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!


Sometimes I’m not really a good Dad….BUT

Another great article from www.faithit.com by Brian Orme.

Dad Confession: Sometimes I Suck at Parenting, But There Is This One Thing…

I don’t do a lot of things right in this parenting game, but I’m hoping this one little commitment overshadows a lot of parenting mistakes and miscues I’ll find out about when our kids are grown.

True confession: Sometimes I suck at parenting.

Here’s a quick rundown of my un-parenting skills.

  • I’m a horrible tooth fairy. I might’ve paid out around $5 for those little white Tic Tacs and it was rarely on time. Did I mention we have four boys—and two are teenagers?
  • We’ve never taken our kids to Disney Land and, to be honest, I don’t really have any plans to. Why? I could say money, but the real issue is my lack of love for amusement parks, lines and whiny kids in the afternoon.
    I make my kids order waters when we go out to eat.
  • I don’t feel like I make my kids work hard enough. We don’t chop wood or build barns. We play FIFA Soccer on the PlayStation and sometimes we watch too much TV.
  • I don’t have staged water fights in the summer and I only took them sledding once this year.
  • I like to scare them. Probably too much. Under the bed. In the closet. In the garage. Under the bed is the best, but it does require patience.

OK, now that we’ve established the fact that I am not a professional and you should not seek me out for parenting tips, let me give you one anyway.

I don’t do everything right and my Facebook wall isn’t full of parenting gold, but there’s one thing I do just about every week that’s making a pretty big difference in our father-son relationship. No, it’s not helping in a soup kitchen, although we’ve done that. It’s not church, but we do that too.

It’s even simpler than that.

Once a week, on Fridays, I drive my boys to school and we grab breakfast and have a pseudo Bible study. I let them order whatever they want (within reason) and we all break out our iPhones and iPods and read the Bible and talk about our faith. Everyone is required to share one thing God is doing in their life.

And you know what—it works. My commitment to this little ritual has been a parenting game-changer. My boys look forward to it every week. They’ve opened up more and there seems to be a positive peer pressure to participate—kind of like Fight Club, but with Bibles and Frappes instead of bare-knuckle punches. Why does it work? I think it’s the context and consistency. My boys know that I’m carving out some time from my schedule every week to hang out and do something fun–with a purpose. It doesn’t work the same way if we do it at home.

It’s kind of like C.S. Lewis said: “Children are not a distraction to more important work. They are the most important work.

I don’t do a lot of things right in this parenting game, but I’m hoping this one little commitment overshadows a lot of parenting mistakes and miscues I’ll find out about when our kids are grown.

Besides, we’re all pretty flawed and we need grace—especially in our parenting, but if I can pass on something to my four boys, I hope it’s a love for God’s word and the freedom to talk about matters of the heart.

Along with fart noises and action movies. I do have all boys, remember?

Just married couple, holding hands and walking in nature

10 secrets to a successful marriage (Article)

By Mitch Temple

Successful couples are savvy. They read books, attend seminars, browse Web articles and observe other successful couples. However, successful couples will tell you that they also learn by experience – trial and error.

Here are 10 principles of success I have learned from working with and observing hundreds of couples:

Happiness is not the most important thing. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go. Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when life pulls it away.

Couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don’t know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to reduce stress and overcome challenges.

If you do what you always do, you will get same result. Wise couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get different results. Often, minor changes in approach, attitude and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.

Your attitude does matter. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.

Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly.

The grass is greenest where you water it. Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener myth – i.e. someone else will make me happy. They have learned to put their energy into making themselves and their marriage better.

You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope – almost impossible. Often, the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves.

Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life wears away the “feel good side of marriage.” Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love is based on a couple’s vows of commitment: “For better or for worse” – when it feels good and when it doesn’t.

Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges, bringing up the past and remembering that they married an imperfect person – and so did their spouse.

A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.

Quarreling kids - boy shouting at little girl, isolated

Stop refereeing your kids (Article)

By Megan Hill

My sons had each decided their individual happiness depended on playing exclusively with our green baseball bat. Every day, I heard them argue over it. I frequently asked, “What’s wrong with the yellow one? Or the red one?” But, no, green apparently hits faster, higher, better.

As a result, I found myself trying to solve every sibling squabble. At the first sound of trouble, I would swoop in and ask questions such as, “Who had it first?” and resort to solutions such as, “I’m just going to take it away.”

As parents, too often we allow ourselves to be ever-present police, detectives, mediators and judges. In the heat of the moment, this reaction is understandable, but it poorly equips our children for independence. Instead, we should invest time teaching our children to keep the peace. In much the same way that parents prepare their kids for “stranger danger” and peer pressure, we can prepare our kids to look for resolutions to conflict.

Teach three directives

How I parented sibling conflict changed once I understood that children could be trained in this area. Corlette Sande, co-founder of Relational Wisdom 360, suggested the use of three conflict resolution steps for children: overlook, talk and get help. Corlette says, “Young children can learn how to respond to conflict if we model it and show them how to put peacemaking into practice.”

With my own preschoolers, I began by teaching them to overlook the offense, talk the issue over, and then get help. I first introduced conflict resolution to my children during a quiet moment when they were receptive listeners. We talked about their usual conflicts: toy-grabbing, shouting or throwing game cards. I explained that when a sibling offends them, they first need to try to overlook the offense. Then I gave them a script: Say, “That’s OK,” and stop thinking or talking about it.

If this is impossible (because overlooking an offense takes many tries and much grace), the child has the option to talk about the situation with his brother. He can calmly say: “Please don’t do that” or “May I please have that back?” His brother must answer in a kind tone. The goal of this step is for the children to reach a mutually agreeable compromise.

If my sons can’t reach a satisfactory resolution, the offended child can finally get help. He finds Mommy or Daddy and says: “Would you please help us?” In this step, he knows his parent will hear both sides of the disagreement and then make the final decision.

Sometimes, one of my children forgets the first two steps and immediately runs to me for help. Before intervening, I ask whether he has tried overlooking and talking. If not, I coach him to try again.

With repetition, this process has become a familiar family expression. “What can you do if you have a conflict?” I ask. “Overlook, talk and then get help,” my kids respond.

Following these steps may initially seem unrealistic for preschoolers — a peaceful resolution is not their natural inclination. But with frequent reminders, it’s possible.

I have a son who was adopted shortly after he turned 3. He came to our family trained by orphanage life: uninterrupted squabbling with 30 other children over a handful of toys. Hitting was his conflict-resolution strategy. Mere months later, he could tell me the steps for resolution and began learning to implement them with his siblings.

Teaching conflict resolution to children is a wise investment of time. This basic, three-step process is not instant or easy, but it has changed my family and how my children relate to one other.

Megan Hill is a freelance author and mother of three.

Uncovering secrets to a happy marriage (Audio)

Best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn offers insights from research she’s conducted on what makes for a happier, more fulfilling marriage. She also outlines practical ways to develop a more Christ-like relationship with your spouse.






Effective child discipline (Series)

There’s not a responsible parent on the planet who hasn’t struggled with getting a child to obey, and it can be an excruciating experience. How do you get your children to mind without losing yours?

Focus on the Family have an incredible series on the topic that I would recommend for every parent.
Click on each one to see the article.

1. The four parenting styles
2. What the Bible Says About Discipline
3. 5 characteristics of biblical discipline
4. Discipline is worth the effort
5. Punishment vs Discipline
6. Discipline with action and words
7. The biblical approach to spanking


Kids make lousy housemates (Article)

You have kids, then you will be able to relate to this…when talking to parents about their kids, we need to see the funny side of much of what happens.

Living with people is hard. You have to take into account their habits and foibles and constantly re-negotiate the terms. Sometimes, when there is a personality clash, you just have to accept that you shouldn’t be living together. Here are 7 reasons my kids make lousy housemates:

1. They talk to me before I’ve had my coffee

Anyone who lives with me should know this is a non-negotiable. I can’t human until I’ve coffee’ed. Despite explaining this a million and one times to my kids, they still insist on talking at me first thing in the morning. Granted, my explanations are expressed in grunts, but, sheesh, they should get it by now, yes?

2. They talk with their outside voices

In a former life, I was a librarian. I understand the need for silence. And inside voices. Not so my kids. They all talk over each other, at the same time, and at 200 decibels. It’s especially bad when they think they’ve said something funny. Then, not only is it said at 200 decibels, it’s repeated 7 trillionty times for maximum impact. I would have had strong words with any other housemate about this by now.

3. They suck at washing the dishes

Okay, not all of them. The 15 year old is fairly good at washing the dishes… every 2 weeks or so…. But my 12 year old seems to have a visual disability when she washes them: she doesn’t notice that she’s left half of supper on the plate before putting it on the drying rack. And my 8 year old can’t even figure out how to stack the drying rack. What’s that about?

4. They allow weird things to grow on crockery

I’ve often asked my 15 year old whether his arms were broken, because he hasn’t managed to carry dishes from his bedroom to the kitchen for days. When they do find their way back to the sink, they have things that look like science experiments attached to them. Seriously unacceptable behaviour for a housemate.

5. They don’t understand the concept of personal space

A friend has implemented the arm’s length rule. At the end of any given day, her kids are no longer allowed anywhere nearer than within an arm’s length of her. She got this rule from her mother, a very very wise woman. I’m going to implement the same thing. If I don’t, I fear my body will become fused to my 8 year old son’s arms, or my face to my 12 year old daughter’s lips. They’re IN MY FACE wherever I go: on the couch, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, hiding in the closet (What? Don’t you do this?). This is unacceptable. Any other housemate would have been out by now.

6. They eat all the treats before I get a chance

My treats are no longer my own. I’ve been reduced to hiding in my room when I want to eat a bar of chocolate. Treats last a total of 3.5 seconds after landing on the kitchen counter. I’m seriously considering building a secret entrance to my house and a treats cupboard in my bedroom, just to avoid the ravening eyes of my children.

7. They don’t practise personal hygiene

I have to tell them every day to shower and brush their teeth. Um. Do they have daily amnesia? Surely after hearing it every day it becomes a habit? Plus, my 8 year old stores dirty underpants under his bed and my 15 year old’s socks smell.


5 things kids will remember about you (Article)

by Dave Willis

My wife Ashley and I just had our fourth baby. Having a new baby in the house has made me feel more nostalgic than usual and I’ve reflected back on my own childhood. I’ve thought about the memories that stick out in my mind and I think about the memories I want my own children to hold onto. I want to be intentional about every precious moment.
Jerry Seinfeld jokes that, “Babies’ sole purpose is to replace us! That’s why their first words are, “Mama, Dada…Bye Bye.”

It’s a funny joke, but also an important reminder that life is short and our time with our kids is going to go by fast. With that in mind, I want to make the most of every minute and create the kind of legacy that will endure long after I’m gone. This isn’t a morbid thought, but rather an important way to stay focused on what matters most with every minute we have with our kids.

[quote]As the Bible says, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:4[/quote]

As parents, we tend to stress about things that don’t matter all that much. Our kids probably aren’t going to remember every detail of our home decor, or how perfect our landscaping looked or whether our refrigerator was stocked was name brands or generics. Let’s focus on what really matters. If you want to know what your kids will remember about you, here it is:

5 things your kids will remember about you:

1. The times you made them feel safe (or the times you made them feel unsafe).
There’s a vulnerability and a need for protection in the heart of every child. Your kids will remember those moments you chased the monsters from under their bed or held them after a nightmare, but they’ll also remember the times when your temper became the monster they feared. Our kids are probably going to see us angry sometimes, because that’s part of life, but make it your mission to make your children feel safe and secure at all times when they’re with you.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.
Kids measure love primarily by our attentiveness to them. The times you stop what you’re doing to have a tea party or go outside to throw a ball or jump on a trampoline with be memories etched into their minds and hearts forever. Take the time to do the little things with your kids, because in the end, they’ll be the moments that matter most.

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.
Our kids are forming their views of love in large part by watching how we treat our husband or wife. Strive to have the kind of marriage that makes them excited to get married someday. Give them the security that comes from seeing their Mom and Dad in a committed, loving relationship with each other.

4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.
A child’s heart is like wet cement and the impression made early in life will harden over time. They’ll base their sense of identity, capability and even self-worth largely upon the words you speak to them in those formative years. Part of our job as parents is to correct and discipline, but even in correction, let your words be full of love, encouragement and positive reinforcement.

5. Your family traditions.
Kids love spontaneity, but they also have deep need for predictability. They’ll remember with great fondness the “traditions” you establish whether it’s a weekly family movie (or game) night, a place you regularly travel for family getaways, the way you celebrate birthdays and special events or any other special tradition. Be intentional about creating some traditions that they’ll want to pass onto their own children someday.

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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