Today, I’m pleased to welcome my friend Patrick Schwenk to the podcast. We’ll be talking about the importance of family discipleship, the role of fathers in the home and more!
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- 2 Thessalonians :1-5
Resources Mentioned in Podcast
All Things Heidi
- Scripture Writing Cards
- See all events here
- MomStrong International
- Sample Bible Study Week and Cursive Copywork.
- To see the Manuscript of the Copywork and the Scripture Writing schedule, sign up at MomStrong International for a FREE account to gain access!
- Bible Study kicks off the first Monday of each month.
- Scripture Writing kicks off the first day of every month.
- Speaking Requests
- Submit your questions to MailBox Monday
- Essential Oils
- Shop my Amazon Store
- My Books: Becoming MomStrong | MomStrong Bible Study | Prayers for the Battlefield | Bible Promises for Moms | Becoming MomStrong Journal
Join us at MomStrong International for our newest Bible Study and Scripture Writing!
Patrick Schwenk is a pastor of nearly twenty years and the co-author of Faith Forward Family Devotional and For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House. He is also the co-founder with his wife Ruth, of the popular blog, FortheFamily.org and podcast Rootlike Faith. Along with being a Michigan sports super fan, he loves to read and spend time with his family. Patrick has a Doctor of Ministry degree with an emphasis on Discipleship in the 21st Century from Biola University and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife, four children, two hamsters, and a loyal Labrador Retriever.
[Heidi] Hey everybody. This is Heidi St. John. Welcome to the podcast. Today is Friday, January 10th this is episode number 870. It’s Meet My Friend Friday and I have a brand new friend to you on the show today. My friend Patrick Schwenk is here with me today, and we’re going to talk about a brand new book that they have out about discipling children called Faith Forward Family Devotion. Stick around. I think you’re going to be encouraged.
Thanks for tuning in today everybody. A couple of things before I introduce Patrick to you that are coming up on my calendar I want you guys to know about. First of all, we are right in the middle of the Mom Strong International Bible study called Recalibrate. This is a great time for you to jump into God’s word every day with your children. The scripture writing challenge is there. The copy work is available for you. You can download that today. It’s never too late to jump into a Bible study. Someone said to me the other day, “Oh, it’s the 5th of January. I missed when you guys started.” No, you didn’t. You start anytime. So you can jump in today. MomStrongInternational.com. My women’s conference Faith That Speaks is coming up in Lakeland, Florida on February 21st and 22nd. My wonderful friend Elizabeth Johnston, some of you guys will know her as the activist mommy, she is going to be joining me this year out on the road and she will be in Lakeland to encourage you off the bench and onto the battlefield.
God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and he wants your faith to speak. So I hope you guys will join us February 21st and 22nd. Registration for that is opening right now, so hop on over to HeidiStJohn.com/events and you can find out more about it. Jay and I are right now wrapping up our marriage cruise. We’ve been cruising since the 4th of January with our friends at the Florida Parent Educators Association. There will be information on their next cruise coming up. So if you missed it this year and you want to go next year, now’s the time to be looking into that. The 24th and 25th, I’ll be in Texas for the Texas Homeschool Coalition Moms Winter Summit. I’ll be in Frisco, Texas. The weekend after that I’ll be in Houston getting my Southern drawl on. So y’all come out to hear me speak and I cannot wait to see you. More information at HeidiStJohn.com/Events.
All right. Without further ado, I want to introduce my friend Patrick Schwenk to you. Patrick and his wife Ruth, so you guys are going to know Ruth because I’ve talked about her before and she’s been on the podcast. Ruth and Patrick have been in ministry for a long time and married for 21 years. They have four kids ages 17 to 10, and they’re also a homeschooling family. They have a brand new book coming out called Faith Forward Family Devotional and it’s been written for families with kids of all ages. They’re going to take you through the entire Bible in a hundred devotions. I’m so excited because they share the same vision that my husband and I do, which is to see families grow strong in their walk with the Lord. So Patrick, welcome to the podcast.
[Patrick] Hi Heidi. Thank you so much. It’s good to be on with you today.
[Heidi] You guys have been busy writing a book, writing a devotional. This is no joke. You’re not only doing that, you’ve got a couple of websites that you manage, right?
[Patrick] We do. Yeah. We’ve been busy writing this book. We have another book coming out in September and we also, as you know, Ruth is the creator of the BetterMom.com we also run for the family.org. So a lot going on, a lot of good things. We’re excited about what God is doing and just appreciate your ministry and excited to be talking just more about what God’s vision is for the family.
[Heidi] Yeah. I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time than there is right now because we see so much of the family under attack. Years ago, it was probably 14 years ago, I did a radio broadcast with Dr. Dobson and he asked me what my plans were and at that time I was seven months pregnant with our sixth child. I was like, “My plan is to survive the pregnancy and the newborn phase.” He said, “Well, if you guys ever decide to continue in full time ministry, please focus on families.” He said, “Families are going to be under attack in the next 20 years like we have never seen before.” That was so prophetic, because we’re definitely seeing that now and we’re seeing it in every aspect of the culture. You guys have a heart to really see families strengthened in every aspect.
From the role of father to the mother, to the marriage to discipling children. Devotionals are no small thing to write. People go, “Oh, I love a devotional.” But as you and I were just talking about, you got to have some chutzpah to write a devotional that parents can have on their nightstands. I want to know why you think that because I’m in the middle of writing a 365 devotional right now, and it’s a lot of work. I want to know what made you go, “Hey, I think I’ll dive into this project.”
[Patrick] Yeah, you’re exactly right. I mean, writing in devotionals, it feels a lot like running a marathon. I would just back up and say you’re exactly right. I think the day and time that we’re living in, the family is really facing some unique challenges and yet it’s an old story, isn’t it? I think when you first opened the Bible, you see the story of creation and God creating a man and a woman and bringing them together and declaring that they are made in his image and he tells them to be fruitful and multiply. He gives that command to build a family. Yet it’s the very first thing that’s attacked in the garden. The enemy comes after the marriage. He comes after the family. So in many ways there are unique challenges that we’re facing in our day and time, and yet it’s an old story. So the family has been under attack for a long, long time.
I think when we read the scriptures, God loves the family. He loves the family and he really sees it as one of the primary vehicles for passing on faith. I think Ruth and I probably at least 15 years ago really began sensing God’s calling to not only build a family of our own, but also to invest in other families. We were young at that time. I think our oldest child at the time was two. I think Tyler was … He’s 17 now. We really felt like God calling us to not only build into our own family, but also build into other families. Just several years ago we began talking about the idea of writing a family devotional. How do we help families? How do we equip them to pass on faith to the next generation? That was really the motivation behind Faith Forward Family Devotional. We really believe that parents want to pass on faith but oftentimes they feel inadequate, they feel ill equipped. So we wanted to create a resource that would really kind of take some of the fear out of passing on faith to the next generation.
[Heidi] I love that. So what’s the format? Because I talk to parents all the time who feel like just exactly what you’re saying. They feel overwhelmed, they don’t feel equipped. Give listeners a little bit of an idea of what they can expect for Faith Forward Family.
[Patrick] Yeah. Faith Forward Family Devotional, as you said in the intro, is a hundred devotions and it really starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation. It takes a family through the entire Bible in a hundred stories. Each devotional has a key verse or several key verses. It has a short devotion for the whole family. Then it also has a key idea and then some discussion questions that are geared for various ages and then it closes with a family prayer. It’s really the kind of devotional that any family, a busy family can do. So we really had a heart to write a resource that would appeal to families with kids of all ages. Probably like a lot of your listeners, when our kids were young, we did the children’s Bibles and then as they moved into other age brackets, we did resources or studies that were more geared towards that age.
We really wanted to create a resource that really aimed at reaching the whole family. Whether you have an eight year old or a 17 year old, there would be something for that child or for those children. We just love the idea of bringing the whole family together, creating those rhythms in a home where the whole family can be together and open God’s word together. That’s really sort of the idea behind Faith Forward Family Devotional and the basic concept that somebody would find or format in each of those devotions.
[Heidi] I love that you use the word rhythm. Something that we’ve been talking about in our family lately is this idea of a liturgy, like the rhythms, what we believe in our homes, what are the habits that our hearts are shaped by? How are the loves of our life shaped by our habits? Which really our liturgies, right? They’re the things that we believe that sort of shape us. I know that this is really important to you guys. When we talk about the habits that we get into, a lot of times I hear from parents and I hear from moms all the time and they’ll say, “My husband’s not the spiritual leader in our home and I just don’t know how to make him be that leader, how to make him be that man.” I’m always like, Well, A, how about don’t nag him. Let’s start there.” Right? Can you talk to that mom? I’m going to have you maybe first talk to the mom who is listening to this today and she’s hearing you, but she doesn’t hear that same desire to lead her family spiritually from her husband. How can you encourage her?
[Patrick] I always think of that classic example from the new Testament of Paul and Timothy. I think most scholars would say, and it seems that the new Testament would suggest, that Timothy came from a home just like what you’re describing. Yeah. I think most would say that Timothy came from a home where his mom was a Jewish believer. She had grown up Jewish but became a follower of Jesus. Yet Timothy’s father was Greek. The scriptures would suggest that he wasn’t a believer. So there’s that dynamic that existed in young Timothy. So you see when Paul is writing to young Timothy who was pastoring in the city of Ephesus, he’s encouraging him about the faith that lived in him and was passed on to him from his mom, but also his grandmother.
I love that example in scripture. I think it’s a reminder to that that mom that you just described, that even if your husband isn’t like-minded, even if he doesn’t share that same spiritual hunger or vision or value, God can use you right where you’re at. I would encourage the mom listening to just continue being faithful, to create those rhythms with or without your husband. God can use you to influence your son or your daughter in the same way that Timothy’s mom and grandmother did in his life. Of course, Paul would come along and compliment that or support that and be like a spiritual father to Timothy. But I think exactly what you described is demonstrated in the life of Timothy.
[Heidi] I think that’s so encouraging to hear, right? We hear sometimes about Yunus, about his grandmother. My grandmother’s name was Yunus too. My parents divorced when I was in my teens. I’ll tell you what the influence that my grandmother had over me because of her consistent prayer, because of her desire to see me walk with the Lord. It really did shape my life. I think sometimes mothers, they look at what’s happening in their families and they’re looking for this picture perfect thing where the dad comes downstairs every day and the birds are singing and gather around. When she sees that’s not happening, she gives up and she becomes frustrated. What I’m hearing you say is don’t give up because God’s using your interaction with your children every day. You’re the one who God is saying, “If your husband’s not going to do it, you’re going do it and it’s going to have an impact on the lives of your kids.”
[Patrick] Yep. Absolutely. I just finished up my doctoral studies at in discipleship. I wrote my dissertation on discipleship in the home. What you’re describing is absolutely true and consistent with all of the research out there. I mean all of the research would suggest that we as parents are the primary influencers in a child’s life. In an ideal world, that’s a mom and dad. In God’s vision, that’s a mom and a dad. But God uses a mom or sometimes it’s a dad by himself. So I would absolutely say keep being faithful and keep going. Don’t be discouraged. God can use you right where you’re at.
[Heidi] Yeah. It’s so important for parents to hear that. Now I’m going to ask you to sort of talk to the men who are listening because I know that there are a lot of guys listening to this right now and the Holy Spirit, like they can feel it. They know that they’re not leading their family spiritually. They know that they haven’t cracked open the Bible with their family in a hundred years. Maybe they feel like, well, it’s too late. Why bother now? We’re in this rhythm now. It’s not going to make any difference. Maybe he doesn’t have a wife that’s longing. I have this theory. Jay and I have been married for a long time. I know you guys have been married for a long time also. So one of our favorite things to talk about, Jay and I, is marriage. We love to talk about our marriage and sometimes other people’s marriages.
But we love what God does through marriage. One of the things that we’ve observed over time is that the principles in God’s word absolutely have born out in our lives. Sometimes we obey them and sometimes we don’t. Hopefully we do most of the time. But I have observed in my own life, and I see this in the women that I counsel and talk to around the nation. I think women are born responders. They’re born to respond to the loving leadership of their husbands. I’m wondering if you’ve observed that too. Can you talk to the husband who has forgotten that his wife longs for and needs that leadership in her home? This is how God has created us to interact as husbands and wives.
[Patrick] Yeah, I would absolutely agree. Again, I think when you open up the scriptures and you look at Genesis one, Genesis two, Genesis three, I mean clearly God calls man to a level of spiritual responsibility, leadership, whatever you want to call that. God commands Adam to love and to lead in such a way that he’s representing God, he’s protecting his wife. So I think you see that in the pattern of creation and we’re living in a day and time where that idea is being challenged or questioned. I really do think that God calls a man in the home to lead in a particular way to lay down his life in the same way that Christ loves the church. There is nothing more for a man.
I wrote a blog post years ago called Be Ambitious But Be Ambitious At Home. I think there are so many men who are ambitious in the workplace and they see their primary responsibility is going out and providing financially. I would say all of that is good. It’s necessary, it’s important, but don’t miss the greater calling is to be ambitious at home, to be a spiritual leader and influencer for your family. That is the most important thing you could possibly give your life to is helping your kids grow up to love Jesus and to follow him someday.
[Heidi] Yeah, that’s right. And developing those habits, those liturgies that will shape not only our hearts, but they shape an entire family. When the dads listening to this or a couple and they’re going, “Yeah, I really want to get into that,” they realize that they want to. Because we’re in a brand new year. This is a great time to make a change. It’s a great time to say, “You know what, we want to see our family stronger in the Lord and to know his word and to recognize that in our home, we value the study of God’s word and we value getting to know the Lord and to each other.” Yet I’m hearing because you and I have both been there, all the obstacles, all the things that are in the way of us trying to do that every day and the excuses that we make.
Can you talk to that family and sort of give them some encouragement as to how they can start to create those habits of getting in the word? I love the Faith Forward Family Devotional because it’s a practical tool to help them, but they also have to be willing to set the time aside. What does that look like?
[Patrick] Yeah, I would I guess encourage any family, first of all, to start small. I would assume that those listening to the podcast are probably in all different places when it comes to family devotions. Maybe some of you that are listening are doing devotions already and it’s a regular habit or rhythm that is in your home. There’s probably others that maybe are not doing them at all. So I guess I would encourage listeners to first and foremost start small. If you’re not doing family devotions or you don’t have some of those rhythms at all, then start small.
Maybe that looks like a family for the first time just saying, “We’re going to start doing family devotions three times a week.” We’re not going to dive in and say we’re going to do it seven times, but we’re going to start three times a week and we’re going to gather maybe just before the kids go to bed and we’re going to open up a resource like Faith Forward Family Devotional or another resource that we feel like is more appropriate to our family and we’re going to set that as a priority as we go into a new year. That’s something that we’re going to begin doing is as a family. I would encourage families to start small. I would say be consistent as much as you can. I’m a firm believer that that kids need structure, they love structure, they need freedom and structure. I think any time we can sort of create structure with consistent rhythms is a positive thing when it comes to shaping our kids’ hearts.
Then I think the third thing that comes to mind is be realistic. I think the reality is that life happens, and I think we need to be realistic about maybe the season of life we’re in. I think parents make one of two mistakes. They can sort of say, “Well, none of it is up to us. God’s going to save my kids and he does all of the work.” Or they err on the other side and they say it’s all up to us and they become very legalistic and a home becomes very rigid. I think that the biblical view is somewhere in between, that God does use us and he does command us to live and love and lead in a certain way. Yet it is God’s grace that will save our kids in the same way that his grace saved us by faith.
I think we need to be realistic with ourselves, with what God has called us to and sometimes just to give ourselves a little bit of grace. Ultimately this is God’s work and he’s the one that has the power to save our kids, to shape our kids. We want to be faithful to the calling that he has for us as a family, but we also want to trust in his saving work in Christ.
[Heidi] Yeah, I love that because I can hear the shackles come off and I think it’s easy. I’ve gone through seasons in my parenting when our 28 year old was probably 11, 12, 13 and we were really getting into homeschooling. I started thinking maybe homeschooling is the thing. Maybe if we just homeschool our kids, they’ll walk with the Lord. I had a season where I became very legalistic and sucked the joy right out of it, right? Sucked the joy right out of family devotions. We took the joy out of out of education. I remember my husband and I going out to breakfast one morning and him just saying to me, “Heidi, this isn’t on you. This is on the Lord working with you and working with me.” There was such freedom in it. I so appreciate your heart to remind people that homeschooling is not the answer. Devotions every day is not the answer.
The answer is teaching our children by example first what it looks like to walk humbly with the Lord and to go to him in every situation. I think it’s so freeing. You’ve walked through some pretty deep water. I know you and I were talking about right before the show that in 2018 you were diagnosed with a blood cancer. I can imagine that that has impacted the way that you wrote. I was writing prayers for the battlefield when my nephew was almost killed in an accident and it changed the direction of the book I was writing because you can’t help it. You guys have gone through this really deep water and you’re coming out, praise the Lord on the other side of it. But I’m curious how that affected your family devotional time. Did it make it more difficult? Was it more necessary? Were you like, “Forget this thing.”? I mean, how do you walk through deep water and still maintain that walk with the Lord with your family?
[Patrick] Yeah, like you said, I was diagnosed on January 17th, 2018 and that just rocked our world. I think anybody that hears tragic news, if it’s the loss of a loved one or they hear the C word, they hear cancer, it immediately stops your world. You feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. There’s 1,000,001 things that run through your head and yet nothing at all at the same time. I think for us over the last two years as I’ve gone through treatment and by God’s grace, the cancer is now in remission. We look back and we just realize that, yeah, family discipleship looks so different. I mean, before cancer we were much more consistent in terms of sitting down and doing family devotions together and having those regular conversations.
Yet I think over the last two years, family discipleship has looked very different. That there were many, not just days, but weeks and months where I was too physically ill to do anything. I think family discipleship, it really is that combination of learning, of listening, of watching, of doing. Our family discipleship over the last two years looked very different. I remember calling my oldest sister shortly after I was diagnosed and she said to me, she meant it as an encouragement. It didn’t sound like an encouragement at the time, but she said to me, she said, “Pat,” she said, “For 20 years, or almost 20 years, you’ve been preaching and teaching.” And she said, “All eyes are upon you.” And I thought, “Well, that’s not very encouraging.”
But after I thought about that for a couple of moments and before I went into the house, I got the news while I was on my way home in the car. But before I went into the house, I really thought about that. I thought, you know what? We have an incredible opportunity as I do as a father, as a husband, we do as a couple to model for us before our kids’ very eyes what it looks like to walk with God, to trust God and to be obedient to him even in our darkest season. I think regardless of the season you’re in, family discipleship will likely look and feel a little bit differently. But it really is that combination of learning, listening, watching, but also doing.
[Heidi] It’s so powerful and it really does shape you. I know that there are a lot of people who are walking through deep water right now and their desire is to walk with the Lord. I think what you’re doing just in walking through this for everyone to see and just making the struggle public. I know that when when my nephew was almost killed, we made a very conscious decision to make our struggled public, partly to ask for prayer and partly because we knew we may not get another chance to say, “Listen, this world isn’t all there is. We’re just passing through.” I mean every day that goes by I’m a little happier that I’m not going to stay here. It’s amazing what it does. I think it encourages us to say, “Okay, we really are only here for a little while.” And God says, “I’ve already ordained your days for you. I’ve already numbered them.”
I don’t know. I feel like for me, and as I’m sort of watching you and have been watching Ruth walking through this with you, has really encouraged me and bolstered my desire to pass on my faith to my children in the time that God has given me. Has it kind of had the same effect on you?
[Patrick] It really has. I’ve thought a lot about just Jesus, his time with his disciples and that tension that we all feel as of there is sort of this sense of urgency to teach our kids and to love them and to serve them and to equip them to engage the culture to live in the world. Yet there’s also this reality that that’s the spirit of God’s work, that he’s the one who is at work in their lives to teach them and to train them and to ultimately lead them to saving faith in Jesus. I think walking through cancer over the last two years has given me an all new sort of sense of urgency to pass on faith and to hopefully equip my kids by God’s grace to walk with God long after I’m gone.
I think I was writing Faith Forward Family Devotional, I was telling you before we started recording this, that I was writing some of this while I was in for my first stem cell transplant. I had my first stem cell transplant in July of 2018. I remember sitting in the hospital bed writing some of these devotions before I couldn’t any longer. This book in particular is especially important to me, important to Ruth. I hope that it’s a real blessing and encouragement for many families that they would share in that sense of urgency that we only have so much time to be able to influence our kids while they’re in our home. It’s such an incredible responsibility, such a great privilege. I really do hope that this is one among many resources that will help a parent do just that.
[Heidi] Well I know that it’s going to, and I know that God is already working in the work that you have been doing even through walking through cancer and all the work that you’ve been doing with Ruth over these many years. I am encouraged just talking to you. So thank you so much for coming on the show. If people want to find you on the internet, where is the best place for them to do that?
[Patrick] Well there’s a couple of different places. They can go to the BetterLifeMinistry.org, which is home to the BetterMom.com and also for the Family.org. If they want to follow along with Ruth and I, we also are on Instagram and you can find me @PatrickWSchwenk on Instagram and @RuthSchwenk on Instagram as well.
[Heidi] Right on. If you guys want more information about Ruth and Patrick Schwenk and their ministry to families, I will link back to all things Schwenk family over at the show notes today. You can find that information at HeidiStJohn.com/podcast. I want to encourage you to check out their new book, the Faith Forward Family Devotional. I think it’s going to be the perfect resource for you guys. I know you’re busy and you want to pass on your faith to your children, and this is going to give you all the tools that you need to start that journey and continue on with encouragement. Patrick, thank you so much for coming on the show.
[Patrick] Thank you so much. It was a privilege to talk with you today.
[Heidi] If you guys want information about where I will be in the next couple of months, please check out my schedule online, HeidiStJohn.com/events. This is the beginning of a very busy season for me. I’m speaking almost every weekend from now until March because my new little grand baby Juniper is coming in April and I’m taking the month of April off to be with my daughter. So I hope you guys will come out and see me January through March this year and then I’ll hit the road back in May again. I want to thank you guys for listening. Thanks for leaving reviews for the podcast over at iTunes and for reviewing the books at Amazon. We really appreciate your views and your encouragement. We love you guys. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.
Write to Heidi:
Heidi St. John
c/o Firmly Planted Family
11100 NE 34th Cir, Vancouver, WA 98682
Support this ministry by donating through E-giving. You can also send donations to: 1100 NE34th Cir, Vancouver, WA 98682