Paper submitted to Contemporary Evangelism EVAN525, Liberty University 2022. More thorough review than the summary review previously published. Please enjoy the changed Book Review: Family to Family.
Modern families are often over-extended in their schedules. The effort to have it all is tempting to parent and child alike as children respond to the values of their parents and peers. The author intends to address this harried schedule while filling the family’s need to reconnect with God. The authors Austin and Green outline a plan for the family to discover God’s purpose for their family. Using the Bible as an instruction outline, the authors prioritize God as the first and most important goal of their otherwise busy week.
Austin and Green provide a framework for establishing and agreeing on the family’s goals in pursuing God, emphasizing planning and consensus. Re-prioritizing the family is not simple and requires all members’ personal and familial commitment. The statistics prove that modern secular and even Christian families are too disconnected in their daily lives. The resultant state leaves parents guilty of not knowing their children’s priorities. They often leave parents knowing that they also do not have the proper importance of placing God first.
Added to reflection and planning are the questions all family members must ask each other, i.e., are we living how we want to live? Are we there for each other and share a consensus on our goals? The authors provide lists of questions and examples of familial “mission statements” parents can use to align goals with actions properly. The emphasis focuses on opportunities to serve neighbors and the community by being living examples of Christians whose actions match their beliefs. The result is a family that solves the crisis between belief and action.
The authors’ central theme causes me to reflect on a time in my career at a crossroads. I took a consulting job that required frequent travel. My stepsons were teenagers, and we were facing some complex challenges. As parents, my wife and I were challenged daily with their guidance and supervision through the junior and high school environment. I discussed the job with my wife, who conceded that it was an excellent strategic career move with a noteworthy salary increase. We also discussed this change with our supportive boys, but I had doubts about such a noteworthy alteration to our family schedule.
After taking the job, I traveled weekly for about six months and realized my mistake’s significance. The boys had gotten into trouble at their respective schools, resulting in my wife getting almost daily phone calls from their administrative offices. My wife’s job, commute, and evening responsibilities did not leave adequate time to deal with two teenage boys. I knew I had to come home permanently. I began the difficult task of searching for a job with no travel while traveling. Interviews and phone calls were challenging, but I found a state job with a salary reduction.
I had paid too high a price to accept the job requiring extensive travel. I settled into my state job, which was much less dynamic and challenging, but I could go home every night and be present for my family. This occurred before my wife and I were saved, but I heard clearly from God that I did not know my purpose in life.
Not only had I not placed God first, but I also placed career first, to our detriment. My wife and I resolved the boy’s attitude and school performance issues as a team. I still regret this decision, but I recognized the need for a change, and no permanent damage was done.
While the author’s goal is to increase the family’s growth toward living the Christian life and growing closer to God, there are no strategies for different family models. It would improve the book’s scope to include advice for new stepparents or the dynamics to assist blended families. The American family model has changed in the last several decades, and the reality of divorce and remarriage, even for Christians, has increased. Information on conflict resolution and communication between blended children and parents should receive consideration. While the ideal model for the family may remain natural biological parents with two children, this is seldom the case.
Applying the principles detailed in the book could also be enhanced by information or strategies for simplifying and downsizing. The authors mention, “What is good will have to be surrendered in favor of what is best.” We should add this to the questions a family must determine answering regarding what they will forego to increase family unity and focus on the Lord. They strive for more material possessions, including a bigger house, car, and piece of the” dream: are mentioned, but what is the family willing to part with?
In addition, a checklist for simplifying life should include steps toward pursuing a smaller home if possible. There are also many resources for minimalism online and through books to assist the family in disposing of unused and unnecessary material items. Having a reduced need for more material possessions and living also provide the opportunity for giving by unloading well-cared-for items to the needy. Having children agree to own less can focus more on essential matters, such as interactive family activities. Parents will benefit by having cleaner garages and attics, feeling less squeezed by clutter. Simplicity can increase time for God in daily living.
Establishing priorities for families is the essential goal. To achieve this goal, I plan to discuss with my sons and their wives on their desires for the spiritual welfare of our grandchildren. The authors do not deal specifically with intergenerational dynamics, but since my sons are already grown, the children I influence currently are the grandchildren. Discussing with their parents what they desire for their children to learn about God is crucial to gain permission and involve them.
My wife and I attend church services regularly at a church thirty miles away. I plan to use the summer school schedule to take advantage of the children’s free schedule to take them to our church’s children’s services. I also plan to ask if their parents would like them to attend vacation bible school. Such a schedule requires an ongoing commitment by their parents to transport the children, at least partially, for them to attend service.
The plan also includes a written mission statement for us as grandparents and our commitment toward raising the grandchildren in a Christian atmosphere, along with involving their parents to provide the same example in their daily lives. While both my sons are agreeable to Christian principles, their hurried lives have become a stumbling block toward committing time to their spiritual needs.
This leaves us with short-term and long-term goals for our family to grow through Christ and a definitive plan. Signatures will also be a necessity to establish a formal commitment. There will be a grandparents agreement statement and one for each parental group. I also plan to reach out to their other grandparents to ask for help toward these agreements and goals. While I do not expect a firm commitment from them, we would at least make them aware of this part of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives.
Another step toward implementing the Family to Family method will include an outline of a plan for other grandparents. In our small group at church, there are primarily elders with grandchildren, and sharing these objectives with the group will also assist them in bringing Christ as the loci of importance in their grandchildren’s lives.
My wife and I will apply the lesson of “passing the baton,” but with passing to other grandparents for application in their family’s plan to increase Jesus. The advice for other grandparents will also include the necessity of communication with the children’s parents for their inclusion and buy-in. As grandparents, we have the social and familial responsibility to fill in when and where possible to assure our progeny are raised with the age-appropriate understanding of Christ.
No plan is perfect, but I believe an outline of a strategy that all family members can agree on is a good start. The method can remain alterable when necessary in specifics such as times and dates. However, the overall objectives can be met with long-term goals toward growing the family closer to the church and increasing its relevance in their lives.
Using our family mission statement as an outline, the emphasis will include the gospel presentation to children, such as the best methods and including multimedia for visual learners. I want my family to involve in watching The Chosen as it has brought the story of Jesus and books of the Bible to life and gives a vivid example of Christ’s human personality. The outline will include family readiness questions, family applications such as the program mentioned above, family-building activities to increase unity, and Scripture. The emphasis on quantity time vs. short interactions of quality time will also receive priority for daily practice. –Book Review: Family to Family
Pipes, Jerry, and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Families Making a Difference. Wordsearch, 2018.
 Jerry Pipes, Victor Lee, and Steve Green, Family to Family: Families Making a Difference (Alpharetta, GA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999), 3.
 Ibid., 10.
 Ibid., 8.
 Ibid., 43.
see also: Book Review: Family to Family