Around ten years ago I started following a few blogs on the internet as they were a relatively new thing. I found that there were many about lots of things that were very helpful but there were very few that provided wisdom and resources for kids and youth pastors. I think I remember there being about four to five blogs for kids pastors (David Wakerly, Jonathan Cliff, Matt Mckee, The Kidologist, I think were about it.) I can’t remember now what prompted it but I decided to jump into the blogosphere and in the following years, I shared what I was thinking about what I was processing through, good books, good ideas, and a few really bad ideas that sounded good at the time. So I thought I would share a few thoughts on blogging for a decade.
- The more you do something the easier it becomes
- Writing down your thoughts reveals the gradual changes we generally find imperceptible in our day-to-day lives. I have changed in the last ten years more than I even realize. Looking over posts that I wrote ten years ago I find myself strongly disagreeing with myself. Which feels weird but it also helps me be more gracious with others because in ten years from now I’ll disagree with some of what I am writing at this point in my life.
- Sustained disciplined writing is the rings of an oak tree. You can see what happened in the life of the tree by studying its rings. I find it interesting to look back through my archive and see what God was doing and what things I was wrestling with at that season of my life.
- In the past ten years, I have connected with people I would never have met any other way. The community I have discovered through my blog and because of my blog has been a means of God’s grace to me in more ways you will ever fully know. For that, I am profoundly thankful. The reason I started blogging and continue to blog is to be to others what I wish I had I started and in the family community ministry community, I have found what I always wanted as an isolated kids pastor who knew no one and painfully aware of his own inadequacy. Thank you, for taking the time to read my meandering thoughts. Thank you, for your comments your help and friendship. I am grateful to God for his grace and for your grace as well. I look forward to the next ten years with you all.
One of the things that we often hear in conferences and online is we need to be partnering with parents. I could not agree more. We live in a transient culture like we never seen in history. People change churches, change cities and change jobs with a frequency that is unrivaled. As you look through church history, there was a very strong emphasis on family worship the idea that our kids are spiritually educated by the church primarily is a relatively new idea. These two realities create an atmosphere that is both challenging and dangerous.
It is because of the lack of family worship and the transient nature of the family that we must be more intentional about partnering with families like never before. Most conversations I have with other kids pastor, and youth pastors about partnering with parents usually end in agreement that it should be done but at a loss for how to make that happen. We have tried things over the years that didn’t work. One of the mistakes I made over the years was to create programs or resources that didn’t meet the needs of the families I serve. They were good but not strategic. I was answering questions parents weren’t asking.
What if in partnering with parents we don’t try and create programs and resources that meet our needs but what if we answered questions our parents were asking? I think part of our problem in partnering with parents is we are giving them things that aren’t useful or are only helpful to some. Parents don’t need more info. If you have three kids in school at any given time, you will be buried under the avalanche of things to do things to be signed, and that doesn’t even include everything for every sport or activity. What if we stopped giving them information about that we think they need and start answering questions they keep asking us. What if we took that question and asked: “Does this need to be a program or a resource?”
We have a few of these in our church our Baby Dedication is a program and a resource, our baptisms are a program and a resource. This last week we put the final touches on a resource that we have worked on for a while. We call it first steps, next steps. The idea is to give three short answers to questions our parents ask us often as a “First Step.” Just enough to be helpful but not too much to overwhelm. If people want more than those three short answers provide we have “Next Steps” which is a website with a six to eight-page paper available to elaborate on the question that the three questions only begins to cover.
Here is a look at what our First Step card and Next Steps paper look like.
FIRST STEPS CARD FRONT What is the Gospel copy
FIRST STEP CARDS – gospel Back
10 Page PDF downloadable with more information for parents wanting more.
As a child of the 70’s I grew up 80’s where baby boomers were loving life, loving love and loving themselves. This translated to every area of life including their parenting. The seeds of self-esteem were laid by my parent’s generation and have taken full root in my generation. It’s this idea that kids need to have a positive outlook in life, they need to love themselves. While in limited ways this can be true the pervasiveness of this idea is killing the collective conscience of our country and is ruining our kids.
When I was growing up our world was a very different place and the influence of evangelicalism was very different as well. I remember the primary posture of the church toward culture was condemning culture. I remember well the frequent calls for boycotts. For some reason, a late 80’s call to boycott Procter and Gamble due to a symbol on its packaging has never left me. The next change in culture was the copying of culture in the mid 90’s (anyone remember “if you like Slayer then listen to “One Bad Pig”). The posture the church seems to be in presently is one of consuming culture. We seem to believe that the other two postures have failed so this is the must be the best way forward to consume culture in an ever elusive quest for relevance. The posture that seems most lacking in the evangelical world today is the ability to critique culture.
Andy Crouch in his bestselling book Culture Making
goes into depth on how we are called to be cultivators of culture and how we interact with culture should not be one dimensional but multifaceted in addressing how we react towards culture he says the following:
The problem is not with any of these gestures— condemning, critiquing, consuming, copying. All of them can be appropriate responses to particular cultural goods. Indeed, each of them may be the only appropriate response to a particular cultural good. But the problem comes when these gestures become too familiar, become the only way we know how to respond to culture, become etched into our unconscious stance toward the world and become postures.
Here is the challenge for us as individuals in general and parents in particular. We have to be sure that we respond appropriately to culture, maintaining a dynamic response to our culture based on the situation and the circumstance without letting our responses become fixed postures. We will never be cultivators of culture or teach our kids to survive and thrive in the complexity of being exiles in a culture that will destroy them if they only learn how to respond with a singular fixed posture.
Is there such a thing as a stupid question? I say Yes, I think there is. I think stupid questions are questions that people who fill time but don’t get to the root of an issue. I think stupid questions are questions that are so generic they can’t help anyone including the person asking them. I think stupid questions are questions you ask because you know the answer or think you do and you are more interested in sharing your answer than learning from the person you are asking.
So you might think I am an anti-question guy, on the contrary. I think question asking is a skill all good leaders own. In my opinion, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you ask someone a question?
1. Am I willing to be vulnerable? – Most awful questions come from here. We want to sound like a good leader, not a good learner. I am a leader but guess what I am a learner. I don’t know lots of stuff. If you want to ask a good question be vulnerable enough to ask something that isn’t so generic it doesn’t help anyone.
2. Can I find the answer to my question on google? Don’t ask questions you can google on your iPhone. Ask something that demands the person you are asking to think before they answer. To ask clarifying questions to help understand what you are trying to say.
3. How am I going to apply the answer I receive from the question I am asking? Am I asking this question to gain more information or am I looking for ways apply it and have it help me grow. Questions asked from a framework of application rather than from knowledge acquisition will always lead to growth.
One of the things I love most is how Jesus was able to cut to the core of an issue. He saw past the question to the heart of the matter. He also answered lots of questions with even better questions. In order to ask better questions of others, I think we need to start by asking ourselves better questions first.