MONTHLY ARCHIVES: January 2014

Conversation Starters: Love

Posted on January 29, 2014 by Karah

Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family.

When we seek to get right with God or grow closer to Him, our human tendency is to do something to gain God’s attention or favor. The uniqueness of Christianity—its very foundation—is that because of the love of God, Jesus has already provided everything necessary for us to be right with God.

Concept: Love

Preschool

John 21:1-19

LIFE POINT: Jesus showed His love to people.

How did Jesus show His love for His friends?

How does Jesus show love for you?

LIVE IT OUT: Talk about how Jesus showed His love for His disciples. Remind your child that Jesus wants him to show love to others. Make a list of people you know who have needs that your child could help you meet. Involve your child in planning to do a loving action for at least one person.

Kids

John 21:1-19

LIFE POINT: God loves His children unconditionally.

How did Jesus show His love for His disciples?

What did Jesus tell Peter to do to show his love for Jesus?

How can you show love for Jesus?

LIVE IT OUT: Help your child recall a time when his actions required that he be removed from a situation or restricted from playing a game. Talk with him about how it felt when the privilege was restored. Remind your child that Jesus’ love for him is unconditional and that while we can disappoint Jesus, He will never stop loving us.

Students

Romans 5:6-11,18-21

THE POINT: Even at our worst, God loves us.

How often do you tell your student you love him?

How has God’s love for you impacted your faith?

Have a conversation around this quote:

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”1 —Billy Graham

LIVE IT OUT: Share with your student an area of your life in which you have struggled to obey God.

Ask your student how you can pray for him or her this week.

Ask if you can help your student do something for your neighbors.

Encourage your student with the plan he has to reach out to your neighbors.

1. Michael J. Akers, Enriching Christian Doctrine and Character (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009), 39.


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Conversation Starters: Forgiveness

Posted on January 22, 2014 by Karah

Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family.

Despite our desire to sin, people want to do good. Most religions promote this as the way to salvation. When we keep the rules that are set before us, we feel good about ourselves. But none of us can perfectly keep a set of rules, much less God’s perfect law. Fortunately, Christ lived the perfect life and stood in as a substitute for us! Through His death, we are forgiven and able to have a relationship with God.

Concept: Forgiveness

Preschool

Matthew 18:21-35

LIFE POINT: We forgive others because God forgives us.

How did Jesus teach Peter about forgiveness?

Do you know someone you can forgive?

LIVE IT OUT: Help your child think of people she knows. Talk about how she treats those people and how they treat her. Emphasize that Jesus taught people how to treat one another. Jesus wants us to love other people.

Kids

Matthew 18:21-35

LIFE POINT: We forgive others because God forgives us.

How did Jesus teach Peter about forgiveness?

Is it easy to forgive someone?

Who is someone you can forgive?

LIVE IT OUT: Ask your child to name a few things she has done that required forgiveness. Remind her how good she felt once she was forgiven. Encourage your child to remember Jesus’ teachings and to forgive others.

Students

Romans 3:21-28

THE POINT: Jesus offers you His gift of a right relationship with God.

Discuss with your student when you began to follow Christ.

Have a conversation around this quote:

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”1 —Jerry Bridges

LIVE IT OUT: Read and discuss Romans 8:37-39 with your student.

Ask your student to help you find a way to remind yourself of the truth in Romans 8:37-39.

1. Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 19.


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Conversation Starters: Hope

Posted on January 15, 2014 by Karah

Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family.

Find the right person to compare yourself to, and you can come off looking really good. Set your standards low enough, and you’ll come out on top. But how do you fare when God sets the standard? God’s standard of perfect righteousness is the only one that matters. Regardless of how good we might think we are, we fall far short of His standard. The Bible makes this clear, but it also makes the solution clear.

Concept: Hope

Preschool

Matthew 14:22-33

LIFE POINT: People need Jesus.

How did Jesus help Peter?

What are some ways Jesus helps you?

LIVE IT OUT: Ask your child to think of something he wants to do by himself but must have help to accomplish (for example, driving a car). Help him know that some things are ones we cannot do on our own and that we need Jesus to help us.

Kids

LIFE POINT: Jesus offers hope for the hopeless.

What hope did Jesus offer to Peter?

What hope does Jesus offer to you?

How can you help others know that Jesus offers hope?

LIVE IT OUT: Talk with your child about some situations that seem hopeless. Share that to the world many things might seem hopeless but that because of Jesus, we can have hope!

Students

Romans 1:16-17; 2:5-11; 3:9-12

THE POINT: You can’t meet God’s standard on your own.

Tell your student about the last time you wanted a “do-over”.

Ask your student how he feels about the standards you’ve set for him.

Have a conversation around this quote:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”1 —Martin Luther King Jr.

LIVE IT OUT: Ask your student how you can be praying for him as he surrenders different areas of his life to Jesus.

Later in the week, remind your student that you are praying for him as he learns to trust God with everything.

Ask your student if he would like some suggestions about how you can reach out as a family to help others.

Help your students set a specific date to take action to impact your community or a group of people for Jesus.

1. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter From a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.],” African Studies Center. Available from the Internet: http://www.africa.upenn.edu.


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Conversation Starters: God’s Big Plan

Posted on January 8, 2014 by Karah

Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family.

THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: In the story of Joseph we find one of the strongest examples of family conflict within the Bible. The story holds nothing back. It is messy. We get to see the dirt of a godly family. Favoritism, hatred, and envy defined them. Yet, even in the midst of that kind of family dysfunction, God had a plan. The story of Joseph is a reminder that families who are experiencing conflict can find comfort that God works even through the darkest moments to create an ultimate good.

Concept: God’s Big Plan

PRESCHOOL

Genesis 37; 45; 50:15-21

LIFE POINT: God always has a plan.

Why were Joseph’s brothers mad at him?

What did they do to Joseph?

What did Joseph tell his brothers after their father died?

LIVE IT OUT: Help your preschooler remember a time when something bad happened to a family member. Talk about how you felt and when the feeling went away. Help them understand that God always has a plan for your family.

KIDS

Genesis 37; 50:15-21

LIFE POINT: God is in control of all things to make His big plan happen.

Why were Joseph’s brothers angry? What did they do?

What were Joseph’s brothers later afraid that Joseph might do?

Why did Joseph tell his brothers not to worry?

LIVE IT OUT: Help your child think of a person with whom they have trouble getting along. Encourage them to draw a picture or write a journal entry describing what they thinks God taught them or wanted them to learn at the time.

STUDENTS

Genesis 37:5-8,26-28; 50:15-21

THE POINT: God is at work even in the midst of conflict.

How do you react to a change in plans?

What kind of behavior tends to create conflict?

Have a conversation around this quote:

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”1 —Charles Swindoll

LIVE IT OUT: Read Hebrews 11 with your student.

Pray for your student to understand how Jesus uses conflict to help them grow and build their faith.

Ask your student if they need help finding something to remind them of God’s work in their life.

Point out ways you see that God has been at work in their life.

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Bedside Blessings: 365 Days of Inspirational Thoughts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 148.


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Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

Posted on January 8, 2014 by Phil

a post from Jeff Strong’s blog meredisciple.com

It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Over the next several days I’ll be expanding on each of these in succession, but for now, here is my top ten mistakes Christian parents of teens make:

 

10. Not spending time with your teen.

A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.

Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.

9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.

The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.

Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

8. Spoiling your teen.

We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).

There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:

a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.

Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.

7. Permissive parenting.

“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.

Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).

6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.

Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.

Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.

5. Holding low expectations for your teen.

Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.

For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from www.meredisciple.com (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.

4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.

This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.

I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.

Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.

3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.

While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.

As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.

Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)

2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.

It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.

Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?

Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.

1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.

When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”

What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not guarantee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.

You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.

To order a copy of Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders, click here.


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Conversation Starters: Step In

Posted on January 1, 2014 by Karah

Use these discussion starters to help foster a spiritual conversation with your family.

THE BIBLE MEETS LIFE: Making bad decisions leads to consequences. No one is immune. But how do you respond to someone while he or she is making bad decisions? At what point is it right to get involved? God uses peacemakers to draw people to Christ. While many followers of Christ are known more for what they are against than what they are for, peacemakers choose their battles well.

Concept: Step In

PRESCHOOL

1 Samuel 25

LIFE POINT: Sometimes we can help others get along.

What did David’s men ask Nabal to give them?

Why didn’t Nabal help David and his men?

What did Abigail do to help?

LIVE IT OUT: Equip your child to speak up for others. Give them an opportunity to practice speaking up. Talk about times when they might see a friend being unkind to another person. Role-play some ways they could speak up and remind a friend that Jesus loves us and wants us to love one another.

KIDS

1 Samuel 25

LIFE POINT: Step in to help friends get along, just as Jesus stepped in for you.

Why did David think Nabal should help him and his men?

Why didn’t Nabal help David?

What did Abigail do?

LIVE IT OUT: Help your child learn to be a peacemaker. Encourage them, when they see friends in conflict, to step in with calm words and actions to try to resolve the situation.

STUDENTS

1 Samuel 25:14-17,23-28,32-35

THE POINT: Step in to keep a bad situation from getting worse.

How do you respond when you hear “mind your own business”?

What prevents us from stopping a “train wreck” in someone’s life?

Have a conversation around this quote:

“When you confront a problem you begin to solve it.”1 —Rudy Giuliani

LIVE IT OUT: Encourage your student to really challenge how he or she thinks about helping to resolve conflict.

Pray for your student to be a peacemaker who draws others to Christ.

Share a time when you helped make peace with others.

1. “Rudy Giuliani Quotes,” ThinkExist  http://thinkexist.com (accessed 25 February 2013).


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