Mom & Dad, Please Get to Know Me

My youngest son and I just spent a week together conducting our final VBS of the summer.  We had a blast, and while we were away, I asked him a list of questions to get to know him better, as well as to see how well I really know him.  While I thought I’d ace this, some of his answers actually surprised me.

Shane & I about to board a plane to Lubbock, TX for our final VBS of the summer.

If you have children, you probably know them pretty well too… or at least you think you do.

Sometimes we’re convinced that we know our own kids better than anyone else, but if we really stop to evaluate ourselves, we might just find out that we don’t know them quite as well as we think, or as we should.

One of our primary goals as parents is not just to raise our children, but to know them.

It’s easy to get so busy taking care of our children, that we can lose track of many of the important details of their lives.

God gave them to us to guide through life, and this requires that we study them, learn them, and know them to the best of our ability.  Their wants, desires, needs, and special quirks should be things that we both know and understand better than anyone else.

Learning to know our children can be a life-long process, but a very worthy one.  So here is a list of basic questions/statements for you to try and answer to see how well you know your child.  Pick up a pen, and start filling in answers: (printable pdf available by clicking on the image)

After filling out your answers to all of the above questions, ask your child their responses to the same questions, then compare and discuss your answers together.

My son got quite a kick out of seeing how many answers I got right (and how many I got wrong). He thought is was super fun to see how well dad knows him.  And we had some great discussion as well.  I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Don’t be surprised if you get stumped along the way.  Just have fun.  And remember, the goal is simply to get to know your child better.  And believe me, you will.

Are You Being Fair to Your Pastor & Your Ministry?  

4 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself

Church staff members have the potential to be a vitally important part of any church, adding value and quality to the ministry.

However, they also carry with them the potential to become a weight or burden to a church. Especially if they are not producing and growing both themselves and the ministry they oversee.

Every person who serves in full-time ministry, as pastor or staff, must constantly be striving to lead better by becoming better, and grow their ministry by first growing themselves. I’ve been privileged to work under two senior pastors who have done this exceptionally well through example, and encouraged their staff to do the same.

If you serve in a staff capacity where you are being paid by the tithes and offerings of the generous people of your church, here are four thought-provoking questions to consider (I’m sure there could be many more) to help evaluate if you’re being fair to your pastor and your ministry?

1. What is the last book I’ve read specific to my ministry or growth development?

(Maybe for some, the question would suffice, “What is the last book I’ve read?”) Whatever area of ministry you’ve been called to serve in, most likely its because you have a passion for that area of ministry. What are you currently reading to increase your knowledge of and passion for the things God has gifted you to do and placed closest to your heart?

Are you a better and more knowledgeable worship leader, children’s or youth pastor, assistant pastor, etc. than you were a year ago… 5 years ago? Consider this… if the average book consists of 10-15 chapters, and you dedicate yourself to reading just one chapter a day, you could easily read two new books per month.

While the number of books you read or don’t read certainly isn’t a ‘tell all’ of your success or failure towards your pastor and your ministry, it can certainly can be something worth evaluating.  Harry Truman once wisely said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  The truth is that God has called us to excel in our ministries.  Reading and it’s many benefits can undeniably help accomplish that.

2. Am I personally growing as a leader?

The greatest asset your ministry has to become successful is you, because you are the cap to your ministry’s growth. Your ministry or organization will rarely ever grow or develop beyond your own personal growth and development as a leader. The more you grow and the better you become, the more your ministry or organization will benefit.

So what are you intentionally doing to grow in your leadership skills? Are you attending any conferences, listening to any podcasts, following any thought leaders in your specific field? Are you being teachable by allowing your senior pastor or others to “grow” you in any area that they see room for improvement?

There’s never a time when we’re stagnant, and just staying in the same place. We are always moving either forward or backward as a leader, and our ministry is following right behind us.

3. Who have I personally reached (or am in the process of reaching) and seeing added to my church?

Is there anyone in your church who is there because of you? Are you being a soul-winner, a pursuer of people, an encourager, and hospitable towards the people you lead?

It’s easy in the ministry to let “paperwork” trump “people-work”, and become more focused on the “what” of the ministry rather than the “who” of the ministry.  But we must remember that what we’ve ultimately been called to do is make an eternal difference in the lives of people, including the lost. I personally have to keep myself in check on this one the most.

4. Am I making my pastor’s job easier or harder?

One of the purposes of church staff is to relieve the burden of the pastor in general as well as in specific areas of ministry. This doesn’t mean that the pastor doesn’t get involved or doesn’t care about other ministries, but he shouldn’t have to carry the weight of those ministries on a regular basis.

Protect your pastor’s time by doing the things he has hired you to do. Take initiative to lead and make decisions for your areas of ministry. While a good pastor certainly cares about you and your ministry, and will do whatever he can to help when possible, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you work for him, and not the other way around.  (For more thoughts on this, read 5 Essentials to Becoming a Star Staff Member)

While there are certainly many more things that could be added to this list, may these few cause us to do some self-evaluation.  May we never be guilty of being full-time staff members, but only part-time Christians.

May we strive only for excellence and progress in all that we do, as would be expected of us in any other career or field. Because our pastor, our church, and our God deserve it. And may we never take lightly the calling of God upon our lives to minister.  But may we do it by following the example of the greatest minister Himself, Jesus Christ.

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Do you have some additional ways that you evaluate yourself to become better as a leader?  I’d love to hear them and learn from you!

How to Put a Spiritual Spin on Fidget Spinners

They’ve taken the kid world by storm in just a matter of a few months… fidget spinners.  You can hardly go anywhere without seeing them in kids’ hands.

When it comes to adults there’s very little middle ground – you either like them or you don’t.  In fact, some adults go to super extremes on both ends.

However, one thing is for sure – Kids Absolutely Love Them!  And they’re probably not going away any time soon. Certainly not by the time you wake up tomorrow (or the next day for that matter).

What I’ve learned over the years is that if something becomes a hit with kids that takes the world by storm, parents and those who work with kids need to take notice, and use it to their advantage whenever possible.  And the fidget spinner is no exception. 

Remember, Jesus Himself was the Master of using practical objects of His day and culture to connect truth to the hearts of people, and in turn teach spiritual principles that He knew they would remember. I believe that we ought to do the same.

So how can we put a spin on all of this buzz to capitalize on the moment of the fidget spinner, and use it creatively to enhance our work with children, as well as teach memorable Bible principles in the moment, that may last for a lifetime?

Here are a few ideas that may help for how to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners: (Thanks to my friend, Ryan Frank, for the inspiration for some of these ideas.)

1) Teach the Trinity

I asked my 7 year old son last night to look at his fidget spinner and tell me what he could learn about God from it.  He looked at it for a few seconds, and without any prompting from me, said, “God is three persons, but one God.” 🙂 

Most fidget spinners have 3 ends, which can represent the three different persons of the Trinity. But when you spin it, all three look like they are one.  God is three persons, yet one God.  Some spinners even have different light up capabilities in each end, representing that each of the persons of God is different, but they all work together to form the One Triune God. (I John 5:7, Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14)

I found it pretty cool that my son knew the answer I was thinking before I even told him.  Our kids will get it, if we just give them the chance to mentally connect the dots. 

2) Teach the Bible Basics

What are the Bible Basics?… Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers (church). Just like a fidget spinner wouldn’t balance on your finger without all three ends being the same, we need to have a healthy balance of all three of the Bible Basics in order to grow fully as a mature Christian. We can’t just read the Bible and pray when we come to church, we need to be doing those things on a regular, even daily basis to have good balance in our Christian life. (I Peter 2:2, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 6:9-13, Hebrews 10:25)

3)  Teach the Gospel

What are the parts of the Gospel?

  1. The Death
  2. The Burial
  3. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Just like a fidget spinner feels like it can spin for an eternity, believing in the Gospel can guarantee your eternity will be in Heaven.

How does someone accept the Gospel?

  1. Admit they are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
  2. Believe that Jesus died for their sin (Romans 10:9)
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:10 & 13)

All three are necessary components of salvation.  Just like spinning a fidget spinner is simple, so is accepting the Gospel.  That’s why Jesus said we must be saved with a childlike faith.  These three things are not difficult, but they are essential.

When I mentioned to my son last night that the three parts of the fidget spinner can represent the three parts of the Gospel and the ABCs of salvation, he said this, “Yea, and the circles in the ends pop out so that you can replace them with different ones, just like Jesus takes away our black heart and gives us a new one.”  Once again, I was impressed with his creative thinking.  

I’m sure that these are just a few of many ideas.  How can you get creative to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners? Because whether you love them or despise them, don’t fail to use them to the advantage of the kids in your life.  They’re even a great tool to encourage kids to use in witnessing to their friends by explaining these important Bible truths.

What other cool ways have you seen fidget spinners used, or what other ideas do you have for how to put a spin on the fidget spinner and maximize it’s potential to reach and teach children?

The Most Important Thing a Dad Can Do Is…

A few months ago, I asked a very pointed question on my personal Facebook page, and asked for people to finish this sentence…

“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A DAD CAN DO IS?…”

The responses I received were GOLD, and so I wanted to share them with you today.  I found that of all the responses, there seemed to be three main categories, thus representing three main areas that dads really need to “get it right” in their home – Personal, Relational, & Spiritual.

I hope you are challenged by these thoughts as much as I was.

The most important thing a dad can do is…

PERSONAL

“Spend time with his kids.  It makes a world of difference.” – Katarina

“Be present.” – Sarah

“Be there for his children.” – DeAnn

“Be there.” – Paul

“Communicate.” – Ed

“Teach his children a good work ethic.” – Cori

“Listen to his children.  Nothing replaces time and attention.” – Melissa

“Listen with eye contact.” – Sherrilyn

 

RELATIONAL

“Respect and love his children’s mom.” – Erica

“Love his wife.” – Bill

“Love their mother and lead by example.” – Charity

“Listen, and know when to be a daddy and when to be a father.” – Angela

“Love his children.” – Tim

“Love the Lord, and love his wife and family. Be real and transparent.” – Heather

 

SPIRITUAL

“Lead his children to the Lord.” – Ryan

“Model Christ in all he does.” – John 

“Be a good role model for his children.” – Sherril

“Love God openly and radically (Mark 12:30).” – Chuck 

“Lead by godly example by spending time and showing love to them in all he does.” – Travis

“Be faithful.” – Mary

“Be filled with the Spirit.” – John

“Teach them to love God and love others thereby encompassing the entirety of the law.” – David

“Lead his family to the Lord.” – Dion & Viviana

“Model Christ.” – Jeremy

“Stay in church with his family.” – Claire

“Love God with all his heart.  All the other things derive from that.” – Damaris

“Have faith always and he will show his children that they can get through anything!” – Jennifer

 

Wow.  These are so simple, yet so profound!  

I guess you could say that it all boils down to what we’re doing in our relationship with them (personal), our relationship with others (relational), and our relationship with God (spiritual).  

If you’re a dad, which area stands out to you as your greatest strength? And which area stands out to you as your greatest weakness that you need to work on the most?

Please Don’t Judge Me Before You Know Me

A perspective through the eyes of a bus kid

Don’t judge me before you know me.

I’m not the same as you.

I’ve had a strange upbringing,

One which you never knew.

 

My life’s had little structure,

My home is not real safe.

I go to sleep each evening,

With a frown upon my face.

 

Cause Mommy’s still not home yet,

And Daddy, well, who knows?

He left and never came back,

A long, long time ago.

 

There’s lots of men around though,

Different ones all the time.

Some of them are nice to me,

Others make my mommy cry.

 

Sometimes I may talk trashy,

And get onto your nerves.

But I don’t see what’s the big deal,

Cause that’s all I’ve ever heard.

 

I like to come to church though,

It’s a place where I feel loved.

The people there are friendly.

And they never push and shove.

 

Sometimes they gently get on to me,

For not always being there,

But I try my best to wake up,

When no one else seems to care.

 

Today I went to Sunday School,

My teacher taught God’s Word.

I’d never felt that way before,

From what I saw and heard.

 

I gave my heart to Jesus today,

He wrapped me in His love.

He took all of my sin away,

And gave me Heaven above.

 

I’m worried about my Mom though,

I don’t think that she’s been saved.

I hope that the church people,

Will care about her the same way.

 

My life has been a rollercoaster,

Rarely a place I belong,

But I’m thankful for the church people,

That I’ve known I can always count on.

 

Please don’t judge me before you know me,

I’m really a lot like you.

I need to be loved and wanted.

It’s just not something I’m as used to.

  • Every week at churches across the nation, children are picked up on a church bus from unchurched homes and given an opportunity they might not otherwise have to know Jesus.  Would you please pray for the kids and the bus workers this week?  If your church has a bus ministry, would you prayerfully consider serving in some way?

How to Help Your Kids Own Their Own Beliefs

I recently heard the story of a parent who was concerned that their teenage daughter, who used to be so obedient in listening to them, was now listening to everything her friends said by allowing them to influence her decision making.

The parents didn’t understand why, until someone wisely pointed out that their daughter didn’t change beliefs, she just changed who she was listening to. You see, those beliefs had never become her own in the first place, and as a result, she had simply mirrored the beliefs of her parents until she was influenced otherwise.

As parents, a great danger we face is in simply giving our children a knowledge of what to believe, without instilling within them a desire and passion for why to personally believe it. Our ultimate goal must be that even once our children are out from under the umbrella of our authority, the things we have instilled within them will have become a part of the fabric of their character and the very foundation of their lives.   

Their faith must become personal to them.

And in order for that to happen, we must give our children opportunities to own their own faith, or else potentially abandon it forever. 

So how can a parent successfully help their children own their own beliefs? Here’s 3 important ways…

1. Don’t solve every issue or problem for them. 

Our children need guidance, but sometimes we need to allow them to make their own decisions, and the resulting consequences. Whether it’s the issue of money, how to deal with friendship struggles, or what to do when they’ve been wronged, our job as parents is not to solve our children’s problems, but to guide them through them. (Sadly, many parents bend over backwards running to the rescue of their child’s every whimper or struggle, but to their child’s own detriment.)

This requires that we be their guide, but not always their decision maker. We must give them opportunities to make their own decisions, and learn from them.  

There are times when my children want to spend their money on something I feel is foolish, so I give them guidance, and allow them to make the decision, one way or the other. Sometimes they make the right decision, and are glad that they did, and other times, they make the wrong decision, and learn to accept the consequences.  

You may have heard the old Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is a great parallel in parenting. 

“Childhood is the university for life, so helping our children learn how to properly deal with life now helps them learn how to properly make life decisions for years to come.”  

While this is sometimes hard to watch as a parent, it’s very worth it when you keep the end result in mind – a child who is equipped to solve their own life problems both biblically and responsibly.

2. Don’t expect them to mirror everything identical to you and your preferences. 

This has been a difficult one to learn and accept as our children have gotten older. There are certain things my children enjoy and preferences they have that I might not personally choose. And I’m learning that that’s okay. Yes, there are certain things that are non-negotiable, and biblical lines that should never be crossed, but then there are many things that are more a matter of different preferences than anything else.  

For example… my son enjoys some types of clothing styles and hobbies that wouldn’t be my preference, but there’s nothing superior about my preferences over his. My daughter also enjoys playing the ukelele and singing like Grace VanderWaal, neither of which match my tastes. However, she’s become quite good at both. 

What I’m learning is that God has gifted my children in ways that are unique to them, and very possibly ways that He can use them in the future to fulfill their own personal calling. And it’s okay for them to own their own gifting and preferences to become the person God wants them to be, even when they don’t match my own.

“My job as a parent is to reproduce my values in my children, but my job is not to produce clones of me and my preferences.”  

Each of my children are uniquely created by God for a specific purpose. My job is to help them own their own beliefs as I guide them to find, follow, and fulfill that purpose.

3. Teach them how to listen to the voice of God for themselves.

I believe that one of the greatest things you can ever teach your kids to do is to listen to the voice of God, and make decisions based upon the moving of His Spirit in their own hearts and lives. All too often, as Christian parents, we fall into the trap of thinking that we have to make all the decisions for our children from the time they are born until they are 18 years old and on their own. And as a result, we fail them.

We fail to prepare them for life, and we send them into the world without the proper capabilities to make wise decisions for themselves, independent from mom and dad. As parents, it is our job to put ourselves out of a job by reproducing ourselves (our faith, our values, and our beliefs) in our children.

In order for that to happen, it’s very important that as soon as your children are old enough to be saved and to start facing life’s challenges, they are old enough to be given liberty to let God direct their steps and help them to make wise decisions. (Of course, this involves teaching them to pray and read God’s Word on their own.)

If your children are used to praying for themselves, receiving your guidance, and personally listening to the voice of God at young ages, they are going to be more than equipped to own their own faith by making godly decisions once they’re living life on their own.

We are sadly seeing a mass exodus of young people leaving the faith of their parents, and I believe that this is often one of the main reasons why – we’ve always owned their faith, and inadvertently allowed them to simply mirror ours.  

Sadly, this often only becomes all too evident, all too late, when we’re standing there watching them walk away.

I know that your heart’s desire as a parent is to help your children own their own faith.  So ask yourself, of these three things, which one do I need to work on the most?  And remember…     

“If we never give our children opportunities to own their own faith, it’s quite possible that they never will.”

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Or what else would you add to this list of ways to help your kids own their own beliefs?

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BLACK FRIDAY DEAL – 6 for the price of 1

VBS that's Simple. Biblical. Affordable.

Orange Super Sale Letters. 3D Rendered Illustration.

Yes, we’re crazy!…  And we’ll probably never do this again, but between now and Monday, you can snag 6 of our VBS curriculum bundles for the price of just 1!

Because we know that many of you serve in the local children’s ministry of your church, we are making a special BLACK FRIDAY DEAL available to you through our sister site – KidzBlast.com.

Through Monday, you can get 6 of our VBS Curriculum Bundles for the price of just 1!

I’ll be honest, we’ve never done a deal this good before, and may never do it again.

These bundles can be used for VBS, Children’s Church, or Mid-Week Programs and retail for $50 each, but for the next few days, you can get 6 themes for less than $9 each.

Imagine having every lesson, every PowerPoint, every graphic, and every game you’ll need (not to mention all the other stuff you get) to conduct your entire VBS for next summer, all for less than $9 bucks?!  And you can do it for the next 6 years in a row!  Get real!

This deal only lasts through midnight on Cyber Monday, so get it while you can!  Or pass this on to the person in your church who needs to know about this amazing offer.

Our desire is to help you to be successful in reaching the children in your life.  We believe this is an additional way to help you do just that with quality materials that are simple, biblical, and affordable.

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After you check out the deal, if you still have questions that I can help answer, please let me know. I’d be glad to help!

Don’t forget, this 6 for 1 price is only good through midnight on Monday.  Please Share to help spread the word!

How to Bless Your Child With the Gift of Thankfulness

Simple reminders for developing a life-long attitude of gratitude

Have you ever encountered this scenario in your home?…  Your kids go into the kitchen for a snack. They open up the cupboards, move around all the boxes, bags, and cans of food trying to find something to eat, and then make this amazing declaration, “There ain’t nothing to eat in this house!”

Oh, my… how I wish I could say that’s never happened in our house before 🙂

November is considered “Thanksgiving” month, but we all know that thanksgiving is not something to be limited to one month out of the year, but something that needs to be present all year round in our families and our homes.

But is it?  How do we cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness that lasts all year round and ultimately becomes a part of the fabric of our children’s character for life?

Here are some suggestions or reminders for how to bless your kids with the life-long gift of thankfulness:

  1. Don’t give them everything they want.  Overly spoiled kids are usually not overly grateful kids.  It’s important to remember that we do well for both our kids and ourselves not to give them everything their hearts desire.  Some of the biggest enemies to a thankful heart are materialism, instant gratification, and always getting what we want.  However, some of the greatest assets to developing a thankful heart are discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work.
  2. Take whining and complaining very seriously.  Philippians 2:14 is a great verse to memorize and remind each other of as a family.  God commands us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.”  And if God commands it, we would do well to require it in our homes.  Give the members of your family permission to quote this verse to each other when needed, and establish some incentives and/or consequences in your home for when thankfulness is displayed or found lacking.
  3. Regularly serve and expose them to people with less.  There are so many ways that you can do this, but here are just a few ideas:
    • Find families with less that you can serve or give to during the holiday season.
    • Volunteer your family’s time to serve in a ministry at your church or in your community.
    • Save up some money and take your kids on a mission’s trip to open their eyes to how blessed they are.
    • Encourage your kids to look for ways to be generous to other children with what they have.
    • The more our children are exposed to others with less, the more easily they will develop a gracious attitude towards them, as well as a greater gratitude towards God.
  4. Make family prayer a time of giving thanks, not just a time of asking.  Every family would do well to have times of family prayer beyond just praying around the dinner table. Make family prayer a time to celebrate God’s goodness and kindness in your lives. Every once in a while, take time to pray as a family without asking for anything at all, but spending all of your prayer time allowing each person to only pray for what they are thankful for.  Prayer and thanksgiving are often closely linked in Scripture, and for good reason. (Phil. 4:6, Col. 4:2)
  5. Be a thankful person yourself.  No matter what else you do to try and raise thankful children, if you fail to be a thankful person yourself, actions will always speak louder than words.  I’m absolutely amazed sometimes at both the little and big things that kids imitate from their parents, from simple things like mannerisms to more important things like attitudes and character traits.  Never forget that your children are simply mini versions of you.  Whatever you are becoming, so are they.  Be a thankful person.

If you’re serious about blessing your kids with the gift of thankfulness, here’s a great place to start… As a family, commit one or all of these verses to memory in the month of November.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  Psalm 100:4

O Come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  Psalm 95:1-3

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  I Thessalonians 5:18

As a help, here’s a Free PDF that you can save or print to help your family commit these verses to memory this month.

givethanks

5 Dangers of Brushing Off Your Children

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

brushing-off-your-children

“Dad, look at me!  Look at what I can do!”

“Just a minute, son, hold on a second.”

10 seconds later…

“Dad, look at me.  Look what I can do.”

“I’m almost done.  Wait a sec.”

20 seconds later…

Your child stops asking.

Brushing of our children is sadly an all too common occurrence that many parents do without even realizing just how often they do it.  But are there any negative affects for our children when we brush them aside, or is it just something trivial that all parents do and that all kids will just get over?

I would argue that there are some serious dangers for our children when we repeatedly make it a habit to brush them off in the routine of daily life.  Here are 5 of those potential dangers:

ANGER

  • Have you ever gotten angry with a friend or maybe even your boss when you ask for something repeatedly without getting a response or a definite answer?  It doesn’t take long before your anger meter starts to rise.  Do we think that it is any different with our children? Yes, they are more quick to forgive and forget than we adults are, but according to the verse above, kids can be provoked to anger.  What could do it more than being consistently brushed off by their parents.

RESENTMENT

  • The longer a child is ignored, they more that resentment can build towards the one who’s ignored them.  The process of resentment won’t happen overnight, but it can build like calluses over the course of many months and even years. Ignored children often become resentful adults.  (If you serve in the full-time ministry, this is a specific danger that you must constantly be aware of and fight against.)

LOW SELF-ESTEEM

  • One of the greatest dangers to your children when you brush them off is that you are implying with your actions that something else matters to you more than they do.  Over time, this has the potential to create a low self-esteem within your child.  It also produces an unspoken attitude that says, “I really don’t matter to mom and dad as much as they say I do, or as much as I want to.”  Scripture addresses this danger for fathers more specifically in Colossians 3:21, when it lists discouragement as one of the consequences of provoking our kids to anger.

APATHY

  • If our children begin to think that they really don’t matter to us as much as they should, it can cause them to question whether or not they should care about themselves at all either.  While the truth is that we do care, that’s not what they are reading from our actions towards them. Their natural response over time will be one of apathy.  Sad but true, many kids’ attitude reflects what they’ve seen modeled… ‘If my parents don’t care, why should I?’  (This can display itself in misbehavior, poor grades, bad attitudes, and many other ways)

WRONG EXPECTATIONS 

  • When kids grow up getting ignored by their parents, they grow older with the mindset that this is just what parents do, and they often naturally (and even inadvertently) carry these practices into their own future parenting.  By giving our kids the attention they crave, or by failing to do so, we are setting an example that they are sure to carry into the next generations.

While I hope that brushing off your kids is not a habit that you repeatedly do, I’d strongly encourage you to try your best not to do it at all.  How many grown Christian kids have given testimony over the years that while their parents loved the Lord and served Him fervently, they took a backseat to those things when it came to their parent’s time and affection.  What a danger!

Of all the people in the world demanding my time and attention, I want my children to have access to me and my attention more than anyone or anything else in my life, and I want them to know it.

I want my kids to have memories of me sitting around and talking to them, not memories of dad always being constantly busy and drained.  I want them to know that when they want to spend time with me, I’m going to spend time with them.  I want them to have my best of attention, time, and affection.  And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s sometimes hard to do.

Parents, what are your children taking a backseat to in your life and getting brushed aside for?… a job, a to do list, a smartphone?

If it really comes down to it, there are many people who could do your job, who could serve on that board, or who could even pastor your church, but no one else can father your kids.  Prioritize them.  Don’t be guilty of brushing them off.  And don’t feel guilty to anyone for putting them first.

These dangers listed are certainly the end result of an ignored childhood, but remember that such dangers can only happen one instance at a time.  Strive to give your children the very best you have… every moment, every day, every time.

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.  Proverbs 3:27

Why A Routine Matters To Your Kids

I do the piggy toes every night with my son... here's why

Our youngest son is 6 years old, and since the time he was about 3, there’s nothing he loves more than when dad tucks him in at night and does ‘the piggy toes’.  In fact, his last words verbatim every night before he heads downstairs to go to bed are these, “I love you, hug & kiss in bed, don’t forget to do the piggy toes.”

Well, sometimes I take a little longer than he thinks I should before I make it to his room, but no matter how long it takes, it’s very seldom that he falls asleep until I’ve made it in to do the piggy toes.  In fact, some times he’ll even weasel his way back up to the top of the stairwell to remind me that he’s still waiting and to ask if I’m still coming.

So, what’s the big deal about the piggy toes? Well, I don’t think that it’s the piggy toes that matter to my son as much as it is the importance of the daily routine of his dad making him feel loved just before he goes to bed each night.

There are many things that we all do for our kids out of routine that meet their needs and sometimes even pamper to their wants.  Sometimes this may be as simple as a daily ritual, a special phrase between parent and child, or simply a nightly hug before bed.

But what is it about a routine that is so important?  Here are a few reminders as to why a routine is really important for our kids.

A ROUTINE PROVIDES NEEDED CONSISTENCY

Whether it be in our daily routine or in our discipline, kids thrive on consistency.  Our kids need our lives to maintain consistency as much as possible for their sakes, and a routine helps to bring that about for them.

A ROUTINE BRINGS ABOUT SECURITY

There’s something that makes my son feel secure every night once I’ve tucked him into bed and done the piggy toes.  And whether it’s a bedtime routine, a morning routine, or even a favorite phrase you say to your kids everyday before dropping them off at school, a routine that they can count on makes them feel secure.

A ROUTINE NONVERBALLY SPEAKS LOVE

A routine speaks your child’s love language, because it’s a part of the love language of every child.  When I do the piggy toes, my son feels that daddy loves him.  When I routinely tell my daughter that she’s beautiful, she feels loved by her daddy.  Because a routine speaks love.

A ROUTINE MAKES LIFE EASIER FOR BOTH OF YOU

Rather than having to rehash expectations and responsibilities, a routine, whether it be for bedtime, chores, homework, etc. allows for both you and your child to share an understanding of mutual expectations.  This relieves both you and them of unnecessary friction that can naturally come from the lack of a routine.

A ROUTINE MAKES GOOD SENSE

Most of us have a routine we follow in every other area of life, so why not our family?  It benefits both parent and child, and better yet, it follows the biblical principle to ‘let all things be done decently and in order.’  Hey, if it’s good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for us. 😃

So, the next time your kids try to ‘enforce‘ a family routine upon you, don’t begrudge it, embrace it. Because the day is going to come all too soon when them asking you to “do the piggy toes” will only be a cherished memory.

In what areas of your family do you need to incorporate more of a consistent routine?

Mom & Dad, You Need A Break!

Ideas for how to implement down time into your schedule

Parenting is one the most rigorous jobs on the planet… just ask any mom with young kids.

It can flat wear you out.

In order to be at our best for our little angels, sometimes it simply means getting some time away from them and their golden halos.

We all need some time to recharge, refresh, and then get back into the game revitalized for the mission. But how do we do it? 

Well, it doesn’t happen by accident, so here are some intentional ideas that you can put to work in your family to make sure you get a needed break every now and then:

  1. Schedule It… It’s often true that what gets scheduled gets done.  So put time away on your weekly calendar, even if its just for a few hours.  If you’d like to see how my wife and I have incorporated time away on a weekly basis, I’d encourage you to check out my Free Intentional Family Game Plan.
  2. Do a ‘Kid Swap’… This is as simple as finding another family with kids of similar ages who would agree to watching your kids on a night while you go out, and you returning the favor for them on a different night while they go out.  Your kids will love the time with their friends, and you’ll save yourself the cost of a babysitter. Chances are, there are other couples out there with kids just like you who are needing to have some down time as well.  
  3. Hire a babysitter… I’d guess that there are some responsible and charactered teens or college students in your church that would love to make a few extra buck on a regular basis, while at the same time having a positive influence on your kids.  Years ago, we set up an ongoing scheduled night with a teenager when they would plan to watch our kids so we could go out, and it worked out great for both us and them.  
  4. Put the kids to bed early… (or maybe just ‘on time’) With school back in full swing, your kids need to be getting to bed earlier anyway.  So set aside some quality time at the end of the day for you and your spouse to connect.  I’m not referring to time spent side by side on the couch scrolling through your phones, but enjoyable time intentionally spent together.
  5. ‘Mom’s Only’… Dad’s, let’s admit it, mom usually needs the time away from the kids more than we do, especially if she stays at home with them all day.  Take initiative and give her permission to go out by herself or with her friends ‘kid-free’ from time to time.  Maybe even give her a few bucks to make her time away even more enjoyable.  Happy wife, happy life, right? Lol.
  6. Quit making excuses… Let’s face it, if we don’t make it happen, it won’t, and we’ll continue living day to day on the last thread that’s about to snap.  So stop coming up with excuses for why you can never get away to spend time alone.  Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to take some time for yourself.

Parenting by nature is one of the most selfless jobs in the world that can simply drain your tank to empty fast.  So you need to spend some time refueling yourself every now and then.

Also, don’t hesitate to offer to take someone else’s kids when you see that they need a break.  We’ve had friends do that for us, and it’s been a huge blessing.  You could be someone else’s blessing by doing the same, whether it be for your pastor, a friend, or anyone else.

Feel free to share these ideas. What are some ideas that you’ve found successful to finding time to get away and take a break from your little angels?  I’d love to hear yours! 

A Busy Parents Guide To Doing Family Devotions – Part 2

Practical help to become the primary spiritual influencer in your home

Last week, we discussed The Why behind the importance of doing family devotions.  If you haven’t yet read it, I’d encourage you to check it out.

We were reminded that of the 168 hours in a child’s week, the church on average only gets one of them, leaving 167 hours remaining, most of which are spent with their families.

This has to cause us to stop and answer the question, “Who is to be the primary spiritual influencer in a child’s life?”  And the obvious answer is – the parents.  The key to raising godly children has to start first and foremost at home.

1 to 167

The church only gets 1 of 168

“God expects each and every parent to do his or her part in raising children. The very first responsibility we have as parents is to teach our children of God. Every other responsibility falls before this one… As parents we also need to know that instilling in our children a faith in God and the Bible, is the best thing we can ever do for them. That early teaching will stay with them the rest of their lives. Impressions are made while they are young.” – David Boswell

There’s no question that one of the greatest key factors in whether or not young people remain dedicated to their Christian faith or walk away from it is the influence of their parents.  And I believe that much of that spiritual influence can come by way of family devotions.

So let me share with you some practical and proven ways to successfully have family devotions:

The WHAT:

Many parents think… “I understand the importance of family devotions, but what in the world am I supposed to do?!”

Well, good news, it’s simpler than you think!  Let’s get practical.

  1. Read the Bible out loud
    • Whether it’s just one verse and an explanation, five verses from one of the gospels, or chapter one of the book of Genesis, just start somewhere.
    • Talk about a different doctrine each night… go through the 10 commandments… read the account of the 7 days of creation, and discuss one day each night.
    • You probably know more about the Bible than you think you do.
  2. Use a devotional idea book or Bible storybook with pictures (for younger kids)
    • While stories are a great way to do family devotions, this time can be about much more than just that.  Family devotions are about:
      • Sharing our knowledge – Taking what we know and transferring that knowledge to our kids.
      • Sharing God’s truth – Instilling within them a passion for the things of God.
      • Passing down our faith – Handing off the baton of faith to be carried into future generations.  (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 teaches us that “We are to teach our children what is already in our heart…”)
  3. Act out Bible stories through role play
    • Kids love to be the Bible characters and kids learn through participation.
    • Kids retain 10% of what they hear, 40% of what they hear and see, and 80% of what they see, hear, and experience (participate in).
    • I can remember many times when the stories of the Bible would come alive during family devotions times… cardboard boxes would become boats crashing on the waves, and nerf balls would become stones thrown at Goliath.
  4. Sing songs
    • Devotion time needs to also be a fun time.  Sing fun songs, action songs, worship songs.
    • Singing songs about the Lord is not something that should just be reserved for church time.
    • Family devotions can be a time of family worship, and what better way to worship than to sing together to the Lord.
  5. Memorize verses together.
    • Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
    • I don’t know about you, but I want my children to have a strong defense against Satan, and one great way to do that is by them hiding God’s Word in their hearts.
    • In addition to memorizing verses, memorize the books of the Bible, look them up, do Bible Sword Drills as a family.  Make learning God’s Word fun and enjoyable.
  6. Pray
    • Family devotion time should also be prayer time.
    • Have a list of prayer requests.
    • Take advantage of this time to teach your kids how to pray and allow them to pray as well.

Okay, you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how am I going to make it all happen?”  Great question.  Here’s some ideas…

The HOW:

  1. Schedule it
    • What gets scheduled gets done. (maybe start with just once or twice a week)
    • Remember, there is no right or wrong time. For us, it works best at the end of the day right before bed.
    • For some families, it may work best at the start of the day over breakfast, or immediately after dinner time each night when everyone is still gathered together.
    • Regardless of when you schedule it, I guarantee you that Satan will make sure some “circumstance” comes up every single night as an excuse.   Make your family devotions a priority. Fight for your family altar, because Satan won’t let it come easily.
  2. Let loose and have fun.
    • Family devotions are not a time to protect your dignity. When doing role play, be a character in the story, and have fun with it.  (Dad, you be Goliath, and let your kids hit you in the head with the nerf ball, the fall crashing to the ground.)  Make it a wonderful time to laugh and smile together.  Your kids will never forget it.
    • Remember, you’re not just teaching the Bible, you’re making memories.
  3. Keep it short and sweet.
    • Your kids don’t need or want you to preach them a message.
    • Also, don’t let your devotion time become a behavioral correction time.  Over the years, there’ve been some times when we’ve fallen into the trap of using our devotion time to ‘beat our kids over the head’ with Bible verses about what they’d done wrong that day.
    • Protect your devotion time as a time to make God look good, not to make your kids look bad.
    • Keep it short and sweet, we’ve found that between 5-10 minutes is usually perfect.
  4. Keep it varied.
    • You might do one verse and memorization one night, Bible reading and discussion the next, and a themed song and role play the next night.
    • We’ve even assigned our older kids to be in charge of doing devotions on some nights, which can be a great training tool.
  5. Ask lots of questions and allow for lots of questions.
    • You want your family devotion time to be a discussion, not a mini sermon.
    • The purpose of family devotions is not to have church every night of the week, it’s to allow the Bible to come alive to your family!  This happens through lots of questions and discussion.
  6. Always end in prayer.
    • A family altar gives you the daily opportunity to pray together over needs and wants. (family needs, special requests, missionaries, the lost, etc.)
    • This is also a great time to train your children to pray by giving them opportunities to lead in prayer.

I know that when the subject of family devotions comes up, we as parents start to feel guilty for not doing a better or more consistent job at this. But when you consider the impact that this one choice can have over the lifetime of your child, it’s really all worth it.

I love these encouraging words that Dennis Rainey said concerning family devotions –

“There is no formula. No guideline. No perfectly right way. The only real requirement is that you do something to get your family into the Bible, even if it feels uncomfortable at first… You and your children simply need to hear God’s Word and interact with it on a regular, daily basis. I promise you, He’ll take care of it from there.”

It’s not always easy, and it’s not always convenient… but I’ll guarantee you, it’s worth it!

Our children are the hope of the future, and much of our hope rests in our God-given responsibility to pass down our faith from one generation to the next.  Notice these important reminders from the book of Psalms:

Give ear, O my people, to my law: inclined your ears to the words of my mouth… Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done…  That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.  Psalm 78:1, 3-4, 6-7

Below are two free resources that you can use to springboard into your family devotion time:

  • The first is an easy reference guide to the why, the what, and the how of doing family devotions that includes additional devotional resources you may want to check out.  Feel free to distribute this to families in your church, or teach them these principles yourself.
  • The second is a 7 lesson discipleship course from KidzBlast.com that you can go through with your family to study and discuss seven core biblical principles together.  These can serve as your first 7 family devotions! Feel free to make as many copies as needed.

Simply click on either of the graphics below to save or download these resources.  In addition, feel free to let me know what you think of them.

Family Devo GuideIf you feel that this article and these resources can be of help to other families that you know, please share by clicking here.