Group Discussion Guide



The Need to Know

1. How would you articulate goals you have for your kids, small and not-so-much?

2. Which more minor goals tend to sap energy, intentionality, and time from your more major, eternal goals? What practical steps might be necessary for change?

3. The author quotes Dave Harvey’s words about deterministic, legalistic parenting. How does your gut respond to God being in charge of our kids’ growth (1 Corinthians 3:6)? Talk about the tension between our agency as parents—what we can and should affect—and God’s control over kids’ hearts.

4. How do you sense your identity being intertwined with your kids’ success? In what ways, in the words of Reb Bradley, do you sense your temptation to effectively trade your children’s hearts for your reputation?

5. Talk about the differences in current (and past) spiritual responsiveness of each of your kids, and how this influences the way you disciple them.

6. How did you experience the power of “catching the bug” of something in your childhood? Who portrayed Christ or spiritual growth as compelling to you—and how did they do it, even if you came to Christ as an adult?

Chapter 1

Identity: Who Do You Think You Are?

1. With which of Nouwen’s three lies or Keller’s idols do you most regularly identify? What temptations toward a false identity—one outside of Jesus—are most alluring to you?

2. How do you witness the interplay between pride and insecurity in yourself and your kids?

3. Which “soul holes” do you suspect might most strongly influence each of your children? (Consider this an ongoing investigation.)

4. How would the gospel, the “shame-antidote,” address your kids’ pet idols?

5. Which of the ideas in this chapter inspire you to action? What’s one way you’ll parent your kids differently in the area of identity?

Chapter 2

Prayer: Listening Up

1. What’s one desire you have for your family’s prayer life?

2. Who or what has been influential in teaching you to pray?

3. From this chapter’s “Think Ink: Contemplative Questions for Parents,” share adjectives that describe your prayer life. Share times, too, when you’ve felt either frustrated in prayer or encouraged by your interactions with God. What emotions or disappointments do you associate with prayer? What desires to you have for your own prayer life?

4. What techniques have boosted your own prayer life? Perhaps in a different angle, what ways have you found it helpful to feel connected to God?

5. What is your family’s (or your own) most felt obstacle to the prayer life you’d like to experience? What’s one practical idea you’d like to implement toward that end?

Chapter 3

Self-Control: The Power of What We Don’t Do

1. We’re frequently encouraged to “just be yourself.” But in light of this chapter’s introduction, what are some issues you see with that philosophy?

2. What’s the difference between placating a child and avoiding circumstances where they’re less likely to lose control? When might it be necessary for a child to continue in an environment where they could emotionally lose control?

3. If we’re seeking to help kids “feel and deal” by modeling, what’s the place of a parent’s emotions? In your mind, to what extent should a parent restrain emotion, and when shouldn’t they?

4. How does a lack of self-control typically manifest itself in each of your kids?

5. Under what “perfect storms” are your kids (and yourself) most likely to lack self-control? What’s one practical measure you’d like to implement or plan in advance for these situations?

6. How did your home of origin deal with strong emotions? How has this influenced how you deal with those?

7. As you consider those situations, what idols/identity “holes” likely lie beneath that lack of self-control? Could it be fear or anxiety? A desire for approval, power, or security?

8. What’s one unhealthy emotional response pattern of your own which you can target?

Chapter 4

Meditation: On Keeping Quiet

1. What are natural breaks in your schedule that might allow for “nothing time” for you or your kids, to lead to more times of meditation? (It might be driving to work, after-school time, Sunday afternoons, or after dinner.)

2. Which of your kids is more naturally contemplative? More naturally busy and activity-oriented?

3. What aptitudes of your kids could serve as avenues to contemplation and meditation (the author mentions science, music, art, dance, politics…)?

4. Do you personally tend to read (and likely model) Scripture for information or transformation? What helps you personally respond to what you’re reading with life change?

5. What are personally your most effective ways to help Scripture saturate you? Do you journal? Talk with a friend? Wrestle with God? If this isn’t a strength of yours, where does the breakdown usually occur?

6. The author mentions, “The noise in my life chokes out God’s presence in my life and affects my ability to listen” (page 72). This is reminiscent of Joyce Huggett: “In the stillness we can shed some of the pressures which would prevent us receiving God’s Word into the innermost core of our being.”1 How are your experiences with God different when they’re unrushed? How are you different?

7. What activities—even those for God, and even in your devotional times—might be distracting you from knowing God and being with him?

Chapter 5

Studying God’s Word: Learning to Feed Ourselves

1. How have you learned the Bible most potently and engagingly? What are your hopes for your kids’ Bible knowledge, understanding, and love?

2. The Pharisees elevated Scripture and sought to obey even its tiniest points—like tithing their spices (Matthew 23:23). The author points out that the Pharisees’ stringent, man-made rules kept them from seeking God’s heart and application in every circumstance. Jesus tells them, “You have taken away the key to knowledge” (Luke 11:52). How do you think it happens that the very tool for knowing God—his Word—becomes an obstacle to that end?

3. What strengths and weaknesses would you guess your child gleans from your attitude toward God’s Word?

4. Who do you tend to see as those best equipped or most responsible for your child’s discipleship? Who do you see as your kids’ ultimate spiritual education coordinators? Explain your thoughts.

5. When you’re honest, what are your most compelling reasons for your kids to know the Bible?

6. What’s one way you could share with the group that’s helped your kids study God’s Word? Are there any new methods—from your group or this book—you hope to add to your repertoire of ideas?

Chapter 6

Simplicity: When Less Is So Much More

1. What areas of your family’s life feel harried? What values do those express? Are those receiving an appropriate priority level?

2. The author observes that “the amassing of wealth and possessions seems to be as American as apple pie” (page 98). In your words, how would your own culture answer, “If you ___, your life will sing” (page 98)?

3. “While I like to think I’m clear-eyed about the emptiness of worldly gain, sometimes my view of God’s favor—of being ‘#blessed’—can be very prescriptive. Sometimes it’s a thinly veiled version of the American dream” (page 98). Looking at the life stories of Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others favored by God, how do you think we sometimes get God’s favor wrong?

4. Allow for a weird illustration, if you would. Have you ever heard of a cowbird? It lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. The birds doing the actual feeding and parenting don’t usually differentiate between feeding the cowbird and their own nestlings. But the baby cowbirds chirp louder for food, and grow faster and larger—to the point that some of the host bird’s nestlings may not survive. What in your life chirps for your attention and energy, sometimes robbing the true nurture of your kids and their souls?

5. In your words, what are the purposes of fasting and simplicity? Why do we resist them? How could these uncomfortable, inconvenient life skills become compelling?

6. In discussing these life skills, what’s one aspect of life you’d like to simplify for a higher purpose?

Chapter 7

Holy Sexuality: We Are Worth More Than This

1. As a kid, what or who were your sources of information about sex? How was that good or bad?

2. What fears influence (or at least nag) you about your kids and sex? About these conversations? What personal obstacles make this challenging?

3. Talk about your opinions of Dr. Juli Slattery’s perspective on sexual purity versus sexual integrity (page 119).

4. Describe the relationship you hope to have with your kids regarding talks like this. How would you describe your mental list of “How to Deal: What I Believe About Awkward, Hairy Topics with Children” (page 111)?

Chapter 8

Community: Almost Home

1. The author relates, “Isolation honestly felt safer than needing others, than exposing myself to judgment or rejection or misunderstanding” (page 132). How does isolation manage to feel both safer and more shameful? What are some of the fears and pain that compound themselves in isolation?

2. How have you seen a cultural shift to isolation and away from community over your lifetime?

3. How does Jesus’s change of our identity (see chapter 1) set us free for true community?

4. How does our culture—not to mention our sin—distort the purposes of hospitality?

5. What’s most daunting or difficult about hospitality for you and your family? What’s one practical way you could move toward others in hospitality, practically and with courage?

6. Who do you know that truly listens and makes people feel at home even outside of the context of a house? How do they demonstrate presence with others?

Chapter 9

Discernment: Sorting the Skittles

1. Describe a situation in your life when someone overwhelmed you with undeserved kindness—a picture of God’s grace. How does our own experience with mercy and God’s compassion influence discernment?

2. What practical methods do you use to discern kids’ media—and help them begin to discern media on their own?

3. Look up Luke 20:1-8. How does Jesus respond to the Pharisees’ manipulation? Why doesn’t he give them more truth about himself?

4. How do you personally discern between the Holy Spirit’s voice and your own inclinations? What are you most likely to mistake for the Holy Spirit?

5. What spiritual practices or circumstances help you shut out the “noise” around you and allow Scripture and your knowledge of God to inform your decisions?

Chapter 10

Service: Downward Mobility

1. Describe one of the most meaningful ways someone has served you or your family. What does your experience tell you about what’s significant to others?

2. Looking at your individual kids’ design, what ways do you imagine you could connect their gifts and interests with service?

3. When you think about this life skill, what emotions are immediate? Inspired? Overwhelmed? Guilty? Exhausted? Resentful (for ways you’ve served resulting in burnout or other negative experiences)?

4. What do you want to pass on to your kids from your own experiences in service? What do you want to improve or avoid?

5. What are the most daunting or frustrating snags that keep your family from serving? What’s one doable way you could create space to develop a family culture of seeing and serving?

Chapter 11

Sharing our Faith: Loving Them This Much

1. This chapter’s potentially controversial. Why is evangelism so offensive in our culture? Is it more than the “foolishness” of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23)?

2. Aside from the clear awakening of the Holy Spirit, what circumstances and techniques have you seen effective in reaching the next generation with faith?

3. As you feel comfortable, talk about how you came to Christ. What was happening within you and around you? What conversations or relationships worked their way into your soul?

4. “Day after day, the best and truest evangelism seems to be accomplished by great lovers of people and lovers of God. A lack of evangelism—a horizontal issue—may be an indicator of a vertical problem: a lack of a lively, leafy relationship with God (page 173). What are some of your greatest hurdles to sharing your faith?

5. This chapter’s strategies largely center around hearing someone’s story—where they’ve come from; their questions, pain, and shame. What questions do you find helpful to begin or continue meaningful, Godward conversations?

Chapter 12

Resilience: Your Child, Stronger

1. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may remember more of a “freerange” childhood than younger generations—less supervised, more independent. What cultural shifts have led to more vigilant (some have argued coddling) childhood experiences? Talk about the pros and cons of both.

2. Recount a childhood experience or consistent weakness that taught you resilience. How did your home of origin handle grief and other negative emotions? Which of these do you want to perpetuate in your home—and which do you want to revamp?

3. Where does your own parenting fall on the spectrum of control versus independence of your kids? If you’re married, describe the differences between yourself and your spouse.

4. The North American spiritual narrative can often be one of increased success and happiness as we move further into faith. But the author quotes Father Thomas Keating: “The spiritual journey is not a career or a success story. It is a series of small humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound” (see page 190). Consider the lives of devoted Christians in the Bible. Discuss how resilience and grief can prepare our kids for a genuine, fire-tested lifetime of faith.

5. With each of your own kids (and without betraying a confidence), what weaknesses or setbacks has God “gifted” them with—and how are they personally responding? Practically speaking, how do you hope to shape their resilience?

Chapter 13

Respecting Authority: Stepping Down

1. Which of your kids is more naturally compliant? More rebellious? What can be some of the hidden hazards of parenting both?

2. How did your family of origin handle obedience? What do you hope to replicate, and what do you want to do differently?

3. What’s one of your strengths in parenting for obedience? On the flip side, what’s its weakness?

4. What’s most discouraging to you as you try to teach obedience?

5. Culturally, many of us are more emotionally intelligent parents than generations before us. But the gap between an authority figure and a child is also closing, for better and worse. How do you personally navigate the tension between maintaining authority over your kids while pursuing connection and attachment?

Chapter 14

Confession and Repentance: Regrets Only

1. As you feel comfortable (and without betraying a confidence), describe a personal experience when forgiveness altered circumstances in a significant way.

2. This chapter talks about creating a family culture and lifestyle of repentance and forgiveness. Who in your life (if anyone) has modeled this kind of humility?

3. What’s the difference between frequently apologizing and overapologizing (i.e. “sorry” as a shield from anger or criticism)?

4. What keeps us as parents from apologizing to our kids?

Chapter 15

Adoration: The Song That Never Ends

1. Considering your kids’ natural interests and talents, what are ways you could connect those to worship and enjoyment of God? What does this look like in your own life?

2. Martin Luther reputedly said, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors.” How do you experience God in your vocation and life’s dailiness?

3. When—and doing what—have you felt closest to and most naturally worshipful of God?

4. The author describes a week when, in spite of her son’s motorcycle accident, perspective carried her to gratitude. Describe a time in your own life when perspective has compelled you to thankfulness.

5. Why, in your words, are worship and gratitude worth our time and the time of our kids?

6. What’s one feasible way you could see yourself drawing your family into more worship and gratitude?



The more I write, the more God whisks up in me a thankfulness for his body, for the community that writes a book, though the keyboard is tapped by one primary person. I remain grateful for all the people God gifted to think of what I didn’t, observe what I spaced, and redline what I definitely should not say.

Thank you to Dan Balow, the first agent to see me as having something to say. Thank you, Bob Hostetler, agent extraordinaire, for helping me shape an idea into a concept that could love a reader well.

To the crackerjack team at Harvest House—particularly my adored editor, Kathleen Kerr—and certainly Andy Rogers, Shari MacDonald Strong, and Kim Tanner: Thank you for spending your expertise to shape and launch this message. Thank you too for your vision on behalf of other families who are just trying to get rowdy kids to wear underwear and put two of the same shoes on the correct feet.

Rebecca Price, this book (and most of my career) wouldn’t have existed without your mentorship, long conversations over generous meals, and friendship that surprised both of us. Thank you, friend, for never letting me quit, because God’s kingdom is worth our best, and often our failure.

To friends and family who cheered me on, raised a glass, and believed in this book—especially Brady and Tori, Michael and Nicole, Ryan and Melissa, Tamara Sims, and all the Breits: Thank you.

To FamilyLife, one of the first to grant me a platform—and continually so—to speak hope to families: I remain grateful for you and your heart for homes.

To Refuge and Hope International and to my son’s learning disabilities, which awakened my passion for creative teaching: I am indebted to you.

My three sisters and their spouses affirmed that life could have purpose beyond Africa. They stoked courage in me, since people-pleasing and finding one’s voice make terrible bedfellows.

In writing this, I stand on the shoulders of two uber-intentional parents, Gary and Cindy, who love Jesus with their lives. To watch you follow God in leave-it-all faith even when sacrifices were great—and to observe you growing in the knowledge of God into your sixties—is a gift I hope will echo for generations after me. Your generous legacy leaves enormous shoes to fill.

To my kids, whom the Holy Spirit used to form this book in me, one sticky floor, unflushed toilet, bedtime story, crash-and-burn parenting fumble, and holy moment at a time: I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth (3 John 1:4). Your stories are written together with mine, and being your mom has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. May God form you into oaks of righteousness for his honor, even if (especially if?) it takes a lot of repentance along the way. You make me deeply happy.

John: This book is as much yours as mine. To paraphrase Neruda, I lose track of where you end and I begin. Since we met, you’ve constantly seen more of God’s vision for me than I have, even with all my wild ideas. I lose track of how many times a day I thank him for you—and who you’ve shaped me to be with your gentle lion of a heart; your patient, relentless shepherding of us; your outright hilarity; and your brilliant, fertile mind. Thank you for advocating for me when courage and vision had fled. Our love story could only be God’s idea.

To the Author of every life story: “All that we have accomplished you have done for us” (Isaiah 26:12). There aren’t enough words in the universe to give what you’re due. So “not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

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