4 Things I’m Currently Learning as a Parent

Nearly 5 years ago, God led me to start this thing called “Andrew’s Blog”, now more commonly known as GodlyParent.com. (If for some reason you haven’t signed up yet, now would be a perfect time. 😉 😉 )  I began with the intent of helping parents and leaders by providing tips, tools, and training on how to raise and influence kids both inside and outside of the home.

However, what I’ve found over the years is that this blog has been as much of a help to me personally as it hopefully has been to others.  It’s given me an opportunity to discipline myself to better understand my own kids, as well as to find ways to practically and biblically become a better parent. The thoughts contained in the weekly articles are often born out of what God is presently teaching my wife and I and doing in our hearts and lives as parents.  (If you somehow thought that we had everything I write about down to perfection, don’t fool yourself. We’re on this journey just like you are).

So today’s article is one of those that is just as much written for me as it is for anyone else. I’d like to share 4 things that I’m currently learning as a parent. (each point includes a link to an article that addresses each of these things in greater detail.) And maybe they will encourage and help you as well:

4 things I’m currently learning as a parent:

  1. Every family will be different.  We teach our kids from the youngest of ages that God created every person as a unique individual with strengths, abilities, and a personality all there own.  And we remind them that this is a good thing that we are not all the same. And the same is true with families.  Every family has its own God-given direction and culture that makes them who they are. However, as Christians and parents, we often fail to practice what we preach in this area of letting everyone be who God created them to be.  God is teaching me that no two families will look identical, nor should they.  Your family and mine are each unique expressions of God’s fingerprint in the world. 
  2. Watch for things that are “under the radar”.  Parenting is often like a circus juggling act, trying to make sure all the bases are covered with our kids physically, educationally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.  With all the things that parents are responsible for in their children’s lives, how in the world are they supposed to get it all right?  Well, the honest answer is that no parent ever does.  I’m currently learning that as a parent, I am constantly striving for improvement in all areas, and I never arrive.  There are things that catch me off guard that I notice have slipped under my radar (disciplines, character flaws, attitudes, etc.) in my children, and so I tighten up on certain areas, and I pray harder, and I lean in on the grace of God even more than before.  I’m learning that parenting my children successfully requires a constant awareness, engagement, and evaluation of both them and myself.
  3. Discipline still brings the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  More than ever before in my parenting, I’m understanding the value of correction and discipline.  I can see where it has led us in a good way to where we are with our older two children, and how it continues to play a vital role in the development of our younger two.  When boundaries are clear, expectations are enforced, and discipline is administered lovingly when necessary, we see the peaceable fruit of righteousness in our family relationships.  And God Himself is our greatest example.

    Now no chastening for the present seemeht to be joyous, but grevious: nevertheless afterward it yeildeth the peaceable fruit of rightesouness.  Hebrews 12:11 

  4. Consistency is king.  No parent can expect consistent growth in their children if they fail to be consistent in their parenting.  This is a constant struggle that requires us as parents to keep ourselves in check and to regularly re-align ourselves, our values, and our rules.  Consistency is one of the clearest and most easily understood languages to a child, yet one of the hardest things for parents to maintain.  Consistent parenting is what produces consistent obedience and growth.  I’m constantly learning this, and sometimes the hard way.  But thankfully, my Heavenly Father is patient with me, just as I try to be towards my children.

While there are many things that I am learning as a parent, these are four that are currently at the top of the list.

So what are you currently learning in your parenting?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, what are some parenting challenges you’re currently facing that I can help you address or possibly write about to help you and others?  Feel free to comment or send me a direct message

Parents, Please Restrain Your Children – An open letter to parents afraid to be “the bad guy”

Can you relate to either of these scenarios I recently encountered?…

I observed a scenario where a small child in a public place challenged their parent’s authority by clearly going against what their parent had just told them not to do.  The scenario sadly repeated itself many times where the child was told to correct their behavior, only to immediately and deliberately disobey their parent’s orders again.  After multiple more times of this cycle, the parent seemed highly frustrated, while the child seemed to be having a blast playing this “game” of disobedience. 

However, no consequences were enforced, or discipline given for the disobedience, just gentle and useless reminders of how the child needed to behave.  And while it was obvious to everyone observing that the child was out of control (or simply the one in control), the parent was unwilling to do anything about it, other than throw up their hands in frustration as if there was “nothing that they could do.”

I also observed a similar scenario in a local grocery store where a child wanted something on the shelf and their parent clearly told them no.  To which the child started dropped themselves on the floor and started screaming.  The parents told them no more firmly, to which the child simply started screaming louder and kicking at the parent to give them what they wanted.  The parent’s response was to start yelling, screaming, and even cussing at the child threatening them to get up and stop. It was quite a scene.  When the child continued with even greater passion, the parent did the unthinkable – she grabbed the wanted item off of the shelf, gave it to her child still throwing a fit on the floor, (to which he immediately stopped) and then proceeded to yank him out of the store as if it was ‘the only thing’ that she could do.   

The sad reality is that the problem in both of these scenarios was very simple – the problem was not the child, but the parent – a parent unwilling to restrain their own child by enforcing what they expect, rather than simply expecting their child’s misbehavior as being the norm.  

When parents start to have behavioral problems with their kids, what many of them fail to realize is that the problem is often not that they have disobedient children… but that they are disobedient parents.  They are not obeying one of the most basic biblical commands that is an obligation of every parent – to restrain their children.  And such extreme displays of public disobedience are simply manifestations of a lack of private restraint in the home. 

“Good, godly, and obedient children don’t raise themselves.  Good, godly, and obedient parents do.”

Many godly men in the Scriptures struggled in this area of restraining their children…

Concerning Eli and his sons, God said in I Samuel 3:13, “I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” 

David struggled with his eldest children, Adonijah and Absalom.  Concerning, Adonijah, who was trying to take over his father’s throne, I Kings 1:6 says, “And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?”

Proverbs 23:13 reminds us to “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

The Biblical definition of “restrain” means to rebuke or correct.  

But what does it practically mean to restrain your children?  Here are three simple ways:

1. TELL THEM NO

What ever happened to parents telling their kids NO?  Multiple men in the Bible failed to restrain their children, and they often paid the ultimate price.  Why would we not learn from their mistakes?  

Children who are not restrained are subtly yet surely being trained to rebel. This pattern is clearly demonstrated in the Scriptures. By failing to restrain our children, we are setting them up for a potential lifetime and lifestyle of laziness, entitlement, and destruction.

One of the greatest concerns of Christian parents in our generation is this thought, “I just don’t want to be too hard on my kids, or else they will rebel.”  However, when it comes to strictness, there must be a proper balance, as an extreme on either side can be equally as dangerous. Sadly, we are living in a generation of many parents who have chosen the opposite extreme to strictness by failing to restrain their children much, if at all. 

Parents, may I be completely honest with you?… As I’ve watched families in ministry for over 16 years, I have rarely ever seen families that are being too hard on their kids when it comes to discipline (probably less than I can count on one hand), but I have seen multiplied dozens and dozens of families who are way too easy on their kids, yet don’t even realize it. 

In the majority of homes, kids need more, not less restraint.  They need more accountability, and for us to have higher standards and expectations of them than what we do.  God created us as humans (and especially our children) to need clear and concrete boundaries.  

2. DISCIPLINE THEM WHEN THEY DO WRONG

(There is a right way and a wrong way to do this… How to Have a Balanced and Biblical Approach to Discipline in the Home)  This is so basic, yet so quickly abandoned by many parents. Never before has the church seen a mass exodus of parents who have forsaken the biblical model of discipline, and many who are simply afraid to discipline their children at all.  The excuses abound for why not to discipline, as well as for all the reasons why to use alternative methods of discipline, other than what the Bible clearly talks about.  But can we honestly look at what all of those methods are producing, and say that it’s working in our own homes or in our society?  

I can clearly remember being sent to the principal’s office as a kindergartener to get a spanking with a wooden paddle for my misbehavior, and that was in a public school back in 1986.  Yes, times have changed, but that doesn’t mean that things have to change within the framework of our own homes.  God has given you everything you need to be the parent your children need, and no one can strip that away from you without your permission.  

Proverbs 22:15  Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 29:15  The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

What has become so appealing and convincing in recent years that made parents ever think we needed to abandon what God clearly says works? The reason why many question whether or not biblical discipline is still effective, is not because God’s plan doesn’t work, but because we simply don’t work God’s plan.  And while I absolutely hate having to discipline my children, my love for my kids must be greater than my hatred for disciplining them.  The verse above in Proverbs 23:13 makes it clear that if we’re going to fail at restraining our children (“withhold correction”), one of the ways we will do so is by failing to discipline them when needed. 

Proverbs 13:24  He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. 

Disciplining our children according to God’s plan takes parental obedience, personal discipline, and sometimes a whole lot of inconvenience.  And while it may not be the only thing that works, it is the one thing that God has placed His blessing and promise upon in the Scriptures.  So we should be very cautious of forsaking it as our primary form of discipline in order to raise godly children.

As parents, we must speak to our children in a language that God created them to understand – discipline.  Not frustration, not anger, not venting, not yelling… but controlled, loving, biblical discipline

3. BE “THE BAD GUY” WHEN NECESSARY

Here’s an honest confession… Sometimes I’m a mean parent!  Not because I try to be mean, or because I believe I’m supposed to be mean.  But to my kids, there are many times when I’ve had to restrain them and their desires, and they think I’m just being flat, out, mean.  But let me be equally honest… to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter to me what they think! 🙂  

While I absolutely hate being the bad guy, I’m certainly willing to be for the sake of my kids. Because it doesn’t matter whether they think the world of me, or the worst of me, in those moments.  If I know in my heart what is best for them, I am going to put my big boy pants on, stand my ground, and make the tough decisions that I know are best for my family, even if it puts me on their bad list.  

In our society today, we are facing an epidemic of moms and dads who are afraid to be “the bad guy”.  But being the bad guy is exactly what we need. We need parents who aren’t afraid to put their foot down, and who aren’t afraid to tell their children that “these are our rules, and you will abide by them, whether you like them or not.”  I’m not talking about being legalistic, I’m simply talking about unapologetically being the parent in our home, and our children knowing it. Parents have got to stop being afraid of their kids.  

“Sometimes you have to care more about your child’s future than you do about your child’s feelings.”   

Many parents are afraid to do this.  Maybe it’s because they have overcorrected to the opposite extreme from the strictness of their own parents.  Maybe they’ve listened to too much of what the culture is trying to tell us, and it’s out of fear of what others will think.  Maybe it’s because they just “love their kids too much to discipline them.” Regardless of the reasons, the primary thing that really matters is that the next generation and future generations following will suffer the consequences for our failure to restrain our children if we don’t figure this out.  Because…

“Good, godly, and obedient children don’t raise themselves.  Good, godly, and obedient parents do.”

Mom and Dad, please help your children, and help the future of our society.  Parents, I plead with you… please restrain your children. 

If you agree, please share this open letter with others by clicking here.  Thank you. 

Love them Lavishly

From the time your child enters the world until the time you release them into it on their own, you are given approximately 18 years, 216 months, 936 weeks, and 6,570 days to nurture, train, and love them.  And with each moment you have with your children, it’s a moment that can never be recovered.

As our children are getting older, my wife and I are becoming increasingly aware that our time with our kids is short.  And the investment opportunities of things that we desire to still see instilled in their hearts and lives before they leave home is shrinking by the day.  Our oldest will be heading off to college within just a couple of years, and we’re nearing the ‘half-way’ point with our youngest.

While we continue to have great times together making many memories as a family, we can’t help but think of all the memories that we still want to make.  But time is limited and fleeting.  That is why it is so important that we love our children lavishly while we still have the chance.

And what do I mean by ‘loving them lavishly’?  I simply mean there ought to be regular times when our kids are the beneficiaries of the outpouring of our love in undeniable and even somewhat overwhelming ways.

For example, of the 6570 days that God has given to you with your child, how many of them will stand out in their memory as days that they remember being lavishly loved?  Days or moments when they were treated like royalty, and given the very best of who you are as a parent?

While I’m not at all suggesting that we need to spoil our children rotten (that’s grandpa & grandma’s job), there is a healthy balance of times when our kids should feel the overwhelming sense of being surrounded with our love – physically, emotionally, and mentally.  These don’t have to be times when we spend a lot of money or even any money at all.  They simply need to be times when they know that they are our #1 priority then and there, and that we love them more than we love any other earthly possessions or commitments.

  • For my 10-year-old son, to love him lavishly would look like this… to play a 3 hour game of monopoly (that he knows I can’t stand) but to have fun doing it, then to play football in the backyard, and then watch his favorite movie together.  To him, this is to be lavishly loved by dad.
  • For my 7-year-old son, it would look more like this… Taking time to go frisbee golfing together, helping him build something in the backyard or up in a tree, and doing the piggy-toes each night before going to bed.  Of course, right after eating some microwave popcorn together (his favorite).
  • For my 13-year-old daughter, loving her lavishly would include things like Starbuck, Buffalo Wild Wings, and extra long bear hugs.  Because she feels most loved through those two things – her favorite foods and my physical affection.
  • For my 15-year-old son, to be lavished with love looks like me and him playing basketball in the driveway, watching action movies together, and just talking about life (of all our kids, he surprisingly loves to talk the most).

This will look different for each of your children as well, and knowing their love language will help.

Mom or dad, when’s the last time that you loved your children lavishly?  Think about some of these different ways that you could show them your lavish love this week:

  • Give them an extra long hug (no side hugs allowed) and don’t let go until they know undoubtedly just how much you love them.
  • With younger kids, fall asleep with them in their bed holding them tight and singing to them.
  • Praise your child for some of their strengths in front of your family or friends.
  • Write them a handwritten note expressing your love and how proud you are of them.
  • Make them their favorite breakfast or meal out of the blue as an ‘I love you’ gesture.
  • Take them to do their favorite activity or to eat at their favorite restaurant for no special reason other than ‘just because’.
  • Have a meal around the dinner table where everyone in the family brags on what they appreciate most about them.
  • Sit them down, look them in the eyes, and tell them exactly how much they mean to you.
  • Brag on them in a one-on-one setting where you pour out your heart and your pride.

The possibilities are endless, but the opportunities are not.  

I absolutely love it when I see parents taking their kids out on dates, doing special activities together, and spending individual time with one another. It truly blesses my heart to see parents loving their children lavishly, and I know it blesses the heart of the Heavenly Father even more.

One day many parents are going to look back and wish that they had taken advantage of more opportunities to love their children lavishly.

So, however many years, months, weeks, or days you have left, why not make the most of them to lavish your most prized earthly possessions with your most precious priceless gift – your love.  I guarantee you this – you’ll never regret it, and they’ll never forget it.

5 Things Parents Need to STOP Doing TO Their Kids

Last week, we considered 5 Things Parents Need to Stop Doing FOR Their Kids.  If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to check it out.  This week, I’d like to emphasize 5 things parents need to stop doing TO their kids.

Have you ever watched a parent get on to their child for something that seemed unreasonable, or maybe even embarrass their child in public, and it made you cringe?  Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty, even sometimes without realizing it.  

However, there are a number of things that many parents habitually or inadvertently do to their kids that they really need to just STOP doing.  Things that are often squelching their child’s God-given personality and potential.  Are you guilty of any of these 5 things?:

  1. Making your child feel guilty for choosing to be generous. How many times has our child given something away out of the kindness of their heart, and we reprimanded them for it?  Maybe even talked them out of it, or made them feel terribly guilty for wanting to give something away that we paid for.  (I know that I’m guilty as charged.)  At a time when our children are most naturally developing the skill of generosity, we squelch it and don’t even realize it. I understand that there needs to be a good balance here, but why do we instantly feel the strong urge/need to suppress our child’s generosity towards their friends and others rather than praise them for it?  
  2. Expecting them to act like an adult when they’re not. Comments like you just need to “grow up” are almost always less of a help and more of an insult to our children.  Yes, we need to have expectations for our kids, but they need to be realistic and age-appropriate expectations, not expectations of perfection, because not even we could live up to that.  And when those realistic expectations are expressed, our kids deserve to hear it in a positive, reinforcing way, not in a degrading manner.
  3. Assuming they are okay with getting the leftovers of our time and attention. Kids are amazingly resilient, even when we fail them time and time again.  However, if they’re hounding us to play with them or come take a look at something that they’ve made, they’re smart enough to realize when we’ve put everything else before what is most important to them. Phrases like, “wait until my show is done” or “let me finish this” take priority, and our kids see the pattern. While it may not be realistic to drop what you’re doing every time, there should still be a good handful of times on a regular basis when you do drop everything just for them.  Because our kids should get the best, not the rest, of our time and attention. 
  4. Embarrassing them in public situations. Making fun of family members is a part of family life, and can even have a healthy place in a family setting. But when it carries over into public life outside of the family, much harm can potentially be done by causing resentment, anger, and frustration.  Especially if it becomes a regular routine where parents are trying to “make a point” to their kids in front of others by aggressively saying things like “why can’t you just behave?” or “what in the world is wrong with you?”.  If your kids are doing something wrong and need to be corrected, give them the respect they deserve as your child. Correct them without intentionally embarrassing them, and whenever possible, correct them in private.  
  5. Telling them they have to wait until they’re older.  To serve… to give… to help… to work… to cook… to do yard work or dishes.   Kids are eager to be involved and to imitate you in the “big” things of life.  But if all we see is that they are just kids, we are selling them far short of their full potential in life.  We need to view them as the future servants, leaders, and workers that they are.  They are in life-training to become great husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and servants of the Lord.  And every day we have a window of opportunity to cultivate their heart and prepare them for life and service. And if we don’t give them opportunities to do those things when they’re still young, they might just not ask again when they get older. 

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.  I Thessalonians 2:7

Mom & Dad, which one of these 5 things do you need to stop doing to your kids?  Which one hits closest to home for you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 Things Parents Need to STOP Doing FOR Their Kids

Believe it or not, a lot of parents are doing things for their kids that they really shouldn’t be doing.  

Things that are hurting, rather than helping them for life. And things that are robbing them of future potential that they will one day need. Here are 5 of those things:

  1. Cleaning up after them… Let’s be honest and admit that kids as early as a few years old can begin being taught to pick up after themselves.  There is nothing wrong and everything right with parents expecting their kids to help clean up after meals, fold or put away laundry, and keep their room clean.  Some parents simply need to STOP – stop cleaning up after your kids while they sit on the couch and watch or play; stop stealing from them life skills that they are going to need for the rest of their lives, simply because it’s easier to just “do it yourself.”
  2. Paying for everything. Yes, as parents, we have a lot to pay for, and rightly so, but what extra things can you allow your children to earn or work for?  While kids should not have to pay for their own food, housing, or even things like braces or medical expenses, they can pay for their own name brand clothes, video games, extra niceties, and things that are not needs.  As parents, determine age-appropriately what these things are that you should pay for, and what things they should pay for.  And yes, this requires them to be earning and/or saving money in order to pay for these things. Because one of the easiest ways to raise entitled children is to provide them with everything they want at no personal cost to them.
  3. Fighting all their battles.  Our kids need our wisdom and experience to help them know how to fight their battles, but they don’t need us to be the hero and fight them all for them. If we always come to their rescue, how will they ever learn how to handle life in the “real world” someday?  Childhood is the boot camp for life. That means there are going to be some struggles and battles that our kids have to face, and need to face, and that is a good thing.  Because those struggles will only make them stronger if we allow them to learn from them, but weaker if we don’t.
  4. Making excuses for them.  Our kids will mess up.  They will forget things.  They will hurt others.  They will disobey the rules.  And when they do, one of the best things that a parent can do is allow them to take responsibility for their actions.  Mom and Dad, no matter how hard it seems to let your children fall or fail, it is an important part of their development of good character.  Don’t be that parent who always has an excuse ready to whip out of their back pocket for their child in every situation.  Love your child by letting them face reality.  Don’t hinder your child by making excuses for them.
  5. Owning their beliefs. As parents, it’s our job to train our children to believe the right things.  So give them expectations and requirements… but also allow them to make choices on their own and ask tough questions.  Why?  So that your beliefs can become personal to them and ultimately become their own. Otherwise, they can simply mirror your beliefs until they are 18 and then easily abandon them forever. (We see it happen all the time, don’t we?)  Because all along, they were yours, not theirs.  Help your children to own their own beliefs.

Which of these 5 things are you most guilty of that you need to STOP doing FOR your kids? (probably #1 for me) Or, what things would you add to this list?  I’d love to hear them.

To Discipline or Not To Discipline… That is the Question

What to do when you're not sure what to do

Our 7-year-old son, Shane, is the life of the family.  He loves to be funny, a prankster, and an all around fun kid.  And he loves to hide.  

We’ll be in a store, and Shane will disappear.  In reality, he’s actually hiding around the corner or in-between the rack of clothes.  I’ve had to remind him recently that he can’t hide when we’re in public places.  Simply because it’s just not safe, and after a few seconds, mom and dad go into panic mode.

I was getting ready to leave the church recently and Shane was following me out to the vehicle. By the time I got in to leave, he was nowhere to be found. After searching, I found him hiding underneath the church van in the parking lot. While he thought it was the perfect hiding spot where dad would never find him, I had to have a stern conversation with him about the importance of safety and what is and isn’t acceptable when finding a good hiding spot. 

One more instance… a few weeks ago, my wife went down into our basement and smelt something burning.  She looked around and found that Shane had put his bendable-neck school light attached to his desk down on top of a pile of crayons, and the light was actually touching the crayons.  When I asked him what in the world he was thinking by trying to burn the house down, he said, “I was just trying to melt my crayons, Dad.”

Sometimes our children don’t always understand what we would consider to be common sense decisions that need to be made.  And in our adult minds, we’re ready to jump all over our kids in anger or even discipline for things that they may simply need to be taught otherwise why those things are not good ideas or decisions.  

So how is a parent to know when TO discipline and when NOT TO discipline when their child does off the wall things that you didn’t even know existed?  

It’s a conundrum that every parent faces at some time, so when the options are to discipline or not to discipline, here are a few reminders/principles to help you decide:

1. Correct the first time, discipline in times that follow 

The rule in our family is that if it’s something that we’ve never specifically corrected them or told them about before, we don’t discipline them (unless it’s a blatant issue of disrespect, etc), but rather, we make our expectations known.  This was the case with our son hiding under the van. While this was a very serious matter, it was also clearly done in innocence, not intentionally having done anything wrong.  We had a very stern and frank conversation to make him aware of the potential dangers of his choice and explained to him never to do it again.  

Once our children have been informed and “enlightened”, we will make them aware of future consequences if it happens again, and we will then hold them accountable through discipline in times that follow. (This rule has served our family well.  However, this does not work if multiple corrections are given for the same offense before discipline is enforced.  It is essential that you correct the first time only, and then consistently discipline for repeat offenses.)

2. Hear them out before flying off the handle

When we found the stench of burning crayons in our house, I could have easily lost it (and wanted to).  How could my son possibly take a chance at burning our house down?  What in the world was he thinking?  He certainly knew better than that!… Or did he?  After asking him about it (rather than immediately pouncing on him) I was able to understand that he thought that baking the crayons with the heat of a light was a good idea, the same as putting them into the heat of the oven, which our family has done before for school projects.  

Once I understood his thinking, I was able to calmly explain to him the danger behind it.  It’s important for us to remember that our kids want and need to be understood, but sometimes we just have to give them the chance. (Here’s an instance where I just about got this wrong.)

3. Always discipline for clearly intentional or disrespectful acts  

Recently, there was a time when Shane intentionally hit his brother in the “not so secret parts”. This was a time when discipline wasn’t in question. There are times when no warnings or explanations should be given, and the best person to understand when those times are is you, the parent.  

You know, based on the age and maturity of your children, when they are intentionally being mean, defiant, disrespectful, or even manipulative. These are times when you must win those small battles.  Because there are certain things that no parent should ever tolerate. Whether it be when a child blatantly says “NO”, or intentionally disobeys orders, discipline shouldn’t be an option, but an expectation.  

So, when you’re faced with the choice – to discipline or not to discipline, hopefully, the filter of these three things will help you make the right choice.

  • Enjoy some of the many faces of Shane… We think he’s pretty awesome.

Don’t Forget the Small Things

Two questions for you… Are you ready for them?

1.  Have you ever dreamed up some great ideas for how you could show love to your kids or your spouse in simple ways?  Maybe to take them to their favorite place to eat… write them a love note to hide somewhere for them to find… make them breakfast in bed… or surprise them with a big bear hug and a special gift?  Whatever things might come to mind, here is the second question for you?

2.  How many of those types of things have you done for them recently?  I know that for me personally, it’s not as many as I’d like to admit.  My mind is often full of great ideas and good intentions, but that’s often about as far as they get.  Can you relate?

There are a ton of small opportunities in our lives that are easily overlooked and that get quickly drowned out by the overwhelm of the daily rush.  Life gets busy, our days get full, and some of the little important things repeatedly get pushed aside, hour after hour, day after day, and sometimes, never getting done.

“Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.”  – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

With the start of the new year, many of us have set big goals for ourselves, ‘great ambitions’ if you will.  But may our drive to accomplish big things never strip from us the ability to give attention to what’s small.

Because these little things can mean the world to our kids or our spouse.  ‘Small’ things such as a hug, a note slipped into a lunch bag or even a simple text during the middle of the day. And while all of us love the small things, most of us are usually too busy to actually do them.  And as a result, the people we love the most often miss out on the big ways that we can speak love into their lives through the smallest things.

So, what are some of these small things in life that are easily overlooked but that can make a huge impact?  Here are a few:

  • Hug your kids
  • Slip a note into a school lunch bag or in between a textbook
  • Send a ‘just because’ text to your spouse to see how their day is going
  • Say I love you
  • Pray with your spouse or kids before leaving the house to start the day
  • Take out the trash (no matter whose job it’s supposed to be)
  • Make the bed
  • Buy your wife an unexpected Starbucks
  • Get your kids their favorite Happy Meal
  • Schedule that date night you’ve been promising your spouse
  • Bring home flowers for your wife, or your husbands favorite candy bar
  • Hug your spouse
  • Ask your kids what they want to do in the evening and then do it
  • Say I love you
  • Surprise your kids by taking them to see that new movie they’ve been talking about
  • Initiate a casual conversation with your teenager
  • Make breakfast in bed for someone in your family on a normal day
  • Give your kids a bear hug
  • Tell your family to get in the car (maybe blindfolded) and take them to a surprise location
  • Do the dishes
  • Say I love you

There are things we know we should do, and we even say that we do many of them… “Of course I hug my kids daily” or, “I say I love you all the time”.  But do we really?  How many times did you do any of those things in the last two days? (honestly now)…  There’s a reason you’re struggling to remember.

We all need to be more intentional about doing more of the small things. Because there will come a day when we’ll wish we could squeeze those little people with bear hugs like we once did.  And there will come a day that we’ll wish we’d have said more “I love you’s”.  

There will come a day when the big things that we thought were big really weren’t as big as the small things that we thought were small.

Zechariah 4:10 says, “For who hath despised the day of small things?”  I believe that we serve a God Who cares about the small things, and so should we. 

Whatever small things have come to mind as you’re reading this, don’t get too busy or distracted to do them this week.  Leave that love note on the table, send that ‘just because’ text, or hug each of your kids one extra time before leaving the house.  Because these are the moments that we will one day wish we could get back.  Do the small things that matter today.

“When you are older you will understand how precious little things, seemingly of no value in themselves, can be loved and prized above all price when they convey the love and thoughtfulness of a good heart.”  – Edwin Booth 

A Contribution to the World As Unique As You Are

Psalm 119:73  Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.

Last week, our family went to see the new movie, The Greatest Showman. We had heard some positive things about it and thought that we would give it a try for ourselves.  And I’d have to say, in my opinion, it did not disappoint.  While it was not a perfect family movie, it was a great movie, with a fantastic message.  

One of the most notable things about the movie was how the great showman, P.T. Barnum, brought unique individuals together who were outcasts of society, and he brought out hidden talents in each of them that the world had refused to give a chance.  And each person’s contribution to the circus was as unique as they were.  

YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS AS UNIQUE AS YOU ARE

And in life, it is much the same way.  David said in Psalm 119:73 that not only did God “make us” (create us), He also “fashioned us” (made us uniquely individual).  When David spoke in Psalm 139:16 of being “fearfully and wonderfully made”, I don’t believe that he was referring to a Christian cookie cutter assembly line.  

We are all created by God, but each of us have been created with individual talents and traits that the world has never yet seen outside of us.  And as a result, our calling, our purpose, and our contribution to the cause of Christ are to be as unique as we are.

And this is true for our children as well and why it is important to remember that no two children are exactly the same, nor should they be expected to be.

Just as every child in your family and mine is completely unique in their own way, their very calling and contribution in life is as unique as their personality and fingerprints are.  So we need to be very careful in comparing our children to each other, or even to other people’s children.  Our job is to nurture and raise each individual child that God has placed into our care by helping them become the person that God has created them, and only them, to be.  

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

BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE

We could certainly take this beyond the realm or our children and into many other areas of life as well.

This principle is the same reason why no two churches, pastors, families, individual Christians, or ministries are exactly the same or should be identical.  Yes, we all should hold to the same core Biblical beliefs, but no, we are not to be twins in the way that we operate our lives or ministries. 

God never intended for us as Christians or ministries or families to be in competition with one another or to simply replicate one another. While we should be all about sharing ideas and learning from others, there is no “copy and paste” button with God. We are each uniquely created for a unique calling and contribution. Yes, we need our similarities, but we actually thrive in our diversities. 

God created each of us to be uniquely individual – an expression of the amazing creativity of our awesome God.  That means that the way that we see things is different.  The way that we do things is different.  And the way that we carry out God’s calling in our lives is often unique to each of us.

THERE IS UNITY IN OUR DIVERSITY

Surprisingly, there is great unity in our diversity.  And in some ways, there is even greater unity in our diversity than there is in our similarities, because God has called each and every one of us as Christians, parents, pastors, and laymen to do something for Him that is as unique as we are.  He has called us to fill a role, raise a child, build a church, operate a ministry, or reach a specific group of people in a way that no one else could.  Because we each have a custom fit calling that no one else can perfectly squeeze into. 

And as a result:

  • No two families will be identical in the way they function, and neither should they be. 
  • No two ministries will be exactly alike, neither should they be. 
  • No two Christian will agree on every detail of how they practically carry out their walk with Christ, and that’s okay.

Yes, we all have the Bible to guide us in general things that will never change, but we also have each been given the Holy Spirit to guide us in a uniquely personal way on a level that can never be mass produced or duplicated. (I Corinthians 2:9-13, 12:4-11)

For example, 4 years ago, I started this blog to fill a need that God had impressed upon my heart to fill – to provide practical tips and tools to parents and leaders to effectively reach the next generation.  To my knowledge, there was no one in our circles doing what I felt that God was specifically calling me to do – be a voice through this avenue for the next generation. And as a result, this ministry/blog has become a unique expression of God’s design for the family.  In fact, it’s as unique I am (and that’s pretty unique, just ask my family.)

I love what my friend, Martin Van Tilborgh, shared in his book, Unboxed. He said, “God is not looking for uniformity! He’s looking for diversity. He is looking for an expression of His manifold wisdom through each and every individual in a unique way… When we all realize that what I have to bring to the table is unique to me, I keep myself from trying to become someone (or something) else… It’s all about giving birth to the very thing that God created you to give birth to. Something so unique that it doesn’t have a point of reference anywhere else. Nobody else ever gave birth to what you are supposed to give birth to through your life.” 

Wow… Those are definitely some great thoughts to chew on.  

As we enter a new year, I’m asking God to show me what unique things He wants to do in and through me concerning my family, ministry, and personal walk with Him.  Would you join me? 

Jeremiah 33:3  Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

What kind of contribution did God create you to make in His world that is as uniquely designed as you are?  Are you making it?  In your ministry, in your home, in your children?  I dare you, ask God what it is, and watch Him reveal it to you.  It might just surprise you.

How to Be Your Child’s Hero in 2018

Every child needs a hero. 

I can remember that growing up I had two heroes – my Dad and Michael Jordan.  I wanted so bad to be the next MJ and one day play in the NBA.  I also wanted to become a pastor like my father. (One of the two came true.)

In addition to superheroes or stars on the big screen, your children have people in their lives that they idolize and look up to as well – real-life heroes in their eyes.  And you need to know who they are, or maybe even be that person yourself.  

Our children desperately need someone that they can look up to, admire, and even emulate.  This could be a parent, a mentor, a friend, or even a sibling, an aunt, an uncle, or a pastor or teacher. But regardless of who it is, every child needs a hero, because as my pastor, Josh Beutow, recently said, “The most powerful influence we have is the power of example,” and this is especially true in the life of a child.

So, if you want to be your child’s hero, here are three simple ways to make it happen in the coming year:

1.  Give them your unconditional LOVE

There are two primary things that every child needs, especially from their parents – clear boundaries and unconditional love. And if those two needs are met, many others things in their development will naturally fall into place. Your child deserves a hero who believes in them, cheers for them, and accepts them in their highest and lowest points of life.  Your child needs and desires your unconditional love.  

A child needs someone to love them when they are unloveable, care for them when they just don’t care themselves, and be their biggest fan when they fail as well as when they succeed.  They need someone who will show them how to live and set an example for them of how to love.  

You ask any child who their real-life hero is, and it won’t take them long to know who it is, even if they won’t tell you.  And mark it down, the person they choose is someone who loves them unconditionally.    

2.  Give them your irreplaceable TIME.  

Every person gets the same amount of time every day, no matter who they are.  Because time is no respecter of persons. No one gets more.  No one gets less.  So when you take your valuable time and generously invest it into a young life, that child takes notice of that.  They appreciate it, look forward to it, and even want more of it because it makes them feel special.  And it should.

My oldest sister, Amy, does an amazing job of this, as she has a tradition of taking each of her nieces and nephews out by themselves each year for their birthday just to spend time together eating, shopping, and having fun.  And each of the kids adores Aunt Amy for it.   

Kids are far smarter than we often give them credit for.  And the way we spend our irreplaceable times speaks volumes about what we value most. Children know when we prioritize them as well as when we’re pushing them to the side. Heroes don’t become heroes without sacrificing a part of themselves to make a difference in the life of another.  Giving your time and attention to a child can make you a hero in their eyes.   

3.  Give them your non-negotiable RULES.  

As already mentioned, of the two things every child needs, one of them is clear boundaries.  While children naturally resist boundaries, they still desire them.  Because boundaries bring safety to life just like a guardrail brings a sense of security when you walk close to a ledge. Clear and enforced boundaries communicate love and concern to our children.  They demonstrate that someone is looking out for them and that someone cares about what happens to them.  

I can remember a kid who came from a home with very little structure telling me, “I wish my parents loved me enough to give me rules like your kids have.”  Wow… It was obvious to him that our family’s rules were a clear sign of our love and concern for our children, and he desired to experience that kind of love firsthand himself.  Don’t ever underestimate the importance of clearly defined and consistently enforced boundaries in the life of your child. 

God wired kids to need lots of these three things – love, time, and rules. 

And while they may idolize that singer or that athlete from a distance, the person that gives them a proper balance of these three things on a personal level is truly who becomes ‘hero material’ in their eyes – their superman or superwoman, and potentially one of the most influential people in their life.  

Every child needs a hero.  Every child is looking for one.  Whose hero will you be?

5 Benefits of Dating Your Spouse That You’re Missing Out On

In recent years, my wife and I have re-established the habit of regular date nights.  And we’ve found that going out 2-3 times a month, if not weekly, has become a very positive thing for our marriage. (here’s how we make it happen)

Sadly, many couples lose weeks, months, or even years of marriage where dates are simply a thing of the past, sometimes completely non-existent in their relationship.  And as a result, they easily drift apart, or at minimum, fail to experience the many benefits that date nights can provide.

Here are a few of those benefits many couples miss out on.  Having a regular date night…

  1. Livens the Love. Complacency is a marriage killer, but nothing keeps the love alive like two people who are in constant pursuit of each other.  When spouses strive to make the marriage more about the other person than they do about themselves, pleasing one another comes more naturally, and they both become easier to love.
  2. Improves Communication.  Any couple with kids still at home knows that having an adult conversation can sometimes seem nearly impossible.  And once the kids are in bed, mom and dad are often ready to crash as well.  Having regular date nights has improved the communication in our marriage dramatically (my wife says I still have a long way to go). It allows us to catch up on “routine maintenance” in our family, as well as just have some personal and romantic conversation about us and our love for each other.
  3. Increases Intimacy.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when two people in love spend more time together alone enhancing their relationship, enhanced intimacy will naturally follow.  I can remember back to the days when my wife and I were dating, and how much I anticipated the day that marriage and all of its benefits would be ours.  Now when we go on a date, wishing doesn’t have to be a part of the equation. 🙂
  4. Relieves Stress and Tension.  While I find going on dates beneficial and enjoyable for myself, they are even more so for my wife.  Any wife or mother of kids can probably relate. Men, our wives simply need to get away from ‘the little people’ every now and then and have some time to unwind and relax.  Not to mention, a date night can relieve tension and stress by allowing you and your spouse to focus on your marriage and help you get on the same page in a number of areas.
  5. Proves Your Priorities.  Nothing speaks priority like setting aside a night, getting a babysitter, and scheduling time alone with your spouse. This is especially true for a wife. Our spouse needs to know that we prioritize our relationship enough to make time for it and its growth. But if all we have are excuses for why we can’t, then chances are we won’t. And unfortunately, our spouse will continue to feel less than special to us.

When you fell in love, you couldn’t wait for the next time you went on a date with the love of your life.  Well, your spouse should still be the love of your life.  So schedule, plan, and anticipate your next date night like you once did.  (In fact, why not take some time today to schedule some date nights on your new years’ calendar. Seriously, just do it.)  And watch how it rekindles the love you have for one another as you once again start enjoying the many benefits of dating your spouse.

Check out this free End of Year Marriage Checklist that you and your spouse can use to spark discussion in the new year!  It requires you to ask and answer 17 questions about the 5 major stress points in every marriage and how you can improve in each one.  

How to Help Your Kids Fall in Love with the Bible

5 tips for cultivating a love for God's Word in your children

Three things that God has given to every Christian are His Son (to die for us), His Spirit (to live within us), and His Word (to teach and direct us).

All three are vitally important to our walk with God, and every believer, including children, should have a love and appreciation for each of these things.  In today’s post, I’d like to focus on the importance of our love for God’s Word, and ways that we can encourage our kids to fall in love with it as well.  

As parents, we never want the Bible to just become another book on the shelf, or simply a family tradition to our kids. We want them to fall in love with it.  But in order for that to happen, we must keep the Bible at the forefront of our family and our everyday lives, so our love for it grows deeper as time passes.  

If you agree, here are 5 practical ways to help you cultivate a love for God’s Word in your children.  Which of these 5 are you already doing and which ones can you implement into your home starting today?

1.  Start teaching them love and respect for the Bible at as young an age as possible

From the time a child is born, they are old enough for mom and dad to read the Bible to them.  At the ages of 2+, they can even understand that we love the Bible by holding it and hugging it. Teach your children from the youngest ages songs about the Word of God. Tell them Bible stories with an open Bible in hand, and even allow them to hold it themselves.  Even if your children are already past these early years, the best time to start or continue developing a love for God’s Word is now.

2.  Make the Bible a central part of your family’s daily life and routine

Here are some ideas you might consider trying:

  • Daily family verse – Read it together in the morning, memorize it for the day or the week, use it as a theme for family devotions.
  • Nightly devotions – We’ve found personally that one of the greatest ways to instill the Word of God within the hearts of our children is to sit together in the living room with an open Bible and an open conversation about a story, a principle, or a verse. (Here’s A Busy Parent’s Guide to Doing Family Devotions that will help.)
  • Posted Scriptures – Deuteronomy 6:9 reminds us as parents of the importance of having Scripture “written on the posts of our house”.  Make the words of Scripture a visible centerpiece throughout your home.  Whether this is by way of take-home papers from church, handwritten verses from your kids, or framed scriptures on your walls, make the word of God a central part of your home by making it visible!  

3.  Memorize the Bible together as a family

Most parents want their children to memorize the Scriptures, but are we willing to memorize the scriptures ourselves?  Nothing will motivate your children to hide God’s Word in their heart more than when you are willing not just to help them, but to memorize with them.  When they have to memorize scripture for school or church, don’t just expect it of them, exemplify it for them!  I was recently encouraged by a friends’ family who memorized an entire chapter of the Bible together.  (And it wasn’t even Psalm 117. Lol.)

4.  Make the Bible come alive to your kids!

I love what Keith Ferrin has to say about this… “Read the Bible like you’re reading Curious George to a five-year-old. Change the volume. Change the pace. Give the characters voices. After all, they didn’t sound like the monotone voice you are reading with.” 

Teach your kids that the Bible is much more than just something to study and read, but something to enjoy.  Get into it when you read it, act it out with character roles, have fun!

5.  Treat the Bible like the living book that it is that has the power to help us daily

Talk to your kids regularly about what God is teaching you through the Bible.  Let them know how it is shaping your daily decisions and guiding your every step.  When you children have decisions to make for themselves, rather than giving them answers, give them scriptures to look up and read, and guide them into practicing practical Christian living by making choices based upon what they read.

Too often, many times we inadvertently teaching our kids to come to us, or run to the pastor every time they need answers or wisdom for life decisions.  May we first point them to the wisdom of the Word of God, realizing that God has given our children the same Holy Spirit that He has given to us to guide them into all truth. 

6.  Set the example

If our kids don’t see us pick up the Bible between Sundays, they’re probably not going to do it themselves, or be convinced that it’s really the life-changing book worth that we claim it is. Actions speak louder than words.  When our kids see us reading the Bible, talking to them about the Bible during the week, and showing them Scriptures that apply to their daily lives, they can’t help but learn to love the Bible even more. 

For me personally, I often enjoy reading my Bible in the mornings on my phone or iPad. However, when I know that my morning devotion time will intersect with the time my children wake up and start their day, I choose to read from my hard copy of the scriptures.  It’s a simple, yet intentional choice, because the first time my kids see me is often when I’m sitting at the kitchen table spending time with God, and I want that that potential life-long impression upon their heart to far outweigh my convenience and preference to use a device.  It may seem trivial, but it’s still one more way to show them my love for the Word of God.

What can you do starting today to set the example for your kids in this area of loving God’s Word?

If you are serious about passing down a love for God’s Word to your children and would like to dive deeper into how to do it, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy of Keith Ferrin’s book, Like Ice Cream. (You can even get the first 1/3 of the book free at this link.)  It’s an easy read with a great family message.  I loved reading it, and know you will too!

“Passing down a love for Scripture ought to be as easy as passing down a love for ice cream.” – Keith Ferrin

I love that!  In the book, he shares practical ways for how to do just that.  It’s not as hard as we often think.  It simply requires that we be intentional.  

May these few ideas help us and our kids to fall in love even more with God’s Word, the Bible.

  • Pssst… We purchased new Bibles for our kids for Christmas (Shhh… don’t tell) What better way to help them fall in love with the Bible than to give them a nice new copy to call their own, right?  If you’d like to give your kids a really nice, yet inexpensive kid-friendly Bible for Christmas, check out these Kids Study Bibles all between $12-$17.  

5 Dangerous Misconceptions Every Church Staff Needs to Mentally Avoid

Faulty ways of thinking that keep us from maximum effectiveness 

Having served in the full-time ministry for the last 16 years, I can relate to the struggles and challenges that ministers often face.  I understand that it can be very easy for life and ministry to quickly mesh into one, and not always in a good way.  And if you’re not intentional, one’s spiritual and family life can often suffer because the “work of the ministry” begins consuming and controlling your life.

There is also a real danger that as pastors and staff, we can easily become good at thinking about ministry in all the wrong ways.  It’s often not even on purpose, but before you know it, we are subconsciously taking on one or more of these faulty ways of thinking about ministry.

Here are 5 dangerous misconceptions every staff person needs to mentally avoid:

  1. Viewing Sunday as a day of Work more than a day of Worship.  Technically, Sunday is a day of work for a church staff member.  But sometimes it can be to the point that we become so focused on ministering that we forget to allow ourselves to be ministered to as well.  Amid the sermons and schedules and various ministry stuff, we inadvertently forget that this is actually the Lord’s Day – a day of worship meant for us to rejoice and be glad in it.  This requires that we intentionally enter every Sunday (and the work that it involves) with an attitude of worship, having prepared our hearts in advance to both minister and be ministered to.
  2. Treating volunteers as Pawns rather than People.  While it’s never our intention, we can quickly become so focused on making sure that all the spots are filled and all the boxes are checked that we actually forget that we are shepherding people, not herding cattle. Our volunteers are not our cheerleaders, who are there to make us look good. Rather, we are to be theirs.  We are there to minister with them and to them.  This is why an acknowledgment of their service, a spoken word of praise, or even a simple compliment can go a really long way with your volunteers.  Yes, they minister out of a desire to serve the Lord, but they also desire to please you and are greatly benefited and motivated by your approval.
  3. Feeling obligated to be more of a Martha instead of a Mary.  Let’s get really honest here… we get very busy serving our people, and rightly so, but may we not get so wrapped up in serving others that we forget Who it is that we are really serving in the first place. We are serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And more than He wants our service to His church, He first and foremost just wants us – all of us. He wants our adoration more than our activity.  He wants our heart more than our help. Our natural tendency is often to be more of a Martha, but He also longs for us to learn to be a Mary.
  4. Looking to Be Served rather than looking To Serve.  While it’s always nice to get that pat on the back, that compliment to our sermon, or one of the special ‘perks’ of being a pastor or church staff, it’s even more important that we are constantly looking for ways to compliment, encourage, praise, and ultimately serve those who serve with us.  For every kindness shown to us, may we four-fold (or maybe ten-fold) have first shown that kindness to our people.  May we never adopt an attitude of entitlement or expectation in the ministry. But rather, may we humbly strive to be a servant leader like Jesus, constantly looking for needs to be met and people to be helped.
  5. Mistaking our service to the Church for equalling our service to Christ.  No matter our position, we are a Christian first, a pastor or staff second. It is very easy to forget this. Many ministers who do forget this end up facing an identity crisis, having linked their identity as a Christian solely to their ministry, rather than to their relationship with Christ. Our service to God does not end when we leave the church building. Rather, our service to God is an extension of our life as a Christian, not an extension of our ministry to the church. Think about it… Our people volunteer their time “after hours” to do things that we are getting paid to do “on the clock”.  So the next time we’re tempted to complain about having to study at home in the evening or make significant sacrifices of our time outside of our normal schedule, let’s not forget that many of our people are doing exactly that every single week – as volunteers. May we never be guilty of confining our service to the Lord to this box that we call “ministry.” Because being a child of the King is So Much More than just that!

I hope that this 5 things challenge your thinking, and cause you to evaluate your own heart and motives to align them with God’s.  May the people we serve see what Christ intended for them to see in and through us as leaders and ministers of the glorious gospel.  May they see in us a standard worth striving for in order to become more like Christ.

I Corinthians 11:1  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

 

If you serve in the church and need a quality VBS theme you can do on a shoestring budget, or simply want a cool VBS or kids church series to use in 2018, check out this 5-lesson bundle available from our sister site, KidzBlast.com.  It’s over half off in the month of December only.