Parenting to Empower Children

Real Answers February 23, 2011
Theme: While children must first learn to trust their parents, parents must also learn to trust their children. This is the key component of the empowering process. (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 244.)
Objective: To identify a parenting path that leads to the empowerment of children in the home setting.
How to Use This Resource: These resources can be used in the development of a workshop for parents in any suitable setting.
Materials Needed: Chalkboard, easel, or overhead projector, Bible for each participant, concordances, dictionary, handouts (masters provided).
Resource Book: The book The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), by Jack O. & Judith K. Balswick provides an excellent additional resource for leaders.

Program Ideas: If the given time frame and group size allows, take time for each person in the group to introduce himself/herself and to tell the names and ages of their children and briefly share one thing about each child.

When possible, present this seminar as a husband and wife team, thus enabling you to share more effectively your struggles and lessons learned in parenting. If you are a single parent, sharing your real life experiences in parenting can help other single parents, and make two-parent families more aware of some of the struggles single parents face. Whoever you are, be yourself. You don’t need to be an expert to hold this seminar; you are merely endeavoring to share some insights you have learned as you have studied and experienced parenting. Make it clear that you are holding this seminar to provide a forum and a setting for all the parents present to share with the group their ideas and experiences. Thus we can all help one another. As you begin, pray together and invite God’s Spirit to be present, to bless the program, and to empower each parent who has come.

Suggested songs:

“Without Him,” by Mylon R. LeFevre ( Advent Youth Sing , No. 208)

“I Need Thee Every Hour,” by Annie Hawks and Robert Lowry (New SDA Hymnal , No. 483)

“I Need Thee, Precious Jesus,” by Frederick Whitefield and Chretien D’Urhan (New SDA Hymnal , No. 484)

Presentation Helps:

Agree-Disagree Icebreaker

To start the group thinking about Christian parenting, invite them to respond to the following agree/disagree statements. Do not discuss the statements now or offer your opinion. (They are designed to be somewhat ambiguous and controversial, and to get people to start thinking.) Tell the participants to put their thumbs up if they agree, and down if they disagree.

Agree___ Disagree___ Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Agree___ Disagree___ When children don’t turn out well, it is their parents’ fault.

Agree___ Disagree___ Power in the family must reside with the parents.

Agree___ Disagree___ Parents must change their style of parenting as their children mature.

(Adapted from John & Millie Youngberg, Family Wellness Digest , 1993, p. 53.)

Definition of Terms: This seminar has been called “Parenting to Empower Children.” Ask the group “What is empowerment?” Write the ideas expressed on a chalkboard or easel. Use the dictionary to summarize.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “empower” as “to give power to; authorize; to enable.”

The search for power is a universal quest at all levels of existence. People desire to influence or control the behavior of another (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 28).

The secular view is that power is a commodity which has a limited supply. . . . Traditional thinking about parent/child relationships is also based upon the false assumption that power is in limited supply. Thus, it is often feared that as children grow older and gain more power, parental power is automatically reduced (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 29).

Empowering is a biblical model for a use of power which is completely contrary to the common use of power in the family or in society at large. Empowering can be defined as the attempt to establish power in another person . Empowering does not necessarily involve yielding to the wishes of another person or giving up one’s own power to someone else. Rather, empowering is the active, intentional process of enabling another person to acquire power . The person who is empowered has gained power because of the encouraging behavior of the other (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 28).

Thus, contrary to popular belief, power shared is power multiplied. Parents who empower their children toward responsible interdependence have prepared them to live as healthy adults capable of taking increasing charge of their own lives as they mature while at the same time building and maintaining a strong network of healthy relationships with others, including family. Parents whose style of parenting either breeds unhealthy dependence or premature or excessive detachment from the family will in the end diminish parental power and influence as relationships are strained and appropriate development in the children is thwarted.

Consider the following passages: Psalm 27:14; Psalm 29:10,11; Ex. 3:11,12; Ex. 4:1-4, 10-12; 2 Chron. 14:11; John 1:12; 2 Cor. 12:9; Ezra 1:1-6; Jer. 1:1-10; Neh. 8:10; Phil. 4:13; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 4:20; Eph. 1:17-19. What conclusions can you draw about empowerment from a biblical perspective? Are there some additional texts regarding empowerment that come to mind? Give small groups approximately 15 minutes for this exercise, then share ideas as an entire group.

Let’s Make it Personal

Invite a couple of people to share briefly with the entire group a personal experience of a time when they felt empowered by the Lord in a special way. Or, you can tell a brief story from your own experience. If no one can think of an appropriate story, this experience of May-Ellen Colon could be used:

As I was constructing this seminar on “Parenting to Empower Children” I had a great struggle. I was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, which came after my surgery for cancer, and I was experiencing the promised side effects. I would read and then sit at my computer to write. I felt dizzy, and my mind would go blank. As hard as I tried, nothing would come to mind. This happened for several days. I prayed for help. Emotionally, I was discouraged and frustrated. Physically and mentally, I was constantly tired. I had no “get up and go.” My creativity “got up and went.” Spiritually, I was crying to God to empower me to finish this project, for it had to be finished soon. Finally, I threw myself down on my knees beside my bed and opened my Bible to Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens [or, empowers] me” (NRSV). I told the Lord that I really believed what He said in that verse, and I was sure that the only way I would finish this seminar on empowerment was if He empowered me to do it. I lifted my head to heaven, and showed Him my hands. I told Him that He could use my hands to type and my head to think of what to type, even though it was a very foggy head. At that moment He broke through the fog. I thanked Him and sat down at my computer. The thoughts started flowing. My hands started typing. He freed me and empowered me to do this project that I just couldn’t do on my own.

In order to empower our children, we ourselves must first go through the wonderful experience of being empowered. This experience must be in our heart -a real part of us. (See Deuteronomy 6:5, 6.) Then we will long to have our children enjoy the same experience. Christ wants to empower them too. He can use you and me, their parents, to be a channel through which to empower them.

Considerations Along the Path to Empowering Our Children

Parenting Styles

At Andrews University’s Family Life International, 1993, Kay Kuzma shared a definition of parenting that we can all appreciate: “Just err and err and err again, but hopefully less and less and less.” There is no one foolproof method that develops perfect children. Parenting is an art, not a science. However, it will be helpful to briefly investigate what the social science literature is saying about various parenting styles and their effect on children. (Comments here are adapted from chapter 6 of Balswick & Balswick, 1989. As you present these concepts, you might want to add brief personal thoughts or experiences to illustrate the various styles of parenting.)

Research on the functioning of small groups indicates that there are two basic styles of leadership: (1) socioemotional and (2) instrumental. Socioemotional leadership is person-oriented, concentrating on developing a healthy relationship between members of the group. Instrumental leadership focuses on tasks that need to be accomplished in the group.

Both styles of leadership are important in the family. Socioemotional parenting focuses on developing a warm positive relationship between parent and child. Instrumental parenting focuses on tasks and content, which need to be completed and learned, aiming at imparting beliefs, values, and attitudes.

Styles of Relationship-Oriented Parenting (Socioemotional Parenting)

(Refer to Handout 1, which may also be made into an overhead projector transparency. Adapted from Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 99. Used by permission.)

Handout 1 presents four styles of relationship-oriented parenting. (This concept was introduced in the 1993 Family Ministries Planbook , p. 41.) There are two dimensions-control and support-which can be categorized as low or high. Low control parents have no control over their children. The children do as they please, with no restrictions. Parents who are high in control keep track of where their children are and expect obedience. The support dimension is also classified as low or high. Low-support parents aren’t very good at showing their children that they love them. High support parents, on the other hand, are very good at showing love to their children.

Neglectful Parenting. The bottom right section of the diagram represents neglectful parents. Both control and support are low. They give neither limits nor emotional support to their children. For various reasons, their children are neglected. Many latchkey children live under this type of parenting. Either the parents are too busy to properly meet the needs of their children, or just don’t care. Some parents in this category feel it is easier to give up than to maintain control. These parents also have a difficult time showing their love. It is interesting that recent literature suggests that “most recruits to the authoritarian cults come from neglectful homes” (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 99).

Authoritarian Parenting. The top right section of the diagram portrays high control, low support parenting, which is known as authoritarian parenting. These parents are very strict, and demand obedience, but emotional support, love, and warmth between parent and child is lacking. The children are forced to comply with their parents’ demands. They are not given opportunities to make choices. When they get away from their parents, they don’t know how to behave. This style of parenting is found wanting, for “the object of discipline is the training of the child for self-government” (E. G. White, Education , p. 287).

Permissive Parenting. When control is low and support is high, we have permissive parenting, as shown in the bottom left section of the diagram. These parents give their children lots of emotional support. They say, “You are such a good girl” even when her behavior needs correction. Anything goes. No limits are set.

Authoritative Parenting. The top left of the diagram exhibits authoritative parenting-high on control and high on support. This method of parenting is a combination of the best qualities in the authoritarian and permissive styles. Authoritative parents have good control over their children and do well in showing their love and support. Studies show that children who have authoritative parents have good self-esteem, respect for authority, are less vulnerable to the counterculture (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc.), and are more apt to adopt the value system of their parents (Flowers & Flowers, 1993 Family Ministries Planbook: Families Reaching Families , p. 39).

Relationship-oriented parenting, however, is only part of the picture in parenting. We must also consider the dimension of teaching our children.

Styles of Parenting With Regard to the Teaching Process (Instrumental Parenting)

Handout 2 illustrates four styles of parenting with regard to how parents teach their children. (Adapted from Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 97. Used by permission.) The two dimensions here are action and content, both of which can also be categorized as high or low. Some parents are high in action. They become actively involved and demonstrate the type of behavior they want their children to adopt. Other parents are low in action, making no definite effort to demonstrate or make clear what they expect from their children. Parents who rate high in the content dimension share with their children definite beliefs, values, ideals, rules, principles, etc., while low-content parents don’t bother to teach their children anything.

Neglecting. The bottom right section of the diagram illustrates a neglectful parenting style. Parents who fit in this category are low in both content and action. They don’t bother to teach anything definite, and are not involved in demonstrating what they expect from their children. Such children are left to figure out on their own what is right and wrong, and how they will behave.

Teaching. The top right section of the diagram indicates a parenting style that is high in content and low in action. These parents impart values, rules, ideals, etc., but do not necessarily practice what they preach. Such parenting causes disrespect for parents whose lives don’t match what they verbally teach. This style often breeds rebellious children.

Modeling. The bottom left section of the diagram signifies a parenting style that is low in content and high in action. The children are left to learn their values, rules, principles, etc., by observing their parents’ lives. There is no direct verbal teaching. It’s true that modeling is more effective than mere teaching, but studies show that models have more effect when they model and talk about what they are doing (Donna Habenicht, 1992).

Discipling. The top left section of the diagram indicates a parenting style that is certainly the ideal, one that is high in content and in action. Parents who fit into this category teach their children by word and by deed. The word disciple is related to the word discipline . Sometimes discipline is confused with punishment . The question often arises over whether one should physically punish children by spanking, or other means. Proverbs 13:24 says “He who spares the rod hates his son” (NIV). In Old Testament times, a rod was used by the shepherd as an instrument to guide ignorant sheep, not to beat them into submission. The verse concludes with “. . . but he who loves him [his son] is careful to discipline him.” Sometimes a spanking, administered in love, might be necessary, but the primary form of discipline should be positive guidance. As previously stated, the term discipline is related to the term disciple , which refers to someone “who accepts certain ideas or values, and leads or guides others to accept them as well” (Balswick & Balswick, 1989, p. 98). Discipling is truly positive guidance.

In most homes there is a mixture of parenting styles. For example, one parent might be more of an instrumental parent who expects obedience and teaches the children what they need to know. At the same time, the other parent might be more relational with them. Most parents are by nature stronger in one type of leadership than the other, but we can all support one another and grow.

Discuss with your spouse, or the person next to you, what style of parenting you grew up with, using the diagrams on Handouts 1 and 2 as a guide. Identify the styles of parenting that you think you are using in your family. In what ways do you and your spouse complement one another? What areas need strengthening in your overall parenting style?

God as Model Parent

We have reviewed the social science literature on the effects of various parenting styles. Now we turn to the Scriptures for a biblical model. Most students of Scripture on parenting agree that the biblical model for Christian parenting has its roots in how God functions as a Parent.

In groups study the passages listed on Handout 3 with each group taking a different group of Bible texts to study. Report to the whole group what your group discovered about the various roles God models as the ideal Parent.

Support (provision for all our needs, unconditional love, and chances to begin again) and control (guidance and correction) are significant components in this biblical model of parenting-paralleling the style recommended in the social science literature. Note also God’s modeling as well as clear teaching of all He desires for His children.

(If your group desires to study further the biblical model for family relationships, see the marriage mini-seminar on pages 29-50 of this planbook. There you will find a presentation of the theological basis of family relationships in the setting of marriage: covenant, grace, empowering, and intimacy. These concepts apply equally well to parenting.)

Christian Parenting: Empowering to Maturity

Let’s return to our discussion of empowerment and what it means to parent in ways that empower children. We said that parents who empower their children (1) prepare them to live as healthy adults capable of taking increasing responsibility for their own lives as they mature, and (2) enable them to build and maintain a strong network of healthy relationships with family and others.

We have also seen that parents who combine an authoritative and a discipling parenting style are the most effective at empowering their children overall. The combination of “love and limits,” “kindness and firmness,” with deliberate teaching and parental modeling greatly increases the likelihood that children will be empowered toward healthy adulthood, and that they will likely espouse family values for themselves as they mature.

We turn now to look at how parent-child relationships, even within the authoritative and discipling styles, must change over time as children mature, if the empowerment process is to be complete.

Balswick and Balswick, adapting a concept from organizational management research, conceived an empowering curve that illustrates necessary changes in the parent-child relationship as the child matures if empowerment is to occur. (See Handout 4 , which may also be made into a transparency.)

Notice that horizontally on the illustration (at the top), a time line of the child’s development toward maturity unfolds from infancy to adulthood. You will see that if empowerment is to be achieved, parental control must decrease gradually across this time line. Parents who understand this and who willingly decide to release control over time, will not be as distressed by their child’s desire to become more and more independent, nor will they create in their children as much unrest and rebellion as they seek to differentiate themselves from their parents and become their own persons. As children are being enabled to take more and more responsibility for their own lives as they mature, the more capably they will be able to negotiate the steps from childhood to adulthood, and the more readily parents can release control without concern.

Vertically, the illustration looks at changes that must occur in the parents’ teaching style and emotional-relational involvement with the child in the accomplishment of the everyday tasks of a child’s life (that is, household chores, homework, hygiene, etc.). Balswick & Balswick call this “socioemotional support.” Note that “socioemotional support” does not refer to a child’s need for love and unconditional acceptance; this need never decreases over a lifetime. This kind of support is crucial at any age to healthy parent-child relationships, though it becomes more mutual as the child matures. It should be noted also that while one style of parent-child interaction may be perfectly appropriate and healthy for one stage of the child’s development, it may be unhealthy and inappropriate at another. (For example, it is healthy and normal for a mother to bathe a one-year-old toddler. However, it would be a totally inappropriate gesture when that toddler becomes twelve!) Special situations may also affect the appropriateness of the various styles at various stages. (To continue our example, if the twelve-year-old meets with an accident and is in a body cast, a parent may need to assist in the bathing process temporarily even at that age.)

In the diagram the broken lines separating the different parenting styles and maturity levels are there to make it easier to explain these concepts. Characteristics from one parenting style may sometimes overlap with another. Rarely do we operate in one style all the time, especially when we are in transition from one style to another. This applies to kids, too. At one time they may want to be treated as if they were older and at another time they may want to be treated as if they were younger. There is a reason we haven’t attached specific age levels to these maturity levels. Kids develop at different speeds. Don’t pigeonhole or label them.

The parenting style typically associated with the very young child is described as telling . The communication in this style is basically one way-parent to child. Parents tell their children what to do, and where, when, and how to do it. This style is necessary because very young children do not know what is best for them and need clear directives. The level of parental control is high at this stage, though socioemotional support is minimal. Again, we must remember that this low level of socioemotional support refers to a low level of involvement on the part of the parents in discussing the “whys” and reasoning with the child about what he or she is told to do. In other words, this low level of socioemotional support refers to a low level of involvement on the part of children in determining their own destiny, because they are not capable of doing so (that is, what they will have for breakfast, what they will wear, when and where they will take a nap, etc.). Low socioemotional support does not mean a low level of affection and love. Unconditional love-lots of it-is always crucial to healthy development, though it may be expressed in different ways as children mature. Even at this stage, children may be offered opportunities to be involved in determining their own activities in the sense that as a reward for compliance parents may offer some control to the child. (For example, “If you take your nap now, you may play in the sprinkler when you wake up,” or “If you finish your dinner in time, we can look at your new book before it is time for your bath.”)

Parents move toward a teaching style as children develop toward low and moderate levels of maturity. As children grow, they become more willing to do various tasks, but don’t automatically know how to do them. As the diagram indicates, teaching involves moderately high levels of control and socioemotional support. This means parents are still taking the initiative, but children are able to respond with more independent action. For example, a family rule may be established that each person in the family is responsible for making his or her own bed. The child may be willing to comply, but may not know how to make a bed. The parent in the teaching mode will work alongside the child, explaining and demonstrating how it is done. It may be some time before the child is able to make the bed at the level of perfection that the parent would like, but he or she is taking more initiative. One boy was heard saying to his father, “I don’t know why mother has us make our beds. She is going to make them over anyway.” Perhaps it is just as challenging for parents to adapt to their children’s ongoing maturity, as it is for children. We must give them room to try, to make mistakes, to learn, giving them much-needed emotional support in the process. In the bath illustration used earlier, with some assistance children at this stage may be able to learn how to remove their own clothing, soap their bodies, etc., albeit with parental supervision and assistance still very much necessary. Children at this stage often like to ask questions and learn through dialogue. Communication while teaching is two-way (as opposed to the one-way communication of the telling style), but much of the communication is still done by the parents since most of the necessary skill and information resides with them.

You will notice that the next advancement is to a participating parenting style. At this stage parents become like player-coaches who directly participate in activities with their children. They are still instructing their children, but they are also modeling the desired behavior at the same time. This style of parenting is well suited for children who are moderately to highly mature, and should be in place by the preteenage years. (As an example of how parents may move in this direction Dr. Ruth Murdoch tells the story of a mother who was talking with her little girl about what she would wear for the day. The mother asked the little girl to look at what she herself was wearing. She asked, “Is this my Sabbath dress?” The little girl observed that it was not and together they concluded it was not Sabbath. “Is this an outfit for work and play?” the mother queried. It was, they decided. They also discussed the weather; today was going to be hot. So the mother sent the child to her room to choose a “work and play” outfit suitable for a hot day, making several suggestions of options the mother knew were available. In a few minutes the little girl returned with a party dress which was her favorite. Patiently the mother helped her understand why it was a lovely dress but inappropriate for the day’s activities. Then she sent the little girl to make another choice. This time she emerged with a pair of shorts and a shirt and was rewarded with her mother’s affirmation of her choice.)

By the preteenage years, most children have developed many abilities, but may lack confidence to attempt more independent action. When parents participate with them in tasks and responsibilities, taking only the initiatives necessary to motivate and enable the child, the young person gains confidence and is encouraged to do things in his or her own individual way. As a result, the amount of parental control is reduced and the child is empowered toward responsible independence. (Karen Flowers tells of learning painfully that to remain overly in control at this stage is to rob a child of self-confidence and the reward of accomplishment, and it temporarily thwarts the empowerment process. Her son, Jon, asked for ideas for a science fair project, but instead of offering only the assistance requested, Karen became so involved in the project it virtually became her own creation with Jon doing the “helping.” Jon won first prize that year, but the recognition held little for him since his mother had done too much of the work.) Parents who participate sufficiently to offer encouragement, support, and consolation when needed, but who allow their children to learn through trial and error and to experience the joys and satisfaction of doing something themselves, are empowering their children.

The last stage of parenting involves a delegating style. This style is for highly mature children, who are willing and able to do tasks and take responsibilities on their own. Little control or parental involvement (socioemotional support) is needed. To continue high task-related emotional support would be interpreted by the child as a sign of the parent’s lack of confidence in the young person. (For example, a college student would typically be able to gather and pack his or her own things for college. While mother might offer to do a bit of washing and ironing or father might carry a few things to the car, to actually do the packing as one might for a child of nine going off to youth camp, would be inappropriate and may well send a message parents wouldn’t desire to send about how they view their child’s abilities.)

One of the great rewards of moving into the delegating style is to suddenly realize that you as a parent are often empowered (encouraged, strengthened) by your child as you offer support to them. Balswick and Balswick observe that “willingness to learn from and be empowered by one’s children is a sign of parental maturity. Reciprocal giving and receiving is an indication of a mature relationship” (p. 107).

In small groups, discuss where you are in the empowerment process with one of your children. Is your position appropriate to the child’s level of maturity? How can you grow in your abilities to empower as a result of today’s discussion? What one thing have you already done as a parent that brings you the most encouragement? What evidence do you see at this stage that your child is moving toward healthy adulthood? What concerns do you have?


Yes, it is true that a combination of high parental control and support produces the most competent children, as suggested earlier. The empowerment curve doesn’t contradict this idea, but it refines it. It suggests that with increased maturity, children will need less support and control. This does not mean that we as parents will withhold unconditional support for our children when they have matured, but only that they will become less and less dependent upon us for support. We can’t always parent in the same way, be it ever so ideal at certain stages. We must be willing to make adjustments in our parenting style, and take into account the developing maturity of our children. If we don’t do this we will retard the growth of all involved. “Maturation of the parental style is an essential factor in the mutual empowering process” (Ibid.).

Parenting that empowers children to maturity is a concept similar to the biblical portrayal of discipling. Jesus gathered around Him and trained disciples, empowering them to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, NIV). Gordon & Gail MacDonald beautifully illuminate this idea with the following thoughts:

Little by little, Jesus invested in His disciples. In the early stages of their relationship, He simply invited them to watch. Then He asked them what they were learning. It was not long before He was asking them questions, making them think. Then there came the time for “trial runs.” When they returned, He would quiz them closely, making necessary corrections and suggestions.

What was the aim of all this? It was preparation for the day when He would give His mission of world evangelization over to them. He not only expected to give it to them, He looked forward to the fact that they would do greater works and accomplish more than He had. That would be the payoff of His investment.

Empowering may be one of the most difficult challenges we face in relationships-giving our best to others and then watching them move out ahead to accomplish what we’ve helped them learn-perhaps even better than we can do it. This is the essence of what some call discipleship. (MacDonald & MacDonald, 1992, p. 185. Used by permission).

The MacDonalds share a story from their own family which portrays what empowerment does for a kid: When our son, Mark, turned sixteen and began to drive the family vehicles, he approached his father with the question of whether he could use our pickup truck for a big Friday evening date.

Not only was he relatively inexperienced as a driver, but the date was in the heart of Boston, and the drive into the city would be made at the peak of rush hour.

“Son, let me think about your question for a couple of hours and then get back to you,” Gordon said. We talked about it and decided that, although there would be two nervous parents throughout that evening, it was time to trust our son’s judgment.

Two hours later, father and son talked again. “I’ve decided that you can use the truck on Friday,” Gordon said, “but on one condition.”

“What’s that, Dad?” Mark asked, obviously ready to agree to anything.

“I want to drive the entire route with you the day before, at the same time of day. What’s more, I want you to demonstrate that you know how to handle any situation you might face.”

“No problem, Dad,” Mark responded.

On Thursday night, Mark and his dad started driving north on I-95 to pick up I-93, which would take them into the heart of the city.

Traffic was moving slowly when Gordon suddenly said to Mark, “Son, you have a flat front tire. Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t, Dad,” Mark answered. “There’s nothing wrong.”

“You didn’t hear me, Bud. You’ve got a flat tire because I said so. Now let’s move over to the side and change it.”

When they were parked on the side of the freeway, Gordon got out and sat on the guardrail. Mark came around and said, “What do you want me to do?”

“Well, if I were your date, I guess I’d want you to do whatever is necessary in order to change the tire. And I’d want you to get started, because it looks like rain is coming.”

Shaking his head in consternation because the front tire looked just fine, Mark crawled under the truck to find the spare tire and jack. A few minutes later he crawled back out from the rear of the pickup and said, “Dad, where’s the jack?”

“I’m your beautiful date, son,” Gordon responded. “I’m not expected to know where the jack is. Sounds like you’ve got a problem.”

Mark continued to look-under the truck, behind the seat, under the seat. For ten minutes he searched for a jack he’d never had reason to locate before. Finally he found it under the hood, and before long he had the front of the truck up in the air. It was then that Gordon pronounced the tire whole again, and they started toward Boston once more.

When the two reached the exit ramp Mark was to take, Gordon informed him that the ramp was closed due to construction. “No, it isn’t,” Mark said.

“I just closed it,” came the reply.

Mark had to find another way to reach his destination, without benefit of map or directions. When he did, they parked the truck in the parking lot and immediately exited, much to the surprise of the lot attendant.

On the way home, Gordon pronounced the alternator sick, and that forced the two men over to the side to discuss what one would do in such a situation. When they reached home, they had lots to laugh about.

But the next evening when Mark left on his big date, he drove off confidently. He had been empowered through his dad’s investment of time and teaching. He knew how well he could perform in any untoward [adverse] situation, and he knew he enjoyed the confidence of his father. He had proved himself, and both he and his dad knew what he could do. This intimacy between a father and a son was built on an empowering transfer of knowledge and the confidence to use it.

An empowering relationship flows like this: The elder leads the younger, the stronger assists the weaker, the expert teaches the novice, the experienced shares with the first-timer. One pours into the other the knowledge and the confidence necessary for maturity and effectiveness. It is an investment of sorts, a transfer of resources that results in growth.

(Ibid., pp. 182-185. Used by permission).

Finishing the Seminar

If there is time, ask if there are any questions or comments on the material that you presented.

It would be well to close by inviting each person to choose a partner in the group and share together what they got out of the seminar, then pray together.

A Few Empowerment Quotations to Enjoy:

“All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life” ( Desire of Ages , p. 827).

“By prayer, by the study of His word, by faith in His abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them by a hand that will never let go” ( Ministry of Healing , p. 182).

“As the will of man [and woman and child] cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings” ( Christ’s Object Lessons , p. 333).

“Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many you have brought with you.” -Will Rose

“Every human being . . . is endowed with . . . power to think and to do” ( Education , p. 17).

by May-Ellen Colon
Co-director, Family Ministries
Euro-Asia Division


Balswick, J. O., & Balswick, J. K. The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989.

Flowers, K., & Flowers, R. Families Reaching Families: 1993 Family Ministries Planbook . Silver Spring, MD: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992.

Guralnik, D. B., ed. Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language . New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Habenicht, D. “Spiritual Nurture of Children.” Class Notes. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University, 1992.

Kuzma, K. “Four Foundations of Parenting.” A seminar presented at Family Life International. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University, 1993.

MacDonald, G., & MacDonald, G. Till the Heart Be Touched . Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1992.

White, E. G. Christ’s Object Lessons . Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1941.

_________ . The Desire of Ages . Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1913.

__________ . Education . Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1952.

Youngberg, J. & Youngberg, M. Family Wellness Digest . Berrien Springs, MI: Marriage & Family Commitment, 1993.

Suggested Reading

Balswick, J. O., & Balswick, J. K. The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home . Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989.

Larson, R., & Larson, D. with Gillespie, V. B. Teaching values . Riverside, CA: La Sierra University Press, 1992. (This book contains many excellent activities for parenting support group followup sessions.)

Glenn, H. S., & Nelsen, J. Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People . Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1989.

Reprinted from Karen & Ron Flowers, Facing Family Crises. Silver Spring, MD: Department of Family Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1999.