About the Guest
Is failure always a bad thing? Not according to author Dan Dumas, who sees being afraid to take a risk condemned in Luke 19 when the worker hid his talents. Dumas talks about helping his two sons evaluate risk-taking and persevere through failure.
Dan DumasDan Dumas has served as a college pastor for fourteen years with extensive experience discipling young people. Dan serves as a senior vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches and provides leadership for youth conferences (RENOWN and D3). He also teaches classes at Boyce College. Dan lives with his wife and children in Louisville, Kentucky.
Is failure always a bad thing? Not according to author Dan Dumas, who talks about helping his two sons evaluate risk-taking and persevere through failure.
Bob: You ever come down hard on one of your kids, only to recognize that maybe you came down a little too hard? Dan Dumas has.
Dan: When you get a little—there’s a little bit of anxiety and adrenaline flowing in the home, you kind of go for the big gun, you know: “You’ll never play Xbox® for the rest of your life until you’re 85.” [Laughter] You know, you make stupid extreme statements. How do you walk those back? Well, repentance is how you walk that stuff back and say, “Look, [tape rewinding sound] you know, I’m sorry. I make mistakes too.” They need to see that. That’s part of the ethos in our home: “You’re free to fail. You’re free to fail in our home.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. There are some pretty big things that we need to be teaching and modeling for our children. Confessing and repenting—well, those are a few of them.
We’ll talk about more today with our guest Dan Dumas. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you have a spiritual bucket list? Have you ever had a spiritual bucket list?
Dennis: You know, I haven’t until I read this book that we’re talking about today by Dan Dumas, Live Smart: Preparing for the Future God Wants for You. I’d really never thought of a spiritual bucket list.
Dan, welcome back, by the way.
Dan: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: Tell us what’s on your bucket—your spiritual bucket list.
Dan: Well, I can’t confess all of them—but being on FamilyLife.
Bob: Being on FamilyLife Today?.
Dan: Of course.
Bob: Was that on top? Was that number one or two?
Dennis: Whoa! That was well done. That was not rehearsed either. He did that off the cuff. [Laughter]
Dan: Now, some of mine would be a little bit different because I speak and preach. For example, I would love to speak at a major conference one day.
Dennis: I’ve got a feeling you will be doing that someday. Just in case our listeners haven’t heard us mention this, Dan is a recently appointed czar for adoption and foster care for the state of Kentucky. In your book, Live Smart, you talk about this idea of a bucket list. You also talk about not playing it safe.
Dennis: Why would we want to risk? What are you talking about here?
Dan: Well, I think, first off, risk is right; now, there’s good risk and there’s bad risk. So bad risk would be if we / the three of us decided to jump on a plane and go to Brazil, put on wind suits, and BASE jump without any training / without any instruction.
Dennis: That’s where guys jump off of tall mountains and then zip across the face of rocks.
Don: —with a body suit on.
Dennis: That’s not my style.
Don: Yes, that’s not good risk—
Bob: That would be a bad risk.
Don: Right. So then, you have to ask yourself, “What do you qualify as good risk?”
I think I stumbled on this early with—John Piper might have mentioned this / I’m not sure exactly the origin of it—but whoever it was—they said two things qualify as good risk. It has to be for the glory of God and it has to be for the good of others / for the glory of God and for the good of others. I’ve let that be the framework if we’re going to teach about risk.
Being risk-adverse is actually condemned in Scripture—so Luke 19—the parable of the minas; remember? He [landlord] calls his servants together. He gives them each a set of minas. He says, “I need you to invest them.” He’s going to go away to a far country. He comes back and calls them into reckoning. He calls three of the ten together and reckons with them. The first guy says: “I took my mina. I invested it and it returned tenfold.” What did he get?—more responsibility / he became in charge of ten cities—he was commended. The next guy comes and says, “Well, I’m not as competent / not as skilled, but I invested it; and I got five.” He said, “Okay; you’re going to be over five cities.”
The third guy—if you remember, he comes; and he’s all happy. You can kind of sense it in the text—you know, in the light spaces in the Scriptures. He comes and says: “Well I have my mina in a handkerchief. I didn’t do anything with it. I just kept it and preserved it. There it is; right there.” He produces it to Christ, who’s the landlord in the story. Well, I mean, what does Jesus do? He responds and condemns him for that—He said, “Take away his mina and give it to everyone else.” Why?—because he didn’t take risks.
There are risks that we should take, and we should model taking risks. You will always see me add the modifier, “Take more risks.” I think it’s a part of the Christian life to take risks on behalf of others and for the glory of God. I would just encourage, especially with young people, to take more risk; because I think, in the generation that I’m writing to, that they’re risk-adverse by nature. Helicopter parenting is going on—I mean, everything is just worrying about little Johnny / worrying about little Sally—
Dennis: “Don’t let them fail.”
Dan: Right; exactly: “Preserve them”; “Don’t let them have a bad experience”; “Don’t…see adversity.”
Where I’m just the opposite—I want them to do that in the context of my home. I don’t want them to have their first bad experience outside the home. I want them to fail under my influence and in my home; right?
Dennis: Is this move to work for the governor of the state of Kentucky, stepping out of the safety of a seminary, where you’re highly valued and esteemed as a great leader there—is that a big risk for you?
Dan: Absolutely; it was a big part of the decision; because I—you know, as I’m praying through it, I’m thinking: “I’m telling everybody else to take more risks. I write about taking risks, and I’m not taking risks. I’m a complete hypocrite.” I’m calling everybody else to take risks, and I don’t take it myself. So yes; it was a big part of it. It’s a risky enterprise, because think about it—it’s a one-year contract / renewable for two years—so three years. I gave up permanency and a career to do something for the vulnerable, which I don’t even have any guarantees after one year.
They could just say, “We’re done.” But it’s a worthy risk. Why? It’s for the glory of God—James 1:27—and it’s for the good of others—all those kids languishing in foster care, and the foster parents trying to figure out the system / the red tape—it’s horrible.
Dennis: If you succeed, think of what this could mean for the nation. There are 400,000 young people in the foster care system.
Dan: Yes; let me say it a little different: “Every two minutes in North America, a child goes into foster care,” / “Every two seconds… globally.” It’s a lot worse outside of the United States. We have to take care of our own home first, but I’m just saying it’s catastrophic.
Bob: You are raising two boys—and teenage boys—I mean, when it comes to taking risks, they’re notorious for taking risks; but they’re typically not calibrating the risks they’re taking with the qualifiers you put on it. They take risks that put their lives in danger. They’re not thinking about the glory of God or the good of others when they do it.
They’re just thinking, “This could give us a rush.” How do you help your sons think through risk-taking that is the kind of appropriate healthy risk-taking that you are talking about?
Dan: Yes; I think it’s a progression. I think you start out with taking smaller risks that—you know, you don’t just arrive at the most risky decision of your life. I’m doing that at 51 years old—one of the more risky moves of my career, to care for the vulnerable. That’s because there’s been a mound and a progression of smaller risk-taking.
I’ll give you an example. With my boys, we always talk about doing hard gospel things. We don’t like broccoli—the boys and I.
Dan: My wife makes this—we grilled out—she makes this big bowl of broccoli. The boys are younger / the youngest acts up. My wife takes him upstairs, because he said something back to my wife; and she’s going to discipline him. I look at that bowl of broccoli, and I look at Aiden, and I said, “What do leaders do?”
He said, “We do hard gospel things.” I said: “Yes, sir. You see that bowl of broccoli?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “We’re going to eat it.” He said, “All of it?” I said: “Yes, sir. We’re going to do it.” [Laughter] And you know what? We started eating that broccoli. It was like a wood chipper—stuff’s flying / we needed to get it down before they return. Wife comes down—nothing in the bowl. Jane says, “What happened to the broccoli?” And Aiden just proudly said: “We do hard things! That’s what leaders do.” [Laughter]
You think, “Well that’s kind of a silly illustration”; right? But it’s part of being intentional, starting out with the little things—it’s the lesser to the greater. I’m trying to prepare them, in my home, to do the big hard things.
Bob: When you talk about a gospel risk, what’s a gospel risk?
Dan: Well, I mean, one that is right in front of me would be for you to foster a child and to disrupt your orderly little house and the way things are set up is—that’s a massive risk. So, anything with a—I mean, caring for the widows / anything with the vulnerable.
Any of society’s maladies is what I’m trying to train them to be both aware of—to take risks / to give towards, even financially. So, you could deal with human trafficking—that’s a huge malady; abortion—that’s a huge malady / any of these things. I want them to be aware that it’s their responsibility to own it. Bullying—if there is a bully in school, I want them to protect the vulnerable.
I think another example is the willingness to have hard conversations. I think people avoid hard conversations; and, typically, the local church. That’s why we have church discipline. That’s a very hard thing to do.
Dan: It’s not fun but it’s the right thing: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” I want them to, socially, want to—when they see something out of the ordinary or sinful, they call it out in a gracious, winsome, loving way; but they do call it out—that’s a hard thing. Adopting a child is a hard thing. Supporting and serving other people—that kind of thing.
Bob: If you’re eight years old, and there’s an outcast in your class, going up and sitting with him at lunch may be a hard thing.
Bob: I mean, I’m trying to think in the context of our kids—the hard gospel things that they’re asked to do every day. Maybe, talking to a friend about Jesus—that may be a hard thing. Do a little evangelism—we’re all a little put off about that; right?
Dan: Totally. Like in the schools, especially, you’re called to be salt and light. You’re called to push back darkness and preserve the decay in society. You’re the culture’s conscience, in a lot of ways, as salt and light. So, for them to step up at school and to stand out—and maybe even, it could be lonely—I mean, stand up by themselves / that’s epic!
Bob: So, let me ask you: “If your kids—these are the kind of situations our kids are facing more often these days—if they’re in a classroom, and the conversation drifts into issues related to gender/sexuality, and the teacher is saying something that’s different than what Mom and Dad are saying at home, would you coach your son or your daughter in that situation to say, ‘I don’t agree with that,’ and to step up / raise your hand?
“Or would you say, ‘Keep your powder dry, keep your head down, take some notes and we’ll talk about it when you get home’?”
Dan: I haven’t thought about it; but I know, instinctively, I would teach them to be bold and to go back to the origin—how God made man and woman.
Dan: Right; absolutely.
Bob: —with the teacher—say, “I don’t think that’s right.”
Bob: Now, you’re also trying to teach respect for authority.
Bob: But it’s okay to challenge authority?
Dan: Yes; it’s okay to appeal and to do proper advocacy. Even in our own home, that’s what we do on Sunday nights. We have a time between—before they go off to youth group in the evening—where we kind of sit in the living room, and there’s advocacy. They can appeal discipline / they could appeal maybe response—there’s a time for complete confession.
Bob: The Peoples Court—is that what this is?
Dan: Well, it’s just kind of getting everything right before—it’s the first day of the week—so we kind of want to start the week off. By nature, because we’re gospel people, we’re repenters. I mean, we’re always asking forgiveness / we’re repenting all the time. I’ve eaten so much crow; it tastes like prime rib. I mean, this is kind of what we do—all day-long we are repenters—it’s what we do.
Bob: So, what you’re doing on Sunday night is not just the kids appealing or confessing; it is mom and dad doing it as well?
Dan: Absolutely—and to each other, making sure that Jane and I are right / we’re right with the kids—and we’re saying, “Look; maybe that was too harsh of a consequence for that thing”; because, you know, when you get a little—there’s a little bit of anxiety and adrenaline flowing in the home—you kind of go for the big gun, you know: “You’ll never play Xbox for the rest of your life until you’re 85.” [Laughter] You know, you make stupid extreme statements. How do you walk those back? Well, repentance is how you walk that stuff back and say, you know: “Look; I’m sorry. I make mistakes too.” They need to see that. They need to see—they know I’m crazy. They’re always laughing, like, “Our dad is so crazy!”
I think that’s part of our ethos in our home that: “You’re free to fail. You’re free to fail in our home.”
Bob: I love hearing you say that. We had a guest on FamilyLife Today, a number of years ago, who said something that I wish I’d heard at the beginning of my parenting journey rather than nearer the end; because he said, “Most Christians today are teaching their kids, through their activity, how to be sin avoiders and sin concealers—so: “Stay away from sin; and if you mess up, don’t let anyone know because you’ll get in big trouble.”
He said: “We are not teaching our kids how to be sin confessors and sin repenters, which is what they’re going to have to learn; because they’re going to mess up. They need to know what to do with it when they do—not just hide it so Mom and Dad don’t find out—but: ‘Here’s how you confess. Here’s how you repent. Here’s how you go on from that.”
I thought we didn’t do a good job when I was raising my kids. I wanted them to toe the line and behave. I don’t think we modeled confession and repentance well for them. I don’t think we made it necessarily a safe place for them to confess and repent.
Dennis: What I want to just point out here is this concept of playing it safe. What he’s doing by calling things out in the open is training his children to not play it safe but be open with other people.
Dennis: For instance, earlier, I had a meeting with a group of leaders, here, at FamilyLife. I had made a mistake that I needed to confess to them, and point out to them, and tell them that I was sorry. I had already done it in an email; but I felt like it needed to be done, face to face. The easiest thing to do, at that point, is to play it safe and say nothing; but as we train our children to, as you just talked about Bob—confess it, get it out in the open, let it be named and called what it is—there really is healing and wholeness in that.
It also teaches, I think, more of an understanding that our mistakes do impact other people. When you acknowledge your mistake and ask for forgiveness, you’re, in essence, putting ointment on that wound that you may have caused.
Dan: Absolutely. I also, as a discipline, whenever we’re at a fork in the road and we have a choice to go the hard way or easy street, we are constantly teaching them: “Choose the hard path.” Why?—because I want them to be risk-takers. It’s just another way— when we have an option—easy/hard—we default hard.
Bob: Go hard.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of a fork in the road that your boys faced of easy versus hard and how they did.
Dan: Yes; I mean, there was conflict at a neighbor’s house. We kind of debriefed and processed, and it seemed like it was kind of cleared up. Again, I wanted to make sure the full follow-up there—to circle back around. A lot of times, everybody comes to an agreement; but they actually never clear the air totally. I said: “We need to go back down there. You need to talk to the grandfather,”— who was there at the time—“and ask his forgiveness. You need to talk to the kids again.”
It was tough, because they were all having a big breakfast / it was a big family gathering. Something got out of control, and so they had to go back. I said: “I’ll go with you, but you’re going to walk in that house. We’re going to ring the doorbell. You’re going to go in, and you’re going to make sure you’re going to close the loop.”
Dennis: Yes; good.
Dan: Because a lot of times, we don’t close the loop—we say: “Yes; you’re right / you’re right—I see your vantage / I see your view. I see where you’re coming from.” But they never go back and fix it with everybody in the room.
I said: “I want you to have that experience. I want you to do the hard thing.” Even when we left, we drove back and I said, “How do you feel?” He said: “It feels like a burden’s been lifted. It feels lighter than it did before,” because you’ve got this awkwardness that fully wasn’t cleared, and the air wasn’t cleared.
Now, we could have—as far as everybody was concerned—because the people were / they were not believers—and so they were quick to: “Oh no; you don’t need to say anything, son! We forgive—it’s no big deal.” They were just minimizing. I said, “No; he has to do this.” I made him come into their, like, dining room—with everybody drops the fork—kind of—it was thick air; you know?
He did it—he owned it and made it right.
I noticed, later in the day, they were all playing basketball again. I’m not so sure they would have if I had not chosen the harder path for him to go reconcile with the whole family. I think he would have taken easy street, and just gone and played with some other kids at another house.
Bob: We started this conversation by talking about a gospel bucket list. That’s what led us into talking about doing hard things. If you’re coaching a middle school or high school kid to develop a gospel bucket list, what kinds of things would you say: “Here are some thoughts about things you might want to put on your bucket list, as a young man or as a young woman, who wants to live a life for Christ”?
Dan: Yes; I think, in the category of mission—so I would want them to be, at least, prayerful about: “Should I stay?” or “Should I go?” I want to put missions on their radar.
Bob: You’re talking about overseas.
Dan: Yes; I want them to, when they hit college age—maybe they should take a year off and go do a journeyman program, or something, or a gap-year kind of thing. I want to, at least, be on/in the decision-making process; and that’s a very hard thing—so: “Should they go overseas?” or “Should they stay?” I think we always ask, “Lord, if You want us to go, open the door.” I think, in some ways, we should probably be parenting, “Lord, our kids are going, and You’re going to have to stop them,”—kind of reverse that / flip that model.
Dennis: [Laughter] I like that!
Dan: That would be a category.
I think, for sure, a list of people they’re praying for / that they want to share the gospel with; because, I think, if you’re praying for people to share the gospel with them, they are going to be on your heart; because you prayed for them that morning. Then, you ran into them at the lunchroom—you’re just going to be tuned in / you’re going to be aware, and you’re going to take advantage of the opportunities when you’re deeply concerned and praying for them.
Opportunities to speak: that could be in a speech class / just kind of looking for and kind of creating opportunities.
Again, what I’m trying to do is to get them to see risk as normal and right. The only thing risky is not taking risks; right?—playing it safe. I want them to feel the normalcy of taking risks—but not in these massive things—but in little things. The accumulation of those are going to set them up for that time where it’s the right time and the right place and their private faith is going to be on full public display. It’s going to require all the audacity—kind of an Elijah moment on Mt. Carmel, where it is 750 to 1.
Dan: Again: “Add the water.” “No; no; no,”—kind of deal—“Get some more water. Soak it good”; you know. He calls out the prophets of Baal—that is the moment. And remember about Elijah—the New Testament comments on Elijah—and what does it say? He was an ordinary man, just like us.
Bob: You don’t come to those Mt. Carmel moments and think, “Okay; now’s the time I’m going to have to learn to take risks.”
You better have taken some small risks, along the way, or you will fail on your Mt. Carmel moment; won’t you?
Dennis: I appreciate you, Dan, being on our broadcast and just exhorting parents to get their heads up. Undoubtedly, there are some moms and dads / maybe grandparents, who look at their children / grandchildren and think: “I don’t have a gospel list. I don’t even know what you’re talking about there.”
Well, it could be a simple visit to the rest home. Maybe it’s getting involved in a section of your community that has a lot of single parent moms who need help / widows who need things repaired. Take your son/daughter with you—engage / show compassion. I know one mom of a teenage girl, when she was getting in a funk, she said: “Come on. Let’s go visit some elderly people at the rest home.” She said, “Invariably, that would cheer my daughter up,” and learned a powerful principle that, when you give your life away, you find life yourself.
That’s really what you’re doing in your book, Live Smart. I’m excited to watch what you’re going to be doing in the state of Kentucky. I look forward to having you back as a guest on FamilyLife Today and hear more about how to live smart and how to make an impact in your world where you live. Thanks for being on the broadcast, Dan.
Dan: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Bob: I was thinking this book would be a great follow-up for parents who did a Passport2Identity™ getaway with their son or their daughter. Passport2Identity is the follow-up that we created to Passport2Purity®.
I know a lot of our listeners took their kids through a Passport2Purity weekend. Passport2Identity is for 14-/15-year-old’s, talking about who they are, and who God made them to be, and how they can embrace their spiritual identity. Going on a getaway like that and then going through a book like Live Smart— that would be a great exercise for parents and for kids. We’ve got copies of Dan’s book, Live Smart, and copies of the Passport2Identity resource in our Family Life Today Resource Center.
You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to order any of these resources from us, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, we are excited about the month of August, here, at FamilyLife. The reason is because we have an opportunity, this month, to see the reach of this ministry expanded in a pretty significant way. We’ve had some friends of the ministry who’ve come along and said that they will match every donation we receive this month, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $800,000. When your donation is matched with a donation from these other friends, what that does is—that enables us to reach more people.
We did some calculations recently—found it takes about $8—I think the number was $8.24 to reach 1,000 people. Well, when you donate $8.24 this month, our friends who are matching your donation will add their $8.24; and we’ll reach 2,000 people. That’s our goal—we want to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families all around the world. Let me ask you to go online today and make a donation to support the work of FamilyLife—help us reach more people during the month of August. You can donate, online, at FamilyLIfeToday.com; or you can call if you prefer. Our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Bob: And with that, we got to wrap things up this week. Thanks for being with us. I hope you have a great weekend.
Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to hear a great message from Tim Lundy who talks about what it was like growing up in a blended family and some of the things he’s learned and has coached other blended families on to help them face some of the challenges. Hope you can tune in for that, or maybe you know somebody who you’d like to invite to tune in—do that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch. We’ve gotten help this week from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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