more people can be sent out to form community in their neighborhoods to help those kids, who aren’t getting truth in their home at all. That’s what we are about at FamilyLife: to be able to reach another home, one home at a time. I just want to challenge and invite you to join with us in getting the gospel to more families.
Ann: I think this is a critical time; but I love how we are helping people make this donation of helping us fulfill all these goals by this dollar-for-dollar match.
Dave: Yes; I tell you what, David, you got me excited. I mean, sitting here, listening to what you are saying, it’s like, “I want to help.” There is something in my soul—and I think it’s true for our listeners—that says, “That matters, and I want to be a part of it. I just don’t want to give my time; I want to actually give my talents and my treasure/my money.”
You’re going to give to something at yearend. Why not a ministry like ours that makes an eternal impact on a family and on a legacy? Here is how you can do it—very simple—go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can dial us at 800-FL-TODAY. Then here is the amazing thing: that gift will be matched, dollar for dollar.
Ann: Yes, and up to $1.5 million, which is incredible.
Dave: —which is amazing! It means whatever you give is doubled, so who wouldn’t want to do that? You’re going to have an impact on families.
Here is another amazing thing: you give a gift to us; we will give a gift back to you. We’re going to send you Dane Ortlund’s new book, 150 devotions on the Psalms, and playing cards—
Ann: Playing cards?! What’s that?!
Dave: —which are conversation starters for your marriage and your family.
Ann: Ooh! So you can play cards, but you can ask deep questions.
Dave: I know you love that stuff.
Anyway, you’re going to love it as well. So you give a gift; we give you a gift—again, 1-800-FL-TODAY—and it will impact marriages and families—and as we are talking about today—parenting.
It’s one of the things we love—to help parents—so let’s talk parenting. We’ve got in the studio today a guy—I’m not kidding—when I read about what you’ve done with your family, Terence Chatmon, I thought, “This guy, not only has a goal; you are a man with the plan.” Terence, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Terence: Oh, it’s so good to be here and looking forward to our conversation.
Ann: Terence, did you hear that?! You are the man with the plan. [Laughter]
Terence: Well, he’s just trying to butter me up. I think he’s trying to get some football tickets or something. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, I will take football tickets anytime you’ve got them! But no, I’m not kidding! When I read about what you do, and what you’ve done—and we’re going to talk about this today—with your family—
Ann: —it’s inspiring.
Dave: I can tend to be a guy with lofty goals and aspirations—not always sitting down going, “Okay, how are we going to get there?”—I mean, I have in different areas of my life. But when I looked at your life and your family, you’re not a guy with just a goal; you are a guy, [who] has a goal with a plan; right? Some of that is, I’m guessing, from your background. Tell us a little bit about—you’ve worked at some pretty important places—tell us a little bit about your background, because I know that’s where you learned a lot about how to develop these kinds of plans.
Terence: You know, it sure is. I started with companies like Johnson & Johnson®, Citi Bank®, and Coca-Cola® so as an executive leader in those companies. We learned a thing or two about planning. [Laughter]
When I think about this plan, it really goes way back well beyond, into my early years, where we used to have Sunday dinner every Sunday over at my house.
Dave: —when you were a kid?
Terence: Right; but what’s important about it is Sunday was a time for the Lord. We started out with Sunday school in early morning. Of course, church eleven; I went to a church, where we just got started at three or four o’clock. [Laughter] Today, it’s
twelve o’clock, we’re looking at our watch.
Terence: But you know, we just got warmed up. Then guess what? Sunday evening was revival of some sort, so we had revival at six/seven o’clock. Obviously, my life has been centered around a good family meal, spiritually, and also around the dinner table.
Dave: So you get married 38 years ago; tell us a little bit about your family.
Terence: You know, married to a wonderful wife, Wanda; met at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. You know, we just met each other, fell in love, and were married in ’82, and have been married going on almost 40 years—so 39 years—three beautiful kids: two girls, one boy. They are all married now and have kids of their own. We are working on our number six grandchild—four today but two coming—my youngest daughter is expecting twins in a couple of weeks. We’re going to be populating—we’re doing our part, as the Chatmon family, to populate the earth here—so we’ll have six grandkids.
Ann: Congratulations; that’s exciting.
Dave: Yes; that’s awesome.
Talk a little bit about spiritual formation in your family; because when I was reading through your life—I listened—you have a podcast.
Dave: What’s it called?—the Victorious Family?
Terence: Victorious Friday.
Dave: Victorious Friday.
Terence: Right; every Friday, noontime, we want to talk to you about what it means to plan. As you said, if you fail to plan, you just fail.
Here is the idea: our goal is for parents to really plant the seed to the answer to the question: “Do your children believe?” Because at the end of the day—we are raising kids; we have a responsibility—there are some key things. We have a responsibility to train and instruct them in the Lord; I mean, that is Ephesians 6:4.
Dave: Right; right.
Terence: It talks about fathers—
Dave: —“Do not exasperate…”; yes.
Terence: —“Do not exasperate…” I was doing real well in that area of exasperation; you know? [Laughter] But he says to do what? He says we’ve got to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord; that’s really family discipleship. So how do we become intentional in that process?
Well, to answer one of your earlier questions—to come back—my wife [and I] was off on an anniversary trip, and we were just enjoying life. I thought, “I’ll bring three questions. We might as well talk about where we’ve been in the last ten years.”
Dave: This is like year 15?
Terence: No, it’s like year ten/year ten.
Dave: Oh, you’re married; okay.
Terence: I said, “Where have we been these last ten years? Where are we now, and where are we going?” Our kids were between ten and fifteen years of age. We were talking about it, having a great conversation; and then one question came up that led to this whole thing: “Are the kids prepared to defend their faith after high school?”
Dave: Your wife asked that?
Terence: My wife asked that question.
Ann: Women are wise, men. [Laughter]
Terence: We heard all the studies: 68-74 percent of children are walking away from the faith after high school. I have a different take on that; but we had heard that story, and we wanted to address it.
Ann: What was going on in your family before that? Were you purposeful/intentional about discipling your kids up to that point?
Terence: I would say we were not intentional. We were doing like most parents. We all want to do the right thing; sometimes, we just don’t know how. Sometimes, we just go where the wind is blowing. We did the normal thing; we took them to church. We abdicated the responsibility of raising our kids to the church and to my wife, [to be] quite candid with you. I was building big businesses—that was my priority; that was what I was doing—I had abdicated that responsibility to my wife and the church.
As we moved through that, we started to think about this whole idea of sanctification/this whole idea of process—how we are going to be intentional in training our kids in the Lord—so we don’t leave it to wherever the wind blows and what circumstances; we are intentional.
As we were thinking about that question—and she asked that question, “Are they prepared?”—we came back with the response: “They are not prepared.” Well, the loving wife, and the gracious wife, that she is, she just turns to me and says, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” [Laughter] I’m like, “What am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about? You’re the spiritual leader of the home; I’m not the spiritual leader of the home. What are you going to do? And what is the church going to do?—what are they doing?”
She left me with this kind, loving remark: “Well, in two weeks, I want you to come back and tell me how we are going to be intentional in raising our kids.”
Ann: Oh, she gave you a time table.
Dave: She said that to you?
Terence: Two weeks.
Dave: “You’ve got two weeks, Terence”: 14 days.
Terence: We get into this mode: “Well, what do I know about this?”—right?—I’m—
68 percent of parents feel totally inadequate to raise their kids in the Lord—I was feeling that at that moment.
Terence: So I began to think, “Well, what do I know? I know how to write plans. I’ve been writing some billion dollar plans for a little, small beverage company. [Laughter] I think I can do the same here. So what do I know about that? But more importantly, what do I know about those 66 books—those basic instructions before leaving this earth—what do I know about that?”—and—“How can I incorporate that into some systematized process to raise my kids in the Lord?”
In two weeks, I went back and said, “Listen, first, we need to understand: ‘What are our values? What do we really believe in to be true?’” Some of those values we knew; some of those values were not yet; and some of those values we needed to flesh out a bit more. We started to go through a process: “What are our values?”
Then, as in any business plan, you never think to start a business without a business plan; you have to have a vision. You never start a ministry without a ministry plan; you have to have a vision. “What’s on the horizon?” “Where are we taking them?” “What’s the destination?” I would recommend you have to really understand where you are taking them. For us, we wanted our kids to fall madly in love with Christ Jesus.
Ann: We all long for that; don’t we?—yes.
Terence: Yes; “So how do we get there?”—becomes our mission. We start to look at that; and “How do we plant seeds so that that answer to the question is very clear: ‘Do our children believe?’”
It’s not about what we do, actually; it’s about what He has done on the cross. So what we need to do is to help them understand—who He is and what He has done—and let them investigate the faith on their own. The Holy Spirit will move in such a way that they will come to know Him, and they will come to love Him, and they will come to walk with Him out of pure joy.
Dave: Well, it is interesting, hearing you say that. I think some men and women would resonate with: “I can do that.” Others would be like, “I’m not sure how to even start.” That’s all in your book; right?—Do Your Children Believe? Do you walk them through that in the book?—“How do I sit down/how do I figure out what our goal is?”—“what our vision is?”—“what our values are?”
Terence: Well, you know, we’ve been blessed for the last 12-and-a-half years to train over a hundred thousand parents on just that very thing, walking them through in a one-day process. We have what we call a Do Your Children Believe? workshop. It’s a one-day workshop. We walk them through how to begin to draft such a plan. Again, when you start it, it seems daunting.
Terence: It seems like, “Well, I’m not a planner; I don’t know anything about this.”
But we have a plan for our children—it may not be written; it may be in our heads—but the idea of: “If you write it down, it gets done.” I mean, there are plenty of studies that prove that point: Harvard said they did a study; Yale said they did it—but whoever wants to take credit for it—but what it says is they studied students from the class of 1979. Eighty-three percent did not have goals/did not write them down—they achieved less than the three percent, who wrote their goals down, looked at them every day, lived them out—they accomplished more than the eighty-three [percent] did.
It’s a very simple process that, if you write it down, you have to think about it. If you are thinking about it, you have to pray about it, and you have to go through this process. At the end of the day, it gets done.
Dave: You already hinted on this, and you hinted that you don’t agree with the statistic that 68 percent of kids after high school walk away; what do you mean by that?
Terence: Well, they may walk away from the church; but if they have truly been saved by grace, they can never walk away. I believe we didn’t earn it, so we can’t lose it; we can’t walk away from it. Now, we may minimize it in our life, and we may choose to live more in the world than we do in our spiritual side; but if we are truly saved/if we are truly walking with the Lord, I don’t think we can ever walk away from something that we never walked to in the first place.
You may not prioritize that walk on a regular basis. However, the faith—the fact that I have an intimate, personal relationship with Christ—I don’t think can ever be abandoned.
Ann: Terence, I love hearing all of that; because I think it resonates with every listener.
Take us back again to this pivotal point of your wife giving you a couple weeks to come up with your plan. I’m picturing you as a very successful businessman; and now, you are coming up with this plan for your family. Take us on this journey of what happened after that. Did you stay in business? How did you have the time?—thinking of listeners, like: “I don’t have the time,”—what happened in your life?
Terence: Yes; so we prioritize what we desire and what we value. What I value most is that my kids would have a personal relationship with the Lord.
Here is where we started. I started on my knees in that prayer.
I just went back; I said, “What vision do I have? Where am I taking my kids?” If I want to go on a trip to Chicago, I’m going to map out the trip to Chicago; right? I’m going to figure out my mile markers—which we call goals, by the way—and we simply say, “Here is what I want: my kids to fall madly in love with the Lord.”
How does that work? Well, you’ve got to spend time in God’s Word. We have to be on our knees in prayer. We have to worship as a family together and have conversations together on a regular basis.
Then, how often do we do that? Now, this is the real spiritual side. I’m busy; I’m flying around the world. I think Delta® still loves me and so forth. [Laughter] I said, “Well, why don’t I do this once a month?” My kids said, “Once a month; what about once a week?” I’m like, “I can’t do it once a week; I’m too busy.”
Dave: Your kids were asking you to do it once a week?
Terence: Once a week.
Dave: They are teenagers at this point?
Terence: The theologian that I am; I said, “What about twice a month?”
Dave: You’ll meet them in the middle.
Terence: We’ll meet them in the middle. I’m going to compromise—negotiation, high-skill level—so I said, “Two weeks”; we settled on two weeks.
Guess what? We’ve been doing family devotions for 20 years now, every other Sunday. It used to be 9 to 10. We’re getting older now; it’s 8 to 9. [Laughter] Now, we do it virtually.
Dave: They are out of the house now; they are married.
Terence: They are out of the house, married with kids. We’re still doing our family devotionals. My job is to construct the year/map it out, and I’m kind of walking them through the process. Every two weeks, we’re on the phone: 8 to 9. Now, they are old enough; they do the teaching/they share in the teaching. I tell you; it’s the best time we have over the week.
Ann: That’s amazing. Give us a picture of when it started. Your kids were teenagers. Did they seem interested? I’m thinking our kids are looking at their watches: “When is this over?” Were you discouraged at all at the beginning?
Terence: Here is the beauty: make it fun. If I would have taken a plan—“Hey, guys, I think we’re going to do a plan; and let me talk about vision statements and mission statements,”—[Laughter]—they would have said, “Hey, Dad, thank you so much; have a nice day.”
I did a little bit different approach. I said, “Listen, we’re going to go up to Lake Lanier,”—there is a log cabin up there right outside of Georgia—“and we’re just going to spend the weekend together,”—we did that often—“We’re going to have fun. What we are going to do is we are going to go play putt-putt golf; and do a lot of other fun things that we love, some fishing and different things.” By the way, I did win in the putt-putt golf tournament; but that is a side story. [Laughter]
Dave: A couple hole-in-ones—I bet you did.
Terence: I still have the score card. [Laughter]
Dave: You really do?!
Terence: Well, you know, kids get convenience amnesia sometimes; so I have to bring them back to reality. [Laughter]
Dave: You’ve got to show them; huh?
Terence: We go out, and we play putt-putt, and we have a great time. You know how I started? I just shared my story. I said, “I just want to share my story. I want to talk to you about my life before Christ, how I came to Christ, and my life after Christ.” It wasn’t an hour/two hour story, because they weren’t going to sit for that long. They are used to dad talking for that long—but this time they gave me about three to five minutes—I just wanted to share my story.
In fact, when was the last time that you, as a Christian parent, have shared your story with your child? And when is the last time you heard their story if they are a Christian?
I shared my story—I just had fun—and then my wife shared her story. Then, because my kids were Christians, they shared their story; but if they weren’t Christians, I still wanted to hear their story; right? When they shared their story, there were things I had never heard before; and I just said, “Praise the Lord.” That’s how we started. We just started sharing our story—
Ann: That is beautiful and simple.
Terence: —and God’s story in that; right? The golden thread that kind of weaved through all that process was Christ Jesus, so that’s how we started.
Ann: I think your story is so encouraging, Terence, because first of all, you said, “You were praying, like, ‘God, what is in me? What do I have to offer?’” He really did give you an idea and a plan, and we are going to get into that more; but I like, too, that you started out with just your story—your story of salvation, the story of your life, how Jesus led you to Him—and the same with your wife.
We often never share that with our kids; yet, it is a pivotal part of our history and our legacy. I think that could be a great place to start with our kids.
Dave: I think owning the fact that we, as parents, it’s on us. It’s really easy to farm it out;—
Dave: —I think the church needs to do it. I, as a pastor of a church for years—and yes, we want to help families do that; we want to be in partnership—but we know we’ve got your kid for an hour/maybe an hour-and-a-half a week. You’ve got them [longer]; and yet, we as parents—and I would just say to the dads and moms listening—“It’s your job, and it isn’t rocket science. We can do this, and we are responsible before God to do it.”
Ann: But, Dave, he also started out on his knees;—
Ann: —that’s the first step.
Bob: I know that the idea of guiding your family spiritually, as a husband or as a wife, this can feel like you are out of your league. It can feel overwhelming; you think, “I don’t know where to start.” You think, “I’m not sure I’m making a difference.” What we’ve heard today from Terence Chatmon is we can begin to take some quick, easy first steps in the right direction and then watch how God honors that/how He blesses that.
Terence Chatmon has written a book called Do Your Children Believe?: Becoming Intentional about Your Families’ Faith and Spiritual Legacy. He, not only tells about his own journey toward that kind of intentionality, but he maps out for us an easy-to-follow pattern so that we can begin to implement/make some simple changes that will change the trajectory of your family spiritually. We’ve got copies of Terence’s book available. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request your copy, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is called Do Your Children Believe? Order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we are at the halfway point in the month of December. Here, at FamilyLife, we are continuing to hope and pray expectantly that in the next two-and-a-half weeks, we will see many of you step forward—go online or call us—and make a yearend donation to support the ongoing work of this ministry. What happens over the next two-and-a-half weeks is critical to what we are able to do in the next year. About 40 percent of the money we need to operate will come in during the month of December; and so what happens here in the next few weeks is determinative for us.
Fortunately, we have had some friends of the ministry, who have come to us and said they will match every donation we receive here at FamilyLife, during the month of December, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $1.5 million. We’ve already been able to take advantage of a chunk of that money from the matching-gift fund, because some of you have already made donations: thank you for your support. We’re still a ways away from being able to take full advantage of that million-and-a-half dollar matching gift.
So we’re asking you today, “Will you make a yearend donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY?” Whatever you give will be matched dollar for dollar. If you give $50, we receive $100 total. If you give $100, we receive $200. If you give $250; we get $500—you see how it works—would you be as generous as you can be today? Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to donate, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
When you do, we’ll say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of a devotional book that will be great for you in the new year; it’s from the book of Psalms. Dane Ortlund has written 150 devotions from each of the Psalms, and his book is called In the Lord I Take Refuge. The book is our gift to you when you donate, again, online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. We hope to hear from you. Thanks, in advance, for whatever you are able to do; and please pray for us that we will be able to take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to hear about practical ways we can engage our family spiritually—point our kids in the right direction—help mold and shape their hearts with God’s Word. Terence Chatmon is back with us tomorrow. I hope you will be as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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