Everyday Gospel Parenting

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"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

As parents, we often think we are missing the mark when it comes to raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Maybe it's just me who thinks this, but I don't think so. In once sense, we are of course. We're all sinners, and we all we fail to be intentional with the time the Lord gives us. But I think it's equally possible that we've become too introspective and that we're missing what God is already up to in the hearts of our kids.

Aiming at Heart Transformation

When our focus is on "getting our parenting right" we can forget what our real aim is. It's easy to aim at imparting information to our kids, but that's not our goal. It's also easy to use the Bible to get our kids to behave. But if we're aiming to win our kids' hearts to Christ, then "getting it right" is less important. In fact, if our kids are going to see their need for Jesus' good news, they'll also need to see how desperately we, their parents, need him.

I probably need the truth of this post more than anyone I know. I'm much better at aiming at my kids' behavior than I am at being vulnerable and sharing my own brokenness and need. It's an attempt to bring about a spiritual outcome without living in dependance upon the Spirit myself. It won't work. It can't. We must be growing in our own faith and repentance. That's the only way to lead our kids to greater experiences of dependence as well. We can't expect something of them that isn't true of us.

Living with Intentionality and Faithfulness

We're all desperate to hear the message of Christ's cross and resurrection applied to our brokenness every day, and that leads to my second point. Our kids need to see us live out this desperation intentionally and faithfully. That is, they need to see it more than just on Sunday. They need to see their parents studying God's Word and crying out in prayer. Our kids need to experience us repenting of sin, especially when we've sinned against them. They need to see us valuing our church community and modeling service. Why? Because being desperate for Jesus is easier caught than taught.

This kind of everyday gospel parenting requires a level of intentionality. As Dallas Willard wrote, "Grace isn't opposed to effort. It's opposed to earning." We must be intentional with practicing the means of grace for our own personal devotion. And we must be intentional with family devotion, our living room proclamation of the good news. Develop habits and rhythms that work for your hectic schedule, and, if you are a pastor or ministry leader, also for the families you lead. 

It’s important, because transformation will only come when our kids see the goodness and greatness of God (Ps. 100:5; 112:2). Don't lose heart (1 Cor. 4:1-6). Be encouraged and energized. You can live the gospel life before your kids. In fact, I believe that you will, because he gives us his strength and power in the midst of our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). You might be surprised to notice that he's already at work.

Reflections on Our First Meet-Up

Last week we gathered in Louisville, around the Together for the Gospel conference and had a quick meet up with like minded Children's, Youth and Family Ministry people who were in town. We were supposed to hear from Sam Luce and Marty Machowski. We ended up hearing from Sam Luce and Gil McConnell, due to a family emergency on Marty's part. The topic of the event was spiritual vitality.

As I drove home from Louisville, I reflected on what was shared. We ended our time on the topic of training and leading. Here are two statements--one from each of the guys--that stuck out to me:

Sam: "Know your church's culture, what they value. Know your pastor and where his passions are. Know your mission."

Gil (quickly following up on what Sam said): "We need to able to make the connection between the mission of the church and how it relates to the mission of our ministry for our people."

I was challenged by what these guys said. How well do I know the calling and mission of my local church? How intentional have I been about relating that vision and calling to the specific ministries I lead? Do I know the core convictions and values of the church where I lead? And are those convictions integrated into every aspect of what I do in children's, youth, and community ministry?

How about you? Have you spent time recently reflecting on the core convictions of your local church and how those convictions relate to what you do? 

The meet-up is something we'd love to do again. It was an excuse for the three of us who blog here to be together. That doesn't happen as often as any of us would like. When we do get together again, what topics would you like us cover? Feel free to leave that suggestion in the comment section, or, if you got to attend, leave a word of thanks below for Sam and Gil. 

Called to Encourage

If you are a ministry leader of any kind, then at least part of your job is to recruit, train and encourage to volunteers you lead. This is not only part of your job, but it's also a command.

Ephesians 4:12 tells us we're responsible "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." As a ministry leader you are called and commanded to be equipping the people of your local congregation for the work of ministry. This is THE way healthy churches grow. Why is this case and how do we as leader do it? This post will attempt to answer both.

The Why

Why are pastors and leaders called and commanded to equip the saints? The simple answer is found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). We are called to make disciples. Part of making disciples and part of being a disciple is helping those discover and exercise the calling God has placed in their hearts. God uniquely gifts each believer in a way that will be a benefit to the church.

Part of discipleship is helping people realize the necessity and value of serving. They need this is valuable to their growth, as well as those to whom those these gifts are serving. The believer grows through the process of preparing to serve; the sharpening of their skills and knowledge, and those they are serving learn through being taught within the context of community and relationships. Many have said that all ministry is relational. Equipping people is the way of making this reality.

THE HOW

So how do we "equip the saints"? I've found this simple formula helpful:

Good vision + curriculum + good training = encouraged teachers.

A good vision is worth putting your all into in order to see it accomplished. This vision needs to be communicated regularly and can always be refined. Helping those who serve see the aim will allow them to see how it's accomplished as well as how they themselves need to grow. The communication of this vision should be a regular part of any training we do.

Good curriculum, in my opinion, teaches the whole counsel of God in a gospel-centered way. There are quite a few out there. Four of the best I've seen are: Children Desiring God, The Jesus Storybook Bible, Gospel Story for Kids, and Gospel Project for kids. There are of course many more good choices (if you know of others, please leave a comment for me to check out). I like these because they introduce kids to Jesus, not just teach about Him.

Parents looking for good stuff to use for family devotions should check out books like: Long Story Short and Old Story NewExploring Grace Together, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, and Big Truths for Young Hearts. If those aren't your thing, try catechisms like: the New City Catechism app, or the North Star Catechism (co-authored by our own Jared Kennedy). These are short, simple and fun helps that draw kids closer to Jesus. There are of course more out there (... and again if you know of them, please leave a comment for me to check out.)

Good training, comes down to a simple formula: I do, you watch; you do, I watch; you do. This is a simple way to see how to do what's being asked of them as well as how they can add their own unique personality to it. I don't want to just throw a new teacher or helper (or even parent) to the wolves of expectation without giving them a picture of how to successful accomplish the goal.

If these steps are followed, the result will be an encouraged teacher. Whether they are a new teacher or helper, a new parent or a parent that is new to family devotions, they will feel not only encouraged but equipped to fulfill what God is calling them to do; so much so that they will delight in the challenge.

With the proper encouragement, teachers will see ministry less as duty to perform and more as a blessed calling. And that is the way God designed it.

Family Friday Links 1.30.15

Here is our weekly list of things we've been reading online lately:

LifeWay Kids had a great post on lessons in leadership. It reads, "Begin praying for a vision for what God wants to do in and through you. Gather people together and allow them to dream with you." Leaders, this is the kind of list that is easy to read and challenging to put into practice; but it worth the effort.

The Verge Network had a post on the importance of re-delcaring vision. In it, the author says, "Leaders often fail to remind because they 'don't want to say the same things." They feel then need to bring something fresh, something new. This is a mistake. We all need reminding." This is another great reminder for leaders.

Dale Hudson wrote a post on Children's ministry influence over a lifetime. It this post he writes, "The fruit you see now is just the beginning. When you influence a child...you influence them for a lifetime." This is a great encouragement for teachers and helpers who serve in your ministries.

KidzMatter had a post how much a volunteer's time is worth. It reads, "The study suggests that a volunteer's time is worth $20.85 per hour ... When I really thought about it though, I had to admit $20 for an eternal investment is pretty cheap." This should remind us leaders to be more thankful for the volunteers who sacrifice so much time and energy to see the kingdom of God proclaimed.

What have you been reading online lately? Leave us a comment and link and we will check it out.