10 Todd-isms: Principles the Father Of My Children Has Sewn Into Our Family And Ministry.

1.     Lazy people don’t eat. I feel like our children knew this biblical passage before they learned to sing the alphabet. It was important to Todd they learned how to participate in meal prep and clean up, and saw themselves as participants in our household, not consumers. That was true even in our earliest days of ministry, before we understood how much dignity it added to vulnerable children to co-labor alongside of us.

2.     Don’t kick someone while they are down. This came up at dinner tables and in staff meetings. It was conversation when watching the news or sports. This is so ingrained in Todd, that as he grew in leadership over the years, I’ve watched him lean into hard stories, instead of more safely, distance himself. I pray our children and the children we love around the world, grow up looking for how they can bring shalom to someone’s chaos.

3.     Do it right, or do it over. This has been written on countless work site clipboards and made into a half-dozen T-shirt designs. My children know it applies to chores, homework, thank you notes, and apologies. It means today, within Back2Back, there is a culture of excellence (which is different than perfection,) and I trust when something is done, it’s done well.

4.     Be humble, be a learner. There is so much Todd has learned since 1997 when our Back2Back and parenting journey simultaneously began. He’s learned a foreign language, how to raise funds, human resource practices. He’s learned how to parent children from hard places, how to listen to God’s voice, how to be a leader, a learner, and a teacher. I think in the end, this will be what others remember most about him, and I am grateful my children see this I-don’t-know-it-all attitude as their example.

5.     Be vocal about how you need God.  Todd is quick to confess his weakness. Probably the number one comment we get from staff, is their gratitude for a leadership style that readily admits to needing God. I am glad our kids don’t think being a Christian means we are supposed to pretend to have it all together, and instead hear him regularly ask God for wisdom, discernment, self-control, mercy, patience, and peace.

6.     Show up for each other. I’ve watched Todd jump on airplanes for staff needs, work long hours and afterwards still attend school events, and be intentional about presence when absence is more expected.  He answers his phone, doesn’t play favorites and in this me-culture, I am grateful for the we-attitude he puts on display.

7.     Be prepared for contingencies. To know Todd, is to know he always has on him extra medicine, rain jackets, foreign currency, a granola bar, and a change of clothes. I can’t count how many times he’s saved the day by thinking through what might happen and how he can make something hard, feel easier, for those he loves. It makes me smile now to see my children stuff their backpacks and car trunks with flashlights and umbrellas, just in case…

8.     Listen to your mother. I feel honored by him as he teaches our kids to listen to my insight and instruction. I watch how he “gives authority where authority is…” to staff when visiting their ministry site, and I know it’s the same principle. Real leaders don’t have to have all the answers; they just know where to find them.

9.     Open the door for your elders, and look for who around you might need help. My smallest children were carrying their grandmothers’ bags and struggling with doors while others joked with us if they should. Although I almost always preferred the ease of just doing-it-myself, today we have chivalrous young men and daughters who have eyes to see who is hurting. I pray this example for the children we serve, desiring they look not only to their own needs, but also to the needs around them.

10.  Don’t back down from a challenge. Is it hard? Will it cost? Is it worth it? Todd is frankly more a general than a shepherd in his parenting style, but I appreciate he’s set an example of hard work and confidence to children who’ve learned nothing is impossible with God.

He’s learning (and I am too), that parenting and leadership isn’t something you ever really “figure out.” It’s just a bunch of listening and discernment, hoping how God created you and how He fills you is enough for the task at hand. On this Father’s Day, I celebrate Todd and all the other men who have stepped up for their families and the fatherless around the world. Lord, may you encourage them to fight another day.

Kurtis Kersey