No one can, without renouncing the world in the most literal sense, observe my method; and there are few, if any, that would entirely devote about twenty years of the prime of life in hopes to save the souls of their children, when they think they may be saved without so much ado; for that was my principal intention. — Susanna Wesley
Susanna Wesley’s words impacted us deeply. We were living in Santa Cruz where Phil was a worship pastor in a vibrantly growing church, when Diane — searching for wisdom in raising our children — read the biography of the mother of John and Charles Wesley.1 Our kids were six, four, and one when her words infused a new sense of urgency in us — a renewed call to examine everything in our lives, a charge to renounce anything that might get in the way of “saving the souls of our children,” and a willingness to devote the prime of our lives to this quest of raising passionate Jesus followers.
If you’re still reading, you’ve undoubtedly decided the same. You’re realizing the immenseness of this calling and are willing to do whatever it takes to tackle the “so much ado” that Susanna poured into her children. To help you accomplish this great task, you’ll need to be able to understand the difference between a goal and a value.
Webster’s dictionary defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed… the terminal point of a race.”
We are suggesting that as your child grows up, you focus on only one goal: to raise sons and daughters who are passionate Jesus followers.
By “passionate Jesus followers” we mean kids who grow up to truly love and walk with the Lord, who follow Him and serve Him, and who understand their calling to bring others into His kingdom.
We are not talking about perfect paragons of virtue but about followers of Jesus who are being transformed into disciples. Men and women whose life quest is to know Him intimately and please Him continuously. That’s the goal!
Because when Jesus is first, everything else falls into place. Even when trials, temptations, and difficulties come, your children will never walk in darkness.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. — John 8:12
It is this life-enlightening relationship with Jesus that is our ultimate goal in our children’s lives, and to that end you commit yourself to do whatever you need to do in order to see that one goal come to fruition.
A value is different from a goal. For the purposes of this book, a value can be defined as something very important to you. Something you prize and admire; something you really want your kids to make a part of their lives.
In order to attain your goal, you will need to take a close and continual look at your values. Are they helping or hindering you in achieving your goal?
We all have values we want to pass on — qualities, habits, and standards we hope our children will adopt as they grow up to establish their own patterns for living.
We aren’t just talking about moral values here, either. Our values will be mostly good, biblical qualities mixed with some cultural standards and life habits that we want to see our kids adopt as their own.
Some values will help, and some will be neutral, but the danger is this: that sometimes good things can get in the way of the best thing. One value we have seen over and over is competitive youth sports — a good thing! Sports teach teamwork, discipline, submission to authority, preparing for deadlines, and staying in shape. But what if it takes your child out of church on Sundays? What if you unintentionally communicate that consistently worshipping Jesus in community is optional? That when push comes to shove, commitment to the team comes first? What if you end up with a son or daughter who gets that college scholarship (which statistics show to be a measly one percent chance) but quits going to church (remember those stats?) and isn’t interested in walking with Jesus?
What then? In that situation, a value would have displaced your goal.
No two families will have an identical list of values. For that matter, no two parents will have an identical list of values.
High on my list of values when I was raising our children were cleanliness, neatness, and order — a place for everything, and everything in its place, as they say. I wanted a well-kept house that sparkled with welcome. That’s how I was raised, and that’s how I wanted my home to run.
Cleanliness is next to godliness — it’s in the Bible, right? Well, no. It’s not, but it’s in my bible!
But Phil didn’t — and still doesn’t — rate a clean house as one of his top five values. He doesn’t want to live in a messy, dirty dump, but neither would he make significant sacrifices to make sure the house is perfect.
On the other hand, having fun is high on Phil’s value list — having fun as a family, watching fun movies, planning fun trips and vacations and holidays.
In my family when I was growing up, we worked on Labor Day. We worked because both my parents placed high value on (you guessed it) cleanliness, neatness, and order.
Most of my holiday memories revolve around working together in the yard or painting the deck or some sort of project that required we all pitch in. Phil thinks it’s appalling! He can’t reconcile his value of having fun as a family with spending our free time working on home maintenance projects. He’d rather take a drive to the beach or go see a movie.
Can you see the collision ahead?
Two different parents with two different sets of values that sometimes clash. This is normal!
As Emerson Eggerichs says, “[It’s] not wrong, just different.”2
Goals Versus Values Exercise
We want to help you to work out your differences together, so we’ve compiled a list of values in order to help you identify what you “prize and admire” — what is very important to you. Values you feel driven to cultivate in your children’s lives. Values you hope your kids adopt and emulate as their own.
Remember, a value is not simply something you prefer, but something you are willing to make significant sacrifices to ensure. Phil enjoys a clean house — but will he make significant sacrifices to keep it that way? Not necessarily. Diane enjoys fun — sometimes — but she’s not lying awake at night dreaming up the next fun adventure.
Our son John Mark has a beautiful value of his own. He wants his sons to grow up to be best friends. Even now when they get in a disagreement, he asks them, “Why are you fighting? You two are best friends!” What a God-honoring value to instill in our children.
Before you read on, take some time to circle your top five values. Here’s a list to help you get started, but feel free to add to it. Once you and your spouse are done, take a few minutes to acknowledge each other’s differing values.
Remember to be kind and respectful to each other. A sense of humor is useful at times like these. We are convinced that identifying these important (not wrong!) differences will help you keep the goal in sight as you work together in raising children whose hearts beat for God.
Once you’ve identified your top five values, ask yourselves this important question: Are our values helping or hindering us in achieving our one and only goal?
What is your one and only goal? To raise children who love God with passion and love people on purpose.
|Strong work ethic||Resourcefulness||Success|
|Compassion||Friendliness||Respect for authority|
|Care for animals||Good communication skills||Love of reading|
|Initiative||Ability and willingness to resolve conflicts|
|Interest in theology||Boldness||Leadership|
|Sense of humor||Stylishness||Frugality|
|Cross-cultural adeptness||Desire for justice||Sexual purity|
|Concern for creation||Family closeness||Musical skill or interest|
|Adventurousness||Affection||Friendship among siblings|
|Responsibility||Artistic skill or interest||Learning|
|Management skills||Neatness||Analytical thinking|
Raising Passionate Jesus Followers —
GOAL: To partner with God in intentionally raising sons and daughters who grow up to become passionate Jesus followers.
Loving God with passion and loving people on purpose. — Deuteronomy. 6:4-9, Matthew 22:36-40
Excerpted with permission from Raising Passionate Jesus Followers by Phil & Diane Comer, copyright Phil & Diane Comer.
What are your and your family’s values? Have you made the mistake of placing values before the goal? We’ve all been there. We’d love to hear your thoughts on trying to raise passionate Jesus followers.