Tedd and Margy have spent their fifty years of marriage in various ministries. Early on, an open home ministry in the 70’s whetted their interest in Christian worldview. This was followed by pastoral ministry and starting a Christian school. All of these experiences , most importantly, raising children themselves, caused them to focus on marriage and childrearing ministry. Shepherding the Heart Ministries is the fruit of these years of experience.
Would you tell us how you are introduced to the parenting oriented Christian ministry?
The biggest reason for our interest in Christian parenting was, of course, our own children. We had all three of our children in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We had very much a cultural view of parenting at first. In those days, parents wanted their children to be “free spirits” and not put limitations on their children. We learned quickly that this was not a good idea! So we began to think about how Christians could nurture, discipline, and motivate their children without being legalistic and harsh. We first thought about how to “get under their skin” with Gospel truth – to be concerned with more than just their behavior.
As our children grew, our desire to do more than modify their behavior grew. We were influenced by writers like Dr. Jay Adams, who had just begun the Christian counseling movement. After seminary, we had an open home ministry where young adults came to live with us. Here again, we were confronted with young people who were struggling and needed more than just changed behavior. Then, we homeschooled our children for a year and started a Christian school in our town. Again, scores of families hunting for parenting help. Next, Tedd became pastor of our church, where we had many children whose parents were looking for parenting help.
So, over the years from the early 70’s to the mid 80’s, we were growing in our understanding of the need to parent the hearts of our children and striving to do that in our own home, and training parents in our Christian school and church. Tedd wanted to get training in Christian counseling, so he went to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for a doctorate in pastoral counseling. There we found kindred spirits, who were thinking in the same way about Christian living. Tedd applied the heart model taught by Dr. David Powlison to childrearing and wrote his doctoral thesis, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”.
Nothing greases the wheels of relationship more than each feeling heard and understood by the other
We never intended to make this into a book, but the people at Westminster told us that it was much needed and had changed the parenting practice of all the folks who read Tedd’s doctoral paper. So, after dragging our feet for several years because of our busy teaching and pastoral ministry schedule, we edited and published “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”. We never thought or expected this book would have the reception it has had. This was God’s doing – not ours.
Preparing for parenting?
There is no comprehensive way to prepare for parenting because it is such a life-altering experience. But we believe there are both practical and spiritual ways parents can prepare themselves for parenting.
Let me say at the beginning that we know there are many single parents, particularly, mothers, or parents with unbelieving spouses, who do not have the help of a spouse in this preparation. While this is a disadvantage certainly, we believe that God can give strength, courage, and grace to prepare, using the same categories. We will make comment for those folks as well in this answer.
Probably one of the most significant things you can do to prepare to shepherd your children’s hearts is to learn to shepherd your own heart
First, learn to talk and pray together. This is of great importance for any relationship. It creates opportunities to share joys, sorrows, disagreements, and conflicts. Listen carefully to one another. Nothing greases the wheels of relationship more than each feeling heard and understood by the other. Identify items of prayer as a couple and for each other. Pray with one heart for your relationship, for the parenting task that is before you. Pray aloud for one another, both rehearsing praise for one another’s victories and pleading with God for one another’s needs. When children are present, conversation and prayer will be a hedge against doubts, fears, and discouragement in the midst of busy home life. If you have not established this habit before children come, it will be hard to undertake!
Read books like “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and “Instructing a Child’s Heart”. There are many excellent books that get you thinking in parenting directions. Talk together about what you are learning. Make some decisions together about how you will approach the general parenting task so that you are both “on the same page”.
Probably one of the most significant things you can do to prepare to shepherd your children’s hearts is to learn to shepherd your own heart. Seek to understand what the “heart issues” are in your struggles with sin. Bring them to the light of the Scriptures and to the cross. As you learn to find Christ in the midst of your own need, it will prepare you well to have the Gospel be the centerpiece of your parenting.
(To be continued)
Interviewed by Dijo John & Merlyn John