Dysfunction Among Disney Families

I bet over 90% of the readers of this blog have some sort of dysfunction in their families, whether divorce, crime, abandonment, or whatever.  Everyone has a story; it's just that most of us are "good" at covering it up.

Well, it's good to know that things are the same even in the "happy" world of Disney.  Here is a social worker's perspective of Disney characters.  My top five favorites, in order:
  1. Snow White (Snow White & the 7 Dwarves) – dead mother, raised by abusive stepmother and neglectful father
  2. Bambi (Bambi) – raised by single mother who is murdered, has never met his absent father
  3. Elliot (Pete’s Dragon) – orphaned, runaway from abusive foster parents, adopted by single mother
  4. Simba (The Lion King) – father murdered by uncle, raised by 2-male heads of household (meerkat and warthog)
  5. Nemo (Finding Nemo) – dead mother, raised by single overprotective father

Which on the list do you particularly like (not in a morbid way, of course)?

10 Skills Every Child Should Learn Before Leaving Home

Don't be thrown off that this list is on a blog by a home-schooler.  In truth, we ALL "home school," and we all need to be equipping our children for the real world.  Here are the 10 that the author gave:
  1. How to plan a balanced menu.
  2. How to cook a healthy meal.
  3. How to sort and wash laundry.
  4. Balancing a checkbook.
  5. Balancing a budget.
  6. Filing taxes.
  7. How to fill out a job application and write a resume.
  8. How to change a flat tire.
  9. Basic household repairs.
  10. How to love God and their family.

How are you doing with this list?  What other things would you add?

    Bombing My Kids' Spiritual Upbringing

    Have you ever thought, "I am the worst parent ever." 

    I have.

    If you have, too, read this article from Stuff Christians Like.

    Breaking the Chains of Generational Poverty: Project Kenya

    One thing I am learning is that kids tend to think about their own little "world," whether they live in Greenville or in Allendale or wherever.  That is why I am really excited about Project Kenya, being sponsored by Grace Church Children’s Ministry

    Generational Poverty
    We will be working with our church’s partner in Kenya, Bernard Kabaru, in a ministry that he and his church are already doing. In a country where the average laborer earns about $2 per day, the concept of saving or investing for the future is nearly unfathomable.  Families struggle to just make it week-to-week, instead of being able to figure out a way to break the generational cycle of poverty.  Whereas immediately help in the form of food and supplies can provide a temporary relief, it does not lead to sustainable and long-term change.

    Enter Project Kenya
    The goal of Project Kenya is to raise money not just for immediate supplies, but for resources that will provide for sustainability.  We don’t want to just help families in the short-term, but to provide a means where their futures can be radically different.  Here are some things that can be provided for families:
    • A chicken, whose eggs will provide nourishment for the family, or can be sold for extra income.
    • A dairy goat, who produces milk for the family’s nutrition.
    • A vegetable garden, which again produces much-needed nutrition, and whose surplus can be sold in the market.

    For sustainability, we cannot just provide resources that are consumed immediately.  We must provide the opportunity for people to generate their own resources.  See this video:

    Enter Allendale
    How does this fit in Allendale?  At the Boys & Girls Club (or follow us on Facebook), the children can earn points or tickets for things like doing homework, winning competitions (individual and team), being helpers, etc.  These tickets can be saved in order to buy fun prizes from our club “store.”  

    But starting last week, and until the first week in March, they can choose to donate their tickets to Project Kenya.  Staff from Grace Church said that they would take these donated tickets and give money to this project.   Our goal is to have the Club’s members raise $400-worth of tickets and points. 

    My goal is to help these children in Allendale think beyond their own needs and wants, to expand their worldview, and to have a chance to change a family’s future.  We will give weekly updates to the members, and continue to encourage them to be a part of this project.  And when we are done, we will celebrate how many families we have touched, thousands of miles away. 

    Thoughts or questions?  Leave it in the comments.

    Related Link:

    Martin Luther on Childrearing

    “This at least all married people should know.  They can do no better work and do nothing more valuable either for God, for Christendom, for all the world, for themselves, and for their children than to bring up their children well.”

    Why Public School -- Part 2

    Continuing from Part 1 of this interview, I want to make sure that you know that the Keevers' choice in public schooling is not about Kelly getting a break (as this cartoon implies).  From all the time we've spent with them, it is clear that they are very strategic in all areas of their lives, especially how they parent their children.  From my observations, I have seen public school denigrated in "church" circles, where it can be viewed as only remaining choice for those who can't afford private school and those who do not feel equipped for homeschool.  But whatever option parents choose, they need to be prayerful, strategic, and engaged.  I'm thankful for families like the Keevers that model this.

    5.  How do you see this choice being something that has an impact for Christ's Kingdom?  We, with the love of God, get to love on teachers and students, supporting and encouraging them. Real life issues are exposed and presented at school that we are forced to deal with at home. It causes us to be even more intentional at home with our kids.

    6.  What has God taught you through all of this?   To trust Him. That no schooling option is perfect. To seek Him.

    7.  What do you want to remind families who also have children in public school?  That you need to be involved in whatever schooling option you choose for your family. That you want to be speaking with your child daily about what they are being taught, what their friends are doing and talking about.

    8.  What do you want to share with families who chose another schooling option?  Public school is not the "bad" option. We are strategically placing our children there. No one is "better" for their choice than those who public school. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children regardless of what schooling option they choose.

    9.  Anything else you want to share?  Public school is very strategic for our family. We talk each summer about the decision. We have been blessed in so many ways from our kids' school. All summer we pray that the Lord would put us in the class where our student and us can glorify Him best. There have been Augusts when we had to remind ourselves that that was our prayer when we see teacher assignments or fellow students. We tend to want to take back the control we gave Him and do it ourselves. But He has always known best!

    Questions or thoughts?  Leave it in the comments. 

    If you missed it, check out why one family enjoys homeschooling, and why another chose private school for their children.

    Related Links:

    Allendale Partnerships

    See the Grace Church Pastors Blog for last week's post on our Allendale Partnerships.  Besides what we are doing here (see Mission: Allendale page), this article will give a bigger overview about how Grace Church has been working.

    An excerpt (my emphasis added):
    Grace Church’s involvement in this rural county goes beyond resource provision. The above trips will allow Grace Members to create relationships and build community with the residents of Allendale County. We know for long term change to occur where generational poverty exists, participation by the local residents in the process is imperative. We must avoid paternalism and offering relief where rehabilitation and development is the appropriate action. Therefore, efforts will include selection of a summer intern from Allendale, placing two Grace Students in Allendale for the summer, and identification of an entrepreneur to participate in the Nasha lending ministry.

    To learn about specific ways that you can be involved, see this post

    Related Links:

    Why Public School -- Part 1

    We have already looked at why one family chooses to homeschool and why another chooses to utilize private school for their children's education.  But you may have noticed in our poll that "public schooling" is the most common education choice for this blog's readers.  So, I'm excited to present Jeremy & Kelly Keever, who have all four of their children (2 biological, 2 foster) in the public school system.  We have been friends with this family for years, and I have learned a lot from them, especially since I've had the pleasure of working alongside Jeremy for 4 years while on staff at Grace Church.  I appreciate them taking the time to answer these questions; there is no one I know who could have better represented the missional perspective for public school.

    1.  Tell us about your family.  Tell us about your family, including the ages/grades of your children. Biological children: Calahan, 8.5 (3rd grade); Harper, 6.5 (1st grade). Foster children: Mikalah, 5.5 (K5); Michael, 4.5 (K4).

    2.  Why have you chosen the schooling option you did?   Years ago, when we first made the decision, we worked through all the options. To the best of my memory at that time it was:
    1. We couldn't afford private.
    2. We did not think homeschooling would be beneficial for our family on many levels. First, it did not match with Kelly's gifts and skills. Additionally, we knew right away that both of our kids, especially Calahan, needed to be around students because of his personality. 
    3. We had great public school experiences growing up. 
    4. We were excited to build relationships with non-believers in the public school. 
    5. We really wanted our kids to be around children who were not just like them. We value cultural and economic diversity for many reasons, and quite honestly this is not found in our neighborhood, church or community. 
    6. The Lord has given our biological children some relational and verbal abilities that we think can most adequately be developed in a public school environment.

    3.  What do you like most about the option you chose?  There are so many reasons.  We love our kids school! Our kids love it. They have made some neat relationships with other students and teachers. We have been able to love on teachers and staff as a family. 

    4.  What do you wish was different?  What do you feel like your children may miss out on?  We wish that they were able to sit under solid bible teaching along with the other curriculum during the day. 

    Be sure to read the rest of the interview.  

    Related Links:

    Dads Changing Diapers

    Hannah was only the second baby that I ever held, and she was the first baby that I changed a diaper for.  I was good.  And I did not behave like these slackers:

    What If My Child Doesn't Want to Go to Church?

    image courtesy of MarilynJane via flickr
    Has your child ever said, “I don’t want to go to church”?  We have been fortunate to be a part of a great church, with a fun and meaningful Children’s Ministry.   Even in the process of our family moving to Allendale, Hannah wondered about what it looks like to drive 3 hours each way to still be at Grace Church worship services.  Our kids are almost always excited to be in their programing.  Almost always. 

    How to Respond
    But each of our children, on more than one occasion, has expressed resistance to going to their programming, and one of them has expressed it plenty of times.  Below are some talking points that we’ve used to engage our children’s hearts on this matter.  It’s important to note that this is how we framed the discussion with our children at the preschool and young elementary age.  For preteens and teenagers, most of the principles are the same, but the conversation would probably need to go differently.
    • “Well, you are going with us.  That’s not an option.  But I want to hear why you don’t want to go.  I want to dialogue with you about why we go, and why you need to go as well.”
    • “You need to go because Mommy and Daddy are going, and you have to come with us, since you cannot stay home alone.  Church is important to us, to be able to worship God with others, and to be able to serve others.”
    • “Since Mommy and Daddy are going to serve others, this is your opportunity to serve others, to put them ahead of what you want.  The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 that we should consider others better than ourselves.  This is your way to serve, by going even when you do not want to.”
    • “Going to church [or, as our family sometimes calls it, “church meeting” – since we, not buildings, are the church] is a way that you can learn more about God’s love and His plan for you.  By not going, we would miss out on an opportunity for God to speak to and teach us.”

    Principles for You to Remember
    Besides these talking points, here are some basic principles for you to know and remember about the value of the local church.
    • Church is God’s primary agent of redemption for this fallen world.  People may make a case that family is the primary agent, but God’s word (especially the New Testament) really seems to indicate that the church can have a much broader impact, as each person uses his or her gifts. 
    • Your child is not the leader.  Do not give him or her the power to decide.  Leading them does not mean making them happy.  Church is good for you and for your marriage (if applicable).  (See more in the post about Oneness.)
    • Make sure you are going for the right reasons.  Consider why you are a part of a church.  Maybe your child is reflecting an attitude or behavior that he perceives in you.  Are you going because of “tradition” or because “it’s a good thing,” just going through the motions?  Your child needs to see you engaging in multiple areas of spiritual growth, not just church.  See this post on 7 Ways to Grow in Faith.

    Has any of your children ever made this comment, about not wanting to go to church?  Any other pointers or principles you can add?

    Related Links:

    Pouring in Good, Clear Water

    "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."  
    Matthew 10:42

    Here are some statistics for Allendale:

    You may have heard about the negative statistics about Allendale. But we can't focus on the negative. (That's hard to hear and understand if your a pessimist like me.)

    Want to know more? Read the full post on the Mission: Allendale blog.

    Facebook: A New Kind of False Intimacy

    In the wake of my recent posts on Real Friends versus Virtual Friends, I just read an article called Facebook: A New Kind of False Intimacy, on the site Counseling Solutions.  The author is coming at this from the perspective of dealing with the messes that can be created through Facebook.  Of course, Facebook is morally-neutral, but it can be an unhealthy outlet and can become "the new dating context for the dissatisfied. It provides all the accouterments of dating without the commitment or expectation of marriage."  That is, it can be an escape from your real life, to a world where you can ignore responsibility and be who you want to be.

    For some, the answer may need to be quitting Facebook, especially if this has captured you as an idol does.  But most can safely continue, in wisdom.  Here are some of the author's suggestions for how to use Facebook as a redemptive tool:
    1. Ask your spouse or friend what they think about your Facebook updates.
    2. Give your spouse your log-in info.
    3. Link or share Gospel-centered sites with others.
    4. Share quotes that God has used to encourage you.
    5. Seek to encourage your friends.
    6. Keep in touch with friends and family members.
    7. Learn the security settings and use them.
    8. Guard your heart (and your time) regarding Facebook games.

    Allendale Video

    This video was shown in our worship service this past weekend.  It's a glimpse into how God is working through Grace Church to build partnerships there.

    How can you be involved?  Here are four ways:
    1. Pray. God has to work to rescue the next generation.
    2. Give.  To Grace Church (write "Allendale" on the memo line), and also with supplies for the Boys & Girls Club.  Our funding comes almost entirely through donors, so we have to make supplies (from paper towels, to coloring pages, to craft supplies) stretch.  If you want to support us directly financially (the job with the Boys & Girls Club is part-time), email Jeff Randolph (jrandolph@gracechurchsc.org).
    3. Follow.  Become a Facebook friend of the Boys & Girls Club - Allendale County.  I'll mostly update through the Mission: Allendale page on this blog, so subscribe via email or RSS feeds.  We may also start some kind of e-newsletter; if you want to receive it, leave a comment with your email address (or email me).
    4. Come.  Consider what it looks like for you to visit Allendale and serve this community.  You would be most blessed if you could even spend a few hours down here.  Some of you have already, and I'm very thankful.

    Related Link:

        Why Private School -- Part 2

        We'll continue from yesterday's post from the Geary family, on their choice to send their children a private school.  This family utilizes this option as a tool to come alongside their overall parenting strategy, instead of abdicating spiritual responsibility to the school officials.  Let's hear what they have to say:

        5.  How do you see this choice being something that has an impact for Christ's Kingdom?  As a family, we believe that God has placed us at Christ Church to be a light to those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus.  He has given us many opportunities to share our faith and to live it out.  I lead a Moms in Touch prayer group at school each week that prays for teachers and their prayer requests, as well as students.  We try to be strategic (as God leads) in the relationships and families we pursue.  There is no doubt that He has us there for a purpose.  We are always amazed at how God is working at Christ Church.

        6.  What has God taught you through all of this? God has taught us that He is in control above all else.  No matter what our plans are, His are always better.  Christ Church is not a perfect place and we and our kids have to learn to handle outside pressure, temptations and our own sin nature, with God’s help.  How we respond to challenging situations is most important.

        7.  What do you want to remind families who also choose private school?  Be open-minded to other families who have chosen a different route.  Don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes.  And don’t be afraid to discuss the differences.  Especially, don’t assume kids who are homeschooled are isolated, religious zealots! Or that kids in public school are not receiving a quality education.

        8.  What do you want to share with families who chose another schooling option?  Ditto, plus don’t assume that all people who send their kids to private school are rich, snobby and materialistic!

        9.  Anything else you want to share?  Steve and I have considered homeschooling at various times throughout our children’s education, but each time we have returned to the belief that Christ Church is the best place for them to receive an excellent education and have the most opportunities both now and in the future.

        Questions or thoughts?  Leave it in the comments. 

        Stay tuned for next week as we interview a family whose children are in public school.  (Also, check out why this family enjoys homeschooling.)

        Why Private School -- Part 1

        We have known Steve and Keri Geary ever since we taught their third child, Marion, when she was five (she's now in 5th grade).  They've "returned the favor" by being our daughter's Small Group Leader for the past two years.  We have known each of their children to varying degrees, but we know that they are full of character, life, and love.  That's why I was thrilled to have them answer the following questions, so that we can see into their hearts and minds a little more.

        1.  Tell us about your family.  We have been married for almost 19 years and have four children: Eliza age 16, 10th grade; Paul, age 13, 7th grade; Marion, age 11, 5th grade; Diana, age 9 1/2  , 4th grade.  Steve works full time and I stay at home, managing the house and volunteering at school, church and in the community.

        2.  Why have you chosen the schooling option you did?   We chose to send our kids to private school for several reasons.  Both Steve and I graduated from small private schools and we believe in the quality of a private school education; we wanted our kids to have that same experience.  We wanted our children to attend a school that reinforces the values and character that we teach at home, and has individualized attention and lots of opportunities.

        3.  What do you like most about the option you chose?  We love the community at Christ Church; it is a very positive, close-knit place, with administrators, faculty, parents, students and alumni heavily invested in making it a better school each year.  Our children are challenged academically and loved by faculty and administrators.  While not evangelical, students do have chapel at least once a week, where they hear God’s Word and have the chance to worship Him in an Episcopal service.  We also love the large variety of opportunities available to our kids at school.  They have the chance to play almost any sport, enjoy a rich arts program and be involved in student government and a variety of clubs and electives.  Many of the activities they have done would not be available to them in other schooling environments; for example Eliza would never have been able to play JV basketball at a public school!  Also, all four take private music lessons on campus during the school day. 

        4.  What do you wish was different?  What do you feel like your children may miss out on?  We feel our children miss out on having friends of different ethnic and socio-economic groups; it is a small school and they are with the same children year after year.  Christ Church is fairly homogeneous, with a fair number of international students.  There is pressure to conform and an emphasis on materialism by some families.

        Be sure to come back tomorrow to read the rest of the interview.

        Related Link:

        Culturally Engaged: Adopt-A-Child 2010

        Be sure to check out the Culturally Engaged website, from Grace Church.  More specifically, you can see the CE Regional page for more information about Grace's work in Allendale County.

        For a recent example of how Grace Church has been partnering with the schools in Allendale, check out the blog, for the post Adopt-A-Child 2010: Moments of Delight.


        Though this blog is intended for equipping the next generation of children, I also recognize that most of my readers are married.  Effective parenting is best expressed through a healthy and dynamic marriage relationship.  That is why we regularly discuss topics on the topic of marriage

        Developing a Language for Marriage
        A couple of years ago, Grace Church put together some material for marriage.  Much of it started with material from Men’s Roundtable, and then grew into a sermon series.   I’m thankful for the staff and elders who developed this, and helped frame a language that we can use.  

        In this language that was developed, oneness is the centering concept, the core.  But these other four things are expressions of and catalysts for oneness; (more full explanations can be obtained if you purchase the One DVD series):
        • Uniqueness
        • Redemption
        • Adventure
        • Intimacy

        Oneness is a spiritual truth that we live into our present reality.  This is what defines marriage.  But to live out oneness in my marriage takes work and it requires fighting some internal battles. 

        Oneness and Parenting
        How does this apply to parents?  Your marriage needs to be centered on each other, not your children.  Child-centered parenting destroys oneness.  Pastor Bill White explains, 
        “One of the great idols of our generation is opportunity for children.  . . .   We enslave ourselves to give opportunities to our children, opportunities they can’t even fully appreciate.   And we destroy our marriages in the name of pursuing the best education, traveling soccer team, volleyball coach, music instructor for our kids.”

        Here are three more things to remember about parenting well in the context of marriage:
        • Children are a product of oneness, not the cause of it.
        • The most important thing we can do for our kids is that they know that our marriage is priority.
        • By putting children as the center, you are putting a burden on them that they are not intended to bear.

        Growing in Oneness
        Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets GraceReturning to the topic of marriage, Bill White closes this teaching by giving three questions that will help you think in terms of living and growing in oneness (these are “borrowed” from Love That Lasts).
        1. Does your marriage find its primary purpose in God?
        2. Does your marriage find its home in a local church? 
        3. Does your marriage find its hope in the Gospel of grace?

        Teaser Videos
        For each sermon topic, there was a short video by an elder and his wife, and a staff member and his wife (including yours truly), discussing how that topic plays out in their marriages.  You can see all the videos at on the Grace YouTube page.

        If you are married, or plan to be someday, I encourage you to buy a copy of the One series.   Or, do you have a copy already?

        Related Links:

          Leading Your Children in Spiritual Formation

          A common desire for Christian parents is helping their children grow spiritually.  There are tons of resources out there, so the goal of this blog is not to provide another list.  Mostly, I want to just give you ideas to think about and evaluate, along with some things that we have tried.

          One guideline to remember is that how you engage your children must always depend on their age, maturity, and personality.  I've noticed that with many parenting blogs and sites, the term "child" is used indiscriminately, without respect to age.  But obviously, parenting a preschooler requires very different techniques and applications then a pre-teen, although the principles may remain the same.

          Here are some thoughts for how to help your child grow spiritually in a some different disciplines (speaking to parents here; for children's ministry programming, there would be parallel but some different applications):
            An Introduction To Family Nights: Family Nights Tool Chest (A Heritage Builders Book : Family Night Tool Chest Book 1)
          • Bible knowledge.  There are a number of Bibles and Bible storybooks that are great for kids.  In our experience, we've continually changed how we taught our kids the Bible, depending on our kids' ages, what others recommend, and what we feel like doing.  At different times, we have read straight from the Bible (through a book like Genesis, Exodus, or a Gospel account), Bible storybooks, devotionals, and activity-based materials (such as Family Nights from Heritage Builders).   Sometimes it has gone really well, and sometimes not so much.  The important thing is just to do something.  Doing something -- anything -- even if it's not great, is better than nothing.
            • Giving.  At a young age, you need to dictate how much they give and in what proportions.  As they get older, they need to have more decision-making, but you still play a big role in directing them.  Read more in the post How Can I Teach My Child to Be Generous?
            • Relationships.  Especially at a young age, you control their level of community.  At every age of life, community is important; there is deep and lasting value in being connected to others.  Many moms take part in play groups and invite their child's friends over, which is a great way to show hospitality.  But don't underestimate how church can play a role.  Be at church consistently, and be there for two services (to serve and to worship) if possible.   We have seen this blessing in our children's lives, as they have been with nearly the same group of friends virtually every week, for 3.5 hours, for at least 3 years now.  This is more than most adult small groups meet, and they have benefited from being in this level of community.
            • Serving:  Let them see and hear about you serving others.  And intentionally look for opportunities to serve with them.  They need your example and your direction.  And when they are older you will be blessed as you see them desire to serve others.

            Related Links:

            A Serious Reader

            You may know that I am a big fan of reading books.  There is something to be gained in almost every book, even if they are not well-written (in my opinion) or if I disagree with much of the author's perspective. 

            But, I'm not nearly as intense as this guy . . .

            Two Ordinary Joes at Lunch

            I wrote a couple weeks ago about one of our biggest needs being community in Allendale.  We've been blessed with great community having been formed in Greenville over a long period of time.  One thing we have seen is that community doesn't have just one form.  The best community is that which comes in multiple forms, simultaneously.  Here are types of community that we've been blessed with:
            • Community Group that meets during the week throughout the year
            • Other close friends with whom we can be authentic
            • People we've known through short-term Bible studies
            • Elders and other church leaders whose leadership and authority we have been under
            • People we serve and volunteer alongside
            • Neighbors that we feel comfortable to hang out with, just having fun
            • Mentors that we only meet with once or twice per year, but who share wisdom

            And we know that we need all these forms of community wherever we go, and we've been praying for it (and thanks to those of you who have been, too).  But during my first week in Allendale, God surprised me by dropping it right into my lap.

            Joe Mole, outside of the community center in Fairfax
            Joe Mole is a pastor that Grace Church has been partnering with in Fairfax (the second biggest town in Allendale County).  At the core, we (Grace and our family) view life and ministry very much like Joe.  We believe that long-lasting and meaningful change starts with the heart, not with a change of circumstances.  We believe that the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can change lives.  We believe that the Gospel can break the power of sin, and redeem what sin has robbed from us.

            The first week that I was in Allendale, I got to have lunch with Joe (only about the 4th or 5th time that I met him, though we had spoken on the phone a few more times than that).  We chatted about family, and then he said some things that marked me.  By giving me a challenge, encouragement, and a warning, he was showing the love and community that I desperately need.  This is a sampling of what he said:
            • Challenge.  "Don't be busy as a bee.  We don't need you to just buzz around.  People are going to ask you to do a lot.  You are going to have to say, 'Let me think about it.'  And if I see you just being busy, I'm going to tap you on the shoulder and tell you to stop."  Just a few weeks earlier, I was sharing with leaders at Grace that I was concerned that I would let myself get caught up in too many things, that I would have a hard time knowing what to stay out of.  I'm glad that Joe willingly put himself in a position to hold me accountable.
            • Encouragement.  "I see in you a lot of what Paul saw in Timothy."  Timothy was probably a 20-year old pastor of a new church.  For Joe to call me a "Timothy" was a huge and surprising compliment.  And even better, I now know that have a "Paul" in Allendale, who will pour into me.
            • Warning.  He nearly choked up as share a personal story of when he began to do ministry in this area, when his kids were young.  "When I dove in to this ministry to change the community, I almost lost my family, my kids.  But with my wife's support and love, and with lots of time, I had to regain the trust of my kids."  I could totally see myself doing this same thing, neglecting my family for the sake of ministry.  Then Joe added, "If you gain this entire community and lose your family, don't you dare tell me that you are successful." 

            After our discussion, we both agreed that the words he said were from God, as they were exactly what I needed as we move into this mission for our lives.  And throughout the rest of that afternoon, whenever I thought about our conversation, I remembered it with tears (yes, tears) of joy, knowing that the Spirit was at work in my life, for my benefit.

            I am thankful for a God who uses ordinary "joes" like us for His purposes.  And I am thankful for a guy like Joe Mole who is willing to show me true love and community.

            I hope you have some "ordinary joes" in your life, too.

            Related Links:

            Recommended: What Did You Expect??

            What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of MarriageI have already said that What Did You Expect?? (Paul Tripp) is the best marriage book I've ever read, so much so that I am reading through it for the second straight year.  Going beyond the level of marital skills, Tripp reminds us that before we can succeed in "horizontal" relationships (such as with our spouse), we must focus on the "vertical" one (with God).  Any hope in my marriage can never rest on my own skills or my spouse's marriage, but in the redeeming power of grace of our Creator and Savior.

            For us, this book has led to some great and much-needed (though very hard) discussions.  God has used this resource to expose our hearts, to help us see so clearly how we idolize ourselves, instead of worshiping God and loving each other.

            If you are married and do not have a copy, consider buying it as a Valentine's Day gift for yourselves.  Commit to reading through it together over the next few months, taking time to discuss each chapter.

            If you have read this book, can you add any thoughts (pro or con)?   Do you have another marriage book that you recommend?

            Related Links:

            Why We Homeschool -- Part 2

            This is the conclusion to yesterday's post from Kevin & Maria Weaver.  One reason I wanted them to answer these questions is because of their perspective and situation.  Kevin is a public school teacher, and he is passionate about that, but they homeschool their own children.  It is obvious that each family's needs and dynamics are unique.  A discussion on education options cannot be completely covered on this blog.  I hope that these discussion points can be a springboard to your discussions with those that you are in community with. 

            5.  How do you see this choice being something that has an impact for Christ's Kingdom?  We feel that our kids are our disciples and God's word is foundational in our school day.  This provides a strong base for our kids to launch from.

            6.  What has God taught you through all of this?   God has taught us to depend on Him and take each child and each school year as it comes.  God has taught us that this is such a short season with our children and being a part of this precious gift God has given us through the time we've had with them is priceless.

            7.  What do you want to remind families who also homeschool?  Do your homework, consult with others to help avoid unmet expectations.  It may not go the way you envision it, so be open to God's leading.  Enjoy learning with them!

            8.  What do you want to share with families who chose another schooling option?  Currently, we are very happy with our decision.  There are pros and cons to any choice.  Each family deserves consideration for their unique gifts, limitations, etc., and what works for one family (or child) may not be a good fit for another.

            Questions or thoughts?  Anything you can add?  Leave it in the comments.  Thank you, Weavers!!

            Stay tuned for next week as we interview a family whose children are in private school.

            Related Link:

            Why We Homeschool -- Part 1

            Over the next couple of weeks, I'll post interviews of families that we know, who have chosen different education routes for their children.  I hope this can be an aid and encouragement to you parents who have school-age children, as you make decisions on what schooling option is best for your family.  (You can also see our bullet point list of notes that we compiled years ago.)  Starting us off are Kevin & Maria Weaver, representing the home school perspective.

            1.  Tell us about your family.  We are a family of 6.  Our sons are 10 years old (5th grade) and 4 years old (pre-K).  Our daughters are 8 years old (3rd grade) and 6 years old (K-5).  Dad is a 6th-grade public school teacher.  Mom used to be an occupational therapist in the public schools, and now a stay-at-home mom (a.k.a. homeschooler and janitor and cafeteria worker).

            2.  Why have you chosen the schooling option you did?   We homeschool because we want the opportunity to teach our children with a God-centered education while building a deeper relationship with them.  It also provides us an opportunity to meet the individual learning styles of each child.  An unexpected plus has also been the benefit we've experienced from the conversation we've had.  Dialogue is huge for language, self-expression, and so many endless areas of learning.  In a typical classroom, dialogue is limited.

            3.  What do you like most about the option you chose?  We like being an integral part of directing our children's spiritual and academic growth.  We feel like this developmental time in the lives of our children is so key to who they become.  Our desire is for our children to be a light in this world, bringing glory to God and honoring Him.  We want them to willingly be counter to our culture and keep their eyes raised to eternal rewards.  We have a great opportunity to build their confidence in their beliefs, abilities, gifts, and knowledge.  We also like that focused instruction is maximized and we can have little wasted time.  Due to milieu in school, focused teaching time can be hampered.  We also value the "class size" of homeschooling as well as the opportunity to work more on areas of weakness and not belabor areas that come easily to them.  With one-on-one instruction, we feel confident about their level of learning and can trust they aren't falling through the cracks in certain areas.  We also like the freedom to make learning more fun, spontaneous and experiential; this includes nature walks, going to the polls to vote, or learning fractions through a recipe while cooking in the kitchen.

            4.  What do you wish was different?  What do you feel like your children may miss out on?  Our children don't get a sense of classroom/school community.  A co-op can give a small but limited experience of this. They also miss out on the chance to have to cooperate with classroom routine/structure and come under authority of someone who isn't their mom.  Group dynamics also aren't as developed due to the lack of exposure to peers.

            If you have thoughts or questions about these, please leave a comment.  If it's specifically directed to the Weavers, we'll make sure they get you an answer.

            Be sure to come back tomorrow to read the rest of the interview.

            Big Group Coaches

            image courtesy of eagle102.net via flickr
            It was a couple of years ago, in late spring or early summer, when I spoke with a fellow staff member in Children’s Ministry.  Our church had just grown to four services, over two campuses, and she was responsible for scheduling all the Big Group volunteers (drama, band, AV) for each service.  That often meant that even last minute changes came through her over the weekend, via email or phone.  

            As we recognized that our church was continuing to grow, that this responsibility that feel to her was not sustainable.  Scheduling these volunteers (probably a total of 50-60 folks) consumed about 30% of her time.  Plus, we were robbing others of the opportunity to take on a leadership role, as I described in 4 Great Reasons to Have Volunteer Coaches.   We had already been using Coaches for Small Group (classroom) volunteers, but never for Big Group; I wanted to implement Big Group Coach role.  

            But this staff person came back with me the reasons why she wanted to continue having the responsibility to schedule volunteers:
            • “We had never had Coaches for Big Group before.  Who would do this?  What all would they do?”
            • “I know who is best for each part, especially in our skits.  Someone else wouldn’t know that.”
            • “What would I do with the rest of my time?  I don’t know what that would look like.”
            • “What if it doesn’t work?  How would we undo all of this?”

            In each of these points, she was absolutely correct, and I told her so.  We had never had this role before, and didn’t know what type of person to do this, or how it would go.  And these new Coaches probably wouldn’t do as good of a job as this staff person was doing.  And I had no idea how she would use her newfound time.  But I asked her to pursue this and try it for 6 months.  If it was going horribly, we would scrap it and find another solution (like hiring a part-time person to do this scheduling).  

            We learned a lot as we moved forward.  We raised up some Coaches that were already serving on that team (band or drama) already, and some who came from other service areas.  These Coaches started connecting with their teams, and learning where everyone needed to fit in.  We had some kinks to work out, but I feel like this was one of the best things implemented in Children’s Ministry while I was on staff.

            And I knew this was true when I had chances to hear this staff person talk to people from other churches.  She always included something like, “You know what we did that made a huge difference for us?  We started using Coaches . . .”  This staff member had more time to give to developing curriculum and more time for equipping leaders.  Even better for her personally, she had some breathing room.  She rarely got any more Saturday afternoon phone calls or emails, in which she needed to figure out a solution.

            Even if your church is small, I encourage you to make steps in this direction.  Equip others to be leaders of leaders.  If you are a growing ministry and have a least a couple of dozen volunteers, you need to be planning for the future.  In the short term, things may suffer, but in the long-term this will be a blessing to you and others.

            Related Link:

            Recommended: Shepherding A Child's Heart

            Shepherding a Child's HeartNo book has shaped my parenting philosophy more than Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  As a dad (and when I was a pastor), it is always my first suggestion for parents who are asking for a resource.  Additionally, when I taught children’s ministry leaders in Kenya in November of 2007, I brought about 20 copies to give away. 

            This book offers Gospel-oriented principles that are timeless and cross-cultural.  Tripp reminds us of the truth that we parents are our child’s primary God-ordained authorities, and that our goal must be to reach their hearts.  It is not about behavior modification, but about the Holy Spirit working through us to change their hearts.

            Although the book does not give an abundance of specific applications, I’ve heard a leader say that he feels like that is one of the strengths of this book.  Often with parenting resources, we tend to expect a “to-do” list to follow, and we may begin to rely on that.  But in truth, since every family and every child is unique, it is better to depend on the Spirit and seek counsel of close community to determine specific applications.  So whereas principles can be universal, applications are not always so.

            We have used this book immensely in parenting with a Gospel-oriented perspective for when our children were toddlers through grade-school age (I’ve read this book at least 3 times), and we plan to use it as a resource through their teenage years as well.  If you do not have a copy of Shepherding a Child’s Heart, I encourage you to get one today.

            Related Links:

            A Mission for Our Family

            Ready to party
            Regarding us moving to Allendale, you may be wondering how our kids are doing.  Overall, really well.  Of course, there is some hard parts, like leaving friends and a great church.  Hannah told Elijah this over a month ago, upon learning that Allendale is 3 hours from Greenville, "Elijah, do you know how early we're going to have to leave to get to church each week?"

            But as a whole, they are also up for adventure, and they are at a good stage in life to do this.  Three years ago, Sender would have been a toddler, which is not an easy time for us to go through a big change like this.  Five years from now and Hannah is in the midst of her teenage years, when leaving close friends would get really difficult.

            Read the rest of the article on the Mission: Allendale blog.