Noah, Harvey & Your Kids

For those of us living in SWLA or Southeast Texas the reality of a broken and fallen world are currently crashing in around us. As winds blow, water levels rise and roads become impassable we might encounter a great question: Why is this happening? 

My seven-year-old is pretty smart. He asked yesterday if God would make it stop raining so those people on television can go back to their house? This began an ongoing conversation throughout the day about Gods promise to Noah (Genesis 6-8) I was able to explain to him about why storms happen (creation is broken) and why bad things like this seem to happen. Still he had many questions as his seven-year-old half concrete half abstract brain tried to make sense of it all. All he understood was that school was out and he got to run around in his underwear all day! As I have reflected over these last few days, with more to come here are a few conversation starters for your family.

1. This is a great time to go back to the story of Noah and help your kids (and maybe remind you) of the promises of God to his people. Reassuring of God’s love and thankfulness is crucial for you and your family to be anchored upon during the storms of life.

2. Pray! This is a great time to help your family come together and pray for others and seek the Lord for his help for those in need. Perhaps you are reading this and you took on water, lost everything or simply just cabin fever. Either way, this is a great time to ask God, write those prayers down and watch him answer over the next few days, weeks or months. Your kids will need to know how to weather bigger storms than this in their lifetime.

3. Serve others. If you can, go help other people. You may be flooded. You may need help. But if you're able to safely serve, take your family and help others. I walked my neighborhood with my shovel unclogging culverts all day. This helped several houses have some relief of the rising waters as debris blocked the limited drainage we have.

4. Give. There are many ways to give. You can give time by serving as mentioned above. You can also give to various organizations that are heading up relief efforts. I'm always impressed that our SBC denomination usually leads the way in this area. By giving faithfully to your local church you cooperate with thousands of others in giving to one of the strongest relief efforts in the US. But again, modeling for the next generation what it means to financially help others will radically change their life.

Harvey has been devastating. I have so many friends who were forced out of their homes. So much damage and destruction is being reported and will continue to rise. In these times, I'm reminded of one of my favorite songs that we just sang Sunday, Cornerstone:

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone

Parenting Through a Culture of Fear

 If you’re reading this you’re probably in a season of parenting, most likely you are parenting a “Homelander”. This is the designation given to the generation following the Millennials who were born on or after 9/11 and have never known life without Homeland Security, color coded terror threat levels and the excessive media coverage of tragedy. Is this a new phenomenon? Ask the kids who have grown up in Israel or Bosnia/Croatia. Ask children from the Sudan if they remember living in relative peace. Perhaps you can ask your parents about the Cold War “duck and cover” drills they had in school! But those are all for another blog post, I want to talk about what we can do to parent in a Culture of Fear.

 

Hebrews 11:6 says “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Fear is the antithesis of faith not doubt. Fear is paralyzing, counterproductive and frankly unspiritual! “God has not given us a spirit of fear…” says 2 Timothy 1:7 yet as a parent in this culture I am constantly conditioned to operate out of fear. My own tendency to protect and nurture my kids is natural and I believe to be God given. How then can we navigate parenting our elementary kid who has a classmate shot at school? Though not exhaustive, below are some launching points for you as a parent to be prepared for successfully navigating a Culture of Fear.

 

1. Realize no one loves our kid(s) like God does.  Psalm 127 reminds us that “Children are a gift from the Lord.” He created them. He loves them. He entrusted them to us! Ultimately, we will stand before the Lord to give account of how we stewarded these small humans entrusted to us. God’s plan for them is better than ours!

2. Admit that we don’t have it all figured out. My kids ask questions. Sometimes questions I do not know the answer to. Don’t be embarrassed about not knowing. Simply affirm to your child that you can discover the answer together. Particularly when it comes to the “why do bad things happen?” question.  Remember that when sin entered the world everything broke (Genesis 3). These lines of questioning help develop a Biblical worldview in your kids if leveraged properly.

3. Don’t parent alone. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” This MIGHT sound like a shameless plug, but there is no way I would want to parent outside of a group of encouraging people in the local church! Large group worship is great, I love it, but my parenting has been made better by the 6-7 sets of parents that I meet with weekly in my home based small group. We carpool, feed each other’s kids and bounce ideas off one another. Single parents especially, find a local church and plug into a small group!

4. Have consistent age appropriate conversations. I have a High schooler, middle schooler and an elementary aged child. Not every subject is covered with each one, but everyday a subject is. Yesterday, I sat them down individually and talked gun safety. (for the 100th time) I remind my elementary age child about strangers and safe adults, my high schooler about never excepting a drink from someone and my middle schooler about online conversations. Same premise, but each different at every phase of life. The POINT is have conversations. I know, it’s been a long day, you’ve worked hard, and you want a little peace and quiet. But the world has been bombarding your kids all day with its messages - will you take the time to influence them?

5. Have Family Bible study. With all the messages in the world, I just don’t know any other source of love, hope and encouragement like the Bible. You do not have to know a lot about the Bible to study with your family. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or theologically astute. Hebrews 4:12 says “The word of God is living and active.” If you read it consistently with your family the Holy Spirit will handle the rest. This week try one less TV show and spend that time reading the living active Word of God and see how much the atmosphere of your home and family relationships change. Check out the YouVersion app or contact our Kids Min offices for family Bible study ideas.

 Can we protect our kids from all the dangers of the world? NO! Can we as parents continue to come together in positive, encouraging ways to help our kids navigate this world? ABSOLUTELY! The difference will be: do I fuss about things out of my control on Facebook or do I leverage the 5 ideas above to be the best parent I can be? By Faith, I’ll do the latter!

 

 

Are They Too Young?

 Working with families across the Phases, I am always interacting with parents who are in various seasons of life. I speak with parents of preschoolers, elementary age, middle, and high school and even college aged students. Probably the question I am asked more than any are from parents with elementary aged kids: Are they old enough to understand about salvation? This question and its various forms is an important question and usually comes from a pure place of wanting their child to make the best decision of their life. Below are a few thoughts that will hopefully help you as a parent navigate this question with your kid and even if they are older, help you understand the process that often happens when people go from "death to life".

1. No one comes uninvited - You don't just show up at a party uninvited, bust in the door and have a great time. In fact, you may not even know about the party unless someone tells you about it or you get an invitation. Jesus was teaching his disciples in John 6 about his purpose and their response. In John 6:44 & 65 Jesus says, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." See, when your child even asks about salvation, the fact that you even ask the above question means that the Holy Spirit has begun to speak to their heart and “draw” them to the Lord. (see John 16:8) So, if your kid asks about salvation, know that the Spirit has begun to work in their life. Celebrate with them that the God of this universe has spoken to them and they have heard!

2. Jesus set children apart - In a culture that didn't value much the opinion of a child, Jesus was clear that we should, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" Matthew 19:14.  He also said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:2-4.  It’s clear that Jesus valued the Spiritual inclination of children and warned his disciples to not "hinder them" from coming to him.

3. I just want them to be sure - I totally get it. You don't want to be sitting in church 12 years from now after summer camp and your teenager say, "I just didn't understand back then so I want to do this again." As a pastor who has seen all my children make decisions for Christ and had the privilege of baptizing them at 4, 6 and 6 years old, I also was concerned. I mean of all people I didn't want MY kids to be the ones who Dad baptized but years later say, "I’m not sure it was real". We had careful dialogue after our children asked about salvation. We talked about sin, about Jesus' purpose for coming to earth, the cross, the resurrection, and even baptism. We spent weeks in some cases, and months with my son talking through these issues. One morning however, the Lord convicted me, why are YOU trying to be sure? This is a decision between me and them! I am drawing, I am saving, not you. All I want you to do is to be faithful in leading them to learn my Word and model for them what salvation looks like in everyday life. I remembered the words of the first pastor I served under as an 18-year-old preacher boy, "You will be judged for your faithfulness, not your effectiveness!

Don't get me wrong, I love having faith talks with parents! It’s so exciting when parents are seeking the Lord and wanting to lead their kids well as their #1 spiritual champion. I also know that we want to be responsible and do what’s right before the Lord. Asking questions and seeking are good things, healthy even. My prayer is that the above will help you and your kid work through the greatest decision of their and yes, your life!

 

How Your Family Can Hustle 2017

Resolutions are fleeting at best, "pie in the sky" wishful thinking maybe, but mostly ineffective at true change. The ole 21 Day Habit theory has failed us oh so many times, so what are we to do? Most of us have some sort of life change we wish to make in eating habits, exercise, relationships, etc. Why do we seem to "fail"? The answer is easy; however, the problem being solved isn't. Hustle! That's the answer, Hustle

Now maybe you get a vision of "The Color of Money" with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman duking it out in pool, but thats really far from this concept. Hustle is greatly misunderstood and certainly underutilized by people of Faith. A quick search of the world wide web will render definitions ranging from "force (someone) to move hurriedly or unceremoniously in a specified direction"-google to "to urge forward precipitately"-Webster Those definitions could be very useful but I like what Jon Acuff says about Hustle. Hopefully these ideas will help you achieve your goals in 2017:

1. Focus- In order to achieve any goal you need to focus on it. I'm as ADD as any adult I know, except maybe my friend Craig. In order for me to be productive and achieve goals I must focus on 1-2 things exclusively and give them signifigant attention. The problem with this, is most of us don't have the luxury of "just dealing with one or two things" in life. Usually you have work, kids, school, sports, the house, friends and the list goes on. We just keep plates spinning and are happy if we can get through any week, month or year without a major crash of the plates! SO, don't make a bunch of resolutions. Instead focus on one major aspect of life you would like to improve. Example: I want to read the Bible cover to cover (this is a spiritual goal) Great goal, but honestly when/IF you round the corner of Leviticus you'll slow to a screeching halt soon after. Instead Focus on one aspect. Maybe just read the New Testament, or perhaps just the Gospels, or use YouVersion. Its on practically every smart phone in the world and offers everything from 3 day devotionals to year long Bible studies. Just take small steps and Focus!

2. Subtraction- If you will make changes in your life you will be adding something in your list of things to do. As noted above, we do NOT need anything else added to our plates that are spinning. Therefore, along with Focus you will need to subtract something from your life. You may need to subtract 30 minutes of TV each week, you may need to skip one fast food meal in order to have that family meal time around the table, you may need to subtract 15 minutes from your alarm clock each morning. Whatever it may be, you will need to subtract something from life as it is in order to chase the goals you have this year (or in life for that matter).

These ideas aren't original, I think Jon Acuff says way better than I. I do however believe that if you take the above listed steps and believe what Ephesians 3:20 says, "He can do immeasurably more than I can ask or hope" that you will achieve your goals and Hustle 2017 for all its worth!  

Avoiding Those Awkward Holiday Table Talks

'Tis the season. Your college kid will be home for the holidays, your grown kids will be returning home and all those awkward holiday moments are coming! Here a few ways to make those dinner conversations a little more palatable with you and yours this Christmas,  and hopefully, ensure they’ll return next break.

1. The Future Talk – It’s an honest line of questioning: “Got a job lined up?” “Are you ever going to get married?" "How will you ever make it in that career?" These are genuine questions you may have for your college kid home for the holidays. It's your heart for them, you care, you want them to be successful. However, this isn't what they hear from you. They hear: "You're not planning well!" "You're wasting your time!" “Your biological clock is ticking and I'm getting older!" But that’s not my heart in those questions. Maybe not, but many times this is WHAT they hear you saying. Instead, you may try this: “Tell me the most significant thing you learned about your field this semester.” "Did you make any new friendships this semester?" "Have you considered looking into an internship in your field?"

2. The Comparison Talk - “Your brother did so well when he was in college!" "I've known others who just didn't like that career!" “My friend's daughter has straight A's for the semester!" Yes, they know. They didn't "measure up" in several ways this semester. Their life is taking shape differently than first born or baby of the family! Your young adult child is probably more aware of these issues than you know. As a matter of fact, they probably are harder on themselves than they need be. What they need to hear is that WHO they are is ok. That you love them just as they are. Are there reasons they did poorly this semester? Maybe, but pointing out those "decencies" is probably counterproductive. Maybe approach these questions you have with positive suggestions to move forward. Maybe ask, "Is there any way I can help you next semester?" "Do you have everything you need to be successful?" 

3. The Faith Talk - “You know better than that! We've had you in church your whole life!" Yep, your college kid may come home with some questions about their faith! The reason is potentially that they are trying to figure out THEIR faith. To some degree, they lived out the assumed faith of your house their whole life. Whether an on campus group, a Philosophy 101 professor, or a new group of friends, they most likely have been exposed to a new realm of thought. I’m even betting that they said or did some things that you are not proud of (this is especially prevalent of college freshman or adult children who are coming back after their first career job that may have moved them away). It's completely understandable that you are hurt, disappointed, or even worried. Maybe you have reason to be, but what they need MOST from you is to know that without a shadow of doubt that their doubts, failures, or poor choices will never change they way you love and care for them. Home must be a safe place for them to work through doubts or questions about faith. Be sure to have open conversations and not arguments about who believes what. The greatest way you can help your young adult navigate faith development is not flexing your parental muscles but excessing your patience and understanding as they sort life just as you had to. 

They're coming home soon. They’ve had a rough semester, made some mistakes, haven't always measured up, but they are still the greatest legacy God has given you. Steward it well! Be open for conversation. Encourage more than you criticize. Feed them decent meals and let them sleep late. More than anything, love them, guide them, and pray for/with them. You're going to want them to come home again, so make the best out of this break! 

(While writing this blog, I ran across this article from Fuller Seminary on similar topic. Its very well written and you will find it a helpful companion to the above)

Parenting In Political Chaos

I was surprised when my 6 year old wanted to watch the election. He was excited about there being a winner and loser! He liked all the colorful graphs, red and blue polls, and percentages bouncing across the screen. He had no idea what was at stake but he knew something was important about Dad skipping football or Netflix to watch this. In the midst of the conversation he asked, "Dad, why are those people being mean to each other?" His question more piercing than he may ever know, my heart sank! I had to prepare my son to live in a world that at best would be filled with political, social, and spiritual upheaval and at worst a world where the values we are teaching and modeling are considered a hate crime. Maybe you have experienced this with your kids through this election cycle? Below are a few ways we've approached these conversations with our kids (6,11, and 15 years old) 

1. We saw this as an opportunity to teach them about Gods original plan for leadership of his people and how we should respect the leaders in place for us.  1 Samuel 8  and Romans 13

2. We knew this was a moment they needed us to reassure them of God's love for us and our love for them as their parents. We made sure our kids knew why we voted, how we voted and what it meant. But we also talked with them about how, regardless of the results, God's love for us has not relented and that no matter what the world around us is doing our home would always be a safe place for them to be loved and cherished.

3, We found this to be a great time to teach our kids the importance of living for Christ first, being a patriot and American second. We love our country, we love all those who paid greatly to give us the freedoms we enjoy, but at the end of the day Jesus is our King. Our relationship to Jesus is of far greater importance than our freedoms in America. We pray for our country and its leaders, but we also know that ultimately looking more like Jesus will have more positive effect on our country than legislation ever will.

4. We were able to walk our kids through disagreeing with others. There seems to be an epidemic of sorts that if you do not completely agree with others they or you are ignorant, hateful, or "mean" as my son said. We talked about loving people, while holding to our values. How praying for others puts us in a place where being hateful to them is difficult. Ultimately God is the ONLY person with ALL the right answers. The last point being that humility in knowing even our own stance may not be fully informed or correct leaves some sort of margin for at least listening with empathy to others even if we do ultimately disagree. 

5. Finally, we prayed! We prayed for the candidates, we prayed for the "mean" people on TV and we prayed that we would be faithful to what Jesus calls us to regardless of what happens. Modeling for our kids that prayer should always be central to navigating our lives whether in crisis or celebration is crucial for their development into adulthood! Philippians 4:6-7

4 Things Parents Should Stop Saying to Their Kids

It happened! It was an innocent sentence in the heat of a well intended disciplinary moment, I said, “Because I said so!”. Before the last word even made it out of my mouth, my 3rd grade self was already kicking my knee. I sounded like my father. I said exactly what he would say and I hated it. The fact is, much of what we say as parents is dictated by our experiences both as a kid growing up and as a parent in our current cultural context. These moments happen to us all. We are all creatures of habit and training in some way. As I work with hundreds of families in multiple seasons of parenting, here are 4 phrases that we should stop using as parents:

1. “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.”  I know this well intended phrase rolls off of our parenting lips as we try and build up our kid, make them feel special or help them over a disappointing moment they may have just experienced. But can they really be ANYTHING they want to be? Do you want them to be whatever it is they want to be? Instead, try helping them see God's big picture. Share a scripture like Psalm 139 or Jeremiah 29:11 with them. Connect them to the greater story they are in and that God has a plan for them that as a family you will be looking forward to. Try saying this instead: "God has big plans for you! We may not know them yet, but we will and it will be amazing!"

2. “Say you're sorry right now!"  I get it. Your kid just said or did something that embarrasses you or hurt someone else. Its understandable, you want them to take responsibility and redeem the situation. But is forcing them to say words they don't mean really accomplishing that? If they can just utter that now and make things ok, then when they’re 12 and break your trust are you gonna be ok with a simple “I’m sorry!”?  No, they really aren’t sorry. They've just been conditioned to say the magic phrase to settle the moment and appease Mom and Dad. The heart hasn't changed a bit which is our true goal, or at least should be. Heart change is reflected in repentance - not “I'm sorry". When our second daughter was young we discovered asking forgiveness being much more effective than “I’m sorry".  So now, even when I need to restore something with my wife or kids I ask them to forgive me. Read 1 John 1:9 and share with your kids how confessing and extending forgiveness is how our relationship with Christ grows and is the same with each other. Try saying this instead: "Sweetheart, what you said/did isn't right to do. You've hurt ________( insert name) Did you realize that? I think you should ask their forgiveness.”

3. "Because I said so!"  Oh man, this one is so easy! As a parent I’ve said it, A LOT. I mean, I don't want questions, I don't want to be questioned. Just do as I say, it makes my life easier. However, when I began to see my kids had stopped asking me questions, the Lord reminded me that he welcomes questions. Questions are a natural way of growing, understanding and relating. I wanted my kids to ask me tough questions about love, dating, sex, and marriage. If they would do that, they had to feel safe enough to question the moment now about why they couldn't watch this show. It takes more time, it takes more effort and thought, but allowing your kid to pose a genuine question and you conversing with them about it simply builds the relationship you really want to have with them 15 years later. Proverbs 25:11 is a great reminder to use the right words at the right time making every situation more beneficial. Try saying this instead: "I don't want you eating a snack right now because dinner is in an hour and I want you to enjoy what God has provided for our family."

4. “Wait until your Father/Mother gets home!"  Yep! Fear came over me when Mom said this. My wife has been a stay at home Mom for most of our parenting life. She discovered very early that our kids would avoid me in the afternoon. She had a strong conviction that our kids should love when Daddy comes home and never dread that. We began taking just a few minutes of arrival time to discuss the days issues, good and bad, and then decide what to do. Now we have connections all day long through texting, messages and calls throughout a day. Dad can know what Jr. did right after he does it! However, a united front is the most healthy way for your kids to navigate discipline and understand the love and thought that goes into it. You never want to play "good cop/bad cop" when it comes to your family. Be sure your kid knows that in spite of their failure to obey they are loved and that both Mom and Dad are involved in the process. This becomes especially tricky for blended families where biological parents may live outside the home. Whatever the case may be, there is no long term heart transformation in your child when another parent “gets to be the bad guy”! First, discipline in some way immediately. Your kid may not even remember what they did later. Second, be sure the consequences fit the offense. And lastly, have the other parent simply “follow up" on disciplinary action taken earlier, as an affirmation, but also to reinforce that Mom and Dad are on the same page! The Bible has much to say about the relationship of Parents as it pertains to their parenting and raising healthy adults. Ephesians 5:22-6:4 lays out a clear approach for marriage and parenting. Try saying this instead: “Your father/mother and I will discuss this when he/she gets home. I'm sure he/she will want to visit with you about this and make sure that we are clear on how to move forward.” 

Cell Phones, Lame Parents and Mad Kids

"I am the ONLY kid in my entire school who doesn't have one!" is what you hear as she stomps away to her room. No, this isn’t your middle school daughter, it’s your 4th or 5th grader! You begin to wonder if you're being responsible, over protective, or just plain cheap! Sadly, the most important question surrounding the timing of your kids first cell phone usually isn’t, “Is she fully responsible enough to have the entire world at her fingertips?" But, it should be!

It’s a different world than we grew up in. Cell phones have gone beyond a healthy privilege in our culture to an absolute must if your kid will be socially expectable. I'm often asked when is the best time to give a kid a cell phone by parents. My answer is usually the same, "When you know for a fact that your kid is ready to have all the information in the world at their immediate disposal." YIKES! That seems like an extreme thought, and maybe it is. It, however, is the absolute truth and parents are facing this decision at an earlier age. Let me list a few reasons NOT to give your kid a cell phone and then a few great reasons for them to have a cell phone.

Reasons NOT to give your kid a cell phone:

1. Because you want to be able to get in touch with them when you want to. I actually totally understand the reasoning behind this. Kids are at school functions, hanging with their friends, or even at a church event and you want to be sure they are safe. All great! However, in the attempt to "be in constant communication with your kid" you also gave them the capability to be in communication with the entire world. It also can open the door for those we do not wish to have contact with our kids to be able to do so. In our multi-connected world, they're not far from a phone or person for you to ensure they are safe. 

2. Because everyone else has one! Do not fall prey to the peer pressure of grade school kids. You’re the parent and must know what's best for your kid. It may be "harder" but it makes for great discussions about not conforming to this world and what it means to take healthy steps toward adulthood.

Reasons TO give your kid a cell phone:

1. They have shown responsibility in other areas of life and family. Having the world at your finger tips is a huge responsibility! Turning a kid loose with EVERYTHING this world offers is a huge step and they need to show some sort of maturity in handling various scenarios while under your parental care. Jesus taught in a parable that "he who is faithful with little will be given much."

2. In order to have meaningful communication with them. Wait, didn't you say above this is a bad reason? No. Above I mentioned your motivation as a parent being you being able to contact them when YOU want. I've actually heard parents berate a school teacher for taking their child’s phone. "What if I need to get a hold of them?!?" they said. The teacher politely smiled and said, "call the office and they will connect you." This is different in motivation. Give your kid a cell phone so that you can send encouraging texts, Bible verses, or even a funny meme you ran across. (Kids love memes and its utterly ridiculous when we send them one, but they still laugh) A cell phone is a great tool in parenting if you use it instead of the phone using you.

3. In order to build responsibility and maturity. This one’s tough. We parents are digital immigrants, our kids are digital natives. They were born into technology, we weren't. They view it as a right not a privilege. We must help them understand the enormity of that little device in their pocket. It can bring great good but it can also destroy. Be sure to check your kids phone, have discussions about what they are texting or what APPs they use. It’s just plain foolishness to turn them loose with a cell phone and never connect with them about how they use it.

I tell students constantly that what they post on social media is “Instant, global, and permanent!". This is the first generation that college acceptance, obtaining a job, or even credit rating in some instances is affected by their activity on a cell phone. They must be wise, but how will they know to be if we as parents don't lead them. When should your kid get a cell phone? When you've considered the above, commit to an ongoing conversation about its use, and maybe even not until you sign this cell phone agreement!

We Don't Do Baby Dedication!

Often I am asked about baby dedication. My answer is pretty standard, "We don't do baby dedications, but we would love to partner with your family for the next 18 years to help you and your kid look more like Jesus!" Startling? Perhaps, but here are 3 reasons we don't:

1. Research- The fact is a parent has far more time to spiritually form a kid than we do at the church. So the church promising to raise the kid spiritually is untruthful and unrealistic. (Re-Think group in their book Think Orange estimate parents having approximately 3000 hours a year to spiritually form their kid while the church will only have approximately 40)

2. Intentionality- We know that a baby has absolutely no say in this process as of yet. So we want to connect with the #1 spiritual champion of a kid as quickly as we can- their parents. (See above- research indicates that kids are far more likely to stay connected to the church and to spiritual formation if their parent is closely related to that process)

3. Vision- At our church we view all ministry to the Next Gen (Birth-College) through the lens of the family. We understand that at every phase the development of a kid takes on various needs and requires differing responses, however the one constant throughout the phases of life is that a parent is the bedrock in which a kid will fall upon throughout life. So we put our focus on connecting with, equipping, and encouraging the Family as a whole. 

Why we DO Family Dedication? Easy! In response to the above we value 3 things:

1. Partnering with parents for the 936 weeks you have with your kid to ensure they are prepared, equipped, and encouraged to be that #1 Spiritual champion for their kid.                                      (936 weeks is the approximate time you have from the day your kid is born until their 18th Birthday)

2. Family dedication is simply the first of what we pray are several significant milestones that we will get to celebrate with you along the phases. We can't wait to celebrate your kids decision to follow Jesus, their public profession of that relationship through Baptism, Graduating from High School, their wedding, and hopefully another generation of Family dedication!

3.Finally, we want to be sure that the 40 hours a year we have as a church is the very best it can be! So we not only dedicate your family to the this process, we as your church family dedicate every possible resource available to us to ensure that we make every second count on our campus for you, your kid, and your entire family!

No, we don't do baby dedication. We do Family dedication and love every minute of it!

Looking for ways to connect with other parents and ideas across the various "Phases" check out http://theparentcue.org

Back To School Prayer Guide

Back to School is upon us! Those late night laughs and sleep-in mornings will be traded in for frantic mornings, long days, homework, running to extra curricular activities and more fast food than a human should consume. As a parent you will be stressed to the max trying to balance your kids schedule and still keep "adulting" yourself.  Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Below is a what I hope will be a helpful guide for your family this school year to avoid some of the chaos about to unfold. But remember if you need to run to Jesus when you feel weary, he's waiting with arms wide open! Know that we are praying for you and your family in the 2016-2017 school year! Here is a printable Family Prayer Guide for you to use.

10 Biblical Steps to Decision Making

The Bible doesn't always clearly tell the name of the person we will marry, the major we should declare in college, or what career we should pursue but it does clearly give us a helpful process to make all decisions! (Adapted from a Blogpost at Watermark church) Every day each of us are faced with numerous choices. What should we do when the Bible doesn’t seem to speak directly to the situations we face and the decisions we make? The following 10 principals will help you to make decisions that glorify God and honor others:

1. What Biblical Principles Should Inform My Decision?  

roverbs 2:6 “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”                                                  

 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”    

2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”                              

 Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  

Questions To Ask:

  1. What does the Bible have to say about that? 
  2. Who can help me better understand what God’s Word says about this decision?
  3. Make sure you are not the only one who holds to your interpretation. 

2. Have I done all the research? 

Proverbs 18:13 “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”

Proverbs 18:17 “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.”

 Questions To Ask:

  1. Ask a lot of questions.
  2. Don’t fall prey to “wishful thinking”or let your emotions get the best of you.
  3. Remember that there are two sides to every story.

Is this a rushed decision?

Proverbs 19:2 “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs.” 

Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”

Questions to ask:

  1. Beware of the “once in a life-time” deal and the lure of instant gratification.
  2. Don’t let the fear of missing out drive your decision.
  3. When in doubt, leave it out.

What Are The Motives of My Decision?

Proverbs 16:2 “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.”

Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?’” 

Questions to ask:

  1. Acknowledge that you have “blind spots.”
  2. Honestly assess your motives, both good and bad.
  3. Give others permission to speak in to your life.

How Are My Past Experiences Informing My Decisions?

Proverbs 26:11 “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

Proverbs 17:10 “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” 

Questions to ask:

  1. Look for patterns of behavior – “triggers.” 
  2. Understand how your family back ground might affect your thinking.
  3. Learn from your mistakes!

What Is The Opinion Of My Small Group?

Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is victory.”

Proverbs 18:1 “He who separates himself seeks his own desire. He quarrels against all sound wisdom.” 

Questions to ask:

  1. Avoid having many separate conversations. 
  2. Recognize the difference between “selling” and “sharing.”
  3. Know when to “open the circle.”

Have I Considered All The Warnings?

Proverbs 10:17 “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray.”

Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” 

Questions to ask:

  1. Don’t think you are the “exception” to the rule.
  2. Remember that God’s way is the best way. 

Have I Imagined The End Results Of This Decision?

roverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”

Proverbs 14:15 “The naïve believes everything, but the prudent man considers his steps.”

 Questions to ask: 

  1. Do the “long math.” 
  2. Assess the potential risk.
  3. Have a contingency plan.

Could This Decision Jeopardize My Integrity Or Hinder My Witness For The Lord?

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”

Proverbs 10:9 “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.”

Proverbs 20:7 “A righteous man who walks in his integrity—how blessed are his sons after him.” 

Questions to ask:

  1. Work toward the “center” rather than flirt with the “edge.” 
  2. Ask yourself, would this pass the “newspaper” test? 
  3. Keep short accounts.

s There A Better Option That Would Allow Me To Make A Greater Impact For God’s Kingdom?

Proverbs 11:30 “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.”

Questions To Ask: 

  1. Ask yourself, what story could God be writing?
  2. Don’t assume that just because something is hard that it is not God’s will.
  3. Understand how God has uniquely gifted and resourced you.