Stop drifting apart and instead thrive together with this practical five-step plan for God's best possible life for your family. Despite the best of intentions, the busyness of life and endless distractions frequently cause parents to put their family's development on the back burner. Family Shift shows parents how to realign their families with easy but critical steps to follow to start living intentionally. Author Rodney Gage and his wife, Michelle, saw a drift start to threaten their own family's well-being and set out to stop it in its tracks. They wanted to defy the alarming statistics of the decline of the family unit and share with families everywhere that they can learn to thrive as a family, not merely survive.
Every family gets off track at some point, but that's not a major problem as long as you know your destination. Family Shift has families working together to create a family vision, mission statement, and core values family members will be better equipped to help one another navigate the unexpected twists and turns of life. Each chapter concludes with questions to answer as a family and additional resources to work through together.
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About the Author
Rodney and Michelle are the founding and lead pastors of ReThink Life Church in Orlando, Florida. For over twenty-five years, they have devoted their lives to helping people live life on purpose through full-time ministry. To this day, Rodney and Michelle continue a strong spiritual heritage and legacy from both sides of their families. They have been married for over twenty-eight years and have three amazing children who are continuing their family legacy by faithfully serving God through their own unique callings. Rodney is the author of six books, and he and Michelle are the coauthors of the book ReThink Life: How to Be Different from the Norm. Their 40-day companion devotional is featured on the YouVersion Bible App with over fifty thousand completions. Passion, purpose, and priorities have been their hallmark themes and influence on people's lives around the world.
Read an Excerpt
ON YOUR MARK
Take an Honest Look at Your Past and Present
One of the perks of living in Orlando is the convenience of being able to drive over to the local attractions and theme parks for a day of fun. One day, when our three kids, Becca, Ashlyn, and Luke, were much younger, we decided to go to Disney's Magic Kingdom. For some reason, we chose a day when half the population of the planet was there.
Though we had to fight through the crowds for hours, our family enjoyed a number of rides, shows, shops, and other amusements. But when it was time for the next adventure, we gathered our clan ... and didn't see Luke. I (Rodney) scanned the immediate area. Nothing. "You have Luke, don't you?" I asked Michelle. She shook her head, and when our eyes met, she instantly realized I didn't know where he was. I asked the girls, "Have you seen Luke?" Nope. Now all of us were in full-blown panic mode!
We searched the area like crazy people but couldn't find him anywhere. News reports of missing and kidnapped children flashed in our minds — well, Michelle's and mine, not the girls'. After a long and frantic but empty search, we asked one of the cast members at Disney World where a missing child might be taken. He pointed us to something like a human lost and found department. To our relief, when we got there, we found Luke, who looked as though nothing in the world was wrong. It was a joy-filled reunion. I didn't let him get more than a foot away from me the rest of the day.
It's easy to lose something you value, like a child, a marriage, a family relationship, or even a dream you've held in your heart for years. Wise parents acknowledge that even in the best of families, things can go wrong — sometimes much quicker than could ever be expected.
Research shows most people still believe the family is an important and essential institution. Barna Group states: "Family is ranked by American adults as more central to their identity than any other surveyed factor (i.e. being an American, faith, ethnicity, etc.). More than six in 10 (62%) also say that family plays a significant role in their identity." But the numbers also show a steady decline in each generation. While 76 percent of those belonging to the silent generation (1928–1945) said that family made up "a lot" of their identity, among the boomers (1946–1964), that number dropped to 64 percent; for Gen-Xers (1965–1980) it was 61 percent, and the millennials (1981–1996) came in at only 53 percent. It doesn't take a math whiz to detect a disturbing trend here.
As family coaches, we can't think of a better term than drift to describe the growing threat we see among families in our culture today. It describes exactly what happens to most married couples, and it always affects their kids. Couples usually start with firm commitments to strong, loving relationships based on spiritual and moral foundations. But at some point, without even realizing it, parents begin to focus more and more on their work schedules and financial demands, their kids become more involved in academic requirements and extracurricular activities, and the once close-knit family finds itself at various stages of emotional distance. Some need only a little shift to get back on track, but others need an extreme home makeover!
We believe most families start out with the best of intentions, but the snorkeling "check in" rule applies here too. The excitement of having children and enjoying all the developmental stages of their young lives, coupled with the many time-consuming responsibilities of parenthood, can cause parents to move into survival mode. Over time, imperceptibly, the increasing demands of work, financial pressure, and endless busyness create a dangerous drift away from the family connections that once seemed unbreakable. When family members fail to regularly raise their heads to "check in" and see where they are spiritually, morally, and relationally, they eventually drift further away from God and His plans and purposes for their family. They "check out" and begin to drown in the sea of problems: family conflict, wayward kids, marriage trouble, and, quite often, divorce.
This is the point when we (Rodney and Michelle) get a phone call. A marriage or a child is drowning and the family is crying out for help. They've found themselves drifting away from the security and satisfaction they once shared in the home. Now they wonder if rescue is even possible. Sadly, this condition has become the norm, not the exception.
In all our years of working with students and families, here's what we know to be true: Your direction, not your intention, will lead you to your destination. In other words, no matter how sincerely you intend to raise spiritually and morally strong kids, it doesn't just happen. The truth is, the direction your marriage and family are moving right now along the path you have set with your values, commitments, and priorities will ultimately determine your destination.
In our roles, we see many young parents highly involved in their children's lives when they start school. The parents volunteer, show up for parent-teacher meetings, and donate money for worthy causes to help the school and community. In addition, they sign their children up for all kinds of extracurricular activities: Little League, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, dance, cheerleading, music lessons ... the list goes on and on. Clearly, the parents' intentions are heartfelt. They want the very best for their children.
As the kids grow up, their activities demand even more time and money. In addition, academic priorities become a consuming focus. Parents discover that most of the better public and private universities look for a high-achieving record of accomplishments before a child will even be considered for acceptance. Consequently, parents experience a tremendous amount of tension trying to balance the demands of school, all the extracurricular activities, work schedules, and basic household responsibilities.
You already know this, of course — or, if your kids are still very young, you'll find out soon enough. The point is that we need more than good intentions for raising strong families. Intentions won't prevent drift. We need to assess and address the direction we're moving. Are we allowing drift to gradually take us away from where we really want to be? Or are we making a persistent effort to stop the drift, recalculate, and do whatever it takes to move back in a direction that will take us to a place where we and our kids thrive?
LOOK UP AND LOOK AROUND
An old saying tells us, "If you keep doing the same thing you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten." Once you realize that drift has become a problem in your family, and especially if you detect that you are continuing to drift with no control over the situation, it's time for you to act — to do something different. There are people for whom drift is inevitable. They may have grown up in broken homes, with absent parents or single parents, in unloving foster care homes, or without any understanding of what having a loving, strong family could look like. But from our interactions with thousands of people, we've identified six primary reasons families drift — no matter the familial background or good intentions. These can be present to a minor or major degree, and adults may experience one or more of them at the same time:
1. They don't have a clear vision of what family life can be. All they've seen when it comes to relationships — whether their parents' relationship, their family's relationships with extended family, or the relationships among other families — is people who barely tolerate one another, people whose anger leads to explosions or implosions, and people with a goal only to survive another day without too much trauma or drama.
2. They don't have a set of guiding values that shape their decisions and interactions.
They've absorbed their values — that is, what's most important to them — from their parents and from the culture, and they've never even considered outlining how they can relate to one another.
3. They confuse their commitments with their priorities.
They've made commitments of time and energy to various activities before establishing a list of things to be prioritized and eliminating other things.
4. They don't do enough to protect their family from powerful, though often attractive, negative influences.
They've viewed the culture's supreme values of success, pleasure, and approval as perfectly reasonable because they're so pervasive.
5. They focus on one another's faults instead of strengths.
They're hurt people who hurt people. Empty and wounded, they've become as prickly as porcupines!
6. Their deepest needs for security and love aren't met, so they operate out of a deficiency instead of an overflow of gratitude.
They've failed to look deeper — to uncover the truths about their wounds and highest desires and experience God's love, forgiveness, and strength.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Let's return to the lesson we learned while snorkeling: If you were swimming in the ocean and realized that drift had become a serious threat, you'd take action and change direction. Ironically, most of us are probably better prepared to handle a crisis at sea than the problem of drift in our own homes. Ocean swimmers have a plan; they're taught that in the event a riptide starts to carry them out to sea, they shouldn't panic. They shouldn't attempt a mad swim directly back to shore against the strong current. Instead, they're instructed to swim parallel to the shore until they get out of the potentially deadly current, and then swim diagonally toward the shore to safety. Likewise we must have a plan for our families.
THINK WHO BEFORE DO
We believe there are two crucial questions all of us need to ask ourselves:
1. Who do I want to be as a husband or wife and as a parent?
Far too often, husbands and wives lose their sense of vision, purpose, and meaning, so the best they can imagine is to struggle through another day with as little hassle as possible. The currents of the culture sweep them downstream. They're drifting, but they don't even notice. They become wrapped up in secondary things and miss the most important things. When we treasure those things above God and His purposes, we become vulnerable to temptation and deception. And with technology, our kids are exposed to far more negative influences than we could have ever imagined when we were in school. Soon, the feeling of regret replaces their passion for life.
It may help to expand this question into specifics. Together, you should answer: Who do we want to be as a couple? Who do we want to be as a family? And individually: Who do I want to be as a mom or dad? You start to regain a vision by asking these questions ... and spending plenty of time answering them. Once we understand who we want to be, we can then focus on what we need to do.
2. Is there a desire gap between how things are now and what I feel "ought" to be?
After you've answered the first question, this one focuses on the challenge of change. Your gap may be large or small, but whatever the size, we all need tangible steps and fuel for our passions to motivate us to close the desire gap in our lives. The deepest issues in our lives aren't the words we use when we talk to each other, but the source of those words. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45 NKJV). Change is the bridge between who you are and who you want to become. Based upon whom you desire to be, you will need to make changes and stop certain behaviors. Shifting takes courage.
We'll be honest with you: The sooner you notice the effects of drift on your family, the easier it is to make the adjustments and get back on course. But we suspect that many people have picked up this book because they're in various stages of going under. The longer we wait to acknowledge drift, the more it can pull us down spiritually, morally, emotionally, relationally, and financially. If that's your case, let us assure you: It's never too late to make a shift that will restore your family to peaceful waters and smooth sailing.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
We've had the privilege of seeing God work in the lives of individuals, couples, and families to bring dramatic and lasting change. Here are just a few examples:
Suzanne is a single mother who felt traumatized by her husband's infidelity and unwillingness to make any changes in his priorities. A year after they divorced, she could barely make it through work each day, and she had very little energy left for her two children, eight and twelve years old. She joined a group that helped her experience God's love, grieve her deep hurts, and find God's purpose for her as a daughter of the King and as a mother. Today, she is one of the most joyful people we know.
Jarod and Alicia scheduled two appointments, one with a counselor and the other with an attorney. If the first appointment didn't go well, they were going to go to the attorney to get a divorce. Both Jarod and Alicia had good jobs, but they had spent far beyond their income. The strain of trying to pay interest on their debt each month caused them to blame each other, and their kids were often the objects of their anger. The counselor gave them hope that their matrix of problems — debt, marital stress, and children out of control — could be resolved in a process of healing, a commitment to speak to one another with grace, and finding a financial counselor. Hope had a miraculous effect. They soon were talking to each other with respect, they didn't bark at their children, and they began to see light at the end of the financial tunnel.
Jenny had been physically and emotionally abused by her father, so she had great difficulty trusting men, including her husband, Robert. She was emotionally fragile; anything less than complete and perfect affection offended her and caused her to withdraw. Poor Robert never saw this coming. Before they married, he knew Jenny had some problems with her father, but when she finally told him the truth, her behavior made a lot more sense. Together, they found a way forward, discovering deeper love and security than either of them had ever known before.
Carlos and Maria had enjoyed the good life before they had kids. They traveled, Carlos fished, and Maria liked her work and had frequent lunches with friends. They assumed having kids would fit nicely into their priorities, but it didn't. The demands of parenthood challenged Carlos and Maria and made them irritable with each other and with their little children. When they finally realized their resentment was ruining their family, they decided to get help. They met with an older couple who had weathered many storms in their marriage, and the more mature couple helped Carlos and Maria reframe their expectations. Finally, Carlos and Maria had something bigger and better to live for than fun.
We could describe countless other couples and families struggling with everything from the normal strains of life to the ravages of addiction, depression, debt, abuse, and isolation. We talk to men and women who have tried to find solace in the arms of someone other than a spouse. The pursuit was thrilling for a while, but it devastated their marriages and their kids. We know families who smile and look put together on the outside but behind closed doors suffer from outbursts of rage and shattered hearts. Pornography is so common that it has become an epidemic, even in the Christian community. Some say that it's harmless; we know it's anything but. It reshapes the viewer's perspective of sexuality and causes them to be dissatisfied with anything but attractive and seductive people — unlike anyone they're with. We've seen parents push their kids to excel in academics and sports so they can get into the best schools and win scholarships. If those kids do get in, they enter a world of even more pressure, and if they don't, they're crushed by a failure they assume will ruin their lives.
If there's one thing we (Rodney and Michelle) are known for, beyond the love we have for each other and our three children, it's our passion to see families challenge the norm by living with greater intention. Through the years, I (Rodney) have had the opportunity to speak to millions of teenagers through school assemblies. Michelle and I have worked with hundreds of couples and families whose lives and relationships have tragically fallen apart. Why are we telling you this? Because our experience is evidence that raising spiritually, emotionally, morally strong and secure children and having a healthy, thriving marriage doesn't just happen. As a matter of fact, I believe it's more difficult for marriages and families to thrive in today's culture — spiritually, morally, and relationally — than ever before.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Family Shift"
Copyright © 2019 Rodney Gage.
Excerpted by permission of Hachette Book Group.
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: Notice the Drift 1
Step 1 Start with the End in Mind
1 On Your Mark 9
2 Get Set 25
3 Go! 41
Step 2 Hold to Core Values
4 Family Is a Team Sport 57
5 Rule Books, Playbooks, and the Good Book 73
6 What Gets Rewarded Gets Repeated 87
Step 3 Identify Your GPS
7 Envision the Future 103
8 Do What Comes Naturally 121
9 Toughen Up 137
Step 4 Find Life-Giving Friendships
10 Iron Sharpens Iron 153
11 Every Friendship Needs a Little TLC 169
Step 5 Teach by Example
12 Who's on Point? 185
13 The Power of Unconditional Love 201
14 Leaving the Nest 217