The Lesson I Learned When My Son Wouldn’t Fall Asleep

last night was supposed to be a night where i got caught up. or, at the very least, it was supposed to be a night where several items on my “get it done or you’re screwed” list got checked off.
a little background: bedtime routines for us have been a tad difficult lately. they seem to last longer than they should and the stall techniques coming out of our 3 year old right now are impressive. i swear sometimes it feels like she’s collaborating with her little 3-year-old friends at MOPS on how to outsmart me after 8pm.
but for some reason… and we’re still trying to figure this out… adelina decided to put herself to bed last night. and quite a bit earlier at that. once we discovered that she was already out and sound asleep, and after we got over the shock of it all, shanna and i agreed i’d put cooper down while she went to Starbucks to enjoy some downtime without the kids. he’s the easy one at bedtime right now. piece of cake.

this was a very rare night, and i was very excited.

[now hold on – don’t judge…]
if you have little kids in your house, you know that you can love them to infinity and back and enjoy spending hours upon hours upon hours with them. in fact when you’re at work away from them you crave that time with them more than anything. but at the same time, stuff has to still get done. the reality is that having little kids means there’s MORE to do and LESS time to do it in. so, on those rare nights when the kids happen to go to bed early, there’s a party happening inside you.
[thanks for letting me clear that up.]
as i was saying, this was supposed to be the night to get crap done.

except it wasn’t.

he wasn’t going down. it was like someone slipped about 54 coffee beans in his apple juice. i sang. i rocked him. i cranked the sound machine up. but the stinkin kid just wanted to smile, laugh, and show me how many things he could climb.

i should have seen this time with him as an opportunity.

an opportunity…
…to connect together with no one else to distract
…to play legos
…to listen to him jabber and watch him learn
…to shape his character
…to influence his heart
…to love more deeply
but i didn’t see it that way in the moment.

i saw him as an obstacle, not an opportunity.

i didn’t engage or interact with him; i kept him from getting into my stuff. i didn’t sit on his level; i sat on mine. i didn’t see it as an opportunity to connect deeper than normal, but as an obstacle to get around.
finally, about an hour and a half later, as i’m finally rocking him to sleep for real, it all hit me.

i don’t want to treat people like obstacles.

i definitely don’t want to treat my family as obstacles.
i want to see every person i interact with, whether it’s planned or whether it’s spontaneous, as an opportunity. if they’re on my calendar, it’s certainly easier to do this… but what about the people that just “drop by”?
i guess the thing i’m thinking today is this: maybe God allows certain people to interrupt our plans because he knew we wouldn’t ever “plan” to connect with them on our own. will we see them as a person to love on and build into simply because they’re there, or will we see them as an obstacle to get around so we can get back to our list?
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X3Church: Demonstrating A Healthy Sexual Ethic To Children

this was originally posted at xxxchurch.com, and can be found here.

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As youth pastors and youth leaders, we’re always thinking of better ways to equip our teenagers to be successful when they leave the nest of our youth ministries.  Within weeks of graduation, our seniors will be inundated with opportunities, temptations, and situations that will test their faith and determine the trajectory of their futures.  How can we set them up to have the best possible sexual ethic as they enter their young adult years?
Here’s some things we’re trying in our context; would love to hear what you’re doing in the comments section below!
  • We’re committed to leading by example. Teens can see inauthenticy in adults a mile away, and they know better than anyone that actions speak louder than words.  When a youth leader can sit down with a teenager and share specific things they did LAST WEEK to fortify their purity, a powerful connection is made.  We’re always looking to recruit adult leaders from our church who are honest and real about their struggles; it’s critical that our teens are surrounded by people willing to relate to what they’re going through with honesty and vulnerability.
  • We’re trying to talk about it in large group more often.  If you’ve never been accused of talking about sex too much in youth group, you probably aren’t talking about it enough.  It’s constantly running through their minds, their bodies are primed and ready for it, and whether we like it or not, it’s the language of pop culture.  The Bible has a lot to say on it as well, so we’re trying to bring it to the front of the room!  We recently did a great series on sex, love, and dating called “Facebook Official”, which you can find over at www.downloadyouthministry.com
  • We’re consistently bringing it up in our small groups.  Whatever your small group ministry looks like – whether you have groups that meet in homes during the week, or as an element tagged onto the end of your crowd program, small groups are a great environment to go deeper on issues of purity.  Take your group through books like Pure Eyes or a video curriculum like Pure Sex by Simply Youth Ministry.  Small groups are also a great environment to teach students how to hold one another accountable, and you can help by pairing them up.  If they’re using X3Watch on their computers and mobile devices, ask them to add you to their account. 
  • We’re trying to resource our parents so they can do the heavy lifting themselves.  Most parents are deeply concerned about their kids’ sexual ethics, and don’t want to hand the entire responsibility over to the church (nor should they).  As pastors, we can help resource and empower them to have successful discussions with their kids.  If you’re like me and you haven’t yet parented teens through their teenage years, you may feel inadequate in this realm.  One thing we’re going to be trying soon for our parents is a meeting on this topic, and I’m going to invite 4-5 different parents who have navigated this stuff successfully to participate in a panel discussion.  I will moderate, but the real teaching will come from these seasoned and successful parents and will give practical ideas to the other parents in the room.
  • We’re trying to do more than just drop a book in a teen’s lap There are some great books and resources out there for kids and teens – way more than when I was in high school.  Don’t ever discount the mentoring role you as a youth worker can have in the life of a student when you work through a book together.  Instead of just handing them a book to read, what if you threw a $10 Starbucks card in the back of it, and invited them to talk about it with you when they finish?

Empowering Parents To Leverage Your Amazing Youth Talk

ever since attending the simply youth ministry conference this past march, specifically a session with jim burns from homeword, i have been trying to build a stronger partnership between our student ministry and the parents of our teens.  there’ll probably be more posts rolling out soon related to this topic, but here’s one super easy thing we’re trying now to strengthen this partnership. 

i’ve always tried to let our parents in on what we’re generally teaching (the series name and description, and the topics addressed each week).  but my sense has been that the info getting to them before the actual talk wasn’t specific enough to actually empower them to do anything with it. i know not every parent asks their kid what they learned at youth group, but some do. what if we made it a point to give them a specific direction in which to aim their questions, and would that in itself begin to build trust?

though i know in a general sense what topics and scriptures i’ll be teaching weeks and months in advance, it’s usually not until a couple days before the talk that i have the content flow and specific outline points finalized.

here’s what we’re trying. i usually preach on sundays. so on friday right after i finalize the message and send the notes to print, i type up a quick email to our parents with specific info on this weekend’s message.  here’s the one that just went out this past week:

Jealousy is a powerful force, and if you’re human, you’ve experienced its pull from time to time.  This Sunday we’re going to be challenging our JH and HS students to recognize it’s destructive potential and offer a solution when they feel it creeping near their soul.  We’ll begin the message by talking about that awkward moment when you see a 3rd grader strutting around with a better phone than your own (As a 20-something I’ve felt this before!), and we’ll acknowledge the many students that either don’t have one yet or lost some of its privileges lately.  We’ll spend most of our time looking at the story of Cain & Abel in Genesis 4, and how Cain’s example of unresolved jealousy took more away from him than than just his brother.  We’ll touch on the fact that when jealousy leads us to anger, it leaves us in fear, in isolation, and with lots of regret.  Some supporting Scriptures we’ll reference will be 1 Corinthians 3:3 and Galatians 5:19-20.  We then plan to wrap up the message by offering the teens a solution: to make it a habit of celebrating other people’s success.  Whether it’s a teammate who excels on the baseball field, a classmate who scores higher on her SAT’s, or a friend with seemingly more freedom – celebration crowds out jealousy.  When we can no longer celebrate and get excited about the great things in someone else’s life, we’ve probably been breathing in a whiff of jealousy’s fumes.

Please ask your son/daughter about the message and let us know what we can do to help you take it deeper with them.

–Pastor Cory

I’m not sure if we’ll do it forever, but we’re trying it now. here’s some encouraging feedback we received from a couple parents after last week’s email went out:

“Hi Pastor Cory – your note about this upcoming Sunday was what we were envisioning as a great parent’s tool… I think your detailed agenda for Sunday will be a great help in opening up dialogue after the service – and maybe even before as we parents can do some ‘prepping’ to get the soil ready for you to plant!”

“Hi Pastor Cory, Based on the email you sent out below, I have challenged our whole family to read all of those scriptures this week, and then at the end of the week we are going to have our own small group to discuss our thoughts and feelings about what is being said.  Thanks for sharing what the messages are on…”

what other ideas are out there to better position our weekly teaching for more parent/student interaction and growth?

They Just Want To Know That You’re Being Responsible

was looking through my notes from college (this one, to be exact) for a fellow youth pastor friend the other day, and stumbled upon a few nuggets of truth from one of my classes that has proven to be super helpful. i remember running into so much tension between different people during my first couple years of ministry. if i just understood that all they wanted was to know that i was being responsible, it would’ve softened many tough conversations.

SENIOR PASTORS want to know that you are responsibly leading the ministry to spiritual maturity.

THE BOARDS (deacon, elder, trustee) want to know that you are responsibly stewarding the church’s money, time, salary, and people resources.

PARENTS want to know that you are responsibly shepherding the physical & spiritual needs of their kids.

i’ve learned that it’s not just a matter of being responsible. it’s about communicating enough with these three groups so that they know you are being responsible. unfortunately, when there’s poor communication, people tend to assume the worst, and when that happens it can get ugly.