March 28, 2020
HoneyRock is the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College. Located in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, HoneyRock provides transformational outdoor experiences for youth and young adults through summer camp, a gap year, retreats, and more.
An Interview with Kirk Weaver '78, Founder of Family Time Training
Kirk Weaver is a long-time HoneyRocker and a graduate of Wheaton College. He began as a camper in the late ‘60s and was a wilderness expert, leading many trips in the ’70s. After founding Family Time Training and leading it for 20 years, he founded Emmaus Life Ministries where he serves in a variety of roles, one of which being HoneyRock’s Advisory Board. We’re thankful for the expertise he brings, especially as it relates to the family and faith formation.
Between parents working from home, sports seasons ending, kids schooling from home, there’s been a lot of new family time due to the novel coronavirus. I asked if Kirk would be willing to share some insight into how to start family devotions during this time. Here’s our conversation:
Rob: While there is certainly a lot of grief, trauma, and hardship with this crisis, what opportunities are being presented to families in the midst of COVID-19?
Kirk: Growing faith begins in the family—that was God’s plan from the beginning. The family was, for generations, the primary vehicle for faith formation. Over the past 100 years especially we’ve seen the American church begin to assume more and more responsibility for teaching kids about the Christian faith.
I see an incredible and unprecedented opportunity for parents to step into their child’s faith formation. In a way—while I don’t want to ignore the grief, trauma, and hardship you acknowledged—more in the last month has been done to move faith formation back into the family than in the nearly 21-year history of Family Time Training.
R: How do parents do that—step into their child’s faith formation during this time?
K: If you’re new to this, you’re not alone. Most church-going families fall into one of two categories: little or zero home-based spiritual teachings.
So, begin with baby steps. Don’t expect to become an expert overnight or have mind-blowing takeaways during the first (or even tenth!) family devotional. This is a learning process for the whole family—give yourself time and grace.
With that mindset, look for pre-written Christ-centered lessons specifically written for families. They should be short, simple, and activity-based.
Family Time provides lessons like these. They’re 20-minutes, intentionally written for families, and sets up your week to have mini-lessons and application points.
For example: On Tuesday night, you lead a 20-minute lesson on self-control. Imagine how many times you could apply that idea over the next week for the next week. For me and my family, it would have been every hour!
R: Are there other tools you offer to incorporate into your week? As in, not specific lessons but opportunities to engage faith outside of the family devotional time?
Once you feel comfortable with family devotional times you can expand into other tools. For example, we teach you how to create a prayer wall—a one-time lesson that creates an ongoing wall of prayers. Easter is coming up, and we offer an activity called the Easter Calendar. You do a lesson each of the eight days from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. It’s a great way to jumpstart the habit of Family Time.
R: I’m going to jump back to something you talked about in the first question—the church assuming more of a role in the faith formation of our kids. Can you talk more about that?
K: Think about how much time your youth pastor has with your child in any given week. It’s probably about 2-3 hours, tops. You have every waking hour…it adds up.
R: Agreed. At HoneyRock, we talk about kids getting more time with their cabin leader in two weeks than a youth pastor gets with them in a year…
K: It’s true! But I want to be careful here—I’m not putting down the work of youth pastors. Their role is critically important—for kids to see people besides their family who are actively practicing the faith, for kids who don’t come from Christian families, and for weekly community-oriented gatherings…they’re needed.
But they’re not the primary vehicle of faith formation. Families are. We’re pouring more and more resources into the church to do what God intended to be accomplished by families in the home. Christian youth programs—yes, including summer camp—can be a great supplement to faith formation, but they shouldn’t stand as the primary avenue for teaching our kids about God. That’s on us—the parents.
But here’s another challenge: the traditional resources. We went through a period of time where the “at-home faith training” was sitting around a kitchen table, reading a chapter of scripture, and then discussing it.
Sitting around and asking questions is the language of adults. The language of children? They learn by being active—playing games, doing experiments, seeing real-life examples. That’s one of the reasons camper programs at HoneyRock are so good. Instead of sitting kids down to hear a daily sermon or message and disconnecting fun from the Gospel, you’re engaging them with fun activities and then talking about what they learned. Not only is this the language of children, but it’s also the language of Jesus.
Think about how He teaches—stories, questions, object lessons: fruit on the fig tree, rocks crying out, yeast in the bread, walking on water. He walks with His disciples and uses real experiences and examples in his teaching.
Every Family Time lesson is built in this way.
R: How do you start to get your family into the rhythm of a family devotional? A lot of us are trying to figure out the basics: the what, when, where, and why.
K: Start slowly. Again, give yourself time and grace.
You can download free activities from famtime.com. Read through the lesson, gather the needed materials, and pick an evening. The activities are short—20 minutes. It’s often fun to do this immediately after dinner and as a treat, end the devotional time with dessert.
R: What about kids who seem cold or distant to faith?
K: So much of what we’re able to do with our kids is based on the strength of our relationship with them. If your relationship isn’t strong enough to handle spiritual discussions, work on building it up. Take your kids for special one-on-one time and do things that they like. Listen to what they’re saying. Ask questions about the things that are important to them and get their input on big topics without “correcting” them. Sharing your opinion can come when the relationship is strengthened.
R: And college kids—what about incorporating them back into Family Devotionals as many have returned home from college?
It’s important to realize that college has probably influenced their walk with Jesus and we need to be slow to judge this shift—for good or bad. There’s a high chance that your college kids follow Jesus in a different way than you do. Remember that our path is just that: our walk with Jesus. Another thing to remember? That your walk with Jesus was probably different than your parents’, especially during college. Keep the relationship strong so that you can speak into your adult kids’ lives when asked.
This is important: parents don’t save kids, Jesus does. Jesus loves your son or daughter far more than you ever could.
When my kids were in their early teens, I started a couple of things. First, if I saw something that caused a strong reaction, positive or negative, I’d write my thoughts down in a one-page letter. I start the letter by sharing what prompted it and tie and Scripture to the issue and wrote a prayer. It’s important to write three positive letters for each challenging letter. These positive letters are about their character, their care for others, seeing Spiritual fruit in their choices…
Second, for my birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas I will ask my kids to read a book as their gift to me and for them to tell me what they think about it. Just this month, my daughter read Embracing the Love of God. I highly recommend it.
Finally, I would just say add this, especially for parents of teens and young adults. No matter where you are in your relationship with your kids, pray. We always have prayer and when we pray, we tap into the power of our Creator and Sustainer.
Thanks for sharing this with us, Kirk. We appreciate your insight!
You can find free family devotional activity plans by signing up at famtime.com.