Characteristics of Kingdom Parents
About the Guest
Are you helping your children have a kingdom mindset? Ken Hemphill, author of the book "Parenting With Kingdom Purpose," points out the characteristics that set some parents apart as teachers of godliness.
Ken HemphillKenneth Hemphill was born April 17, 1948; in Morganton, North Carolina. His bride of 45 years is Paula Moore of Greenville, South Carolina. Ken is the proud father of three daughters: Kristina, Rachael, and Katherine, and is now the “Papa” of eight grandchildren. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University in 1972, Ken later earned three consecutive degrees; a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Do...more
Are you helping your children have a kingdom mindset? Ken Hemphill points out the characteristics that set some parents apart as teachers of godliness.
Characteristics of Kingdom Parents
Bob: If your son or your daughter could be really good at just one thing, what would you wish it was? Dr. Ken Hemphill wants you to think twice about your answer to that question.
Ken: Any parent out there, who has a child who is good at something—and most of them are at something—whether it's painting or ballet—or let's take football or soccer. You watch them—if they show any promise at all, a parent gets really engaged. Now, nothing wrong with that—but the fact of the matter is—what if Christian parents were that passionate about their children's spiritual development?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If we're going to focus in on one thing, as parents, let's make sure it's the right one thing. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. A number of years ago, I remember hearing about a group that attended the Christian Booksellers'
Convention, that's held every year. This group went around to different
Christian bookstore owners—and they asked them a couple of questions—they
Said, "Can you name the Ten Commandments?"—and they'd just ask them. Then, they would write down as many as they could get. "Can you articulate the gospel?" and they would write down whatever the person said. "Can you define justification by faith?" Their conclusion was that a lot of Christian booksellers didn't know the Ten Commandments, couldn't articulate the gospel, and couldn't define justification by faith.
Now, before anybody jumps out and says, "Boy, those Christian booksellers," I think we have to ask ourselves the question: “Could we do those things?”
Bob: And then, if we went to the average youth group, with high school students, at our churches and ask them, could they do those things? I guess the question is: “Are we helping our children have a Kingdom mindset and a Kingdom agenda?”
Dennis: You know, I think, Bob, one of the real battlegrounds in churches, right now, are youth groups. I think it's very, very difficult to find a gifted spiritual leader—who is able to relate to parents / who is able to bring teachers alongside of him or her—to be able to lead a youth group to a bunch of 13- to 18-year-olds through the most—what I think is some of the most turbulent years any human being experiences on the planet.
I think for too many parents—we have placed far too much hope and place too much emphasis on taking our children to youth group and dropping them off, hoping they'll teach our children the truth about God and the truth of Scripture. I think it begins at home. I think it begins with us, being Kingdom parents.
That is what our guest on today's broadcast also believes—Ken Hemphill. Ken joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Ken.
Ken: Thank you. It's good to be back.
Dennis: He's written a book called Parenting with Kingdom Purpose. It's all about—Bob—giving parents the assignment of producing little Kingdom agents. [Laughter] He believes we need to be producing a crop of Kingdom spies.
Bob: It's the diplomatic corps; isn't it? I mean, if we're to be the ambassadors for
Christ, we've got to raise the diplomatic corps that can live in the culture and represent a different Kingdom; right?
Ken: Well, absolutely. Again—I restate the philosophy or the thesis behind this whole Kingdom agenda. Let me take a moment, here, because I think this word is so big—it needs, sometimes, to be unpackaged a little bit.
The Kingdom of God simply is the rule and reign of Christ, which begins in our heart the moment we accept Christ as Savior, but we begin to develop in that spiritual relationship, where every facet of our life—our thinking process, our work, our business, our home—becomes focused on the Kingdom of God. Now, the reason for that is that we were actually created for the Kingdom to come. Oftentimes, unfortunately, we don't live that way / we don't think that way.
The first thing that God impressed on me—as I wrote the book, EKG: The
Heartbeat of God—was this Kingdom agenda is pretty important. In Exodus 19, He says: "You see what I did to the Egyptians. I bore you on eagle's wings. I brought you to myself." And then He goes on to say, "For the whole earth is Mine."
Now, I ask people, all the time: "Why did God save you?"—as a parent / the question I ask parents—it's when I ask teenagers, "Why did God save you?"
Now, if they're thinking, they realize that they weren't saved because they were good enough to deserve it. All of us deserve death—we're sinners by nature and by choice. Then they kind of look at it and say, "Well, I guess, to go to heaven." Well, if that's the only purpose of redemption, then we ought to put a retractable roof on the church—as soon as you get saved, you just get raptured out—but here we are, still on planet earth.
He said, "I brought you to Myself for the whole earth is Mine." Now, that was not simply a theological statement / it is missiological intent. Any person who has been redeemed by the King is His agent. You've mentioned this Kingdom agent—or ambassador, as Paul would say. We have a Kingdom agenda.
People ask about the book, "Are you trying to get everybody to be a missionary?" The answer is: "Absolutely." Now, our definition of missionary doesn't mean that we're going somewhere else to do this. It could be a missionary on a baseball team, or it could be missionary who takes ballet, or it could be a missionary who ends up as a bank president. All of us are Kingdom agents. We are God's Kingdom people in His place to do His purpose.
That becomes the passion of our life. So, everything—as parents, when I relate to my children / I have grown children, but they're still my children—and, now, I have grandchildren—as I relate to them, I'm trying to keep everything in this balance of saying: “How does this impact the Kingdom of God? How can this move in that way?” That's kind of where we are in this Kingdom-parenting issue here.
Dennis: What you're describing as a Kingdom parent is really talked about in Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, where the Spirit of God instructed those parents, in that day, to get up every day with a 50-pound sack of flour, so to speak, on their back—a burden—a burden to instruct their children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.
That picture of a burden is really the burden of a Kingdom parent. A Kingdom parent gets up in the morning—and he or she is evaluating his role, as a dad / her role as a mom—thinking about, “How can I train my children today to make decisions, to obey Christ, to be kind to siblings in the family, to speak respectfully to me, as a parent? How can I train my children to live life according to God's perspective?” That really is the essence of a Kingdom parent—is one who wants to obey the King; right?
Ken: It is, indeed. I think you're probably referring to that Old Testament Shema, where it talks about them teaching as they rise / as they go on the way. So what—and I'm glad you brought that up because a Kingdom parent is not simply somebody that has a devotional time in the morning / it is not simply somebody that has prayers before they go to bed. Those are important, but it is on-the-way stuff that oftentimes sticks more.
I know that my children, who are now grown—many of the lessons that they have told me later that stuck most were sometimes on the way to school, in the car, when we were discussing issues that were going on. So Kingdom parents—one of the characteristics we list in the book—are parents who attempt to interpret everything in life from the standpoint of God's Kingdom and God's Word, which means sitting down and watching the news in the evening.
You see the conflict in the Middle East, and your kids deal with that with a real fear. I mean, you know, you think about 9/11—all the events that we've had going on—and you see the turbulence of the world. What a great time to sit down and talk about God's sovereign control: “What does this word, ‘sovereignty,’ mean?” I hear it from the pastor / hear it from pulpit—but having dad or mom sit down with me, when the news is on, and say: "You know, while we are concerned about world events, we're not anxious about world events. Why? Why is our family not anxious about this? Because we know, that behind all the chaos of history, God is still moving things towards an ultimate end.” What a great time to teach.
You see, this is not just sitting down and, "Let's read the Bible together tonight, as a family." As important as that is, it is this on-the-way stuff.
Dennis: I'm smiling because one of the things our children complained most about was going to movies, as a family. [Laughter] Bob knows what I'm talking about here. We'd go watch a movie; and, as things would occur on the screen, I would lean over to the kids—I'd say: "You see there? That's really a lie."
Bob: You'd basically ruin the movie for them. [Laughter]
Dennis: They did—they accused me of ruining the entertainment experience. They'd go: "Dad! Dad! Will you just let us watch the movie?" And then after the movie was over, as we drove home—we might go out and get a Coke or we might just drive home—and I would be talking about: "Now, what's the worldview—the view of life—from this movie? What was the message of this movie? Was it about man—and man getting his way and living for himself? Or was it about there being a God, who has a purpose—and a very specific purpose for your life?" Again, our kids would push back against that.
But it's interesting today—I think, as they begin to raise their own families, Ken, I'll bet you—I will bet you—as they watch TV today and as they go to movies, and take their kids, when they're old enough, to movies that are appropriate—they will do some unpacking of the philosophy of the movie, themselves, because it taught them what Barbara, my wife, calls "How to think, critically / how to think, biblically, about what they're seeing and what they're partaking of, in terms of entertainment.”
Bob: Ken, you think it's important for us, as parents—not just to be actively involved in the home, and living this out, and discipling our children as they walk in the way—but you also think we need to be involved, as parents, in our relationships with the church and how we're partnering together with our local church in the spiritual development of our children.
What should that look like; do you think?
Ken: Well, there's no question about that; and all the studies point to this. First of all, there’s the idea that teenagers don’t want much to do with adults and/or their parents. Sometimes, they do give you that impression—“Oh, Dad! Come on.”—you know. But the fact of the matter is—every study shows that the teens appreciate and value the relationship of parents and meaningful adults.
Now, the second thing that’s very important is—that the greatest influence of their spiritual development—parents.
Bob: Well, let me take you back, though, to the issue of parents and churches connecting together. I recognize I’m the primary influence, and I have to be about
that at home; but what do I do with the youth pastor, or what do I do with the church program? How can I be a partner with the church in the spiritual development of my children?
Dennis: Yes—without meddling.
Ken: I think that’s a great question—but again, I want to go back to the image I used earlier—and that is—you're a parent, who has got a son, who has a good curve ball. Are you involved in the development of the kind of coach he has? Are you concerned about that? Yes, you are because you're passionate about him being the best he can be in that way.
Now, nothing wrong with that, I'm not against any of those things. I'm saying we ought to be as passionate about church, and our children ought to know it. How do I get engaged? First of all, the study shows that parents need to be engaged. This is not passing our kids to the children's minister and then on to the youth minister, in hopes that they're doing a good job. You need to volunteer—say: "Count on me. You've got youth camp? I'm going."
Dennis: I rode on the bus to a youth camp one time. I'll never forget watching a movie that I wouldn't want our kids to see. It was a PG-13 movie shown on the way to a spiritual youth camp. Well, because I was there, as a parent, I was able to ask a few questions in a kind way and kind of help the youth pastor evaluate and do some thinking about this.
Bob: He was thinking: "Boy, the kids are all seeing this movie. They're going to think it is cool, and it's going to be exciting." You're going, "But there are moral values / there are spiritual values that are the wrong stuff here."
Dennis: Oh, it was totally undermining the message of what they were about to present at the youth camp.
Ken: And he probably didn't think at all. It was an hour-and-a-half / hour-and-45 minutes he didn't have to be responsible. Now, I've been a seminary president. I've trained pastors and youth pastors. I want to say to you—most of them are godly and good people, who want the best for teenagers, and so—
Dennis: They do.
Ken: —and they are very responsive to parents. Don't feel like you're intruding. I've been a pastor, and I've been a youth pastor. We all pray that more parents will get engaged in that process. Like you say, Dennis—you can do it lovingly—to go to him, and sit down, and say: "Listen, I was on that retreat. Man, how can I help you be better at this job? I was concerned about the lack of Bible study. How do we improve that?"
You are saying, "I'm part of your solution."
Now, if you just go to him and you complain, or you go to the pastor and complain—then, yes, he's going to throw up a stone wall and say, "We don't want parents around here,"—but if you're engaged—and he knows your heart and your mind—he's going to want you there, and so is your pastor. But if you end up in a situation—where there simply is not good biblical teaching, and there is not moral responsibility—then, as a parent, you have responsibility either to resolve that or find a church that will. This is the spiritual life and nurture of our children.
Dennis: Most youth pastors are in their 20s/early 30s. I mean, that's the way they start out. Most of them do not have children. They haven't determined many of their core convictions and what they believe the Scripture teaches about many of these issues yet. They are very much in process. It's helped me, over the years, to view these youth pastors almost as a little bit like an older child.
Ken: Absolutely. I think we started this section—and you just mentioned core values. I want to just quote—I'm not going to quote many statistics, but there was one in here that just was so fascinating. It's introducing children/teenagers to God. It comes out of national study of youth and religion, and it's that teenagers have not even grasped the basics of salvation. A 17-year-old: "I guess I'm a Christian, but I'm one of those still trying to figure everything out. I believe there's a higher power—that's all I know for sure." Out of 112 teenagers, they mention—when talked about a spiritual personal relationship—zero mentioned justification or being justified. Only six teenagers ever used the word, "salvation."
Now, here is the conclusion—very few of the descriptions of personal beliefs—offered by teenagers we interviewed / especially the Christian teenagers—came close to representing marginally-coherent accounts of basic important religious beliefs of their own faith system.
Bob: So you look at that data, and what do you conclude?
Ken: Well, I conclude that we've got to do a better job—we've got to do a better job of embracing this in church and in home—that this becomes a worldview system. I think there has to be some depth to this. One of the things that my good friend, Richard Ross, is doing—he's re-orienting youth ministers—and he trains probably as many youth pastors, as anybody does, towards family ministry. This is not about isolating the youth from their parents at church—but pulling these people together—and saying to the parents: "Here is what we're teaching at church. Here is how you can instill these principles at home."
Dennis: And I think that's where we have to start. We have to challenge the parents to really engage their children about matters of faith and talk to them about these issues. I'm thinking of one parent, whose teenage son came home from school one day, and said, "Dad, I'm not sure what I believe." He expressed a lot of doubt.
This dad was so wise because he didn't express shock. He didn't recoil at his son, pushing back about his father's faith; but his son felt safe enough to express that he was struggling with doubts about his faith.
The dad kind of, figuratively, put his arm around his son and said, "You know, doubts are okay because it shows that you're struggling to determine what you believe." If he doesn't have an experience of going through doubts now, he will soon have when he goes off to college. Frankly, Barbara and I almost always wanted our children to experience and express those doubts, while they were at home, so they could talk to us about them and so that we could bring the Scriptures to bear and help them realize: “You know what? We went through periods, in our lives, when we had our own set of doubts.”
Ken: Well, you know, you mentioned that—and I had an event like that with one of my daughters. I'm proud to say that they are all married, and love the Lord, and serve the Lord—some in churches / some in the mission field—but she was—this particular daughter—was in a pretty secular school and fell, very enamored, by a philosophy professor there. She brought his textbook home—he had written the textbook. I couldn't read it—very candidly—I'd need a thesaurus to just start, a couple of dictionaries, and everything else.
She was going through that—where she had always believed her dad was the wisest man in the whole world—and here, she had met this guy and what he believed had nothing to do with anything we had ever taught. So, finally, she said, "Dad, this guy is the most brilliant guy I've ever met." I said: "Well, honey, I beg to differ with that. I don't know him. I certainly am not smart enough to read his book, from the standpoint of the world,” but I said, “Would you consider any man brilliant, who had totally discounted the Book authored by the Creator of the universe?”
See, he had thrown out anything about creation, thrown out anything about God—the personal God / the caring God—and the revelation of the Word of God. I said, "Now, from what you tell me, he's never read it at all—has no respect for it." I said, "I beg to differ with you, Babe." Now, we didn't argue / we didn't fight. Like you said, I had to kind of step back a little bit and give her space.
Dennis: There you go.
Ken: As I did, she rightly came through this—not that she didn't like this professor—and that was fine / I wanted her to—but the fact of the matter was—that was a worldview issue. It was a critical moment for her to say, "How will Dad respond?" If you are loving, respectful, listen, offer your thing—don't lecture them on it—but to offer what you can there.
Bob: You know, here is kind of the bottom line: “Go out into the future. Imagine that your son or your daughter is 20 or 25 years old. I don't know how old your son or daughter is today. Maybe you've got a 3-year-old or a 6-year-old, 10-year-old, a 17-year-old—but imagine your child is a young adult—and somebody comes up to you and says, "So how is your child doing?"
And you can give one of two answers. Let's say one answer is: "He's doing well. He is going to college. He's getting good grades. He's in a fraternity. He seems to be popular. He's in line for a good job. Spiritually, no, you know, things are a little shaky; but the rest of life seems like it's going along pretty well." That's one answer.
Or let's say the other answer is: "You know, he's kind of struggled his way through college,” or “…dropped out and got a job. He's had some challenges, but you know what? He's got a heart for God—he loves God / he loves people—he's active in church. He really wants to see men and women come to faith and help disciple them."
Given those two options, which would you rather hear? Of course, they're not mutually exclusive—your child can be doing well at all of the first stuff—but I think the point is—if your child doesn't have a heart for God / if your child doesn't have a Kingdom mindset and a Kingdom agenda—that's what you're going to be discouraged by when your child is 20 or 25 years old.
So, the question for us, as parents, is: “What are we doing now to try to make sure they're pointed in that direction? How are we reinforcing those values with them, as we raise them today?” I think that's why the book you've written, Ken, is so helpful for us, as moms and dads. It keeps us focused on the right stuff.
We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Let me encourage our listeners to go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You will see Ken Hemphill’s book called Parenting with Kingdom Purpose. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the “GO DEEPER” link to find a copy of the book, Parenting with Kingdom Purpose.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can order a copy of Ken’s book over the phone—1-800-358-6329—or again, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. The book is called Parenting with Kingdom Purpose.
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And with that, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to get a chance to hear some of what Dennis Rainey had to share, recently, with a group of young men and women who are studying at seminary. He’s talking to these future pastors and church leaders about how to keep their own marriage on track, and we’ll get to listen in next week. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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