“That’s what we need right now. We need some continuity of faith, and I think the breakdown of faith has resulted in the breakdown of family, the breakdown of family relationships, the breakdown of our social systems, our social morality and so forth. So what we need more than anything else, as I see it, in our churches today and our families today, is a real vision for a family discipleship and family worship. The hearts of fathers and mothers turning to the kids, and the kids’ hearts turning towards their fathers and mothers, in this sort of family discipleship context.” – Kevin Swanson, Generations
Yvette Hampton: Hey, everyone. Welcome to The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast. I hope you’re having a great homeschool day. This podcast is one that’s going to be a little bit different for you moms who might be listening, and if your husband is around and you are able to grab him, or if you want to just pause it and wait to listen to this later, this one is going to be for both moms and dads.
Yvette: We have a special guest on today. His name is Kevin Swanson. He’s the director of Generations. If you’re not familiar with Generations, it’s a ministry for strengthening homeschool families around the country. We’re going to talk to Kevin a little bit about dads, and about the heritage and Godly legacy that dads can leave for their children. And so, this is going to be a really exciting one, that you can listen to with your husband. So, Kevin, welcome to The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast.
Kevin Swanson: Thank you, Yvette. It’s great to be with you today.
Yvette: Yeah. I’m very excited to have you on. Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
Kevin: Well, it’s me and Brenda, and we have five children, ages… I’m going to get this right… 18 through 27.
Kevin: So, we’ve graduated four of our older children. Abigail’s still left. She’s 18 years old, and she’s going to graduate this year from high school. We have four of our daughters that live with us. They have all kinds of projects going on, studying different subjects and things. My son is a software engineer in the Denver metro area. So, that’s where we are. I’ve been involved in the homeschooling movement now for 50 years.
Kevin: This is my 50th year. Because my mom started homeschooling me exactly 50 years ago in Portland, Oregon, if you can believe it.
Yvette: Was that in kindergarten, when she started with it?
Kevin: You know, it would have been… I think I would have been four years old.
Kevin: It was Portland, Oregon, and they were going to go into the mission field in Japan, and that’s one of the main reasons they homeschooled us. But in the 1960s, my folks were really focused on this idea of Christian schooling, but then they began to think about homeschooling. So, they really started to homeschool us, myself and my sister especially, in 1968, and I never attended a school until I was 10 years old, and spent one year at a Christian school in Oregon. But outside of that, I was homeschooled the whole distance.
Yvette: Wow. Wow. So you’ve really seen the evolution of homeschooling, and obviously what it used to be, back in the days when you had to keep your curtains closed during the day, and you couldn’t go to the grocery store in the middle of the week, because people would question you.
Kevin: As the old song goes, I was homeschooled when homeschooling wasn’t cool.
Yvette: Right. Oh, well, it’s so neat to have you now as part of the homeschooling movement and ministry. I know you have a great ministry to families and to homeschool families, but you really have a huge focus not only on fathers, but you really do have a great ministry to Christian men who are leading and discipling their own children, whether through homeschooling or not. And so, I want to talk a little bit about Generations. Talk about your ministry and what you do, and how you come alongside of families and men, to encourage and disciple them.
Kevin: Well, the main focus of Generations is passing on the faith. That’s our byline. You know, we’re living in a really tough time right now, because the millennial generation is more likely to be unchurched, de-churched. They have less spirituality and less faith than the previous generation. So what we want to do is, we want to see that there is something of a connection from generation to generation, and we think that comes primarily, of course, by the work of the Holy Spirit, but also by the God-ordained means of the hearts of the fathers turning to the children, and children to the fathers and mothers. And when those generational connections exist, there’s just a very much higher probability that there will be some continuity of faith.
“I think the first thing that’s happened is the massive secularization of education and pop culture. These are become the disciplers of the day. But the fact is, at one time, young kids were raised in families, and the pastors of churches and the parents had the most influence in the children’s lives. But since the 1800s we’ve had a massive social revolution, that has produced a massive culture revolution, and it happened when fathers left the home, and then eventually mothers left the home. And then you begin to get professionals that established large institutions. Those institutions become increasingly secularized.”
And that’s what we need right now. We need some continuity of faith, and I think the breakdown of faith has resulted in the breakdown of family, the breakdown of family relationships, the breakdown of our social systems, our social morality and so forth. So what we need more than anything else, as I see it, in our churches today and our families today, is a real vision for a family discipleship and family worship. The hearts of fathers and mothers turning to the kids, and the kids’ hearts turning towards their fathers and mothers, in this sort of family discipleship context.
So that’s the focus of the ministry, and I do believe that fathers are key. You know, the mothers, I think for the most part, have really been the impetus behind the modern homeschooling movement. There’s no question about that. But I do believe that when fathers get involved, you get a little bit more rebar in the concrete foundations of the home and the homeschool. Does that make sense?
Yvette: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The role of fathers is so very important, and I think so many of them don’t realize how desperately their wives need them to take that leadership in their family.
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah.
Yvette: You know. Spiritually, emotionally. I think a lot of dads think, “Well, you know. I go to work and I provide for my family, so that my wife can stay home.” Which is fantastic. That is such a wonderful blessing to the family, if mom is able to stay home. And even if mom isn’t able to stay home, or if mom has to work from home, there are… You know. You’ve got the Proverbs 31 woman who helped care for her family, and care for her home. But it’s not just bringing home a paycheck. Women need, moms need, wives need for their husbands to come alongside of them, and encourage them and their children spiritually and emotionally, in so many different ways.
I want to back up really quickly, because you were talking about how our generation today, people have just kind of fallen off of church and discipling their children and taking that spiritual leadership. A lot of families have done that, but a lot of men have done that. Why do you think that is?
Kevin: Well, I think the first thing that’s happened is the massive secularization of education and pop culture. These are become the disciplers of the day. But the fact is, at one time, young kids were raised in families, and the pastors of churches and the parents had the most influence in the children’s lives. But since the 1800s we’ve had a massive social revolution, that has produced a massive culture revolution, and it happened when fathers left the home, and then eventually mothers left the home. And then you begin to get professionals that established large institutions. Those institutions become increasingly secularized. Of course, they kicked prayers out of the schools, and the Ten Commandments, and the reading of the Word of God out of the schools in the 1960s.
And so, over time, you find that the young generation, each successive generation is discipled out of the Christian faith, and there’s less and less influence of the Christian faith in their lives. And it’s very, very difficult to salvage a young person who’s receiving secular inputs. You know, the other worldview, through their iPods and their iPads, and through education and pop culture and such throughout the week. And then you’re trying to salvage it with a 20 minute Sunday school lesson on the Sunday morning in the church. You know, to be honest, the church just is not able to stand against this massive, massive flow of a counter worldview, this other form of discipleship.
So, I think it’s just that simple. I think it’s competing discipleship. And here’s one more factor that plays into it. At one time, pop culture was not as influential on the peer group as it is today. Think about the 1980s, when young children had access to the television set only in the family’s living room, where there was some oversight from mom and dad.
Kevin: Well, see, they couldn’t carry a 600-pound television set into their bedroom then, and set it under the covers, or take it into the bathroom. It was just too heavy.
Kevin: You can’t carry 600-pound television sets around. But today, with the iPod, iPad revolution, these kids have access to the popular culture and these other worldviews. They’re effectively hooked up by wires into the matrix, and they are being fed these other ideas. And so, you know. Even if your child is attending a Christian school, or attending a public school, their peer group is far more connected to a popular cultural system, that is not really receiving much oversight from parents. It’s a family disintegrated form of entertainment, that just predominates in these kids’ lives. And so, that becomes the peer group, and that peer group becomes much more influential. That popular culture, that peer group influence becomes much more influential, much more powerful in the life of a young person today, than it was, say in 1990.
So, you know. I would say that pop culture, peer culture, is probably 100 times more influential today than it was in the early 1990s, and those competing discipling influences are very hard to stand against, unless you homeschool. Unless you spend concerted time with your children, and you become the primary influence in their life.
Yvette: Yeah, I agree with that completely. You know, you look today at what… And maybe I’m completely off base on this, because I’m not in the homes of every person of every family, of course. But it seems to me that the majority of families, you know, dad comes home from work, sits down on the couch. Watches TV, watches the evening news or sitcoms or whatever it is. And while he might be engaged a little bit with his kids, it’s all about, “How can I just rest and be entertained myself, so then I can go off to bed, and my kids can do their homework, and they can take their baths and have dinner, and we all go to bed, just to get up and do it all over again tomorrow?” And I feel like there’s a big disconnect between a lot of fathers and their kids.
And one of the things over the past few years that has really frustrated me, and it kind of seems to be the new trend is the man cave. You know, dads are building these rooms in their houses. They’re taking up one of the rooms, and they build their man cave. It has their video games, and it has their TV, and it has their computer, all their stuff, so that they can escape their family, basically. And I’m not saying… I’m probably going to get some nasty emails about this, and that’s okay… I’m not saying that there’s never a time for a mom or a dad to want to be able to just get away. You know? I’m with my family pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are times when I just say, “You know what? I need to just go take a drive. I need to go walk around the park. I need to go drive. I need to do something. I just need to get away for a little bit.” But I’m talking every like few months, maybe. You know.
And it’s okay to have a little bit of alone time, and to be able to breathe, and I get that. And especially for those who are maybe more introverted than I am. But to have an intentional room where you say, “This is my room. It’s off limits to the family. This is my man cave, and I’m going to go away, and be disengaged from my family,” is not discipling your kids. That’s not coming alongside of your children and teaching them the ways of the Lord, and being able to embrace them and build the family unity, because you can’t possibly do that. And parents being so distracted with sports and this and that. And I’m not saying that those things are bad or wrong at all, but I feel like culture has gotten so busy, and so overwhelmed with things that are outside of the family, that we’ve almost forgotten how important it is to just be a family. To read together, to play games together, to just talk together, to cook together, to do things together as a family. And so, anyway-
Kevin: After a while, you find you actually enjoy being together.
Yvette: For sure.
Kevin: But I think you have to begin to establish the habit first, before you discover that this is the life. This is a better life. This is the life of relationship. And I think there are two words that describe the zeitgeist of the day. Zeitgeist is the spirit of the age, basically the river of culture in which almost everybody participates. The zeitgeist is defined by diversion and isolation. That’s pretty much the modern world. And I think most sociologists would agree with me, actually, that isolation diversion makes up most of modern life. But it’s not healthy.
Kevin: It’s escapist, and it eventually sort of deprioritizes human relationship.
Kevin: And certainly, that’s the music form, that’s the cultural form. That’s the way in which we view the stars on the movie screen. You take somebody like James Bond, or 24 movie star, who plays the part of the lone protagonist, who is divorced, and he lives by himself, and he sort of lives the brave existentialist life of the individual who is isolated from family, and isolated from friendship and other things. That’s sort of the modern world. That’s the modern individual. And of course, pornography being the ultimate derelationalized form of sexuality, where it’s depersonalized.
There’s no second person. But this has now become almost the predominant form of sexuality amongst young men. Some 80% of young men are now hooked on this derelationalized form of sexuality. So, isolation, just isolating ourselves and consuming ourselves in diversions, is really escaping the real world. It’s escaping God’s world. It’s escaping God, and escaping a relationship with God, and escaping a relationship with God’s people, with the church, or escaping a relationship within a marriage or within a family. So, that’s the philosophy. That’s the spirit of the age. And we, as Christians, just need to say, “You know what? That’s not the life God wants for us. God wants a life in fellowship with others. God wants us to live a life in relationship.”
And you know, we need to come back to this as men especially, because I think it’s men who are the first ones to walk down the river, as the men did in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden or Grapes of Wrath. You know, the men were the ones to abandon camp. The men were the ones who abandoned relationship. The men were the ones to walk away from responsibility and the pressures of life. But you know, the life of faith is the life that wants to face the challenges before us believing God, trusting in God, and then establishing relationship and fulfilling those responsibilities that God has given us.
Because you know, Ephesians 6:4 does say, “Fathers, bring your children up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.” So that specifically is directed towards fathers, first and foremost. Obviously, mothers were intended there too, but fathers are the ones that are responsible and culpable before God, to really focus on a proper raising, a proper discipleship for their kids. So, this is just a ball we just simply cannot drop.
Yvette: Yeah, I agree. Kevin, you’ve got a conference coming up. It’s the Shepherd’s Conference. It’s November 5th through the 9th in Elizabeth, Colorado. Let’s talk about that. I remember last year, we met you at the Life Schooling Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, and you talked about this conference, and I remember thinking, “Wow. This is a conference that every husband, every father on the planet should attend.” So, can you give us a 10-minute version of the Shepherd’s Conference, and what it is that you’re going to discuss there and talk about, and what this conference is?
Kevin: Well, Yvette, this is an opportunity for men to disciple and to be discipled. You know, we don’t get an opportunity like this very much, to get into a home, and for four to five days, really immerse in the Word of God, and immerse ourselves in prayer and in fellowship, and building one another up. I mean, it’s a four to five day, just go for it, you know, 14, 15 hours per day, being together and fellowshipping together, and going through good teaching, and confessing our sins and struggles in small groups, and praying for each other, lifting each other up. You know, we learn how to pray. We learn how to lead in the Word of God. We’re learning how to be disciplers and shepherds in our homes. So, this is kind of a radical idea.
Now, one of my strategies is kind of an immersive approach to discipleship. In other words, you sort of have to dive into the deep end, if you’re really going to grow. And especially in the age in which we live. You know, we’re so busy, as you said. To take four to five days off, and just immerse yourself in a Biblical approach to shepherding and relationship building and spiritual growth for yourself, I think is really helpful for men. Now, we open this up for dads and older sons. You know, they come together. By the way, we still have I think two or three or four slots open for this year’s Shepherd’s Conference, so if anybody’s interested in this, just go to our website, Generations.org, and click on Events, and you’ll go straight to it. But-
Yvette: Now, what would the age be of the sons?
Kevin: Well, you know, I’d say anywhere from 10 to 12 years up.
Kevin: It depends on whether they can sit and listen.
Kevin: And if they’re not wanting to do that, perhaps a little older.
Kevin: But yeah, the Shepherd’s Conference is a great opportunity to do that. The other thing I do is I open up my home for this, and my daughters make 1,000 meals for the guys. Three meals a day for about five days, and it’s… You know. It’s not just the formal time together as we’re studying God’s word, as we’re praying together and singing hymns together. It’s also getting together in fellowship around those meal times, and getting to know each other, and iron sharpening iron. Just building each other up for the week. I find this is probably the most successful thing we have done as a ministry.
Also, I think it’s important for people who know about us, and know about my ministry, to come into my home and watch the dynamics in my home. You know, a lot of leaders, a lot of spiritual leaders across the country, they wouldn’t do this kind of thing, but I think it’s important for leaders to be accessible to those who want to drop by, and just sort of enjoy some hospitality at our house. So, this has been an important aspect of my ministry over the years, and we have had literally thousands of people come through our home over the years.
Kevin: We always open up our home, so if anybody is ever coming through the Denver metro area here in Colorado and would like a little Christian fellowship along the way, we invite them to our home for that fellowship. I just think that’s the way Jesus would have done it, you know? Jesus was always accessible.
Kevin: He was always accessible. There might have been a line of 10 or 20, but He was there, you know? He was just walking around, and He was accessible. He didn’t drive into the conference center in a big limo, and then come into the stage from the back, and then leave from the back in His limo. Jesus didn’t do that, and that’s not how we shepherd. That’s not how we grow as the body. I think it’s important for us to be in the same house, the same home together, sitting up to the table together and fellowshipping, and finding ways in which we can edify each other and build each other up. So that’s the vision for the week, and that’s been really successful.
In terms of content, we’ll talk about some basic biblical doctrine. We’ll go through psalms, a couple psalms together. We’ll talk about practical issues in terms of marriage, in terms of raising our children, in terms of education. We’ll talk about family, church, and state, which are really the three basic spheres in which we interact. We interact with our families, we interact with brothers and sisters in the church, and we also have an obligation as those who are part of a wider community. And so, we’ll talk about those three aspects. We also get into spiritual warfare a little bit. We want it to be intensely practical. You know, because we all know what spiritual warfare is, so we want to be sure that we’re geared up for spiritual warfare.
And our goal is that we would grow, that we’d become mature, that we’d be able to stand in the day of trial and persecution, and prepare ourselves with the full armor of God, in order that we be prepared to stand in the evil day. So, we want men built up and strong in the faith, so we do that through the teaching. We do that through the singing of the hymns and psalms and spiritual songs, and of course lots and lots of prayer. We do spend time in prayer together. That is probably the most powerful part of the week.
Yvette: Wow. That’s great. And I imagine that a lot of these men who go to this conference get to know one another, because they probably come from different places.
Yvette: And so they build those relationships, and can then encourage and support each other.
Kevin: They do. They do. You know, it’s amazing how much can be accomplished in 45 to 55 hours together.
Kevin: You think about your average church. You come together for an hour every Sunday.
Kevin: That’s 52 hours a week. We knock that out in four days.
Yvette: Wow. Wow.
Kevin: You follow me?
Yvette: Yeah. Yeah.
Kevin: So, those relationships are lifetime relationships, and these guys stay in contact with each other for years and years.
Yvette: Wow. That’s great. One of the things I love about it is that you allow the younger men to come alongside of their fathers and learn. You know, we talk with our girls. I have two daughters. They’re almost eight… She’ll be eight in two weeks. Eight years old and 12 years old. And so, we already talk a whole lot about, you know, when you are getting to that age of marriage, what is it that you look for in a husband, and what does God’s best look like for you? And one of the things that we tell our girls is to look for a man who is being discipled by other Godly men, and then for a man who is discipling men younger than him. And I think that discipleship is so, so very important. And so, it doesn’t matter where you are in your Christian walk. You need to be accountable, and discipled by someone who is… You know. Whether older than you, or your same age or whatever. And women need that, too.
Yvette: But you need to know how to disciple younger men as well. And so, I think it goes on both ends, and I think this conference is such a beautiful way to teach these young men, to raise them up to be discipled, and to be able to disciple others as well.
Kevin: That’s some of the best advice you could give. In fact, I just did a presentation at our church on preparation for marriage, and the advice that I gave the young ladies and the young men was, be sure that you marry somebody who has been discipled, and has opened themselves up for discipleship, has sought out that discipleship.
Yvette: Yeah. Yes.
Kevin: And that’s I think so, so, so very key, especially in the day in which we live. That’s one reason we have been discipling young men, as part of our ministry, for about 14 years now.
Kevin: In fact, we’ve had young men living in this house here for nine years. Our family lives upstairs, and then these young men, who are part of our discipleship center, live downstairs. And that’s been a full time thing, pretty much for the last nine years. We have probably discipled, I don’t know, 14 to 16 young men over a period of nine years, and it has been generally very successful. These young men become future fathers, husbands. They get married oftentimes early, like 21 or 22 or 23 years of age.
Kevin: Not that that’s the end all and be all of maturity, but it’s been encouraging to see them now raising children. Some of them have three, four, five children. Some of them become deacons in churches. Some have become elders. One of them is becoming a pastor, in about three weeks from now. So, yeah. It’s been probably the absolute most powerful thing, and influential and important thing, that I have done in my ministry over the last 30 years. You know, bringing up these young men, and preparing them for their own ministry and their own home life. I personally encourage every single church in America to engage in this, because if we don’t disciple the young men, it will be bust. I have this little word. I call it Discipleship or Bust. Either we will disciple the young men, or our young women will have nobody to marry.
Kevin: We will not have churches. We will not have families in the years to come.
Kevin: It’s discipleship, discipleship, discipleship. The Apostle Paul, in Second Timothy 2:2 says, “You’ve got to disciple the young men, that they will be prepared to disciple others as well.”
That was his advice to Timothy. And of course he wants them to preach the word and such, but as far as what we are to be doing to be preparing the next generation, we have got to be focusing on discipleship, discipling the young men. Of course, we encourage the older women to disciple the younger women.
Kevin: But the young men have not been discipled, and they are wandering around. They’re not growing up. Newsweek magazine came out with a statistic a couple years ago that said 70% of young men are not grown up by 30 years of age, up from 30% in 1970. That means they don’t have jobs. They’re not getting married.
Those statistics are based on a couple different indexes. And so, 70% of young men not grown up by 30 years of age, up from 30% in 1970.
Kevin: They are living in guy-ville. They’re living in this Peter Pan man cave thing, yeah. And we’re just not seeing the maturity. We’re not seeing that young men are ready for life, and the end result of course is going to be the breakdown of entire social systems. It will be the breakdown of churches. It will be the breakdown of future families, and it will be the breakdown of an entire nation. I’m convinced of it.
Kevin: That this nation will break down. We are looking at the breakdown of character and the breakdown of maturity across this nation, because we have not invested in the discipleship of our young men and our young women.
Yvette: You know, if the Christian men today do not take that responsibility, to disciple the younger men who need that, the world is going to take over. And that’s exactly what’s happening, is the world is taking over, and they’re going the way of the world, and not the way of God. And like you said, it’s breaking down the family unit.
I want to take this a little bit back to homeschooling. That is one of the reasons why homeschooling is so very important, and so very powerful. Because it allows the Christian dad to disciple his Christian young son, or his daughter, who is going to marry a Christian man, hopefully, and show her, “This is what it looks like. This is what a Godly man looks like. This is what I want you to strive for to marry.” You know. And I agree. It’s so important for our culture.
Kevin: Yvette, even the secularists. I’m talking about non-Christian sociologists. They’re writing books like The War Against Boys, The End of Men, The Demise of Guys. You’ve heard all of these books.
Yvette: Oh, yes.
Kevin: They’re all over the place today. And it seems to me that Christians should establish something of a better standard. You know, shouldn’t we, above all people, take on ourselves the opportunities to give up of our selves? You know, sacrificially love our brothers and our sisters in Christ, and really invest that time and that energy into the discipleship of young men?
Now, I wouldn’t say that you have to bring them into your home, as I’ve done. There are some opportunities where perhaps you meet with a young teenage boy in the congregation, you know, once a month for lunch or something, and you just are there to invest in his life, or you might create some small Bible studies. We’ve got I think six Bible studies in our church, that are primarily attended by young men. There are prayer groups and there are Bible study groups. These guys will come once a week, and we’ll invest an hour or two hours a week with them. But, you know, 52 hours a year is a big deal for a young man. So, you know. I mean, I’m not just working with 14 guys. I’m probably meeting with anywhere between 30 to 40 young men every week, as part of our ministry.
Kevin: And then we’ve got the Shepherd’s Conference, where we do that full 52-hour deal in one four to five day spread. So, you know. I think the focal point for ministries at this point really needs to be discipleship.
Kevin: We need to come back to this vision, and that’s the thing we encourage with our families. As we talk about homeschooling, it’s not just about homeschooling. It’s also about discipling our kids as we sit in the house, as we walk by the ways. We rise up as we light up.
Yvette: That’s right.
Kevin: And this also needs to be the focal point of the wider body. We need to disciple young men. We need to disciple the young women. They resonate to it, you know? For the most part, these young men and young women, when they realize that you care about them, and you care about their future, and you want to invest in their lives… You really are buying in to their success in life. Their spiritual success, their economic success. You are buying in, man.
Yvette: Yeah. That’s right.
Kevin: You are going to be their cheerleader… They respond to that.
Yvette: Yeah. That’s right.
Kevin: And it is amazing what will happen in your homeschool group, in your church, in whatever relationships you’ve built as you pursue this discipleship vision.
Yvette: Yeah. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Kevin. Thank you for your time today. Thank you for your encouragement to families and to husbands. It has been such a pleasure having you on.We are very grateful for what you’re doing. And we’ll get word out about the Shepherd’s Conference this year, and if people are listening to this after it’s full, or after it’s over, I’m sure you’ll do it again next year, because I know you’ve done it many years in a row. So, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on. Thank you for your encouragement with homeschooling and to families. We appreciate it so much.
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