Gossip

What is gossip?

“We gossip when we talk about someone, rather than directly to him. Two people move closer to each other at the expense of the gossiped-about party, who is focused on in a critical or worries way. You can measure the amount of anxiety in any system by the amount of gossip going on.

“Can it ever be useful to involve a third-party? Of course. When having trouble with [a boss], it would have been helpful for me to seek out a wise, clearheaded person for advice about better managing my relationship with him. But, I wasn’t looking for helpful coaching, which requires a focus on self. I was looking for an ally–a perfectly normal human impulse. So I grabbed anyone I thought might by sympathetic.

“A good rule about gossip is to try not to say anything that you wouldn’t want to be overheard.

“When you are having a problem with someone at work, talk directly to that person.

“When you make gossiping a habit, it can back-fire big-time… Gossip creates insiders and outsiders. It makes it more difficult for all parties to resolve the issues between them and to feel competent and included.”

Fear and Other Uninvited Guests: Tackling the Anxiety, Fear, and Shame that Keep Us from Optimal Living and Loving by Harriet Lerner (2004), in chapter 7 entitled “Your Anxious Workplace” (pp. 109-111).

Endings

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As of Thursday, November 8, 2018, after talking with Pastor Chad and the HWC Board, I have submitted my resignation as an assistant pastor at Hayward Wesleyan Church. The hope is to finish out the school year with the students @hwcyouth.

I was not asked nor was I forced to resign. There is nothing wrong. I am not mad, frustrated or inhibited. I do not have a job offer at another church or company, nor am I going to start another church in Hayward! This decision is purely from the LORD. Amanda and I sense the LORD’s release from my full-time position at Hayward Wesleyan.

To be honest, I do not want to do this. Nothing about this makes any human sense. I have a stable, secure, and influential position at a church where I have been for over 15 years in a community that I absolutely love and relationships with people that are deep and often described like family. HWC has a new pastor that is leading our church with vision, grace, and the heart of God present in Jesus and in the power of the Spirit. Personally I am functioning in much healthier ways than before. The gift of a sabbatical last year saved me in many practical ways in my personal life, marriage, family, and professional life. And youth ministry and community engagement is thriving.

In other words, things are going really well, so why step away?

In a community that we love and loves us, the only one who could tell us when it’s time to leave is the LORD. As Amanda and I discerned this from the LORD over the last couple of months, it has been increasingly confirmed by those closest to us in last couple of weeks. I have asked them to talk me out of it! In each case, those who know us the best agree in love that it is time for our family to take a step of faith.

And that’s all we know. At this moment, the LORD is asking us to take this one step. We do not know what is next. We would appreciate your prayers for the LORD’s direction as we discern what he is doing in our family’s lives!

We have nothing but gratitude for our time in this amazing community and a welcoming and fruitful church. We are so, so thankful for hundreds of great friendships and lot and lots of stories and history. So this transition will be filled with remembrances and storytelling as well as grieving and sadness. In some sense we feel like we are letting people down, but because this is something the LORD’s hand is in, we have confidence that the LORD is working it all out for the good. All of life rests on faith anyway, so this shouldn’t be any different!

Our focus will be on ending well at Hayward Wesleyan and helping our church and community both process the past and present as well as prepare for the future. The LORD’s hand is in this, we know that; so whatever he is orchestrating it is going to be amazing!

F. A. R. F. // Family, Academics, Recreation, and Friends

A couple of years ago we were teaching the high school students how to engage in basic conversational skills. Then we had them practice on middle school students that same evening! The goal was to engage in relational conversation (asking questions in order to get to know the other person) that led to spiritual conversation (dialogue and questions about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, faith, church, etc). It was neat!

That summer I directed our denomination’s Kids Camp again for one last summer. In training the counselors to engage with the elementary-aged kids, I used an acronym to help them remember categories to be able to ask questions in. Watch video (starts at 30:23 and ends at 33:32)

F. A. R. F.

That is where F. A. R. F. came from:

  • Family
  • Academics
  • Recreation
  • Friends

These four categories encompass MANY questions you could ask another person. Let me break this down and be specific with how you can use FARF in getting to know the teenagers at Hayward Wesleyan Youth group!

Family

Every single kid has a family of origin that has had a significant impact on their life, for better or worse. This is an area that you can be inquisitive about and get to know students. You can ask questions like:

  • What are your parents’ names?
  • What does your dad/mom/stepdad/stepmom/mom’s boyfriend/dad’s girlfriend do for a living?
  • What is your relationship like with your parents? Do you get along with them? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? What are their names? How old are they? Do you like them? Why or why not?
  • What do you think life would look like if you were an only child? Would you like it or not?
  • How do you think God has shaped you because of your siblings? Or not shaping you?
  • What is your family life like?
  • Where are you from? How long have you lived here or there?
  • Why did you move? Did you like the move? Why was it good/bad, pleasant/difficult?

Academics

This is their school environment. Every kid has to go to school! A teenager’s main job is to go to school everyday for 7 hours. They spend a lot of time in this place. It’s wealth of information when you start asking questions about their school-world:

  • Where do you go to school?
  • What time do go to school?
  • Do you ride the bus? What is that experience like?
  • Do you like school? Why or why not?
  • What are your favorite classes/subjects? Why are these subjects your favorite?
  • What classes don’t you like? Why?
  • Is school important to you? Why or why not?
  • Who is your favorite teacher? Why do you like that person?
  • Do you have teachers you don’t like? Why don’t you like them? What have you learned about dealing with difficult people in your life?
  • Is school easy for you or is it a struggle? Why?
  • Are there people in your school that are encouraging to you? Why?
  • Are there people in your school that are discouraging to you? Why?

Recreation

“What do you like to do for fun?” is the main question in this category:

  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your favorite sport to play? Why?
  • When you have free time, what do you do with it?
  • Do you have a cell phone? How do you usually use it? What apps do you use on it? Games? Social media? How do you communicate with people on your cell phone? Text? SnapChat? Messenger? Phone calls? Marco Polo? Others?
  • Where does your family go on vacation?
  • Any great, memorable trips in the past?
  • If you had all the money in the world, what would you spend your time doing?
  • What does your family and/or friends do for fun together?

Friends

This category is strategically last because this is where you get to the character of the teeanger. “Birds of a feather flock together,” is an old saying that we are a lot like the people we hang out with on a regular basis. We have a lot in common with our friends. When you get to talk about a teenager’s friends you get a deeper look into the window of their souls.

  • Who is are your best friends? Why do you like them?
  • How do you keep friends?
  • Is making friends easy for you or difficult? Why?
  • Have you ever lost a really good friend? What happened?
  • What are qualities you look for in a friend?
  • What are qualities that would disqualify someone as your friend?

Concluding Thoughts

Now, whenever someone starts engaging in conversation with another there is an initial offering of trust. As the conversation continues and time elapses, this trust gets deeper and deeper. We adults earn relational trust with students not because we are the adults and they have to respect and trust us, but because we do the tireless work of asking questions and being genuinely interested in their answers. With great power comes great responsibility. All teenagers desperately need genuinely interested and involved adults in their lives that aren’t their parents. So this an incredible opportunity we get as adults who serve in close proximity with teenagers. Let’s not take it for granted!

As you can see, the categories above are just a tool. The question suggestions are just to get your creative juices going. There are a hundred more questions you can ask in each category, and their answers will lead you to ask even more follow-up questions!

Please don’t print this off, place it in your pocket, and take it out and go through the list with a teenager tonight, like your Alex Trabek asking the contestants on Jeopardy about their lives! Pick a couple of questions in each category (FARF) and try them out in conversation at youth group. The answers will lead you to ask more questions. It will even lead to some laughter because we all have funny stories to share. Have fun sharing your own stories with the students as well (as appropriate). The students need to know that we are humans desperately in need of Savior just like them. Don’t whitewash your life as if it’s perfect. You’ll be much more relate-able when you share embarrassing stories of yourself! I know this because my two daughters love hearing stories of their Mom and I messing up as kids (and adults) and doing super embarrassing things!!

Have fun getting to know your students better!

P.S. FARF is designed with students in mind. For adult interaction and dialogue, one could use: Family, Occupation, Recreation and Friends.

Overview of the Five Thresholds

The Five Thresholds

The Five Thresholds is training material on disciple-making from InterVarsity college ministries.

This is what IV has to say about the Five Thresholds:

“This is the journey of how people tend to explore faith. Once we understand the process, we can be more helpful to friends moving through each threshold. God is already at work in our friends; discerning what thresholds they are in allows us to be more helpful to their faith journey. May God give us wisdom, courage, and love as we help our friends grow toward their next step of faith.”

Here is the overview video:

source Vimeo

Here are the Five Thresholds in a nutshell:

Trust
“People today often start in a place of skepticism or distrust toward Christians. In Threshold 1, they move into a relationship of trust with a Christian friend. Trust is the seed that catalyzes the journey of faith.”

Curiosity
“It’s possible to have a trust relationship with somebody for years without them having any interest in our faith. Threshold 2 is where they become curious. Learn how to ask questions that spark curiosity.”

Open
“Threshold 3, where people go from being closed to open to change, is the most misunderstood and mysterious of the thresholds. Your friend’s questions move from curious, often intellectual or academic, to the personal realm, and they start to examine their life. Our friends desperately need someone who is willing to offer them the truth – in love – to encourage them to be open to change.”

Seeking
“Threshold 4 is where someone moves from simply being open to change to actually seeking after Jesus. People often begin by looking everywhere and investigating everything; Jesus is one of many options they’re exploring. We have the joy of focusing them in on Jesus and helping them ask him the questions they need answered in order to trust him.”

Follower
“This is the wonderful moment when someone puts their trust in Jesus for the first time. As a friend, in Threshold 5 we can help them see how good Jesus and the kingdom of God are, as well as the cost involved in following Jesus. We also need to celebrate with them and continue to support them in their new journey of faith.”

source InterVarsity, 2100 InterVarsity

Student Information Half-Sheets

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I’m always trying to make signing up for things as efficient as possible, but in order to communicate with our youth group participants and their parents, I need accurate, up-to-date information. So there has to be a system in place to be able to collect this information and I find that using the computer to do it actually makes the process slower. So we still use good old fashioned paper.

Last year I went really low-tech. I grabbed a piece of paper, folded it in half, got a Sharpie, and actually wrote in free hand the information our youth group needed in order to communicate. It did the job. And it was kind of “retro” :).

This year I thought I would keep it simple, but I would formalize it and type it up.

Here is what we’ll be using this school year (2018-2019):

source graphic [JPG, 244kb], Student Info half-sheet 18-19 [PDF, 84.7kb], Fenix-Std [font], Geomanist [font]

Blue Collar God / White Collar God by Terry Esau

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Terry Esau is a fantastic writer. I just love analogies and metaphors and parables and stories that seek to describe the human condition and the divine conspiracy in this world. Stories have a way of connecting with me in ways that logical, didactic teaching doesn’t.

Anyway, Terry Esau wrote a book called: Blue Collar God / White Collar God. It’s a creative little book. Not only does it contain some amazing analogies, metaphors, parables, and stories, but the author packages it in a unique way.

One half of the book is about God as a Blue Collar God, “common, ordinary, regular, approachable, accessible.” Esau writes:

“I want to bring him down to the level to which he willingly brought himself; down to earth, down to us. He pressed the button for the basement of existence, becoming sub-God, trading in his puncture-resistance for human flesh” (pp. 1-2).

The other half of the book is about God as a White Collar God:

“To say he’s successful would be quite an understatement. To say he has entrepreneurial inclinations would be stating the glaringly obvious. To say he’s a big shot, a big wheel, a big deal, the big cheese, would be selling him short on ‘bigs.’ The name embroidered on his white collar pretty much says it all… God. Think about it. His address? Heaven–it’s about as white-collar as you can get” (p. 1).

The unique part of the book isn’t that the author has two sections, it is that you have to flip the book over to read the other section. In each section you read toward the middle and then you flip to the other section and read back to the middle. Pretty cool!

I wanted to write down short descriptions of each analogy, metaphor, parable and story so I could recall what the story was about so when I come across a certain area of teaching in youth group, church service, Bible study, small group, or one-on-one conversation, I can point people to one of these stories as needed.

So here are the synopsis of each account:

Blue Collar God

The Shirt Tale. Metaphor of what the Trinity (“The Look”) is up to in a closet of shirts that look like “the look” and how “the Blue Leisure Suit”, Satan, the enemy wants to rule the shirts and does for a while. Story is told from the perspective of the enemy.

Christoholics Anonymous. Parable of Jesus showing up to a meeting where people find it challenging and embarassing to be a follower of Christ. Jesus asks them to get to know him, spend time with him then they won’t be embarassed anymore. Most of the group leaves… only 12 remain.

Garbageman God. A story about God’s persistence in removing garbage in our lives, but we humans have to recognize it as trash and bring it to the curb. God offers, but he doesn’t force or intrude. Specific garbage mentioned was lust (as an example).

“You gotta bring it to the curb–and leave it there. Until you decide that it’s trash and bring it on down, I can’t touch it. I’d like to. But, we got rules you know” (p. 36).

The Hitchhiker. A story about Christmas with a Santa, a heaven-bound and an earth-bound traveler. Modern day twist on the Christmas story and its implications for our lives!

I made these cardboard signs for when I read this story to the teenagers during Christmas. These hang on the wall in my office above my window.

Bum Insurance. A story that insinuates that we humans are all bums in need of “life insurance” from a bum peddling “hope for now if you got hope for later.” We are all bums!

To Tell The Truth. A creative look at who the real Jesus is and what he’s about. The crowd doesn’t often find the real Jesus very attractive and will readily jump on the bandwagon of a counterfeit in our own image.

The J. C. Cab Company. A short story about God owning a cab company in NYC and Jesus is an immigrant taxi driver. First rider isn’t “lost” so uninterested in who Jesus is and the “direction” he might want to take his fare. The second rider recognizes she’s lost and asks the driver to tell her where to go… someone who knew she was lost, desperately looking for direction.

God’s Watering Hole. A parable about an ineffectual church and its owner, God’s, persistence with those who satisfy their thirst with anything other than what he offers, but ready to deliver to those who are willing and desperately thirsty.

White Collar God

The Big Is. A barnyard debate over which came first, the chicken or the egg? A wise old hen shares about the BIG IS and all the isn’ts.

“We never did figure out which came first. But then, we’re cows. How could we? My guess is the hen had it right; there’s gotta be a someone somewhere before there can be a something. Seems to make sense. I think I’m just gonna hang out and keep an eye peeled for Someone… the Big Is. And when I see him, I’ll ask him which came first” (p. 16).

February Fire. Mr. Wellington’s fire beautifully illustrates how “cold” we are a part from God’s presence and how we humans long for something “warm” and meaningful. When we discover a “fire” that satisfies, it lights and gives meaning to our own lives and often it serves as a beacon of light and warmth and meaning to those around us!

“I spent the day in a dreamland. I knew this dream was reality, but reality had never felt this good before. I had never spent an entire day barefoot… and warm, in winter. I danced around in a T-shirt. I ate frozen yogurt and drank iced tea. My house was so hot, I even left my front door ajar. I had heat to spare.

“At about seven o’clock that night I grabbed my coat and gloves and headed for the front door. Even though I had my own fire now, I was still drawn to Mr. Wellington’s… maybe even more so because I had my own fire. It’s hard to explain” (p. 27).

Ana Kanzler drew this picture after I read this story one night at High School Youth. It is framed and hangs in my office now.

God On-Line. What a crazy, all-over-the-place online chat conversation about God (with God) is like… and how God responds!

The Painting. A scene depicting the cost of restoration and the mocking that occurs before by the crowd and the hushed silence when witnessing wholeness and reconciliation.

The Fire Factory. A story of the INCARNATION through an order for a fire that cannot be quenched by a relentlessly extinguishing human race. What would it take to contain, create, and sustain such a fire? Well, nothing less than the author of fire himself.

“The task was begun. Ignition experts laid the plans for an irrepressible fusion of infinitely combustible fibers. Molecular engineers went to work on the atomic acceleration module to be housed in a pure, microscopic environment. Biologists began calculating DNA, and microbiologists began incubating cells that could contain both living matter and atomic potential. All departments were challenged with the precarious melding of the infinite with the finite–encasing immortality within a fragile, paper-thin shell of mortality” (p. 51).

The Tomorrow Tower. A parable about striving for a goal in life (or all of life for that matter) hitting the wall and realizing that you are not enough. And yet something unexpected is enough if you trust it and yield to it… it will show you the way where you can’t see the way.

Red Kite, Blue Kite. A parable about two kites flying like they were designed for flight by a KiteMaster. One kite loves flying with the Master while the other kite forgets his purpose and connection with the KiteMaster and wants to fly on his own. It seems important to trust the KiteMaster and spend time swapping stories with fellow kites. What does it take to stay connected to God, the KiteMaster?

“Every kite, more than anything else, desires to fly. Even before they understand the concept of flight, they yearn for it. It’s the unknown entity they subconsciously crave, the missing puzzle piece that, when experienced, is the natural fulfillment of their existence” (p. 67).

“As time went on, the red kite realized that the real thrill was not found in the flight, but in being flown by the KiteMaster” (p. 70).

True North. A story about the pull to vapid offering of the world as opposed to the deep satisfying offerings of God’s kingdom. Story is told as a choice between the neon city with flashing lights and a quaint, beautiful town called True North (a town that points folks to and offers abundant life). The kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of earth.

source Amazon

How Can We Encourage Our Kids?

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Children need encouragement.

Sure they need correction from time to time (okay, maybe a lot!), but they need lots and lots of encouragement as well. And sometimes in the grind of life where all it seems is happening is busyness, hectic schedules, and disobedient kids, we need to remember that our children (at home, at church, yours or someone else’s) need encouragement.

Think about it…

How do you feel after someone has genuinely encouraged you? Good? or more than justgood? You feel awesome don’t you? What if your boss encouraged 5 times more than criticized or corrected? It would feel amazing, wouldn’t it? You would work harder and be more loyal to your boss. You might even say nice things to others about him or her!

Well, I think our kids would feel the same way toward you if you encouraged 5 times more than you corrected and criticized.

This morning as I was driving my 1st grade daughter to school, I looked in the rear view mirror and smiled at her smiles (she was grinning as she looked out the window). In a moment of emotion at the genuine happiness of my daughter I said to her:

“Sari, I’m so glad you are my daughter. I just really like you.”

That little grin became an even bigger grin as she relished in the adoration of her father. She felt encouraged. I need to do that more.

Below is a video from Francis Chan. He relays a story about a weekend he and his wife spent lavishing encouragement on their freshman daughter.

What are some ways we can encourage our kids?

video source: Vimeo
photo credit: John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Understanding Approaches in Ministry

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This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on September 17, 2013

I’m noticing various approaches in ministry lately.

  • Traditional, contemporary or blended worship services.
  • Seeker sensitive, holy huddles, and house churches.
  • Chronological Bible storytelling, series-based, or topically-based.
  • Large-group/small-group, rotation stations, video-based, or classroom format.
  • Purpose-driven, Gospel-centered, etc.
  • Family equipping, family church, family-suppored, or family educational.

There are a lot of various approaches… and the proponents of each do a significant amount of marketing and education to convince you and me that their particular approach is the best (or worse, that their way is biblical, the only right way).

Approaches to ministry and communicating the Gospel is not “The Gospel” itself.

Rather, a particular approach is a vehicle that carries the message of “The Gospel.” In different cultures and at different times a particular approach may be successful in communicating and producing disciples. And just like our modern vehicles do, they eventually break down, need to be fixed and tweaked, and at some point, replaced. There are, however, classic vehicles that do stand the test of time and last a while. Other vehicles don’t last a while. It served a particular purpose, in a particular time.

I have allegiance to a particular set of approaches that I believe best communicates and produces disciples in Hayward, WI among its children and youth, and its unique socio-economic, small, rural culture. Then, over time, test, retest and set the particular approaches that best communicate and produce disciples.

I can never stagnate and settle too long, or be married to an approach… after all… it’s just an approach. The only thing I am married to (other than my wife) is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I discern new needs, I need to adopt new approaches and discard old ones. It requires constant change, constant tweaking, constant messing with the approach.

Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community deal with change.

Change is happening all around students anyway and they are used to the current of culture changing constantly. Change is not seen as negative, it is actually seen as a sign of progress and growth. It’s okay to take a risk and change something. It doesn’t have to be a big change, it could be small. But because change is a part of life as people and organizations grow and develop, NOT changing can have very serious consequences if things stagnate too long.

Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community deal with relevance.

If we really believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and works in real life, then we need to be aware of the questions our current culture is asking then seek to address and answer those questions. The Gospel is always relevant. Our approaches help keep the Gospel answering the correct questions culture is asking, not stuck on questions it was asked 10, 20, 40, or 60 years ago. It’s just a different world.

Understanding approaches in ministry helps a faith community pick curriculum, engage and multiply disciples.

Curriculum is not Scripture. The Bible is Scripture. We shouldn’t argue about which curriculum is best, rather, which curriculum best communicates God’s message to this world at this time in this particular place. The Bible should be our core curriculum with an approach layered on top that helps with delivery. The approach engages the student and helps multiply disciples because it answers the questions our culture is asking.

Remember…

  • an approach or method of doing ministry is not the Gospel itself, but is a vehicle to communicate and produce disciples
  • you shouldn’t be married to an approach
  • approaches are helpful in regard to change, relevance, and practical ministry decisions.

photo credit: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Dear Parents, It’s Okay to Discipline Your Children

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This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on November 21, 2013

Dear Parents,

I’m concerned about a disturbing trend I’m seeing happening more and more: parents are not disciplining their children (both young and old) when they are doing behavior that they themselves did when they were young. This is more than just a pastor’s complaint about a lack of discipline in the home. It’s a projection of where that lack of discipline leads us as a society.

The logic seem to go something like this:

Middle school Johnny has learned some pretty colorful language in his 11 years of existence. He seemingly has learned that he can say those particularly offensive words and his parents will not correct him. After all, they said cuss words when they were in middle school and high school (and they even say them as adults from time to time). The parents feel like a hypocrite if they were to tell their son not to use such language.

“Surely this is just stuff kids have to go through and learn on their own, right?”

Or maybe the logic goes something like this:

Parent:

“I drank when I was in high school, so I can’t tell my teenager that they can’t drink can I? I mean, wouldn’t that be two-faced? I might as well let them do it and I’ll supervise to make sure no one gets hurt.”

Or maybe like this:

Parent:

“Teens are bound to have sex, I mean look at the statistics. I’m going to help my daughter take precautions so she doesn’t get pregnant.”

At church it sometimes looks like this:

Student:

“I don’t want to go to church. It’s boring.”

Parent:

“Yeah, I understand. I was bored in church, too, and I didn’t want to go. Okay, you don’t have to go.”

Here’s why I’m worried…

If parents, who are the first line of defense in our culture of what is right and wrong… if our parents are abdicating their responsibility to pass on some moral values in the form of wisdom and experience (in order to save our young people from making the same mistakes) then who is going to do that?

Sure, there are things parents need to let their children (both young and old) learn on their own. Things like: staying up too late at night and suffering the consequences of still having to get to school on time or not being responsible to bring something to school like a hat, gloves or a coat when it’s cold outside. Most of the time, with small things, natural consequences are great teachers.

However, there are some big things like sex, adult beverages, and their spiritual life that students should be greatly guided by adults in order to avoid lifelong consequences. Regardless of what you as a parent did when you were a teenager or a child, you still had parents (hopefully) that informed you that you were doing something wrong. Hopefully you had at least one adult in your life that loved you enough to call out on your poor choices and eventual disastrous behavior.

My worry is that parents are not doing what they are supposed to be doing and being the adult in their child’s life. Your kids do not need a best friend. They need a parent. They need someone who is going to nag them, hound them, wait up for them when they break curfew and chew them out, and take away the keys to the car when they mess up.

I have a particularly interesting vantage point

I’ve been a children and youth pastor for over ten years now in the same community. I’ve watched children grow up from when they were in 3rd grade through graduation. I’ve witnessed countless students come in and through the ministries of our church in our community. I have also witnessed particularly gruesome behavior from students and I’ve always wondered:

“Where do they learn these behaviors that they think are normal?”

Almost 7 years ago, my wife and I had our first child. And as both her and our second (both girls) grow up and develop over time, I witness behavior in them that, if left unchecked and unchallenged, would manifest itself just like the students I would interact with in middle school and high school. I began to see that for some of these older teenagers, their parents, or other significant adults in their lives, were not disciplining or challenging behaviors in their progeny when they were young. What I and our youth leaders were experiencing in youth group was the direct result of unchecked and unchallenged behavior that grew into something nasty.

One time, my oldest daughter, upon hearing some correction and adjustment from her Mom, muttered something disrespectful under her breath. To me it was plain as day and as loud as a jet engine. My daughter was sowing the seeds of disrespect to someone in authority. On the outside she obeyed, but on the inside she did not. Her heart was hardening right in front of me. I’ve seen what that looks like unchecked and unchallenged after 10 years or so. I looked right at my daughter and I said:

“Young lady, you do not talk to your Mom like that. I heard what you said under your breath. We do not disrespect those in authority over us on the inside and obey on the outside. That produces a kind of person that has a hard and nasty heart.”

She broke.

Challenging the small, seemingly insignificant behaviors now (when they are small), and being consistent with those simple corrections, will produce, with the grace of God through faith, a life that is shaped by loving parents.

I understand

I understand it is not popular to discipline your kids. I know it is exhausting to correct your kids. I understand how often (like 30 times a day) you say the same things over and over again and you feel like you want to give up. I get it. I really do. However, if you do not, what kind of human being, that you are responsible for, will your child be when their behavior is left unchecked?

Surely I’m not questioning whether or not you love your child. But could I ask a simple question for you to think about without you getting mad at me?

Are you demonstrating, in action not just with words, that you love your children when you do not discipline, correct, check and challenge their behavior?

photo credit: Helloquence on Unsplash

Lifeguards: A Parable about the Presence of Authority

This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on December 9, 2013

There is a municipal water park in Spokane, WA that my daughters like to frequent when we visit my in-laws. It’s a really neat place. They have a bucket that fills up with water, water spouts shooting streams of water all over the place, both a fast and lazy river, and one water slide that even young children can go on. Sari and Macie love this place.

There is no doubt, though, who’s in charge:

The Lifeguards

The lifeguards at this municipal pool are in charge. You know how sometimes when you’re at a pool manned by lifeguards, you need to still be hyper-vigilant as a parent because the lifeguards are kinda lax? Not this place. The lifeguards are the boss. Now they are not jerks, they just take their life-saving job seriously. And they manage the environment of this particular pool really well. They are not shy about disciplining both children and adults.

Close to where our girls love to swim around are four water spouts. If you put your finger and block one of the streams it causes the others to go higher. It’s kinda cool. Well, when my wife did this, the lifeguard chided her and informed her that is not allowed. They aren’t shy about enforcing ALL the rules with consistency and vigilance.

There is no doubt who’s in charge and keeping the environment safe

The Lifeguards

I’ve been using this parable of sorts with our youth and children’s ministries at Hayward Wesleyan this school year.

I want the students to have no doubt who is in charge and keeping the environment safe:

The Adults

In our day and age, it seems like adults are either afraid of students or they just want to be their friend (and in so doing end up abdicating their authorial role). Again, I’m not suggesting that the adults be jerks or mean or callous. Far from it. I am suggesting that adults need to take charge and be the adults we need to be. Students need to know they are loved and accepted, but misbehavior will be confronted and challenged, and the expectations of conduct will be clear from the outset.

The longer I minister, disciple and lead as a pastor, the more I’m convinced that students desperately want to be challenged. They appreciate adults who are clear and firm, yet loving and normal. One of the best postures an adult can have when working with students (or a parent with their child) is to correct when needed and when correction is not needed to act like they haven’t done anything wrong (both previously or anticipated)… in other words, to be normal normally and a “lifeguard” when necessary.

There have numerous occasions where I’ve had to remove students for a season of time in our ministry environments because they pose a threat to others or they just don’t care. Most of the time, those students are eager to come back because of the way they left: with firm, yet loving correction. We don’t get mad at a students misbehavior, we actually expect everyone to mess up at some point or another. Students are always watching how an adult handles a problem. Most of the time students are used to making an adult mad and then said adult loses their temper and yells at them. This does nothing. I have never seen a hollered lecture work. However, I have seen a sad countenance from an adult and a sighed frustration that the student chose to remove themselves from the program for a time because of their behavior actually work. When a student feels responsible for their behavior, I mean really feels responsible, then dramatic change happens, and students grow to really respect that adult and that environment. The trick is to get a student to feel responsible. To do so is to engage in dramatic discipleship with that student and when it’s done in a way they are least likely to expect, they really listen and learn.

So how do you manage your environment?

  • Your classroom,
  • small group,
  • home,
  • children,
  • sports team,
  • workplace,
  • transportation environment

Do students know you are the adult and you are in charge?

Or are the students (or your children) in charge and you’re their friend and there is no real discipleship or instruction happening as a result?

My encouragement is to be the lifeguards for your particular environment, the adults your students need (as a parent, teacher, coach, etc). They will understand clear expectations and boundaries as well as love and acceptance. Doing so provides a model of how Christ is in their lives:

Jesus provides clear expectations and boundaries as well as love and acceptance.

Being the adults our students need goes further than merely controlling an environment to modeling a life lived in submission to Jesus Christ.

photo credit: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Some Tips on Germs and Working with Kids

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This article first appeared at Wesleyan Kids on January 11, 2014

My body encountered a strain of strep that it had never seen before and it knocked me down for a week prior to Christmas. Ten days of Penicillin later I was feeling mostly better, with a twinge of an earache.

About a week later, it all came back with a vengeance! In Hayward, all the clinics are closed on Saturday, so the only option for medical intervention is the ER.

Diagnosis?

An abscess on my tonsil that I needed to have drained. Wonderful. The Hayward ER could not drain the abscess, so I had to go to Duluth (an hour and a half away), to get this abscess drained by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. Boy was that painful!

The ENT doctor was fantastic.

He informed me that what I had was the number one killer of people in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1900s. In fact, our first U.S. president, George Washington, died of the very ailment I had. Comforting. After assurance that I would not be dying of this condition, I asked the doctor how I obtained this wonderful abscess.

The ENT specialist told me that my body had probably never seen this type of step before and I was most likely run down (He was right on the run down part).

Once he realized that I worked with kids on a regular basis, the ENT doctor gave me some tips on prevention:

  1. The best thing anyone can do to prevent regular infections is to get a good nights sleep and eat well. Doing these things are more important than even exercise (although exercise is not to be ignored for other problems).
  2. At the end of the day, especially during the germ season, take off the clothes you worked with kids in, throw them in the wash, and take a shower. This gets rid of all the germs you have from all those little precious wonders that you don’t want making a home in your body 🙂
  3. Most germs live on surfaces. The best thing anyone working with kids can do is to make sure that the surfaces are cleaned at the end of every day. The ENT doctor said that the worst thing on an airplane is not the recirculated air that everyone on the flight breathes, but rather the surfaces on the plane that never get cleaned! Boy, start thinking of all those surfaces in one’s world that don’t get cleaned: shopping cart handles, remote controls, steering wheels, public door handles, etc.
  4. Wash your hands. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water, especially before you eat, is one of the best practices of those who want to stay healthy.

I am not a medical specialist, so please take these second-hand-shared ideas as tips and suggestions for how to prevent the spread of the seasonal sicknesses. I am also not a germ-o-phobe. I’ve been known to take a drink out of one of my students pop cans or chew my daughter’s gum (much to her delight!), but this ENT’s suggestions and the infection I contracted made me think more carefully about how I practice and enact healthy safeguards in my life.

photo credit: Martha Dominguez on Unsplash