Yesterday, I had a short post pointing fathers to a longer post on how to disciple their sons. I hope those who read it took the time to read the longer and better post that elicited it. If not, take the 10 minutes to go and do so now.
Today I want to throw out another little thing that I did as a father that I found to be very helpful. Remember that we had four children and I had a crazy schedule during my college and seminary days and that schedule did not change when I took on the pastorate. I tried to always give my children at least a half an hour of just dad time when I got home before their bed time. When they were younger this just meant getting on my hands and knees on the floor which signaled to them all to pile on and begin to try to defeat their papa.
But the best thing I did was a simple thing, but it meant that I could not have time to myself. Every time I went to a store to do something I took one child. Very few exceptions to that rule. I leave to go somewhere, one of my children is sitting next to me in the front seat. During the drive and during the walk through the store I would just talk to them. Sometimes I could ask them very personal questions right away, perhaps one of them had been struggling in obedience at home lately or messing up with school. But many times I would just talk, letting the conversation flow and listening very, very carefully.
It is that last part that is key. I refused to just “chat” though I did a lot of that regardless. I listened for a hesitation in their voice where perhaps they were about to ask something and changed their mind. I listened for vague questions that might lead to more specific ones if I didn’t mess things up by over-reacting or blowing off the question.
It was amazing the way conversations would turn to things “eternal.” Honest questions about God, life, and the future. Times where they could toss out basic conclusions they were coming too about reality and truth, even though some of it was scary. Times where I could share with them my failures as a young man that mimicked theirs, letting them know that I was a fellow sinner. Opportunities to talk about the glory of salvation in Jesus Christ where our sin is dealt with for all eternity.
I am not saying that every conversation was like that. But I am saying that by purposefully taking a child out with me every time I went somewhere I gained opportunities to have those conversations. Dads, think about it.
Oh, and by the way, unless it is impossible, take them for a quick bite of french fries or ice cream. Teach them how to lick a cone properly. Pause for a bit and kick over an ant hill with them or climb down the embankment to a stream. Just you and them.