As a parent, you want to give your children more than a happy life todayyou want to build a sturdy foundation that fosters health for generations. But what does it mean to be a spiritual heritage builder for your kids?
Spiritual heritage is connectedness. It is vision. It's the courage to stand up for what you believe in as a family and the choice to be a family that blesses others. It's everything God says in the Bible about family and parenting all thrown together into a messy, love-filled household. And dads, moms, grandpas, and grandmas who focus on developing a strong spiritual heritage equip kids to understand faith, family, and character and make those values their own.
Starting is easyand it can happen any time, even if your nest is already empty.
With three adult children, eleven grandkids, over forty-five years in Christian education, and a home filled with generations of laughter and love, Glen and Ellen Schuknecht are amply qualified to help you discover a vision for your own family. Come journey with them and discover the ideas you need, the hope you crave, and the grace you require to raise passionate and God-connected future generations.
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About the Author
Glen Schuknecht is head of student discipleship and discipline at Veritas Academy and an instructor and facilitator for Family Wings Ministries. He lives with his wife Ellen in Manchaca, Texas.
Ellen Schuknecht is head of family ministries at Veritas Academy, president of Family Wings consulting, and a national speaker for the National Association of University-Model Schools. She has contributed to several books on parenting and education, and has appeared on Focus on the Family. She lives with her husband Glen in Manchaca, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
The Generation Connection
Glen and Ellen
Something was wrong with Sophie.
Her mom, Natalie, sensed this deep inside. Sophie had changed since starting eleventh grade. She had become sullen and secretive and refused to make eye contact. Natalie wondered if her daughter's behavior was caused by a bad influence in her new circle of friends or if perhaps it was an immature response to the independence that went with being allowed to drive. Natalie felt that Sophie's character had altered so much that she was no longer the young woman she had been raised to be.
Words jumped out from Facebook as Natalie passed by Sophie's open laptop lying on the dining room table. Worry compelled Natalie to continue reading the message thread, overriding the guilt she felt in breaching her teen daughter's privacy. Sophie had not even logged off Facebook or tried to hide the evidence. It was almost as if she wanted her mom to see what she was doing, a subconscious plea for help, hope that someone would grab her by the hand and drag her out of the mire before she sank too deep.
Natalie gripped the chair tightly and held back tears as the truth glared at her from the computer screen. Sophie had been sneaking out at night. And it was no longer just to visit friends or catch a movie, as she had done one Friday night of her sophomore year. No, Sophie had gotten involved in much worse mischief than that.
"Our family Christmas trip will be such a drag. Nothing fun will happen at all," she had written. "At least you know how to have fun. I'll see you at Sam's on Saturday. As long as I can drag myself out of bed for church on Sunday, my parents will never know. I'll bring the weed. Don't forget to bring condoms. Wink, wink."
Natalie didn't want to read more, but she knew she had to if she was going to help Sophie. So she scrolled down. What came next broke her heart into a thousand pieces. There were messages about sex and parties and sneaking around written to and from Sophie's new boyfriend, Todd, whom Natalie had met only once, messages written to new friends who seemed to be nothing like her daughter's old friends, and messages with words that Natalie had hoped Sophie didn't even know, much less use.
Within minutes, it became clear that her daughter — the girl who had made a vow to remain pure just the year before — was not only having sex but also drinking and experimenting with drugs. And she no longer wanted anything to do with God or the lifestyle she had been trained in.
How could Sophie's life have changed so much in just a few short months? And how could Natalie help her daughter, who had walked so far away from how they had raised her? This story is a parent's worst nightmare, and there is no magic wand that will prevent your child from rebelling, but it is possible to raise kids who stay strong in their faith — kids who choose right, who stay connected, who love deeply, and who passionately pursue God. Yes, it is possible even in this topsy-turvy world where right and wrong are often difficult to define.
While God's plan for your kids is just that — God's plan — he often uses parents and their influence to build a spiritual heritage. He often uses parents who maintain a relationship with their kids far into adulthood that is connected, God-centered, and future-seeking.
Does that mean Sophie's parents have no hope? Absolutely not. God can redeem anyone. He holds our children in the palm of His hand, and we can trust Him to hold them tightly and pull them back to Him even when hope seems futile. The truly incredible thing is that many of the principles we'll show you to help prevent rebellion can also entice your children back to God.
So we want this book to serve as both inspiration and hope, as both help and encouragement, and as a way for you to see your family in a new light: as making a slow, prayer-fueled journey to a beautiful, God-centered heritage. A journey that, yes, will have many bumps and bruises along the way, but a journey that, in the end, will be remembered as a beautiful trek toward God's promise.
What Heritage Means
We are big believers in heritage. Especially spiritual heritage.
Perhaps it's because I (Ellen) didn't grow up in a household with a spiritual heritage. Sure, I had a heritage — a Finnish one — from which I learned the value of hard work and determination, and of curiosity and innovation. It was in our DNA as a Finnish family.
Yes, I had a heritage, but I did not have a spiritual heritage. My parents were more focused on their own lives and work than they were on raising kids to love God and live virtuous lives. I remember longing for more, and even vowing that I would give my kids more, but never knowing exactly how to make that happen.
Glen, on the other hand, was raised with a strong Christian heritage. His staunch German Baptist parents weren't perfect, but they understood heritage. They had morning devotions around the breakfast table (his mom made bacon and sausage every morning), they had Christmas tree hunts as a family, they swam in the local swimming hole every summer. They prayed together. They played together. They were together.
His parents certainly got it. A spiritual heritage is nearly impossible to define but is intuitive to understand. Creating a place where beliefs are handed down, a home in which children are viewed as a heritage of the Lord, makes sense to some people. Others have to fight for it but also manage to understand.
Heritage is connectedness.
It's the courage to stand up for what you believe in as a family.
It's the ability to say no to busyness and yes to tradition.
It's hope in Christ.
It's individualism defined within the context of family.
It's the result of much prayer.
It's love personified.
It's a capacity and willingness to forgive.
It's a choice to be a family that blesses others.
It's everything that God says in the Bible about family and parenting all thrown together into a messy, love-filled household.
And it's a key to raising kids who still stay connected to both God and family once they are out in the big, wide world. Parents who focus on developing a heritage with a strong spiritual component when their kids are being raised give their kids the tools they need to stay strong once they leave.
This is important. But it's also really hard to do.
The description of a spiritual heritage goes way beyond what we can say in this book, but we pray that this book will at least help you start building your family's heritage. We hope it will be a volume that you will refer back to for ideas, tips, thought-starters, and models for prayer.
Before we move on, let us confirm that in twenty years, you will, in fact, look back and regret some missed opportunities. Hindsight has twenty-twenty vision, and you will certainly think of ways you could have done things better. And this isn't a bad thing!
We firmly believe not only that you will likely get a second chance as grandparents, but also that it is downright impossible to make an unforgivable mistake that will destroy your family's heritage. God the Father just doesn't operate in the realm of unforgivable mistakes. You can't miss a step, miss your cue, have a bad day, and throw it all away. Instead, heritage is a twisting-turning journey with a path that goes through mountains and valleys and down the sides of ravines. One day you will be walking in a beautiful meadow, and the next day you'll be falling off a cliff.
But that doesn't mean you have failed. And it doesn't mean your kids are destined for failure. Quite the opposite. Those cliff-falling days (like the one Natalie had at the beginning of this chapter) are just reminders for us to buckle down and prayerfully trudge on, to keep building and defining a heritage for our families.
It's never too late. God loves you. He loves your kids. And He wants to give your family a spiritual heritage that will last for generations.
Start Your Family's Spiritual Heritage
Starting is easy.
Just turn to God — right here, right now — and say, "Lord, I want to be a heritage builder for my kids. I want them to value and remember special times we share as a family and practices we adhere to that unite our hearts and minds. But more than that, I want my kids to yearn for You so eagerly that they will be able to resist every temptation that the world would put before them. I want them to be so connected to me and to our family that they know they can turn to us with anything — any burden, any problem, any hope, any dream. I want them to love fully, to understand deeply, to connect wholly, and to seek you with every part of their beings. I want to give them a spiritual heritage that will grow and flourish for generations. Amen."
That was easy, right?
Now comes the hard part: you have to make cinnamon rolls — from scratch. We're kidding. (But we did put our recipe at the end of this book, if you are dying to try them. They are ooey, gooey delicious.)
In the coming chapters, we'll look at the next steps. The stories we've collected there are a little more rubber-meets-the-road. But without prayer, nothing else matters. So, seriously, go forth and prayerfully make a heritage for your family, because family is at the center of God's design and purpose.
And whether you have toddlers or teenagers or even college kids like Sophie who have already drifted away, it's not too late. You can do this. And God will help you leave a heritage that will reach your kids, your grandkids, and your future descendants.
Quick Tips for Establishing a Spiritual Heritage
1. Share with your children and grandchildren your own journey of faith. Describe both the up times and the down times. Tell them of both the good and the bad decisions you made, as well as the outcomes of each.
2. Verbalize for each child individually your vision of them loving the Lord and serving Him with purpose.
3. Tell them of individuals who were inspirational to you and how they helped you grow.
4. Celebrate Christian holidays joyfully and reverently. Build traditions that help your kids and grandkids remember these holidays in special ways.
5. Read the Bible together as a family. Talk through the readings and apply them to your family's relationship with God and with each other.
6. Go on a mission trip together. By taking care of the spiritual and physical needs of others, you will strengthen your own family.
7. Make it a stated family aim to be a blessing to other families. Then put it into practice by scheduling times to serve those in need together as a family.
8. A spiritual heritage includes the past as well as the present and future. Help your kids and grandkids to understand where they came from. Share with them the history of their family.
In the very beginning, God commanded Adam and Eve "to leave" and to "hold fast" (Gen. 2:24) and to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 9:7). This directive doesn't apply just in the physical sense — although it certainly means that God calls us to form physical families. God was also commanding Adam and Eve and all future families to multiply their spiritual heritage. Family is where children are most apt to learn what it means to be a citizen of God's kingdom and, as such, how to bless and serve the world around them. And family is the place where your children will learn what it means to be a child of God. That is why spiritual heritage is so important, and it is why we as parents and grandparents and even greatgrandparents must intentionally and prayerfully build families that offer children a glimpse into God's own heart.
The Balance Between Justice and Grace
Several months ago, a woman named Dawn asked me to coach her as a parent. She was at a loss for what to do for her struggling eleventh-grade son, Andrew, and a friend of a friend told her about my work as a one-on-one family discipline consultant.
I arrived at Dawn's house, and she answered the door with red eyes. She had clearly been crying. Her husband, Eric, stood behind her, grim, frazzled, and unshaven. They ushered me into the living room where Dawn began to sob.
Eric began. "My stepson is — he's just lost. We don't know where to turn." He showed me a picture of a dark-eyed boy wearing a University of Texas T-shirt, a kid who could be one of my grandkids in a few years — cute, happy, and so, so young. Eric continued to tell me Andrew's story, which started with his parents' divorce. Dawn's first husband had just up and left when Andrew was eight. Andrew loved his father deeply and immediately spiraled downward — desperately trying to understand why his father had walked out on them. Even after Dawn met Eric and they married, Andrew continued to struggle.
Emotions were overwhelming the family. Eric felt guilty because he wasn't able to be the father figure Andrew needed. Dawn felt guilty because her decisions had affected her son so negatively. And Andrew? He numbed his pain with drugs and alcohol. Dawn and Eric had tried everything.
Their pastor had suggested strict consequences, so they had grounded Andrew for a month, telling him he couldn't leave the house other than for school. That had ended with a knock on the door at two in the morning. Andrew had snuck out, stolen their car from the driveway, and gotten pulled over for driving under the influence and without a license. Dawn was just glad no one had been hurt by Andrew's recklessness.
A friend had suggested therapy, and they tried it. But Andrew had sat stoically in the counselor's office, refusing to share even a word.
Dawn and Eric had no idea what to do. They had already taken away every privilege Andrew could possibly have. They had put a lock on his bedroom door and window. He had no access to the car keys. He had no means to call friends. He had hours of chores. And yet Andrew seemed to be spiraling downward even more.
Dawn looked at me between sobs. "Ellen, he just doesn't have anything else I can take away from him. I can't be any stricter. He's just ... hopeless."
My heart sank at her desperation — but not at Andrew's future, because after working with kids for more than forty years, I know one thing: no one is hopeless. My first words during that parent-coaching session probably caused Dawn and Eric to think I was crazy. They may sound crazy to you too. My first recommendation to Dawn and Eric was just the opposite of what everyone else was telling them.
I told them to give Andrew fewer restrictions. I told them to give him more love, and to show him a little bit of grace.
Dole Out |ustice, Mercy, and Grace
I know this sounds counterintuitive, especially to those of us who have read all the Christian parenting books that pronounce again and again that obedience is key to raising good kids. But please hear me out.
It's not that obedience isn't important — the Bible is very clear that obedience leads to godliness — but the way we have been taught to deal with disobedience is often counterproductive.
God does not dole out strict consequences to us every time we disobey. Just imagine how oppressed we would feel if He did! What if God struck you with a consequence every time an angry thought crossed your mind? Or a sharp word left your tongue? Or an unprayerful moment entered your day unchecked? We would all be walking around with piles and piles of consequences and no hope for redemption. But God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, doesn't deal with us that way.
Yes, at times, God deals out the justice that we deserve. He teaches us to obey His commands by reprimanding and holding us accountable. We sometimes suffer the consequences of our actions in very real ways, even as adults.
But other times, He gives us mercy. He outright forgives us and gently reminds us of what is right in a way that is so merciful and kind that we can't help but want to obey Him.
But there is more. God also deals with us with heaping doses of grace. He died for our sins when we were still sinners. He forgave us, wiped our slates clean, and gave us incomprehensible, indescribable grace — grace that causes our hearts to sing and our minds to seek Him and follow Him despite our wavering.
God deals with us using a perfect mixture of justice, mercy, and grace. This is our spiritual heritage in Him.
And yet often times as parents, we dole out justice and leave mercy and grace to God. It shouldn't be that way. We're tasked with implementing both justice and mercy. A spiritual heritage is incomplete unless both are wholly in play.
When my daughter Erin was little, I was just starting to contemplate this idea and how it applied to me as a mother. Erin was seven or eight, and she had been lying about brushing her teeth. One morning, I caught her in the act.
"Erin, did you brush your teeth?" I asked.
"Of course, Mom," she said, smiling widely as she ran out the door and went to school.
Excerpted from "A Spiritual Heritage"
Copyright © 2017 Glen and Ellen Schuknecht.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Cinnamon Rolls at Oma's, 13,
PART ONE: Creating an Atmosphere for Spiritual Heritage,
1 The Generation Connection, 21,
2 The Balance Between Justice and Grace, 28,
3 The RITE Approach, 37,
4 The Informing of a Mind, 52,
5 The Boundaries That Connect, 63,
PART TWO: Choosing and Implementing Heritage Characteristics,
6 The Change That Comes with Courage, 81,
7 The Importance of Responsibility, 92,
8 The Raising of Peacemakers, 105,
9 The Power of Prayer, 115,
10 The Legacy of Faith, 127,
PART THREE: Extra Tools to Put into Practice,
11 The Purpose in Each Child's Uniqueness, 139,
12 The Motive Behind the Madness, 145,
13 The Use of Story, 156,
14 The Long-Suffering Love of God, 167,
Conclusion: The Cinnamon Rolls and a Spiritual Heritage, 175,
Ellen's Famous Cinnamon Rolls, 179,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With all the parenting books available, it's hard to decide which ones to choose, but I recommend putting this book on your "must read" list. I especially appreciate that it was written with a Biblical foundation. The principles guide parents and grandparents to build a relationship based on grace, while at the same time leading children to make wise choices and learning to be accountable for their decisions. Great read for parents and grandparents!
This book ranked to a five on all the standards I measure a book by. It was easy to read, easy to understand, provided doable advice, and had a nice mix of shared examples from the authors' real lives. This will continue to be a book I come back to and really unpack over and over.