Building Relationships with Students

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We love students!  It’s why we do what we do!  Why do we love them?  Lets count the ways:

  • They’re so full of life
  • They don’t take themselves so seriously
  • They’re funny as all get out
  • They’ve got all the energy we wish we had
  • They’re so full of untapped potential
  • They’re world changers
  • They’re yet-to-be-tainted versions of us
  • They just wanna have a good time
  • They’re hungry for something real
  • They haven’t yet perfected the art of lying and deception
  • They start prank wars
  • They love our own children like family
  • They’re ready to get after life
  • They’re relentlessly optimistic
  • They greet you in public like a puppy greets you at home
  • They know all the great videos on youtube
  • They keep us young
  • They remind you that life is a joy

On and  on I could go.  And I know you’ve even got a couple in mind right now to add to the list.  Students are just great!  But you know that already.  It’s why you’re reading this.  It’s why God’s called you to minister to them.  You lucky person, you.

So God’s called you to them.  You’re there.  In front of them.  With them.  They’re surrounding you.  Now what?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it happen, whether in church or school or anywhere.  Person X feels led to work with students.  We’ll call Person X Malachi.  Malachi is what I wanted to name Owen, but Megan said it sounded too Amish.  But that’s neither here or there.  But ‘chi wants to work with students.  And he’s all hyped up to do it.  ‘Chi even read a book about it before starting.  And he walks into the room full of students and life does one of those super-fast-tunnel-vision-zoom-ins right up to his face and he’s terrified.  I had a volunteer one time tell me that their first Wednesday night was like going back to high school itself.  Like they were the new kid in school standing in the lunch room not knowing where to go.  So what does Malachi do?  I mean, he’s read a book on mentoring, so he knows how to share wisdom, but that’s for down the road.  How does he build a relationship with them at all?

Well since I made up the guy and I made up the situation, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve got the answer.  I’m even going to share it with you.  Malachi needs to be the guy God created him to be.  That sounds too simple.  Lets dig a little.

Malachi needs to walk right up to some guys in the room and be the most him he can possibly be.  Because rule number 1 with students is always be real.  They’ve got a nose for b.s. and they can smell it a mile away.  Acting like you’re someone you’re not?  They’ve got you picked already.  Pretending to be into something you don’t care about?  They already noticed.  Students are surrounded by lies all day every day.  They know real when they see it because they’ve been trained since infancy to doubt everything and everyone.  They’ve grown up in a super cynical world.  That’s why you’d be hard pressed to find a young Trump supporter (sorry it just got political, but it was low hanging fruit).  Because of that, authenticity jumps off the page.  There are so few genuine things in their world, when they see it, it stands out.

Maybe this first group of guys clicks with him.  Great!  If not, this isn’t the end of the world.  Too often, it’s at this point that bubbles are burst and hopes sink as swiftly as Jack & Rose and their beautiful Titanic in the icy Atlantic waters.  This is not a deal breaker.  I don’t develop deep relationships with every single person I meet.  You won’t either.  This is why your first several weeks in youth ministry should look a bit like speed dating.  Jump around, hang out a bit, laugh, be the you you’re comfortable being, move to another group, and do it all over again.  Sooner rather than later, you’re going to find a group of students you genuinely enjoy.  When you find your crew, settle in to a nice, comfy spot.

Now it’s time to invest.  Start just in conversation.  Ask them about themselves.  Show them you’re interested in them.  Make them the focus.  And when they talk, listen.  Make mental notes of things worth remembering: family, birthdays, hobbies, interests, extra-cucciculur activities, etc.  When you see them next time, follow up on a previous conversation.  This tells them that you care enough to remember them.  Unfortunately, not enough people do.  Especially adults!  When they ask about you, give them you.  Be real.  Don’t try to be perfect or have every answer.  Just be you.

Maybe one night for church you bring your group drinks from Sonic or DQ.  Give them a little something to tell them you care and you’re willing to do a little something extra for them because you value them. Or maybe you’ve always got gum you give away.  Think of silly little ways to bring them in.

Hang out with them outside of church.  While you’re at church, they’ll see themselves as your ministry.  Outside church, they’ll see themselves as part of your life.  This is where the relationship gets real.  Because until you show them that you truly care for them, they’re going to keep you an arm’s length away.  They even will a little after.  But it’s when you go to their games or plays or have them over to your house that they start seeing themselves differently.  Suddenly it’s not just about church.  You care about them.  And when this relationship is fostered, you’re finally able to really pour into them.  You’ve earned the right to speak into their situation.  You’ve earned the respect.  They know the truth you speak is in love.

The funny thing is that none of that is groundbreaking at all.  That’s just relationships.  The problem is, we realize how vital a mentor can be in a student’s life.  So we make it all serious and programmed.  And when we do that, we stop building genuine relationships because we’re no longer being genuine.  We think that we need to memorize the Bible so we can quote it to them.  Or we have to walk perfectly in our own lives so we’re not being hypocrites.  And we make the joy that is youth ministry something much more difficult than it really is.  Sure, you need to have wisdom to help them along.  Sure, you need to live out your faith the best you can.  But when life gets hard, they’re not going to the most scholarly person they know.  They’re going to the ones who have best show them love.

And isn’t that why we do it?  Life is tough.  It’s a long, difficult road to manage.  We just want to help them like we needed help.  And this is such a great place to take a moment and ask a very important question: what type of adult did you need at their age?  Maybe you had that adult in your life, maybe you didn’t.  But what did you need?  Be that for them!  Be that person who loves them well.  Be that person who lets them in.  Be that person who is truly concerned.  Be that person who isn’t afraid to speak truth.  Be that person who genuinely enjoys their company.  But I want you to stop reading for a moment and actually give that some thought.  That has the potential to be a game-changer.  So don’t just read on, take a moment.  What type of adult did you need growing up?


 

Students don’t need a babysitter.  They don’t need someone who is always pointing out their faults.  They don’t need someone reminding them of how they got it wrong.  They just need someone to walk beside them.  They’ll give you opportunities to speak truth and they’ll give you moments to help them grow.  That will come with the relationship.  But they’re not going to seek that type of relationship out.  That’s what God’s called you to do.  That’s why you’re involved.

So who are your people?  What students form your squad?  What can you do to bring them closer?  How do you get to know them better?  How do you let them see you?

Or maybe you don’t have a crew yet.  Keep meandering and talking.  Keep working the room.  Pray that God would show you.  Then do what you can to build on what He gives you.

Building relationships isn’t easy.  But it’s one of the few things in life that will just happen.  If you commit to just being there, you’ve taken the most important step.  So be a person who’s there.  You just being the you that God’s made you so far could have more impact than you could possibly imagine.  God has made you, equipped you, and led you to be exactly what a specific student needs to help conquer life as a teenager.  Are you in?

 

Praying for Your Family

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What’s up team?  We’re in week three of our February theme of relationships and I hope by now you’ve gotten to have some good conversations about the greatest relationships in your life.  No earthly relationship is more important than the ones we build at home.  So I hope you’re being intentional about the time you invest in your spouse and kids.  This week, we’re talking again about or families, but in a slightly different way.

We’re gonna talk about how we pray for them.

I’m not going to waste any breath on the importance of prayer.  You guys know that already.  You’ve seen the power and difference it can make.  But how many of us really devote time to praying for our family?  Now I’m not talking about the generic, “God bless my family” or “God, take care of my family.”  That prayer is weak.  And if I hear it, I call it out.  Seriously.  I really do.  Every night, we pray together as a family and we take turns leading it.  Just the other night, Owen was tired and gave one of those half-hearted prayers.  And without even waiting for him to finish, I interrupted and blurted out, “Weak!”  It led to a short, but good conversation about what we give to God.  Do we give Him our best or do we give Him our leftovers?  And when we pray, are we having a conversation or are we just saying words.  A good litmus test is asking yourself this question: would anyone enjoy this conversation?  If it’s not good enough for a friend, why would we offer it up to God?

…I’m getting off track.  Anyway…

So often, when we pray for our family, we’ll pray generalities.  Keep them safe.  Keep them happy.  (Like safety and happiness are God’s ultimate concern for us).  But our prayers often look like a list of things we want.  And so often, it’s hard to pray this way.  Because we wonder, does this honor God?  Could this move His heart?  Am I even moved by what I’m praying?

A couple weeks ago, we had a conversation as a staff about bold prayers.  What they look like and why we don’t pray them enough.  And one of the things that was brought up was that we often don’t pray boldly because we’re afraid they won’t be answered and we don’t know if it’s what God desires.  And that led to another cool conversation about prayer that I want to share with you.

Of course we want our kids to be safe and happy.  Of course we want them to grow.  We want them to have good relationships, we want them to be challenged, …fill in whatever blank you want here.  But what does God want?  How can I pray God’s will for my child when I’m not even sure what God’s will is for me?

One of the greatest things that we can do is pray scripture over our family.  Because here’s the cool thing with that: it always honors God.  We don’t have to question, “does God want this?”  They’re His words!  It’s what He’s telling us He desires for us!  So when we pray scripture over our kids, we’re not asking God for things that He may or may not want.  We’re asking for things that God delights to give!  We’re not strong-arming God into getting our way, we’re asking for His will to be done.

So thanks to the help of Pastor Jeff, here’s a list of prayers that God delights to answer.  There’s one for your spouse and one for your kids.  And I encourage you to make this a part of your daily prayers.  That every morning, you cover your family with prayer, not just prayer that benefits them, but also honors God.  And watch how God will move as you do this.  Bonus points to the parents who also pray these over their kids’ future spouses!  It’s never too early!  And feel free to copy and paste this.  Print it out and put it on your nightstand.  Or bookmark this page so you can access it easily every morning.  But if we say we believe in the power of prayer, let’s put our money where our mouth is.  Nothing has the power to benefit our family  more than this.  So join me and lets get after it!


17 Prayers for your spouse:

Pray For His/Her Strength  “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)

Pray For Increased Faith  “And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain,‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21)

Pray For His/Her Peace  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Pray For His/Her Work  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Pray For Encouragement  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Pray For Freedom From Fear  “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Pray For His/Her Health  “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2)

Pray For Self-Control  “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28)

Pray For Grace  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15)

Pray For Confidence  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

Pray For His/Her To Recognize Her Purpose  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Pray For His/Her Needs  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Pray For His/Her Influence  “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)

Pray For Transformation  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Pray For Sexual Intimacy  “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Pray For Rejuvenation  “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Pray For A Humble Spirit  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2)


8 Prayers for your kids

Bless and keep them throughout the day  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Let your light will shine through them  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Give them a spirit of power, love, and sound mind  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

They will not be anxious about anything  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

They will know that You are with them  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

They will grow in the grace and knowledge of God  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

They will stand for what is right  “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Ephesians 6:14).

They will know Jesus Christ more intimately  “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

 

This one’s for our kids…

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Kids are amazing!  I had no idea what I was getting into when I became a dad.  They’ve taught me so much about myself and about growth and about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  And it never seems to stop.  They’re just always showing me new things.  And even when they’re not showing me new things, God is showing me new things through them.  I can’t count them times I’ve been disciplining the boys for doing something and God suddenly says, “I hope you’re listening to what you’re saying.”  And through their bad behavior, God sharpens me.  It’s so crazy.

And now that the students in my first couple youth ministries are getting married and in the baby-making stage, I always say the same thing when they ask me for advice: “there’s nothing that I can say to prepare you”.  And it’s so true!  The only way we become better parents is through being parents.  Books might help.  Advice might help.  Blogs might help.  But to be a good parent, you’ve just got to be a parent.

One of the cool things about being a youth pastor is getting the opportunity to see what’s in store long before it gets here.  When I was new in ministry, I’d be shocked by the things some kids are doing.  Now, nothing surprises me.  Seriously, it’s almost scary the things I hear that don’t make me bat an eye anymore.  By the time my boys get to be teens, I’ll have seen everything a hundred times already.  I’m not even sure they could invent new ways to mess up.  It’s always the same, playing on repeat.  The Bible says that there are no new problems under the sun.  We’ve seen it before.  We’ll see it again.  Just wait.

But when talking to teens about their parents these last several years, certain themes keep coming up over and over.  And since most of our kids are still young, I feel like we can pull something away from each statement, so that the same might never be said by ours.  And if they’ve been said before, we can gain a little wisdom in how to grow going forward  So in the name of gleaning some wisdom from our ministry and growing our kids, lets look at some things I hear from students all the time…

My parents are so out of touch.

What do they  mean by that?  I think the answer may surprise some of us.  Because guess what, our kids could care less if we know how to dab.  Their view of us has nothing to do with acronyms they use while texting.  They don’t care if we know the newest songs or have seen the trailers to new movies.  They don’t care.  And so we don’t necessarily need to be in the middle of pop culture.  So stop watching MTV and take TMZ off your list of shows you’re recording.  You don’t need them.  Perhaps stop dancing while chaperoning their formals though.  For everyone’s sake.

What these kids are saying is that their parents are out of touch with them.  And to be honest, most of the time, they’re right.  We parents have a way of thinking that if it’s not on fire, it doesn’t need our attention.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  So often, we truly are out of touch with our kids.

Here’s a test:  What’s your kid’s favorite show?  Who’s their best friend?  What did they talk with their friends about last weekend?  What are they excited about this week?  What are they nervous about this week?  What prayer request has been on their list these last couple weeks?

Hopefully you did pretty good answering those questions.  Maybe you did awful.  But here’s the even scarier part: it only gets harder.  When kids are young, they’ll help you out.  They’ll tell you everything unprovoked.  Later on, you’ll have to pry such simple things from them.  And they might even act like they don’t want you to know about them.  But in my time in youth ministry, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that teens desperately want to be known by their parents.  They want so badly to be understood.  But so often they’re distant.  So often they hold things in.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.  Because statement number two that I always hear is…

My parents only love me because they have to.

Maybe they say my parents only take care of me or my parents only spend time with me.  But the sentiment is always the same.  It’s because they have to.

“That’s not fair,” all the parents cry as one.  But take a step back and think about it.  They are almost completely without responsibility.  Sure, we give them chores and rules.  But they’re really not completely accountable for anything.  They don’t pick out cars and make loan and maintenance payments.  They don’t make a budget, buy a house, and pick out a mortgage plan.  They don’t have kids of their own they have to grow into adults.  They have school.  That’s as close as it comes.  And while school is important, you and I both know from living on this side of it, that life in school truly effects very little of our current life outside of school.

My point is that they don’t have very many things they have to do.  They don’t understand the responsibility of paying a mortgage or putting new tires on the car.  They don’t get that we do these things, not out of obligation, but out of care.  They only have one responsibility: school.  And they despise it.  So when they recognize that you are their responsibility, they assign that same emotion to it.  You care for them because you have to.

See where this is going?  They see responsibility as awful.  We see it as a privilege.  We want to own a home.  We want to have a nice vehicle.  We want to love our children.  Those are responsibilities, but they’re ones that we take on with gladness.  Remember how elated you were when your babies were born?  So do I!  But they don’t.  They know that they require money, rides to and from  everything, grief over disobedience, on and on we could go.  But they recognize they’re a pain.  They don’t recognize that they’re our joy.

So how do we remedy this?  Well, I’d like to say it’s by doing something simple.  But truthfully, it’s a long process.  And the process is this: allow them to witness you choosing them.  Not just once, but over and over again.  Let them see that you had an opportunity to go out with the guys, but you chose to go to play a pickup game of ball with them instead.  Let them see that you could have seen a movie with the girls, but you stayed home to watch a movie with them instead.  Let them see that you had a big dinner planned, but you did frozen pizzas and a couch fort at their request instead.  Let them see you repeatedly choose them.  And make sure they see it.  Make sure they hear it too.  Tell them that you chose them.  Tell them that your time is best spent with them.  Be careful in doing this though, because when done wrong, you’ll only exacerbate the problem.  They’ll think that you’re sacrificing for them.  And while there may be truth to it, the purpose of the whole thing is to show them that they are not only more important, they are more desired.  They need to understand that you’d rather have a relationship with them than any other person, outside your spouse.

So show them and tell them.  But be sure they see and hear your heart, not just your sacrifice.

My parents don’t care.

Here’s where we’ve gotta own up.  Because most of the time this isn’t just an errant thought.  It’s taught to them.  By you.

Can I be honest and say this is where I struggle the most?  I’m absolutely terrified of this one.  Growing up, my uncle was a pastor.  And his youngest son, my cousin, was my best friend.  But he would always comment that his dad loved the church more than he loved him.  If Oz or Jax ever said that, I’d be devastated.  The scary thing is they’ve come close.  When you put shoes on Jax, he says, “church, church”.  His assumption is that if we’re not at home, we’re at church.  Life isn’t spontaneous or joyful.  It’s lived in one of two places. Owen has said on more than one occasion that I’m never home or I’m always working.  This isn’t their fault, it’s mine!  I’ve shown them, through the use of my time, that some things are more important than them.  And I would tell you all day long it’s not.  I would sacrifice anything for those guys.  Literally, I would give up anything.  I’d walk away from my ministry right now if I needed to.  But I doubt they know that.

I don’t think I’m alone here though.  Actually I know I’m not.  I hear that said all the time.  And to be fair, sometimes it’s completely undeserving.  They’re hurt or want attention or something.  And they just say it to be proved wrong.  But most of the time, it’s just an observation of theirs.  They make time for what’s important to them.  So should you.  “But it’s harder for adults!”  You’re right.  But it’s also more important.

I’m reading a book right now that I’d recommend to anyone.  It’s short and you can read it in a day.  It was written by Andy Stanley, one of my favorite pastors.  He was the guy in the clip last week on marriage.  He’s awesome.  But he wrote this book called Choosing to Cheat.  And the premise of the book is that in life, everything and everyone wants our time.  And not just some time, as much as it can get it’s greedy hands on.  No matter how great we are, our boss always wants more.  No matter how effective we are, our ministry always wants more.  Everyone always wants more.  And when it comes down to it, we need to learn that someone’s gotta be cheated.  God forgive us if we choose to cheat our family.  The last people in the world I want to feel cheated is my family.

But that means we’ve gotta be intentional.  We can’t just hope.  We have to choose who gets the best of us.  So often it’s not our kids.  If you want to have any voice in their lives, make the change now.  Because our words are useless.  They’ll believe what we live, not what we say.

And while we’re on the topic of balancing work and play, there’s yet another way we need to balance work and play.  Some parents only discipline.  Some parents only act like friends.  The goal isn’t choosing the right one, it’s choosing both and finding balance.  I lean more heavily on discipline.  I’m pretty hard on my boys.  I need to look for ways to play more.  Some parents are like me and they discipline and not play.  They’re going to raise sad, distant kids.  Some parents only play and don’t want to discipline.  They’re going to raise horrible entitled monsters.  Finding that balance is just as hard as balancing anything else in life.  But we can’t hide from it because it’s scary.  We’ve gotta face this head on.

So these are the three most common things I hear from our teens.  Will I one day hear them from your’s?

I encourage you to take a moment and pray.  Ask God where your parenting needs to be more intentional.  He’s probably been telling you the whole time you’ve been reading.  But join me in prayer and see where God leads you.  Then have the wisdom and courage to do it.  No matter how hard it is.  For the sake of your kids.

God, thank you for my family.  Thank you for my kids.  I love them so much.  I understand that they’re on loan from you.  I understand that you’ll one day ask for them back.  God, in the meantime, help me to be a good steward of them.  Help me to invest in them and grow them so they live a life that honors you.  Lead me to lead them.  Dad, I don’t know what I’m doing here.  So I submit to your plan and will follow your leading.  I’m listening…

Marriage as a Verb

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Kelly Kapowski.  My first love.  The first girl I ever truly wanted to marry.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  Turns out she’s not real.

I did however learn alot about relationships from these two.  Being a kid from the 90’s, Zack and Kelly was my Ross & Rachel, Cory & Topanga, Carrie & Mr. Big, Jim & Pam, and Kevin & Winnie all rolled into one.  I thought they were it and wanted my relationship to be just like theirs.  So this blond haired high schooler found himself a brunette cheerleader and they lived happily ever after.

…except that’s not quite true.  Marriage, it turns out, isn’t as easy as putting one and one together.

But I’m not going to tell you how hard it can be.  You already know.  And I’m not going to give you failure statistics.  You know that too.  I’m not even going to give you a list of “don’ts” because you’ve seen all those.  And I’ve far too often seen marriage compared to war.  Heard about the battle.  Seen remarks about dominance over women and the emasculation of husbands.  That’s all crap.

What I want to do is allow you to see again just how awesome marriage is!  Because the goal isn’t to not get divorced.  If that’s as high as your aspirations go, good luck.  Maybe you should just test your loyalty with your favorite brand of toothpaste.  The goal is to grow together, have lots and lots of mind blowing sex, laugh really often, and while all this is going on, cheer each other on toward love and good deeds.

So a good marriage takes action.  And I want us to start thinking of our marriages, not as a thing that needs constant care and attention, but as a daily adventure that you get to experience.  That we don’t think loving, we act loving.  We don’t care for them, we give care.  There’s a big difference.  So often love is internalized.  But marriage isn’t lived out in your head.  It’s lived out in the world.

SHOW Appreciation

The other week, I watched a documentary on slavery and the Civil War.  And when it was over, I was swept with this overwhelming guilt that even though I am so blessed, I’m not nearly as thankful as I should be.  So I decided the next day I would fast.  And during that time, I’d pray and make a list of all the things I was thankful for.  So I started making the list and the first 25 things I wrote were all about my wife.  And what struck me wasn’t the fact that she was so prominent on my list.  What struck me was how clueless she would probably be that I would write those things down.  I doubted that she even knew how much her character and her care mean to me.

I typically make an assumption that Megan knows what I love about her because the things she does are worthy of love and gratitude.  Like it doesn’t need to be spoken.  So I make assumptions based on assumptions and expect that to see me through an exceptional marriage.  But the truth is, we spouses can go for weeks wondering why we’re loved at all.  And even though we may not admit and we definitely wouldn’t say it, we’re dying to hear from our other what it is they love about us.  We want that care and that affirmation.  So give that away.  Share that.  We don’t need to hold it close to our vest.  We need to lay all that out on the table.

The cool thing is that this creates a deeper bond in both people.  For them, it reassures them and gives them security and positive feedback.  For us, it reminds us of all the little things we take for granted.  Pastor Brian asked the question once: What if God only gave you tomorrow what you thanked Him for today?  Think about your marriage with that regard.  So make a list.  What is it you love so much about your husband/wife?  Got a list?  Tell them!  Write a letter.  Give a passionate monologue.  Send daily texts.  Take gratitude one step further and express it!

BE Intimate

Every single day, we slowly fall more in love with some things, while we fall away from others.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s just life.  But it’s still a profound statement.  Every single day, we slowly fall more in love with some things, while we fall away from others.  I used to love Kelly Kapowski.  I used to love baseball cards.  I used to love playing video games.  I used to love pizza.  I used to love being single.  I used to love a whole lot of things.  But as I grew, I fell away from those in favor of falling more in love with other things.  I turned my attention away from them and onto others.  Now I love reading.  I love steak and sushi.  I love watching documentaries.  I love my kids.  And these may be simple and silly things, but think about life.  That emotional attachment to a coworker didn’t just spring up overnight.  It developed.  You grew closer to that and further from your spouse.  That getaway used to be a hobby, now it’s an excuse to be away from the family.  It was slow and it was intentional.

You decide what you’re falling more in love with and what you’re falling away from.  So…

Have lots of sex.  Husbands, you’re welcome.  But do it!  Alot!  Tired?  Drink a Red Bull.  Stomach hurting?  Stop eating nachos and ice cream before bed.  I don’t care what you need to do.  Take care of it and… well… take care of it.  Because lets be real, we men are different people when our wife takes care of us.  We hold our heads higher and our eyes stay focused.  You ladies even look different when you’re well loved and confident you’re treasured.  So have fun.  Let your freak flag fly.

Date each other.  Get away from your kids.  Shirk responsibilities.  Act like teenagers.  I’ve heard it said that marriage is falling in love over and over again with the same person.  We people change as we grow older.  None of us are the same person we were ten years ago.  None of us will be the same ten years from now.  As couples, our relationship needs to grow in the same way the individual does.  And it can only happen when we intentionally make it happen.  So whether it’s sandwiches in a park or drinks in the city, date.  As often as possible.  And even when it’s not.  One night on a winter retreat with the teens, Megan and I met in the hotel lobby for a 30 minute date over vending machine snacks at 1am.  It wasn’t much, but it ended up being one of our favorite memories from the trip.

Flirt, joke, hold hands, tease, act dumb, tickle, kiss in public, woo.  These were all things you loved doing at the beginning.  These were all the things that led to the two of you falling in love.  Let them also be what sustains you.  And don’t make excuses.  You’re either falling more in love or falling away.  It’s your call.

WORK Together

What’s crazy to me is how little couples work together.  They’re involved in the most intimate relationship present on Earth, but they really just run into each other at morning and at night.  Life happens, they react, and get by.  Life happens again, they react again, and get by again.  But living the same 100 years over and over isn’t life.  Life is dreaming and creating and building.  It’s growing something that in turn grows you.  And when we dream and build with our spouse, we unlock potential that’s long been dormant.  So begin working together in these couple ways…

Volunteer: Be a part of something bigger than the both of you.  Impact the world as a team.  I love that Megan volunteers in the youth ministry.  And getting to see her in action is amazing!  I get to see her laugh and goof off, building relationships with the teen girls.  I get to see her heart when she’s crying late at night, while texting girls who are going through tough circumstances.  I get to see her care and attention pay off when a girl lays her head on Megan’s shoulder while she’s worshiping at church.  Seeing her do these things fills me with awe.  She’s amazing!  And on top of that, we get to introduce teens to Christ.  We get to work together on how we want to influence the schools for Christ.  But it doesn’t have to be that.  Maybe you want to build homes for Habitat for Humanity or work in a soup kitchen or tutor at schools.  Whatever it is, influence the world and stand in awe of the amazing person God made in your spouse

Experience Life: Find a hobby and do new things together.  Stretch yourself and discover new passions.  Being a part of each other’s growing is so gratifying!  Take a cooking class, go hiking, join her knitting group (seriously!).  Be a part of each other’s happy place.  Recharge together.  Because lets be real, you and your other don’t have enough fun together.

Cheer on Growth:  It’s easy to get lazy and become stagnant.  And I told the youth group this last Wednesday and I become more and more certain of it: that maybe God didn’t give us marriage just to be happy.  Maybe he gave us marriage to be holy.  Several years ago, I was stuck in a bad place.  And one night, Megan had enough.  She called me out with tears in her eyes and accused me of being a bad leader.  Not that I was leading poorly, but I wasn’t leading at all.  And I had to sit there and eat it, because she was exactly right.  But Megan wasn’t nagging at all.  She was fighting for the family.  Her voice woke me up.  Years later, Megan felt led to start a women’s Bible study.  She was scared and unsure of herself.  I challenged her and helped her and she got to see 40 or so women walk closer with Christ.  My voice gave her courage.  Paul says in 1st Corinthians (One Corinthians, if you’re a Trump supporter) Chapter 7, verse 2 “…since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.”  And here, he’s talking directly about immorality that leads to adulterous sin.  He said it’s better to marry than to burn with lust.  But I wonder if even Paul realized how profound this statement is.  Because Megan’s voice in my life has led me to be a better man than I ever would have been on my own.  This world has so many things to turn our attention to, but we get to navigate it together.  We have to be speak with love and we have to be open to guidance.  But how awesome is it to grow closer to Christ with our spouse!

Be a Team:  Andy Stanley says it better than I ever could, so watch this…

So marriage is awesome!  Make yours more awesome!  All it takes is a little intention and a whole lot of action.  Take that to mean whatever you want.

I love you guys and I’m cheering for you!  Make sure your spouse reads this too and talk about how you want be an even better couple.  Because you guys aren’t just going to make it, you’re going to love it!