By MARILYN TINNIN
Chaperoning a school field trip here and there is just one of those duties that come with the parenting role. Volunteering to herd children, keep them safe, count heads, and assume responsibility is not always on the short list of favorite ways to spend one’s time. It is not a leisurely relaxing thing to do. Imagine a 65-year-old grandfather jumping at the chance to take a five-day stint as a chaperone for his 15-year-old grandson’s high school band trip. Who would choose to do that?
Mission Mississippi’s President Neddie Winters did exactly that as one of fourteen adults who accompanied the Terry High School Band (about 100 students) via tour bus to perform at Walt Disney World. His explanation? It was not because he had always wanted to go to Disney World, for sure. “I had been done with Disney a long time ago,” he says, explaining that he is offended by many of the social policies that Disney promotes. However, there is nothing Neddie appreciates more than spending time with his family. He said, “I want to spend as much time with my grandchildren as I possibly can. Every opportunity I have to be around them, I want to take advantage of it.”
He is genuinely interested in what his grandchildren’s interests are. He also wants to know their friends. It takes time to build a special relationship, and it is important enough to Neddie to invest that time necessary—even if it means riding on a bus to Orlando, Florida!
Neddie is the father of five, the grandfather of eleven, and the great-grandfather of four. His resume includes more than twenty years as a pastor and credentials from numerous universities and seminaries. He has put a lot of time and thought over the years into what God expects a father’s role to be. He takes seriously the bond between generations.
Neddie lives every aspect of his life with a mindset of “intentionality.” He says, “Intentionality has two sides. I think we have to be intentional about what we want to pass on and just as intentional about what we don’t want to pass on. I don’t think evil always gets passed on because people intend to pass it on but because they don’t do anything to stop it.”
There is a void of biblical truth in our culture today. Becoming aware is the first step in doing something about it. For Neddie, his part begins as a good steward of those relationships God has entrusted to him.
“I don’t think my role as father in raising my own children will ever end. There is always growing for me; There’s growing for them, and we grow together. Years ago there were sometimes three generations living in the same household. Learning from each other did not have to be so intentional.”
Neddie believes there is a great value in something he calls “tri-generational leadership.” He explains, “The generations need to talk to each other. We let too much experience and wisdom go to the graveyard or someplace we call ‘getting old.’ Technology and the society we live in do change, but wisdom and the need for a relationship with God does not change with the times. I think it is more needed today than ever that parents and grandparents ought to be in partnership in raising the next generation.”
More than twenty years ago Neddie read Charles Stanley’s book How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team,” and he has never quite gotten over it. It is his frequent “go-to” even now as his continual desire is that every adult child, grandchild, and great-grandchild love and serve Christ.
“I still pray Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 3 over my children, inserting their names where scripture says, ‘and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ My greatest prayer is that they will walk in wisdom and in the love of God.”
And what did 15-year-old Dorian Winters’ friends think about his grandfather? “They thought he was cool and it was great that he wanted to come with us.” And what does Dorian admire most about his “PawPaw?” He didn’t hesitate. “Everything.”