Billy Graham and family time
The late, great Billy Graham and his ministry is the reason that thousands know Jesus. His family’s memories of their father given at his funeral were heartfelt thanks to a role model.
As Franklin said: “The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV, and in the big stadiums, is the same Billy Graham we saw at home.” But Billy openly admitted in an interview with Christianity Today that his biggest regret was not being there more for his family. There is so much we can learn from what Billy did well, but I have a lot to learn from what he wished he had done better.
I closed my laptop and allowed the tears I’d been holding back to roll down my face. I’d been trying to speak to my then 3-year-old son on Skype, a format more suited to coordinating schedules with the guys from accounting than the intimacy of father and son. I was several thousand miles away speaking at a conference. My wife had called him into the room. “Daddy’s on Spike” (a family in-joke). I’d not seen him, I just heard little his voice: “I don’t want computer daddy. I want real daddy.”
I’m not going to tell you that since then I’ve cracked the family / work / ministry conundrum, or even that I’ve declined many overseas speaking engagements and projects. I haven’t. In fact since then I’ve probably done a lot more. But I have worked on strategies to try and avoid having to concede (along with Billy Graham) at the end of my ministry: I wish I’d spent more time with my family. We all need to be reminded to navigate the stormy waters of justification by ministry on the one hand, and idolising the family on the other. This isn’t just limited to those of us with itinerant ministry responsibilities.
Every few months I write three words – ‘any’, ‘few’, ‘only’ – over my calendar and tackle them in reverse order. Only I can be the husband to my wife. Only I can be the father to my children. These are the first things I include (family days, holidays, weekends away). Then the ‘few’. There are some things a few people can do and I’m one of them. God has gifted me to do these things and he’s called me to serve others in the Church and the world with them. They go in second. Finally there are things anyone can do. They need to go into my schedule too so I’m reminded just how ordinary I am.
I’ve also tried to learn the lesson of the Grand Old Duke of York. His 10,000 men came unstuck when they were neither up nor down. When we’re with our families, we really need to be with them. Being fully present can be difficult. Our smartphones aren’t helping with this.
Finally we need to remember that our spouses and children are not competing against mission. They’re on mission with us, whatever that mission may be.
It’s not easy to “bring up [our] children in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). It’s harder if we don’t give them our attention when we’re with them. It’s even harder via Skype.
Nate Morgan Locke has spent the last 12 years trying to capture young people’s imaginations with the good news of Jesus. He’s currently studying at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Are parents reading Bible stories to children?
According to a new report, the number of parents reading to their preschool children has dropped by a fifth since 2013.
Only 51 per cent of parents questioned in the Understanding the Children’s Book consumer survey report read to their young children daily. The biggest factor cited in the decline was “the struggle to find energy at the end of the day”.
Speaking to Premier Youth and Children’s Work, Fiona Lloyd, author, mother and vice-chair of the association of Christian writers said she was unsurprised energy levels were the biggest factor and suggested this is prominent in the frequency of our own Bible reading too.
“As Christians, we recognise the value of studying the Bible regularly,” she said. “But I guess if we’re honest, most of us find this difficult at times, particularly if we’re a sleep-deprived parent.”
Encouraging parents to read Bible stories to children, she said: “We can view it as an opportunity, rather than a duty to be marked down on our schedule; this will save us from the guilt-swamp that so often engulfs us as parents.”
She also pointed out that explaining difficult concepts to our children and reading stories with them can grow our own faith. To read more from Fiona, visit our blog.