Finding the meaning of life

Posted on August 22, 2012 by Phil

Today you are a parent of a precious child living in a world filled with thieves intent on stripping him of his innocence and purpose. Life has a way of providing experiences that can compose a toxic life narrative for a child.

Sometimes what you thought would never happen, happens. Piercing those painful days are moments that alter your child’s views of self, others, and God. And, if you’re not careful, the narrative of your child’s life will contain misplaced punctuation points. Periods instead of conjunctions. Points that stop the flow of life rather than expand passion and connections. Many times a child’s story contains truth with a mixture of misperceptions about self, the world, and God.

The truth is, life is both wonderful and confounding. Much that befalls our children is not preventable. Crises will occur.

How might your child’s view of God be falsely edited by life experiences? How can you as a parent nurture a resilient child who maintains healthy beliefs about life and about God even as he becomes acutely aware of and interacts with a fallen world?

Specific family qualities emerged from research conducted over the past 10 years at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Psychological Studies Institute in Chattanooga. More than 400 families were examined to determine the family characteristics and behaviors that produce healthy families. The research revealed that children within these families are more likely to emerge with core beliefs that serve as powerful tools to interpret life’s inevitable intrusions in a more constructive, life expanding way – interpretations that are consonant with God’s narrative. Yes, it’s a long list. But each of these characteristics contributes to a child’s resiliency in life.

A healthy family …

1. Exemplifies a strong sense of family

  • Has a sense of family unity, permanency, and history
  • Has family rituals and traditions
  • Shares meals and communicates during meals
  • Engages in leisure activities together

2. Uses clear, honest communication

  • Expresses feelings openly and without judgment
  • Discusses goals and dreams together
  • Listens carefully to one another
  • Does not act out anger physically

3. Is open and affirming

  • Engages in positive forms of touch
  • Attends to the emotional needs of the family
  • Smiles and laughs often; shares hugs and kisses
  • Praises one another in public; says “I love you” often

4. Shares a sense of mutuality and support

  • Expresses appreciation for one another often
  • Takes physical care of one another as needed
  • Accepts the eventual separation of the children

5. Demonstrates trust and accountability

  • Honors agreements and commitments
  • Insists that directives to children be met
  • Takes personal responsibility for actions
  • Admits the need for and seeks help when appropriate

6. Resolves conflict

  • Identifies, communicates, and solves problems
  • Couples complaints with positive affective cues
  • Refrains from reciprocating negative behaviors
  • Has a willingness to forgive and be forgiven
  • Resolves conflict quickly (average of five hours)

7. Has boundaries and organization

  • Evidences a parental subsystem hierarchy
  • Has boundaries that are clear, firm, yet flexible
  • Knows family members whereabouts
  • Agrees on family members roles and responsibilities
  • Outlines and enforces household rules

8. Has a healthy view of sexuality

  • Engages in positive forms of touch
  • Has effective, open communication about sexual issues
  • Is sexually attracted to one another (spouses)
  • Displays affection in front of the children (spouses)
  • Is sexually faithful (spouses)

9. Has a religious core and instills values

  • Provides for the spiritual needs of its members
  • Experiences purpose derived from religious beliefs
  • Has parents who teach a sense of right and wrong
  • Seeks divine assistance with family problems
  • Attends a church together regularly; prays together
  • Hears prayers spoken for one another
  • Views marriage as a sacred, long-term commitment
  • Believes that personal efforts can make a difference
  • Views differences as perspectives rather than mutiny

10. Shares time and interests together

  • Spends quality time together in large quantities
  • Has regular parental involvement in family activities
  • Spends ample time at home alone together (spouses)
  • Shares bedtime stories with children
  • Limits time watching television and playing video games

11. Establishes behavior control

  • Establishes clear, flexible rules
  • Provides opportunities for negotiation and alterations
  • Assigns and ensures the completion of tasks
  • Provides consequences for prohibited behaviors
  • Has routines; encourages good habits
  • Disciplines children when needed with consistency
  • Provides guided responsibility for children
  • Accepts children’s assertiveness

12. Meets basic tasks

  • Maintains a psychologically and physically safe home
  • Acquires and manages financial resources
  • Provides for proper nutrition and moderate exercise
  • Makes provision for relaxation and proper sleep
  • Maintains routine medical and dental checks
  • Has a lifestyle free of chemical addictions or misuse
  • Emphasizes education

13. Connects with the community

  • Encourages healthy relationships outside the family
  • Values service
  • Encourages children to participate in peer groups
  • Supports the child’s school activities

Examine the list in light of your current family routine and characteristic behaviors. Select just one or two items that you could implement this month, and build from that point. Research shows that the actual crises that your child will face someday is not the real problem; the real problem is how the child interprets the crises or what the crises mean to him or her.

A healthy family has the capacity to build resiliency into their children. These family structures and behaviors provide foundational experiences for the child to emerge into adulthood and find true meaning in life. Often the seemingly small patterns, such as regular family mealtimes, create healthy behavioral patterns and healthy beliefs that last a lifetime.

No simple formula exists for raising healthy children or creating a healthy family. We live in a fallen world, and we all face the thieves of the night. Yet the long-term effects of intentional acts of loving give us hope.

by Philip Coyle


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The ABCs of guiding a child’s behavior

Posted on July 25, 2012 by Phil

To assist you in guiding the behavior of the children in your ministry, try the following.

Always model Christ’s love for children and adults. Children learn Jesus loves them as they sense the adults in their lives love them. Children need to know they are loved and accepted for who they are, not for what they do or how they behave.

Be an example. If you want children to do as you say, then do what you say. If you want children to actively participate, then participate with them. Children will follow your actions more than your words.

Consistency is key. Work with the other children’s ministry leaders in your church in regards to what is expected of the children. What is expected in one ministry should be the same for others. Children are easily confused when there are different standards with different ministries.

Don’t expect too much. Children are not little adults; they are children and they need time to be children.

Explain activities before giving out resources. It is difficult for children to listen to the rules of a game while holding the equipment. Explain the rules before handing out the equipment.

Find time to know what is going on in a child’s world.

Give choices when possible, but make sure the choices are ones you are willing to accept.

Hold children accountable for their actions. Children need to learn there are results to their actions, and they may need help accepting the consequences of their behavior. This means both positive and negative consequences.

Involve men in your ministry. Children’s behavior tends to be different when there is a positive male role model in the room. Enlist men to serve in your Worship KidStyle ministry. Children need positive male role models in their lives.

Judge what is misbehaving and what are simply childhood characteristics. It is important to separate the child’s behavior from the child, and understand what are normal childhood developmental characteristics, attitudes, and abilities.

Know the children’s likes, dislikes, hobbies,interests, and so forth. Select activities that fulfill their likes.

Love each child. Children need to know there are adults who love them and want the best for them. No child should be made to feel unloved when she is at church.

Meet the needs of the children. Make sure the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the children are met. If any one of these needs is not being met, it will affect the child’s behavior.

Notice children’s “good” behavior. Catch children doing things the way you would like for them to do things. Reinforce their positive behavior.

Observe what the child’s home life is like. Children act out what they see and experience at home. Visit children in their homes, and discover what their home lives are like.

Pray, pray, and pray. This should be your first step in dealing with any behavioral issues. Pray before, during, and after the session for each child and leader by name. Pray for yourself that God will give you the peace and patience to deal with any situation which may arise.

Quickly deal with any unsafe situation.

Respect the rights of the children. Children do have rights. No child deserves to have his self-esteem destroyed because of his behavior. When it is necessary to redirect a child, make sure it is done in a manner that will not destroy the child’s self-esteem.

State what is expected. Children will live up to your expectations. Let the children know what is expected of them.

Take the initiative to participate with the children. Children need to see you learning with them, playing games with them, and enjoying the session.

Use additional adults when dealing with behavioral situations that may arise.

AVoid calling down every negative action a child does. It is OK to overlook some stuff.

Work with other adults. Make sure the teacher/child ratio is maintained.

X marks the spot. Be in your spot, prepared and ready when the first child arrives.

Yelling accomplishes nothing. Lower your voice, and the child will lower his.

Be Zealous for children. Stand up for them, and be their voice. When they know you are on their side, they are more likely to do what you ask them to do.


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Conversation Starters: Center of My Belief

Posted on July 18, 2012 by Phil

Colossians 2:8-23

fullness over emptiness; substance over shadows; relationship over rules

Conversation Starters

How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:

For Preschoolers

• Read a Bible story book together. Talk about the pictures. Point out words and letters. Why are you happy God gave us the Bible?

For School-Age

• What’s your favorite book? Why?

• Why is it important to know how to read?

• What is your favorite Bible story? Why is it important that we read the Bible?

For Students

• Why do you believe what you believe about Jesus?

• How would you respond to someone who thinks believing in Jesus Christ is wishful thinking? Where would you get your facts?


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The priceless purpose of fatherhood

Posted on June 27, 2012 by Phil

Following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Resolution for Men, by Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick, and Randy Alcorn. This book, and The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, expand on the message of the Sherwood Pictures film Courageous, challenging Christian families to embrace the power and purpose of fatherhood.


God created fatherhood with an eternal purpose: to reveal and represent Himself. He did not simply realize that earthly fathers were like Him and then decide to call Himself our Father. On the contrary, He eternally existed as God the Father in heaven and intentionally created the role of fatherhood on earth to reveal who He is and to show us the nature of His relationship with His Son.

Courageous - © 2011 Sherwood Pictures Ministry, Inc. All Rights Reserved.All fatherhood comes from Him (Ephesians 3:14-15). Every human father is called to be a daily, physical representation of God to his children, to introduce Him to the next generation. When a child looks at his earthly father, he should be able to see these qualities of God.

  • a loving Provider
  • a strong Protector
  • a truthful Leader
  • a respectable Authority
  • an intimate Friend

This affects how a child thinks. “If my earthly father loves and cares for me, then my heavenly Father loves and cares for me. If my father means what he says, then God means what He says. If my father would die for me, God would die for me.” On the other hand, if a child’s earthly father is harsh or distant, what will the child think when someone says, “God is your Father”?

Naturally, all of us earthly fathers are unavoidably flawed. We are a long way from being like God. And yet it is part of children’s human nature to judge what they cannot see in God in light of what they can see in us.

Right now, this generation doesn’t know what true fatherhood looks like. They rarely see it modeled in the media or at home. And sadly, the result is another generation deeply struggling to understand what God is really like.

The word father means “founder, source, chief, or leader.” The father of a nation, an invention, a company, or a movement is the one who helped bring it into existence. As our heavenly Father, God is the source from which all other things come into being. In Scripture, God as Father is the first Person of the Trinity. Any time you hear the Godhead described, it is always God the Father first, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit. Jesus the Son willingly follows the leadership of the Father. And if you study the life of Christ, you discover that He always speaks the words, performs the works, and carries out the will of His heavenly Father. As God’s Son, Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. The Bible says that Jesus is the “fullness” of the Godhead “in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). So if you want to know what God is like, then just look at Jesus. He represents His Father perfectly.

How well are you representing your heavenly Father? To your son? To your daughter? That is your priceless purpose.

Both the Scriptures and statistics clearly communicate that there is no more influential person in the life of a child than his or her father. Whereas moms are priceless, irreplaceable, and needed beyond measure, they were never designed to be men or to fill the role of a dad. When the Bible states that “the glory of children is their father” (Proverbs 17:6 NKJV), it is revealing an important dynamic of how God has wired the hearts and minds of children.

They learn their identity from you.

When your kids are young, they don’t know who they are, what is right or wrong, or who God is. They don’t know how to live life. But kids naturally go to their dads for answers to their biggest questions: Who is God? Who am I? Am I loved? Am I a success? Do I have what it takes? What is my purpose in life? And if dads don’t teach their kids the truth about these things, then the world will teach them lies.

They learn their values from you.

Kids watch their dads to find what’s important. It’s a dad’s job to keep his children from having to learn the lessons of life the hard way. A father’s wise words and actions constantly reinforce the higher priorities and deeper truths of life. So if he is not there – or if he’s there but not intentional in his training and leadership – his kids will be walking through their most important decisions without the one person who should be loving and leading them the most.

They learn their worth from you.

When a child has a dad who says, “I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’m going to stand with you and always be there for you,” it changes the life of that child forever. Sons who have their dads in their lives do significantly better in school, have better social skills and self-esteem, and are more likely to say no to criminal behavior.

Similarly, when a daughter looks into the mirror, she needs to hear her father’s voice in her heart reminding her that she is beautiful and loved. As a result, girls with strong dads are much more likely to feel secure – and are much less likely to have eating disorders and identity issues or to become sexually active in their teen years. But in too many families, this is not what’s happening.

We need to rediscover God’s original intention of what our homes are supposed to be like. Families should be havens of love and enjoyment. Homes should be places of peace and purpose. But great homes don’t just happen. They are gardens that need to be intentionally cultivated and guarded. A man must let truth, love, and wise discipline become constant ingredients to his fathering. He should carefully nurture his wife, his children, and his own attitude so that his home is a place where his marriage and the next generation can grow and thrive.

That’s why we need a game-changing Resolution.

And that’s what our times are calling for.

by Randy Alcorn , Alex Kendrick , Stephen Kendrick 


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Trials and Truths for Today’s Teen Girls

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Phil

Today’s girls deal with so much — gender confusion, sexual pressure, fractured families, mean girls, just to name a few. Join us as we talk with Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan, licensed counselors who work with teen girls on a regular basis. In this Web cast, you’ll not only hear from them about what girls are dealing with but also what you can do.


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5 Questions with Melissa Wilson

Posted on May 23, 2012 by Phil

dotMOM event - worshipby Polly House

Women gather for worship at the first .Mom (pronounced Dot Mom) event from the LifeWay Women.

Melissa Wilson is an event coordinator with LifeWay Women and organizer of the .Mom (pronounced “Dot Mom”) event recently held in Birmingham, Ala. Wilson took time to answer some questions about how the event turned out.

Q. You had about 1,500 women at the event, many of them moms in their 20s and 30s. Did you design this conference specifically for them?

A. We wanted to have a conference for moms of all ages with children of all ages. It was incredible to see three generations from a family – all moms attending together. We offered speakers and conferences from young moms in their 20s all the way to some great grandmothers! Moms of all ages were represented.

Q. Why did you choose Angela Thomas, Angie Smith, Vicki Courtney and Priscilla Shirer for your platform speakers?

A. All of them have written Bible studies for LifeWay Women, so their names and work were familiar to the women who attended. All of the platform speakers are incredible Bible teachers, plus all of them are moms too.

Q. You had dozens of breakout conferences the women could choose to attend. Why so many?

A. We wanted to cover as many mom-related topics as possible. Our prayer had been for moms to walk away encouraged, energized and excited about being the mom God has called them to be.

Q. You surprised the conference attendees when you brought the Dugger family from Arkansas out on stage. Why did you bring them in?

A. They were in Birmingham working with Impact Alabama, helping to rebuild homes destroyed by the recent tornadoes. They happened to be staying at our hotel, and since LifeWay already has a relationship with them (program personalities at the LifeWay Kids conference), we asked them to stop by. We were thrilled when all of the family was able to show up and sing for us. Only Michelle, the mom, and the youngest baby were unable to be there since they were both sick.

Q. What will the next .Mom conference look like?

A. .Mom will be back in Birmingham at the Sheraton Sept. 21-22, 2012. We will have a different line up of main session speakers, but again we will have a wide assortment of breakout sessions for the moms to choose from.


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Remind daughters, ‘Don’t marry a Bozo’

Posted on May 9, 2012 by Phil

dotMom event - Jackie Kendallby Polly House

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jackie Kendall is a straight talker. She tells moms straight out, “Don’t let your daughter marry a Bozo!”

Kendall was one of the breakout conference leaders during the .Mom (pronounced Dot Mom) event, held Sept. 23-24 in Birmingham, Ala.

Speaking to a room full of women, Kendall didn’t hold back from telling them they have a great responsibility for keeping their girls safe from predatory guys.

“The greatest abuse is letting your [daughter] grow up thinking the world revolves around her,” she said. “The easiest way to make sure a girl is a Bozo-magnet is to teach her that everything is all about her.

“Is your girl growing in her love for Jesus?” Kendall asked. “Does she see that you are? Does she have a pattern of doing for others at home and at church?”

She cautioned that girls who aren’t helping other people are usually self-focused and will attract guys who are aware of this vulnerability.

“Do you know why older guys date younger girls?” she asked. “It’s because they are easier to seduce.”

She cautioned moms to step in if they see their freshman daughter dating a senior boy (in high school or college). “These guys see these younger girls as easy fruit. A girl will be all swooning and flattered that the older guy is interested in her, but you need to stop that relationship. He isn’t interested in her, just interested in using her.”

Kendall warned the women that in their roles as moms, Sunday school teachers, or any other where they are around girls regularly, they need to watch for signs of abuse in girls who are in relationships with guys.

“Remind them that sex will ruin a good relationship and sustain a bad one,” she said. “If you see a girl in a really bad, abusive (verbal, emotional or physical) relationship, there is sex involved. These precious girls get involved with these Bozo guys and get led around like dogs.”

She said girls need to be reminded that they need to require guys treat them with respect. “No sexual control before marriage means no sexual control after marriage. Fornication will lead to adultery.”

Kendall is author of several books, including Lady in Waiting: Becoming God’s Best While Waiting for Mr. Right; The Young Lady in Waiting: Developing the Heart of a Princess; and A Man Worth Waiting For: How to Avoid a Bozo.

“These girls have to know that waiting for Mr. Right is important,” she said. “What is worse than waiting? Wishing you had!”


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LifeSpan spiritual growth strategy for parents

Posted on March 14, 2012 by Phil

Parents, do you have a plan for your kids’ spiritual growth? At LifeWay, we’ve developed the LifeSpan spiritual growth strategy for children, from infants to high school seniors. Regardless of your kids’ ages, you can be confident that LifeWay curricula, events, and other resources provide targeted objectives that encourage spiritual growth with a strong biblical foundation. Bret Robbe explains how you can do all of this while keeping your family worshiping and growing together.

Watch Video


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Mission As Life: Is Your Parenting Hitting or Missing the Mark?

Posted on August 31, 2011 by Phil

It really depends upon what you are aiming for. Like most parents you long for your children to “succeed” in life. But what does that mean? Is it merely getting into the right schools, having the right grades, the right friends and the right skills so that they can get the right job?

Ask yourself this question, “Am I helping my kids develop the ‘right stuff’ from a Biblical perspective?” Are you, like an archer, carefully aiming your parenting to produce Godly children who will not only have a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, but embody God’s Kingdom values in the way they live their lives?

What can you do to help your kids develop spiritually? Merely sending them to church activities isn’t enough. Studies show that 90% of youth who have heavily participated in church drop out after 2 years in college. For many youth, the checking out begins as early as the age of 16. They find packaged religion to be irrelevant to the real world. What can you do to counter this trend?

1. Embrace God’s Kingdom agenda.

Whether you know it or not, you are now teaching them values that either conform to or conflict with God’s Kingdom. When you decide to participate in an activity that regularly interferes with spiritual responsibilities (church attendance, Bible study, spiritual service) you have taught them that personal fulfillment is more important than obedience to and fellowship with God. You are on display to them 24/7. They watch your every move, how you spend your time, how you spend your money. They listen to what you talk about. Do they see in you generosity, compassion, and a love of God and His Word? Do they see you ordering your life around God’s priorities? You are the first Bible they have read and they started reading right after birth. What have they learned?

2. Create the environment.

How does the environment of your home aesthetically and socially reflect God’s Kingdom agenda? Children swim in the environment of the home. Things dear to God’s heart can be reflected even in the way you decorate your home. Have you as carefully thought about the “value environment” in your home as you have how you have selected its decor? Think of how you celebrate holidays… what can you do to turn them into “teaching moments” that zero in on what God values?

3. Teach by using experience.

Jesus taught people by taking them places and exposing them to real life. The world and all its activity became a textbook of illustrations Jesus used to drive home Biblical truth. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to begin to serve Christ as a family. Go on family mission trips together. Serve in your local area together. God has placed gifts and abilities in your family and He expects you to use them.

The book, Mission As Life: Making the Kingdom of God Your Family’s Passion provides valuable insights and resources designed to help you raise kids to have the “right stuff” from God’s perspective. Your family is a microcosm of God’s church. God has gifted you and your children for serving Him. Doesn’t it make sense that you do that together as a family? Visit Mission As Life for family mission trip ideas and also get a copy of the book Mission As Life.

This article is a paid promotion from a LifeWay.com advertiser.


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True Love Waits – living with teens

Posted on August 17, 2011 by Phil

Something to talk about:

by Rachel Lovingood

Alarming statistics remind us that, as parents, we need to work hard to keep our tweenagers from making mistakes that can affect them for the rest of their lives. This is especially true regarding sexual issues. Tweens are developing socially, and that inevitably means interest in the opposite sex. We must equip our tweens to make godly choices, and thereby to resist the influences they constantly receive from the world around them.

Pay attention

The culture of middle schoolers is very sexual – from their music, to the television shows they watch, to their hallway conversations. If you’ve resisted talking with your tweens about sex and dating, then you’re already behind. It’s vital that you keep communication lines open so you recognize when issues need to be addressed. If you’re reluctant to speak openly with your tweens about sex, the world is more than willing to speak on your behalf, and you may not like its message.

If you aren’t sure what messages your middle schoolers have received, watch the television shows that capture their attention, read lyrics to their favorite songs, and check out the websites they surf. You may be stunned.

Read More…


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