3 Ways to be a Better Dad

Today is the start of my twenty-third year of doing ministry for kids and youth in the same church. One of the things I have come to realize is the reality that no family is perfect that marriage is hard work and parenting does not always come easy. Kids today face greater challenges than kids did twenty years ago there has been extensive studies as to why that is a reality some credit technology, others environmental concerns what few people mention and I have found to be the most profound issues is the dissolution of the family. The family in America is under attack.

The breakdown in the family is now into multiple generations and so many dads I talk to want to be better dads they have no idea what that looks like. They only know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a father who failed them. They feel powerless and so they turn to pop culture that either tells them it’s hopeless and to live your life for your own happiness or the other side saying you need to take the power back. I think there is a better option for dads. Here are three ways to be a better dad.

1. Show up –
This one is difficult because when we feel that we are not wanted, needed, or respected the natural reflex is to run. You may have been on the receiving end of a dad who ran and are tempted to do the same. Don’t do it. Show up. Not to everything. Show up to the important things and the small things. I was recently talking to a woman whose dad recently passed she said that even though her mom and dad got divorced he always took them on vacations and was there for the small things like teaching her how to ride a bike. He showed up in the small things and important things.

So often dads are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. In my experience with families saying nothing and doing nothing is far worse than saying the wrong thing. Sending money and giving gifts don’t replace you and they don’t represent you. Show up. Step into the pain. Step into the awkard. When your kids have questions about life and sex and gender don’t send them to your wife step into the awkward and answer their questions as best as you can and point your kids to Jesus. Your kids want you dad, even when they say they don’t. Every little girl wants her dad to say she is beautiful and ever little boy wants to know his dad is proud of him. Dad only you can say those words to your kids. You want to be a better dad. Don’t text them those things show up in person and tell them yourself.

2. Shut up –
This one is hard. Because dads measure their effectiveness by how many things they can fix in a lifetime. Somethings can’t be fixed by actions some things are fixed by just showing up then shutting up. When your kids are frustrated or disappointed with you the temptation for you is to defend yourself. Instead of doing that shut up and listen. When your kids are at home come sit next to them ask them about their day and then shut up and listen. When your kids are crying because their heart is hurt don’t always try to fix everything just shut up and listen.

Kids like all of us sometimes just need to be herd. So listen, empathize, and affirm your kids. Tell them the truth. Don’t tell them they can do anything they put their minds to do tell them you are going to get through this together and stick with them. Remind them they need God’s help and after you have listened to them pray for them. If you want to be a better dad that isn’t always measured by number of problems solved it’s measured by how well you heard your child’s heart and how often you showed them God’s heart.

3. Give up –
There is something about powerlessness that we forget when we grow older. The more power we have the more control we maintain the less we can relate to a child and the harder it is to know God. I have seen people that speak powerfully to a stadium of adults but who are terrified in a room of 50 kids. Why because they have become more powerful and less dependent. They no longer relate to kids because they have forgotten how to be weak and what dependence looks like.

“You should have a fifty-year plan—a vision for growth over a long period of time as you embrace your weakness.”

J.I. Packer

We are drawn to power and strength we desire autonomy. One of the many idols in American culture is the self-made man. We think that if we achieve a certain level of success we will be happy. Packer is saying give up but don’t quit. He is saying slow growth is the best kind of growth. He is saying that weakness is the key to dependence and dependence is the key to growth. Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says it this way.

The child is father to the man.’
How can he be? The words are wild.
Suck any sense from that who can:
‘The child is father to the man.’

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Hopkins is saying the same thing Jesus says “you want to be great remember what it was like to be dependent and overlooked?” Do that be depended and deflect glory to God. Matthew 18 Jesus described greatness not in terms of material success but in utter dependence. “You want to be great” Jesus said “become like a little child.” Dad, you want to be a better dad? Learn how to give up your power, give up your lust for success and learn to be as dependant on God as your newborn baby is dependant on you for everything.

Kids need fewer powerful parents and more dependent ones. You want to be a better dad? Show up, shut up and give up.

Five Audiobooks You Have to Read Instead of the Physical Books

I love the way a physical book feels the way a book smells when you have a physical book in their hand. There are few things better than a great book. I agree with Lewis who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” As much as I enjoy a physical book there are some books that are just easier to read and resource on the kindle. Likewise, there are some books that you have to listen to on audio because they are just that good. I would go so far as to say that you really should listen to these audiobooks rather than read the physical copy.

Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi – This book is the powerful recounting of the story of a Muslim looking for Allah and seeking truth and God in his mercy broke into his world and revealed himself to Nabeel in supernatural ways. The narration of the Book was by Nabeel himself it was a powerful story of conversion but why you should listen rather than read is hearing the emotion in Nabeel’s voice as he recounts the cost of following Christ as someone who grew up in a Muslim home. The cost was his family but the price was worth it. Such a powerful book you must listen to rather than read.

The Four Loves – By C.S. Lewis – Why would you not read a physical book by C.S. Lewis and listen to the audio instead? Well, when it’s the only recording of Lewis reading his own book. It’s, s to hear the voice of Lewis. A rare treat that you will thank me for later. Skip the book and go for the audio.



The Complete Chronicles of Narnia: The Classic BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation – I am a huge fan of all things Narnia. I have read all seven books several times. If you are looking to dip your toe in for the first time or if you have young kids you want to introduce to Narnia the BBC Dramatized version is the one for you.



David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell – There is something about an author reading their own book they do a much better job conveying what they wrote but also the intangible emotions they felt when they wrote what they wrote. David and Goliath was a powerful book about the power of underdogs. In this book, Gladwell is at his best. I rarely cry reading books. The end of this book was one of the exceptions. Powerful. Much more power by audio than by the book.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This is a classic that is a must read. The audio recording was done by Sissy Spacek and was excellent and engaging. People often argue what is better the book or the movie I say neither the audio book was better.


How to Evaluate Large Events

At our church, we have just completed two large events with a couple more staring us down. One of the things I try to do after each event is to evaluate the events effectiveness and my and my team’s competence. I realize that for each church this may look different, but I also realize that we sometimes need a starting point to get us going.

I break those questions down into three categories. People. Church. Me.

People

Did the right people come?
Who was missing that should have been at this event?
Who came that I didn’t expect to come?
Where were their opportunities for God to move in the lives of our kids?
Did we create memories that will last a lifetime?

Church

Did this event help build the church?
Did this event point people beyond their own need?
Did we preach Christ Crucified?
Did we as a ministry represent the values and vision of the church? Or did we do our own thing?
Was the Church fully aware of what took place?

Me

Did I do what only I could have done at this event?
What did I do that someone else can do next time?
Did my team learn something from this event?
Did I grow in my dependence on Christ through this event?

It’s very easy to measure the effectiveness of what we do by how many people came or how much money we earned both are valid and helpful but not ultimate. We are a church, not a Chic-fil-a our aim is to primarily pastor and love people not to be a CEO’s. We are more interested in helping those God has brought into our care to maintain a long obedience in the same direction. Large events to the extent they build the church and deepen our dependence on God are helpful. To the extent, they are a spectacle they are unhelpful. Let us by God’s grace create events that drive us deeper into God’s heart for our good and His glory.

Books I Read in 2016

This year was a change for me I started graduate school a little over a year ago, and the books I want to read are now waiting for me because of books I have to read are taking precedence. I have learned a couple of things about reading this year.

1.Reading books above what you typically read or are comfortable reading push you to read more efficiently and read more widely. There are books I would never have read this year if it were not for that.

Pastor Success is Not Your Goal.

If 19 years in ministry has taught me, anything it has taught me that leading  is difficult. There are times where you are on top of the world and other times where you feel the world is collapsing around you. The challenge is not to give in the going gets hard and to not blow up when things are going your way.

In life and ministry success is an amazing by-product but a terrible goal and an even worse master. The challenge for each of us especially those in ministry is to measure our lives by the right yardstick. It is very easy to get sucked into the more is better; leadership fixes everything trap. The modern leadership movement has done much to help pastors and churches, but we must also be aware of the damage it has done and continues to do. There has slipped in this idea of a post-modern, secular identity that we can rise from obscurity to be the church everyone in the nation is talking about. If we allow success to be our goal, business strategies to be our mantra and CEO’s to be our heroes we will be swallowed up by the success we think will earn God’s favor and man’s respect. Tim Keller in his book Making Sense of God says the secular identity brings a crushing burden with it.