Ideology towards Practicality

Practically Helping

I’m a father and I’m learning. I’m learning that signing my son up for baseball means I get to sit outside in the freezing cold March nights. I’m learning that my daughter will talk about her favorite songs for hours on end. I’m learning that what my kids hear at church isn’t necessarily easy for them to do right away. I’m learning that my children are a much greater challenge to me than my job as a leader of children’s ministries.

I’m also a pastor and I’m learning. I’m learning that setting things on fire in a building with sensitive smoke detectors is not a great idea. I’m learning that glitter is the archenemy of our custodial staff. I’m more importantly learning the best of intentions does not guarantee a real connection with my families. I’m learning that children are the most important people in the lives of their parents. I’m learning that what I teach kids at church is second in importance to what parents teach their children at home.

We’ve all been there. We start working with kids, because we love the kids. We love teaching them new things about God. We love hearing them discover new ways of understanding God’s plan for their lives. Then, we realize that it’s much more fruitful to pour equal amounts of energy into the people these kids we love so much live with. That’s when we hit the proverbial family ministry wall. All that work you’ve been doing to connect families to your church could be for naught. The parents aren’t doing it at home. Your materials are top notch, they’re shiny, and they’re perfectly designed for parents … you think.

Read more from this article that originally appeared in Kidzmatter Magazine March/April 2014 at: http://kidzmatter.com/helping-every-parent-take-a-next-step-from-ideology-towards-practicality

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We are Again Circling

changing-directions

Sometimes you think you know,  believe,  and embrace a Biblical principle…but then you bump up against that principle in a way you didn’t control, plan, or imagine.

This family has circled for most of the time this family has been “this family”,  looking for a place to land. We thought we found it, came in hard for the landing, and put the plane in the hangar. We slammed the door on the hangar and locked it up, thinking we were finished with the circling; didn’t need the plane. We had landed. We were home.

“You don’t even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14

In our hearts, in spite of the warnings of Scripture, we thought we knew what our tomorrows looked like. We read “You don’t know what your life tomorrow will be” and nodded our heads in affirmation, but in our hearts thought “of course we do.” But what we’ve experienced regarding our “landing”, is that the Lord was not willing. The life here in Athens, GA that we were planning on,  was not what He had in mind for us.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

And so, we are again circling. God has allowed some sadness and confusion in the changing of our course and in the dissolving of our well laid plans, but we are confident we are in His hands. We have been uprooted, but the master gardener uproots and prunes with tender care, and He will plant us where He wants us.

We are no longer on staff at the church that brought us to Georgia. Resignation from the church did not come easily, but we know that an easy life is not we are promised, or even want. We are waiting on the Lord to see what He has in mind for us. We are prayerful that He will make his plans for us clear, and hopeful that we will bear well the weight of the waiting: waiting for His plans for us to take shape in a way we can see and take firm hold of. We will see what the Lord has in mind,  and we are confident it is for our good. He goes before us.

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you… ” Isaiah 52:12

While we are waiting in this in between, we have fixed our eyes on Jesus, and found that He is good. He never disappoints.

I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”  Jeremiah 32:39-41

 

Choose Their Friends

Friends

Did you know that if you’re a parent, you can decide who your children are friends with? This plan doesn’t work entirely if you start trying to do this when they are teenagers; but there is some merit to the idea. When your children are little, you are the one that decides who they spend time with and how much time they spend with everyone. Use the opportunity when they’re young to begin doing the little things, and planning for the pre-teen and teenage years.

Screen their friends. It’s simple really. Encourage quality time with those people you want them to be around, and limit the time with those less positive influences. Just don’t become judgemental and separatist in your behavior.

Awareness. Become aware of who they are spending time around and become involved in their social life when the opportunities are there. Regular conversation with the

SchoolBe involved in the social parts of school life. Friendships at school are totally different than church friendships, and can quickly become a loud voice in your kids life.

Be Smart. Specifically in regards to smart phones. A parent who doesn’t know their kid’s FaceBook password is a parent who doesn’t know the company their kids keep.

Make yourself friendly. Make it a goal of yours to become friends with the friends of your kids. Volunteer to drive kids to events, host get-togethers at your house, and do whatever it takes to responsibly become a part of the lives of the kids around your children.

I Corinthians 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.”

They Want to be Known

Love_LeadSmall

The way you love a kid can dramatically affect his or her future. Love over time creates worth, and any parent would tell you the most common parenting mistakes are easily overcome by loving our children over the long haul. In the book Playing for Keeps , the authors make this statement:

Most research suggests that when it comes to love, the younger the recipient, the more powerful the impact.

This can create quite the urgency in the heart of an elementary small group leader. Think about it. When we are only seeing these kids for a handful of hours a year, how can we demonstrate a love that makes a sincere impact?

- Read the rest of my contribution to the Lead Small blog at:  http://leadsmall.org/elementary/the-time-is-now/

Holding Inappropriate Expectations

Expectations

I’ve had some limited experience meeting with newlyweds over the years. You know these couples, right? They love their soon-to-be husband or wife, and as I begin to sit down and talk with them I discover that their expectations of marriage are wildly different for marriage. He thinks that it’s going to be great to start a family soon, and she is excited to finish her 2nd graduate degree before maybe having kids. As the counselor, it’s my goal to help them set realistic and right expectations for each other. As the married man, it just seems to obvious.

Yet as a father, I’m more than guilty of holding inappropriate expectations for my own kids every day. I expect math to be easy for them, because it was easy for me. I expect them to love baseball, but they just want to wear the hats and drink Capri suns afterwards. When they’re young, it starts so innocently. Then they become teenagers one day, and I then hold the potential for my bad expectations of them to keep them from what they could become. I expect greatness to look like one thing, and I discover later on that greatness was there all along.

If your children regularly fail to measure up to your standards, you might be expecting too  much.

Then there is the nasty flip side of expectations.  Some parents expect almost nothing from their kids. In such settings, children can lose energy or passion because they are never helped to reach forward to those things which are ahead (Phil 3:13). In other homes too much is expected. Experience teaches that unreasonable expectations are the ideal breeding ground for discouragement.

As parents let us be guilty of encouragement, and let us be convicted when our expectations get in the way of who these wonderful children are becoming each day.