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Engaging families in the church

Another really good article from Timothy Jones who blogs at TimothyPaulJones.com[su_divider top=”no” style=”double”]

The animated feature The Incredibles is a favorite movie in our household—and one of our favorite scenes is the family meal early in the film.

Dinner at the Parr household has deteriorated into pandemonium. The infant squeals in delight at the chaos as two siblings engage in super-powered combat. A frazzled mom strains unsuccessfully to restore order.

And what about Bob Parr, father and former “Mr. Incredible”? He stands to the side, physically present, relationally absent, utterly uncertain as to what to do.

Finally, his wife flings a frantic plea in his direction: “Bob! It’s time to engage! Don’t just stand there. Do something!” The problem is, Mr. Incredible has no clue how to engage the situation wisely, and his engagement results in greater chaos.

Then, the doorbell rings.

Suddenly, everyone scrambles for a seat at the table and, by the time the door opens, what the visitor sees is a perfectly placid all-American family.

Many parents in your congregation have been walking in Mr. Incredible’s shoes for a long time.

They have observed their children’s spiritual development from a disengaged distance. They have watched youth and children’s ministers stretch and strain to promote growth.

Now, in a growing movement in churches throughout the world, ministers are suddenly turning to these parents and shouting, “It’s time to engage!” The problem is that many of them don’t know how or why, and part of the reason that they don’t know how is because we as church leaders aren’t quite certain why parents have disengaged in the first place. The result is frustration. The purpose of this article is to take away some of that frustration by helping you to understand three essential facts about families like the ones in your church—facts that a team of researchers worked with me to discover by surveying hundreds of parents in more than a dozen congregations throughout North America.

(1) The overwhelming majority of parents in your church know their responsibility.

At one point, I presumed that parents were living in denial when it came to family discipleship. Even though Scripture calls parents to engage actively in shaping their children’s souls, dads and moms were simply choosing to be disobedient—or so I thought. As it turns out, I was wrong. When asked whether parents were responsible to engage personally in a discipleship process with their children, well over 90% of parents said yes.

(2) Most parents are not persistently or intentionally discipling their children.

At this point, a paradox emerges: Even as parents admit their responsibility to function as primary faith-trainers, most are doing little—if anything—to fulfill this role. Two-thirds of fathers and mothers read Scripture with their children once every two weeks or less. Family devotional or worship times happen once a month or less in six out of ten households. Half of parents never engage in any form of family devotional time. And the dads and moms in this survey were not sporadic church attendees! All of them were actively engaged in Bible studies and worship experiences in their communities of faith. And yet, with rare exceptions, they were disengaged as disciple-makers in their own homes.

(3) Parents aren’t being trained—but most of them are willing to be.

So why aren’t parents discipling their children? One reason is that no one is equipping them.

When asked if any church leader had ever contacted them to help them to engage actively in their children’s spiritual development, more than two-thirds of parents could not recall a single contact. When asked whether their churches had helped them to develop any plans for their children’s spiritual growth, three-fourths of parents disagreed to some degree.

Other studies have shed more light on the reasons for this perceived lack of training among parents. Despite placing family ministry high on their priority lists, youth ministers typically spent only three percent of their time and less than three percent of their budgets on any ministry that related to parents and families. And still, most parents want to be equipped to guide their children’s spiritual development. When asked in a FamilyLife survey about their family’s most pressing needs, more than three-fourths of church-involved moms and dads specifically mentioned their desire to know how to help their children to grow spiritually. The issue is not so much that parents have resigned their role as primary disciple-makers. In most cases, the problem is that churches are neither expecting nor equipping parents to be intentional about shaping their children’s souls.

What Can You Do?: Three Tips for Family Ministry

Now that you know these three facts, what can you do to partner with parents to develop an incredible family ministry? In these final paragraphs, I’ll unpack three simple suggestions that I have seen implemented in a wide variety of churches.

(1) Train more than you tell in family ministry.

It’s easier to settle for telling parents than to invest the time that’s needed to train them. Yet, if church leaders merely tell parents what they ought to do without equipping them, the result will be nothing more than a fleeting sense of guilt. Guilt may drive parents to make a few half-hearted attempts at family devotions, but guilt can never produce gospel-centered transformation.

(2) Train at times when parents are already present.

When you take the time to train parents how to disciple their children, don’t add one more activity to schedules that are already overpacked! Instead, find times when parents are already present and train them then. And remember: you can’t start too simple or small! Most parents have no clue how to lead a family devotion or even to read the Bible with their kids. Rehearse, role-play, show them how!

(3) Remind parents with grace and love who their children really are.

All of this will, however, be pointless unless you help parents to understand who their children really are: Their children are bearers of the gospel to generations yet unborn. Your children and mine are eternal souls whose days will long outlast the rise and fall of all the kingdoms of the earth. They and their children and their children’s children will flit ever so briefly across the face of this earth before being swept away into eternity.
How we mold our children’s souls while they reside in our households will shape the lives of children who have yet to draw their first gasp of air (Ps. 78:6–7). That’s why our primary purpose for these children must never be anything so miserable as earthly success.
Our purpose should be—as Richard Ross has said for years—to leverage our children’s lives to advance God’s kingdom so that every tribe, every nation, and every nation gains the opportunity to respond in faith to the rightful King of kings. That’s an incredible purpose, and it’s the only foundation for family ministry that will last. Now, what are you waiting for? It’s time to engage!

Senior man standing with arms outstretched

Living well after middle age (Audio)

You may think as you get older you get wiser, but author Ken Davis says — he just gets weirder! On this 2 part broadcast, Ken will encourage you to beat the middle-age blues by living life to the fullest – through exercise, nutrition and family time. If you’re facing a midlife crisis, or just need a little boost, join us for a healthy, humorous perspective.

Part 1
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Part 2
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Young people jumping on Mission Beach, San Diego, California, USA

Living joyously (Audio)

On this 2 part broadcast hear an inspiring message from David Ring — a man who leaves a lasting impression! Born with cerebral palsy, he suffered through many devastating circumstances – including the loss of his parents by age 14. Kids made fun of him and most of his family rejected him. He was pretty sure that God hated him too. Hear how he beat the odds to become a joy-filled ministry leader.

Part 1
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Part 2
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Couple giving two young children piggyback rides smiling

Maximising everyday moments (Article)

by Dr. Greg Smalley

It takes time together to keep a relationship strong and vibrant. We all “get” that marriage doesn’t have cruise control or an autopilot setting. The problem with most marriages isn’t that we don’t know we should spend time together; the problem is that we’re too busy.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Instead of waiting for long, uninterrupted blocks of time to strengthen your marriage, take advantage of key moments that happen every day. I call this “maximizing everyday relationship moments.” Let me describe a couple of these potential moments:

Saying goodbye and hello
. On a typical day, one or both of you will leave the house in the morning. How you say goodbye to your spouse can strengthen your marriage. The key is to kiss your spouse before he or she leaves the house. I’m not talking about a pathetic kiss where you lean forward and barely graze your spouse’s lips. I’m talking about a real, five-second kiss! You’re not adding anything new to your busy plate; you’re just taking advantage of a moment that will happen anyway.

How do you greet your spouse when he or she arrives home at the end of the day? The key to maximizing this moment is to use attention, excitement and affection. Walk over, give your spouse a kiss and say, “Welcome home. I’m glad you’re back.” This sets a positive tone for the rest of your evening together.

Saying good night. There are at least two unique opportunities to strengthen your marriage when you say good night. The first is to express gratitude. Thank your spouse for something specific: “Thanks for being a great provider” or “Thanks for washing the dishes.” The other opportunity is to pray together. Imagine how strong your marriage could be if the last thing your spouse heard before falling asleep was you praying for him or her.

For more on strengthening your marriage, read Take the Date Night Challenge: 52 creative ideas to make your marriage fun.

This article appeared in the February/March 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled “Maximizing Everyday Moments.” Copyright © 2015 Focus on the Family. ThrivingFamily.com.

disciplinesingleparent

Disciplining as a single parent (Article)

by Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie

When a tag-team wrestler wearies in the fight, he works his way to the corner of the ring. Tired and worn out, he reaches to tag his partner — who then replaces him on the mat. Weary single parents often wish they could ease over to the corner of the ring, tag a partner and take a break. But that rarely happens.

Raising children alone means that, for the most part, you don’t have a partner ready to jump in and help. Whether you are well-rested or worn-out, whether you are physically healthy or coping with illness, you’re still on duty. As a single parent, you have a nonstop assignment that can feel like a never-ending wrestling match.

As we work with parents at The Center for Marriage & Family Studies, one of our goals is to help single moms and dads gain control of their households and manage the daily challenges with authority and composure. Single parents feel healthiest when they know that their kids respect and obey them.

But exercising parental authority does not come naturally for single dads who fear losing their kids’ affections or single moms who are too tired after work to play enforcer. Even though it takes effort, discipline is essential to a healthy family. As your kids learn to obey, your own stress level drops, and peace more frequently fills your home.

One aspect of managing kids well is teaching them that you mean what you say. Tired of all the arguing and whining, single parents often resort to making vague threats, repeating earlier comments or raising their voices in frustration and anger. As the situation escalates, single moms or dads may descend into name-calling, badgering, insulting or inappropriate physical discipline. All of these unintended consequences flow from a lack of control.

To avoid this kind of escalation, help your kids understand that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. The following principles will offer you guidance as you train your children to obey.

Clearly define the pathway to reward. “When you have eaten everything on your plate, we’ll have ice cream.” This statement sets up a clear reward — ice cream. It also clearly defines the pathway to and timing of that reward—”when you have eaten everything on your plate.” With this fact established, your children are now responsible for whether they choose the pathway to reward.

Trust their word, but verify their work. “When you and I have looked at your homework together, and when I see that it’s complete, I’ll get out the Wii and you can play until bedtime.” The advantage of this rule is that you eliminate the temptation to lie. Children know they can’t avoid doing homework by declaring, “But I already finished it!” because you will check the homework for yourself.

Don’t cave. As you establish firm boundaries and give clear instruction to your kids, expect to be tested. Make it obvious from the start that you will not be swayed. Help your children understand that you are simply announcing the decision that has already been made; you are not inviting a debate. This new style of parental communication will take effort on your part, but the rewards reaped in your home life will be well worth the perseverance.

As we often tell single parents, good parenting is not limited to those who have a built-in tag team. By learning to say what you mean and mean what you say, you build credibility with your children and train them to respect both you and your authority. Your kids will gain life skills, and you will gain a sense of calm control as you cope with the challenges of each new day.

Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie are Christian family counselors and the authors of Raising Great Kids on Your Own: A Guide and Companion for Every Single Parent.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled “Mean It Like You Say It.” Copyright © 2011 by Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie.

Transitions in Ministry (Audio Re-post)

To everything there is a season, says the book of Ecclesiastes, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. Most leaders agree that there are seasons in life when serious change occurs, change that can result in significant spiritual growth.

Join H.B. London Jr. and his guests on this edition of Pastor to Pastor® as they discuss the timing and purpose of transitions within the ministry. You’ll hear Brady Boyd, Wade Brown and Dan Chaverin.

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Healthy Church (Audio Re-post)

Every pastor wants a healthy church and family. But, what does healthy look like? Smaller ministry settings may require a uniquely gifted individual to lead the flock. Is healthy defined by the size of the congregation or the well-being and spiritual growth of each who attends?

Join H.B. London Jr. and his guests on this edition of Pastor to Pastor® as they discuss the characteristics and ministry opportunities unique to a small healthy church. You’ll hear Gregory A. Wiens, Randy Popineau, Ron Klassen and Bob Russell.

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Conflict (Audio Re-post)

Sometimes—no matter how hard you try— conflict is inevitable. The fact is, conflict is all around us. But, when it knocks on the door of your church or your home, the consequences can be particularly painful. Can it ever be prevented?

Join H.B. London Jr. and his guests on this edition of Pastor to Pastor® as they discuss the dynamics surrounding conflict—some causes and insightful remedies. You’ll hear Ken Sande, Jack Graham and a classic interview with Marshall Shelley.

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Balance (Audio Re-post)

Managing time between church-related and family activities can test the best of marriages. And the scenario can be further compounded in a smaller church setting where a pastor’s time and attention is always in demand. How do you choose the needs of one over the other when your goal is to be faithful to both? Is it possible to please everyone?

Join H.B. London Jr. and his guests on this edition of Pastor to Pastor® as they discuss this all too common balancing act facing ministry families. You’ll hear Greg and Erin Smalley and a pastoral panel comprised of Wade and Deb Brown, Michael and Angela Henderson and Bob and Lisa Huisman.

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Burnout (Audio Re-Post)

Are you numb . . . with absolutely no emotional or physical energy left for your congregation or even your own family? Trying to live at a frantic pace with too little time left to nurture your own well-being can result in a long-term stress. It’s called burnout.

Join H.B. London Jr. and his guests on this edition of Pastor to Pastor® as they find proactive ways to address the very real possibility of burnout in your life. You’ll hear from Daniel Spaite, Walt and Fran Becker and a classic interview with Archibald Hart.

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