Praying for our educators

I’ll be short and concise: We need to pray for those who educate kids. 

So, the next time you drop your kids off, drive by a school, or see a homeschooler post on Instagram, pray for the people who are working hard, every day, to nurture the wonder, delight and knowledge in our students.  Their commitment to kids, their long hours of planning, their daily routine dedicated to inspiring the minds and hearts of our littlest to our largest is worthy of our focused and consistent prayers. What they do really matters.students

For every person who spends their days inspiring our young people to grow, learn and become all they were created to be, we thank you. And we pray for you.

For teachers in our schools–may you be given the insight and grace to love each kid that comes through your doors. May you have to courage to teach from the heart, inspiring them with how you live and teach as much as with what you say.

For principals who lead their learning communities–may you be given wisdom to provide both stability and challenge, to create and support a culture of learning and wonder and service. You’ve got a hard job, and we are thankful you are serving so many others.

For home educators who teach their own, whether that be kids or grand-kids or step-kids–you’ve taken on something others often fear. May you be inspired this year with a vision for your kids, and in the midst of the chaos, may you see your own relationship with your kids flourish as the light of knowledge and the wisdom of Jesus grows in their minds and minds.

For coaches and drama teachers and club sponsors and tutors–may you be blessed for your extra gift of time and energy so our kids can express who they are in unique and powerful ways. You are often giving beyond your daily strength, and may you get back more than you give out.

For support staff, who are present and enabling the whole student experience to work in smooth and meaningful ways–may you be given the gift of seeing how your work is essential to the whole and how your contribution creates environments where students can flourish.

For parents everywhere–may you be given a deep love for your kids, wherever they are in this journey toward adulthood. May you be granted courage to lead them, passion to inspire them, strength to challenge them and grace to make every opportunity in these precious years to see your kids grow up into the purpose and passion that God has for them.

Let’s keep them in our prayers.

20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #14: Family Matters

I’ve seen more pastors fail at family than succeed. I don’t want to be one of those pastors.

We all say “family before ministry”, but on the ground, when that call comes in, when the meeting has been booked, when another need rises, it can seem like family takes a definite second.

If there’s a lesson I’m more convinced of than ever and yet one that continues to require my utmost vigilance, it is this: My family matters more than you do.  I love you, I care for you, I’ll do whatever I’m able to support you, but at the end of the day, my family comes first.

Family matters.

Which means that there will be times when I won’t go to that meeting or attend that event. I’ll jam out early or refuse that invitation. Not because I’m “too busy” or have some other appointment. I might not be doing anything more “important” than having coffee with my wife, playing with my boys, watching funny YouTube videos or going for a hike, but at that moment, that’s more important than anything else. The value of family has to mean something on the ground, in the everyday decisions we make on a Monday evening or a Thursday afternoon, or they don’t mean anything at all.

I’ve often told my church leaders that when faced with a decision between failing the church or failing my family, my family will win, every time. You might be surprised how much this helps me make right decisions. And if I face that dilemma too many times, then something’s out of whack and I’ve got to step back and take stock of how I’m scheduling my days and prioritizing my work. Self-leadership is likely the problem.

Here’s the deal: I want my family to know that, at the end of the day, week, or my life in ministry, they were my first calling, my main priority. Not someone else’s kids, not somebody else’s issues, not some meeting or crisis or party or initiative–they were my first “ministry” priority and they never had to compete with someone else for my affection or attention.

I want my kids to grow up loving the church, appreciating the fact their dad was a pastor. I hope my boys value and love the church, not as a community they had to compete with but a community who loved them and supported them, as well as our family life. I want my family to know that while ministry is sacrificial, and there are times when we all have to push through, on the whole they were never second or third in my priority.

Do I do this perfectly? No, I don’t. Just a few weeks ago, caught between multiple evening meetings in a row, my boys expressed their feelings about my schedule. As our church has grown, the demands on my time and heart have also increased. And though I pastor an amazing church with super supportive people very committed to our family’s health, there are times when I forget to maintain a watchful eye on my schedule and my energy levels. Keeping my family healthy and well-cared for is a work in progress, a goal I keep in front of me, helping me make tangible, daily decisions.

At the end of the day, week or year, not only will I not be able to continue in fruitful ministry if my family is dying, but I will have failed to support and sustain the one ministry God has given me which extends beyond any one church community–my own wife and children.  A healthy family may not necessarily translate into a healthy ministry, but the reverse is certainly true: an unhealthy family will lead to unhealthy ministry.

Family matters–that’s lesson #14.


Reflection questions:
  • If you are in vocational ministry, how do you make sure your family is cared for on a daily and weekly level?
  • How can we make sure families flourish, whether they be vocational ministry families (pastors, staff, etc) or volunteer ministry families (everyone else!)?

Why am I posting lessons? On May 1, I crossed the line into 20 years of vocational ministry. To mark that, I’m posting 20 lessons I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) through these 20 years, all throughout the month of May. Here’s what I’ve posted so far:

 

 

My #1 Parenting Advice

If I could offer you only one piece of parenting advice, it would be this: do whatever it takes to grow your relationship with your child. 

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Having a life-long relationship with these two boys matters to me. I have to remember that every day.

Now let’s get this straight: I am not a parenting expert. I’m not one of those ultra-confident parents who always seems convinced of their parenting choices.  I mess up, regularly. My wife and I are right in the middle of figuring out how to raise two teenage boys, something we’ve never done before. Lord, have mercy.

But based on my experience as a father and as a pastor, I can tell you this: your relationship with your child matters most. Without that, everything falls apart.

Raising kids isn’t easy. And raising certain kids? Harder still. (Yes, I’m referring to that kid.) Parenting is one of my greatest joys, but it’s also one of my most daunting challenges. In the middle of the mess, things get murky. I easily forget what really matters. I get too focused on the latest incident or the pressure of a situation and forget the bigger picture. And so I need to be reminded that no matter what’s happening, I need to focus on my relationship with my boys.  It’s my relationship with them that’s got to last.

So, whether you’re in a parenting sweet spot or hitting rocky times, lean into relationship. When trouble hits, we often want to lean harder into the rules (or is that just me?). And while there needs to be boundaries and expectations, if we lean into the rules without fierce nurturing, we can end up destroying the only thing that will carry us through.

When conflict hits, it’s very easy to get fixated on the problem and forget what matters most. There will be times when you need to stop yourself and ask: Will this action help our relationship or drive a wedge between us? And then make the relationship nurturing choice. Ironically, out of love for our children we can make decisions that push them further away from us.

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“Hold on to your kids” transformed our parenting. We highly recommend it.

The one thing we have to do, above all else, is preserve the relationship. Dr Gordon Neufeld, who has taught extensively on parenting and attachment, argues that authority is placed wherever the relational attachment lies. Simply put, if your kids are more attached to their friends than they are to you, then what their friends say will matter more than what you say. The only way to dislodge that misplaced authority is not to demand obedience because “you are the authority” but to foster, intentionally, your relationship with your child so that by winning back the attachment, you become their primary authority again. (Why not read that sentence again? It’s key.)

Too many parents, in an attempt to get their kids to do what they want (even if that means making good choices), end up damaging an already fragile relationship and losing even more influence.

Instead of front-loading the rules, how about loading up the car for an extended road trip? Instead of dismissing her music interests, what about researching the bands and growing in your own understanding and appreciation? Make time for a walk, a movie or a special meal.

And so, from one parent to another, let’s do whatever we can to preserve and to grow our relationship with our kids. Because in the end, that’s all that’s going to matter. 

 

 

Five for Fighting: 5 Questions I Ask When I’m in Conflict with My Kids

 

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Image from Photobucket

Sometimes we fight.

I know, that’s horrible to say, but it’s true. And I hate it. When I can see the conflict coming with my kids, I try to head it off.

How? By asking myself five focusing questions, my “five for fighting.” I don’t always ask all of them, but usually one or two help me when I’m losing my perspective, getting into a no-win confrontation, or slipping in my priorities. Here’s what I ask myself.

5 Questions I Ask When I’m in Conflict with My Kids

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Image from ClearlySurely.com

The Wisdom Q: Is this worth it?

We’ve all had that experience of realizing, usually right in the middle of meltdown, that this thing I’m fighting for just isn’t worth it. Do I really want to let my relationship take a hit over a haircut? Am I really  going to push my agenda right now and risk hurting our trust? Of course there are times when we need to push through, hold the line, be the unpopular parent–I get that. I’m not arguing for always giving in. But for me, I know there are times when I lose perspective on what really matters, and end up harming my relationship over something I really, in the end, don’t care about nearly as much as I care about my son. The Wisdom Q helps me walk away at times I might have stubbornly held my ground and gained nothing of value.

The Purpose Q: What’s my goal here? 

In a similar way, I try to ask myself why I’m expecting something, saying no to a request, or urging some kind of behaviour. By asking “What’s my goal here?” I’m able to focus on the result, the end goal, which makes me more flexible in how we get there. It also helps me communicate with my boys more effectively, sharing with them why something is important to me, why we are doing this a certain way, why I’m concerned about this choice or that option. Asking “What’s my goal?” keeps me from being that parent who gives orders but never explains the reasons. Maturing kids need to know “why”, and so do maturing parents.

The Effectiveness Q: Will this even work? 

Haven’t we all had the experience of realizing, as we got further in, that this is stupid and won’t work? I’ve had “great” ideas about a family “policy” that didn’t account for reality. But how many times has pride kept us pushing, somehow thinking that if we just persevere it will work in the end? For the time’s that’s true, asking the effectiveness question can reassure your decision. But if you realize you’re now fighting for something that’s not going to work, show the humility needed and stop.

The Empathy Q: How are they seeing this? 

Oh, I cannot tell you how helpful this has been for me. I get so caught up in my perspective that I fail to really understand how my son is seeing all this. Getting around to his side of the table, asking questions, opening up to his way of viewing things will not only help build our relationship, but it’ll go a long way to understanding what is really going on. And I’ve been consistently surprised by how thoughtful and aware my sons are, and how together we will often come to a better solution.

The Action Q: What can I do to lean into relationship right now? 

This, my friends, is the game-changer, and it applies not only to conflict but across the parenting board. What action can I take to nurture my relationship, right now? There have been times when I’m not seeing eye to eye with one of my sons on a particular issue, and instead of just trying to hammer it through, I try to do something that will actually grow our relationship.  Sometimes it’s as simple as playing a game with them, taking them to the bakery for some “special son and dad time” (we have a long tradition of that one), or simply showing interest in something they’ve been doing. Taking action for the relationship, rather than focusing on the particular conflict we’ve been having, has had remarkable effect. Not only has our relationship grown, the conflict has often been diffused, sometimes even solved.

Which question seems most helpful to you?

What has helped you navigate conflict with your child?