Category Archives: Family
Children see, children do.
To be honest, this is one of the most uncomfortable truths about parenting that I have to face. How many of us have been in the grocery store and had to apologize for what a child said only to realize later that they probably heard it first from us. Or have you ever looked at your spouse after witnessing your child do something and smiled as you jokingly said, “I wonder where she gets that?”
A number of years ago, NAPCAN, Australia’s National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, put out this sobering commercial. Watch with caution as it contains mature content…
For better or for worse, children learn behaviors from their parents. Bad habits, negative personality traits, discouraging phrases and poor ways of handling problems are all passed on to our children. The better news is that good habits, positive personality traits, encouraging phrases and helpful ways of handling problems are also passed on to our children.
Imagine if my child was left to inherit the messy way I deal with life with no real power to overcome the obstacles created for her. Also imagine if the limits of their capacity for making positive changes in their world were set by my own standard of doing good.
I don’t want my children boxed in by the limits of my “goodness” or the depth of my depravity.
Thankfully, there’s a teacher better than us that can use both the good and the bad to redeem our children from our parenting. If we consider the words of Jesus, we can be relieved from the hopeless pressure of raising the perfect child.
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” John 14:25-27 (MSG)
Children see and children do – yes. But thank goodness, there is a Friend, that brings peace in our chaos and equips us to excel beyond what we have witnessed.
I just started reading Dreaming of More For the Next Generation by Michelle Anthony. One chapter in, I am already impressed with the biblical foundation she lays for a family ministry paradigm. The end of the first chapter she invites readers to “reflect,” “respond,” and “dream” about what how might want to awaken us to more in our lives personally and in ministry to children and their families.
Here are a few of my thoughts.
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
We are asked to describe our current wineskin. What a great question! From a family ministry perspective, I would describe our ministry to children and families as “Family Friendly.” The children and youth programs function independently but create opportunities for parents to get involved on some level. The discipleship of children is important and parents are viewed as having a crucial role but they must rely heavily on the programs provided. Little is done outside of the youth and children’s ministry to equip them to be more spiritually focused in their child-rearing.
In my six years working in children’s ministry this model has been a source of frustration at times. I think many times churches want to hire children’s ministers to oversee children’s programs and give a head-nod to the role of parents but are satisfied if mediocre content is taught by volunteers whose arms may have been twisted into plugging a hole on Sunday morning. This has not been the case in every classroom of my ministry career but in praxis has been the general result of the ministry as a whole when not everyone is on the same page regarding what successful children & family ministry looks like. The resulting fruit is families who are not only unequipped by their church family but even hindered in their ability because “spiritual formation is best left to the experts.” In the lives of children, fruit is measured in terms of ministry event attendance and levels of Bible knowledge and skill. We might even pat ourselves on the back if we feel that their Bible class attendance and knowledge of scripture affects the child’s behavior, though none of these provide an accurate measure of faith.
When we are faced with the choice to change the system, lay down our old wineskin in exchange for a new one, we panic or circle the wagons. We worry that without the old wineskins our children will not know the Bible. We become concerned that if children aren’t attending our program, they might not be spiritually formed anywhere. We place on a pedestal our old wineskin and claim that it worked for me when I was a kid without considering that the Spirit knew just what we needed at that time. Now, perhaps the Spirit is choosing for the growing generation a different vintage. The Spirit wants to pour out a new wine but our old wineskins can’t handle it. They will simply burst.
What if we were willing to create (or allow ourselves to be created into) a vessel worthy of the sweet wine the Spirit was ready to pour out? What would ministry to children and families look like that did this? Right now, I don’t know. But I do know that if the Spirit was being poured out and we had allowed ourselves to become a wineskin worthy of receiving him, we would be measuring success in terms of how well we cultivate an atmosphere where parents are primary.
What would your ministry look like if God were pouring out new wine on it?
“You mean we get to take her home?” I remember my wife, Krista, putting into words the very thoughts I had been having since the nurse told us that we would be discharged from the hospital. Our daughter had been born not even 72 hours before we got into our Ford Focus and headed home. Were we ready? We thought we were…
Until we realized that “getting ready” meant much more than baby showers, putting cribs together and stocking up on diapers. In reality, our efforts to make our home a place that was absolutely perfect for our baby girl were vain attempts to control a situation that was out of our hands to begin with. What we only realized in part, was that God was yearning for us to fully surrender our newborn baby over to him. He was still certainly going to use us to raise her, but He had something very important for us to learn that we could not find in the pages of a self-help book. We would learn it by raising the white flag.
In the single act of surrender, we were doing more for our child than years spent striving to be a better parent or know enough about child-rearing. Our surrender meant that we believe God holds the victory in our daughter’s life and that we can choose to join him in it or be his adversaries. Whether or not we were enough as parents didn’t matter if we had gone “palms up” and handed her over. This surrender meant that we would have to become better listeners. We wait for God to speak. He does and we hear, then choose to continue on with the white flag raised. This surrender means that we may not have clear answers. We do not negotiate the terms, we simply trust.
When we raise the white flag and surrender our parenting over to God, he takes us where we are and begins the victory dance. In fact, he invites us to join in with him. When you dance with the Victor, the parenting battles become boogies, the tantrums become tangos, the wrestling turns to a waltz. We dance with God in the joy of surrender and let him take the lead.
This is Jhulon. He is an 8-year-old little boy from Bangladesh. He has made a huge impact on my daughter. We have been sponsoring him for about two years. Technically, our 6-year-old daughter is sponsoring him – it’s her name he sees when he gets a letter from us. She is also the one in our family that most fervently prays for him. Every night his name is the first thing that comes out her mouth when she starts her prayers. A letter we received from him describes his home life and living conditions and our compassionate daughter desperately wants God to give him running water in his house. She wants God to give him a house made of bricks instead of leaves. She wants him to have carpeted floors and an education. She never finishes a prayer thought without praying for the most important thing she desires for him…
That he would know how much God loves him.
We thought it would be a good idea for us to sponsor a child with Compassion International because we knew it would change the life of a someone. It has been amazing to see the role praying for this little boy has played in our daughter’s walk with God. She has a global perspective of what God is doing to redeem the world. Because of Jhulon, I am able to see just how God is working in my own daughter’s heart. Growing her. Stretching her.
September is blog month at Compassion. I have agreed to accept four blogging assignments from them in hopes that throughout the month, more children will be sponsored than ever before. If you blog, consider blogging for them. If you can, consider sponsoring a child. It’s made a big impact on a little 8-year-old boy in Bangladesh and a little 6-year-old girl in middle Tennessee.
“Daddy, can a woman with no husband have a baby?”
Uh… Quick… Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Hmm… What exactly is she asking here? How much do I need to tell her? Why is Krista upstairs? Uh….
“Well, that’s a good question sweetie! Why are you asking?”
This is what started our conversation over the breakfast table before church this morning. I was caught totally off guard and for a short while had absolutely no clue how to respond. Luckily a well-crafted question bought me some time to think as well as figure out just what my 5 year-old daughter was wanting to know.
Turns out she was at a church consignment sale with my wife yesterday and they had posters up advertising an adoption information meeting. We also have been sharing openly about a family from church that has just adopted a little boy from a teenage mom. While we have gone into just a little detail recently about how boys and girls are different, we haven’t had that talk yet. I surmised that what she really wanted to know was whether it was okay or not for a child to be in a family with no daddy. I think she was also wondering why a mommy would choose to give her baby up for adoption.
I am often amazed at the weight of things kids think about. Our daughter is surrounded at church and homeschool events by families that have adopted. We talk about adopting into our own home and how much of a blessing it would be to both the child and our family. We had never really given much thought about how, for a five-year old, it wouldn’t make much sense. I wanted to be sure to respond carefully.
“You know, I love how you are always thinking of other people. I can tell this is important to you. Remember how God made everything and had a plan for how it would all work? Sometimes things don’t work out the way God had planned. This isn’t because God was wrong or couldn’t make it work. Sometimes people think it would be better to try a different plan. God’s perfect plan for babies is that they would have a mommy and a daddy who are married to each other. There are lots of reasons that a baby might be born without a daddy. Sometimes it can still work out good, but God’s ways are always better.”
I was amazed at the attention span of my little girl. I didn’t want to keep talking if she had checked out of the conversation so I asked her if this all made sense. She nodded that it did but I could tell that she needed a little more explanation. I began telling her about the family from church that just adopted a little boy. I explained that the mommy just felt that it would be better for the baby to be in a family that had a mommy and a daddy who were married to each other. I shared how difficult it must have been for the little boy’s mommy to make that decision but because she loved him so much she wanted to do what she felt was best for him.
Our conversation seemed to answer her questions for now. She will likely have additional questions soon so we will continue talking about it as she puts pieces together. I love these talks we have because it just broadens the communication pathways between us and our children. Without reacting we set the stage for future conversations that might be more difficult. I also love them because it gives us a chance to share with our daughters God’s heart. I didn’t go into any detail about mistakes that people make with pre-marital sex or how families end up divorced. But through talks like this we communicate a very important message: God loves his people and wants what is best for them. This will be a thread woven into future conversations with our kids. We want them to know that God’s love is bigger and better than anything we could want. Because of this, he can be trusted with our plans.
I would love to hear from others who have had conversations like this with their kids. Share what your conversation was like in the comment section and how you felt it drew your children closer to the heart of Christ.