Young Leader: Listen

Listen: The most important skill you can develop is the ability to listen.

Bonhoeffer says in his book on Christian Community called “Life Together”

So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Life Together

Learn to listen: One of the most difficult lesson to learn as a young leader is knowing when to speak and when to be quite. Listening is a skill that must be learned if you are to be effective as a leader and if you are to reflect the heart of God. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of giving people answers to their problems or what we perceive their problems to be. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say that you are sorry and that you will pray for them or to say that you don’t have the answer but you know someone who does. Pat answers can produce a shallow simple faith that when tested will always bend and will often break.

Never show your daughter physical affection.

If you want to ensure your kids will be on the “The Bachelor”
1. Never show your daughter physical affection.
2. Teach your kids that connections are more important than commitment.
3. Teach your kids there is no consequences for their behavior.
4. Give your kids whatever they want.
5. Teach your kids that their self-worth is tied to people’s acceptance of them.

One of the biggest problems in our country is fatherlessness. Now am I advocating that every girl that comes from a fatherless home will have problems in life? Absolutely not. What I am advocating is that as a father I want to do everything I can do to ensure that my baby girl grows up with a healthy view of men and woman.

As a father with your kids you have a very real and very sober responsibility to teach your kids what a real man is like. [Tweet “As a dad you are your sons first hero and your daughters first love.”] As a dad you are your sons first hero and your daughters first love. If you stop and think about it there is literally not a place in our culture that shows a positive view of men and especially fathers. Every example I can think of is stupid, dopey, irrelevant and aloof.

How to help your kids be more innovative.

Here are a few things I believe will help your kids be more innovative. If we want our kids to be successful in the future we need to be actively working on helping them use their innovation muscles.

1. Limit their exposure to media – Do not keep them from TV all together. I find that when you watch kids who have never watched TV or their exposure is limited they play very different than kids who are saturated daily by media. When your kids watch TV to much they replay things they saw on TV in their play. When their exposure is limited they infuse their own world with the things they have seen on TV.

2. Give them problems to solve and traditional tools as well as non-traditional tools to solve those problems.

3. Model and explain innovation to your kids.

4. Help they learn to be flexible. To be an innovator you have to be an early adapter. You need to be familiar enough with what is out there to be tweaking it when everyone else is finally ready to start using it.

5. Tell them what you want the end result to be but resist the urge to tell them how to do it.

6. Play this would be better if. Take everyday items and ask your kids how this item could be better.

7. Make sure that they understand that our God is a creator and through sin we broke God’s perfect world. It’s through invention and innovation that we can begin to repair and rebuild culture. In doing so we can reflect God’s glory to a world that needs to hear and see God’s redemptive work in action.

Revelation 21:5

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

First steps in starting a special needs ministry.

When it comes to starting a special needs ministry or anything in life that is worth doing the hardest part is knowing where to start. The first thing that you have to do is deal with the ignorance factor. This is so huge because I believe ignorance is one of the biggest reasons churches don’t have a more comprehensive ministry to families with special needs kids.

How do we overcome ignorance?

You will never have a burden for something that you know nothing about. I don’t care who wins the Stanley cup or the Gray cup but I can watch the Oakland A’s play the Twins and hang on every pitch. Why? Because I understand and am a passionate advocate of baseball. When it comes to special needs ministry I think most children’s pastors are in up to their neck in typical family problems. The thought of special needs anything paralyzes us and we don’t know what to do. We are afraid to say the wrong thing to do the wrong thing and hurt families that are already facing huge obstacles. What changed for me. My pastor went to conference and met Craig Johnson. He came back and said he wanted to start a ministry to kids with autism. I will be honest I was less than enthused. Why? Ignorance. A few weeks later I had the privilege of sitting with Craig at a conference and hearing his story I was moved beyond words. Hearing him talk and describe his passion for ministering to special needs families was moving. It was also very personal because Craig has a son who is on the Autism spectrum. I went back to my room and just sat there overwhelmed but this time it was a different kid of overwhelmed.

Craig said a few things in that meeting that really stuck out to me and helped me with my ignorance problem.

1. He said The divorce rate is much higher for families with special needs
2. Parents are looking for you to solve all their problems they just need hope.
3. How can we create such amazing environments for typical kids and totally neglect the families of kids with special needs.
4. There is amazing favor that comes when you minister to kids with special needs, because I believe you tap into the heart of Jesus.

As we talked Craig began to tear up he said that as a parent with special needs it was overwhelming to him that we would even consider doing something for kids that have special needs.

I walked away from that meeting not condemned not defeated but challenged encouraged and freed in a way that I have never felt before in my life. I may never understand the difficulty that parents with special needs face but the more we understand the heart of God for the overlooked and began making steps toward doing something God always supplies. We have started the conversation at two of our campuses and I have been amazed by the closeness of the autistic community. I have also been amazed by the eagerness of people to be involved.

The first step to defeat the ignorance issue is to sit down with someone who has a special needs child and ask how can I help. I know many of you have left comments on my earlier post talking about how a ministry to special needs kids will take time, money and talent from your ministry to typical kids. I don’t agree. From what I have learned and am still learning anything we can do will make a difference. The scope and size of the ministry will be determined by your senior pastor more than you as a children’s or family pastor. If you senior leadership is behind it the scope widens. If it something you as a family pastor or kids pastor are pushing I say push and do what you can do. The families in your church need hope. There more people in your church that are affected by Autism and other disabilities than you will ever realize.

How do we defeat ignorance.

1. Read
2. Talk to people like Craig Johnson and  Amy Fenton Lee
3. Do what you can do.
4. Ask questions.
5. Step into the pain because these kids are worth it.

Why you need more change in your life.

The past few weeks our church has been experiencing a good bit of change. It’s a good thing. God is really up to some amazing things. Everyone in our church has been affected one way or another. As I have been processing the change in my life here are some of my thoughts.

1. We all avoid change because it’s painful, status quo is so much easier.
2. We like things the same because the same is safe, the same is controllable.
3. We trust God WAY more when we are doing things we are not comfortable doing.
4. We accept problems as unchangeable because we see them the same way for far to long. Fresh eyes, fresh faith changes things.
5. We pray more about the small things in times of change.
6. We are more aware of our enemy in times of change.
7. We are more willing to give God the credit in times of change.

I am so grateful to be part of a team that is flexible enough to be willing to change what needs to be changed and wise enough to recognize those things which are and should always remain unchangeable.