Category Archives: Parenting

How To Get Parents on Your Team – Part 2

Last week, I wrote on the importance of being on the same team as the parents in your youth ministry.  I cannot overstate how critical it is to have a parental connection and partnership within your student ministry.  The trust and credibility you build with parents will only bring value and growth.  Parents will provide the support you need in various ways and you will be able to provide valuable insight and encouragement to their parenting journey.

Today, I’d like to share with you one practical method of getting parents on your team.  It’s not a trick or an ulterior motive ploy.  On the contrary, you hopefully have the same heart as the parents, and that is to see their child grow in their relationship with the Lord and reach their full potential of using their God-given abilities and gifts.

One way that happens is through Parent/Pastor Conferences.  You heard me.  Why can’t teachers have all the fun with parent/teacher conferences.  After all, aren’t youth pastors/workers/leaders also teaching their children valuable material (the most valuable actually) and need to give progress updates to the parents and find ways we can work together at church and home to allow the student to achieve continued spiritual growth?  In actuality, this meeting has more significance (no offense teachers, you are most appreciated), but not because of the teacher’s place in the student’s life, but because the church teaches about that which is eternal.Shouldn’t parents and pastors sit down and discuss ways they can partner with each other to allow the teenager to fight temptation, grow in their spiritual disciplines and gifts, and experience spiritual growth.  I can hear you scream YES from here!  So how is this done?  I’m glad you asked.

  1. Pick a date. Provide a date with a wide range of times.  Example – 3-7pm on a weeknight can allow families with different schedules to attend.  Provide alternate dates to parents so they can still have time to meet with you, but encourage the conference date as a primary option.
  2. Sign-up List. During your next parent meeting, explain the parent/pastor conference and pass around a sign-up list.  Follow up with parents that may not sign up, but this provides a good base of meetings right off the bat.
  3. Make it Professional. I had my dear wife make her famous chocolate chip cookies (this puts everyone in a good mood to start the meeting) and some coffee.  I set out two leather chairs in the lobby, coffee & cookies on a table, and a sign saying I would be with them in a moment.  This is not a silly exercise, we are talking about the spiritual condition of a human being.  Take it seriously.
  4. Have a Plan. For me, I kept it very simple.  In order to stay in my 30 minute timeframe, I had 4 categories:  Concerns, Strengths, Weaknesses, & Goals.  The parents talked and I also gave my input as well.  This plan worked well in this context and kept discussion on topic and with a firm direction.  **Make sure to have plans for each grade written down and ready to go.
  5. Make Prayer a Focus. We want God to be the main source and contributor to our discussion.  So we make sure to invite God right off the bat through prayer.  Then, I make it a point to have the dad pray at the end of the meeting if he is able to attend.  This is a subtle encouragement to allow the dad to take charge spiritually within the family.  It’s always a blessing to hear parents pray for the teens you serve and care for.

That’s it.  5 steps to conducting a parent/pastor conference.  Just another way to get parents on your team.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the value this provides in your personal ministry to teens, and in your relationships with parents.  Trust, encouragement, direction, blessing, and counsel all happens in 30 minutes.  Give is a try, and get on the same team with those parents.

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Need help with parenting?

That seems like a silly question.  Couldn’t all parents use at least a little help with parenting.  Paul Tripp wrote a book called “Parenting”.  You know what it is about?  Parenting.  Seriously though, it’s more than that.  This book has a dynamite combination.  Sometimes when you combine two things, it’s not so great.  Like hot dogs and mayonnaise, not what the doctor ordered.  Or how about stripes and plaids?  Gasoline and an open flame?  These are all disasters waiting to happen.  But when you combine a parenting book with the Gospel, you get a must read.

Book Review:  Parenting:  14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp 410ppsax0fl-_sx328_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro.  What a way to set up a book!  Like a great pregame from a coach, the author’s motivation in the opening pages is impeccable.  Not sure about the book, read the intro and you’ll be asking “Where do I sign?”

Gospel-Centered.  The author’s web page suggested his concern of parenting self-help books, and even his previous parenting books being held in more importance than God’s Word.  So, the author goes all out in taking the Gospel into parenting, rather than the other way around.  And he does a masterful job of instilling Gospel principles into everyday parenting.  It’s not too over the top, the “porridge” tastes just right.

That Didn’t Take Long.  Read a chapter and set a timer…it won’t be very long until you are tested with these practical principles from God’s Word.  These chapters are filled with practical lessons, that are both challenging and convicting.  And it doesn’t take long for you to be tested on the material.

The Bad:

This, This, and This.  The author has a certain style.  He like a particular mode of writing.  The book is filled with a specific literary technique.  I was trying to be subtle there, but the author tends to lean on a repetitive style of writing, and enjoys repeating a phrase in different ways.  Most of the time, it is very effective and needed, but every once in a while the list just seems redundant.

The Grade:  A.  For any phase of parenting, this book is a must read.  Read it before having kids.  Read it when you are in the heat of the battle.  Read it as a grandparent.  Suggest it to friends.  Suggest it in parent meetings.  It’s a must read.  It goes to the heart of both the parent and the child, and it does not let go.  It is enlightening, frustratingly challenging, spiritually uplifting, directionally on target, and never wavers from the truth of God’s Word.  It is a must read.

 

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Book Review: Age of Opportunity

Book Review:  Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

The Good:index

Do you know a Teenager?  Then read this book.  If you are a parent of a teenager, read this book.  If you work with teenagers, read this book.  If you know the name of a teenager, read this book.  Seriously, it is one of the best books I have read for guiding teens to a godly life.

Preparation for Life.  I feel like this book truly prepares the parent for real life.  Tripp is honest in his parenting short falls and weaknesses that we all share as parents.  He does not sugar coat the difficulty of raising a teenager, but he provides valuable insight on truly getting your teenager ready to face the world, AND have an effect on the world for Christ.

Biblical.  This book is intensely Biblical.  Drawing the wisdom and insight from Scripture, it allows you trust what is being presented, because it is straight from God’s Word.  It not only provides the Scripture backing, but also ways to guide your teens to find their answers for living within the pages of the Word of God.

The Bad:

Length.  If you are not an avid reader, this would be the only drawback.  It is a long parent book, but if you stick with it, it is well worth your time.

The Grade:  A.  No book is perfect (except ones that are inspired by God), but this one is a good as they come.  Every parent should have this on their shelf and should be referenced often in their pursuit of raising godly children.  It provides practical ways to prepare their child for real life along with a proper balance of living an effective Christian life.  Priceless advice that needs to be read and re-read often.

 

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Book Review: Mighty Men

Book Review:  Mighty Men by John Crotts

The Good: 

41Y2F5DK1CLLeadership Inspiration.  As a man, you don’t walk away from this book with your head down and wallowing in your “I can’t do this” pity.  It gives you a little pep in your step to get the job done.  This book provides you practical steps to accomplish leadership in the family.

The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.  Love when a book has a solid foundation in God’s Word.  Well, this book’s foundation, walls, outlets, and ceiling fans are all rooted in the Bible.  Every subject, heading, chapter is firmly supported by God’s Word throughout the book.

Just My Size.  This book packs a punch is only 37 pages.  For a slow reader like myself, it was a refreshing change to provide valuable information in a book that didn’t take a while to read.

The Bad:

Do-it-yourself Design:  If you are into glossy pages, clever font, and perfectly structured chapters…keep moving along.  The book is very rudimentary in design, especially the pages within.  But if you are able to move past that, the value is in the words.

The Grade:  A.  Husbands, fathers, men…you need to pick this book up.  Sure, some of this may be review, but it needs reviewed.  Better yet, read it, then find someone you can mentor and give them this book.  Take them to Bob Evans a few times, get the Farmer’s breakfast, put some ketchup on those home fries…and build mighty men!

 

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Never Underestimate the Youth of Today…Here’s Why

stop_underestimating_yourself_tyrone_smith1Skepticism is not abnormal.  In fact, it puts you in some pretty hefty company in the Old Testament.  Among the doubters – Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, King Saul, Isaiah, Ezekiel…and the one that used his age as an excuse, Jeremiah.

Now, I will give it to Jeremiah – he was young.  In Jeremiah, the Hebrew usage of this word child in Jeremiah chapter one referred to boys or youths.  I read several commentaries – and since there is no age given – the estimations range from a young boy to age 21.

There could very well be skepticism in your families, in our schools, and in our churches.  It could be in the mind of children or teenagers.  These ideas could have been put there by other adults that couldn’t see their potential.  Or they may simply have little confidence or are underestimating the special ways God can use them.

Adults often underestimate children and teens as well.  They may excuse their skepticism by saying they are looking out for their feelings or safety.  Underestimating is sometimes a lack of faith or a failure to see the special gifts of the youth of today.  Don’t underestimate what children and teens can do for the kingdom of God.

Parents – we cannot doubt what God can do in our children’s lives and what can be accomplished through them.  Kids & Teens – listening here and online – God can do amazing things in your life…NOW!

Let me give you some examples of what kids can do:

Picture1Alexandra “Alex” Scott was only 4 years old when she opened her front yard lemonade stand to help raise money for children with cancer. A cancer patient herself, Alex has seen her small stand grow from a curbside staple to a national fundraising revolution, boasting supporters, benefits, and events all across the country.  Sadly, she passed away at the age of 8, but her foundation (Alex’s Lemonade Stand) lives on and has raised more than $120 million and funded over 550 research projects towards the goal of putting an end to childhood cancer.

Picture2Shortly after basketball enthusiast Austin Gutwein turned 9, he saw a video that changed his life: a movie about children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Moved to make a change, Gutwein began Hoops of Hope, the world’s largest free-throw marathon, dedicated to raising money for orphaned children from across the globe and providing them with food, shelter, education, and health care. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $2.5 million.

Picture3It all started when a 9-year-old saw another student on the playground without a coat.  Since then, Maddy Beckmann made it her mission to keep kids warm in her native St. Louis, and her charity, Coat-A-Kid has coated over 10,000 children since its inception.

Why can’t our children and teens do that in our church, our community, and our country…they can and they are!  In our church, this is what has been happening because we have learned to not underestimate our youth:

Over 200 kids came to the Easter Egg Hunt to hear the Gospel & eat loads of candy…and the entire event was planned by teenagers.  Over 40 meals were delivered last October…by teens.  Two Bible studies were formed in the public schools…and were started by a 13-year-old and 15-year-old.  A community garden was planted in the local middle school…by teenagers.  2 years ago 3 teens were serving impoverished kids in Nicaragua  This summer, a team of teenagers are going to witness on the streets of New York.

Sorry Jeremiah, age is NOT an excuse.  God does not want to hear the excuses…He wants obedience.

(If you want to hear the entire message on “The Time is Now” click here)

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In the Middle of the Night…A Superhero Emerged

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(IN HONOR OF MOTHER’S DAY…I’M GOING TO REPOST THIS)

What does a hero look like? This weekend, yet another superhero movie makes its debut. Can’t say I’m not excited about it (I may or may not be going with some college students to opening night…come on, it’s Batman!). Not sure what sparked this deluge of superhero movies. Was it the success of the first Spider-man, which was masterfully done?   Or could it be the Batman trilogy that Christopher Nolan compiled that quite possible had the best ending of any movie ever? In walks Ironman, Captain America, and Thor to set up the blockbuster Avenger movies.

Our culture is obsessed with superheroes. From the little kids that dress up as Incredible Hulk and Spider-man for Halloween to the big kids, like yours truly, who get way too excited about the upcoming movies featuring their favorite childhood heroes. Then there’s those that know the difference between Marvel and DC and will look at you like you cannot add 2+2, if you do not know which superhero belongs to which comic empire. Not gonna call the Nerd Squad on you if you do, but Best Buy is hiring (and if you were going to argue that Best Buy is Geek Squad, I rest my case).

But what does a true hero look like? Is a hero someone who has a cape, a super power, superhuman strength, or a genetic mutation? Is a hero only those that grace the cover a comic book? Are the heroes the ones that drive the box office? (I mean…is Ant Man a sign that we are running out of characters?)

The upcoming Batman v Superman is not the only reason I bring this up. Last night, I saw a superhero at my house in the middle of the night. It’s true. But there was no cape, no super power, not even a weapon…

Before I reveal the superhero, let me give you a little background. If you know me, my kryptonite is vomit. That’s right, whatever you want to call it. Technicolor yawn, bowing down to the porcelain throne, yak, ralph…whatever you call it, it’s my biggest fear. Why? Let’s just say it was a combination of a horrific experience of the stomach flu outbreak at camp and bad seat placement during a 3rd grade lunch.

But now, with kids…it’s a whole new level. If you like horror movies, this tops the list. Think about it. At night, as you try to sleep, you hear a cough. It’s coming!!!! Run for your lives! Take cover! Every man for himself! Freddy Kruger ain’t got nothing on 4 kids sharing a stomach virus. If he was in my house last night, I think he would have run away too.

That’s right…the horror movie was a reality last night in the Beckley home. Like an outbreak with no antidote…the stomach flu. It began with the oldest, then it hit me…then we knew…we’ve reach DEFCON 2.

So who was the hero in this horrific experience? Me? Let me put it this way. If this was a Batman movie, I might have gotten the Alfred role if I was lucky. The superhero was my wife. Her cape was the countless towels she used in cleanup. Her superpower was her composure amidst the reruns of meals from days gone by. No weapons…but she did have medicine, Lysol, and a full washer.

BnXkGvVIAAABf-jIf you asked Batman to do what my wife did last night…Christian Bale would probably go off on set (like he would ever do that). Superman would probably fly as far away as possible. And Incredible Hulk’s face would be green, but not because he was mad.

Hopping from room to room, wiping up pools of puke, changing laundry, getting them medicine, checking temperatures, staying up all night…suddenly Thor’s hammer doesn’t seem so impressive, does it?

I was there to help where I could, but she knew. She knew I couldn’t get too close to the kryptonite or it would bring me to my knees. She was a superhero last night, and I was that token little boy in all those movies with his mouth open saying “Whoa, did you see that?”

So this weekend, even when I see Batman fight off a dozen bad guys by himself and Superman leap over buildings and heat up his microwave dinner with his eyes…they pale in comparison to my wife. She is the one with the “S” on her chest. She may not have a bat signal in the sky, but she is called upon many times in the dead of night.

I honestly don’t know how she does it day in and day out. Maybe she does have superpowers after all.

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Book Review: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

Book Review: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker

The Good:

Eye-Opening. Dads, buckle up. You might want to sit down when you are reading this, especially the first few chapters that make you want to buy a gun, lessen the curfew by a few hours, and but state of the art tracking devices. The statistics and study data is jaw-dropping. My advice: Just take a breather, allow it to soak it, and know that in the coming chapters – help is on the way!strong-fathers-strong-daughters-570x754

Inspirational. The powerful, true stories of fathers taking charge in their daughter’s lives is inspiring. These fathers were truly heroes in their daughters lives, and it inspired the dads reading the pages to be the same to their daughters. The difficult stories are also inspirational in their honesty and the importance a dad is in their daughter’s lives.

Extremely Practical. You will come away with practical ways to be a better dad. I mean, that’s why you read this book in the first place. You opened the book to find ways to be a stronger father and to produce a stronger daughter. The author does a great job at providing practical steps in making this happen.

The Bad:

Can be Repetitive. Can be Repetitive. See what I did there.

8 Chapters later, “Oh There you are God”. Maybe this is my fault. I came expecting much more of a spiritual approach to fatherhood. The emphasis on God’s place in parenting does not come into focus until chapter 8 titled “Teacher Her Who God Is”. Why did she wait so long to teach this important aspect of parenting? The downside of a highly practical book is the spiritual side takes a hit.

Too much Father, Not enough Heavenly Father. Piggybacking on the previous point, there is almost too much emphasis on the father. Sure, the points about the importance of a father in a daughter’s life cannot be stressed enough, but it came at the expense of what the Heavenly Father can do in their life. It might even lead the reader to believe the father must be their #1 resource, which cannot be true. God must be that stronghold and refuge…fathers must come in second, but a distant second to God the Father.

The Grade: B-

Again, this could be my fault, but I expected more spiritual fatherly training. It’s in there, but not as predominant as I expected. However, the practicality of this book is through the roof. I still have recommended it to dads of daughters. It is truly eye-opening, inspirational, and needed training for fathers. You very likely will be motivated to do all you can to protect and be the model for your daughters after reading this book. Your daughter needs you, and you need to read this book.

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Facts About Teens & Drugs

Take a ride on this research train.  Talk to kids about drugs early and often.  Stay informed.  Have conversations and set limits and boundaries.  Click on the picture below to find out more…

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Book Review: Craftsmen

Book Review: Craftsmen by John Crotts

The Good:

Counseling Gold. Whether it is anger, lust, or greed…this book provides incredible counseling material. I would strongly recommend using this book for counseling opportunities. It gives great outlines supported from Scripture to help men overcome sin.

Here ya go son. I will one day say this with this book in hand, “here ya go son”. This book is primarily based on the content found in Proverbs. So, as Solomon wrote Proverbs with his son in mind, I often read this book with my son in mind and lessons that I desire my son to learn.

A Ministry Smorgasbord. Wow, the possibilities! There are so many avenues this book can be used both in vocational ministry and personal ministry. Church ministries such as men’s bible study, men’s retreats, and parenting seminars. Personal ministries may include parenting and discipleship of other believers. It is a book that should be on every parent and pastor’s bookshelf. I happen to be both, so it is on my shelf!

The Bad:

Confusion over eternal security. While I’m not clear on the doctrinal position of the article, there is some confusion over eternal security. While sin does lead the sinner to hell, there is some confusion at the end of chapter seven. The Gospel is presented well, but a new believer may be confused over what sin can do to one’s eternal security. I would have preferred some better explanation and a more careful language surrounding sin and its consequences.

The Grade: B+.

There are few books out there that have this type of impact on the teaching of godly manhood. Combining challenge with conviction, Crotts does a fantastic job at putting the reader face to face with God’s Word. A man reading this book is essentially presented with a choice: live a wise life or life a life of the fool. This book presents a powerful case for the wise, God-fearing life.

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Magazine Reviews for the Youth Pastor & Parents of Teens

I realize the sky is the limit of the amount of magazines out there.  But here are a handful of ones I have had on my desk that may be some help to you and your ministry/parenting.Reviews-of-smallcarBIGCITY

  1. Relevant.  This may be my favorite. The purpose is in the title, to stay relevant in present culture, but also providing a Christian foundation. The content is often stretching and engages the reader. Often, there are interviews of popular celebrities and entertainers on the subjects of religion and Christianity. The reviews of popular music, books, and movies are very helpful. Also, the dry humor throughout is very enjoyable.  Review:  Highly Recommended.  (5 Stars)
  2. Group.  For anyone in youth ministry, in any capacity, this is highly suggested. I find myself ripping out pages in these magazines and putting them in my idea file or passing them along to youth leaders for the future. The articles are often encouraging, enlightening, and entertaining. There has not been a time where I have not opened its pages and it has not been worth it, in terms of adding something to my current and/or future ministry. These pages are filled with wisdom from veteran youth workers, and it has saved me from learning many lessons the hard way.  Review:  Recommended. (4 Stars)
  3. World Magazine. This magazine is the conservative version of relevant magazine. It allows the reader to stay current on what is happening on the world. Basically, it is a Christian filter to the news and world reports that are one TV each night. This is typically for an older audience, but is something that needs to be addressed with our teens as well. It can provide a greater global focus and a more informed Biblical worldview.   Review:  Worth a look. (3 Stars)
  4. Time Magazine. Obviously, this is not a Christian resource. However, I have found it to be very enlightening. Also, the articles in it often hold more weight in conversations with unbelievers and as lesson illustrations. The statistics page is always a favorite of mine, and I have kept many over the years. While it does not provide a Biblical worldview, it allows the reader to interact with a non-Christian view of the world, and find where the Gospel is needed and how God can be brought into the conversation.  Review:  Worth a look. (3 Stars)
  5. Alumni Magazines. What is this doing here? You may be surprised at the quality of articles you find here. Why? Because these are often articles written by faculty and established alumni. Here’s the kicker…it’s free if you are an alum! Great articles at no charge! So take advantage at the knowledge and information you can gain from your former profs, and you won’t even be graded later!  Review:  Recommended. (4 Stars)

Hope this helps. Feel free to send me some of your favorites in the comments below.

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