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Should I keep my kid out of church as a consequence?

Is it wrong to pull your child out of church as a consequence?

I’ve been asked two different questions that both center around the idea of keeping a child out of church or church activities.  Both are actually important questions, and come from different circumstances.  But the ultimate conclusion is similar, so I’ll try to grapple with both of them today.

Scenario 1: My child either didn’t do something they were supposed to, or the did something they weren’t supposed to.  They actually love coming to church (mostly because of friends) and I feel like grounding them from church as a consequence.  But I feel like a terrible parent for doing this.  What’s the right thing to do?

Let me begin by saying that I’m replying in general, and each specific situation is different.  But I’ve been thinking about this question for twenty years, and have been all over the place.  Here’s where I am today:

I’m a youth pastor and a parent.  As a youth pastor, I want all of “my kids” to be in all of our church meetings all of the time.  I know that the best discipleship happens over a long period of time with lots of reps together, not just in worship meetings but in life-on-life activities.  As a parent, I know that some of my kids would LOVE to skip church and some of them would take it as the worst punishment I can give them.  First, for the children who don’t really want to go in the first place (social anxiety, rather sleep in, lack of spiritual interest) I don’t want to give them a reward for poor behavior.  For the ones that really love to go, I want to be wise in the Lord.  So perhaps I let them go, but they have to sit with me instead of going to youth (pretend I’m not the youth pastor), or perhaps they must volunteer to serve with kids for a while, or perhaps they don’t get to go to the “fun” activities but are still allowed to go to the primary worship and discipleship meetings.  If they are getting into trouble with another child in the church, I want to be extra careful to set up boundaries or cut off access to their partners in crime.

Through all of this, my dilemma is that I want to remove them from them from environments that seem like a reward so that they feel the sting of what they are doing, but I also want to be very careful not to pull them out of what is hopefully the most encouraging spiritual and character enrichment time of their week.

So, in the realm of using church as a consequence, I’d say there are times and places for it (as a pastor I have occasionally banned kids from coming to certain activities for a period of time because of dangerous or rebellious behavior).  Trips, camps, retreats, and overnights are a privilege, not a right.  But I think those times should be rare, limited, and thought out in the council of other shepherds in their lives.

Scenario 2: My child is overwhelmed at school or is a slower learner than others.  They just really need to spend more time focusing on their schoolwork.  Should we prioritize school over youth and church activities?

This is a hard question and perhaps a little more challenging.  “Overwhelmed” and “slow learner” can mean SO MANY different things to different people.  Let me start by 1) affirming your predicament.  I’ve got at least one child that takes all kinds of special help to learn even basic concepts.  But I also want to 2) encourage you to not feel sorry for your child.  Don’t give them permission to play the victim or moan and cry because things are harder for them.  Every single one of us will have to face life scenarios that are harder for us than other people.  Perhaps school is your child’s scenario.  Instead of letting it because an excuse, learn to look at it as a tool.  So they’re going to have to work hard.  That’s a gift from the Lord, which will prepare them for life much better than if everything came easy.  It’s the super smart ones who often give up too easily when they finally hit a brick wall.

So, should you prioritize school over youth and church activities?  Let me offer another suggestion:

  • Prioritize time and task management.  If your child is a slower learner, they’re going to need to be a better scheduler their entire life.  Now is a great time to start.  Learn to sit down on Sunday evening and make a schedule for the week, blocking out what needs to be done and when it can be done.  Or, learn to get together Friday after school and spend 20 minutes with your child going through what homework assignments need to happen.  There is RARELY a time when your child legitimately CANNOT make it to church on Sunday because of homework.  It’s usually because they were doing too many other things on Friday and Saturday.  Maybe you can’t stay for both services, but with a little bit of advanced scheduling there’s almost always time for one.  If there are special youth activities coming up in the future, help them learn to look ahead and plan in advance.
  • Prioritize margin.  If your child takes longer to do things, perhaps you should help them pick just a couple of things and do them well, instead of encouraging them to be involved in 5-10 different activities that are going to pull them in so many directions.  If the school load is heavy, perhaps they get to choose ONE extracurricular activity.  This might help them to have quality experiences instead of running ragged.  Don’t transfer your own FOMO onto your kids.  They’re going to miss out on FAR more activities in life than they can do.  Encourage them to pick a few and truly BE THERE.
  • Midweek services may be too much.  I get it.  Kids are busy and loaded.  There’s not a ton of time after school to get work done before the midweek services.  This is part of why our church switched our primary youth service to Sundays.  Don’t live in guilt.  Kids can’t be everywhere and do everything. Living in guilt doesn’t enhance your spiritual standing with Jesus.

And Finally…

The concluding thought I have is just the encouragement that YOU are the primary shepherds of your children, not your youth pastor or your church.  If you can’t “make it to church” for some reason, BE the church together.  Don’t use this as an excuse to skip your church’s services all the time, but if some life circumstance prevents you or your kids from attending, remember that we are a Kingdom of Priests!  Spend time together in worship, fellowship, prayer, and sharing the word.  You can do it, God will be with you!

Three Steps to Stop Being a Church Consumer

Over the last few years I’ve noticed a pretty significant change in the way people are involved with their church.  When I was a kid and young adult, “regular” church attenders were involved in Sunday School, a Worship Service, and generally the Sunday and Wednesday night services.  Your most faithful attenders would miss perhaps one or two weeks a year for vacation and then another one or two weeks a year for sickness or special events.  This meant that the core of your church came together at least 100-130 times a year.  Between Sundays and the evening services, your “average” church-goer was still there 75 times a year or so.

The times they are a changing.

Now, as I look through the attendance patterns of our teens (and by extension, their families), I see that the people we consider the most plugged in average around three Sundays a month and perhaps two or three Wednesdays a month.  We don’t have Sunday night services any more (we do have Life Groups that meet in homes, but they take seasons off).  Based on the sample size I work with, I would estimate that our “average” teen makes it to two Sunday services a month, and then one or two Wednesdays a month.  The “average” family hovers around two services a month and maybe one other meeting that month.  This is confirmed nationally in several articles I’ve read.

Why is this the case?  I see a few factors involved:

  • Jobs have changed
    • Most jobs I know now are not Monday-Friday 9-5.  The hours our weird, expectations are different.  Sunday is just another work day for much of the world.
    • Many jobs aren’t confined to an office any more.  The laptop can go anywhere.  People can work as they travel.  This means they get to travel more.
    • Despite the perpetual doom and gloom about the economy, many people are doing well at work.  They work hard, they want to take advantage of that by doing fun things with their family.
  • Culture has changed
    • Sports seasons don’t seem to ever end now.  If your child is more athletic, many of the sports now require weekend-long tournaments.
    • Through the advent of social media and mobile technology, we’re always aware of someone going on a trip or vacation.  It makes us feel like we should too, far more often than we might have as children.  Plus living in South Florida means you can take a mini-vacation with a 1.5 hour drive every weekend if you want.
    • People just seemed to be committed to more things, but less committed to any of those things in particular.
    • Consumerism has been a driving force my entire life, but it really feels like it’s taken hold in the church in the last couple of decades.  When everything in marketing is bent around saying that you should get exactly what you want, people have learned to “shop” for churches that best meet their needs, and then only consume the parts of it that meet those needs, and often only in the moment when those needs are particularly felt.

Now some of these characteristics are unavoidable and benign, some are potentially harmful, and some are spiritually dangerous.  I am trying not to be the grumpy old man who wants everything to be like it was in the olden days.  At the same time, when the average member of the body of Christ meets together half as much as before, it’s foolish to think there are not consequences.  Relationships take time.  And they also take intentional time together.  Imagine how your child is going to feel about the church as an adult if the bulk of the commitment their younger years was based on feelings and commitment.  And I’m not just talking about the institution of the church.  I’m talking about the body of Christ.  Your love and commitment to the church is directly related to your love and commitment to Jesus.

I’d like to offer three suggestions for how you might best set your children up to love and commit to Jesus and His Church.

  1. Make meeting with the church a priority. 

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I see from this that my family is to draw together with the body of Christ for the celebration of what Jesus has done in our lives, but also for the sake of investing and encouraging in others.  Teach your family that “we go to give, not to get.  When we give to others, God makes sure we get what we need.”

2.   Commit to a specific small group.  

The church isn’t about a Sunday Morning production.  It’s about a group of people who identify under Jesus, who live, love, and learn together.  If you expect your kids to commit to specific people that will encourage and hold them accountable, you’re going to need to model it.

3.   Identify how you specifically serve your church body.

Meaningful service is the fuel for discipleship.  We were built by God to pour out.  Your kids need to know how you’ve sacrificed and committed to serving your church family on a regular basis, so that they will see it’s normal.  Service is not an event, it’s a lifestyle for those who follow Jesus!  If possible, bring your family alongside you in the service roll with your church.  Then help them identify and own their specific ways of serving based on how the Spirit has gifted them.

Culture is going to continue to change.  We’re never going back to the olden days.  If we did, I bet we would see that they were full of problems too.  But purposeful parenting in regards to commitment and connection to the Body of Christ is one of the most important steps you can take to build kids that are a blessing to the world!

LPOP 22 3 Ways to Stop Being a Church Consumer

Has culture conditioned you and your family into looking at the church as just one more commodity to be consumed?

Four Ways God Shaped Me Through Being a Pastor’s Kid

The following is a guest post from one of my favorite human beings.  Davis Price is a graduating senior from our church, and one of the best people you will meet.  In addition to a fun podcast interview I did with him here, I asked Davis to share his thoughts on how being a pastor’s kid shaped his life.  Enjoy.  And if you don’t personally know Davis, you’re mission out.

Four Ways God Shaped Me Through Being a Pastor’s Kid

As a pastor’s kid, I’ve grown up completely drenched in Baptist culture. Therefore, I’ve been to more potluck dinners than I can count, and spent many hours in Sunday school, Wednesday night services, church camps etc. With all of this in mind, I think that being a pastor’s kid has given me a tremendous advantage, spiritually, relationally, and in terms of my work ethic. Here’s four ways that God has shaped me through being a pastor’s kid.

First off, as a 17-year-old, I’ve had more ministry opportunities than most Christians might get in a lifetime.  For instance, I went on my first international mission trip when I was seven, and my family started serving through foster care when I was eight. God gave me these opportunities to grant me perspective on a worldly scale, not only of how blessed I am, but more importantly, how God has blessed us to be a blessing to others – not only with our finances, but with our time, our prayers, our homes.

Another way God has shaped me is placing higher standards on me. As a pastor’s kid, I’ve gotten to live under higher scrutiny, because of the much higher potential consequences for my family. The adults in the church usually know who I am as well, and they have elevated expectations for me as well. Although I used to see these standards as an obstacle to enjoying life, I’ve seen how God has used them to protect me from more unwise decision making.

God has also shaped me through giving me early practice in meaningful relationships, especially with older adults. When I was four or five, my dad took me out of preschool and let me walk around and “help” the church janitor, Bill. Bill would play games with us, and have my brother and I do talent shows, (I would always win). I still talk to Bill on a weekly basis, and he never ceases to make me laugh, and always asks me what’s going on in my life. Doug Ericson is a man who has modeled well for me how a Godly man should live, and should love others, and he has spent so many hours encouraging me to walk with God. Whether it’s studying the bible together, going to watch basketball, or an encouraging text, God has blessed me by surrounding me with wise men who are willing, and eager to invest in my life.

The most impactful way God has shaped me through being a pastor’s kid is the family I’ve gotten to grow up with. Both biological, and my greater church family have molded me into the person I am today. Since my dad preaches, I’ve been at church every Sunday I was in town, and therefore been active since birth. The vast amount of time in my life that’s been dedicated to church has given me a solid foundation in terms of biblical doctrine, as well as biblical story knowledge. More than all of this though, as a pastor’s kid, my dad not only leads our church body well, but he runs our home even better. He loves and serves others like no other, and I’ve gotten to witness many people come and live with us for extended periods of time, because when there’s a need, my dad looks to fill it. The model of authentic love and a servant’s heart are things that I hope to pass on to my children.

Although being a pastor’s kid brings higher standards and higher scrutiny, it has made me want to seek God because I have been blessed to see what families who strive to serve God look like. Their lives are usually more difficult or chaotic, but their reward is so much greater. Being a part of a church family where we really love each other, and really love Jesus and want to serve him is a bigger blessing than anything I could imagine.

A Dad’s Thoughts on Dating Part 2

Last week I shared some of my critique of our current culture’s dating habits.   This week I’ll go the next step, assuming that a dating relationship has started.

I’ll start with a question – why don’t people go to years of therapy when they smash their thumb with a hammer?  It’s excruciating.  I think smashing my thumb is some of the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life.  It’s traumatic!

But within a few minutes or days, the pain is gone, and in a few months the black fingernail is gone.  All that’s left is a good story.

Contrast that with sexual experience.  There are those who try to say that sex is just a physical act, and as long as both people are consenting, they should be able to do what they want.  But we know that sex isn’t just physical.  It’s highly emotional, the mingling of mind, body, and spirit.  When people are violated sexually, it can take years to get over, if they indeed ever do.  So as a parent and a pastor, I want to reinforce that the stakes of sexual involvement are really high.

On the other hand, as a parent and a pastor, I want to reinforce the fact that  sex is awesome, amazing, and wonderful.  The same God that invented the taste buds that can appreciate the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake invented sex!  We need to take back from the world the authority on sex.  WE have the right answers.

1 Thessalonians 4 is one of the very rare passages in the Bible that explicitly states God’s will for us.  When it does, it says that His will is for our sanctification, that we possess our body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles.  Given this truth, may I offer a quick bit of teaching on sex and how it pertains to dating (and a big thank you to several different Andy Stanley sermons and lessons that taught me these principles).

  • The Bible teaches that purity should be our aim.  But purity is not the end goal.  The end goal is intimacy.
  • True intimacy can be define as the joy of knowing someone, and being fully known, without fear of rejection.
  • Purity paves the way for intimacy.
  • People think that sex is primarily physical.  This is a lie.  Sex is primarily relational.
  • Teens are taught that they need to develop their sexual skills, when the reality is that they need to develop their relational skills.
  • The best place to practice relational skills is with family, and spiritually like-minded friends.
  • Sex is physical and relational glue.  It’s God’s gift for people who are going from two individuals to one flesh.  It’s the fun way to bond through mortgages, bad breath, work stress, and in-laws.
  • The problem comes when people spend this glue outside of marriage.  They bond with the wrong people at the wrong time, overlooking huge red flags in those they should avoid, not to mention stunting their relationship with God through sin.
  • Because of all of this, the question of “How far is too far?” is very important, but probably the wrong question.  A better question would be “How far do I want the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life to go, right before they meet me?”
  • Given all of this, as your teen sets their boundaries in physical relationships, remind them of these truths:
    • The further you go, the faster you go.
    • The further you go, the further you want to go
    • The further you go, the harder it is to go back
    • Where you draw the line determines 3 things:
      • The arena of your temptation
      • The intensity of your temptation
      • The consequences of giving in to your temptation

This is pretty dense, but really important.  Read through this list over and over, figure out how to make them your own words.  And TALK to your kids!!!

When Your Child Suffers

April 14, 2017 will mark three years since the day we were told my son had leukemia.  I remember so many details from that day.  Mindlessly sitting by his hospital bed when we just thought he had pneumonia.  The look on the doctor’s face as he gave us the initial news.  The scream of shock from my wife.  A conversation with the paramedic in the back of the ambulance about the body of Christ when the bomb goes off in your life.  The pale face.  Other people’s blood pumping into his body.  Laying beside his bed in the PICU at St. Mary’s, weeping through the night.  The fear of looking up leukemia on my phone because I didn’t want to go down 1,000 hypothetical roads.  Praying.  Silence.  Praying. The feeling that I am numb but that my heart might burst at any moment.  The fear of what will happen to my little boy. This was a long, grueling day.  But it wasn’t the worst day of my life.

Twelve and a half years earlier I remember the worst twelve hour span of my life.  I had lain down after a brutal day of bringing my wife home from the hospital, too sick for surgery.  Running on fumes in the realm of sleep, hope, and joy, I drifted off early in my mother-in-law’s bed with my 3 year old daughter sleeping beside me.  Minutes later, my wife’s mother runs into the room to tell me that Christy had collapsed.  Within minutes we are performing CPR on her lifeless body.  The ambulance ride.  The waiting room at the ER.  The grim news from the doctor that I already knew.  Going back home.  Roaming the streets of my hometown in the middle of the night.  Finally crawling back into bed beside my daughter just before dawn, who had slept through the entire ordeal, not knowing what I could possibly say to her when she woke.  Getting up, sitting in the living room with grandparents.  My little girl finally wandering out of the bedroom, crawling into my lap, and asking “where’s mommy”?  This is the very worst moment of my life.

The worst moments of my life haven’t been things that have happened to me.  My worst moments have revolved around the suffering of my kids.  I hate it.  I feel powerless to fix it.  I want to take it away, but I can’t.

This may very well be the hardest part of parenting, and the one that stretches your faith the most.  How are you going to respond when your child is suffering?  Maybe you’re there right now.  What should you do?

I can’t fix your problems, but I do want to try to offer you a little bit of perspective.  I would have never picked the particular formats in which my kids have suffered, but I do know one thing to be true: every single person I’ve met in life that has the kind of character I want has suffered deeply.  They’ve been wounded in a profound way, and somehow the grace that comes out of their healing is the most attractive character quality in the world.  God’s working something into you, and in your kids, that just can’t get there otherwise.

So let me encourage you with a few thoughts as you or your child goes through a time of suffering:

  1. Be Honest – You don’t have to pretend that things aren’t bad or that they don’t hurt.  Just because other people have been through worse events doesn’t make your pain any less real.  And being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from suffering or make all of the pain go away.  Jesus Himself, when he was minutes away from calling Lazarus out of the grave, wept at the funeral.
  2. Be patient – We live in an instant everything society, but there are some things that just don’t fix quickly.  God seems to really enjoy taking His time with the most important things, and you don’t want to spend your life wishing away every moment as you seek relief from the suffering.  Things might be bad, but there is good happening in the bad.  Look for it, soak it up, and don’t be in such a hurry.
  3. Be hopeful – Remember, it’s not always going to be like this.  Nothing is.  My worst days of despair are when I start thinking that it’s always going to be like it is today.  But that’s just never true.  Loneliness isn’t always going to be like it is right now.  Neither is pain.  Even if a condition persists for this life, we are eternal creatures.  It WILL get better.
  4. Be a blessing – The best way to life your eyes off of your misery is to put your eyes on the needs of someone else.  This is a great practice for your kids as they suffer to.  Rather than wallow in the self pity of the moment, look for ways that you can offer hope to others that are going through hard times.

Ultimately, I think that it’s not suffering that’s the problem, it’s the idea of meaningless suffering.  But as God’s children, there’s nothing He allows us to walk through that’s meaningless.  Seek out the meaning, soak it up.  And take heart.  The sun will rise again in the morning!

LPOP 10 When Your Child Suffers

One of the hardest things to walk through as a parent is the suffering of your child.  How do you make the most of a terrible situation?

What’s Your Parenting Style?

What’s your parenting style?

In my mind I’m a pretty rational, consistent guy.  I make choices based on logic and reason, and I can be counted on to do what’s right and most logical in a given situation.

But in reality, I know that sometimes my parenting “technique” has a lot to do with my mood, the time of day, what I’ve had to eat, which kid is in front of me, and a whole assortment of other issues.

The truth is we are all much less consistent than we’d like to be.  But we do have general patterns that we fall into.  In their book Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, Foster Cline and Jim Fay discuss three general parenting styles and the effects they have on kids over the long term.  Check these out and see where you fit:

The Helicopter Parent – Helicopters are excellent for emergency situations, but in general they make a lot of noise, wind, and chaos.  It’s hard to get “normal” life done with a helicopter hovering overhead.  Out of tremendous love and concern for their children, the helicopter parent will tend to hover over their kids, swooping in to save the day.  Helicopter parents are afraid of their child’s failures, both large and small, and swoop in to rescue them, whether it’s a broken bone or a missing homework assignment.  What are some consequences of helicopter parenting?

  • Kids don’t learn to do things on their own and lack confidence needed to thrive in the real world
  • They develop the habit of blaming others for their failure
  • Resentment develops between parents and kids.  Parents expect kids to be super thankful, but kids resent the nagging, the constant presence, and the times when mom and dad don’t swoop in an rescue them.

The Drill Sergeant – Drill sergeants motivate through fear and intimidation.  They get things done, but it’s generally not because their soldiers want to do the work.  They’re just afraid of getting yelled at and punished.  Drill sergeant parents work much in the same way.  They can get their kids moving, run a tight ship, and perhaps even for a time keep the kids out of trouble.  But soldiers don’t really ever develop a fond relationship with their drill sergeants, and kids live emotionally distant from drill sergeant parents.  The motivation for doing right and wrong is “am I going to get caught, and what will happen”? Consequences include:

  • Decisions are not based in wisdom of what’s right, but rather “will I get in trouble?”
  • Kids lack trust in parents to admit when they’ve messed up.
  • Parent looked at as the aviary to be avoided or appeased.

The Consultant – In grown up land, consultants are not brought in to do other people’s work.  They also don’t cannot make anyone do work.  They analyze, enlighten, and advise.  But at the end of the day, it’s up to the business to put in the effort to make changes.  The consultant can remain honest and encouraging, but they’re not emotionally attached to every move their client makes – the consultant gets paid for the analysis and advice, not implementing the plan.  In the same way, a parent can strive to be their child’s consultant, especially as they age.  Parents can point out the reality of the situation, advise on options, but leave the implementation-and the consequences-to the child.  It’s certainly harder in the short term than swooping in and saving the day, or unloading one’s emotions until the child conforms in obedience, but over the long haul it’s not only easier, it’s more enjoyable.  Benefits of a consultant parenting style include:

  • Freedom from emotional manipulation by the parent or child to get what they want.
  • Open dialogue and a lower level of fear to reveal mistakes.
  • Kids that are molded to make decisions based on what’s wise and right, not based on what they can get away with.
  • A release for mom and dad from feeling like they have to save the day when things go bad.  Empathy and natural consequences work WAY better to change behavior than anger and emotion.

I’ll talk more about these in the future, but that’s a quick overview.  Feel free to listen to the podcast of this episode for more insight.

What about you?  What style describes you best?  Where do you want to be?  I’d love to hear from you!

Seriously Funny

Michael Jr. is a fantastic comedian who also really loves Jesus.  In this Ted Talk he shares how his struggles and trails became the setup for offering something good to the world.  This would be a really fun video to watch with your teens (the humor will go over the little one’s heads) and talk about how God might use the challenges in their life to be a blessing to many.

 

Sowing and Reaping

Last week I talked about backpacks and boulders.  If you didn’t read that post, go back and read it.  If you’re an auditory learner, you can listen to the podcast.
Now that you’ve mastered the concept of backpacks and boulders (if not the practice), let me help out those of you who are worried the world is going to end if you don’t step in and save the day like you’re used to doing.
In the book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud pairs the concept of Backpacks and Boulders with an important law also found in Galatians 6.  After the apostle Paul encourages us to “bear one another burdens” while “each carries his own load”, he follows up with this important truth:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8
Paul is making a powerful point:  In God’s kingdom, there are no crop failures.  Every action has a reaction.  Everything planted, good or bad, will bloom.
The problem is that sometimes the wrong person gets the crop.
God is brilliant, and has designed this nifty little world to be full of natural consequences that teach valuable life lessons.  I’ll give you an example.  You might have heard of this thing called gravity.  If I try to jump off of something that’s too high, gravity pulls me to the earth.  And it hurts.  And then I learn to not jump off of things quite so high.  I sow a stupid decision, I reap a broken foot.
Unless some well meaning hero steps between me and the ground.  Then I might walk away fine, having softened the force of my fall with their broken body.
If this is a once in a lifetime heroic deed, then that person might have saved my life (or at least my ankle).  But if it’s a pattern, then they are actually wrecking both of our lives.
Here’s the funny thing about Sowing and Reaping… when we keep stepping in and taking the consequences for someone, we think we are helping them.  But we’re not.  They’ve no motivation to change.  And we start getting resentful, because we think they should be thankful.  But they’re not thankful, because they’ve begun to expect that we are SUPPOSED to step in and take their consequences.
The sower of bad decisions doesn’t have the problem.  We have the problem.
If your kid forgets their homework at home and you rush it to them at school, your kid didn’t bear the consequence, you did.
If your coworker chronically shows up late for work and you always cover for them, your coworker doesn’t have a problem, you do.
If your teenager gets busted at school for something stupid and you rush to the principles office to beg, plead, or threaten for the punishment to go away, then why would your teenager bother to change?  They’ve got a perfectly good system in place.
There are no crop failures.  Stop taking the consequences for your loved one’s bad decisions.  You think you’re being loving and tender.  But there’s a good chance you’re being enabling and codependent.
Let them fall and fail, especially when the consequences are minor.  As people grow, their decisions get bigger, and the crops get bigger too.  A loving parent allows for short term hurt to avoid long term harm.
So, this week, don’t turn backpacks into boulders, stop being the superhero, and stay out of the way when God tries to use a perfectly good natural consequence to spare your loved ones a lifetime of bad character!

Backpacks and Boulders

What if I could share some parenting advice that could also help you in some of the most difficult relationships in your life?  I’m not exaggerating, these next few minutes could be some of the most freeing of your life.
I have developed a long term love relationship with an accessory.
In the spring of 1996, I purchased a fairly ordinary looking backpack in a mall in Colorado.  I was a second semester freshman at a military school, and had just gone through something called “recognition” where we were no longer looked at as slaves, and were allowed to make limited big boy decisions, like choosing what kind of backpack we would carry.  Little did I know that 21 years later, my Eastern Mountain Sports backpack would make it through four years of college, 17 years as a mobile office, and about ten trips to the other side of the world.  I’ve carried my backpack most days for the last two decades, and it’s carried me through triumph and tragedy. I’ve grown so fond of my backpack, I might throw it a birthday party this spring.
Just a few years after getting my backpack I read one of the most profound books of my life.  It was called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud.  Boundaries is based off of the scriptural teachings of Galatians 6.  Essentially there are 2 important statements that initially seem contradictory in Galatians 6.  In Galatians 6:2, we are commanded to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”  Two verses later, Galatians 6:4 ends by saying “for each shall carry his own load”.  Some translations actually use the same word – burden – for both verses.  Isn’t this confusing?  What should we do?  Bear one another’s burdens or bear our own?
Both
Here’s the two minute summary of an excellent book (if you want more detail, listen to my podcast on the subject, and if you’re still curious get the book):
Every single person in life has a certain amount of responsibilities that constitute our own personal “Load”.  This is their backpack.  When you’re little, your backpack might include tying your own shoes, picking up after yourself, apologizing when you’ve  done wrong, and acceptable chores.  When you grow up, your backpack includes paying your own bills, processing your emotions, showing up on time, doing your own work.  The Bible commands each of us to bear our own load.
On the other hand, however, we know that if we live long enough, every single person will also have their share of calamity and trial.  These burdens can fill like boulders.  Have you ever tried to carry a boulder?  You can’t, at least not for very long at all.  What are boulders?  It could be a sickness, injury, family death or tragedy, a series of terrible events… there’s no end to the types of boulders people encounter.  And the Bible commands us to bear one another burdens, their boulders, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The problem comes when people get backpacks and boulders confused.  People try to hand us (or we heroically take) their backpack.  We trudge along carrying their load, feeling overwhelmed and resentful.  Meanwhile they go along just fine, light and free and growing in irresponsibility.  The converse of this is when people are truly weighed down by boulders that they cannot carry.  The weight will crush them, but they have an overdeveloped sense of doing everything by themselves.  If we don’t step in and help, the damage will be great.
The trick is understanding what is an appropriate backpack and what is an appropriate boulder in each person’s life.
How can this help you?  First, practice it at home.  Have this conversation with your family, use visual illustrations of backpacks and boulders.  Talk about what’s in each person’s backpack.  Help your kids understand theirs, and help them understand yours.  Now, use the language as you walk through the week.
Then, as you build your discernment and courage muscles, take a look at your work and larger family environment.  Where are you picking up other people’s backpacks?  Where are you letting people flounder under boulders?  What might you do different?
The concept is easy, the application can be challenging, especially in dysfunctional environments.  Next week I’ll expand a little further, but if the concepts new to you, this is plenty to practice for one week.
I’m praying for you!  Let me know how it goes!

LPOP 5 Enabling in a Good Way

What if we’re complimenting the wrong things in our kids?  Here’s a great way to enable your kids to go over, around, or through the brick walls in their life.

Enabling your kids (in a good way)

I have a dilemma.  Back when I only had one child, she was easily the smartest kid in the universe, which naturally made me the best parent in the universe.

But then I had other kids.  And they can’t all be the smartest kid in the universe.  Also, I’m not allowed to keep telling my oldest that she’s the smartest kid in the universe, now that the others are old enough to communicate and build resentments.  Nobody wants to be the sibling of the smartest kid in the universe.

Besides, I began to have this sneaking suspicion that my firstborn might not actually be the smartest kid in the universe.  Definitely top ten, but I noticed that other kids were better than her at certain things.   Obviously this was a huge blow to my self esteem.  But I also began to realize that it wasn’t exactly healthy to my daughter to be told she was the best before she had actually put in any work.

It turns out that she started to develop a peculiar habit: there were certain areas where she was naturally gifted, and in these areas she went all in.  But in most areas of life, humans don’t come out of the womb already talented.  And if she wasn’t always perfect at something, she avoided even trying it.  I later learned that this is a classic example of what educators call a “fixed mindset”.

You see, as parents we love our kids and want to build them up.  But we often build them up in ways that can ultimately paralyze them.  When we tell a kid “you’re really smart” or “you’re really pretty” or “you’re so athletic”, we are describing things that they really don’t control.  It might work well in our homes or in the early years of school, but at some point they come up against people that are smarter, prettier, or more athletic than them and they often shrink.  The thought can be, “that person is just more naturally talented than me, how can I compete?”

I want to share with you one area you can start complimenting your children that can help them get smarter, prettier, more athletic, and (believe it or not) more spiritually mature:

Compliment their work ethic.  

We are all born with a certain amount of brains, brawn, and resources.  But these things are not as finite as we often think.  A kid (or adult) can come upon a task that they are not good at, but if they have a strong sense of confidence in their work ethic, they will rise to the challenge.  We need to build into them the knowlege that if they work hard, they’re not stuck.  Remember those smart educators I referenced?  They call this attitude a “growth mindset”.  In a growth mindset, I may not be there, but I’m on my way.

How do we help enable a growth mindset and strong work ethic?  Try this:  instead of simply complimenting the results, congratulate them on the process.

Instead of “wow, you got straight A’s, you’re so smart!” try “wow, you got straight A’s, I’m so proud of you for working and studying hard!”

Instead of “you’re such a great athlete” try “I can tell you’ve been practicing really hard, your skills are really growing!”

Instead of “you’re so beautiful” try “I am so proud of the way you take care of your body but don’t feel the need to advertise your assets to the world”.

You can even try “I am so proud of the way your character is growing, I see you’re working hard to make the right choices and spend time with Jesus”.

I still tell my kids they are strong, smart, and good looking all of the time.  I also want them to know they don’t earn my love or their salvation.  But I’m learning to invest in their confidence to get over brick walls.

It’s time to start enabling our kids.  In a good way.

Let’s Parent On Purpose

From the time they are old enough to talk, we ask our kids what the want to be when they grow up.  And they tell us.

Cowboys.

Sheriffs.

Astronaut.

Astronaut-cowboy-sherrifs.

Dolphin trainers.

Doctors.

Teachers.

Dinosaurs.

But what if we’re asking the wrong question?  We keep asking them what kind of job they want to do.  Perhaps we should spend a little more time asking what kind of person they want to be?  And since they aren’t going to know the answer yet, let’s go ahead and tell them.  Don’t be afraid to tell your kid what kind of person they should be, over and over again.  Then do everything you can to help shape them into that kind of person!  
The mission of Let’sParentOnPurpose is to equip and empower moms and dads as they build kids who are building the kingdom of God.  As a Father of four and a youth pastor of another hundred or so, I know I need the wisdom and support of a community.  People who have been there before. People who are there right now.  Let’s be that for one another.  Let’s do it with grace, joy, humility, and humor.

LPOP 1 It’s a Marathon

This is Episode 1 of the Let’s Parent on Purpose Podcast!

It’s a little rough as I’m learning the technical side of things as well as how to stare at a microphone and pretend it’s a person, but hopefully you can be encouraged that God is going to use you over the long haul!

Have the calamities of any particular day of parenting ever made you feel like a total failure?  Be encouraged, you’re in good company. Listen to hear how common your experience is to our “heroes” of the faith, and for some practical advice as you take the next step.