Loving through crisis: Divorce

Family conflict

You know what would be great?  If we never had to worry about divorce.  But guess what: we do.

Nationally, divorce happens in the homes of over half of kids under the age of 18.  That’s alot of brokenness.  Places like our own little Dburg are worse than the national average.  We’ve come a little ways, as we’re no longer the divorce capital of the country, but that’s hardly anything to brag about.

The sad truth is that you, being a youth volunteer, either mentor students whose parents have been divorced or at some point will.  And at some time, a student will come to you for help.  They’ll tell you they’re sad.  They’ll tell you they’re confused.  Your heart will break.

But what do you do?

Below are some things to keep in mind, as well as some do’s and don’ts (donts, don’t’s dont’s, donts’, donuts?) to help you help them through it.

They’ll be confused.  Even if the warning signs were there.  Even if they say it’s for the best.  Even if they appear to have it all together.  Because it’s a confusing time.  How did it go bad?  Do all relationships end?  What part did I play in it?  What happens now?  Where will I live?  What’s life going to look like?  These and so many other questions will be running through their minds.  Do reassure them that you’ll be there for them through it.  Hold them while they cry and contact them often.  Let your words and actions show them that they have someone to walk beside them.  Don’t make promises or speak on behalf of the parents.  Make sure you only speak for yourself.

They’ll blame themselves.  It’s much harder to admit that someone you loved has hurt you or done wrong than to carry the burden yourself.  They’ll put themselves under a microscope and analyze every action and conversation.  This blame can lead to anger and sometimes even turn them into a doormat.  They may find themselves doing every little thing they can to try to make amends for their imaginary wrongs.  Do remind them the decision wasn’t theirs.  Help them see that maintaining a relationship is the responsibility of the two individuals and no one else.  Don’t assign blame to one party (unless an incredibly outrageous grievance was committed and is already known).  It’s not your place to turn any child against any parent.  Your job is to love them through a difficult time, not be a judge and jury.  Besides, there’s always more to a story than we could possibly know.  Be as biased as possible while showing them that the fault is not their own.

The divorce can stunt their development.  Research shows that between 75 and 80% of the time, children from divorced parents eventually recover and become mature, responsible adults with no long term affect.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the moment and in the short term, it will almost definitely affect them.  Maturity is the process of a child becoming internally equipped and empowered to leave the safety of their parents and their home.  They learn who they are apart from them and learn who they want to become.  That process of slowly pulling away is hindered when they perceive a parent to be the one pulling away from them.  The process is almost reversed.  During a divorce, parents often become a little self-absorbed, while they’re figuring out how to make things work financially, dealing with the wounds they experienced, etc and that leads to spending less time with the kids.  The result is often children feeling insecure, or even anxious, about their relationships with their parents.  Do encourage them to have open and honest conversations with both parents.  Maybe even offer to be in the room with them for support, if you’ve prayerfully decided that would help.  Do everything you can to build that relationship.  Do continue to have high expectations for them.  If their attitude, grades, etc slip, call them on it.  Don’t make excuses for them because they’re going through a difficult time.  Let them know that being hurt isn’t a good reason to hurt others or damage their future.

They’ll be forced to grow up more quickly.  One home turning into two means less financial stability.  The cost of another home could keep them from being able to pursue extra-curriculurs or keep them from having certain privileges.  An extra home means more responsibilities.  More chores, less parental oversight, you see where this is going.  Sometimes a parent will even use their kid as a confidant and pull them into the drama more than they ever needed to be.  All this can cause them to become frustrated, angry and even calloused.  Do give them space to air their frustrations.  Let them know it’s safe to be honest.  Also give them a place to be a kid, free of responsibility.  They need to be goofy sometimes.  Don’t put more pressure on them to perform.  Telling them to take care of mom or dad isn’t fair.  And just saying it will most likely cost you your voice in their life.

On and on we could go.  If you want more info, I can provide that for you.  Overall, remember that your focus is them.  You offer support, encouragement, love, a safe space, and a judge free zone.  If you feel you’re in over your head, reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor.  Even if you don’t feel over your head, it’s good to reach out to someone to get new perspectives.  If you feel like they need to talk to a professional, seek out a good Christian counselor.  Don’t wait.  Don’t question your gut.  Help them make it happen.

And don’t ever feel like you have to have all the answers.  Walk it with them.  Be loving and be real.  Keep an eye out for alarming behavior, but keep in mind that it will get easier as time goes by.  Typically the first two years are the hardest.

Stick with them.  They need your constant love.

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Heads-Up Living

opp

I’m sorry, but that’s a good little cartoon.  Stupid, with an undertone of simple truth.

Not many things in life feel as bad as a missed opportunity.  When you seize up with fear and watch it go by.  When you recognize it only as it passes.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll beat yourself up a bit.  You’ll call yourself a dummy. You’ll say you’ll never miss one again, until the next day when it starts all over.

On the other hand, nothing in the world feels as good as knowing you’re right smack in the middle of God’s will.  Have you ever felt that?  The peace and power that comes over you when you know you’re exactly where God wants you, when He wants you to be there, doing just what He wants you to do.  It’s an indescribable feeling!

But so often, those moments are missed.

I remember one time I was working at Barnes & Noble.  I was going to go out for my lunch break, but for some reason I ended up getting something in the cafe and going to the break room. And there in the break room was a coworker I really enjoyed.  She and I didn’t get to hang out much, as we were in different areas of the store, so this was an unexpected surprise.  It’s worth mentioning that she was also atheist.  Not angry atheist, just a doubting atheist.  She was reading the newspaper and some recent tragedy was on the front page.  We got to talking about it, but I don’t even remember what exactly it was we talked about.  But I felt God pressing me toward having a little deeper conversation.  And in the process of the conversation, we shared our views on people and on God.  And it seemed almost out of nowhere, she just started weeping.  She went on to explain that she always viewed religion as a crutch for the weak.  But in that conversation, she saw what genuine love looks like.  And she just sat and cried a moment and told me that the faith I described was the most beautiful thing she’s ever heard before.

In that moment, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there, doing what I was supposed to be doing.

It was awesome!  And God put words in my mouth that had never come to mind before.  I could feel myself being used by God, like a guitar in the hands of a musician.

The thing is, that conversation could have never happened.  It was so by chance and random that I could easily have overlooked it.  But I was aided by something I learned while being a manager at Barnes & Noble…

One of the coolest things about God is that He can redeem anything.  He first called me into ministry when I was in High School.  But, me being me, I ran from that calling for years and years.  While running, I found myself managing a book store.  And I learned an awesome life lesson there that fuels my ministry now.  One of the things they taught managers at B&N is this idea of heads-up tasking.  It’s a simple concept.  You have a task that you’re expected to do.  But while you’re doing it, always keep your head up for people who may need help in the store.  So for example, every week the bestseller display needed to be updated.  You would be assigned the job and expected to finish it.  But while you’re rotating books in and out of the order, every couple moments look up and around.  Do you see anyone who looks lost, confused, in need of help?  If so, approach them.  If not, carry on.

It’s that same approach to life that will put us in those places where we know we’re right smack in the middle of God’s plan for us.  Just like with me in the break room.  Those situations are what I like to call divine appointments.  God has me where he wants me, doing a job.  But He’s also going to run random someones across me in need of something.  Maybe a meal, a hug, a word.  But if I’m not working with my head up, I’ll miss the moment.

One of my favorite things to hear are those super crazy, random stories people have of God working through them in unexpected ways.  Know how that happened?  Heads-up tasking.  They were out doing their thing, but when God put an opportunity in front of them, they identified it and took action.

I think perhaps the best example of that I know is Pastor Randal.  The dude always has stories of random things happening.  He’s got stories of running into people at gas stations, while on the road, in the supermarket.  All over.  The guy has mastered the concept of always having his head up, looking for divine appointments.

When’s the last time you had a divine appointment?

We talk all the time about time management and prioritizing.  But how many times do we talk about having our heads up for those unexpected moments where God really wants to use us?

If it’s been a while since you’ve had a divine appointment, I encourage you to examine how you approach your tasks.  Are you too absorbed in what you’re doing?  Are you blind to the world around you while you’re set to a job?  Or are you open to those small moments that can so easily pass us by?

God wants to use each one of us, in all sorts of ways.  My challenge to you is the same as the challenge I make to myself: live life heads-up.  Be committed to the work you do, but be committed to recognizing God’s divine appointments in your life.  And watch as God uses you to bless the world.  Be blown away by the peace and joy you experience as the power and presence of God flows over you.

Work hard and keep your head on a swivel.  God’s sending people your way.

Curbside Coaching

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We all have that kid.  Or maybe it’s those couple kids.  The ones who in any setting, in any environment, at any time are going to be sure to disrupt and draw attention.  Most of the time, they know full well what they’re doing.  Other times they’re just not paying attention and don’t realize what they’re doing.  But to the leader sitting nearby, the sentiment is always the same…

“Dear God, please stop on your own so I don’t have to figure out what to do…”

So this week, we’re going to be super practical and answer the frequently asked question:  How do I approach the kid being disruptive?

While the human inside of you may think that a slap to the back of the head should suffice, I would encourage you to think a little deeper into how you can handle the situation.  Let me tell you something I learned being a retail manager.

There’s this concept called curbside coaching.  And it’s not only super practical, but in my experience, super effective too.  Lets check it out step by step:

  1. You witness a certain student being a turd.  Not wanting them to bring down the people around them, you acknowledge that their behavior needs to cease.
  2. You calmly approach the student.  Hopefully this is someone you’ve developed a relationship with.  That always helps, but obviously isn’t necessary.  There’s lots of kids.
  3. You invite them to have a conversation at a nearby place that isn’t heavily populated or high traffic.  Somewhere just to the side of the action.  Do your best not to cause a scene and be discreet.
  4. While you have the attention of that student and not the rest of the crowd, you address the issue.
  5. You explain to them how their behavior isn’t just disrespectful, but could keep a person from hearing something they really need to hear.  Remind them that they could keep someone from receiving what they came for and that they’re competing with the Holy Spirit in speaking to hearts.
  6. Help them see that they’re essentially a hurdle in their own race.  That God has a word for them too, but only if they’re open to receive it.

Essentially you’re doing just a couple simple things:

You’re helping the student save face. Even if they enjoy being disruptive, they don’t enjoy being called on it.  Nor do they like their friends seeing them being addressed by someone with authority.  They want it to be discreet just as much as you do.  99% of the time, they’ll tuck tail and apologize.  Submission isn’t comfortable, especially with an audience.

You’re reminding them what’s at stake.  It’s not just for the sake of obedience, but lives may literally be on the line.  Their disruption could be the difference between a student following Christ or not.  It could be the difference between them acting out their faith or not.  When they’re reminded that God’s doing business on these nights, they typically don’t want to be a roadblock.

You’re telling them that you care for them.  It’s not just for other’s sake that you want the disruption to cease, but you also want them to hear what God’s speaking to them.  You want them to grow just as much as anyone else!

You’re taking care of the problem.  Simple enough.

Sometimes we’re in service and it isn’t possible to lead someone aside and speak to them. In order to get their attention and talk to them, you’d have to cause a scene.  It’s in these times that it’s typically best to grab their attention and as gently as you can be without losing effectiveness, ask them to stop what they’re doing.  Make sure though that once the opportunity arises, you do take them aside and speak to them.  Don’t let them leave that night without a conversation.  They’ll try, but you need to make the effort.  The conversation is important.  Otherwise, they’ll just assume you’re grumpy and they’re not as welcome as they thought.

It’s worth noting that loudly calling out their behavior in front of their friends seems like an effective way to go.  Reason would say they’d be embarrassed and would respond how you want them to.  But in reality, you’re typically picking a fight you don’t want to have.  When you put someone on the defensive, they’ll respond accordingly.  And with that, the battle of wills begins.  And that’s just not worth it.

So when you see that behavior and want to help keep an environment conducive to hearing from God, think of how you can pull that person out of the traffic and to the curb for a conversation outside the ears of others.

It’s also worth noting that this doesn’t just work with approaching difficult people.  It’s also a great tool to use with kids, sports teams, and alot of other areas.  The idea of offering guidance just out of earshot of peers works in an astonishing number of places.  Often in life, you have wisdom you can share with others.  It’s always best received when it’s done in a way that builds that person up!

 

Investing in Kids (or teens, or tweens, or young adults, or…

Welcome to this week’s Sharpening!  Today we’re kicking off a month of coaching.  And the first area of coaching is where we left off last week, with building relationships with teens.  Because before we can truly invest in them and speak into students, we first have to earn the right.  And that right is earned by living life alongside them.

And this week’s sharpening is a little different than normal.  I’ve got the audio from a podcast that I listened to years ago that still sticks with me to this day and forms so much of how I interact with students.  And while it’s an hour long, it contains some pure gold that I pray you listen to and pick up.

The podcast is put on by a group called LEAD222, of which I’m a part.  And the purpose of LEAD222 is changing the culture of youth ministry to coach and mentor students.  Each month, they put out a podcast hosted by the President, Bo Boshers, and another member Andy Stephenson.  Each month they have an influential guest from the ministry world talk about different ways to build students through mentoring.  This specific podcast features Dan Webster.  Dan is an unbelievable guy who not only teaches mentoring, but is actually a mentor to Bo.  And in this podcast, Dan talks about speaking into students in ways that can lead to real change.

Two years after I listened to this, it still impacts me hearing it again.  So carve out an hour, grab a glass of your favorite beverage, maybe even get your spouse to listen (it’s got great stuff for parenting too!) and listen to this.  You’ll be so glad you did!

Click below to listen to the podcast on LEAD222’s website or click the link on the page to listen to it from iTunes.  This should generate some great conversation, so let me know what you think!

Leader Talk w/ Dan Webster | Oct. 2011

Building Relationships with Students

karate

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…