Posts in category Becoming a patriarch

What children want … and need



Parents have to make a lot of judgment calls on what is best for their children. As the father of seven, I know full well that my kids haven’t always agreed with my choices. I often wonder: If they had the same decisions to make, would they be good ones? What would my children want?

A few years ago, Ombudsman for Children, an Irish advocacy group, decided to find out the answer to that question of what children want in their unprecedented Big Ballot. They identified five key areas of life, then polled Irish children from 21 counties to find out what they identified as the most important between:

  • Education
  • Family & Care
  • Having a Voice
  • Health, Wealth, and Material Well-being
  • Play and Recreation

As might be expected, Education got schooled by the heavy hitters of Play and Having a Voice. Only 12% of kids picked Education as their top choice. Just above Education at the bottom of the list (16%) was Material Well-being. I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that Having a Voice was only a half percentage point higher than those.

what children want

Father’s Day 2008 with my three youngest children and my wife Ellie

So, now we’re down to two: Play and Family. Which do you think topped the children’s list?

Family.

Nearly one third of the children surveyed chose it as their top concern, compared to just a quarter of the ballots for Play and Recreation.

Even when they might not agree with our choices, our children still realize that the family provides them security, protection, enjoyment, love, and counsel. It reminds me of how important a task we have to provide a nurturing environment for our children, and how much they look to us to care for them.

What makes a father proud is to know that his children value the same things that he is trying to provide for them. As long as he’s valuing the right things, it’s almost a slam dunk that his children will want the same things.

What makes children proud — what children want deep down — is to have a father who is an example of integrity and understanding, and who is a source of stability and direction. These are the very things that Scripture speaks of when it addresses the attributes and expectations of a father.

Although it’s not even close to being an exhaustive list, here are a few things children want — and need — from you, straight from the pages of Scripture.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO TEACH THEM THE RIGHT WAY

Deuteronomy 11:19 — You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

3 John 1:4 —  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO CORRECT THEM WHEN THEY’RE WRONG

Proverbs 3:11-12 — My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Hebrews 12:7-11 — It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND WHO THEY ARE

Colossians 3:21 — Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Psalms 103:13 — Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR BIGGEST NEEDS

Matthew 7:9-11 — Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?

CHILDREN WANT YOU TO TREASURE WHO THEY ARE

Psalm 127:3-5 — Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Taking dad to the Super Bowl … and beyond



Among the key players in this year’s Super Bowl will be three very different men with one big similarity: They love their dads and are bringing them to the game with them – at least in a sense.  Their names are Manning, Wilson, and Sherman, and they have stories worth sharing.

But first I want to tell a personal story of some other men I met who also took their dad to the Super Bowl. Like most guys, they weren’t going as players but as fans, and I ran into them on my way to Super Bowl XL with my son.

Kolby and I were on our way to Detroit to see my former team, the Seattle Seahawks, play the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the flight, we got into conversation with two rabid Seattle fans, brothers in their late 20s, decked out in full team gear. They explained that their passion for the Seahawks went back to their dad, who had taken them to every game as they grew up. Kolby and I could feel the love they had for their dad in their voices and their passion. But what put these guys over the top was when they gushed about their excitement to take their dad to the Super Bowl to see their beloved Seahawks.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s up in the overhead compartment. We got his ashes in a blue and green urn up there. We’re so excited!”

After they turned away came the whisper from my wide-eyed 15-year-old, “Dad, that’s weird!”

Yeah, it is. But, hey, I honor those guys for honoring their dad. It’s clear that he made his interest in them – and taking them to football games – a tradition, a memory, and a lasting bond. He must have loved them and they still felt it. They knew how much he would have wanted to see the Seahawks in the Super Bowl with his sons, so they brought him to the Super Bowl.

I love this story and the bond between men, a dad and his sons. And that takes me to this year’s Super Bowl.

The plot and outcome of this year’s game will depend a lot on the play of Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, and Richard Sherman. Each has something in common with The Urn Brothers in that they are bringing their fathers with them to the game. Not in an urn, but they are representing their fathers’ legacies of love and sacrifice that helped them make it to the big game.

Russell Wilson’s dad went to my alma mater, Dartmouth College, playing football in the four years before I joined the team. He passed away in 2010, but before he died he had built a character of confidence, commitment, and caring into his son. Russell remembers his dad regularly waking him at 5 a.m. and encouraging him to “make it a great day.” From what Dartmouth teammates said about Harrison Wilson and what we see from the hyper-prepared and team-lifting Russell, I think the quarterback is compounding the investments his dad made in him.

Taking Dad Super Bowl

Sons and their dads, from top, Russell and Harrison Wilson, Kevin and Richard Sherman, Peyton and Archie Manning.

Kevin Sherman is a dependable dad who wanted his sons to learn from his mistakes and to make the most of their education so that they could have more doors open for them than he had for himself. Compton, Calif., is a blighted neighborhood with few opportunities and scores of dangers, but Richard Sherman’s mom, dad and family have a winsome bond that was respected by gang members who didn’t want to lure the Sherman kids away from a great family and future.

The tight family is infectiously affirming. Richard swells with respect when speaking of his dad who worked 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. as trash collector for over two decades. From a dad’s dream to Richard’s attending and graduating from Stanford, quite a new legacy emerged in the Sherman family line.

Richard’s preeminent preparation and boiling competitiveness as a top NFL cornerback is mixed with a winsome manner off the field, although his articulate Muhammed Ali-like trash talking on the field is far from my liking, Sherman’s heated post-NFC championship game comments sparked controversy, not for misbehavior or slacking in life, but for venting battle-fueled bad blood between a DB and receiver. (Parents and youth coaches, certainly, let’s teach our kids not to belittle opponents, but let’s also read the whole story as we view others for the content of their character, not the color of a few comments after a heated game.)

Archie and Olivia Manning raised a super-close family that built Hall-of-Fame character, leadership, and humility into high achievers who make their teams eminently better. Archie labored in adversity without championships for the New Orleans Saints, but his greatest achievement was shaping Cooper, Peyton, and Eli Manning. Payton has a dad and brother as fellow epic NFL quarterbacks.

Despite what most think, the Mannings’ football career was not their dad’s focus as they were growing up. “We just tried to raise good kids and have a good family,” Archie says. “I don’t like the perception that … I’ve got these boys and I’m going to mold them into being NFL quarterbacks. Not so. You might can do that, and they might be NFL quarterbacks. I’m not sure you’re going to have a great father-son relationship, and that’s what I wanted.”

No wonder Peyton Manning was recently voted by his NFL peers as the most respected player in the league.

An infectiously intentional ivy-league dad who passed away early, a trash-truck driving, dependable dad from the ‘hood and an iconic pro-bowl quarterback from the Mississippi Delta. Each paved a path leading his son to the Super Bowl, and hopefully to even more important things – like walking in the footsteps of the key man in their life – Dad. And in a different, but similar way, just like the Seahawk-crazed brothers on the flight to the 2006 Super Bowl, these three players are taking their dad (through his legacy) to the game with them.

This all strikes close to home because of my dad’s legacy as a quarterback in the NFL and as a civic servant and leader in the public square. Although Dad and I both came within one game of the Super Bowl as players, we did go to a few games as spectators, and I’ve had the same opportunity with my sons. Most importantly, though, dad and mom loved and shaped me, as my wife and I have aimed to do with our four sons.

Millions of us dads will sit down with our kids on Sunday. So enjoy the game, but devote yourself and your energies each day to what matters most.

Someday each of us will be laid to rest (unless they scatter us in the ocean or take us to the Super Bowl in an overhead compartment).  What will you be remembered for? Riches, fame, and personal success are transient. But a legacy is what passes on to the next generation, and the next, and the next. … That is what endures.

Jeff Kemp and his father, Jack, were the first of six sets of father-son quarterback duos to play in the NFL. 

Make champions on Super Saturday



Super Saturday facemask videoWhile the numbers weren’t anywhere close to the 164 million who watched last year’s Super Bowl, the effect of the 2013 Stepping Up Super Saturday will be felt for years to come.

Last year, at least 23,000 men gathered around the nation and world, not to watch a championship, but to help each other become champions at home. They met in homes, churches, places of business, and on college campuses. They gathered in groups from a handful to a hundred in all 50 states as well as in Hungary, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands.

And on February 1, the day before this Super Bowl, many of those men will be leading new groups of men through FamilyLife’s one-day Stepping Up™ Video Event. They will follow the lead of men from last year who organized events in their own communities — guys like Frank Johnson and Tony Dronkers — who hosted an event in the Washington DC area to help fellow pastors and men’s ministry leaders. That enabled men to jump start their own churches’ ministry to men. And those men are likely to be leading others through the Super Saturday event next month.

One of last year’s events was organized by a 16-year-old named Westley and two of his friends who had been through Stepping Up material with their church small group leader, and now wanted to encourage and equip other teens to step into their new role as young men.  Fifty teens and grown men ended up being impacted by that event.

Our communities need men who understand God’s unique design and calling on a man’s life and want to share that with guys who are in desperate need of vision, teaching, encouragement, and accountability. The one-day Super Saturday event is a way to get men started on a clear path to courageous manhood.

You can be that catalyst for your church, business, or community. Visit the Stepping Up website to find out where there are events near you. Or better yet, host your own event and  invite men in your circle of influence. All the materials you need to put on an event are available through the website (and right now at more than half off). Videos that give guidance and ideas for pulling it off are also available through the site.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment or question on this blog, and we’d be glad to help.

May God bless you as you lead in your home and come alongside fellow believers to help them do the same.

Super Saturday: A day before the big game



Experts include Bill Bennett, Tony Dungy, Crawford Loritts, Dennis Rainey and many others

If there was ever a time when men need vision for what it means to be a godly man, this is it. Imagine if we could call men from all walks of life to become courageous, godly leaders in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities. Well, we can. And it all starts with you.

On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we’re calling on thousands of churches across America to host a Stepping Up Super Saturday: one life-changing day that could turn the tide for men in your ministry, and across America.

Stepping Up Super Saturday proudly presents the Stepping Up Video Event, a DVD-based kit designed for an all-day event. High quality DVDs deliver dramatic stories, humorous vignettes, man-on-the-street interviews, and expert teaching from the more than two dozen ministry leaders. Watch this video from FamilyLife Vice-President and former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp to learn more about how you and the other men in your realm can step up on Super Saturday.

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Today’s men are shrinking back when they should be stepping up. Help them tackle the challenges of modern life head on by hosting Stepping Up Super Saturday at your church February 1, 2014. Sign up today, order your Video Event Kit  and….GAME ON!

The lasting impact of a spiritual patriarch



How can I use my gifts to advance the Kingdom of God in my community and in my world?

One of the ways a man steps up to become a patriarch is by beginning to use his experience, and his influence to have an impact beyond his family. He wants to leave a mark on his world.

I want to tell you about a friend of mine: a man who became a mentor, a man who I think of as a spiritual patriarch.

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Have you had someone in your life who you consider a patriarch? Share your story.

Learn more about Dennis’ spiritual patriarch, Bill Bright, one of the world’s most influential Christian leaders.

Tribute to ‘Hook’ Rainey — Dennis Rainey’s tribute to his father



In his book, The Forgotten Commandment, Dennis Rainey encourages readers to write a formal tribute to their parents and present it to them during a special occasion (birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc.).  Following is an example of a tribute — Dennis Rainey’s tribute to his father, “Hook” Rainey.  Click here for more information on honoring your parents and for more tribute examples.

Dennis Rainey | Men Stepping Up 

“Dad’s home,” I used to yell as the back door slammed shut. Our small, two-story frame house would shudder when the back door slammed shut.

The sound of the slamming door was especially loud when one man came through its threshold — my dad. I can recall, as a little boy, playing in my room and hearing that door send a series of quakes that rippled through the walls and rattled the windows. It was my dad’s signature and signal that a day of work was completed and a man was now home. I would yell, “Dad’s home!” and then dash through the hall and kitchen to greet him with a well-deserved hug. I would then follow him like a little puppy to the wash room where he washed his calloused, grimy hands like a “real man.”

Everything about him signaled he was a “real man” — from the gritty Lava soap to the Vitalis hair tonic and Old Spice after shave. My dad was a unique blend of no-nonsense and discipline with a subtle sense of humor. He was a quiet and private man. He was a man of few words who didn’t seem to need many words to get the job done. His countenance commanded respect. In fact, there were several boys who had a personality and discipline transformation when they graduated from the third grade Sunday school class to my dad’s fourth grade class. Miraculously, discipline problems dried up along with dozens of paper spit wads. In the 12 months that followed, paper airplanes were grounded and eight boys sat up straight in their chairs dutifully listening to the lesson.

They used to call him “Hook” Rainey.  The tall lefty got his nickname from his curve ball — a pitch so crooked it mystified batters. I got the feeling he was on his way to becoming a legend in his day. He even pitched a game against Dizzy Dean. Funny thing, but he never could remember the score of that memorable game! I used to accuse him of convenient amnesia!

I recall the easy chair that used to carry the shape of his exhausted form. It was while he was reading the evening paper that I usually planned my assault on him. I’m certain I nearly pestered him to death on more than one occasion by asking my weary dad to play catch. And play catch he did. Night after night, “Hook” taught me how to throw a curve, slider, and knuckle-ball. He used to claim you could count the stitches on his knuckle-ball. And when he threw that patented knuckler, the entire front yard was filled with laughter — his and mine.

I always loved to hear him laugh. Somehow it told me everything was secure. When I was three or so, he went to Colorado hunting and “bagged” a fierce teddy bear. He staged the “action” on film and brought the fierce beast back to me. My kids now play with that worn-out, 35-year-old black and white bear. I watched him look after the needs of his mother. He used to visit his mom three or four times a week. Dad modeled what it meant to “honor one’s parents.” From him I learned about integrity, trust, and how to be a man of my word. His example taught me the importance of perseverance, for he stuck with his job for nearly 45 years. He leaves me an indelible imprint of sinking roots down deep — and living alongside the same people with whom he did business. When I was in high school, I won the magazine sales contest because I introduced myself as Hook Rainey’s son. That was good enough for an instant sale for nearly 100 percent of my “customers.”

My dad had helped so many people that being his son gave me immeasurable credibility. (For a while I actually thought I was a great salesman!) His reputation was untarnished in the community. His funeral was attended by nearly a third of the small, southwest Missouri community. He lived and did his work all within five miles of where he was born. One man was even able to say about my father, “In all my years I never heard a negative word about Hook Rainey.”

He gave me imperishable memories instead of just things: Memories of little league baseball (he was coach); fishing trips where he netted my fish, so small they went through the holes in the net; and a “clipped” collection of all the baseball and basketball scores from my games, of which he never missed one. There are memories of watching him through the frosted window of our old pick-up truck delivering hams at Christmas. Memories of the feel of his whiskers when he wrestled with me on the floor of the living room, and memories of him whispering to me, an extroverted, impetuous boy, not to bother people while they work. And finally, memories of snuggling close to him as we watched the game of the week with Dizzy Dean as the announcer.

As an impressionable young boy, my radar caught more of his life than he ever knew. He was the model and hero I needed during some perilous teenage years–and you know what, he still is. He taught me the importance of hard work and completing a task. I learned about lasting commitment from him–I never feared my parents would divorce. My dad was absolutely committed to my mom. I felt secure and protected. But most importantly he taught me about character. He did what was right, even when no one was looking. I never heard him talk about cheating on taxes — he paid them and didn’t grumble. His integrity was impeccable. I never heard him lie and his eyes always demanded the same truth in return.

The mental snapshot of his character still fuels and energizes my life today. “Dad’s home!” I can still hear the door slam and the house quake.

This morning as I write this, Dad truly is “home” — in heaven. I look forward to seeing him again someday and saying thanks for the legacy he gave me, and mostly for being “my dad.”

But right now, you’ll have to pardon me, I miss him.

Copyright © 2004 by Dennis Rainey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Men should be investors not consumers



Men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.

man smashing piggybank

Do you know any men who pout or whine when their wife’s idea of frequent sex is different than theirs?

Do you know any men who only go on dates when their wife sets one up?

What makes more than a few young men devote massive amounts of time to video games and social media?

How many husbands need stimulation from more and more porn while their physical intimacy with their wife dwindles away?

Why can many young guys hook up with girls, but not have the courage to ask them on a date or navigate a constructive relationship?

What’s causing so much perpetual adolescence among guys in their late 20s and late 50s?

God has answers to these questions which drive us to passionately reach and disciple men.

We’re facing a crisis in our culture. It’s urgent! When a boy stays a boy for life … when a man doesn’t know what it is to be a man … when he uses girls and women like property … when he fathers kids outside of marriage … when his marriage breaks up … the price paid is compounded for women, children, and society.

Men don’t need to be attacked, however. They need to be welcomed into a Christian fellowship of other men, where manhood can be bestowed. They need to see and learn the manhood model of Jesus, while in the company of friends and mentors.

Men have been tricked, and we need to help them break free from the lies and false vision of manhood. One key cause for the counterfeit versions of manhood and sorry state of marriages today is one we can beat only if we identify it. We need to understand our identity as consumers and rebuild a new identity as investors.

Think about it. Most of us Americans see over 500 advertisements a day. We are trained by Madison Avenue and Hollywood to be consumers and pleasure seekers. It makes us petty, selfish, and little.

Investors not consumers

But men were made to invest — to add value, to protect and make life better for others.  Doing that in marriage for your wife, whom you are to cherish, makes you and your children much happier over time.

In defining manhood and leading men, we need to square up and tackle the passive, selfish, small vision of manhood that shapes boys and men into the mold of “consumer.”  Men want a vision to create something significant, battle for something good, and love a woman and family heroically.

That won’t be possible with a small consumer identity.  We need to wake men up to the devil’s and society’s trick.  God made us to be investors.

Consider pro football.  In the quarterback meeting room and in drills they teach Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and Drew Brees to throw the ball to receivers in a target diameter of one foot, perfectly serving the receiver so he need not stretch, bend, jump or dive. And they teach wide receivers, “If you can touch it, you must catch it.” Make the quarterback and the team look good. Lay out. Sacrifice. Those are investor mentalities.

Let’s break the consumer mold, call men up to being relationship investors — guys who protect the weak, bring out the best in others, and love unconditionally. Galatians 5 tells us we were called to freedom, not so we could feed our fleshly desires but so we could serve one another — to love our neighbor. It warns that if we are selfish in our flesh and relationships, we’ll be consumed ourselves.  Philippians 2 tells us to be like Jesus and look out for the interests of others, not just self.

Men investing in other men will help us all rediscover the model of manhood: Jesus, the ultimate relationship investor.

 

Jeff Kemp quarterbacked for 11 years in the NFL.  He is a vice-president and “HomeBulder Catalyst” for FamilyLife, speaking to men and equipping men’s group discipleship with FamilyLife’s DVD men’s experience, Stepping Up™.   You can reach Jeff at jkemp@familylife.com.

 

Copyright 2013 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

Finishing strong



finishing strong

What do you want your life to look like as you begin to approach the finish line?

Our culture tells us that we should look forward to retirement — a golden time when we can relax, travel, play golf and bask in the glow of a successful and lucrative career.

At the same time, reality tells many of us that the final lap of our lives will not be golden — it will be a time of living on a limited income and coping with infirmities.

As I’ve spoken with men over the age of 55 or 60, I’ve noticed that few seem to have a real vision of how God can use them.  Quite a few lament that they feel disconnected from their children and grandchildren … that they have little to offer … that their glory years are long gone.

That’s why I challenge men to become patriarchs during the latter years of their journey of manhood. As godly heads of their families, patriarchs can leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.  As figures of influence in their communities, they have the opportunity to be used by God through their words, their actions, and even their financial contributions.

The Scriptures describe life as a race.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.”  And Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “ … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus … so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

We all start the race that is set before us, but it is common for many to grow weary and lose heart along the way.  Dr. William Culbertson, president of Moody Bible Institute, said it well:  “It is nice to start well.  It is even better to finish well.”

A patriarch is a man who is finishing strong.

Do you know someone who is finishing the race strong?  Share your story below and encourage others about the impact they can have as they age.

Retirement: the most courageous step you can take



Stepping up and becoming a patriarch may be the most courageous step a man ever makes. It’s not only politically incorrect, which makes an even stronger case for it, but it’s countercultural, demanding grit and character to go against the grain of a youth-oriented society.

A man who doesn’t step up at this point in his life will most assuredly step down. True patriarchs are such an endangered species that most men don’t know this step exists. Others wrongly assume that they could never stand on this step; they don’t see themselves ever becoming a patriarch. As a result, we have a generation of men entering this last season of their lives feeling aimless, useless, and bewildered, instead of being on the cutting edge of what could be their most productive and fruitful years.

Grand theft of the elderly?

About a dozen gray-haired men sat at the table in a prestigious country club, all former executives who had been highly successful. Leaders. Champions. Bright, intelligent minds. These were risk takers who’d led big lives, checkered with successes and failures. Married between 45 and 60 years, these men clearly had plenty to impart to younger generations. As I prepared to speak to them, I couldn’t help but think that their gray heads only added to their dignity.

They had asked me to speak for 10 minutes about what FamilyLife was doing to strengthen marriages and families. As I unpacked what we were doing, I mentioned that I would be speaking to a gathering of executives a couple of days later about “Three Qualities of a Patriarch.”

What happened next was fascinating. It was as though I’d touched an open nerve. For 45 minutes, they peppered me with questions, peeling back their hearts and sharing disappointments, frustrations, doubts, and desires.

They talked about how their adult children were critical of them, pushing them to the fringes of their lives. They were treated as unnecessary — except as babysitters — and they felt their families really didn’t want their influence or their involvement. They said the only opportunities their churches offered were ushering, serving on the stewardship committee, and giving to building programs. They lamented that the culture had become so youth oriented, they felt emasculated — treated as though they were done and had nothing to give back.

These men — who had once been kings in their families, their businesses, and their communities were for the first time in their lives uncertain what their roles should be. Like broken antiques gathering dust in the attic, they were without purpose.

But as they interacted, I could see in their eyes that they longed to be challenged again. War hardened and savvy, these sage soldiers wanted to fill their nostrils with the smoke of the battlefield and engage in the fight again. They really didn’t want to trade their swords and armor for a 5 iron and a golf shirt. They realized they were made for something far nobler than watching cable news in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

I sat there astonished at what amounted to “grand theft” — men robbed of their glory — no longer dreaming because of a complicity of forces that had cruelly swindled them out of their courage to step up.

These men had been left behind. Disoriented. Lost. And if they didn’t act soon, this last season of their lives would be wasted.

Pursuing the most courageous step?

I left that meeting with two conclusions: First, most men don’t know how to think about aging. They don’t know what the Bible has to say about aging. Instead of facing upward on the fifth step and pursuing God and his purposes for their lives, they step down and squander a lifetime of experience, wisdom, and abilities. They erroneously conclude that their impact is over and take their cues from the culture about retirement. As they shrivel in self-absorption, all wrapped up in themselves, their lives become the smallest of packages. The result? A perennial shortage of sages.

Think with me for a moment: How many men do you know in their sixties, seventies, and eighties who are vigorous, still growing, and still using their influence for good? Men so visionary, so alive, so positive and expectant about how God is going to use them that you’d want to be like them when you grow old.

A second conclusion was evident: It’s time to resurrect the mantle of patriarch. It’s time for a new order of noble, life-seasoned men to courageously arise, strip away encumbrances, and do battle on behalf of their children, grandchildren, communities, and nation. God created men not to rust out but to wear out as they stretch out toward the finish line.

For those of you who are over 55 years old — and especially if you are retired — I have a tough question: If you’re finished making a difference, then why are you here?

Do you think your best days are behind you? Do you think you don’t have anything else to give? Are you going to believe the culture that thinks you should clip coupons, collect seashells, and spend your kids’ inheritance?

Or on the other hand, wouldn’t you love to be able to articulate your mission for the years you have left? Wouldn’t you like to know and feel noble about what you’re living for? Could you imagine others considering you to be … a patriarch?

A word that drips with dignity

The word “patriarch” comes from the Latin word patri, which means “father.”  Webster defines a patriarch as it relates to a family as, “a man who is a father or founder, the oldest representative of a group, a venerable [esteemed] old man. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many people consider “patriarch” a dirty word.  For some it conjures images of male chauvinism, of self-serving men who rule their homes through fear, force, and manipulation.

But I believe it’s a word that drips with dignity. In the Old Testament, patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and David served as heads of their families and were described as men after God’s heart. In today’s culture, patriarchs are men who spend their final years investing in the generations to come. They are men who realize their potential to have a lasting influence in their families and in their communities.

I began to become interested in the thought of being a patriarch as my children grew into adulthood and began to marry. My role as a father was changing; I knew that as they established their own families I no longer had the same type of authority in their lives. But I also began to recognize that my work as a father was not finished — it was just changing. Even though my children were adults, they still needed my encouragement and prayers.  I’m no longer the head coach calling the players, but I’ve become a fan on the sidelines, cheering them on.  Young men raising a family in this culture need enthusiastic applause.

As patriarchs we have the time to cheer for our grandchildren and pass on stories of how God has worked in our lives.  One of my grandchildren once asked me how I helped start FamilyLife.  I gave him the Reader’s Digest version of the story, and was reminded of Psalm 71:17-18, a passage you might call the memoirs of a patriarch: “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds.  And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.”

A new title

What an opportunity we have as we enter into the final years of life to use the wisdom and influence we’ve accumulated to reach out to the next generation. This is the vision many men today need for their final years. I think of Bill Barber, a lifelong Texan with a wonderful, earthy sense of humor. I met Bill after his son, Clay, came to work at FamilyLife, and I remember when I called him a patriarch. He later wrote me to say he was surprised at my remark. “Heck, I didn’t realize that I was one.”

Bill said he’s been called repulsive, obnoxious, anachronistic, a con man, funny, crazy, opinionated, a rascal, and “an enigma with savoir faire.”  But he kind of liked this new title of “patriarch.”

“Fact is, I’m really loving this patriarching,” he wrote. It is “a lot simpler than most of my peers think. You gotta quit fighting it. Admit your age. Oh, yes, it doesn’t hurt to be 1) an encourager; 2) a servant; 3) a discipler; 4) a man who is silent sometimes; and 5) forgiving to others and self.

“Being a patriarch is just not too bad.”

Taken by permission from Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishers.  Copyright © 2011 by Dennis Rainey.  All rights reserved.

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