The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Brett + Kate Ryan

Episode 19

Brett + Kate Ryan: Episode Summary

On this episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to Brett and Kate Ryan about Focus on the Family, marriage and the challenges and blessings of following God’s plan.

Among other things Brett and Kate share:

  • The genesis of Focus on the Family in Australia.
  • What are the key attributes that make a family a family.
  • Kate’s unique childhood experience that brought her to faith.
  • How Brett’s scientific dad impacted his early faith.
  • Kate’s world being turned upside down at age 14.
  • Why understanding family of origin is important to marriage.
  • The importance of “owning” your faith once you have it.
  • Living within God’s good guidelines to avoid negative consequences.

Brett + Kate Ryan: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Hi there, everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast, a podcast that is bringing you the stories of Christians who have been able to find meaning in their lives and an expression of their faith through the things that they do, and have enjoyed a measure of success in the doing of it. This morning we are glad to welcome Brett and Kate Ryan. Brett is CEO of Focus on the Family, and it’s very appropriate that he has his partner in life with him. Kate and Brett, it’s so lovely to have your time with us today. Can I give you a welcome?

Kate Ryan
Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Brett Ryan
It’s a pleasure being with you.

Brendan Corr
Focus on the Family, tell us a bit about what that means to you guys and what you think the organization’s key is.

Brett Ryan
Well, Focus on the Family Australia has been part of Australia for over 25 years. But many people remember Focus on the Family where James Dobson was the founder of it many, many, many years ago. He’s no longer with the organisation. But here in Australia we work in cooperation with them, but we’re independent. We do things, the radio work, we do things on Facebook Lives, we do YouTube clips, we have our website, all sorts of different ways. Any way we can communicate healthy families and healthy relationships. We do that in as many ways as possible. And we try to provide pastoral care when people are hurting and going through difficult times.

Brendan Corr
Thank you, Brett, for that. I think at least the parents of some of our listeners will remember Dr. Dobson and the history of that. That is certainly the roots by which the organisation is most known. You’re in an organisation that’s focusing on the family by definition of the title of the organisation. But family is something that appears to be quite different for a lot of people. What’s family for you guys?

Kate Ryan
For us, our background, we actually have three grown sons, 25, 23, and 22. One is married, the oldest is married, and we actually have a grandbaby. So that’s what our own family looks like. Then of course we are speaking to all manner of different families across the board. It doesn’t matter what they look like, as long as we can help them thrive.

Brett Ryan
It’s interesting you say, when you hear the word family, a lot of people picture mum, dad, kids, but that is one image, and it’s not the most common image now. We actually see a lot more single parent families, we see blended families, we see people staying single by choice or by circumstances. Then we have all the issues related to family, and that includes sexuality, it includes drugs and alcohol, it includes conflict, it includes finances, stress. There’s so many different variables when it comes to family that have an impact on relationships and have an impact on how people parent. We also, when we talk about families, your family origin has a very significant part to play in the success of your future relationships. You pick up things by osmosis. You pick up things by observation. You pick up things by just feeling your own experiences. Then unless you make some intentional decisions and be well informed on how to do relationships well or how to do parenting well, you tend to default to the things that you’re familiar with. That’s the reason why we see so many families going through the cycle of dysfunction and not living the life that God had intended. We at Focus on the Family, we want to make Christ known in every aspect as we strengthen relationships in Australian families.

Brendan Corr
That’s great, Brett. I want to come back to some of those questions. I actually had jotted down one of the things I wanted to explore with you guys was family origin issues. But you’ve already introduced a notion of the first big area of thought that I want to explore with you guys. Being known as a conservative organisation, I think you’re right in saying that people would assume that there was a bit of a cookie cutter stamp of what family was, or at least what Focus on the Family defined as family, and if you didn’t meet those strict criteria then it was something other than or less than family. You’ve already been very articulate about how that can look differently. If you were pushed to say, what’s the criteria? What’s the essential things that make some sort of relationship family? Is it genetics? Is it biology? Is it cohabitation? What are the things that would stand out for you guys?

Brett Ryan
We would say that a family can come in all shapes and sizes. The ideal would be that we do have that genetic possibility of procreating in a healthy environment, a stable environment. Children are brought up with a mum and dad. That would be an ideal. That would be how God had intended the family to look like. But now fast forward to the 21st century, families, as we just mentioned, come in very different ways. Then you can have families that have been adopted, or there’s fostering. There’s an individual who has never married but can still feel very part of a family or feel very part of a community. So family can not just be flesh and blood, but being part of a bigger picture.

Kate Ryan
Sometimes there are family breakdowns, and it’s not necessarily their fault. But friends and community can step in and become family.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s good. So I think what I’m hearing, and please set me right if I’m not hearing correctly, but I’m catching a sense that for your understanding of family it’s more about the process of how you’re relating to the people that are important in your life, than it might necessarily be about other artefacts or other versions.

Kate Ryan
Of course, I think any relationship that’s worth having is built on respect and love and trust. So if you have those things, whether it’s a close friendship or whether it’s a family member, those are the basis, somebody who loves you enough. Some people say love is just you’re all happy and joy, and no challenge. But love is a whole lot of things, and one is challenging people to be their best, challenging things if they see things that are damaging you, and so forth. And if you’ve got friends or family members in your life who are prepared to risk, because it is a risk when you step out and challenge someone if they don’t like what they hear, then that’s true. Let’s preface all of that, if it’s done in love. If they’re just saying, “Oh, you’re being an idiot.” That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about, I can see these characteristics, or I can see these behaviours coming out of you, that you’re presenting, that really aren’t demonstrating or showing the best for you. Could we suggest that that’s probably not the path you should be taking? Or those people around you are bringing out the worst in you.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, yeah, I get that.

Kate Ryan
Things like that.

Brendan Corr
So you’ve obviously got a very positive notion, or you’re describing the positive aspects of family relationships, and the trust, and the intimacy, and the mutual respect and regard. The sad reality is not just that family exists with whole different types of components, but there can be people whose family aren’t providing those things, even if it’s one parent.

Kate Ryan
For sure.

Brett Ryan
It breaks their heart and then breaks the Heavenly Father’s heart when he sees relationships break down and family dynamics broken. So that’s the reason why Focus on the Family Australia exists. We want to help repair, restore, recover, and ideally, prevent those things from ever occurring. So we would host marriage seminars or a marriage conference. Or we’d talk about parenting and the various attributes of the early parenting in the primary age, and then the secondary, and then the issues related to that like social media or technology, or how to talk to your kids about those big uncomfortable topics like sex and relationships, and drugs and alcohol, and mental health. We need to equip people, because we believe that information is power, and they’ve got to get the right information in a God-honouring way. And if we can help that, then we will have stronger families, we’ll have stronger communities, we’ll have a stronger nation, if we get that right.

Kate Ryan
I think too, if one person equips themselves, it takes more than one person to resolve something. So the whole notion of live at peace with everybody, you can do your part, you can forgive others. If somebody else isn’t going to come to the party, you are not responsible for those people. So if you are in a position where you are working, you are changing your attitude, a lot of times we can be in a position where we’re going, “Oh, those people are doing such and such. Their behaviours are such and such.” But on the whole, it’s God’s challenging us to change our heart. When we do our part, then God does the rest.

Brett Ryan
And there are no guarantees in life.

Kate Ryan
There are no guarantees, no.

Brett Ryan
You can do everything right and things can still go wrong.

Kate Ryan
Because of free choice.

Brett Ryan
But we want to be able to do everything you can humanly possible and with God’s help to help people be the very best they can. Obviously, Focus on the Family Australia, we speak in both the Christian space and the non-Christian space. Because there are some things that are just universal. But we also want to steer people to the reason why there is hope in us, and our faith in God is very strong. But we also speak in the secular space, and we do things in the workplace, and talk about how to resolve conflict. There are some universal principles. We are very proud of our faith heritage and we try to bring people along that journey. So we can have things with high Christian content and things with just high Christian values.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. I’ll come back to that, because I think that’s really important about the nature of truth and the power of truth in whatever context it’s manifest to express. But you’ve been very open and very clear even in our conversation so far about the place of God in your own personal walk in life and in the life or your organisation. Can I invite you to tell us a bit about, how did that happen for you each? How did God become the most important thing for you?

Brett Ryan
Kate’s older than me, so she can go first.

Kate Ryan
I’ve lived a couple of years longer, so my story’s long. I gave my heart to the Lord when I was six, probably in a non-orthodox way. I went to watch this drama, and they had a drawer of fire and a door that looked like heaven, and said, “Are you going to hell?” That kind of thing. I remember mum saying, “Oh my goodness, this is never going to work. Just because she’s made a decision at this thing where she was feared, the fear of God into her.” But I have walked with God the whole of my life from that moment. There’s been challenges in life, but I think we can make the choice of running to God when there’s tough things or running away from God. I made the choice, because I’ve walked through a lot, a lot of sickness, a lot of trauma, and my walk with God has been a very real thing. From a very young age, I used to sit at my window and write prayers down as I spoke to God about my life. So for me, it hasn’t been a far off God. It’s been a very close relationship. So he was just my Father, my Daddy, the One who loved my soul regardless. Now I’m going to cry.

Brett Ryan
Doesn’t take much for her to cry. It’s very real for her.

Kate Ryan
For me, He’s just a faithful, loving, challenging, confronting, just my greatest encourager. Even if I have a misstep, He’ll lovingly call me back.

Brendan Corr
Amen.

Kate Ryan
And patient. He’ll say one thing, and if you don’t get it the first time, He’ll say something else. And He’ll go, “Remember when I said that?” Oh yeah, that’s right - bit of a slow learner.

Brendan Corr
I don’t want to interrupt your story. And Brett, we’ll get to your story in a bit. A lot of people have this notion that an encounter with God, and the description that you gave of the judgment, the consequence, the danger that God represented, you didn’t live with that sense. You lived with a sense of warmth and of, you described, Fatherly relationship.

Kate Ryan
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
How did that happen for you?

Kate Ryan
Look, I had Christian parents. Very warm people. But in that my story’s quite fraught. Our family life was turned upside down when I was about 14, and that all changed. But in it, I just felt such a close presence, that He was my friend, He promised He’d be my friend and He would never leave me. So for me, reading Scriptures… I think that’s lost today in a lot of young people. Back in the day, we very much learned our Scriptures, we memorised them so that they went down into our heart. So when we walk through things we’ve got this wellspring of life-giving words from our Father. So we’re not out there on our own. Our Heavenly Father reminds us, “Remember, I love you. Remember what I say about you.” Because we’ve got the world coming at us. There’s a constant barrage of, “You’re not good enough. You should have this. Christians are this. Etc.” So for me, I’m very much, “Well, He knows every hair on my head. My name is written in the palm of his hand. He loves me that much.” So regardless of anything I do, it doesn’t take that away. So He keeps loving me back. So in the midst of a traumatic situation where I might think, “Oh gosh.” And then all of a sudden He reminds me, he goes, “Remember I’ll never leave you nor forsake you. I’m here. Whether you’re on the top of the mountain or in the valley, there is no place that you can go that I won’t be there.”

Brendan Corr
Yes. I think what you’re describing, Kate, is an encounter with the personal God, isn’t it?

Kate Ryan
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Through his words, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that He’s a loving Father, when you encounter the love of the Heavenly Father.

Kate Ryan
Exactly. For me, as a teacher, because I was a teacher for 25 years, I remember sitting with some Year 12 students, it was just as they were preparing for their graduation ceremony, so it was all a relaxed stage. I said to them, “What are you looking forward to leaving school?” And they said, “Getting away from the rules.” And getting away from whatever else is holding them back in life. I said, “Where does God fit in that?” “Oh, it’s all rules.” And I said to them, “Can I pose a different picture for you?” And they said, “Sure.” And I said, “Can you not see that the Bible is a love letter from God. And he says, if you live by these guidelines or boundaries that I’ve put for you, your life is going to be so full of life. If you step outside it, there’s regret and consequences. So he is lovingly telling you, that if you live with me, if you walk with me, your life is going to be full. If you choose outside, then there are consequences. I will still love you, but there are still consequences. And even when I forgive you, you still have to live out those consequences. He doesn’t take the consequences away. You have to live out those consequences. He forgives you. He throws your sin into the sea of his forgetfulness. But you still have to live out the consequences. He doesn’t take those away.” So they went, “Oh, we never thought of it like that.” I said, “Because he loves us so much, he’s told us how to have an amazing life.”

Brett Ryan
Many young people actually see the book of the Bible, and go by association is a book of “thou shalt nots”. Don’t spoil my fun. I would use that analogy as Kate shared, often, is that we all have boundaries, if we stay within the boundaries, life can be great. Step outside, there will be consequences. Just like we have playing sport, there’s a boundary line. You stay within the boundary line, life’s pretty great. You carry outside, our road rules. We have boundaries all around us for our good. And the Bible, and God by association, is saying, “Here are some boundaries. Stay within it. You can have an awesome life.” And that’s our journey. We’ve been well and truly protected, not from bad things happening. Bad things can happen to good people all the time. But we’ve got something real to hang onto during those times.

Brendan Corr
Well, Brett, let me ask you that question. How is it that you became convinced that the Bible is a love letter to us?

Brett Ryan
I was very fortunate, similar to Kate, we were brought up in a Christian home. My dad was a scientist, so everything had to make sense to him on a scientific basis. He was brought up in more of a traditional church, and he had a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, and that was contrary to where he was going at that time, and he was asked to leave. But that didn’t stop his journey. He was always an adamant reader, wanting to learn and study. I used to see my dad studying the Bible or studying concordances, and reading or writing. He wrote a number of books himself, and I thought, “If you have to do all that to be a Christian, it’s not for me.”

Brendan Corr
Too hard.

Brett Ryan
I thought, “This is a nightmare. This is just not my style.” It wasn’t until he actually says, “You have to discover God for yourself. You have your own journey.” Just on a little side note, our son at the age of about 15, 16, came to me. He’d been brought up in a Christian home. I was a kids’ pastor. He went to a Christian school, going to church. He came up to Kate and me, and he says, “Look, I don’t think I believe in God. I don’t believe in the Bible.” And instead of running away from that and being scared, “Of course you’re going to read the Bible. Of course, God is real.” I said, “Let’s discuss, let’s go on a journey together, and let’s discover who God is for you.” I introduced him to Ravi Zacharias and other apologists. And he got to understand God for himself. He read Lee Strobel’s book, A Case For Christ. He discovered God for himself. I remember, my dad was not afraid of that question when I was questioning it, and I thought I should do the same thing. I’d encourage parents, allow our kids to question, allow our kids to doubt, and allow them the journey, or the privilege of that journey to discover who God is themselves. So as an 18-19-year-old, that became much more real. I didn’t really have a significant rebellious stage. I didn’t run away from God. I was a typical good kid. But I did it because I think you had to be good. And as I discovered, it wasn’t because I had to be good, it was because I wanted to be good. I know that God cared for me. And I always have had a reverent awe of God. Not a scary God. But a reverent feeling of God and how interested He is of me, and I want to please Him, and I have a desire to please Him. Not because I have to, because I want to please Him in every area of my life.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s so good. We mentioned family of origin as an important theme for Focus on the Family and for your ministry. Just hearing your account makes me think of a number of the people who’ll be listening to this podcast, who might be a little skeptical that their family of origin, a Christian family of origin is the reason that they might have faith, and it’s the sole reason. What would you say to kids at that stage, who are saying, “I’m in a Christian family, what choice have I got?”

Kate Ryan
Well, my journey is an interesting one, and I’m allowed to share it, because my dad said, “If other people can learn from what happened with him…” So up until about the age of 14 we had a very, very happy home, what we thought was a very happy home. And at about 14, we discovered that my dad had affairs. So this just broke our family apart.

Brendan Corr
It would.

Kate Ryan
My dad was my hero, and it shattered us, absolutely shattered us, all in different ways. Because I came from a family of three girls, and it did something to all of us differently. In the end, my father left. He was asked to leave. For two years, he was away. By this time, when he left, both my sisters were married, I had just got married. He left my mum immediately after I got married, the day after. This is where the story gets good. So my dad left. I think he lived a year just living his own life, just continuing on the behaviour he had. Then the next year I think God grabbed him. My dad had been a deacon in the church, and he had a passionate faith for God and my mum. So this is where it gets tricky. We did discover that he had bipolar. One of the side issues, or one of the classic tell-tales of bipolar is having affairs, because they can disassociate, or they can separate, “I love my family, and then this is happening over here.” It’s totally separate. And then separate from faith. It was a very, very tricky time. But God grabbed him in the second year, and they went for counseling, et cetera. And they renewed their wedding vows and had 17 years of happy marriage before he died. My dad died 13 years ago. And they had 17 years of good marriage. My mum is a rock in God, and she said, “He is the love of my youth. And if God can forgive…” Let me just preface this, it was a tough, tough journey. The book written, Love Must Be Tough, absolutely, you don’t get walked all over. God has a job to do in people’s lives, sometimes that means they need to be apart from their families for Him to be able to do that. But it’s not the end of the story. Trauma, disaster, it’s not necessarily the end of the story. We think it is, and at the moment we think it is. But I look back, and it affected my life, it affected me when I went into my marriage. I went for counseling when it all happened, because I was like, “Oh my goodness, there was a strong Christian man, and now he’s fallen, and now our family’s a mess.” So I went for counseling. I got married, thinking I was fine. I got married, and in my head, as soon as I got married, it switched over, and it went, “Oh, married, married men, married men cheat.” So I’m like, “Oh my goodness, where did that come from?” So that affected us for quite a while, and I had to go and talk to somebody about it, and really had to work through that. And also relinquishing my parents in that. Because I’d always been the peacemaker, so I’d always been caught between. So it got to the point where God said to me, “Do you trust Me? I love your father and I love your mother. I will work with them. You need to relinquish that. And it is a sin to try and be God, and it’s not your job.” So I let them go, and that freed me, I was like a different person. So Christian families aren’t all perfect families. God doesn’t promise that it’s going to be easy, or perfect, or happy even. But He does promise that He will work out his good in everybody’s life, if we allow it.

Brett Ryan
As Kate was saying, the whole idea of relying on your parents’ faith, you have to actually own it for yourself.

Kate Ryan
Yeah, own your own faith.

Brett Ryan
Had Kate relied solely on her parents’ faith her journey would have gone completely differently. So she had to have her own faith. Because parents are humans, they’re going to make mistakes, and if we rely on them to be our guide, so to speak, it’s a form of idolatry. We need to find God for ourselves. That’s the reason why parents need to encourage kids to discover who God is for themselves. And for children to discover God for themselves, not just rely on mum and dad, or my sisters, or my brothers, or my grandparents. I need to find out who God is for myself. But you have to also role model this. It’s not just doing tick the box. It’s actually having a lifestyle and living that out 24/7 wherever we may be, that God is intertwining our life with his life in every aspect of our journey.

Kate Ryan
I think it happens a lot in churches, where if your faith is tied up with the pastor, and the pastor falls… I mean, we’ve seen it time again. People walk away from churches because the pastor had an affair. And it’s like, well, that’s a man. A man can fail. But God didn’t fail. So they walk away from their faith, and it’s like, well, was your faith in the pastor, or was your faith in God? Because people will fail you. That is a fact. It’s diametrically opposed that humans will fail, God won’t. So if we build our faith on the Rock, then we’re going to be all good. But if we build it on shifting sand, on humans, we’re going to be thrown every time.

Brendan Corr
Yep. I think it’s been terrific, as each of you have told parts of your story together and separately, that you’ve not glossed over the fact that it’s hard work.

Kate Ryan
Oh, it’s hard work.

Brendan Corr
People can carry this sense that Focus on the Family is this bright, happy, picnic on the lawn, Brady Bunch, Waltons, sort of idealism. What I’m hearing from you guys is that that’s actually not the model that you’re advocating, it’s not light and fluffy.

Brett Ryan
We’re not trying to brush over and say we’re not real. Say, for example, when we’re doing a marriage conference, and we’ve been doing those online recently, we share our real situations of conflict. And it’s usually every time we’re just about to talk about conflict, we will have some intense fall out just before then.

Brendan Corr
Fresh off the table, is it?

Kate Ryan
Yeah, that’s right.

Brett Ryan
Exhibit A, exhibit B. But we do that with humour and laughter and joy, and knowing that we’re two individuals, and we’re going to have conflict. And that’s the same with your kids, they’re two individuals, different ways of thinking, we’re unique in the eyes of God, and how we can work together. A successful relationship is not the absence of conflict. A successful relationship is how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Same with your kids. You’re going to have differences of opinions. How do you resolve conflict in a healthy way, and not yell and scream and shout? That may be your family of origin. That may be the way that you were role modeled how to resolve conflict. And you didn’t like it then, so don’t continue to perpetuate that in your relationships with your own family.

Kate Ryan
Our relationship with God is all going to be different, because of our different personalities, it’s going to be different. I mean, I look at our son who’s married, and he says, “We are so different in our approach to God.” He’s quite analytical. He’s a massive reader. She’s very emotional and drawn, a bit like me, as in this close Father, worshipful… And he said, “We start at different ends, but we always come to the same conclusion, that He’s a loving God.” They both approach Him differently, they come to Him differently, they hear from Him differently. There’s no right way. He’s made us all unique. So our relationship with Him is going to be unique. No one way is the right way.

Brendan Corr
Can I ask you? You’ve spoken very persuasively about the reality of relationships, family relationships. One of you, I can’t remember which one it was, made a comment earlier that, you can do all the right things, you can take all the right steps, and things can still go wrong.

Kate Ryan
Yeah, for sure.

Brendan Corr
What is it about family that is worth staying in the fight for? Why is it worth persevering when things do go wrong?

Brett Ryan
We’re talking about relationships, we’ll just do husband and wife there. The research, and not just Christian research, this is secular research, would say, that couples who work through their conflict, work through their difficulties, actually come through the other side stronger, healthier, happier, and have much more fulfilled lives than those who actually choose to break up or give up very quickly, very easily. They may then re-partner or remarry, and they tend to replicate the problems that they had in the first place, and it goes on and on and on. So that’s in the relationship. So even just the simple truth of, as you go through tough situations you become tougher, you learn from it, but your relationship is more enriched as a result. The same thing with families. We can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our families. So we have to make the most of every opportunity that we have. As mums and dads you are but stewards of your kids. They are a gift from God. And he saw fit that you are the best mum and dad for your kids. So be the best version of yourself in that role, and take that role very seriously. And it’s a privilege to do that. Then your kids will benefit from that, because it’s your future generation. So have an end game in mind. What type of great-grandchildren do you want to create? That’s the reason why family is worth fighting for.

Kate Ryan
We’ve been entrusted with these lives. We’ve got a job to do. I think we just kind of go, “Oh, we’ll start a family.” And day by day it’s just, slip into the next day, and the next day, and the next day. But having a plan, and saying, “What do we want to see in our children? What does God want us to develop in our children?” Well, he wants us to develop character. He wants us to develop in them a servant heart, a heart of loving God and loving others. So everything we do should be moving towards those goals. Because in the end, our job is to develop them so that then they’re ready to do God’s plan for their life. It’s not for us to hold onto them. They’re not ours. We have to prepare them so we can shoot them out like arrows. It’s such a privilege to do that. But there is work involved. It’s not just a fly by night.

Brett Ryan
It’s a day to day decision. It’s an ongoing thing.

Kate Ryan
Yeah, it’s commitment.

Brett Ryan
For us, it’s very easy to take God for granted in our story, but without Him, I don’t know how we would have navigated. Something real, something tangible to hold onto, that has helped us with our life. I would encourage young people who are listening to this, find God for yourself, find who He is in your life, and then run after Him. Then people say, “Well, He’s just trying to spoil my fun.” No, no, no, he has actually got an incredible plan for each and every one of us. We have to find that plan. Nothing is ever wasted, we can go left, right, as long as we’re going with an idea of, “God, you’re in this with me. Help me learn from every experience that I have.” We know that there’s heartache. We know that mums and dads break up. We know that family dynamics can be fractured. We know all that. But be the very best version of yourself. There are no guarantees in this world. But if you find someone who has the same values, the same beliefs, the same goals and aspirations, and you run with that, then your relationship will be fantastic and you can have a healthy, happy, thriving family. Kate and I have been married 30 years, and it doesn’t feel like 30 years.

Kate Ryan
No, it’s flying.

Brett Ryan
We love life together, but we also love doing family together. It’s just a joy.

Brendan Corr
That’s good. I was going to ask you, as we draw to a close of the time that we had, to talk about, what advice would you give to somebody who was saying, “My family is broken. I don’t have that. I don’t have a mum or a dad that are able to be that figure in my life. How do I make sense of that? Where’s my family?”

Kate Ryan
Yeah. Well, look, that is reality across the world, to be quite honest.

Brett Ryan
Yeah, my heart breaks for that.

Kate Ryan
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve got friends who run focus in South Africa, and they run programs specifically for teenagers who are now raising their siblings, because there’s been so much death by AIDS. So if you put it in those terms, what we need to do, and I think it is the best way, is to find mentors for your life. It doesn’t have to be a parent, if your parent isn’t available or is in a very difficult situation and doesn’t have the capacity right now to be your voice. But to find a mentor who’s older than you, who’s gone ahead of you, who is mature in God, who will love you through your journey.

Brett Ryan
And won’t be afraid to challenge you.

Kate Ryan
If you look for the people who are always just going to say, “Oh, I want you to be happy, so if that makes you happy”, they’re not the people to mentor you. You want someone who’s going to want the best for you, and will call out rubbish in your life. Because you don’t want to go down a bad track. You don’t want someone who goes, “Oh yeah, that’s great, that’s great. Have fun.” No. You want someone who goes, “You know, I wouldn’t do that, because there’s going to be a whole lot of consequences with that. And I encourage you to go maybe this path.”

Brett Ryan
Have you considered?

Kate Ryan
Have you considered? People who ask questions, so that you can search out the answer. Because a lot of times we have the answer, and a lot of times we know what the right thing is, but we just need a person there to encourage us to find it.

Brett Ryan
Also to say, your original question about saying, if they don’t have that, don’t let that be your excuse in life, “I didn’t have this.” Your past doesn’t have to determine your present or your future. You have to make a decision to move forward. Don’t let that become your crutch. Or don’t let that become your excuse. I have seen some amazing young people who had a very dysfunctional background and upbringing, and they have chosen a new path. And their family has become from outside, a church community, a youth group, maybe some close friends, and they have been well and truly adopted, because they haven’t had that experience. And they have never allowed that past to say, “I don’t want to repeat that. And I am learning how to do parenting well. I’m learning how to do marriage well. I am learning all these new things.” So don’t let that become an excuse. But you have to do the hard yards and get the right information from a variety of sources. And that’s the reason why Focus on the Family Australia exists, because we want to be able to provide resources that may help people from preventing repeating those actions from reoccurring in their life.

Kate Ryan
It’s being intentional to change.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that is so good. What I love about that is how it pulls together the fact that the future is there to be made, and whether or not you came from a family that was rich and flourishing and all good things, that is not necessarily just going to work out unless you work at it, unless you’re intentional about re-crafting it. And if your family was less than that, and didn’t have everything that you needed, it doesn’t have to determine your future either. You can make a difference.

Kate Ryan
Yeah.

Brett Ryan
Yeah, very much so.

Brendan Corr
Brett and Kate, it has been very inspirational to talk with you. What I appreciate is the fact that the ideal of the family, the concept of the family that is a gift, a gift from a Heavenly Father that loves our race and wants the best for us, and that He asks us to take the risk of making family a priority. I respect that you guys are doing that at such a public and such a significant arena for the work that you do with Focus on the Family. I pray that God continues to strengthen you for the things that He sets for your hands to do.

Kate Ryan
Thank you.

Brendan Corr
May He bless you and guide you.

Brett Ryan
If we can be of any service to anyone, they can always go to our website, which is families.org.au.

Brendan Corr
Brett, that’s a great idea. We should emphasise that. If anyone has listened and had some reflections about what they might like to be able to do to help them, and help them find family and make family, Focus on the Family is a great place to start getting some of that help.

Kate Ryan
Yeah.

Brendan Corr
Thanks so much. I really enjoyed our conversation. God be with you.

Kate Ryan
Thanks for having us.

About Brett + Kate Ryan

Brett began his career as a registered nurse where he served in ICU and Accident Emergency at various hospitals around Melbourne for 14 years. He then moved into full-time ministry, working as the Children and Family Pastor for CityLife Church for 12 years before commencing as CEO for Focus on the Family Australia in 2013. Brett is an accomplished public speaker on relationships, parenting, mental health, suicide, sexuality, addictions and work-life balance. Brett and Kate have been married for three decades and have raised 3 adult sons. Kate works alongside Brett in Focus on the Family, regularly co-presenting marriage and family workshops.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).