Fatherhood and Family with Jeremy Pryor
Inside This Episode
Family Teams Coach Jeremy Pryor returns to Maybe God for an in-depth follow up to his popular 2022 episode, “Redefining Family.” This go-round, Jeremy and Eric dive into the Western world’s preoccupation with freedom, the resulting fatherly disengagement from family life, population decline, and the many solutions found within the biblical model of family.
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Julie Mirlicourtois: On this episode of Maybe God, Family Teams coach, Jeremy Pryor, is back, this time in person in our Maybe God studio, taking a deeper look at the role of fathers in modern Western culture. Jeremy explains why he believes fathers are struggling to find meaning and significance at home, and why it's imperative that we return to a more biblical view of motherhood and fatherhood.
Eric Huffman: My heart beats faster when you talk about family the way you do. And I think it's because it scratches an itch for me. I think it does for a lot of men.
Jeremy Pryor: If you go to places in the world where the biblical idea of family as a team multi-generationally is really embraced, men are actually more excited about family than women. I've lived in the Middle East and it is crazy. I'll talk to Jewish fathers, Arab shopkeepers, and they cannot shut up about their kids. I mean, they're so excited about family.
But what is different is that in the nest version of the family, there really isn't a place for what I think of as the father coach, right? In a team, you need a coach. And thank God, God's created this being called a man who really enjoys coaching and what that entails.
So what often happens in our culture is that men who have this drive for team, they try to fulfill that drive other places. But the last place that most men in our culture would think to find a fulfillment for that passion, that desire, the way they're wired is in their own family.
Julie Mirlicourtois: That's today on Maybe God.
Eric Huffman: Today we've got a very special guest with us here in the studio in Houston, Texas. He comes all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio or the Cincinnati area. Jeremy Pryor leads a ministry called Family Teams along with his wife, April, and their friends, Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke.
Jeremy, April, and two of their amazing daughters spent all day yesterday with us here in Houston at my church, The Story Church, leading an incredible workshop for the families of our church. And I can't wait to tell you all about that. Jeremy was also featured on a 2022 episode of Maybe God. So welcome back to the Maybe God podcast, Jeremy Pryor.
Jeremy Pryor: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Eric.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, man. Glad you're here. Thanks for making the time.
Jeremy Pryor: Love being here. Love Houston. This is a new city for us. So yeah. Got to see some of the sites. It's awesome.
Eric Huffman: Houston's a hidden gem, I think.
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah, it's beautiful.
Eric Huffman: So you came to do this workshop with our families, and I had never seen anything like it before. Honestly, didn't even know what it would be like and what a blessing it would be to so many families of our church. We had a good turnout for it. Just tell me your sort of takeaways from that experience and what you set out to do and how it went.
Jeremy Pryor: Well, we first just tried to introduce people to the fact that there's a question that they probably never have asked in their lives, which is what kind of family do we want to build? So we always start there and talk about that we, in the West at least, pretty much have only been introduced to one kind of family.
So then we talk about there's another one. So the kind that we're used to is the nest, the springboard for individual success. We introduced them to the idea that the scriptures talk about the family as a multi-generational team on a mission. But the problem is that if you change the philosophy of family, the theology of family that you're trying to build, you're going to open your toolbox and it's going to be empty.
And every tool we have in our culture really assumes that families are building these springboards for individual success that we're hitting the reset button every generation. So building a multi-generational family requires new tools. And so we want to make sure that if somebody makes that decision, here are some tools that will really help transform your family into a multi-generational team. So we introduced some of those tools and yeah, that's our workshop.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, in a nutshell. , to sort of bring along folks that have no background with you or family teams, let's talk about what exactly you just said. Because you said a lot there and in a few words. You were brief, but there was a lot packed in. You said there's two ways of looking at family. You said there's the nest and then there's what?
Jeremy Pryor: The team.
Eric Huffman: The team. And the purpose of the nest is, generally speaking, to prepare or... what's the wording you use?
Jeremy Pryor: Springboard or launch. You know, we talk about launching kids, failure to launch. Those are all metaphors that make complete sense because of the Western idea of family.
Eric Huffman: Yeah. So the goal is to basically successfully launch individuals that become productive members of society out into the world. At which point the nest becomes obsolete and empty? I mean, that's what we say.
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah. Empty nest. What do we do? Let's go to Florida.
Eric Huffman: Which is honestly, it's kind of a depressing analogy but it's an apt analogy for the way most people look at family. Do you think it's wrong to look at family that way?
Jeremy Pryor: I don't think it's consistent with its design. I think our thesis for why the family breaks down so consistently in the West. So we had to have a thesis, first of all. I mean, everyone, we need to have one because something's gone terribly wrong. I think Pew Research just released recently their report that the United States is the number one country in the world in single-parent families.
Eric Huffman: Is that like raw data or is that per capita?
Jeremy Pryor: That's per capita.
Eric Huffman: Really?
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah. They say like if you compare every other country, there's just not a percentage of single-parent families like we have in America, in our country. We're the number one. That's astonishing, really.
As I was looking at that research, and I didn't know that this was true. I knew something was wrong. Obviously, you grow up here and you're like, "Wow, there's a lot of brokenness in families." And the idea of a dysfunctional family or a functional family is sort of like a joke. It's like, of course, every family is dysfunctional.
When you assume that, you have to ask the question, is that really true or are we just not aware of how this is designed? You know, if you have anything that just constantly malfunctions, you have to ask, am I using it according to its original design? And I think that's the problem. That's our thesis, that we don't actually understand it.
It's designed to be something essentially different than the way we're using it. We're using these words, family, father, mother, parent, you know, child, all of these words as if we understand them at their original design. This is where I believe that Christians have an advantage because when something breaks so badly, we have a source document. We can go back to the actual origin story of this entity called the family, just in the same way you would want to do that with the church or other things the scriptures talk about.
So, if you believe in divine revelation, why not go back to the scriptures, if this is broken, to find if maybe we've left the path and have been pursuing the wrong design of family.
Eric Huffman: So, your theory, your hypothesis is that part of the reason families are so evidently broken in America is because we're not using them right, or we're not pursuing them for what they're designed for?
Jeremy Pryor: Yes.
Eric Huffman: So, obviously, the outcomes are going to be all over the place, going to be broken. What we're doing is not what it's for. So, the model we're fixated on is the nest model that is supposedly designed to springboard individuals. If it's not that, then you're saying it must be the team model. What's different about the team model?
Jeremy Pryor: So, the team model is suggesting that there is something the family's supposed to do together, that there's an interdependent, different roles in the family and we're actually not for ourselves, but we're aiming at something else. So, any team has to know, what does it mean to play the game. What does it mean to score? What is the championship?
Obviously, we understand that in our culture, in the team environment, but families don't function that way. We don't work together. This is historically very strange, actually. If you look at most places in the world, most times in history, families had to work together just to survive.
So, what happened was that we entered into a culture in which we didn't need to work together. We could atomize the family into its individual units and all go off doing our own thing, and we would not starve, we would survive. But what doesn't survive in that model is the family. There's something systemically broken at that point with the family.
Eric Huffman: Well, yeah. And it's really sad to watch, actually. When you think about it, I've worked in nursing homes. Man, talk about some appalling outcomes of the nest model. Once the nest is empty, people living in it are pretty much just biding their time until they die. And what do the ones that have been springboarded, the individuals, the successful individuals, what do they owe the nest at that point?
And man, unless you've been in nursing homes and seen people spend their last years utterly alone and forgotten, put out to pasture, you might not grasp how grave a situation it is to have families living the way they are. It's not working.
Jeremy Pryor: Right. Hyperindividualism looks like it works when you're only looking at the most functional individuals. But as soon as you look at vulnerable individuals, the children, the older people, people with special needs, it breaks down badly.
Eric Huffman: My heart beats faster when you talk about family the way you do. And I think it's because it scratches an itch for me. I think it does for a lot of men. There's something sort of native to me about it that gets me excited. It's as simple as talking about it as a team. Like what guy doesn't get excited about team sports? It's something innate in us that wants that and craves it and responds to it that's so much better than how we look at family.
But it's really hard for guys to figure out how to put the pieces together and establish a new family order. But I watched you do your workshop at my church yesterday, and I saw men come alive as you did in ways men don't usually come alive in church meetings, if we're honest.
Usually, 80% of the questions at a gathering where women and men are at church are from women. Women are usually more engaged, and men are just checking their watches and hoping it ends soon. And that wasn't the case with you. What do you think is going on with men at workshops like yours?
Jeremy Pryor: Well, I think that a lot of what this nest model, it explains why there is an estrangement or dissonance that men often feel towards family. And they don't know why. So you really have a couple of responses men can have to that dissonance. They can say, well, just do your duty.
Because if you think about the nest, it is really a maternal sort of image. It's like what children really need is just nurturing. They just need to be loved and accepted and then they're going to go off and do their own thing, and we won't see them again and the whole thing self-destructs. There's something about that that just does not resonate with men.
Men want to play long-term games. They want to see real progress made. They're not excited about something that's going to self-destruct, and that while you're waiting for that to happen, your primary role is as a nurturer. But that's what we've given men to be excited about.
So what I've pointed out just sociologically is that if you go to places in the world where the biblical idea of family as a team multi-generationally is really embraced, men are actually more excited about family than women. And people don't realize this until like... you know, I've lived in the Middle East, and it is crazy. I'll talk to Jewish fathers, Arab shopkeepers, and they cannot shut up about their kids. I mean, it's like they're so excited about family.
I think that they have a fundamentally different way of viewing it that does get men excited. It doesn't leave women out. I mean, there's an incredibly important role. And that maternal nurturing role is just as critical in the team version of the family. But what is different is that in the nest version of the family, there really isn't a place for what I think of as the father coach.
In a team, you need a coach. And thank God, God's created this being called a man who really enjoys coaching and what that entails, which is to really raise the bar of expectation while supporting those teammates. So what often happens in our culture is that men who have this drive for team, they find that they try to fulfill that drive other places. They follow sports teams, they-
Eric Huffman: Coach Little League.
Jeremy Pryor: Coach Little League. They'll find it at work. Well, they'll coach a team to success in a competitive environment. They love that. And I think that men are really wired for that in various arenas. But the last place that most men in our culture would think to find a fulfillment for that passion, that desire, the way they're wired is in their own family. But historically, that's where they found it. So I think that we need to really give that back to fathers and help them understand.
So what happens in these workshops is once a father can see, Oh, this is the arena that I was built for, that changes everything. This does create that moment where the hearts of the fathers suddenly turn back to the children. That's a reference to Malachi 4, the very last verses of the Old Testament. We're told that if the fathers do not turn their hearts towards their children and children towards the fathers, then God says, "I'm gonna come and strike the land with a curse of destruction." I think that's what we're enduring.
You have to unite those hearts. And I think that the estrangement that fathers and children are experiencing is a result of just this model that basically defines the father out of the picture of the family.
Eric Huffman: Everybody knows there's a masculinity crisis, or at least they've heard of it. Everybody knows, as you said, there's a massive family crisis. You're saying those things are innately connected.
Jeremy Pryor: They are, yes.
Eric Huffman: So is that why you feel such a burden to speak so directly to men?
Jeremy Pryor: Yes. Yeah. I just picture where I would be right now. I have a pretty clear understanding of the kind of father I would be if I had not encountered this other idea of family. And it terrifies me, honestly.
Eric Huffman: How would you be?
Jeremy Pryor: I had very little interest in children. I was very excited to build things outside of my home. I resonate very deeply with men that are driven to do that. I encountered this idea that, no, your primary team that you were built to lead is your own family. So it changed my heart so dramatically into wanting to have children, wanting to lead my family, and seeing everything I was doing outside the home. All of my activity and work, was really a subset of family to me. I started to see myself primarily as a father.
And I really learned this from Abraham. Abraham, I think, is uniquely put forward in Scripture as sort of a metafather, as a model for not the perfect father, but a model for how God interacts with the whole concept of fatherhood. It's right there in the Hebrew. "Avram" means exalted father or metafather. Literally, that's what it means.
So you're reading it in Hebrew... and I really encountered this while I was studying ancient Hebrew and I was blown away by that. I started to think about him in that way. That's really the way that Jewish fathers approach fatherhood. They primarily approach it through the lens of Abraham.
So when I started to do that, I began to realize that work is not something that I do as an individual. It's something that a father does to fuel his family team. Once I saw that, I got super excited about it. All this stuff got integrated. I could work just as hard at work as I would before, but not as an individual, not to find an identity outside my family, but I was working hard in the workplace as a father. And it did impact some of the details of how I went about doing that. But that level of integration I began to feel allowed me to never feel this disintegration with my family.
Eric Huffman: You said earlier that you are afraid that you know exactly what kind of father you would be without having discovered this breakthrough. I'm picturing you in a shed out back with a sixer.
Jeremy Pryor: Yes, exactly.
Eric Huffman: Is that what you're talking about?
Jeremy Pryor: Right. I would say that my natural state as a father is probably encapsulated by being distant, being distracted, and being emotionally unavailable. That's what I wanna be. I think that I do resist those things. And it's not because I'm trying to do my duty as a father. Oh, that's a bad father. I chose to have these kids. Darn it, I better just do my duty. That's not the way I think.
I was discussing this during the workshop. There's a little thought experiment that I worked through a couple of weeks ago that helped me kind of as I'm trying to understand that... we should not be telling dads to do their duty. We should not tell them to love their kids more. That's not the essence of the problem.
Imagine if a coach was recruited into a top-tier college football program, and during the first couple of years while he's there, the president comes and says, "You know what? We're not gonna compete for the championship anymore. I mean, that's overrated. But you're gonna keep playing. We'll keep funding the program. Keep doing your best." "Oh, okay. All right. Well, no more championship."
Then a couple of years later, the league comes and says, "You know, we're not gonna keep scoring anymore. But keep playing the games. But we're not gonna know who won or who lost." "Oh, okay. We'll keep playing the games."
But if you can imagine the heart of the coach is getting further and further distant from his players, from the whole idea. Then a couple of years later, the president comes and says, "Hey, we're not gonna play games anymore but I want you to keep practicing as a team."
I think what would happen eventually down this path is you'd suddenly start to see this coach coming late to practice, leaving early, thinking about other teams, following other sports, not being interested, on his phone, being distracted. Now, you could go to that dad, to that coach in that environment and say, "You know what? You should be more dutiful. Like, try harder. Show up every single day for this practice that has no point, where there really is no team, there is no score, there is no championship."
And that's what we've done to dads. We told them that the problem is that they just need to do their duty. And that is not the problem. The problem is that they are coaching teams and no one has told them that they're actually leading a team. So we have to create that paradigm shift. And once you do, it is amazing. You kind of watch the eyes of fathers light up and like, Oh, oh my gosh, that's what I was built for."
Eric Huffman: Yeah. Because I think, I mean, not to.... what I'm about to say could sound whiny. I don't mean to. But it feels like the nest model creates a situation where fathers are basically treated as substitute mothers or deficient mothers.
Jeremy Pryor: Exactly.
Eric Huffman: Like, when mom's not around, well, I guess it's my turn to make dinner. Oh, look at Dad trying to make dinner like Mom. You know, you see that a lot in advertisements and things, and no guy responds to that. We don't want to feel like we're just, you know, not good at what we're supposed to be doing. Or it feels like foreign territory, the nest, feels like an away game of sorts and it's unsettling. But we don't bring that up just to, again, whine about it. We bring it up because there's something better. There's something better out there to pursue it. I think the great majority of you guys are not clear on... You're not aware of.
Let's talk a little bit about what's happening with culture and masculinity. Obviously, I mentioned some of the ads before. But what are you seeing like 2023 in terms of masculinity in our culture? I know we went through MeToo. And everybody was talking about the implications of that with masculinity, but what's happening right now?
Jeremy Pryor: Well, I think one of the things that is very confusing to our culture is how do you define masculinity? That's how we talked about defining family. It's tough. It's tough to know what is a woman, what is a man. What do we do as Christians with this? And I would say that there's been two theses that have been put forward in terms of how to define what a gender or why are there gender. Why should we care about? Because you can't get to masculinity without understanding gender femininity.
So I would say the two ideas that are primarily in ascendancy is, is that gender is a social construct. Society can decide what a man is, what a woman is. That's very fluid because, you know, if I can grab the levers of culture, I can transform forever what we think masculine femininity is. I think there is a power grab going on to say like, we want it to be as equal as possible and so we're going to redefine these things. That's what's happening in many university campuses.
Then I would say there has been a counter-thesis that's been offered, which is that gender is essentially biological and you can't escape it. And so you have to look at the underlying biology of what makes a male a male, what makes a female a female. It's been, you know, a lot of interest in looking at primates and try to get to bedrock.
I have a lot of sympathy for the second thesis because I think that they're actually trying to tether these ideas to something real, as opposed to something that we can make up and it can be seized by any political movement, which the first thesis is really susceptible to.
But there is a third thesis, which I've never heard. And I can't believe it. I'm like, this is to me, the most obvious one for at least a Christian. And that is that we have to go back to, Okay, God made this decision. We know exactly when He made the decision to make male and female. It's right there in Genesis 1.
So when you read, when God decided to make male and female, you can see that what He created was a family. And He says to that first family... so He creates male and female in the image of God, and then in verse 28 of chapter 1, He says, He blesses this first family and says, be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule.
Now, when I look at that, I think that gender is at its origin a family construct. The whole reason for gender is because there's a particular kind of team that God wanted to create that would actually be responsible for these five things: to be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, and rule. So that is our mission, our mandate.
So if you look at male and female, you can really see why they're so critical for that team to exist, right? How could you be fruitful? How could you multiply? Obviously, it's critical to have children, but it's also critical to create the proper structure through which God wants to see His creation ruled and expanded.
So gender is, I think, in essence, and I think we can prove this definitively from our theology, that it's a family construct. I think the problem that our culture has with that is that, wait a minute, what about people that aren't a part of families, right? I think there's sort of like this breakdown, what I described is that we're the number one country in the world of single-parent families. It feels terrible at some level for a society that is experiencing such family breakdown to root gender in family. What about young boys and girls?
So part of what I think we as believers have to say to the culture is treat every boy like an aspiring father. Treat every young girl like an aspiring mother, even if they grow up and decide to stay single. Paul himself, who was famously single, he constantly talked about himself as a father. I don't think anybody gets away from this. I think every man and woman is a future mother or father, either spiritually or physically. And I think that's a good thing, but I think the society doesn't like that.
We find those roles problematic. In fact, there was this thing that happened last year where a publisher of Roald Dahl's books decided to get rid of all the problematic, insulting words, these offensive words that were in his books, Charlie and Chocolate Factory, all these amazing books that he wrote. And two of those words were father and mother. They were considered as offensive words.
Eric Huffman: Who made that decision? The publisher?
Jeremy Pryor: The publisher, yeah. And there was a huge backlash and they decided to kind of like Classic Coke, we're going to have the classic version that you can still get the offensive words like father and mother. But I think that to me just illustrates the level of intense frustration and real concern that our culture has with these gender categories being family-based. We don't like it.
And you even have, in some places, legislation being passed, and this is, I think, going to become very popular, where you get rid of father and mother, and you have parent one and parent two. And I think what's happening with this movement, what I don't think people realize, and this is why I'm bringing this up when we talk about masculinity, is I think if we do remove the ability to tether masculinity and femininity from fatherhood and motherhood, we will cease to understand it.
Eric Huffman: Understand what?
Jeremy Pryor: Understand what a man or woman is. We will not know what those things are. Because the reason why... I mean, you're stronger as a man. Why? Because part of your job as a future father, as a father, is to protect a family.
Eric Huffman: 100%.
Jeremy Pryor: And so you have a drive to provide. You have a drive to provide purpose. All of these elements I think are innate to masculinity. And then, of course, you go to femininity, and you see there is a natural, biological drive for nurturing. And that's incredibly important and beautiful. That's something that we actually want to accentuate.
But the problem with that is if you accentuate that in a young girl, you will make it more difficult for her to compete with a man in the workplace. We've made a cultural decision that that's a superior value, to ensure that there's equality between that young woman and that young man in the workplace means. That we have to eliminate this distinctive.
Eric Huffman: Because the family was oppressive.
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah. The family is essentially a patriarchal institution that has oppressed women. And that's the belief system that we're really wrestling with. That's why anyone with that basic assumption will never want to root the whole idea of the foundation of gender, tether it to the family.
Eric Huffman: But, I mean, let's flesh it out. I mean, first of all, I love, love the idea of gender as a family construct. Because I think it's just Jesus's way to not give in to one narrative or the other. The world always gives a binary narrative, right? It's either gender is a social construct or gender is a scientific construct. Those are the two roads. And Jesus is like, no, let me give you the right road. It's a third road. And it's just what He does over and over again in every issue.
And I love the idea that gender is a family construct. I think it's a tough sell in this world because the narrative around family is so negative. Part of the reason it's so negative is like in times past, things were technically unequal, I guess, and pretty harsh, especially for women in many instances. Although I could make a case that it was even more harsh for men in other ways, right? It was a partnership. That's what you're saying.
Jeremy Pryor: Yes.
Eric Huffman: But I just want to make sure, because I know that people are listening, are you proposing that the best path forward for family is to go backward into times when I guess it was more normal for women to be under a man's thumb or subjugated in some way that was less than good for them?
Jeremy Pryor: Right. That's a huge challenge. An example is when a woman gets pregnant and is about to have a baby, she is more vulnerable than a man. Period. So how do you change that? Imagine the social engineering that would be required to stop that vulnerability from occurring.
I mean, you can either completely disrupt that, and I think that that's what we're trying to do, or you can accept it as part of the natural design and say that, yes, it is true that when a woman gets pregnant and is about to have an infant, especially if she's going to have multiple pregnancies and multiple infants and care for multiple children, she needs a certain kind of man. And if she doesn't get that kind of man, then she is in a uniquely difficult and vulnerable situation.
So as a culture, we honor that by thinking about how do we create a culture in which men are loving towards women, men are faithful towards women, men will provide and protect for women in those vulnerable situations. I think that's a better... these are our choices. You can either do that or you can attempt to make women invulnerable during those natural situations. I don't know how you do that without... I mean, I think that we're seeing some of the implications of that.
The real people who lose in that are not women, but children. Because once you make women invulnerable during those situations, that you attempt to do that through, hey, she can leave him at any time, she can get her, you know, his wages, like all the different things that incentivize divorce when things get tough, it's always children who suffer the most in those situations.
Eric Huffman: Yes, short-term for sure. And I think longer term, there's even greater implications to this anti-family narrative, which is, you know, civilization and population issues that I think we're going to see. And it scares me how much of the rhetoric in society, whether it's about the environment or whether it's, you know... I almost said creation care. That those folk wouldn't say creation care, they would say climate change or whatever. How much that conversation flows into anti-human, anti-children, having babies is hateful and anti-earth or whatever. I don't think people play it out in their heads and see where it leads.
Jeremy Pryor: Have you seen this statistic that it takes, I think... so Korea is the place where there's where population... where women are having the least number of children. So currently they're estimating that it will take a hundred Koreans to make four great-grandchildren. That's how fast population can collapse. People don't understand that.
Eric Huffman: My brain's not processing.
Jeremy Pryor: A hundred Koreans to make four great-grandchildren.
Eric Huffman: Oh, I see. Okay.
Jeremy Pryor: So what people don't realize is that in the same way that when you're looking at exponential curves, which occurs with multiplication, right? Let's say you're living in a world where the average woman is having five children. That's an exponential multiplication. You can see after two, three, four generations... There's actually a couple in the old city of Jerusalem that recently died. But when the man died, they had 1,500 living descendants, and when his wife died, they had over 2,000 living descendants.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Jeremy Pryor: So that's called an exponential curve of multiplication towards... because Israel is the one Western country in the world where we don't see the population collapse beginning. But Korea is sort of like ground zero. So you can imagine what happens in four generations. If it takes a hundred Koreans to make four great-grandchildren, what is their society going to look like in a hundred years? It's apocalyptic what's going to happen in that society.
And it's not just that society. It's virtually every Western place is experiencing this level of population collapse. So I think this goes all the way back to our previous conversation. You must honor motherhood. That is a basic necessity for any culture to survive. We have spent the last 50 years absolutely tearing motherhood apart.
Women have been taught that this is essentially, you're giving into this patriarchal institution, that you're selling yourself short, that you need to compete with men, you need to become more masculine. We have not even begun to reap what we have sown, but we're going to see it. Our children will see it.
Eric Huffman: Yeah. It's really sad. I'm always encouraging people probably ad nauseam to be having more babies, like younger couples and families. I just think people need to be having as many babies and raising them. I would say raising them right.
Jeremy Pryor: Well, one of the challenges though is that if you have a Western idea of family, okay, this is something we discussed yesterday. So imagine you're doing the nest thing. You're thinking, okay, this is a springboard for individual success. Every child you have in that paradigm of family is really competing for the same number of resources. In other words, the same pie gets divided in smaller and smaller pieces to the children.
So you can see this happening where, oh, sorry, honey, we can't take you to basketball practice because we got to take your brother to soccer practice. We don't have as much money to send you to college because we gave it all to your sister, whatever it is. This is the way the Western family is designed. So this creates an inevitable sibling rivalry.
Now imagine the difference between that paradigm and thinking that you're a team. So what happens on teams is when all of a sudden somebody joins your team that has a different role than you have, but is helping the team succeed, a different set of gifts that's going to propel us further? That creates a sense of belonging. "I can't wait to get to be with this person. This is amazing that God blessed our family with this new teammate."
This is why it's so important because what I've noticed is that when people do shift from a nest idea of family to a team idea of family, it's not just that they want to have more children. It makes complete sense. But it's one of the first times they've ever heard an argument for why to have more children in a way that's not going to ultimately detract from the children they already have or the smaller family that they were assuming they wanted.
So one of the things I always love to ask... and I have to really know somebody well before I can ask this question. But you can reverse engineer anyone's family philosophy simply by asking them to tell you how many children do they want to have and why. You'll immediately know what they think a family is, right? Because if they say, well-
Eric Huffman: Man-to-man defense versus...
Jeremy Pryor: Exactly. Like, what is it? Like, well, we want a boy and a girl. Why?
Oftentimes what you'll hear is some kind of personal reason that is like, okay, how much money do we have? What are our desires? What are we trying to live out our experience as a couple? That is the basis of the majority of how a Western couple thinks about when to have children, how many children to have.
Eric Huffman: Sure. It just feels like the only way to think about it.
Jeremy Pryor: Right. What else is there? I'm not faulting that. I think it's completely consistent with that idea of family. But you have to understand that if you did think of family as a team, then all of a sudden it doesn't make sense to prevent having children in larger numbers.
You see this being reflected in Psalm 127, where it says that children are reward. They're like warriors in a young man's hand. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. That's a very different idea that we're essentially creating an army, right? And if you think that way, then it changes the whole calculation about why you would want to have children.
So I think part of the discussion about family size, we think that we're all having the same conversation, but we're not. We had to start with what is a family. We got to start there. And then you can have that conversation.
Eric Huffman: And there's so many questions. I think obviously the general idea that all my questions sort of fall under is this idea of how to transition our families from where they are to what you're proposing from nest to team, in particular, a team on a mission. Part of the challenge is ideological, I think, because that raises a lot of concerns for modern people. Like what you're proposing is patriarchal. Patriarchy is a bad word in modern-day parlance. And it's true. Not all coaches are created equal. You can have-
Jeremy Pryor: Very unequal.
Eric Huffman: You can have some great player-centered coaches that have their players best interest at the heart. And then you can have, I don't know... who's a bad example? Lane Kiffin or, I don't know, these guys with bad reputation, Bobby Knight, who just passed away or whatever, that aren't the kind of guys that we would necessarily want to look up to. So what is your positive spin on this? How do you respond to somebody who says, what you're calling men to be is just bullies and bosses?
Jeremy Pryor: Well, I think it is important to define what a good coach is. My favorite example of this by far is... so Daniel Coyle wrote a book called The Culture Code, which I think is the best parenting book of all time. It's not a parenting book or a fatherhood book. It's a book basically for business. And it's basically defining what good coaching is.
They did this amazing amount of research where they controlled for all kinds of variables and tried to figure out who succeeded the most as a coach of any other coach in the history of sports. And there was one example that just sort of popped to the top, which is Popovich, right? He's from Missouri, I think. But they describe his coaching as high demand, high support at the same time. So this idea that you raise the bar on expectation, but you also raise the bar on belonging. Daniel talks about this a lot in the book. It's a great explanation of this.
I think we do need to train men to be good coaches. And I think that most of us tend to be wired either as high demand, low support, or high support, low demand, right? So you have the father who's high demand. "Hey, you can never be a B plus, what's your problem?" It's so hard to get them to ever say an encouraging word to their kids.
But then, of course, you have the high-support, low-demand dads, which are, I think, almost considered the good dads of today. Everyone gets a trophy, playful. There's no reason for you to raise the bar on your kids. But the problem is that a high-support, low-demand dad actually creates an underperforming child, an underperforming team. And a high demand, low support really creates a team where there's a lack of belonging, a lack of love, a lack of that nurturing. But to have both is the ultimate advantage.
The ultimate privilege in the Western society is having a dad who can do this. If you were raised by a father who knew how to do this well, you always feel like you belonged. He always takes you back. He loves you.
Eric Huffman: I know those guys when I meet them.
Jeremy Pryor: So part of what I'm concerned about is, as believers, we should be training these kinds of dads. Again, I think most of us are built for this. I know all of us have a tendency. I tend to be a low-expectation, high-support kind of dad. So it's taken me a lot of work to try to figure out how do I raise the bar. My intuitions are really bent towards just acceptance, belonging. But I know that that is hurting my children. I know that they could become something much better if I could personally overcome this tendency to not raise that bar high enough for them.
But we do have to, again, it kind of goes back to our original conversation, which is we have to define masculinity. We have to understand that there is a performance element to masculinity that we need to accept. Especially in light of the gospel, it's not a performance idea that really dominates everything else.
We want to make sure that it's couched inside of, you are always a part of this family. You will always be a son or a daughter. You belong here, and we always accept you as a part of this family. You're not going to get fired.
Eric Huffman: But it's also, you're made to be a father. That's the overarching message to me, is that's what I heard earlier. When you said we should be training fathers to be these kinds of fathers, I'm like, what you said earlier is we should be training all men to be these kinds of fathers. Whether they're actually becoming fathers biologically or not, that's what they're made for, and that's what the masculine gender looks like.
Jeremy Pryor: That's kind of the origin, too, of these rites of passage that you see in older cultures. The whole point of a rite of passage is that often what would happen, especially in more primitive cultures, is the children would be with the women, and then all of a sudden the men would come in and pull these young boys out of the clutches of their mothers. Thank you for what you've done, but we have to make this child into a man. The survival of our tribe depends on it.
What these men would do is they would definitely raise the bar. They would give them a challenge that was going to help them completely identify as a man. But then once they overcame that challenge, they would be brought in fully into their role as a member of the tribe, as a man of the tribe. They would know who they are, and they wouldn't be struggling.
A lot of this endless adolescence we're experiencing is really dangerous. A lot of people are looking at the TikTok and all these problems, what we call failure to launch or whatever that was happening with young men who are getting addicted, and we're just pumping them full of pornography. This is so devastating, because there's no understanding that this actually matters to our culture as a whole.
This is where I feel like as believers, as salt and light in the culture, we are tethered to divine wisdom. We have access to revelation that allows us not to go down this path. But if you look at the current makeup of society, because Western culture has one value that is the preeminent value, which is freedom, we just got to give more freedom, more freedom to do whatever you want to do on the internet, take whatever substances you want to take. That will cure society.
That is a basic intuition that we have in our culture, and it's not true. Freedom is a great thing, a tool, or a part of what we want to be emphasized, especially freedom from a tyrannical government. That's great. But man, we need freedom to do something. What are we actually aiming at? And that should be to construct a certain kind of culture, which is founded on a certain kind of family, a certain kind of family that allows children, men, and women all to flourish.
Eric Huffman: I have a quote from you. I'll quote you to yourself where you write about this. You say, "Freedom is a means and not an end. Freedom exists to give us the ability to pursue something. It's not something we pursue as an end in itself."
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah. Because the problem that we're having as a culture is that we live... a culture is a hierarchy of values. And unfortunately, what's occurred in Western culture is the highest value in that chain is freedom. It's the one thing we can all agree is important. And I'm not saying it's bad. It's just not the number one thing on the hierarchy.
Eric Huffman: Sure.
Jeremy Pryor: So there's things that are more important. So what we're doing and what happens inevitably, if you get the hierarchy wrong is you will sacrifice more important values for less important values. And so this is what's happening now. We have to raise the bar on children.
One of the reasons why I think we want to have these playful dads who never raise the bar is because this is the ultimate value. And we think that if we can just give individuals more freedom, if we look at every single constraint, the family is a constraint, now gender is a constraint. This will never end. There will never be another constraint that we're going to embrace and say, no, that actually is more important than freedom. That's not going to happen.
We've already decided that freedom is a premium of value. We're already on this train. And it's like, how do we get off this train? Because it is going to lead to such problems for our culture.
Eric Huffman: Is it a matter of self-restraint and self-control?
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah. Yeah. Self-control, discipline, love, community, justice. There are so many values that are more important than freedom. These are things that freedom serves. The thing that happened, I think, is that the government needs to really care about freedom so that it doesn't become tyrannical. But what you had in the past was you had all these other institutions that were promoting the higher values, right, you had, particularly the church, you would have the society as a whole being constantly trained in higher level values and allowing them to put freedom in the proper place.
But that's not the place for the government to do that. The government should be careful to preserve freedom. But we need these other institutions, these other elements of society, particularly the family, to promote these other higher values. That is what's broken down. So what's happened is as that breaks down, the government's preeminent value has become society's preeminent value. And this is what we're getting now.
Eric Huffman: So before we're out of time, I want to do just two quick things. First, I want you to give me and our listeners the 30,000-foot view of a multi-generational team on a mission. Like, what does that look like in particular? And how does it contrast with the nest?
Jeremy Pryor: The best picture for a multi-generational family is the table. So what you have to picture is a four-generation family around a table where you have a great-grandfather, a great-grandmother, grandparents, parents, children. There's a sense in which they have a place where they totally belong. But they also work together as a team.
There are things that they're trying to achieve. And that may be in smaller pockets. It doesn't mean that they all have to be coordinated perfectly as one unit. Historically, that was very common. But in our society, I think that's less realistic. But the callings that each person is trying to achieve around that table are callings that they're constantly being reinforced and partnered with those people who are around that table.
So you're living a totally integrated life where the people that you love the most are the people that you work with. And you can be, I think, through the gospel, inviting more people into that table, people that even are not a part of your immediate family or your biological family, but that are joining the family because of a spiritual connection.
Really, this is the call Jesus had to go and make disciples, which was essentially the same thing that God told the families to do in Genesis 1 to be fruitful and multiply. But Jesus said, I want you to create a spiritual family and I want you to multiply the number of disciples, people that obey my teachings and that follow my ways. This would create this new family.
Eric Huffman: Wow. I have never once thought about the parallel between go be fruitful in Genesis and go make disciples.
Jeremy Pryor: They're the same mandate. Because if you think about-
Eric Huffman: Bro, that's crazy.
Jeremy Pryor: So the first mandate was... because the fall is really what happened between those two mandates. So you have in Genesis 1 the mandate to really take this prototypical garden of Eden and extend the real presence of God. That was kind of the image there. Extend it through having children, through being multiplying-
Eric Huffman: Bro.
Jeremy Pryor: ...retraining those children. You grow the family. And then by that, you grow this prototypical garden until it covers the earth. That was the first mandate. Now, then you have the fall in Genesis 3, which is basically a rebellion occurred. So, when Jesus came, He's like, okay, how do you reverse the rebellion? Because now the world has been subdued, but it's subdued by the enemy. So, what do you do now?
Well, that's why Jesus started by saying, all authority has been given to me. There's been a reversal of authority. So, I've thrown down my enemy. Now I need you to have lots of babies. That's basically what Jesus said to the disciples. I need you to go and multiply the number of disciples in order to exert that kingdom authority on the earth. So, they are the same mandate.
So what we emphasize is that the perfect sort of prototype of this disciple-making movement is actually the family, because the family has... you get all the muscle memory from being a parent, from being a father or mother. So you are training children in order to prepare you to train disciples. These are really the same idea.
Eric Huffman: Fascinating, because we've reversed it a lot.
Jeremy Pryor: We have.
Eric Huffman: Like we think about learning how to be a Christian at church, and then you apply what you get at church at home. And you're saying, obviously, the way it should be, the home is the epicenter.
Jeremy Pryor: That's right.
Eric Huffman: And the church or the world flows from what happens in the home.
Jeremy Pryor: That's right. And it's important to understand that a lot of times... sometimes we talk about these as if they're intention, but God decided to reveal Himself as a Father. And most people understand that if you've had a terrible experience of a father, it's hard to receive the gospel. And Jesus's favorite title of Himself was a son. He called Himself the Son of man, the Son of God.
So, the gospel is always couched in familial language. So if the family completely breaks down, I don't know how you defend the gospel. How does it sound like good news to say, Hey, you know what you have as a father, and you're going to be a part of this new spiritual family, you have brothers and sisters.
And Jesus is like a son, a son of the Father who was sent to do the will of the Father. How does any of this make sense to somebody in a culture that has completely seen the destruction of family? I think all of it sounds archaic at best and incredibly oppressive at worst. We have to defend the family if we want people to actually see the gospel as good news.
Eric Huffman: Man, your next meeting started a minute ago. But I got one more question. You got time?
Jeremy Pryor: Yeah.
Eric Huffman: So, it's sort of a whataboutism, and I hope that's okay. But I know we've got people listening that are in a situation that doesn't seem to be ripe for this kind of change to their family, either because maybe the dad is checked out. Like he's around, but he's not interested in becoming the coach of a team. Or he is, and Mama's not feeling like submitting to that, or she's not in the mood to change course. So sort of what do you do when you feel stuck in the system you're in?
Jeremy Pryor: Well, it's extraordinarily important, I think, to embrace whoever's listening to this, your role, and not to take responsibility for somebody else's. So, if you're a father and your wife is really struggling with her role, or you're a mother and your husband's struggling, I think this is why it's really important to tether these roles properly and to understand that before God, we can only do what we're called to do. We can't take on somebody else's role.
So be a great mother. But as a mother, you're not built to be a father, and you're not going to be able to father your children. If you're a great father, you're not going to be able to mother your children. They need a mother. So do what God's called you to do, be responsible, and that will give your children... This is a huge blessing. An amazing mother, amazing father is a huge blessing, especially in a society in which everything is breaking down and along these lines. That is still a great place from which to raise a family and to begin to build something.
But I do think that what often happens is that when one part of that equation starts to really live into their role, the other often will discover who they really are. And that can happen. There can be a fight. There can be like, do I want to do this? I mean, I've been trained my whole life that this was bad. I get why that is so challenging. But yeah, I would never lose hope that that could happen. And I've seen it happen many times.
Eric Huffman: I have too. And it can be so beautiful. I've seen it happen to people I'm really close to and in my own marriage, really. I mean, I was a doormat for the first 10 years, probably. And my wife was kind of the my way or the highway person. I was more than willing to do that. I thought that's what it meant to be a good man, a nice guy.
And over the last several years, we've seen that change in us adopting a more biblical sort of approach to the home. And our children are better for it. And I have friends that have even more dramatic stories than that. Some of them are still stuck in it. They just don't know how to... I think it's because they're looking at how to bring their partner along first, rather than themselves assuming the role they know that they're created to assume. You're saying that comes first.
Jeremy Pryor: Yes. Live that out. Because you're responsible for what your part of the role is. You can't be responsible for someone. You can help. You can pray. You can try to find others. I think primarily that my passion when I hear, especially a mother who really is embracing all that God has made her to be, but has a husband who's really struggling with this...
Men often need to be challenged by other men. So this is part of why I love coming to places like Story Church. This has been awesome. Because I do look at those dads. I'm like, I know that you probably can't hear those from your wife. But I would like to tell you who you are as another... man to man, let's talk about this. And we need to help each other do that.
I think men are much more wolf-pack animals than we like to admit. We are often the average of our five closest friends. So we need to be in a community of other fathers who are discovering this. I have learned that so much of when men are passive, it really isn't just that they've been trained or whatever. It's that they're surrounded by other passive men. They're men who are also not embracing their fatherhood.
If anybody's listening, if you start to do this and you start to call your friends, other fathers to this, you will see a movement start. Because I think men really want this.
Eric Huffman: They're hungry for it.
Jeremy Pryor: They love it once they understand it.
Eric Huffman: It's a good word. Thank you for your time today.
Jeremy Pryor: Absolutely.
Eric Huffman: Really this whole weekend for the church, but for the purpose of the podcast, thanks for giving us an extra hour plus today.
Jeremy Pryor: Absolutely.
Eric Huffman: Grateful for you and April and y'all's ministry. I pray you'll keep going.
Jeremy Pryor: I appreciate it.
Eric Huffman: If our listeners want to find more about your, of your work, how would they do that?
Jeremy Pryor: We have familyteams.com. You'll find lots of resources and yeah, there's a lot there. There's a whole journey that you might want to go on, but we have a podcast. Also for people who are looking, we talk a little bit about discipleship.
I am super passionate about activating households, disciple making households. So we have a website 1kh.org. It stands for 1000 houses. So 1kh.org is where we do all of our training to help transform our household and our family to disciple-making household. Because that's the movement that I think the most hope is really going to transform cities.
Eric Huffman: We'll keep going, brother. All right. Jeremy Pryor, thanks for being on Maybe God.
Jeremy Pryor: Awesome. Thanks, Eric.
Julie Mirlicourtois: If you have questions or comments about today's episode, we'd love to hear from you. You can engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, and on YouTube, or email us at [email protected].
Today's episode was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our associate producer and social media manager is Adira Polite, our editor is Justin Mayer, and the director of all of our full-length YouTube interview is Donald Kilgore. Thanks for listening, everyone.