Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Our Father” – Lord’s Prayer Faith@Home Activity

Hillary and I are leading our daughters through a series of Faith@Home activities  focused on the different phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. We say the prayer at dinner in an effort to train them to pray. This week we focused on the phrase “our Father” for our Faith@Home activity. We thought we would pass on what we did so you can try it with your children.

Warm Up – Who’s the Daddy Game

  • We started by playing a guessing game with the girls
  • We said the name of a person or cartoon character and they had to say who that person’s dad was. Norah, our four year old, didn’t quite get it but Anna, our almost six year old, guessed all of them but one. I stumped her by asking who Cinderella’s dad was.

Discussion Questions

  • Now that we have talked about some dads and their children, we are going to talk about the Lord’s Prayer and the first part of it.
  • What is the first part of the Lord’s Prayer? (Our Father)
  • Who is our Father? (real dad and God) – at this point Anna came to the conclusion that God is our “second dad”
  • How is God our Father? (He created us)
  • Read Galatians 3:26 – “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”

Application

  • What are some things your dad does with you?
  • How is God like your dad? (he wants to spend time with us – he loves us – this is assuming a healthy home environment)
  • What are some ways you can spend time with God? (talk to him – read stories from the Bible – Anna said she wants to listen to her worship music in her room)

Activity

  • Have your children draw what they think God looks like
  • As you draw remember that God is your Father
  • How does that change what you are drawing?

Christian Citizens

Christians are “called not just to live in the city, but also to love it and work for its shalom – its economic, social and spiritual flourishing…. The citizens of God’s city are the best possible citizens of their earthly cities.”

– Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City

 

Great Parents, Lousy Lovers

Ever feel like you are just managing your marriage and family life? When you get time alone with your spouse, do you spend it arranging the week’s schedule and talking about what needs to be done with the kids? When was the last time that you had a conversation with your spouse where you didn’t talk about the kids but invested in your relationship?

As parents it is so easy to have a kid-centric marriage. Our children are important but we our first priority should be our marriage. Think about it. What happens when we focus so much on the kids that we forget about our marriage? Our kids leave for college and we don’t really know who our spouse is anymore.

So how do we get out of this management lifestyle and truly thrive in our marriages? Hillary and I have been reading Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham’s insightful book “Great Parents, Lousy Lovers.” In the book, Smalley and Cunningham explain that the best gift we can give our children is a healthy, thriving marriage. They go on to provide some helpful principles and tools to help parents focus on their marriage.

I dare you to pick up the book and read it as a couple. It is possible to be a great parent AND great lovers.

Building Mission Outposts

I don’t like church buildings. A good number of church buildings sit vacant during the work week except for office use and the occasional Bible study meeting. We spend millions on church buildings that are just for church people. This doesn’t seem to be a good use of hard earned money from the congregation. My dream for a church is a network of house churches bringing grace, justice and beauty back into our communities. You don’t really need a building to do this.

So when our church began the discussion of building a second campus, I was skeptical. I didn’t want to be embarrassed working for a church that spent millions on making church people feel comfortable.

For the last few years First Presbyterian Church in Champaign has been operating as a two campus church. We have a campus downtown at the original church building and our second campus meets in southwest Champaign at a school. Each campus has a specific style of ministry that goes beyond just worship style. Interestingly these campuses even draw different types of parents. Each campus is intergenerational and committed to mission in the surrounding neighborhoods.

As we do ministry at our southwest campus we have realized that there are limitations to meeting at a school. It is hard to have other programming for the community during the week when we don’t have access to the building. There are also perception issues both inside and outside the church as to the long term commitment of the church when there isn’t a building. We want to plant ourselves in our southwest Champaign neighborhood and lay down roots.

For the past two months I was a part of a task force that looked into possible long term options for our second campus. We looked at renting other commercial space, synergizing with other organizations, continuing to meet at the school and building a new building. We came to the conclusion that the best option was to build on land that we owned next to the school.

So now the question for our brainstorming group is what to build. Before we decide what type of building we must first ask the question, “What are the mission objectives that we want to accomplish in the building?” This will drive what we end up building. The last thing this area needs is another “church building.” There are five other churches right around the corner from our property. We don’t want a building that sits vacant during the week or is full of church people. I have always believed that church people need to get out of the church building and the church building needs to be full of people from the community. But how do we do this?

Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, writes about his early opinions against church buildings in this insightful article. After experiencing what happened in his church’s building he concludes that church buildings can be “mission outposts” in communities. They can be places where the community comes for support, encouragement and a place to hangout. A third place for people to get connected.

This journey to figure out what a mission outpost might look like in southwest Champaign excites me. I love projects that are inconceivable and impossible unless God is the one guiding and directing it. I’m along for the ride!

Parenting and Marital Happiness

What effect does parenting have on marital happiness? Most of us quickly say that being a parent is the most wonderful, transcendent experience we have ever had. If we were honest with ourselves, being a parent is tough and if we aren’t careful, our marriage can suffer as a result of having kids.

In our Parenting 101 class last night, Hillary and I showed this video from the TEDWomen Conference in which Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman describe four parenting taboos.

The fourth taboo they discuss is the following: “you can’t say your average happiness has declined.” They show the following graphic from the book “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert.

From "Stumbling on Happiness"

According to this graphic, our marital happiness nose dives when we have kids and doesn’t go up until our kids go to college. Yet most parents say they are happy and satisfied with kids. On Griscom and Volkman’s website, Babble, Elizabeth Mitchell dives deeper into this myth of happiness that parents have. Mitchell argues that as we become parents our framework of happiness changes. She quotes Gilbert as saying,

“It turns out that if you average all the moments, they balance out a little on the negative side. Being a parent lowers your average daily happiness. But average daily happiness isn’t all there is to be said about happiness. Indeed one could make the case that average happiness across a day isn’t what we’re trying for. As human beings, it’s not our aim. It shouldn’t be our goal. What we should be looking for is special transcendent moments that may even come at the cost of a lower average. In my own experience that’s probably not a bad description of a day with a kid. You know, lots of ‘no’s,’ ‘not yet,’ ‘not now,’ ‘ask me later,’ punctuated by brief moments that are sublime. As social mammals, these are the moments that give us great, great pleasure. That moment when the kid looks up and says, ‘I love you, Daddy.'”

How does this relate to your experience? How has your framework of happiness changed as a result of having children? Next week in our Parenting 101 class at church Hillary and I are asking the question, “How go from just managing our marriage to flourishing in our marriages?” So often if feels like we are just managing schedules, date nights and kids’ activities. How do we change that?

Youth Ministry and Success Anxiety

As a youth pastor I suffer from “success anxiety.” I am anxious that the numbers in our youth ministry aren’t keeping up with the big youth ministries in town.  I worry that if we don’t attract more students to our youth group, then people will wonder if I am the right person for the job. Maybe if I did more all-nighters or had a cool, young worship leader, then we would enjoy success.

Honestly the choice for my staff and I is between success based on numbers or success Jesus’ way through discipleship. Discipleship is not cool, hip or attractive. When Jesus called people to radical discipleship many turned away and stopped following Jesus. If we look at Jesus’ ministry on earth, he was a failure. He started with thousands and left with only eleven. Youth pastors would definitely lose their job if they oversaw an attendance decline like this.

How does Jesus’ model of discipleship impact youth ministry?

I believe that the first step is acknowledging that success according to Jesus is much different than the world judges success. Success is not hundreds of teenagers hanging out drinking coffee and listening to Coldplay-esque worship. Success is students who are committed to loving God and loving their neighbors for their lifetime. Ultimately, life change like this does not have as much to do with us but what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of our students. We create an atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to move and model lives that are devoted to Christ.

What do you think? How does Jesus’ model of discipleship change the way we do youth ministry?

Grace Based Parenting

Amy Chua’s article “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” in the Wall Street Journal has erupted a firestorm of dialogue about cultural parenting strategies. In her article, Chua makes the argument that the tough, no-nonsense parenting of Chinese parents is far superior to the laissez-faire, self-esteem focus of American parents.

Chua admits to generalizing Eastern and Western parenting styles to prove her point. The point at which I disagree with Chua is not these generalizations, but the assumptions she has about success. How do we define success for our children? Chua seems to define success as A’s in school and confidence. What happens when our children don’t succeed in school? Is our love for our children conditional on their success in school?

Confidence is a good thing but is it the ultimate trait we want to see in our children? As a follower of Christ, my hope is that my daughters will find their confidence in God, not in their own abilities. I don’t want them to give into the Disney lie that they can achieve anything they believe. I do want them to understand that their gifts and abilities are God given and all the glory goes to God.

I want my daughters to experience grace from my wife and me. The same grace that God shows us. His love isn’t based on what I do or my success. He loves me because I am his child. God loves me even when I willfully go against his desires. His love is unconditional.

So I don’t want to follow the Chinese paradigm for parenting or the American version. I want to pursue parenting my children as God the Father loves me.

 

 

Finding Fault in Tucson

Why did Jared Lee Loughner decide to unleash hell in a Tucson grocery store? Who is to blame for this tragedy? Everyone has their scapegoat for why this happened.

What is it in human nature that wants to find someone to blame when tragedy hits? Placing blame is as old as the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve for eating the apple. When we find someone else to blame does it help us cope with tragedy? Maybe part of it is that we don’t want to believe that humankind is depraved at the core.

I have more questions than answers after tragedies like this. I do know that quickly blaming things like Palin’s targets, gun laws and an angry political climate don’t get to the core issue of why tragedies like this happen.

Man Up: The Bedroom

From trendir.com

Sex is a taboo subject in church. Sure there are pastors that encourage church members to have sex with their spouses every day for the month of February. The pastors giving these sermons are male which shouldn’t come as a surprise. I wonder how the wives in those congregations feel about the challenge. These sermons are the exception though.

We don’t talk about sex in church. The only message is to wait until you get married to have sex with your spouse. I would argue that we need to talk more about sex at church because it is an important part of marital intimacy (but not the only part, men). I have chosen the bedroom for obvious reasons as we talk about how men can take leadership in their marriage.

How can we experience sex in the pure, euphoric way that God intended it? How can we as men lead our wives sexually?

Honesty

Sex is a taboo subject in too many Christian marriages. Honesty is the foundation of a healthy marriage and this means we need to be honest with our partner. It is hard to start conversations about sex with your spouse but the more you talk about it, the easier it gets. Men, we need to take the lead and start this conversation. Just start with the question, “How satisfied are you with our sex life?”  Encourage your spouse to be brutally honest. Don’t defend yourself. Just listen.

Submission

It is sad to me that some women think their role is to submit to their husband whenever he wants it. This is not the biblical idea of submission. Husbands need to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). This radical, selfless love is different than the male chauvinism that is present in some Christian circles. Men, how often do we serve our wives in the bedroom? Have we ever asked our wives what they liked and followed through on their desires? I dare you to serve your wife in the bedroom and see what happens.

Purity

All right men this is where it gets tough. Is your wife the sole object of your sexual desires or is she competing with others? In this oversexed culture, temptation is everywhere. Advertisers know what gets us going. Just watch ESPN and count how many of the commercials show off alluring women. It is said that 95% of Christian men struggle with pornography and the other 5% are lying. Pornography ruins the pure sexual experience that God created for us to enjoy.

We need to be honest with our wives if we struggle with pornography. If you thought it was hard to talk about sex with your wife, it is even harder to talk about our struggles with pornography. But we need to be honest with our wives. The love and grace that can come when your wife loves you in spite of your struggles can be transformational in your life. It will take time though. Find other men who can keep you accountable to your commitment to purity. Get an internet filter or accountability software like x3watch. Encourage your pastor to dedicate one Sunday as Porn Sunday (see video below). We have to work together to find freedom from the chains of pornography. The health of our marriages depends on it.

It is easier to talk about sex with our buddies than it is with our wives. We need to man up and lead our wives in the bedroom. The journey is tough and awkward at times, but a pure, honest sex life is worth the journey it took to get there. You will not have any regrets.

Man Up: The Kitchen

From kitchenrenovations.net

For some men, the kitchen is the room of the house that we fear. I attempt to cook but it never turns out well.  At our house, the kitchen is my wife’s domain, not mine. My wife has a system for everything in the kitchen and I have yet to figure it out. Our kitchen is the place where food is prepared and it is also the place where we eat together. It is here in the kitchen that I want to give you two simple suggestions for leading your family.

Serve Your Wife

Because my wife has a system for everything, my natural inclination is to get out of the kitchen as fast as I can. I would rather watch the news than wash the dishes. I would rather be served in the kitchen than serve. If I am going to lead my family well, I must begin by serving my wife in the kitchen. For me this means helping get drinks for our daughters and cleaning up after the meal. I will be the first to tell you that this doesn’t happen all the time.  I am still a work in progress but I am trying to lead by serving in the kitchen.

Praying at Meals

My daughters are watching me and emulating me. They catch more than I realize. When we sit down for dinner, we always pray before we eat. My daughters are hoping for speedy prayers as they have their forks in their hands ready to go. This is a perfect time to model praying with my daughters. Am I thinking about what I am saying or robotically talking to God? I have always wondered what God thinks when we robotically utter our dinner prayers. Recently our family has been reading the Lord’s Prayer together before dinner. Read more about that here.

These are two simple steps for leading your wife and children at home. Start small and you will begin to see a difference in how your wife and children relate to you. Experts say sex begins in the kitchen which leads us to our topic for tomorrow, “The Bedroom.”