You don't have to pray well.
You just have to pray. You don't even have to be the one who does it. Just initiate it. Like, hey, we're about to go on vacation. We're all getting in the minivan and just say, hey, I think someone should pray before we go. You don't even have to do it. Just, like, initiate it. Or with the Bible, like, you don't have to know a lot. You just need to be in the Bible with each other.
And that activity, it's just like being in the game, hitting the ball back at all, the research tells us, is the game changer. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.
And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. All right, what would you say, all these years being in ministry, writing marriage and family books, and our last book on parenting, what would you say most parents in the church would say is the most important thing they can do to raise kids that love Jesus? Most would say get them in a good church, good youth program, or a good Christian school. I think most people would say that and think that.
Yeah, or get a good youth group. No question. I don't think I would say that, but I think that's what most people would say. Well, I'm asking what you would say. Oh. No, I asked you what others would say.
Actually, I'm just sitting up. Don Everts is with us today, and he wrote a book about this. Right. And, I mean, the title is The Spiritually Vibrant Home. So, Don, you're a pastor, you're a dad, you're a husband, you've researched this, but we can't wait to hear your expertise, because it doesn't matter what we think. Yeah.
Or what other Christian parents think, so it matters what you think. So, welcome to Family Life Today. Great to be with both of you.
Thanks for having me. So, as you sit over there and you listen to that question. Yes. You know, and we're going to get into the research, because as I went through this book, there's charts everywhere, and I'm a visual guy.
So, I kept telling Ann, hey, look at this chart, look at that chart. So, everything you're going to share with us is really based on research. Yes.
But as you think about that same question, okay, so you're a pastor. How many books? You've written 20 books?
Something like that, but they're really small. Don't be too impressed. We are impressed. But you've been involved with InterVarsity. You have really been in all circles of this Christian life and ministry.
Yeah, 30 years of either campus ministry or being a pastor. Yeah. Yeah. And you've got three kids. Three kids. And so, you've not only just researched this and written about it, you've got to live this.
That's right. So, I'm going to ask you the same question. What do you think most parents, you probably know, how do they answer that question? Like, I'm guessing most Christian parents are like, I want my kids to love Jesus.
I want them to grow into adults. Yes. That love Jesus. So, they're thinking, here's how I do it. What's the common answer? I'm with Ann here. Really?
Yeah, that's right. You're the winner. I think the default for a lot of people in the circles that I've been in is similar to, what do I do if I want my kid to have good teeth? I take them to the professionals. I take them to the dentist. That's my job.
I bring them to someone who can help them. And I think it's the same. I think the default answer in a lot of churches is, I'm going above and beyond if I get my kids to church. And that's more than a lot of people do. I feel heroic to do it. Yeah.
And exhausted after doing it on some Sundays. And that's it, right? And so, I deliver them to the experts, the youth minister or the pastor himself, or someone who's going to disciple them and that sort of thing. I think that's the temptation that people have. And you're a pastor, so you're like, you're good with that.
Yeah, just drop them off. I mean, you want them. Those are good goals to have, but are they the best? And is that what grows our kids spiritually? Exactly. And that's what, looking both at research and at what the scriptures say about kind of God's plan or what really works. So, as you started to look at this research, well, tell us a little bit how the research go.
Yes. So, we work with the Barna Group. So, I work with Lutheran Hour Ministries. And so, it's just a hundred-year-old evangelism ministry with a weird name. And we partner with the Barna Group, who are these like social science total nerds, right? I mean, I love them.
They're so smart. And we want to find out about this area. We have a curiosity, right? And so, one year it was, we're curious about in spiritually vibrant homes.
So, in homes where people say they strongly agree that their Christian faith is really important to them. So, we kind of looked at some really strong households. And we just wanted to find out what do they have in common with each other. And so, the research was sort of like big blanket finding out what people do in their households, but then looking at this group of exemplars and just asking them like tons of questions, which of course are like scientifically calibrated. I don't know how to do that part, but we find out all this stuff.
And then we ask, do they have anything in common? Do the numbers tell us that in these spiritually vibrant homes, there are certain things that correlate with people growing in their faith within the household, including the kids, the youth, others who are in the household as well. So, nationwide, I could bore you with all the sciencey parts, and I would only half understand what I was saying. But basically, they oversample, you know, to make sure that what they're finding is true for everywhere in the country, for every region, for every type of household, right?
So, whether it's like nuclear household, multi-generational, et cetera, you know, they do all that careful research to find out that what we're landing on really is something real that's really happening. Well, let's start with, and you start in the book with households. Yes. You know, why that is the center, why that's important, even to Jesus, even scripturally.
So, help us, you know, start there. Yeah. You know, it turns out that households are mentioned by name in the Bible over 2100 times. I am shocked by this.
When I read that, I had no idea. Yeah. I mean, we're used to thinking of like, God relates with me as an individual, and that's like beautiful, and that's true. And there are passages that remind us of that.
Right. And we know that God relates with his people. So, like the nation in the Old Testament, the church in the New Testament, like God relates with us as a congregation. So, it's like those are the categories we have. But when you put on your household lenses and you start flipping through the Bible, you realize, oh, there's this other category kind of in between those two that is everywhere in the Bible. You know, you can just read right over it.
You're not used to thinking about it. But it turns out that the household, God sees it as the real like redemptive laboratory, like the discipleship laboratory that God promotes throughout the Old New Testament is the household. And so, that's why our research centered on that and why the research kind of made us return back to the Bible. What was God's idea with the household and what parents and kids and grandparents and extended households, how are we designed to be people of faith and to pass that on from one generation to another? And the household is pretty central to that. How would you answer that question when you study the Bible? And of course, this is what we do at Family Life.
Yeah, what's some scripture too? It's all about the household. It's all about the family. As you try to answer that question, okay, what was God's intent, mission for the family?
How would you answer that? I mean, I feel like Deuteronomy 6 is huge. And so, you're there on the plains of Moab and Moses is like reiterating and here's what God says. I mean, that's where we get the Shema, hero Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one and here's everything he says, right? And it's like the handing over of the words of God. And right at that moment is when the words from God are now everything I've just given you. I want you to talk about it when you lie down at night, when you're walking on the way, talk about it with your children, write it on the doorposts, put it on the gate of your home, like it was meant to be like talked about and lived out within the context of their household. And that's from the very beginning, right?
And then you can kind of trace from there. You think of Joshua going into the promised land, as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. What does that mean?
Why is that there? And you start realizing all these folks who are like being used by God and doing things for God in the scriptures, it usually says and their household, but we can't read right over that. It's so funny. I've never thought of that so much. Like those verses, all of us know those verses. We hear it, but we don't think of that's attached to our homes, our households, our people.
Yes. And I think from the research I've done, like the reading that I've done, I think there's something particular about our culture in the West, because there's such an emphasis on the individual. And, and it is true that God relates with us as individuals, but we tend to kind of keep going back to that. And I think it makes us miss what's like on most pages of the Bible, which is you operate in households and like, that's how God intends it to be.
So I would say it starts there, right? And then you see it all throughout the Old Testament, all throughout the New Testament, where you have households that God sees households, households rise and fall together. I mean, that's a huge emphasis in the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, not just, you know, live a certain way because it's good for you. It's live a certain way because it's good for your household. And if you do other things, it's not just that you're guilty.
It's bad for your household. Like that's emphasized in the wisdom literature. So it's all throughout there, this, that we live in households, we're intended to live in households and they matter to God. So that very thought for where we started, a lot of Christian parents think that church is central. The church is central. That's right.
Get them to the church, get them in a youth group, which obviously it is. That's right. But you're saying really scripturally, probably more important than a church. I mean, I know they're both way up there, but the household, your family is critical.
That's right. Ultimately it is this partnership and it takes both. But there is a way I think that it's tempting for us to kind of abrogate our responsibility, all of the church, take care of it. And some of that is because it's not that people don't want to do it or lazy or whatever.
In my experience, a lot of it is because people are parenting and grandparenting how they were parented and grandparented. I mean, when we started really wrestling with this at the church I was in at the time, where I was pastoring at the time, there was a lot of insecurity in people. And even a lot of shame as people began to talk about, I remember this dad saying to me, because one of the findings, you know, this is not shocking, is that if you like pray as a household, like that helps your faith grow, right? So it's not rocket science. But this one dad saying to me and he pulled me aside after class and he said, I don't know how to pray out loud.
And I've never prayed out loud. And he just kind of said that with his heaviness, like, because you know how intense parents are about wanting to raise their kids, you know, wanting their kids to turn out well. And he's realizing it depends on me. Like, I don't know how to do this. So it's not necessarily that he's like, let someone else teach my kid how to pray.
It was someone who in his transparency was saying, I don't know how to do it. Do you think that's typical of parents that like feel like, I don't know what to do? In my church it was.
I think in ours too. And I've talked to a lot of parents, they just don't know what to do. And so it's not that they're just saying, let the church do it. They're saying, I'm not as equipped. That's right. And same with the Bible, the same dad. He said to me, the only Bible reading I've done is my children's storybook Bible that I read to my kids. That's the only time I spend in the Bible. And so like for someone like that, like the good news of the research is like, you don't have to be really good at this.
That's the really good news, right? So I just like shared with that guy, I said, brother, here's the thing, here's the thing. You don't have to pray well.
You just have to pray. And I said, and frankly, the research shows us, you don't even have to be the one who does it. Just initiate it. Like just say like, hey, we're about to go on vacation.
We're all getting in the minivan and just say, hey, I think someone should pray before we go. You don't even have to do it. Just like initiate it. Or with the Bible, like you don't have to know a lot. You don't have to like preach sermons. You just need to be in the Bible with each other.
And that activity, it's just like being in the game, hitting the ball back at all. The research tells us is the game changer. It makes the difference. And we start to grow. So I found when I started to invite people to think about their household and the spiritual health of their household, it was really scary for people to do that. And it brought up all sorts of feels, all sorts of feels. Early on in this one class that we did in this one mom, just with tears, you know, I was learning how to talk about this.
So I was like on a scale of zero to 10 in these three different categories, how do you score? And it brought her to tears. And she said, my household is not spiritually vibrant at all.
We're spiritually dormant. And she just started crying. And so I ditched having people score. So I was like, that was a lesson for me, but it's so tender. And again, grandparents are involved, single people. I mean, everyone is involved in the biblical view of households. And we can talk about that.
But I think especially for parents who have kids in the home, it is so tender. Research confirms what scripture tells us, which is just start hitting the ball back, just getting the game a little bit and start into some of these activities. And there are three that were highlighted in the research that came out, but it's not just don't even be great. Don't try to be great.
Just get in the game. And even that is a real game changer. And so that's not heavy. That's actually empowering and inspiring.
Yeah, that is. I mean, I know because I'm a parent, you know, and we feel like we're we feel we want our kids to grow up to be men and women of faith. And we feel that we're not doing a good job. I think every parent feels that way. And so when you say there's just three things you got to do.
And I had no idea until I read it. What's a messy prayer, loud tables and open doors. So I think parents are leaning in right now saying, okay, I'm that mom. I'm in tears. We're dormant. We're not vibrant. You're telling me that we can be vibrant and it's not a big leap. Okay, so what do I do?
And Dave, let me add this, too. I think when we have our kids are growing up and they're teenagers. I remember feeling like they don't want me to talk about it. They're like, mom, you're so. They don't want you to talk about anything. Maybe that's it. But I do remember because as they were little, I was talking about it a lot.
And then there came this phase where they're all in different places spiritually. And so I felt like I'm bugging them. Mom, could you stop talking about it?
We already know. And so then as parents, we have a tendency like, am I doing it wrong? Should I pull back? That's what I was going to say.
I pulled back. Sure. Yeah. So where do we start? Because it was pretty interesting research to find out that, man, it all came down to that.
I don't know. It's not just these three things, but it sort of ended there. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Don Evertz on Family Life Today. We'll hear what three activities correspond to a vibrant faith in the home in just a minute, including one that might shock you. But first, obviously, you hear us talk often about marriages and how the foundation affects everything else in our lives. One thing we think we would all agree on is that great marriages don't just happen.
They're built with intentionality. We're either drifting in marriage or intentionally moving toward each other. And together toward God.
So here's the great news for your relationship. Family Life's Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaway is back with a full schedule of events throughout the country this fall. And even better, right now through Monday, September 19th, registrations are 50% off. So jump on this chance to intentionally pull closer toward each other and to God and get two registrations for the price of one now through September 19th.
Now through September 19th at familylifetoday.com. All right, now back to Don Evertz with what three activities have been found to correspond with a more vibrant faith in the home? The research showed us that there are three activities that tend to correspond with more vibrant faith in the home. And none of these are, well, one of them is shocking.
Two of them aren't shocking, one of them is shocking. So they are to apply spiritual disciplines. So that's what I call messy prayers. So you have some kind of Bible life and some kind of prayer life together. The second one is engaging in spiritual conversations. So I call that loud tables.
Research tells us if a family's all together and they're talking, usually they're eating food. That's what the research says. Yeah. And so just talking about spiritual things. So that's the second one. So those aren't hugely surprising. And then the third one did surprise us. And that is what we call open doors or extending hospitality. The more hospitable a household is, the more vibrant the faith of those who are in the home. And we can talk about why that shocked us. We didn't expect to find that.
Yeah. Because you tend to think, well, if I close my family off, protect them from the world outside. And it turns out like having an insular household is actually a risk factor for their faith. But having open doors and it doesn't even matter who the people are.
Doesn't matter if they're Christians or not. Having people in and out of your household actually increases spiritual vibrancy. So we can get into that. But those are the three. Messy prayers, loud tables, and open doors.
That those three just activities and being active in those areas tends to correspond with more spiritual. Okay. So let's talk messy prayers.
Let's do it. You know, I know it's not just praying. That's right.
Although it sounds like it, but it's spiritual discipline. What's that look like in the home? I like that you named it messy prayers. Yeah. That's that you can remember. And they're messy. And they are messy because everyone has this, like, I need to be perfect as a parent and do all this. And so I, and I'm thinking of that dad.
Yeah. You know, who's like, I don't know how to pray. I can't pray like the pastor.
I can't be like Pastor Don. You know, so messy prayers, like you just have to like interact with God together in some way. And so some of that is prayer. So some of that is like, hey, before the meal, you know, we have one of us pray.
I like liturgies. So that's like, I'm nerdy like that. And when I started getting the research, like it was really convicting me because we're, our household was strong in some of these and not as strong as some of these. And I, as a parent was strong.
What do you mean? You wrote the book. You, you were strong.
But I did call it messy, didn't I? You know, my youngest, when, when I would tuck him in, he's now 15. He doesn't let me tuck him in anymore.
But when I would tuck him in and I would say prayers with him and I, I would say amen. And he would say, he, for a while, he started saying, that's it? What? And I, yeah.
And I said, what do you mean? He's like, you don't have any, anything else to pray? Mom prays way longer than you do. Yeah. You said that in the book that he commented, mom's a better prayer than you.
My kids would totally say the same thing. Yeah. But it's just being in the game. So like when I was in the research, it was like, okay, applying spiritual disciplines. Like I want to be in prayer more with my household. And so one of the things I did, I ran into this book called Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey, which is this like, it's just like new liturgies. So there's like a liturgy for your morning coffee. Yeah. There's like a liturgy for changing diapers.
You had them on. It's pretty incredible. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm the guy that when I first picked it up, I'm like, seriously, liturgy for folding the laundry? And then I started to read them and I was like blown away.
It's really beautiful. So you do that? So I, yeah, well, in working on this research, I was convicted. Like I need to be in prayer more. And, and so I started like all the time.
I had that book with me so much so that my family now teases me. I mean, there's, I mean, in my first week of like doing this, like we were, oh, there's a liturgy for that. So now it doesn't matter what it is. You know, we're watching March Madness. Is there a liturgy for that, dad? You know what I mean? They're like teasing me about it. But here's the thing.
I'm in the game. Yeah. You know, and I'm leaning in like, I want a little more than I did last year to be as a household interacting with God. So some of it's prayer and there's so many different things people can try. And then some of it's being in the Bible, right? And so that's everything from, sure, you could lead a family devotion, but it could also be, hey, this is my favorite, you know, verse to, you know, I've known families. So they'll just, in hearing the research, they just started writing scripture verses on their walls and just kind of put, I mean, it says in there, you know, putting on the gates, you know, like just putting up or I started taking with a dry erase marker, you can write on windows and mirrors. Yeah. And I started like putting scripture verses up on our like front window and on the front door, the window on the front door as we came in and out. Is that silly? I don't care. It was like helping my household relate with God together.
And that's one of the things the research says. Yeah. One of the things that I loved about your book is, you know, under messy prayers, you have arranged the kindling, add another log, stoke the coals, and then you give all these ideas, which you just said, shared several of them. But I mean, under arranged the kindling, you know, sort of getting the fire going a little bit, spend more time together, playing, eating, and simply having fun. You're like, whoa, whoa, wait. I thought I had to pray all the time. We're like, no, no, no.
Just start with being together and have some fun. Prayers come out of that, right? They do. The research showed us that these spiritually vibrant households, so they're doing these three activities together, are doing everything together. They're doing chores together.
They're singing together. They're, I mean, not to paint a perfect picture, they're arguing together. You know, they're, they do homework together. They go to the movies, they eat. You want a household that has an atmosphere of like, you do stuff together, even fun stuff. And so if someone's sitting there like, yeah, we don't even talk to each other. We're all in our own rooms on our own devices. Like, how can I go from that to like leading a family devotion? That's not happening. And that's why I use the image of like, well, don't, don't go from no embers to a bonfire.
You don't have to do that. Start interacting more together. Like that's actually a catalyst. Eat more, go out to eat together. Those are catalysts for altering the atmosphere of your household, where you are doing more things together.
Even that is creating an environment that is more conducive to these things. Even when our kids were little, I remember thinking, I have no time with Jesus now. I used to have this great little sit down, devotional, quiet time. And then I had babies and I thought, I can't even do this anymore. Like my kids were up early. I had three boys, so they're really rambunctious.
And our household is crazy. And so what I realized is that I just have to bring, it's really Deuteronomy 6 into our family. Like, I'm just going to pray all the time if I'm thinking it and I'm desperate.
And she does. But you guys, it was because I was so desperate and broken and I'm seeing the sinfulness of my life. She's praying for a parking spot.
She's praying. I mean, it was just like, No, I'd be like going to school in the morning and saying, Jesus, it's cloudy again. Like, Lord. And I'm just talking to him, sharing what I'm feeling, thinking.
I'd have the boys then, you know, even his little elementary, like kindergartners. Guys, is there anything you need prayer for? Do you want to pray for that?
Pray for each other? But I also realized if I wasn't thinking about that, it's because it wasn't on my heart and mind, which then was convicting. Like, I haven't thought about anything spiritually all day. But that was a little bit of a clue of I need to get in the Word or listen to the Word. We have so many great tools now that we can just put, you know, our audio on, our audible on and listen to the Word. Well, here's the thing.
We've only talked about one of the three. Yeah. And I think you've given us some great direction on how to do that. So I would say to a listener, just pray. That's it. Or initiate.
Here's what you could do. Have your son pray. Have your, you don't even have to, but if you just initiate a messy prayer. And I used to think, because, you know, when the kids were little, you'd be praying and kids are crawling on your head. They're throwing things into the fireplace. They're not listening.
And you're like, this doesn't work. It's supposed to be this nice, tight little family. No, that's messy. Normal. And that's good. And it's good.
And it's right. And it's, and again, if people, if it's too much, like, well, we're going to fold our hands and close our eyes. Yeah. Don't do that.
Yeah. You know, I encourage like this one dad at my church who wanted to pray more, but like, how do I initiate it? And I said, pray blessings. Like just extend your hand. They're walking out the door.
You're dropping off at school. May you just say may you, and then say things you want for them. And that's prayer. And then that's a thing like for me as a dad, like that empowered me and it was convicting because it's like, what do I want for you? Yeah.
Yeah. It made me think what, what is it that I speak it out? How do I speak it out? So like vocalizing those things forced me to like even pray bigger for my kids. And then I involve them. So anyone who's at our house who like would be open to it when they're leaving, it's like, Hey kids, come on. We're going to pray blessing over them. Okay. Everyone like, may you, what do you guys want for them? What do you guys want?
So, so to kind of like that's prayer, that's like relating with God together. Don't have to be fancy. Don't have to be long. Just do it. Just do it. Just start simply. Well, here's the thing.
If you're a parent, you're like, what are the other two? Well, you got to listen to tomorrow. That's right. We're going to come on back tomorrow. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Don Evertz on Family Life Today. His book is called The Spiritually Vibrant Home, The Power of Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors. You can get a copy at familylifetoday.com. Dave and Anne are back with Don Evertz tomorrow to show how sharing your faith with your children can be fairly effortless. Don't miss it.
Sounds hard to believe. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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