3 Ways to Partner With Parents

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There’s a lot of conversation in the church today about partnering with parents. It’s a big deal to me both as a pastor and as a parent. But sometimes it can be a struggle to know exactly how to go about partnering with parents. Here are three practical ways your church and ministry can begin to partner with the parents in your community this week:

Affirm Them
On some level, every parent feels insecure and is desperate for affirmation. Train your leaders to catch their kids doing something right and to communicate that to their parents. Send encouraging notes and texts to parents during the week. When a parent informs you of a prayer request don’t just tell them that you’ll pray for them during the week, actually pray with them right then and there.

The more you affirm the parents in your ministry, the better relationship they will have with your ministry. (Tweet That)

Inform Them
A parent’s world is busy. There are school projects to help out with, practices and games to attend, appointments to keep track of, and family obligations to meet. Keep them in the loop through weekly and monthly handouts and emails, social media updates, and keeping your website up-to-date.

Clear, concise, and consistent communication is crucial to partnering with parents. (Tweet That)

Listen to Them
When a parent comes to you with an issue or concern, take it seriously. Follow-up with them as soon as possible or schedule a time to meet with them about it. Consider creating an anonymous survey that parents can fill out to give you input. Ask on social media how your ministry can better serve their family. Meet with key parents (both believers and non-believers) a few times each year to find out how you can partner with them more effectively.

Parents are more likely to listen to you if you will first listen to them. (Tweet That)

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1 Simple Tip That Will Help You Make Better Decisions

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There’s a passage in the Book of Joshua where the Israelites are making headway in settling the Promised Land. God continues to give them victory after victory.

Word about what God is doing for his people spreads. Many of the nations occupying the Promised Land try to fight the Israelites but end up being defeated.

When the Gibeonites learn of this, they decide to try something different. Instead of marching out to wage war against Israel, they decide to pull a fast one. They send emissaries to the Israelites disguised as foreigners in order to make a peace treaty with them.

Where Decisions Go Wrong

God had warned the Israelites not to make any treaties with the people living in the land so that, according to Deuteronomy 20:18 (GWT), “…teach you to do all the disgusting things they do for their gods…” (bestiality, child sacrifice, etc). After Joshua and the leaders of Israel questioned them, they met to decide what to do. What they did next is what many of us foolishly do:

“So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. Three days after making the treaty, they learned that these people actually lived nearby!” – Joshua 9:14-16 (NLT)

When Joshua and the Israelites found out they were furious. Can you blame them?

If you read the rest of chapter nine you’ll discover the Israelites wanted to get out of their treaty, but it was too late. They were locked in. The Gibeonites continued to be enemies of Israel for hundreds of years, causing a lot of pain and hardship.

It’s easy to look at this passage and think, “How could the Israelites have made such a bone-headed mistake? If they had just taken the time to pray about it they could have avoided this whole mess! Why didn’t they ask God about it before they made their decision?”

I’ve made this mistake on more than a few occasions. I’ve rushed into a decision without asking God about it. I thought I knew what I was doing, only to have it blow-up in my face later. While I wouldn’t have said it this way at the time, I basically thought I didn’t need God. Can you relate?

How to Make Better Decisions

We’ve all had moments when we rushed into a decision. We either allowed ourselves to get too busy, too distracted, or too full of ourselves to ask God about it.

When you face an important choice, ask God what you should do about it before you make a decision on it. (Tweet That)

Much of the pain we experience in life we bring on ourselves because of our own poor decisions. Many of those decisions could have been avoided if we simply had taken the time to ask God about it. James 1:5 (NCV) says, “But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you.”

When you find yourself facing an important decision, whether it’s to take that job offer, ask so-and-so out on a date, resolve a conflict, improve your family life or determining how to move forward on that big project at work ask God what you should do about it before you make a decision on it.

You might just save yourself a world of regret.

Question: What important decision do you need to ask God about right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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6 Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Tragedy

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It’s difficult to process all the violence in our nation this week. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the police officers and innocent civilians who were shot in Dallas over the last few days are a painful reminder of the realities of living in a broken world.

How do we begin to understand what led to these tragic events? What can we do, both as a country and as individuals to keep these kind of things from happening? Unfortunately there are no easy answers for us in the wake of these tragedies.

What is even more difficult, as a parent, is what do I tell my kids about this? How do I begin to explain to them what happened? How can I help them understand the needless deaths that have rocked our country when, the truth is, I don’t quite understand it myself?

As tough as this is, it is our job as parents to do our best to help our kids process the world in which we live, both the good and the bad, no matter how impossible it may seem.

Here are a few ways you can begin to have a dialogue with your children about tragedy:

1. Limit their media exposure.

Growing up in the 80s my media exposure was limited to what was on basic cable. Today is very different. With so many more channels available on TV, the internet, and social media our world is inundated with constant coverage of world events in real-time.

One of the best ways to protect your kids is to limit their exposure. Be mindful about what you allow them to watch on TV. Set firm parental controls on all the devices in your home. Limit how much time they spend on their screens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics  offers several recommendations on what to allow your children to view and how much time is too much. Take a look at these guidelines and discuss with your family about what limits are appropriate to set for your children.

2. Talk to them about what they know.

Having worked with children for almost twenty years I can confidently tell you that your kids almost always know more about what’s going on than you think they do. The old saying that kids are like sponges is true. They absorb everything that’s around them, whether you think they are paying attention or not.

Depending on how old your children are it is probably a good idea to talk to them about what they have heard about the recent shootings this week. If they are three or four years old then they probably don’t know much, if anything at all. But if they have much access to the news, conversation about what’s been going on, or know a few adults in law enforcement then they may be more aware of what is happening.

As you talk to you kids, ask them questions about what they have heard. Use this time to correct any information they may have heard that is incorrect

Ask them how they feel about what they have heard. Asking them questions and listening to what they have to see will go a long way to helping them process what has happened and strengthening your relationship with them.

3. Share what is age appropriate.

If your kids are old enough (six years old or older) sharing basic facts about what happened is usually enough. If they are junior high aged or older your kids probably have some strong opinions about what has happened. Listen to what they have to say, acknowledge their feelings and opinions with statements like, “I hear what you’re saying”, or “I get why you feel that way”.

Go over the facts of what is known. Don’t share your personal opinions as facts. Depending on your children and how you feel about what has happened, it may be a good idea not to share your feelings right away. It’s OK for you to say, “I’m not really sure how I feel about all of this right now. I need some more time to think about everything. I would love to hear some of your thoughts and feelings about it right now. What you think is very important to me.”

4. Point them to the hope we have in Christ.

If you are a Christian, use this time as an opportunity to share with your children about the hope you have in Christ. Remind your kids about some of the stories in the Bible where God was with his people and how he provided for them in the midst of difficult circumstances. If appropriate, share some Bible verses that have been encouraging to you.

Your kids may ask you why God allowed this to happen. Be honest and tell them that you do not know. Don’t try to make up an answer for why God let this happen. The truth is, on this side of eternity, we simply don’t know why God allowed this to happen. I don’t believe that he caused it to happen. What I do know is that, because of human actions, we live in a fallen and broken world. God is grieved by the events of this week. He loves everyone that was involved. 2 Peter 3:9 (LEB) says, “…He does not want any to perish…” God did not want this to happen. It breaks his heart like it breaks many of ours.

Here are some verses you can read and talk about with your kids:


5. Allow them to ask questions and process their feelings.

Your kids may have a lot of question, but they might not ask you right away. Give them space to think about what has happened and what you have talked about. Dr David Hawkins said, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”

Ask them if they have any questions. If they ask you a question you don’t know the answer to, say, “I don’t know the answer to that right now. Let me find out and I will get back to you.”

Check in with them periodically. They might not have any feelings right now, but those feelings may surface later. The events that have unfolded in our nation this week will gradually fade from the spotlight, but they might not fade from the heart of your child. Pay special attention over the next couple of weeks to see how they are doing.

It might be a good idea to meet as a family with someone from your church. Ask your pastor or ministry leader if they have some time for you to meet together so you can receive their guidance on how to best answer your child’s questions.

You may even want to see if your child would like to meet with your pastor or a Children’s Ministry leader from your church one-on-one to talk with them. Sometimes kids don’t always feel comfortable sharing everything with their parents (remember when you were a kid?). It doesn’t mean you’re not a good parent. It just means that your kids need another, safe adult to talk to.

If, after a month or two, your child is still struggling with what has happened you should seek out a professional counselor. Call your church and ask them if they can give you any recommendations. Click here for a website that will help you find a Christian counselor in your area.

6. Pray together as a family.

One of the best things we can do when life is uncertain or frightening is to pray. Spend time praying for the families of the victims in this week’s shootings. Pray for the families of the police officers and bystanders that were involved. Pray for the cities and communities that were effected by these events. Pray for our nation as we heal and for our leaders as they make decision about how to protect our citizens more effectively. Pray for your family and community and for God’s Spirit of peace and guidance to fill your hearts and minds.

Being a parent is no easy task. It’s made even more difficult in the midst of tragic events like the ones our country has experienced this week. You may not feel equipped to help your children deal with what is going on in our country right now. When you feel overwhelmed take a minute to pause, breathe, ask for God’s guidance, and follow these steps.

Remember: You are the parent God has chosen for your child. You can do it with his help.

Question: What are some ways that you talk to your kids about tragic events? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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6 Ways to Stay Refreshed in Ministry

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When I was in college one of my professors had a local youth pastor come to our class to share some of his experiences and insights in ministry.

I don’t remember a lot of what he said, but I’ll never forget what he shared at the beginning of his talk: “If you can do anything besides ministry, you should.”

I was blown away when he said that! He seemed like a cool, laid back guy who loved his ministry and his work in the church. I had no idea he was miserable.

It turns out that he wasn’t miserable at all. He went on to explain how vocational ministry has been one of the toughest and most rewarding things he has done with his life. He wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it certainly wasn’t for everyone. The unique pressures, demands, and responsibilities of working at a church can take a lot out of a person. If you’re not prepared for it, it can hurt you like nothing else.

Having been in vocational ministry for almost thirteen years now I can look back on that assessment and say it is spot-on. I love the opportunity to serve in the local church. I believe it is God’s instrument to bring about good in the world. But it can also be an ugly thing. If we don’t have the right tools in place we can end up being devoured by the very ministry we were intent on serving.

Here are six ways I have discovered to stay refreshed in vocational ministry:

1. Engage in spiritual disciplines. Scripture reading, prayer, silence and solitude, etc. are some of the most important mechanisms God uses to keep our tanks filled-up. Don’t become like the church Jesus addressed in Revelation 2:2-5 (TLB), “I know how many good things you are doing. I have watched your hard work..Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love (how different now!) and turn back to me…”

2. Take your sabbath and vacation time. No one can go full throttle, 24/7 for long. Everyone needs time to rest. Taking a break from your work will help you be more successful at work. The Bible says in Psalm 127:2 (NLT), “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Remember: If you don’t take the sabbath, the sabbath will take you.

3. Eat right and exercise. Every person runs on energy. The quality and amount of energy we will have is largely determined by how we feed and exercise our bodies. The more we exercise and the healthier we eat the more energy we will have to accomplish the tasks God has for us, the better we will feel, and the more we will enjoy life.

4. Invest in your personal development. Second only to the Holy Spirit, you are your most valuable asset. Reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and attending conferences will help you sharpen your skills and allow you to work better. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:7 (TLB), “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And with your wisdom, develop common sense and good judgment.”

5. Connect with friends and other pastors. No matter how great your church is there will always be a few things that will frustrate and hurt you. When those things come up (and they will) you need safe people to talk to about it. I have learned from some painful experiences that those people aren’t in your church. You need to go to people outside of your church. Galatians 6:2 (NCV) says, “By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ.” because, “…we are partners working together for God” (1 Corinthians 3:9 GNT).

6. Talk to a counselor. There comes a time in almost every pastor’s life when they need help beyond what their colleagues, co-workers, family, and friends can give them. When that time comes it is important to seek out the help of a professional, Christian counselor. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:15 (NIV), “A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others.” If you are struggling with something, you don’t have to go through it alone. There is help out there for you. Seek out a counselor in your area today. This site can help you find the right person: http://findchristiancounselor.com/

Vocational ministry isn’t nearly as easy as some who have other careers think it is. Less than 50% of people who start out in full-time ministry will finish there. Take care of your ministry by taking care of yourself. Use these six tips to help you have less stress and more success in life and ministry.

Question: What do you do to stay refreshed in ministry? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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