There Are No Professional Kid’s Ministry Workers

no-professionalsIf we want to reach the children in our homes or at our church, we have to be with them. We have to spend time driving toy cars on the furniture, hosting tea-parties, and celebrating the good grades on their report cards. In short, we have to do life with these precious little souls.

There are no professional parents or professional kids’ ministry leaders. True and effective parenting and ministry happens via life on life. Organizing programs and showing up for Sunday morning services will not produce life change by themselves. Our Wednesday night programs are only worth the time and effort it takes to get them going each week when the Bible is being taught and relationships are being formed. Our programs should be laying a groundwork that is needed to facilitate communication, care, encouragement and reproof. Our activities are not the sum total of the Christian life.

This is the crux of New Testament ministry.

Think of the apostle Paul. He repeatedly encouraged believers, to “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1, 4:6; Phil. 3:17; Phi. 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:9). The pastoral letters clearly indicate that Paul diligently taught people the word of God. He was a great preacher. But Paul did not just preach once a week and consider his job done. No. He lived with the people he taught. He invested in them. He heard about their messy and complicated lives and showed them how the Scriptures could answer all of their problems. Paul knew the people he ministered to.

To be effective parents and kids’ ministry teachers, we must do the same thing. We must know what make our kids tick. We need to listen to their concerns, celebrate their triumphs, and note their weaknesses. We need to learn their hearts.

Moreover, we need to model the Christian faith for our children. We need to depend on God, make much of our savior, and be quick to repent of our sins. If we hope to reach the next generation with the gospel, we must be able to legitimately call our kids to follow us as we follow Christ.

If our parenting and ministry never extends beyond a prefabbed lesson, if we protect ourselves from getting to close to others, and if we turn our faith on and off each Sunday, we will be able to do many things. We may have great programs, we may have huge budgets, and we may have grand feelings of accomplishment. But we will not have reached and discipled anyone. We will not have cultivated the very relationships that facilitate gospel growth.

You and me are by definition needy. Unfortunately, the same is true of our kids. We are all needy. Such is life until Christ returns! If we get to know our kids and invest in us needy people, we know what will happen. Those sweet kids and their families will begin to consume our time, our energy and our money. (And yes, we should install boundaries to protect our families and our own spiritual lives.) We must be willing to sacrifice our lunch hour, to answer a midnight phone calls, and to redirect our movie budget to the local mission center. How else will people see the gospel in action? How else can we call people to follow us as we follow Christ?

Parenting: Book Review

parentingI once had a parent look at me confused. I had asked him to trace his parenting practices back to the Bible. Sure, he could point to Ephesians 6:4 and could allude to principles laid out in Deuteronomy 6, Colossians 3, and Psalm 76. But for him and for the many other parents who’ve been worn down by the daily grind of parenting, these passages feel like far too little far too late. We feel that the Bible is far removed from our experience.

And, we do not need another verse or five-step program. We need a holistic biblical solution that addresses our complex parenting needs and the complex needs of our kids with the entirety of the Bible.

Thankfully, we now have resource that will help us do just that. Sensing that parents like you and me were struggling with bringing all of the Scriptures to bear on our parenting, Paul David Tripp wrote the book, (appropriately titled) Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles The Can Radically Change Your Family. In 14 short chapters, Paul David Tripp lays out the grand scriptural principles that every parent needs to grab ahold of as they search for purpose, hope, and rest.

He writes,

Parenting is not first and about what we want for our children or form our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.”

I do not know about you, but I find this idea to be a game changer!

In his book, Paul David Tripp shifts the focus of our parenting from forcing our kids to behave and achieve our goals to the heart of the matter. He leads us away from the things that we cannot control to the responsibilities that God has given us.

Paul David Tripp shows us why our hearts slide into depression, anger, despair, harsh words, and manipulation every time we encounter our kid drawing on the wall. And then, he goes on to reveal how all of the Bible addresses our sinful heart issues and the sinful heart issues of our kids. He show us that the Bible does indeed provide hope and solutions to all of our parenting problems. We will survive if we cling to the Bible.

paul_seated_300Admittedly, not all the Bible is about yelling kids, disrespectful middle schoolers, and lying teenagers. But, all of the Bible is about helping sinners (including parents) overcome their sinful heart issues through the saving power of the cross.

Parenting was never supposed to be reduced down to a few verses. We parents are complex sinful people in need of much grace and instruction. (So are our kids.) To parent well, we need to appeal to the whole counsel of God, which addresses our depression, anger, and every other heart issue the pops up while we tell little Johnny, “NO” for the hundredth time. And it addresses every heart issue that compels our children to be who they are.

Friends, the Bible is fully sufficient for everything that “pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Paul David Tripp reminds us (parents) of this beautiful truth with powerful precision over 224 helpful pages. Of all the parenting and family books I’ve read to date (and I’ve read a lot being parent and preschool and Children’s pastor) this is my favorite.

If you are a parent, or if you are thinking about becoming a parent, or if you simply want to understand your own heart better, I encourage you to read this book. Paul David Tripp has winsomely and powerfully shown us how the Scriptures should radically change and influence the way we parent.

Paul’s Scripture infused words, have both encouraged and rebuked my heart over and over again, blessing my soul and my family.

How about you?  Are you ready to be challenged?

Click here to buy your copy today:

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New Year’s Resolutions: From Failure To Compassion

failureI do not want to get all of you new dieters, runners, and organizers depressed. But the odds of your New Year’s Resolution coming true are not in your favor. (Sorry Hunger Game Fans.) Eight percent. That’s right. According to Statistic Brain only 8% of those self-starters will accomplish their 2017 mid-night goals by 2018. In other words if you and nine of your best friends all made resolutions, there is a chance that all ten of you will fail. How’s that for 2017?  Yikes!

Change is hard. And substantial, demonstrative character change is all but impossible when left up to you and me. Sure we might be able to put aside soda for 365 days, but we cannot be nicer, kinder, or wiser on our own. Such goals always end in disappointment. Perhaps this is why 51% of us completely forgo all pretense at change and didn’t even bother to make a New Year’s resolution.

So what do all these dour New Year’s Eve stats have to do with parenting? Everything.

We tend to get angry, disappointed, and loud with our children because they fail to change. Our kids fail to understand that biting the furniture is bad idea; they fail to see that skipping their homework is foolish; and, they fail to grasp arguing over their choirs is pointless. In short, our kids refuse to change. We tell them again and again to do better, to trust more, or to listen close. And yet, they still refuse to comply to our standards, to our hopes, and to our goals. And when we have had enough, we lose it. We shout, pound our fist, and begin the lecture series anew, wondering, “Why won’t those losers change?”

Sadly, we don’t have to look far for the reason. We just have to peer inside our own hearts.

The reason our kids do not change is the same reason we cannot achieve our New Year’s Resolutions. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. We cannot change ourselves. We cannot make ourselves better people on our own. Likewise, our kids are powerless to change themselves. They are powerless to change their hearts.

When our kids mess up for the umpteenth time, we should not get mad. We should not blow up. Rather, we should extend mercy and grace as we correct them. We need to approach our children with humble hearts that our ready to forgive. As the Scripture says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Eph. 4:32. Nothing your children have done or will do, we compare to what God has done for us.

parentingGod has forgiven us. And now, we can forgive our kids over and over again. We can patiently contend with them, seeking to lead them to Christ. And though the days can appear dark (horrible dark at times) we know that we can survive, because parenting is not up to us. God is working through us. He gives us to the power to hold our tongue, to ask our children’s forgiveness for our sin, and to patiently endure our kids’ new haircut.As Pastor and author Paul David Tripp said,

If your eyes ever see and your ears ever hear the sin, weakness, and failure of your children, it is never a hassle, never an interruption, never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith, and he will reveal the need of their hearts to you so that you can be his tool of rescue and transformation. 

If we try to parent in our own strength, our parent success rate will probably resemble that our New Year’s resolutions. But if we rely upon our heavenly Father recognizing that we are sinners in need of mercy parenting smaller sinners in need of mercy, we will succeed. We will succeed in becoming more patient, kind, and wise. The more we look to Christ and meditate and him and his work, the more we will become like Christ! Are you ready to shift your focus from you and your kids to the God of the universe?