Famous baseball catcher Yogi Berra played against slugger Hank Aaron in the 1957 World Series. An on-plate exchange occurred between the two when Aaron prepared to bat. Berra chided, “Henry, you need to hold the bat so you can read the label. You're gonna break that bat. You've got to be able to read the label."
Aaron remained silent, but he knocked the ball out of the park on his next hit. After running the bases and touching home plate, he responded to Berra, “"I didn't come up here to read."
In a word, Aaron exuded intentionality. Merriam-Webster defines intentionality as “done by design.” It speaks of the quality of being purposeful and deliberate.
Christian parenting remains one of the most effective means of accomplishing the Great Commission. We can embrace the task with gusto – use the time entrusted to me with these children to produce Christ-followers. Jesus did not command us to just evangelize but to make disciples. To reproduce mature individuals who obey Jesus and bear fruit in their lives.
Just as Hank Aaron approached the plate to win, we can approach parenting purposefully and deliberately. Here are four areas parents can practice intentionality.
Intentional with time
When my oldest son was three, we routinely went out for “buddy breakfasts.” Some Saturdays, we journeyed to Hardee’s, ordered cinnamon-raisin biscuits, and sat at the high stools, enjoying life. Now that he is a teenager, I still look for times and ways to spend time one-one-one.
I gleaned from The Navigators ministry in college that in the early stages of discipleship, the relationship is as important as the material studied. Later, as the relationship grows strong, the emphasis shifts to the truth learned.
Building the relationship with our children requires time. Don’t swallow the old lie that only quality time matters. In reality, quality time cannot be manufactured. It occurs in the middle of quantity time.
As our children grew into pre-teens, we began taking them on summer overnight father-son and mother-daughter excursions. This year my oldest son and I plan on visiting Vince Gill’s guitar museum in Chattanooga.
I know life is busy. I know the months and years clip at a fast pace. So let’s take out our calendars now at the year’s beginning to plan some quantity time.
Intentional with reading
The importance of reading in raising wise, productive children cannot be overstated. Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Books shares that only two natural factors will determine how different you are five years from now: the people you meet and the books you read.
We can expose our children to great books from history, great stories from literature, and great attributes from people’s lives. Be careful to not let your children’s repertoire consist only of the latest superhero or potty-humored popular series.
Child-appropriate series abound retelling classic stories like Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Little Women. As your children mature, guide them toward good, positive literature that is well-written, thought-provoking, and teaches life lessons.
Take time to read books with your children at every age. As children become tweens and teens, select material that will provoke good discussion. Right now we are reading and discussing Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations with our youngest two children.
Through books and literature, we can expose our children to world-changing thoughts and ideas.
Intentional with boundaries
Remember, we are not primarily our children’s friends. We are their parents. As a seminary student, I heard Thom Rainer say that leadership means you get far enough ahead of people so they can spot you are the leader – but not so far ahead that they mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the bottom!
Intentional parenting requires making hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. We set boundaries for our children for their best interest.
Last summer, my wife birthed a marvelous plan. She created a chore chart for electronic time. In order for our children to use their phones, video games, and devices, they had to earn time based on household chores. For example . . .
Vacuum one room = 10 minutes
Sweep and mop one room = 20 minutes
Cook dinner = 30 minutes
Tracey put a chart in the kitchen and each day, our kids signed in their chores and calculated the resulting electronic time. I’ve never seen them so motivated to clean the house!
Don’t be intimidated to get in front and lead, parents.
Intentional with family devotions
Raising Christ-followers in our homes necessitates time spent at the family altar. Various methods and catechisms abound. However, many times I found the most effective approach is to simply open the Bible and authentically share what is on my heart from God’s Word. Of course, parents, that requires you and I to follow Christ daily. The genuineness of Dad and Mom sharing from God’s Word out of the overflow of our personal relationship with Jesus will leave an indelible – and intentional - print on the souls of our children.
Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.