How to Respond When Your Child Has Been Wronged

Mark it down, it’s going to happen.

WRONGED

Your kids are going to come home from school, from church, or some other function, and have had their feelings hurt by a classmate, a teacher, or a friend.  Someone said something, or did something that they shouldn’t have, and now you’ve got a “situation” on your hands that may very well be starting to make your blood boil just thinking about it. (I’ve been there many times, and I’m sure you have as well.)

Your kids are going to think it’s the end of the world, and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself agreeing with them.  But before you just jump on their bandwagon and ride that emotional rollercoaster with them, there are a few warnings to consider.

Through the many times in our family when this scenario has played itself out, my wife and I have had to learn how to intentionally respond, as well as teach our children how to respond to such situations. Here are some of the things we’ve learned for how to respond when our child has been wronged:

  1. Don’t Overreact.  If you react in the heat of the moment immediately after the situation comes to your attention, you’ll almost always make the wrong decision, or at least have some regrets about the way you handled it.
  2. Don’t Assume the Worst. Reading into the situation by starting to make assumptions about other people’s intentions and character is very dangerous.  By assuming the worst, you’ve just made the problem even bigger than it actually is.  But by assuming the best, you’ve given the other person the benefit of the doubt before ‘convicting’ them in your own mind.
  3. Get the Full Story.  Before making any decisions, find out the other side of the story.  This requires that you calmly contact the other party involved (or the “middle man” in the situation, if that’s a teacher, pastor, etc.).  Ask questions, and be willing to quietly listen to the other side of the story to get all the details before proceeding.  Remember, there’s always two sides to every story, every time.  (According to my father-in-law, there’s 3 sides to every story… your side, their side, and the truth 😃 )
  4. Take Time to Pray.  Stop, breath, and talk to God.  Don’t react, wait, and respond… when the time is right, and when your spirit is right.  And make sure to respond biblically, not emotionally, irrationally, or carnally.
  5. Keep Your Testimony.  Sadly, too many well-meaning Christians lose their testimony and credibility over an irrational knee-jerk reaction to a hurtful situation. (I’ve been guilty on occasion myself.) Sometimes we as parents can be at our worst all while hiding behind the guise of standing up for our kids.  Remember that no matter what has happened to your child, two wrongs still don’t make a right.

Our kids are learning how to respond to real-life situations by watching how we do.  Let’s show them an example of long-suffering, grace, and kindness, even in the most hurtful situations.

Remember, God doesn’t choose to operate through the actions of people who are irresponsible or irrational, but He does operate through those who are yielded to His will, submitted to His word, and guided by His Spirit.  Strive to be that person.

Life Lessons Learned From a Culture of Less

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

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

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

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

1 – Prioritize People Over Possessions

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

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

2 – Prioritize Passion Over Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 – Less Really Can Be More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Forgotten Practices That Will Take Your Kids Far In Life

Simple things that can help your child stand out

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

Five Forgotten Practices

RESPOND WHEN SPOKEN TO

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

MAKE EYE CONTACT

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

A PROPER HAND SHAKE

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

COMMON POLITENESS/COURTESY  

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

‘YES, SIR’ & ‘YES, MA’AM’

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

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

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

How to Raise Positive Kids in a Negative World

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

Positive Kids

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

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

MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY’S FOUNDATION IS ROOTED IN FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

ALWAYS SPEAK WELL OF OTHERS

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

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

NEVER FORGET THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOURSELVES

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

  • Galatians 2:10  We should remember the poor…

CULTIVATE A FAMILY CULTURE OF THANKFULNESS

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

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

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

Is Your VBS Outreach Actually Reaching Out?

Keeping the focus on reaching those without Jesus

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

VBS Reaching Out?

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

I believe that 3 things are necessary…

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

1. Focused on OTHERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  Focused on JESUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Focused on FAMILIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew

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

Why VBS?

Is VBS still worth doing?

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

WhyVBS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

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

Bible Statements Graphic

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

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

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

Bible Statements

 

Oh No, Jesus Was a Step-Child!

Help & Encouragement for Step Parents & the Church

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How & Why To Talk To Your Kids About Gender Identity

The Ball Has Just Been Put Into Our Court

Whether we like it or not, as parents we’ve been thrust into a situation by recent events that requires us to have a much-needed conversation with our kids about gender identity.

HOW & WHY

But while America is struggling to know their identity, your family doesn’t have to.

And while the events of the past week or so seem to demand it, some might still question why a parent would want to address this issue with their children.  Here are a few practical reasons:

  • If they don’t hear it first from us, they will hear it sooner or later from someone else (and probably not from our same perspective).
  • We set ourselves up for an awkward and possibly unexpected situation when our kids go into a public restroom, only to come out with many more questions than when they went in.
  • It gives us an opportunity as parents to teach our kids God’s perspective of human/gender identity.

Here are a couple of important points to bring out in talking to your kids…

GOD is absolutely CLEAR on the issue

While the world around us struggles to determine the truth of who and what they are, God has already made it perfectly clear and easily understandable, even for a child:

  • God created us in His image.  (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God created us male and female.  (Genesis 1:27)
  • God created us with a specific gender for our unique purpose in mind. (Genesis 1:28, 2:15,18)
  • God alone decides a person’s gender, and has made obvious and undeniable ways of identifying that gender from birth. (Psalm 139:14-16)

By teaching your kids these basic biblical truths, they’ll be able on their own to identify truth from error when they hear it.  Teach your kids that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that His Word never changes, but is timeless, regardless of what the world does.

The WORLD is utterly CONFUSED on the issue

Sadly, we live in a very confused society who has allowed itself and it’s culture to be shaped by it’s pet sins rather than any form of truth whatsoever.

Consider this quote from the American College of Pediatricians…

“A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V)” 

Saying that anyone can be anything or any gender they choose and has rights to go into any bathroom they choose is simply naive and twisted.  Just ask any child, and they’ll be able to tell you “the way things are supposed to be.”  So why does our society believe they must push such confusion upon our children and future generations, not to mention intentionally subjecting the ones we are responsible to protect to a whole new world of unnecessary dangers?

The answer is very simply this – the world we live in is a very sinful, deceived, and confused place.

When the world around us decides to make laws that not only contradict the Bible, but so clearly go against common sense, we have not only confused the culture, we have chosen to confuse the future generations and worldview of our children and grandchildren.

We do well to teach our children that the world is confused, and God is not the author of confusion. (I Corinthians 14:33)

But most importantly, we must not miss teaching our children this last point…

CHRISTIANS must be CONFIDENT yet COMPASSIONATE on the issue

While we as Christians need to stand unapologetically upon the truth of God’s Word, may we always do it in a way that reflects well of Christ in a world so desperately in need of Him.  In the way we talk to our kids about the issue, may we transfer to them a love for a lost world that needs God’s truth to set them free.   And may we help prepare them to be grounded in the truth for the future challenges that they are sure to face in their own lives.

As the world gets further and further away from truth, they will hate more and more those who speak it.  But may that never change our love for the people behind the sin. Remember that the way that we present the truth will affect the way that our children believe it.

Our children need to hear about this issue from a grace-filled, biblical standpoint, and the best ones to talk to them about it is not the church, or the schools, but the parents.

Our kids are watching to see how we respond to this this issue, and the way we do has the potential to greatly impact them and their future mindset, either positively or negatively. We can inadvertently instill within them an animosity towards those who reject the truth, or just as easily instill within them a compassion towards those same people.

It is still possible to teach our children to love the sinner and hate the sin, by helping them understand that the real enemy is Satan, not any person (Eph. 6:12).  But we must intentionally demonstrate the love of Christ in our approach.

God has given us a great privilege to raise up the next generation of grace-driven, Holy Spirit filled, confident, yet compassionate world changers to take God’s truth into the future.  And issues like this one give us as parents a great opportunity to maximize upon that calling.

Let me strongly encourage you to talk to your kids about these important truths, and even use the points and scriptures referenced above to help you do it.

“We can stand for Christ without compromising truth; we can love the lost without losing our testimony; and we can raise up a generation who understands how to do both.”

The truth of John 8:32 applies now more than ever before for ourselves, our children, and the world around us… “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

If you agree, please share.  Whether you agree or not, I’d love for you to share your feedback.

Should Parents Talk To Their Kids About The Rapture?

They Want To Know, And They Will Have Questions

Here’s an important topic that your kids need to be educated about (preferably, by you) – the Rapture.

The Rapture

I Thessalonians 5:2  For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

We believe that at any moment of any day, Jesus Christ can return, taking us out of this world, thus initiating the beginning of the end of the world.  What a wonderful and glorious day it will be… for us, the saved.  But what a terrible and dreadful day it will be… for the lost world.

Do your kids know about it?  Here are some candid questions to ask them about the Rapture:

  1. Do you know what the Bible says could happen at any moment of any day that will change the entire world?
  2. Do you know what this event is called, and why? (The Rapture or the Second Coming of Christ)
  3.  Who will be taken when Jesus comes back?  Who will be left?
  4.  What will happen to Christians after Jesus returns?  What will happen to the world after Jesus returns?
  5. How can a person know if they will be taken with Jesus, or left behind with the world?

By asking these questions, it will give you a basic understanding of what your kids do and don’t understand, as well as a great springboard for further discussion and education on the topic. (While your kids need to know about this Biblical event, use your discretion based upon their age and maturity as to how much detailed information they are ready for concerning the end times. Even the youngest of kids can understand that “Jesus is coming back”, while the oldest may be ready for as much as you can possibly tell them.)

Whether your kids are already aware of the Rapture, or hearing about it for the first time, they’re sure to have questions.  Which is a wonderful thing, providing you with an opportunity to be the primary faith influencer in your child’s life by answering these questions of utmost importance.

Here are a few of the questions our kids have asked about the Rapture:

  1. What will happen to kids who aren’t old enough to be saved yet?
  2. What about people who have already died and went to Heaven, what happens to them?
  3. When will it happen? Will it happen in our lifetime?
  4. Will people be able to be saved after the Rapture?

All of these questions and more have prompted great discussions for our family that have allowed us to teach and train our children about Biblical doctrines and values concerning this topic. However, when it comes to talking about the Rapture and end times with our kids, we only give concrete answers when the Bible does.  Other possible questions and answers we simply discuss and digest together.

Think about this with me…  If the world as we know it could end at any moment (and it could), and our children will be affected by such an event as much as we are (and they will), why wouldn’t we want for them to be informed and prepared?

Not to mention that if Jesus doesn’t return in our generation, He likely may in the next, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children are ready, both for themselves, and the world around them that desperately needs the life-changing message of Jesus.  It will be our children who will be the ones to carry the urgent torch of faith and the gospel into future generations.

As you educate your kids on this topic, use some of these great Scriptures to help you give clarity and explanations to their questions:

  • I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • I Thessalonians 5:1-10
  • Matthew 25:1-13 (key verse – 13)
  • I Corinthians 15:51-53

Here are a few simple talking points from the passage in I Thessalonians 5:1-10 to help your kids better understand the Rapture, and how it’s different for the lost and the saved:

  1. For us, He comes as our returning King. To the world, He comes as a thief in the night.  5:4  (Discuss with your children, what does this mean?)
  2. For us, it’s a time to anticipate. To the world, it’s a time to fear.  5:3  (Encourage your kids to explain why we would anticipate it, while the world would fear it.)
  3. For us, we must watch and work until He comes. To the world, they must repent and believe before He comes.  5:6  (What kind of important things has God given us to do until the Rapture?  What happens if the lost don’t repent and believe before the Rapture?)
  4. For us, our eternal destiny is secure in Christ.  To the world, their eternal fate is hanging in the balance.  5:9  (As Christians, should we be more comfortable knowing that we are saved, or more uncomfortable knowing that the world is lost, or both?)

In addition, talking to your kids about the Rapture gives you a great opportunity to:

  • Highlight every person’s need of the gospel (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Stress the necessity of our Christian witness (2 Corinthians 5:8-11)
  • Emphasize the need for godly living so as to always be ready to meet Christ unashamed (I John 2:28, 2 Peter 3:10-14, Titus 2:12-13)

I’ll admit, it takes a little courage as a parent to address a weighty topic like this with your kids, but they want to know, they need to know, and the best person to educate them about it is you!  Are you up for the challenge?

(If you’re a family that’s striving to spend time together in God’s Word through family devotions/faith talks, I’d encourage you to take this content and use it as family devotional material.)

7 Practical Keys To Balancing Family, Work & Ministry

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 2)

Last week, we started answering ‘The Big Question’… How in the world do I balance it all?  You can read last week’s article by clicking here.  Whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, this article will help you get off to the right start when it comes to finding balance.

Work Life Balance

Today, I want to share with you 7 practical keys to balancing family, work, and ministry that have helped bring the needed balance in my family life and ministry.

So here they are… How many of these 7 things are you practicing?

1. Leverage your mornings

One of the greatest keys to successfully balancing your life and schedule most often starts at the beginning of every day.  How you start your day often determines the success of the rest of it.

Some of your most productive and focused time can be found early in the mornings when both your mind and your focus has a fresh start.  In a recent article, I outlined some practical ideas for how to Jumpstart Your Mornings.  I’d encourage you to read it to find out more.

2. Leave the office on time

This needs to be based on a timeframe, not based upon your to do list.  There are many nights when I could easily stay and work for a couple more hours getting things done, but I have to remind myself to go back to my order of priorities – God, family, then work or ministry.  I’m sure you find yourself in those same shoes often.

It’s important to remember that even if I got it all done, there will still always be more to do tomorrow. Why is it that we more quickly shortchange our family than we do our work?

How would you answer these two questions?… When’s the last time you prioritized your work at the expense of your family?  When’s the last time you prioritized your family at the expense of your work? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is probably pretty obvious.

It’s understandable that there will be necessary and even intense seasons or times of staying late or working overtime, but if those times ever become the majority or the norm, our family is sure to notice, and they have every right to view it as a legitimate concern.

We can’t afford for the gap between what we say are our priorities, and what our family actually sees as being our priorities, to be very wide. If our work is truly that much and that pressing, here’s what I would suggest you do – steal an hour from your sleep at night by staying up an hour later or getting up and hour earlier, before making it a regular habit of daily stealing an hour or more away from your family.

3. Take a day off

If you are on a church staff and feel like you have too much to do that it’s not possible to take a day off, here are a few suggestions you may need to consider:

  • Meet with your pastor and ask him for help and understanding in how to best minimize your work load.
  • Find creative ways to delegate tasks that anyone can do, but that you are currently doing.
  • Learn to identify and eliminate things that in the grand scheme of things are time wasters and unnecessary. (more thoughts on this in the next point)

If you have no choice about not having a day off simply because you’re serving in ministry bi-vocationally or some other situation, I would just encourage you to have a plan for that schedule not to be a long-term plan.

My family loves my day off maybe even more than I do. My kids will often ask me in the mornings, “Is today your day off, Dad?” or, “How many more days until your day off?”, because they look forward to it as much as I do, knowing that we’ll get to spend extra time together and have fun.

4. Eliminate what’s unnecessary

  •  What are you currently doing that could be done by someone else?
  • What are you doing that you could stop doing, and it wouldn’t really negatively affect anyone or anything in your organization?
  • What are you doing that you could train someone else to do and/or delegate to someone else in your ministry?
  • What are you doing that anyone could do that is keeping your from succeeding at doing what only you can do?
  • What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?

My guess is that if you’re serious about finding balance, there are some things that you could eliminate from your life and schedule if you really wanted to.

5. Combine family and ministry when possible

Don’t ever get the mistaken idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often be the same, killing two birds with one stone.

Obviously, ministry can’t be the only times you’re spending quality time together as a family, but it certainly should be included in those times. Learn to take some of your kids with you when running ministry errands or making visits.

Serving in ministry together as family can be one of the greatest ways to instill and transfer a passion for serving Christ in your children.  Be creative as a parent in making things like visitation and serving others a fun and enjoyable experience.

Whether that means that they get to have a responsibility in those areas of service, or simply letting them know you’ll be going out for ice cream following times of family ministry, make ministry and serving the Lord together a common and memorable occurrence.

6. Protect your evenings

Evenings need to primarily be family times (keep at least 2-4 open nights a week).  Follow a plan by being intentional with themes, activities, devotions, etc. You want your wife and kids to anticipate when you come home each evening, and nothing speaks this louder than when you have special things planned to do together.  (Here’s a Perfect Family Game Plan you need to check out that will make you the family hero.)

7. Ask God for Help!

This should be able to go without saying, but we need to be reminded.  The Bible says in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to you.

Ask the Lord to show you how to better balance your family life and ministry life. Ask some spiritual leaders in your life to help you evaluate your effectiveness in the way you work, and some ways they see that you could become even more effective. Because usually those who work with you can see ways that you can be more effective if you’ll just be willing to ask them, and then humbly and openly receive and apply what they tell you.

While I don’t know your specific situation or what burdens you carry, what I do know is this – God never intended for your Christian life to be an unending rat race that you can never keep up with.

  • God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
  • God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
  • God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burdens alone.

Maintaining balance between ministry and family life IS POSSIBLE!  There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out. Are you willing to go through the uncomfortable process of developing and carrying out such a plan?

“Remember, there’s just one thing that every person has that’s exactly the same – time.  No one gets more and no one gets less.  Its all in how we choose to manage it.”

I hope that these 7 practical things are helpful to you.  Which of these 7 things do you think is the most important?  What would you add to the list that you’ve found to be helpful to maintaining balance in your life?

The Big Question… How In The World Do I Balance It All?

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 1)

BALANCE…  we all want it.  We all need it.  Yet it’s a bit harder of a thing to find than it is a word to say.

Balance

In my annual Reader Survey, I found that over half of the readers on my blog are either paid staff or leaders in some capacity in their church or children’s ministry.

And when asked these questions, “What is the #1 challenge you are facing or question you would like answered about the family… children’s ministry… and ministry and leadership”, the overwhelming response to all three questions was the same – How Do I Balance It All – family, work, ministry, etc.?

I can certainly relate with this challenge, having struggled through the years to find this balance myself.  But thankfully, while I’ve by no means arrived, I do feel at a place in life having better balance than any time before.

While these principles may come from the slant of a pastor’s perspective, whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, I believe that these principles can apply to all of us if we’re willing to implement them.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s address the issue of The Big Question – How in the world do I balance it all?

Here’s three things that are the best place to start…

1. DETERMINE YOUR ORDER OF PRIORITIES – God, Family, then Ministry

Long before God established the church, He instituted the family, as both the cornerstone of society and the world itself.  (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:22-24)

From the start, we must understand that before we will ever find balance in our lives, our families, and our ministries, we must align our order of priorities with God’s – He comes first,  our family comes next, and the ministry follows.

While God’s calling to the ministry is one of the greatest on earth, it is not above God’s calling upon our lives to be husbands or wives, and fathers or mothers.

Because no matter what we accomplish through our ministries, if we fail to accomplish God’s plan through our family, we’ve truly made a deal with the devil that’s not worth the trade-off.

Far too many Christian families have been guilty of prioritizing their work for God above their love for family, and ended up losing their family as a result.  God never intended it to be that way, nor does it have to be.

I submit to you that it is possible to serve in a busy and growing ministry while at the same time having a thriving and successful family life.  It simply takes intentionality about prioritizing what matters most.  (This is one of the reasons I recently introduced The Intentional Family Game Plan as a free resource. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check it out.)

Remember this – you may invest into multiple churches or ministries throughout your lifetime, but God has given you only one family to invest in.  Following your relationship with the Lord, your family is to be your primary priority.  God. Family. Ministry.

Once you’ve determined your priorities, you need to…

2. DEVELOP YOUR SCHEDULE AROUND THOSE PRIORITIES 

This requires that you intentionally evaluate your life, your time, and your schedule, to see if they’re lining up with your priorities.  Because no matter what we say our priorities are, if our daily life doesn’t back them up, they’re nothing more than words, and we’ve successfully deceived ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal intentionality.

Sadly, it’s much harder to deceive our families, because whether we want to admit it or not, they know where they land in our order of priorities.

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s powerful illustration of the big rocks (representing your most important priorities) and the small pebbles (representing the secondary things in your life that are of less importance).

In his illustration, if you pour the small pebbles into a jar first, then try to fit all of the big rocks on top, it’s impossible to fit them all.  But if you put the big rocks into the jar first, pouring the small pebbles in afterwards, the pebbles fill the cracks in between the big rocks, allowing everything to fit in the same jar after all.

Rock Illustration

The point is simple – that first things must come first… then the rest.  Learn to prioritize what matters most first, and then do those more trivial things.

Unlike the illustration, sometimes, even after scheduling what matters most first, you still won’t have time for all of the more trivial things, and guess what, that’s okay.  Learn to accept it.  Life will go on, and the most important things will have been accomplished.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

I’ve found that the best and sometimes only way to make all of this happen is to put in on your schedule.  Because what get’s scheduled gets done.

Finally, you must…

3. DEPEND ON SOME PEOPLE YOU TRUST TO HELP HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE

Once you’ve determined and scheduled your priorities, make yourself vulnerable, and your schedule of priorities available to someone else that you trust.  It might be your spouse, a good friend, or someone else you trust to have your best interest in mind.

When it come to balancing ministry and family for me, I’m very blessed with a pastor/boss who not only exemplifies such balance himself by following a pre-determined schedule that includes consistently leaving the office each night on time, but also strongly encourages his staff to do the same.

Whether you find yourself in a similar situation or not, take matters into your own hands to both hold yourself accountable and find someone else to help hold you accountable as well.

While these three things may seem like overly practical reminders of how to set your priorities, I hope you’ll personally and honestly answer the question of whether or not you’ve actually taken the time to do them, and then take whatever actions necessary.

Once you’ve done these things, you’ve laid the groundwork for successfully benefiting from what I’ll be sharing with you in the next post – 7 Practical Keys to Balancing Family, Work, & Ministry. These are seven things that I’ve learned to put into practice that have helped to bring the needed balance in my life, and I trust that they’ll help you to do the same in yours.

“Remember, balance is never an instant luxury to be assumed, it’s an ongoing discipline to be achieved.”

If you’ve found the tips in this article to be helpful, please share it with others!