Dads, as fall begins (in the Northern Hemisphere), your family schedule is likely already filling up with activities. But does your fall schedule bear the marks of your leadership?
There’s a good chance over the next three months that your family will have opportunities to do typical fall stuff like watching football, participating in a variety of school activities and eating an odd assortment of pumpkin-flavored food, but the opportunities that will likely mean the most to your family–times this fall of relationship building that are conducive to discipleship depend on your initiative.
In his article “Show Yourself a Man,” Randy Stinson explains that men should lead in their homes by giving a vision for where the family should go and then providing direction for how to get there. “Here is where you map out the details of the vision,” writes Stinson. He continues:
THESE ARE THE DAILY, WEEKLY AND MONTHLY STEPS YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE IN ORDER TO BRING ABOUT THE VISION YOU HAVE ALREADY AGREED UPON. FOR INSTANCE, MY WIFE AND I HAVE A WEEKLY DATE NIGHT AND I TAKE MY CHILDREN OUT INDIVIDUALLY TWO TIMES PER MONTH. WE GO CAMPING FOUR TIMES PER YEAR. I TAKE MY BOYS ON HUNTING TRIPS EACH YEAR. YOU GET THE POINT. IF YOU HAVE A GOOD VISION, BUT NO DIRECTION, IT WILL NOT WORK. YOU MAY WANT YOUR SONS TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY BASEBALL (VISION) BUT IF YOU NEVER THROW A BALL WITH THEM (DIRECTION) THEY WILL NOT LEARN. YOU DO NOT NEED TO PRODUCE A 50-PAGE DOCUMENT BUT YOU DO NEED TO AGREE ON SOME OF THE BASIC STEPS.
Each season provides distinctive opportunities for bringing your family together around activities that deepen relationships and form character (see for instance “Plan for your family to slow down this summer,” https://cbmw.org/topics/family/plan-for-your-family-to-slow-down-this-summer/), but you need to lead the plan. Fall brings with it plenty of potential family activities that are conducive to relationship building and discipleship, that need a dad’s leadership—like organizing a campout, scoping out a pumpkin patch, building a bonfire, or planning a hunting trip. These kinds of activities need foresight, planning, and coordination.
Additionally, there are other opportunities for family activities in the fall that don’t require much advance planning, but still need a dad’s leadership such as game nights, backyard football, reading by the fireplace, neighborhood walks, etc..
When it comes to providing direction in those two categories—things that require planning and things that can be done with more flexibility—I’ve found the following efforts to be helpful:
Think about the distinctive opportunities you have in September, October, and November, and make a list of what would be the most meaningful for your family. Set aside time to review and build on this list with your wife—maybe over a bowl of chili, a pumpkin spice latte, a slice of pecan pie, or whatever helps get you into the spirit of the season ahead. Then, review the list with your kids and ask them which things they would look forward to the most.
Next, block out on your schedule those things that require advance planning. Tackle the work of confirming dates and moving things around as needed. For example, in our family, I took on the work of planning a special trip to celebrate our oldest son’s 16th birthday that required blocking off the time and then renegotiating other items that were on our calendar.
If you have open evenings and weekends left on your calendar, go ahead and protect some slots for family time. If you don’t claim the time now, it will likely fill up with less meaningful activities that pull your family in separate directions.
Once you have a plan and have times scheduled on your calendar, lead each week in working through your planning details—giving them the same attention you would give to work or other important commitments. As you come up on slots you’ve reserved for open-ended family time, pull out your list of things that don’t require as much planning and see what would work best for that slot. For example, this weekend we have an open weekend that we’ve slotted for family time. Over the next couple of days, I’ll review our list of flexible opportunities (including things like visit farmer’s market, pick apples at orchard, and shoot bow and arrow in the park) to see what would work best based on the weather, our schedule and our available budget.
The point of planning the season ahead isn’t to pack your schedule with everything you could possibly do, but instead to redeem your time (Ephesians 5:15-16) and to lead your family in relationship building and discipleship as a good steward of the opportunities unique to fall before the days fly by and the next season is upon us.
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