More Control Now, Less Control Later

A parenting principle you'll never regret following

God has blessed us with four children:  Spencer (13) Faith (12) Seth (8), and Shane (6).

More Control

Naturally with raising four kids comes plenty of discipline, but the nice thing about discipline is that, if you do it right, it tapers off with age.  The child in our home who gets the most discipline is most often our youngest, then his older brother, then his older sister, and the person who gets the least amount of discipline is our 13 year old.

That’s not because our older children don’t ever misbehave anymore, but simply because we have lived out this simple principle – “more control now, less control later.”

Why do I discipline my two younger boys who are 6 & 8 quite frequently, but rarely do I have to discipline my 12 and 13 year old?  Simply put…

“If you’ll deal with more while they’re younger, you’ll deal with less when they’re older.”

Unfortunately, too many parents get this backwards. They tend to give more leniency in the early childhood years, oftentimes even making excuses for their children and the way that they misbehave.  Then they try to pull back the reigns with more control as their child gets older, but much to their disappointment, as they find that it just doesn’t usually work.

Here is some wrong thinking that many parents have when it comes to this:

They’re just kids… they’ll grow out of it.

Sadly, many parents fall into the category of those who mistakenly think that their children will just naturally grow out of these bad bahaviors as they age, but that is just not always the case. Instead of growing out of them, when they go unchecked, we are actually allowing those bad behaviors to develop right under our noses.

“Behavioral issues not dealt with from the start don’t get easier with time, but harder.”

Another type of wrong thinking parents sometimes have is this…

If I let it go… it will keep the peace in our home.

Yes, our kids are so cute and cuddly and “innocent” when they are toddlers and kindergartners, but we must remember that they too are sinners with a sin nature that must be kept in check.

One of the things that I struggle to understand is why parents of my generation are allowing their kids to yell at them, kick them, and defiantly say “no” to them, somehow thinking that they’re “just being kids.”  Let’s clarify, they’re just being “sinners”.

Overlooking offenses will not ultimately bring peace into our home, but in the long run, strife and resentment.  However, dealing with offenses promptly and consistently will bring both peace and harmony.

Proverbs 19:18  Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

Proverbs 29:17  Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. 

If you want a peaceful home for the long haul, follow this principle – more control NOW, less control later. (Here’s some insights on How to Have a Balanced and Biblical Approach to Discipline in the Home)

This third way of wrong thinking can be the most deceptive of all…

I still have plenty of time… I can deal with it later.

Parents, let’s recognize that according to the statistics, we have such a small window of opportunity to influence our child’s early foundational worldview from the ages of 2-5.  What they learn about life in those three years will either be a springboard or a stumbling block to their future.  So be intentional in your strategy, be firm when necessary, discipline regularly, and pray always.  Because everyday that we don’t win the battle over the sin nature, the stronger it becomes.

“What children learn about life between the ages of 2-5 will either be a springboard or a stumbling block to their future.”

I’m thankful that I can (within reason) trust my 11 and 13 year old without having to worry much about them.  Yet, they still know that if and when trust is broken, there will be consequences. It’s refreshing as a parent to know that because we’ve instilled character and discipline into them while they were young, we are now reaping the benefits as they continue to grow older.

If our goal is to help our young people grow up to be a mature adults who can make their own decisions, then let’s give them some opportunities to prove they can do it before they get there.

“Training up your children right in the younger years will set you up for parenting success in the older years.”

I’ll be the first to admit that the ages of 2-5 were some of the hardest parenting years we experienced with any of our kids (and boy, do we have some stories to prove it), but looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m glad that we stuck to our guns when it was tough, and that we won the small battles while they were still small, because now we get to experience the blessing of reaping the benefits.

While we are far from perfect parents, as we’ve seen our children grow, my wife and I have never regretted following this one important principle – more control now, less control later.

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

If you have children anywhere between the ages of 2-12 years old, have you been guilty of believing any of these wrong types of thinking?  How could you apply this principle now, so that you can reap the benefits later?

Feel free to let me know if you agree, disagree, or have something else to add.  I’d also love to hear if you have practiced or proven this principle to be true in your own family.

Life Lessons Learned From a Culture of Less

Take-aways from our family's missions trip to Grenada

Our family just returned from a missions trip to Grenada, West Indies this past week with a team from our church.

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We helped conduct VBS and other evangelistic outreach, and what an enjoyable and memorable experience it was.  From the very moment we arrived and first met the Grenadian people, there were two things that quickly became very obvious to all of us – they are a people with so much less (things, toys, gadgets, conveniences), but they are a people with so much more (joy, contentment, easy-going disposition).

While it would be hard to share all the many things God taught us over the past week, here are a few of the lessons and reminders that stood out to me from rubbing shoulders with the good people of Grenada:

1 – Prioritize People Over Possessions

Surprisingly, the Grenadian culture doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same level of focus on materialism and things as we do in America.  Rather, much more of their focus is on relationships with other people in their daily lives.  They are not running an endless rat race as we do in America to constantly get “the next best thing”, and their access to such things on the island is very limited.

They make the most of what they have, and they are content with such things.  This is something most of us definitely need to learn in the U.S.

2 – Prioritize Passion Over Perfection

While we often try to put equal emphasis upon both passion and perfection in most everything we do (especially ministry), if we had to choose between the two, passion should win over perfection.  While the Grenadian people are not perfectionists in the way they do things, they are very passionate in the way that they do them.

The first evening church service our team went to during the week was an eye opener for our entire group.  To see and to hear the way in which the Grenadians worship and praise the Lord with such passion was energizing.  They were just so real in their worship that it was both refreshing and challenging at the same time.

It makes you stop and think how often we are guilty of focusing more on perfection than passion, and as a result, missing out on the greater of the two.  While I believe that we can and should strive for both, it’s important to remember which is most important.

3 – A Nicer Life Does Not Necessarily Make It a Better Life

In America, we’re used to nice finished homes and churches with carpeted floors, multiple indoor restrooms, air conditioning, etc.  But those are all things that many foreign countries have very little of.  And while I wouldn’t want to live without the niceties of my American life, surprisingly, the people of Grenada were far happier and content with their less than most people in America are with their more. We could live with far less than what we have or think we need.

Paul said in I Timothy 6:8  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Life is what you make of it, and I was reminded that a nicer life does not necessarily make it a better life.

4 – Less Really Can Be More

It was an amazing thing to see how little these people have.  Things that we daily take for granted are things that they don’t even consider having to go without.  It was such a joy to watch children get so excited over small things like toothbrushes, notebook paper, candy (“sweeties” as they call them), bubbles, and sunglasses.

They have no Walmart, no Dollar Stores, and no access to so many little things that we have daily at our fingertips.  They have so little, but they are so thankful for the little that they have.  It was quite convicting.  I was especially thankful that my children saw this firsthand and were greatly impacted by it.

5 – It’s Okay to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

The fast paced busy culture that we see all around us on a daily basis is not what we saw this past week.  Rather, people actually take their time to slow down and “smell the roses”.  Their roads and traffic are crazy, but no one seems to get easily upset or ticked off with one another.

It was also interesting that when you bring something to their attention, their response is always “no problem”.  They seem to have very little “problems” because they simply go with the flow of life, and don’t get bent out of shape over the little daily inconveniences that we might normally let ruin our day.

It was thrilling for my wife and I to watch our two oldest kids get to experience the culture and life lessons to be learned from this missions trip and these people.  In addition, they were both able to lead their first souls to Christ as well this past week.  How cool!  I’m excited at how the Lord worked in their hearts and know that it has the potential to bring about life-change for them both now and in the future.

If you ever get the chance to go on a missions trip with your family, I would strongly encourage you to make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.  The benefits and blessings for both you and others will far outweigh the sacrifices that you’ll make to be able to go.

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5 Forgotten Practices That Will Take Your Kids Far In Life

Simple things that can help your child stand out

These forgotten practices can be easily overlooked in our society today, but they are still important things to teach and instill within our children.

Five Forgotten Practices

RESPOND WHEN SPOKEN TO

Remember the days when kids actually acknowledged those who were talking to them with a verbal response?  While it may seem to be fading away, let’s continue to instill that within our children today.

MAKE EYE CONTACT

There’s just something to be said about a young person who looks an adult in the eyes when they’re speaking to them.  But it doesn’t usually happen on it’s own.  It’s a learned behavior.

A PROPER HAND SHAKE

I’m always encouraged when I shake hands with a young person who knows how to give a good, solid handshake combined with looking me in the eyes.  Whether in day to day personal interactions, or when going for a job interview, a good handshake can tell a lot about a person.

COMMON POLITENESS/COURTESY  

When a child knows how to say “please”, “thank you”, or “excuse me” without having to be prompted by mom or dad, it’s quite refreshing.  But we realize that those are trained behaviors that have usually been taught at a young age.

‘YES, SIR’ & ‘YES, MA’AM’

It may seam a bit old fashioned to some, but teaching our children to respond with “Yes sir” or ‘Yes ma’am” is still a sign of respect. In a society where respect is fading fast, such responses can breathe hope into an older generation when they hear it from the mouths of young people.

I don’t believe that any of these things will make or break your child’s character.  But I do believe that all of them, if taught and practiced, can give your children an advantage in many avenues of life as they get older, whether relationally or occupationally.   These are simple things that can help them to stand out above the rest.

Do you agree… disagree, or have more forgotten practices to add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Our family (my wife, myself, and our two oldest) are on a missions trip in Grenada this week with a team from our church.  We will be hosting VBS as well as being involved in other evangelistic outreach.  As you think of it this week, would you please pray for us and our efforts to reach the people of Grenada with the gospel?  Thanks in advance!

Happy Independence Day!

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day

As you reflect upon the significance of this holiday and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, may we never forget the even greater freedom we enjoy through Christ.

John 8:36  If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.  

Take some time today as a family to discuss the freedoms we enjoy and the the great sacrifices that have made them possible.  And enjoy a hot dog (or 2 or 3), while making some lasting family memories.

Thanks for allowing our family to have a small part in yours.  Cheering you on in your corner as you fight the good fight for your family.

May God bless you, and may God Bless America!

Andrew

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How to Raise Positive Kids in a Negative World

Let’s face it, the world can be a pretty ugly and negative place sometimes.  You don’t have to look far to find it.  So is it possible to raise positive kids in such a negative world?

Positive Kids

Amid all that’s wrong with the world, thankfully we get to be a part of what’s right as we instill within the next generation the character and desire to be world-changers.

Raising positive kids in a negative world isn’t easy, but it is possible. Here’s some reminders for how to do it:

MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY’S FOUNDATION IS ROOTED IN FAITH

Nothing gives us a reason to live positive lives more than the fact we know God is in control, He has a grand purpose for our lives, and we can trust Him.

  • Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

LEARN TO POINT OUT THE GOOD EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE BAD

Nothing raises positive kids better than optimistic parents. In your day to day dealing as a family, choose optimism over pessimism in every situation. Pessimism kills positivity.

  • Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

ALWAYS SPEAK WELL OF OTHERS

Learn not to speak negatively of other people in front of your kids. Better yet, simply learn not to speak negatively of other people.  Your kids will pick up on this very quickly.

  • Colossians 4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt…

NEVER FORGET THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOURSELVES

Remember the poor. Help those in need. Pray for those less fortunate.  When we help our children remember that we really don’t have it as bad as we think, it’s easier to appreciate what we do have.  Guard your children against developing an attitude of entitlement.

  • Galatians 2:10  We should remember the poor…

CULTIVATE A FAMILY CULTURE OF THANKFULNESS

Gratitude is the brother of positivity. You’ll have a hard time finding grateful people who aren’t also positive and optimistic people. Don’t allow a spirit of complaining to rear up its ugly head in your family.  Help your kids learn to appreciate the small and the big things, the good and the bad.

  • I Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God…

While we may not be able to change the entire world around us, God has given us the privilege to change our part of it through our children. May we always be mindful that we are developing world-changers in our homes – godly young people who can take the most positive message there is into a negative world that desperately needs it.

How to Know When Your Kids are Growing Up

A fun look at 18 years of parenthood

Our oldest son has recently had his sights on the future.  Just the other day, we were talking to him about growing up, and without missing a beat, he said, “Just 5 years, dad, and I’ll be out of the house.”

Kids Growing Up

As I heard those words, I couldn’t help but notice how they rolled off his tongue just a bit too easily.

As a parent, I’m sure you can relate to the feeling that you know you’re getting old when your kids keep getting older.  Here are 18 fun and humorous reminders of how you know when your kids are growing up.  I hope they put a smile on your face…

  1. You know your kids are growing up when the words “diaper bag, pacifier, and sippy cup” are no longer used in your daily vocabulary.
  2. You know your kids are growing up the first time they call you mom or dad instead of mommy or daddy.
  3. You know your kids are growing up that first time you drop them off for school and they say, “It’s okay, you don’t have to walk me to the door anymore.”
  4. You know your kids are growing up when a family trip to Walmart without losing anyone no longer feels like a huge accomplishment.
  5. You know your kids are growing up when the same weird and crazy things you do that used to make them laugh, now cause them to cover their faces in shame.
  6. You know your kids are growing up when you mention the word ‘cooties’ and they just roll their eyes instead of being grossed out.
  7. You know your son is growing up when he starts looking at girls the same way he used to look at chocolate chip cookies.
  8. You know your little girl is growing up when she starts asking how old she has to be before she can wear makeup.
  9. You know your kids are growing up when they start liking coffee and actually look forward to taking naps.
  10. You know your kids are growing up when you actually get nervous about holding a baby again.
  11. You know your kids are growing up when they know more about your smartphone than you do.
  12. You know your kids are growing up when they look at you as more of a chauffeur than a parent.
  13. You know your kids are growing up when your son asks if he can borrow the car keys.
  14. You know your kids are growing up when your daughter asks you what you think about a certain cute boy.
  15. You know your kids are growing up when they get a job and start saving for college.
  16. You know your kids are growing up when you take them out to eat and they end up picking up the tab.
  17. You know your kids are growing up when they end up falling in love themselves.
  18. You know your kids are growing up when you watch them drive away in a vehicle with the words “just married” on the back window.
Parenting is one of the world’s greatest responsibilities.  Yet it flies by fast.  All we have is 18 years.  All we get is 18 years.  Make the most of them while they last. The years that follow have a way of coming back to thank you.

Want to Become a Better Parent?… ASK

Learning from others who've Been There, Done That

Every parent wants to become a better parent, and rightly so.  We should all be striving to improve ourselves on an ongoing basis for the sake of our family and our kids.

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However, many of us fail to ever tap into one of the greatest resources that can improve our parenting skills and give us the knowledge and ideas needed to parent successfully.

What is it?  Very simply, ASK.

One of the advantages to parenting (or just about anything else in life) is that you can learn from the mistakes of others without having to repeat them yourself, if you want to. There is a wealth of biblical and practical parenting knowledge out there in the hearts and minds of other parents, just waiting for you to tap into it.  Not only that, it follows the biblical pattern for learning life lessons from others who’ve gone before us.  (Proverbs 16:31, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3-5)

So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find some older parents or a young family that you can… Ask.  It might be some older parents who’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, having already raised godly children, that you can seek out and ask about their parenting advice.  Or… find a young family your same age whose kids seem to reflect that they’re doing things right, and ask them questions and specifics about what they are and aren’t doing that works.  And don’t be shy about asking.  You’re going to find that almost anyone who loves the Lord and the next generation will be more than delighted to share any wisdom they’ve acquired through experience.
  2. Have a list of specific questions ready to ask.  I’d encourage you to come up with plenty of your own questions, but here are some important ones you might consider including in your list: (These could be asked in past or present tense, depending on who your asking)
    • How did you discipline?
    • What kind of daily or weekly schedule did you keep?
    • How often were you in church, and how did that affect your family and parenting?
    • Did you spend regular time as a family around the Bible?
    • What was something you did that you feel was one of your biggest parenting successes?
    • If you could do it over again, what was one of your biggest parenting mistakes?
    • Did you ever have to treat or discipline your children differently based upon their specific needs or personalities?
    • What kind of things did you do (or rules and guidelines did you have) to protect your kids from wrong influences?
    • What are some practical suggestions for a family like ours?
    • What are some blind spots that you may have observed in our parenting?
  3. Take notes of their answers that you can refer back to.  The last thing you want to do is waste someone else’s time, so make sure you are prepared with your list of questions, and also make sure that you maximize upon the opportunity by taking notes.  Don’t be afraid to pry into their answers by asking for more details and getting more specific responses. Remember, you want to benefit from this experience as much as possible.  Also, if their kids are teenagers or adults now themselves, consider meeting with them and asking them some questions too.
  4. Implement what you learn into your own parenting.  Asking, as good as it is, does no good for you or your family, if you do nothing with it.  Granted, you may not use everything, because every family is unique in their own good way, but even if you don’t initially like all of their ideas and suggestions, remember the end result that drew you to them in the first place.  Apparently, what they are doing (or have done) must have worked or you would not have specifically sought them out to seek for their advice.  Make sure you walk away with at least one or two golden nuggets of parenting wisdom that you can put into practice.

Someone has already successfully walked the same path that you are currently on.  Wouldn’t it be foolish not to try and learn from their wisdom, so that you don’t repeat their mistakes?

Now, you may be thinking, “This is a great idea.  I’m going to do it!”  But remember, good intentions don’t usually cut it.  What gets scheduled, get’s done.  So don’t let today pass without talking to your spouse, picking out a couple or family that you can talk to, and setting up a time within the next week or two to get together and make this happen.  Your family will thank you for it.

So, what older couple, or what family has already come to mind as you’re reading this?… It doesn’t matter whether you are a family in serious need of some good counsel, a family who seems to, for the most part, have it all together, or even a family who is serving in full-time ministry.  We could all benefit from seeking out someone older or wiser that could help us to become better parents.

Will you accept the ASK Challenge?  Here’s a simple way to remember what you need to do:

  1.  A – Ask (Pick a family!)
  2.  S – Specific Questions (Put together a list!)
  3.  K – Knowledge is Power (Put it into practice!)

Are you up for the challenge?… Feel free to let me know (via a comment, email, or the contact page) if you commit to doing this.  Then drop me a line when you’ve actually done it, and I’ll gladly send you a couple of free parenting resources to further help you in your parenting journey.  You can do this!

I’d encourage you to share this idea with other families as well.

For the next generation,

Andrew

Is Your VBS Outreach Actually Reaching Out?

Keeping the focus on reaching those without Jesus

Last week, I discussed 5 reasons Why VBS is still important.  You can read it by clicking here.  But while those things answered the “WHY” of making VBS an outreach oriented event, we really need to answer the question of “HOW”.

VBS Reaching Out?

What is it that qualifies a VBS program as being “Outreach Oriented”?  How can we evaluate our strategy to make sure we’re not just entertaining our kids, but seeking out lost kids who don’t know Jesus?  How can we keep our focus on reaching those without Christ?

I believe that 3 things are necessary…

If our VBS Outreach is going to Reach Out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be:

1. Focused on OTHERS

Unchurched parents are more likely to send their children to VBS than to any other church-related activity.  That means that VBS naturally gives us an opportunity to focus our attention outward and reach out into our community.

It ought to greatly concern us if our “outreach” programs don’t do any reaching out to new people.  Because as much as Jesus loves the church, and even gave Himself for it, He hasn’t primarily called us to reach the church.  He’s commissioned us to reach the world.

VBS provides the church with one of the greatest ways to obey Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, by starting with reaching out to our own Jerusalem.

While putting a primary emphasis on reaching out to the lost is imperative, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our VBS efforts to encourage the spiritual growth of those who are already saved.  That can also be a very worthwhile goal.

However, it’s crucial to remember that you’ll probably have more unsaved kids at VBS than you’ll ever have at one time on a given Sunday.  And with a field as white for harvest at that, we just simply can’t afford to make the spiritual growth of “our” kids our only focus, at the expense of reaching those who need the life-changing message of Jesus the most.

An outreach-focused VBS needs to be focused on OTHERS!  Secondly, our VBS has got to be…

2.  Focused on JESUS

The only hope for the world, whether it’s kids or adults, is Jesus Christ!  One of the greatest mistakes that many churches make with their VBS programming is a failure to make the gospel of Jesus a central and intentional daily focus.

If we’re potentially reaching more un-churched kids and families during this one week than any other all year, why wouldn’t we want to be giving them the one thing that has the power to give them both hope for now, and eternity forever?

I’m not against doing any and all of the fun things that accompany VBS, but while cool crafts, exciting games, and awesome prizes are a lot of fun, they won’t take anyone to Heaven.  Unfortunately, our enemy knows that, and would love for us to shift our primary focus on those things.

Satan could want nothing more than for us to send kids away from a week of VBS with cool stuff in their hands, but nothing life-changing in their hearts.

Regardless of what theme or curriculum you choose to use this summer, make sure it’s more about Jesus and the gospel than it is about anything else.  Kids need to leave having heard the clear gospel, which is the only power of God unto salvation.  And in addition to that, make sure that there’s an opportunity for them to respond to it, with counselors prepared to answer their questions and pray with them.

VBS needs to be a gospel-centered and gospel-driven event, because more than kids need entertained for a week, they need Jesus for an eternity.

Lastly, if our VBS is going to reach out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be…

3.  Focused on FAMILIES

VBS provides a way to reach families unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  There are many effective ways to do this, but I’ve never found any that work as well as having a grand finale service for the entire family.

The way this might look for your church could be a Family Carnival or a Family Fun Fest on the final night with games, horse rides, inflatables, a dunk tank, face-painting, and free food, etc.  We promote the Family Night all week long with the kids and promise them a prize if they bring mom or dad (or any adult) with them.  We start with an opening rally time that includes a clear gospel presentation, then we allow the kids and their parents to enjoy a time of games and activities that follow.

It may sound simple, but it’s proven to be the most effective thing we’ve ever done to get more new parents through the doors of our church than anything else we’ve tried.

Having an unformatted time like the carnival has also allowed us to have a casual environment to meet the parents and introduce ourselves, while at the same time giving them information about our church, getting to know them personally, and even praying with them about needs that they may have.

This is a great time to build a personal connection with parents as well as increase the success of your future follow up efforts.  (There’s just something special about them knowing you by name when you show up on their door-step, or make an “appearance” in the mail, to thank them and their kids for coming!)

Whatever it is that you choose to do, make it a priority to incorporate some type of outreach to families, because kids are not the only ones who need to be reached, and reaching their parents will actually increase your long-term chances of reaching them.

“Apart from helping them personally come to Jesus, the greatest thing you can ever do for an unchurched child is reach their parents.”

So… it’s time to evaluate your strategy!  Are these three things a focus in the execution of your VBS plan?  Which one do you need to work on incorporating the most to ensure you are primarily reaching those without Jesus?

Let’s move beyond ourselves this summer and make sure the biggest “outreach” opportunity we have is really about what matters most – REACHING OUT!

Thanks for your investment into the hearts and lives of kids this summer, and thanks for sharing this with others!

Andrew

  • I’m currently on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use that have been intentionally developed with these three strategies in mind, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

Why VBS?

Is VBS still worth doing?

I love VBS!  I love the excitement that it generates in our church and community.  I love the passion for it that builds in my own heart leading up to it.  I love the fun and craziness and chaos that comes along with the week of VBS.

WhyVBS?

There’s just something totally energizing to a children’s pastor about pennies in buckets, pies in the face, and points on a scoreboard.  But the one thing that excites me most about VBS more than anything else is the potential it provides for bringing new kids and families to Jesus!

There can be many purposes for a church’s summer outreach, and there can even be many different approaches that can be used other than VBS.  But no matter what you do or what you call it, the most valuable benefit that “VBS” provides is the opportunity to move outside the walls of your church and reach out to your community in a big, personal, and eternal way.

VBS is an awesome and dynamic outreach opportunity, and it needs to be outreach oriented for a good number of reasons. Here’s a few:

  1. For most churches, VBS is the largest children’s ministry event all year long, and the best opportunity to reach more kids at one time with the life-changing message of Jesus.  Even compared to other ministries in the church, Vacation Bible School is often one of the most consistently effective and productive of them all.
  2. Many kids will come to your VBS that may never otherwise come to your church.  Don’t let this discourage you, let it encourage you!  VBS naturally brings out new kids and families who might otherwise never darken the doors of your church, because many kids whose parents would say ‘no’ to church, say ‘yes’ to VBS!
  3. VBS shows parents that you really care about their kids and allows them to get a first impression of your church and ministry.  With new kids comes watching parents. They’re watching to see how friendly we are, how organized we are, and whether they even realize it or not, how much like Jesus we are.  The impression they have of our church will probably be in direct proportion to the way we treat them and their kids.   And the truth is that if parents know that we love their children, we’ve just built a connection and potentially opened their heart’s door to the gospel.
  4. VBS gives you five days of repetitive influence and gospel exposure!  Most churches do VBS for as many as 5 days in a row.  Think about it… The influence that would normally take 5 weeks of regular church programming to accomplish can be done in just 5 days!  And in addition to that, a clear presentation of the gospel can be given 5 days back to back!   That’s a huge window of opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.
  5. Kids get saved and make life changing decisions for Christ at VBS!  Oftentimes, if a VBS is evangelistic in it’s outreach, there will be as many or more salvations in that one week than the rest of the entire year of children’s ministry.  And with 85% of people coming to Christ before the age of 13, no doubt multiplied thousands of those have made their decision to follow Christ during VBS!

VBS has great potential, but it really needs to be an intentional outreach opportunity, reaching the hearts and souls of many we may never otherwise be able to reach.

While these points address why VBS needs to be outreach oriented, next week, I’ll be giving you some practical ways for how to make sure your outreach is actually ‘reaching out’ to those who need it most.

Are you all in for your church’s VBS or summer outreach?  If so, please like, comment, or share!

  • For the next couple of weeks I’m on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase Edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

One Of The Best Pieces Of Advice For Your Kids To Turn Out Right

Take care of this, and the rest will take care of itself

I was speaking recently with a parent whose kids are grown, and I asked him what advice he would give to a young parent like myself with kids still at home.  Do you want to know what he said?  Here it is…   “One of the best pieces of advice I’d give to any parent to make sure their kids turn out right is this…

LOOK IN THE MIRROR…

And learn to take care of that person who’s reflection you see.  Because when you learn to take care of that person, and to become all that God wants you to be, you have automatically become all the parent that your kids need you to be for them as well.”

I’d have to say, that’s some great advice!

It really doesn’t matter what you say to your kids about right and wrong, or even how loudly you ‘preach’ to them about living for God, if they don’t see those things exemplified in your everyday life, they are very unlikely to stick to theirs.

The saying holds true that “Our faith is more often caught than it is taught.”

“More than you kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.”

How well are you doing at taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually?

How well are you doing at exemplifying your expectations for your kids, not just expecting them from your kids?

Could we honestly say to our children what the Apostle Paul was bold enough to say to his spiritual children in Philippians 4:9?

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

If your children do as you do:

  1. Will God bless their lives with His peace?
  2. Will you want them doing the same things that they have learned, received, heard, and seen in you?

Every day your kids are becoming something.  Something different and something more than they were yesterday.  Everyday your kids are becoming more of you.  Is the ‘you’ that they are becoming the person you want them to be?

40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Here are 40 simple Bible statements/principles to teach your kids.

Bible Statements Graphic

You might find these worthy of putting on your fridge, using as a springboard for devotional ideas, or even committing to memory.  Whatever you choose to do with them, they are great foundational thoughts for your kids to know and believe.

  1. “In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1
  2. “God is not a man, that he should lie.”  Numbers 23:19
  3. “There is no man which sinneth not.”  2 Chronicles 6:36
  4. “We will not forsake the house of our God.”  Nehemiah 10:39
  5. “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” Psalm 11:7
  6. “I will love thee, O Lord.”  Psalm 18:1
  7. “As for God, his way is perfect.”  Psalm 18:30
  8. “Who is God save the Lord?” Psalm 18:31
  9. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity.”  Psalm 26:11
  10. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8
  11. “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”  Psalm 37:3
  12. “I will be sorry for my sin.”  Psalm 38:18
  13. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” Psalm 45:7
  14. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  15. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Psalm 48:1
  16. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Psalm 97:10
  17. “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  Psalm 138:2
  18. “Great is the glory of the Lord.”  Psalm 138:5
  19. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” Isaiah 41:10
  20. “I am God, and there is none else.”  Isaiah 45:22
  21. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Mark 7:10
  22. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37
  23. “Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27
  24. “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  Luke 6:31
  25. “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”  Luke 9:48
  26. “He that is not with me is against me.”  Luke 11:23
  27. “Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
  28. “God is true.”  John 3:33
  29. “This is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”  John 4:42
  30. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
  31. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”  John 14:9
  32. “I am the vine, ye are the branches… without me, ye can do nothing.”  John 15:5
  33. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another.”  John 15:12
  34. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37
  35. “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34
  36. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  Acts 16:31
  37. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men.”  Acts 17:26
  38. “God… commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
  39. “Our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29
  40. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Revelation 22:13

As an added convenience, here’s a free user-friendly graphic that you can download and print to share these statements with your family.  40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Bible Statements

 

Oh No, Jesus Was a Step-Child!

Help & Encouragement for Step Parents & the Church

Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Matthew 1:18

baby

Imagine with me for a moment, Jesus, the only Son of God, was:

  • The child of an “unplanned” pregnancy.
  • Conceived to an unmarried teenage girl.
  • And raised by another man other than His biological Father.

Sound familiar?

In our society today, it’s a common occurrence for children to be raised in a step family or with a step parent.  And while it may have never been God’s original plan for the family, God is using churches today that are full of step families to accomplish His work and raise up the next generation for Christ.

“In 2011, the Family Research Council found that only 46% of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with both biological parents.  This same statistic was reflected in 2014, when the Pew Research Center also found only 46 percent of children were currently living in a home with both biological parents.”  

While those statistics are unfortunate, they are reality.  And this raises a very legitimate question for the church…  If over half of families today are made up of something other traditional biological families, how is that reflected in the people we are reaching in our churches?  Are we reaching, welcoming, and helping these step families that enter our doors?  Because nearly half of families who visit our church will fit into that category.

May we never look down upon them, judge them, or treat them differently than any other family in our church.  Have they made mistakes?  Yes.  Would they go back and do some things differently?  Probably.  Can they reverse time and change the past?  No.  Is there baggage that has to be worked through?  Oftentimes.  Can we love them unconditionally right where they are?  Yes.  Can they be used in ministry to advance the kingdom of God? Absolutely.  Are their children any less important to God?  No.

And may I say this very clearly and understandably – broken homes, step families, and the children of them, ARE NOT second rate to God, and should not be treated as second rate in the church.

What is the church about?  Well, it’s a place where broken people get restored, sinners are given second chances, and all are allowed time and space to heal… from their sin, their past, and their failures, no matter what it involves.

Consider a couple of note-worthy things about step families from Jesus’ family:

  1. Jesus’ step-father was a godly man who loved the Lord and loved Him.  Joseph raised Jesus like He was his own.  He trained Him, taught Him, loved Him, and no doubt helped Him to become the man’s man that He was.  Joseph was the picture of what many parents portray in the church today – godly men and women raising kids not their own, and absolutely killin’ it in the process, raising some amazingly God-loving kids.
  2. A pregnant teenage girl gave birth to the Son of God.  God works in mysterious ways, and oftentimes through seemingly bad circumstances. The same is still true today. Remember this, “A mistake on the part of a parent never makes their child a mistake in the eyes of God.”
  3. A step-parent raised the only perfect kid ever.  Certainly, Joseph had a slight advantage, raising the only perfect Son of God, but he proved that IT IS POSSIBLE to parent successfully as a step-parent.
  4. God used a step-child to change the world.  While the surrounding circumstances were certainly different than in families today, consider this thought… God used the child of a pregnant teenage girl, and who was raised by a step-father… to save the entire human race.  And God is still using kids from all family types to make a difference in His kingdom today.

If you are a member of a Bible-believing church, I hope that these thoughts will remind you to be aware of both the needs and potential of the step families within your church.

And if you are a parent with a broken marriage, a second marriage, or filling another parent’s shoes as a step-parent, I hope that these words encourage you.  I also hope that they challenge you, and remind you that God’s greatest work ever accomplished in the world came through an “untraditional” family – a family that was yielded to Him and committed to the process of godly parenting, regardless of their circumstances.

No doubt, what God has called you to in this season of your life has its own unique set of challenges that some of us may never fully understand, but please know that I am praying for you today.  Praying that God would give you strength, stamina, and the spirit of a Joseph or a Mary for the specific situations that you face.

God loves you, the church loves you, and we desperately need your help to raise the next generation of world-changers!