Book Review: Shepherding a Child’s Heart

At age 35 it would be very foolish of me to try to outright define who I am. Particularly in the last few years, it seems like the words in various books jump off of the page, or the illustrations of various challenging speakers seem to come to the same point: “you still have a lot of growing up to do.” Nonetheless, one of the skill-sets that God seems to have given me that I have seen at least moderate success in a short span of 15 years in ministry, is the aptitude of a church strategist. I grew up in a fundamental church in the country, have served in multiple progressive and new church plants in various environments, and currently serve as pastor of a church with nearly two centuries in existence. As time passes, my experience continues to become more and more diverse. Yet, I’m learning that to be most effective I need to talk less and listen more. I’ve become intentional about developing an “elevator speech,” or “napkin notes” for what is most important and most compelling about the organization I lead. My belief is that people will be most excited about where we are going, and will engage in activity with us, if I can relationally connect them to the heart of our ministry.

I was stunned and taken back however about 2 years ago when my wife approached me lovingly one day about our four kids and home and said: “Why is it that you can scribble down the mission of our church on a napkin but you don’t have any idea where our family is headed?” Point taken. She had me pinned down to say the least. What would be my response? Why was this important? Where would our family be directed? How would we get there? Her poignant question triggered what seemed like thousands of follow-up questions in my mind, and the reality was that I didn’t seem to have any answers for any of them. It brought me to my knees in prayer, it challenged me to read some books outside of the “church strategic plan” section of the bookstore as well as my own library, and most importantly it motivated me to look at God’s word with new eyes. What would be our family mission statement? What would be our family values?

One of the helpful books in this process was actually assigned to me in a coaching network. Although the work was new to me, it had been out for more than 20 years and has high reviews across the board. Yet, I was reading Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding A Child’s Heart with a fresh set of eyes. Furthermore, the concepts of the book seemed fresh to me as well: “The Scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life. A person’s life is a reflection of his heart.” “When we miss the heart, we miss the glory of God. One of the most important callings God has given parents is to display the greatness, goodness, and glory of God for whom they are made. I want my kids to have a heart hurt for the things that God’s heart bleeds for. How can I do that if I am only disciplining their behavior, and not deal with the reason behind their poor behavior. In a similar fashion, I can reward positive behavior without ever encouraging my children to see God being glorified when they choose live life with a joyful attitude.

I’ve had to make some adjustments. I’ve had to re-think how I parent,  and stop making the assumption that if I am generally engaged in their lives that they will start to “get it” in regards to giving their heart to God. I will need to communicate with them regularly, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a few major talking points along the way. Tripp says: “A regular habit of talking together prepares the way for talking through strained situations. You will never have the hearts of your children if you talk with them only when something has gone wrong .”  I've had to make some adjustments in my schedule. there are two mornings a week that I no longer am able to get the physical exercise I had blocked out in my calendar previously. Perhaps I’ll put on a few pounds in the end, but it will be worth it. Instead, I have a date with daddy with each of my school-age daughters one morning a week before classes start.

And do you know what? I have a better idea now of what it is I want them to know. I have a better idea of what biblical truths I want to share. Also, I have a better idea from this book how to communicate with them as they grow into different life stages. So here is how I hope to shepherd my children’s hearts. So here is what I want to communicate to my family. So here, is my “elevator speech.” Here is what I believe will change their lives for eternity:

BE: Who You Are (Ephesians 1:1-2)
KNOW: Whose You Are (Ephesians 1:3-4)
LOVE: Actions Speak Clear (Ephesians 1:5-7)
GO: Adventure Is Near! (Ephesians 1:8-10)


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