By Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwolf
No matter how great our parenting skills are as individuals, single parents, or in mother-father combination, we all have limited capacity to accomplish this impossible responsibility. Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof combine forces to reveal a powerful “formula” for parenting success— orange is symbolic for the partnership between the light from a faith community (yellow) and the heart of a caring family (red). When these elements coexist and combine, the parent-church partnership is activated (orange). You don’t have to parent alone. In fact, you should not parent alone. When you lean into your community of faith your weaknesses can work in your favor. This book is a great reminder of the power of influence and how these influences in combination can establish a solid lifestyle for your family.
Chapter One: The Orange Parent
You probably already know this, but YOU are the number one influencer in the life of your child. Thankfully, you do not have to take on this responsibility on your own. This is where the faith community can come in to support your home and family. When two influences partner and work together for the same thing at the same time with the same strategy—WOW—you have tapped into the Orange Factor (orange = red + yellow OR unconditional family’s love + the larger community of faith’s light).
Chapter Two – Stock Family Syndrome
Comparison can be a killer. Just look at the Stock family picture. The Stock family is not a real family, or frankly realistic, but rather the photoshopped image of perfection. We hold this stock photo up on a pedestal leaving us dissatisfied with what the family we have been given. But God is not interested in our (re-)creation of a stock family photo. He is writing a story. I mean, look at all the parents in the Bible. Not a one even remotely resembles a stock image of perfection. Quite the contrary. Don’t focus on the photo; instead, focus on God’s greater story of redemption and restoration that He longs to illustrate through your family. Join the movement of parents who are letting God write a bigger story. When you add a bigger-story approach to your children’s world, you add something that goes far beyond your capacity as a parent.
Chapter Three – Family Value #1: Widen the Circle
This chapter introduces the three levers upon which you, as a parent, exert force so that they in turn magnify energy on the other end. The first lever you use is to enhance your parent-child relationship. The second lever you use is to develop your child’s relationship with God. And the third lever, discussed in this chapter, is to connect your child in relationships with others outside your home.
A time will come in which your child needs more than you, mom and/or dad. Do not personalize it or be prideful. Accept this as a necessary and vital reality. Be strategic. Expand from a “me” approach to a “we” approach. Joiner and Nieuwhof offer a variety of practical next steps to widen your circle of influence. Be part of a church that values community. Get your kids plugged into serving as this moves them beyond going to church and actually being the church. Seek out mentors, trusted adults in your community, before your children need them so they are positioned and ready for when your children will need them. So, what are you doing to encourage your child’s relationships outside the walls of your home?
Chapter Four – Family Value #2: Imagine the End
The essence of this chapter can be summarized in this quote, “Sometimes I just have to be reminded that what I give to my children or what I do for my children is not as important as what I leave in them. Everything, start to end, is really about God. Stay focused on God and who He is. Remember the bigger-story approach from Chapter Two? God is at the center of it. While there are plenty of things we may dream and hope for our children to do, it comes down to who do we really want them to become? Imagine the end.
Chapter Five – Family Value #3: Fight for the Heart
As parents, we tend to fight with our children over obedience, attitude, and trust. What if we are fighting for the wrong thing? Let’s learn from Moses and the wisdom he learned in watching God, over-and-over again, fight for the hearts of His people. Moses clearly connects, multiple times, obedience of God’s commandments to the issue of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. While rules used to reign, the new rule is that relationships rule over rules (that’s a tongue twister). Our communications, be it the simple day-to-day requests or the harder fights with our children, should convey the value of the relationship first and foremost. And when we do this a more consistent message of trust and love are communicated to our children. If you want to learn to love beyond your capacity, then learn to love God first.
Chapter Six – Family Value #4: Create a Rhythm
Every family is bound by the same amount of time in each day. But rhythm, how we arrange our time, varies. What does your family’s rhythm communicate about what your family values? Presumably, you desire that God be at the center of those rhythms. So, where do you even begin? Deuteronomy 6 highlights certain opportunities to build God into the rhythm of your day-to-day. Eating meals together is an optimal time for discussion and connection. Walking or travelling together is commonplace as you shuttle kids from place-to-place not to mention it can provide a unique opportunity to informally dialogue on the way. There is something special about tucking into bed as the day winds down and you are one-on-one with your child to wrap up the day. Finally, getting up in the morning is a blank page for the family to start fresh on.
It all comes down to intentionality and prioritization. What Deuteronomy 6 suggests should not be add-ons but rather better leveraging of the rhythms that already naturally exist in your family’s day-to-day. Once repeated constantly, these cycles add up to not just quantity but quality time, both of which are needed. The quality time spent together will add up in quantity over time. And the result only helps to further leverage the “end goal” you have for your child to become lifelong followers of Jesus.
With the end goal in sight, here are some final tips on creating rhythms. Of course, continue to think orange as you create your family’s rhythms. Synchronize with what your church is teaching to repeat and reinforce the messages. Never be so stuck on the exact rhythm that you lose space for flexibility. Make it fun! Make it a family experience. And last but certainly not least, tailor things to what works for your family. Do not falter and compare again to the stock family photo. The goal is not to do everything, but to engage in doing something more. Create a rhythm.
Chapter Seven – Family Value #5: Make it Personal
This last value was a powerful reminder that in the midst of parenting and caring for your family to never lose sight of YOU. If nothing else changes in the lives of your children, Joiner and Nieuwhof’s desire is that something would stir in YOUR life at the very least. A legacy is contagious. It has to be in you first before it can be in them. Otherwise, you are passing along emotional deficits after all the energy exerted on giving to others without refueling yourself. Your children are in the front row viewing your life, so what are you modeling to them?
Hopefully you get the point. Your children need to see you make relational, emotional, and spiritual growth in your life a priority. So where do you start? Spiritual growth time looks different for everyone. Start somewhere and make deposits into your spiritual bank. Make relational deposits intentionally. Be strategic about friends who fuel your heart, mind, and soul. Build a community of other parents to discuss and do life with. Date your spouse because at the end of it all it is you and him in the end when the nest is empty. Stop making excuses. Start now. Choose to make personal growth a priority. You and your kids will not only notice the difference but be grateful for the margin it creates.
Chapter Eight – Back to the Story
Through it all, remember the ultimate rooting of the story. Your mission as a parent is to raise your children up and release them into the world. It is not to protect and hold onto them. SO imagine if we raised them up to love the Lord and released them to likewise demonstrate God’s love in this broken world? If we all are united in this mission, then at the heart of every family is a primary calling to lead a generation to the heart of a perfect, loving Father. How amazing would that be?!?! And this would all be well beyond our capacity as individual parents. Amen.
NOTE: “SNAPSHOT” is an attempt to give you a quick, but informative, look at a book that may be a good resource for you. We don’t endorse everything written in any of the books covered in “SNAPSHOT” but strive to pick books we believe will help parents win!