“Finishing is better than starting.” Eccl. 7:8a
A few years ago now I was at a discipleship school in the UK. The leader of the school often taught us on various subjects and one particular morning she taught us about the importance of being “Starter Finishers.” A starter finisher is by definition – and I’m really taking liberties here – someone who regularly and deliberately finishes what they start. Therefore, by contrast, a non starter-finisher is someone who can start something with ease but finds difficulty following through, finishing or bringing things to completion.
Perhaps you feel that you aren’t a starter finisher, well worry not, it is still something you can try to instil in your children. If you find it hard to finish or get things done then I’m sure you’ll see the value in trying to teach your children how to do it right from a young age. It’s a lot easier to do something that has just always been done than to try to get the discipline and knack for it way later, when you long past need it. There are a few qualities, character traits and signs of a godly person that I don’t feel I possess and you know what, I’m going to try my hardest to prevent my children from following in my footsteps in those areas. Being a starter finisher, however, is something I am. But I wasn’t always.
Here’s why it’s important.
(1) Finishing what we start is a sign of good character.
Some may say “it’s the thought that counts,” but those included in that group would not be the bank, the IRS or your boss. In most areas of life it isn’t actually the thought that counts. It’s what we do with our thoughts that count. I mean to cook the kids dinner… I planned on picking Ginger up from school… I did remember the electricity bill was due… In most areas we need to back up our mental plans with action. The rubber of our thoughts need to meet the road of reality.
Children will begin life getting fired up to do something, starting it, and then getting bored and moving on. If we let them make this a habit they will continue it. A 16 year old doesn’t decide out of the blue to stay the course and put in another few hours of good study for her test if she hasn’t been in the habit of doing something and doing it well prior to this time. To be dependable, reliable and trustworthy our children must be in the habit of finishing what they start and doing what they say they’ll do. If our children can’t finish projects in their own lives how will they have the capacity to reach out and enrich the lives of others?
(2) Training children to be starter finishers helps prevent the blame shifting phenomenon.
Perhaps I’m an only child so I just never had a scapegoat to benefit from, but I cannot stand when people don’t take responsibility for their actions. The kids were supposed to clean their room before going to their friends house. Then they start in. “I was going to finish but I found a comic book I had lost so I sat down to read it. You know how sad I was when I couldn’t find it” “Mom, I was cleaning my room but then Fritz came in and started messing with me. It’s his fault.” Last week they were supposed to have mowed the yard. “Well, I was going to do it Wednesday but it rained.” “I had a test on Friday and I was worried about it so I just didn’t get to the yard. I will soon.”
If given the opportunity, we can find reasons, excuses and justifications for not doing pretty much anything. If we teach our children that they are to finish what they start, they are to start what they are responsible for and they are to take full responsibility for the things which they are delegated, it will build character and prevent them from growing into adults who blame others for what is ultimately their own situation. For children to grow into capable adults, they need to learn the art of “owning” what they are held responsible for. It won’t rob them of their childhood because wise parents know how to do this in age appropriate ways throughout childhood. Not by giving them bone and spirit crushing pressures, but by requiring simple and small things to be finished from an early age. It will be an easy lesson if started early and held consistent.
(3) It will bring success and satisfaction to their earthly endeavours.
I believe that as Christians we are not meant to sit back afraid of the big bad world, but to be firm and strong in our faith in Jesus’ ability to work through us (not because we are something special, but because He is and He loves us) and to go out and make a difference in the world. Kids who grow into teenagers who grow into young adults who grow into old adults who are starter finishers will go farther than those who are not. Period.
You may have great ideas and ingenuity but if you can’t follow through with your plan or effectively put into action then you won’t be given many opportunities for advancement. Career advancement is not the goal, but acting honorably and working as though unto the Lord is. If we let our kids grow into adults who have numerous projects started around them but rarely finish any then we are doing them a disservice. If we let them believe there are no consequences for stopping short of completion then we are basically lying.
We are to run the race to win, Paul says, and you can’t win the race if you don’t finish it. I believe those who are non-starter finishers yet who are creative and full of ideas can often feel overlooked as positions or opportunities are given to others around them. You don’t just have to go to class, you have to take the exam. Having the money in the bank doesn’t count if you haven’t paid the bill. It will be extremely difficult for our children to excel in their callings and careers if they are not accustomed to putting in that extra effort to finish whatever it is they start, be it big or little.
(4) It will teach them to let their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no.”
If our kids know that we will require them to finish or wrap up what projects and initiatives they start, or even what chores and things they take on for extra money, they will be careful not to promise what they can’t deliver. I used to over promise because I was afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. I wouldn’t fully commit, but I’d say “oh yeah, that sounds great, I will really try to make it, etc.” when I knew deep down I was too busy or just not that into it.
Later, I’d have to say I wasn’t coming and because of my own initial response, I was basically going back on my word. At one point I felt convicted to start saying “I’m not sure, I’ll let you know” or “yes” or “no” and it has freed me. I don’t commit to something I know I can’t do because in my book, if I’m dumb enough to say yes without thinking about it then I’m going to make myself do it. We have a good family saying, “If you’re gonna be stupid then you gotta be tough.” If I agree to it fully then I carry it out unto completion.
If I agree to cook dinner for someone, if the words come out of my mouth, they go from being thought to being promise and then I do my best to make it happen. I will raise my children to be careful with their promises and agreements, because ultimately our word, and then the actions that follow our words, are what determine our character and reputation before others.
(5) Little things are just as important as big things.
The bible says if we can be trusted with little we can be trusted with a lot. Conversely, if we can’t finish little things then we won’t be consistent in finishing big things. To use the excuse “it wasn’t that important” is just that, an excuse. Your boss will say so too. If you can’t turn in a weekly report on time then why would he trust you to complete a major project on schedule? When our children are small we can begin to train them on this principle with things such as cleaning their rooms, doing their chores, putting the dishes away, etc.
Before letting them move on to another activity we can have them clean up the one they just finished. Before letting them go out and explore the day away in adventure, we can require them to do a few simple household chores. If they can’t do the chores they’ve had all week to do, they can’t go out. Simple cause and effect that will NOT rob them of their childhood (because you’re not asking a ten year old to do your financial planning) but will be instrumental in molding children of character and perseverance who will have the capacity and stretch to see the needs of others and meet them. Not just in word, but in deed.
I can remember having to work in my yard and my grandparents yard (both big) after hurricanes and during the year at various times growing up. After 45 minutes I’d want to take a 30 minute Sunkist break. I’d rake a few leaves into a pile, never put them on the trailor to haul away, and want to take a swim. My grandmother would be out there running circles around me. My mother always had us finish a project outside before we could stop.
Stop to eat, sure, stop to rest a while, fine, but there is no quitting until it’s done. At the time I was totally not into it, but as I grew older I adopted their ways as my own. If you do something 75% and say you’ll come back to it, odds are you never will. That extra hour to get to 100% completion is the difference between someone willing to go the extra mile to keep their word and someone who isn’t. Let’s raise our children to be those who finish what they start, who don’t start unnecessary striving time wasting activities, but who finish the tasks that the Lord has set before them.