Archives For Parenting

StepsPeople are not born in crowds, nor do they die in masses.

It’s very easy to get caught up in our models of church ministry, a menu of programs or even trying to satisfy all the felt needs of people in the church. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you call it Sunday School, small groups, Bible Fellowship, 101, 201, 301,401, 1 Million and 1. The primary issue is not what model of ministry or what program, but what is happening to people?

Have we created a path for the unconnected to get connected in a relationship with someone who sees themselves as responsible for knowing and helping them take their next spiritual step?

I think we sometimes spend too much time programming to move crowds through programs instead of helping individuals move to higher levels of intimacy in strategic relationships.  Because I don’t have experience with every model of ministry, I’m assuming some models are more relational than others. I’m just guessing, small groups are probably better at connecting people in relationships than classes. If a person focused on relationships they could probably make any model work, but some may require more work than others.

Bottomline: good Sunday Schools do this, bad Sunday Schools don’t; good small groups do this, bad small groups don’t; good Bible Fellowship does this, bad Bible Fellowship doesn’t; I’m not sure how classes do this, but it’s probably a good idea to evaluate our programming (whatever that programming is) on its effectiveness at connecting people in forward moving, spiritual-step-taking relationships.

Just because we have one or all of these types of programs doesn’t mean that on the other side of it people who participate in these programs are any closer to a relationship that will help them take their next spiritual step. Especially when we spend more time focused on orchestrating programs than orchestrating steps into greater levels of relational intimacy. In fact, there are probably programs in our churches where people can stall out relationally and yet feel like they are “winning” when it comes to church participation.

It’s tragic when church participation and spiritual growth represent divergent paths.

While I don’t think I have a complete answer, here are few things I think we can do:

  1. Figure out the best environment for people to connect.
  2. Make that environment the destination.
  3. Eliminate any programs that are not steps to that environment.
  4. Create programs that make stepping into that environment easy, obvious and strategic.

Parent LeadersWe often ask parents to be the spiritual leaders in their homes.  It’s a daunting task–even for a family ministry pastor! I lie awake at night wondering whether I’m doing a good job at this–and I’m a professional church person! I wonder what the average parent thinks about it. “Is spiritual leadership just one more of the things everyone says I should do that I’m will forever feel inadequate at?”

I recently ran across a blog post listing the requirements of a godly parent.  Here’s a short list:

  • Parents must live a life which is above reproach, that is, be blameless, and have a good reputation with nonbelievers (1 Tim. 3:2); They must be faithful to their spouses (1 Tim. 3:2).  As parents display before the community and before their families behavior that is becoming of a Christian, they can truly be salt and light to the lost.
  • They must be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, gentle, upright, holy, and disciplined, and those who love what is good (1 Tim. 3:2); As parents display the fruit of the spirit to the lost and to their children, the lost will be won and their children will gain from being discipled like Jesus.
  • They must not be given to drunkenness, or be violent, overbearing, quick–tempered, quarrelsome, pursuers of dishonest gain, or a lovers of money (1 Tim. 3:3); As parents exhibit godly priorities and character qualities their children will receive a clear idea of what Jesus is all about.
  • They must manage their own families well, and see that their children obey them with proper respect and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient (1 Tim. 3:4). As parents do these things, along with loving correction, discipline, and training, their children will be respectful and obedient.

If you grew up in church world, you know that this is a list of qualifications for a church elder found in I Timothy.  I’m all for being and doing all of those things, but I think my kids will probably be grown up before I get all of this right.

How do you define spiritual leadership?


Legos on the floor

April 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

When we had a baby we made sure that everything revolved around “the baby”—wipes were always within arms reach; we had baby toys, baby gates, baby furniture, baby food, baby everything. Now we have five kids and there are legos on the floor. And, the cat that I brought into the marriage has since been replaced with animals I had never thought of owning: 3 guinea pigs, 5 chickens, 1 one white fluffy sorry excuse for a dog and three rabbits, two of which are pregnant. (Don’t tell my HOA. We exceeded the domestic animal limit long before the rabbits were pregnant.) When you have kids, the environment, the rhythms, the grocery list, that smell in the car, are all fundamentally impacted by kids.

I think there are several reasons why:

  • Children are the most vulnerable—and the youngest are more so. I’m not really concerned that my ten year old is going to put guinea pig poop in her mouth, but that is a real possibility with our 10 month old. (Not that I have any experience with this!)
  • Children will learn more by the time they are five, than they will learn in the rest of their lives. So, we ensure that they have all of the latest learning toys and we get paranoid if they are not speaking in full sentences by their first birthday.
  • Children are more moldable than they will ever be in their lifetime. What is rooted in the heart of a child is almost impossible to uproot in the life of an adult. All the more reason why parents and children’s ministry need to focus on placing an anchor of faith in the heart of a child.
  • Children are forming their understanding of the world, of relationships, of love, of God, in short they are impressionable. We should be intentional as parents about ensuring that they get the right impression about these things. Especially when most of those impressions are made when interacting with the people closest to them—the parents.

We easily get hyperfocused on the first two: safety and education. Partly because safety is pretty easy to quantify. I know when something is safe and know when something is not. So I lock the gate to the pool, I make sure there are no choking hazards on the floor, and I make my kids wash their hands after they play with the guinea pigs. Education is about information and experience. I’m pretty certain I have satisfied that one by getting my kid the right books, into the right school and on the right soccer team.

And quite honestly—we are hyperfocused on this because our culture has promoted a lot of fear around the first two. (If my kid doesn’t crawl before they walk, they might have a hard time learning to read. If I immunize them, they might become autistic. If I don’t give my kids enough experiences they will fail, so I make sure they learn to play the piano, to speak Japanese, to play soccer, and t-ball, take swim lessons etc. . . We can sell magazines and write news stories with this kind of stuff.

But the last two are probably more important. They are also harder to accomplish because they are developed in the context of relationship. And here is where this post will leave you hanging.

How do you develop the last two? Also, what would a church look like that became intentional about developing the last two?

Family Pictures

March 2, 2011 — 1 Comment

Family Picture My kids favorite iPhone4 apps today:  FaceWarp and Squeak My Voice.  Here is the family portrait we created.  From left to right:  Me, Janna, Emilie, Corey, Tucker, Gracie, Macie and Maggie.   Some other great non-educational apps my kids like: TapOut, Rat on the Run, Tornado Mania, Plants vs. Zombies, iFighter, Cows in Space, 3D Checkers, TicTacTouch, Shape Builder.

What are your kids favorite apps?


February 24, 2011 — 3 Comments

There are 14 feet in my family.  Count them—7 people!  Which is why our geocaching screen name is 14footfrog.  If you don’t know what geocaching is check out this little video.  It could be the one thing, like my family, that you can all do together and enjoy.  In fact, I give it a 10 on the Walt-Barney meter.  Here are the top 10 reasons why I think it makes a great family experience:

1.     When you are geocaching you are participating in something bigger than you.  There are 1.3 million caches all over the world, placed by nearly a million different people.

2.     As an adult you can go on a treasure hunt without losing face

3.     Kid’s love treasure hunts

4.     I can use my iphone—‘nuf said

5.     Something seemingly insignificant can travel far and wide.  I have a travel bug that started in Alberta, Canada.  It has traveled  over 4500 miles through the hands of hundreds of people.

6.     Of the people, by the people and for the people—its relational—an item can travel around the world in short leaps from person to person—kind of like the Gospel.

7.     It’s done in the great outdoors.

8.     My kids will ride their bikes for miles without complaining.

9.     You can be outdoorsy and techie all at once.  Kind of like Stargate—without the aliens.

10.  Finally, geocaching is a great way to talk as a family about the interconnectedness of people, the little things that we can do that may seem insignificant at the time, but have a big impact,  and how to share our faith with others.

What are you caching in people’s lives that could travel around the world?

This highly scientific rating scale visually represents the shared experience potential of any given activity.  The name is derived from two pop-culture icons: Walt Disney and Barney (the effeminate dinosaur.)

Barney (the purple dinosaur): Your child may love Barney type experiences (maybe even obsessively, like singing the clean up song over and over in the back of the car as a form of Chinese torture while on a family road trip.) However, far from encouraging great times together as a family, Barney type experiences often leave a parent with an uncontrollable urge to stick an ice-pick in their eye.  In this category are things like Miss Patty Cake (no offense, she’s got great things to say to kids, but a parent can only handle so much), most children’s music sung by adults in high pitched voices,  Teletubbies and their 1980’s counterpart the Care Bears and . . .  church puppets.  These all receive a zero on the Walt-Barney Shared-Experience Scale.  All these things may be great—behind closed doors in a sound proof room in the house.

On the other end of the scale:

Walt Disney: Disneyland.  It’s more than the happiest place on earth it’s a place kids and parents can enjoy together without driving either one crazy.

“There should be something bigger, some kind of amusement enterprise deal where the parents and the children could have fun together.”  Walt Disney describing how he came upon the idea of Disneyland.  Check out the 50 Magical Years of Disneyland video.

This category is  tragically small—largely because there are very few things that can capture the attention of such a wide age range.   Alongside Disneyland are things like Wii bowling, geocaching, Pixar movies most Cranium games and the Muppets.   These things are 10’s on the Walt-Barney Shared Experience meter.

Unfortunately most children’s ministries fall well within the Barney range.   They may engage the kids, but they lose the parents.  And they miss an opportunity to leverage what happens in the home to build faith into a child.   A church that can figure out how to create environments in the Walt range will change the face of the next generation.

For some ideas check out Discovery Kidz at Discovery Church in Simi Valley, California.

What is your church doing in the Walt range?


September 15, 2008 — 3 Comments

Skittles is one or our family’s favorite games. Ever noticed that some of simplest games are the best–like who came up with mancala? In Merdel’s Skittles a top is spun to knock over pins in a wooden game board. Each pin is worth different points. The hardest pin to knock over is worth 100. I don’t know if this game is still available, we inherited it from a great friend and teacher, Cheryl Draughon, who said it originally belonged to her mother.

Every one of my family members has their own unique way of wrapping the string around the top for optimal performance. Optimum is a steady spinning top that moves to the back of the game board where the higher points are. It’s hard to find a game that everyone in the family enjoys and can play–especially when the age spread is 3 to 30 something.

What are some of your favorite family games?

Drywall Ringworm?

July 25, 2008 — Leave a comment

I just returned from a weekend trip.

I returned to a house with little black circles on the wall.
They are all about three feet from the floor?
Any guesses?
Well . . . it is not some rare form of ringworm that only attacks sheet rock.
My almost 4-year-old son is a little over 3 feet tall.  We have a black toilet plunger.  Let’s just say he is very creative.
I wonder what he was thinking while plunging the walls?
What do your kids do that can be both aggravating and laughable at the same time?

The Golden Compass

November 7, 2007 — Leave a comment

Remember the part in Raiders of the Lost Ark?. . . the Nazis have found the ark and placed it in a wooden crate with swastikas stamped on the outside. As it is being shipped there is one scene where the ark causes the swastikas to burn up and be disfigured.

I just bought the Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman and I wonder . . . “If I set The Golden Compass next to my Bible which one will ignite?”

I have gotten six emails in the last two days warning me about The Golden Compass and its anti-God, anti-Christian themes. I haven’t read it yet, but plan to read it tomorrow. So if you are looking for some good commentary you will have to tune in later.

But here are the thoughts of a Family Pastor and former Lit. major on The Golden Compass phenomenon.

One of the emails said that Phillip Pullman was anti-C.S.Lewis. My first thought was . . .”who cares!” But . . . they do have something in common. C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, not for adults to discuss the accuracy of the allegories, but for children to have a reference point for the Biblical story. The Chronicles of Narnia are illustrations of Biblical truths. Lewis hoped that as adults they would remember the stories of Narnia and, as a result, more easily embrace the Biblical truths they represented. I.e. “I get it. Jesus’ death for us is like Aslan’s death for Edmund. He takes Edmund’s punishment on himself.” (Lewis also believed that this is exactly what God has done throughout history in myths. e.g. the dying and rising god myths. C.f. “Myth Made Fact.” God was prefiguring, in mythology, the story that would become fact in Jesus Christ.) J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis called this preparatio evangelica–preparation for evangelism. Pullman, self-admittedly, is doing a different sort of preparatio–it is preparation for atheism.

To me that is not a great danger. The flurry of email warnings I have received is because the anti-Christian themes are so overt in the Golden Compass. I mean how can you ignore, “God is a liar, God is a cheat, God is senile.” Sounds a little anti-God to me.

The undetected themes that pervade much of literature are the more dangerous. For example, I didn’t get a bunch of emails warning me about the movie, “The Bridge to Terebithia.” Basically, the main point of the movie was that the imaginary land of Terebithia was more relevant and had more powerful answers to the problems of everyday life than traditional Christianity. (Might have been a valid argument–traditional Christianity has had diminishing returns of late.) But, my point being, . . . I didn’t get any emails on that movie.

Parents must be vigilant whatever they are watching. We must also remember that untrue themes can be just as powerful teaching tools as true ones. There is power in watching movies together and discussing the worldviews that are at play in them. This helps our children learn discernment. The greatest tragedy of all is that there doesn’t seem to be any great Christian literature that is pacing culture and rivaling The Golden Compass. I don’t think book bans are the answer. Christians should be writing the best literature. “The Bible is the great code of art.” Who will be C.S. Lewis today? Who is writing the next Chronicles of Narnia?