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A Simple Question That is Terrifying to Many Parents

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Terence Chatmon is a successful business executive who has served in leadership roles for several Fortune 500 companies including Citibank and Coca-Cola.  But for all his success in the business sector he was failing at home.  His vision for corporate leadership just didn’t translate when it came to raising his children to be responsible, upstanding young people of faith.   Thus, the man who always seemed to have a plan had nothing when it came to sharing the Good News with his kids.

That is until one day when his wife challenged him to develop a blueprint for the spiritual development of their children.  After much planning, plotting, and prayer, Terence was able take many valuable lessons he had learned in the business world and transform them into a practical, step by step spiritual development program for his family.

That plan is the basis for his new book, Do Your Children Believe? Becoming Intentional about Your Family's Faith and Spiritual Legacy

I recently sat down with Terence to discuss first steps for someone to become the spiritual leader of their home and the best way to make Christ known to your children.

What was your inspiration for writing Do Your Children Believe?

I have great concern for the family.  I look at moral and spiritual decay in America.  I believe it starts in the home.  The days where parents took on the responsibility for training and equipping their children seem to be quickly fading.  As a result, we see the impact of that with single parent homes … one parent raising their kids in the Lord.  There is a significant shift in the worldview in America.  All of those things sort of led me to say, ‘Can we make a difference in the family?’  For me personally, what led me was my wife who challenged me with a question.  That was, are our children adequately prepared to defend their faith at the high school?  I responded by asking her what she was going to do about it.  I told her that she was the spiritual leader of the home because I had abdicated that right to her.  She quickly said that it wasn’t her role, it was mine but I had been absent. She challenged me to take a couple of weeks and put a plan and some thoughts together based on my executive experience.  At that time I was a head executive at Coca-Cola and I understood leadership, planning, vision statements, mission statements, goal setting, and all of those things so I just used practical experience, along with God’s Word and prayer, paper, and pen and started to draft my approach and strategy to be more intentional in raising my kids in the Lord.  That started a process to develop a step-by-step program to introduce my kids to who Christ is and what He has done. 

You just mentioned that your wife challenged you to truly be the spiritual leader in your home. With that said, what’s the first step a person must take to become the spiritual leader in their home?

I think the first step for me anyway was prayer.  Lord, I want to be used by you.  I’m in relationship with you.  We need to repent for where we are.  For me personally, I need to repent and abdicate to my wife and the Church.  And secondly, I need you to strengthen me and prepare me for what you have asked me to do – which is to train and instruct my kids in the Lord.  Well, how do I do that?  I want to be that leader and so you have to have a desire.  You must first acknowledge who and what you are.  Even in the workplace, you need to understand reality.  What are the facts?  So, the facts were clear to me.  I had abdicated that and I needed to step up.  So, my first step was prayer.  I just asked that I could be used by Him.  Direct me, lead me, guide my path.  Give me wisdom. I began to just jot down as I was reading and praying what I think is there and how to become a spiritual leader.  This took me to Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children but train and instruct them in the Lord.”  We can also look at Deuteronomy 6 and 7 but for me, it took me to Ephesians 6:4.  So, I began to ask what it takes to train and instruct your kids in the Lord.  There are tons of verses in Scripture about that. I believe that transformation will never take place in our hearts without being in God’s Word. 

Is there a plan that a person must follow to become the spiritual leader of their home or is this something that just sort of happens organically?

I believe that if you write it down, it happens.  In fact, less than one percent of Christians have any sort of real spiritual plan.  That is a significant number.  There was a Harvard study that proved if you write your goals down or write things down they get done 85 percent more of the time.  We would never think about approaching life without a plan.  Think about it.  We have vacation plans.  We have financial plans.  We have business plans.  We plan everything. But yet less than one percent of Christians are intentional about writing their spiritual plans down.   The reason people probably don’t do it is because they don’t know how.  We can’t teach what we don’t know.  Many people don’t know how to think about this stuff.  Is this plan that I am proposing the only plan?  Absolutely not.  But what I am proposing is that we need a vision for where we are taking our family.  We need to understand that and put it on paper.  We need to understand our core values.  What are we teaching our kids?  We need to be intentional about those core values and be what I call “non-negotiable”.  Are we just going to haphazardly do this on a day to day basis which we are too busy to do? Are we going to be intentional about that?  Are we going to be intentional about raising and seeking out resources for ages and stages?  You are going to teach a three year old differently from a 16 year old.  I think this process needs to be intentional.  I write about a process in my book that gives you an intentional step by step method for training and instructing your kids. 

We live in a world that is fraught with more and more distractions every day.  Many things in culture are pulling for their attention.  What is the best way to make Christ known to your kids?

One, live it out.  I tell folks all the time to “love well”.  As parents, if we love well and model that to our children they will understand the character of Jesus Christ.  But don’t point them to you.  You’re not the source to be pointing them to.  I don’t want my kids idolizing me.  I want them to idolize our Heavenly Father.  I want them to understand who Jesus is.  As parents, we are not the redeemer.  I’m just the messenger.   My goal as a parent is to point them back to the Cross.  Your children need to understand the grace that has been bestowed through the Cross and redemption … the Father loved us and demonstrated that love on the Cross when He came from the heavenlies in the form of being fully man and fully deity.  When Christ came to earth He had the power to do anything but that is what He chose.  So, if we can help our children to understand that it is not performance theology – it is not about what you do first.  It’s about what He has done for us.  We need to teach them about His grace.  I believe they will fall madly in love with what He has done and out of love they will be compelled to do.  A lot of times we try to do behavior modification.  It doesn’t work.  I grew up in that theology. I grew up in a hell, fire, and brimstone church.  I was going to hell every Sunday no matter what I did.  But later on I understood His grace in a much deeper way.  Once I started to focus on what He had truly done on that Cross, it was powerful!  It’s transformative. 

As an author, what is the one thing you want readers to take away from the experience of reading Do Your Children Believe?

I think the greatest legacy we can live in this life is to teach our kids who Jesus is.  I had some “success” in corporate America and that gives you worthiness and weightiness.  You know, the first thing people ask you is what do you do?  You have a chance to talk about what you have done, your success and failures, etc … But the greatest legacy I can leave is that my kids know who Christ is.  Many times, people will ask you who shared Christ with you.  Often times it’s a youth group leader, a summer camp counselor, a college campus ministry.  That’s fine but I want them to say, ‘My parents.’  My parents shared the Gospel with me when I was little.  I didn’t understand some things but they shared the Gospel.  They lived it out. They walked the walk. That’s what I want to see. So, lets start in the home.  Lets not abdicate that to the Church.  I certainly believe the Church has a role to play but these principles need to begin in the home.  And the Church reinforces it and really clarifies who Jesus is.  But the ultimate responsibility begins in the home.  But we can’t teach what we don’t know.  So we need to make it a priority to get in God’s Word.

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