Category Archives: General Parenting
My title at the church is this: Student Ministries Discipleship Coordinator. Over the last several months, I have put a lot of thought into what discipleship actually means. At the end of the day, how would I define discipleship? Discipleship is intentionally leading someone, by example, toward a strong faith in God. In my role at church, I want to lead students toward Christ simply by my lifestyle. I want them to see how highly I value Scripture in my life. I want to model solid faith, even when life is just plain difficult. I want to teach them how to show forgiveness. I want to speak into their life and have a positive influence on their faith. But, I have learned, my role is limited. Time and again, it has been proven that these students are looking to their parents for the discipleship they so desperately crave.
Discipleship is intentionally leading someone, by example, toward a strong faith in God.
Let me give you a few practical ways to model discipleship in your home.
Intentionally Leading by Example:
- Talk with your kids about Scripture.
- Let them hear you pray.
- Ask them to pray for you (about something specific).
- Encourage them to have other godly adults speaking into their life (you may have said something of great importance to them, but the one time they hear it from someone else is when they get it).
- Days out with them promote good conversation.
- Model a good marriage for them.
- Be willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness. They need to see you model humility in your life.
- Show them what service looks like- get involved in a ministry and show some ownership and commitment to it.
- Model commitment to your church.
- Demonstrate healthy life skills (conflict resolution, managing money, tithe).
Sometimes I get surprised by the pictures a student is willing post or comments they are writing to write on facebook. Parents: Do you have access to your son or daughter’s facebook? If you are thinking “Oh no…they wont let me,” or “they freak out every time I ask.” Sounds like it’s time to delete their facebook or block it from your home with a program like net nanny. You won’t let them leave the house with people you don’t trust, why is the Internet any different?
Here is some great insight from my friend Greg Speck, “Give your kids privacy in non-public domains like a journal or private blog/file on the computer. They need that privacy, but not in a public venue because they do not have the emotional maturity, you what to trust your kids and that is great but that emotional maturity comes with time.”
This is wisdom, you should have access to their public venues; tweets, facebook, myspace, text messages, etc. You children may not understand it now but what they are writing and posting is forever. It is saved, logged, and easily duplicated.
By Dave Davitt
My children are both adults now, but one of my fondest memories of raising them was our daily drive to school each morning. My wife had to be at work very early, so I had the responsibility and joy of making sure the kids were out of bed and ate breakfast. Then, I drove them to school each morning before heading to my office.
These daily drives gave me 15 minutes of uninterrupted conversation with Laura and John each morning on the way to school. Our conversations were not always profound. We talked about what was going on in their lives and the lives of their friends, and I had time to talk with them about the things I thought were most important. I tried, in the best ways I knew, to infuse my thoughts and values into their lives.
I shed some tears when my daughter, Laura, turned 16 and got her driver’s license. She started driving herself and her brother to school on a daily basis. I missed those 15 minutes of conversation every morning and the chance it provided to stay in touch with all that was happening in my kids’ lives. I still miss those daily drives and I wish I could live those days again. I’m sure they have forgotten most of our conversations, but I believe those daily conversations influenced their thinking and helped set their direction in life and I am so proud of both of them today.
There’s a song on country radio by Trace Adkins called “Only Fishin” that talks about the time a father spends fishing with his daughter. The father sees great value in their conversations even though the daughter thinks they’re “only fishin.” This song should remind us that every minute we spend with our children is an opportunity to invest in their lives, to build bonds of love, and to share with them what is most important to us – and that someday we will long to live those moments again.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
By Bob Campbell
When our oldest two children, currently 9 and 8, were reaching school age, we knew that we’d be enrolling them in the public schools. We played the school choice options in Rockford well and were extremely happy with the schools they were attending. We knew, however, that choice options would change before our youngest, now 4, would reach school age. Choosing to live in a low-income neighborhood provides a lot of ministry opportunities, but not much by way of educational opportunities. When we heard that my former employer was opening a charter school, we decided to check it out as an option for our youngest.
Meeting with administrators from the school and the school management company convinced us that the school was not only a great option for our daughter, but would likely be a better option for our middle child’s learning style. We decided to take the plunge and pulled both of our kids from their schools to enroll them. The new charter school was located in our neighborhood, within walking distance of our home. Moving both of our school aged children to the school made it very easy to be involved.
As a charter school, we have had an amazing say in the school’s operation. I got a group of dads together to start the region’s first All Pro Dad Day program, the Parent Advisory Council provides regular feedback to the school leadership, and my wife is one of several parents that volunteer at lunchtime once a week. We have met more families whose life philosophy lines up with ours than in any prior setting.
Educationally, students take standardized tests at least monthly and teachers are given rapid feedback so that test results can be incorporated into the classroom teaching quickly. Some argue that for-profit companies shouldn’t run a school, but ultimately a school that doesn’t perform doesn’t make money, so the accountability is very high.
Many, if not most, of the students came from low performing schools as their parents looked for alternatives for their children. In spite of that, the school exceeded expectations in almost every performance area. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road of starting a school from scratch, but we have no regrets with the decision that we made. This week our kids started their second year in the charter school and we’re already seeing improvements over the first year that will contribute to an even greater school year!
Bob has been involved in urban ministry and education for 20 years including an education degree. He and Jill have been married for 20 years and have adopted three children ranging in age from 4-9. He says, “I enjoy being constantly challenged to explore what it really means to have faith in all areas of my life.”
By Brenda Buzzard
Parenting should require a degree! You give birth to a baby and just as you finally master juggling feeding, nap-time, cleaning, bedtime, play-dates and Dr visits, someone asks: “So….where are you sending them to school?” School?! It took me a year to decide between Pampers and Huggies! Could I handle sending my precious child away for even part of a day! How to decide? I never had a class on this! We both knew, however, just how important this decision was for our child.
Terry and I had both attended public schools all the way through high school, but both attended Christian colleges. But times have changed, as they say. Locally, there were budget and educational quality issues. There were safety issues in the public school system. We also had spiritual concerns with the secular curriculum content. Fortunately, we did have better choices in educational institutions, both secular and religious.
Knowing there is power in prayer, we prayed. Knowing there is wisdom in many counselors, we listened to the testimonials of others. Through this process, we became assured that our primary desire was for a Christ-centered, private education. We even knew our eldest child’s first teacher from our church! We were thrilled with our daughter’s experience and so our four subsequent children have followed in the same school.
The backbone of Christian education is the Christian teachers. I love that Christ can be proclaimed everyday and in every classroom discussion or activity. I love that my children can hear faith stories from other Christian adults and be challenged to walk with Christ. The teachers have been a great source of encouragement and pray for our children. It is undoubtedly the best financial investment we could make in our children.
Yes, there may be downsides to Christian education. One is the expense. Sacrifices have to be made. Second, there is complacency. Children can feel “saved” just because they attend and are bathed in Christianity, without feeling a need to make their faith personal. They can hear the gospel daily and yet miss it all. At times, we have seen our children grow apathetic with religion as they are immersed in it during the school day, then Wednesday night events, and also on Sundays. I have heard my child say, “I know that verse…I hear it all the time!” My response would be that we need reminding. Don’t just be a hearer of the word, but a doer of it. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us to take all opportunities to proclaim God’s word to our children.
It is exciting to know that there are educational choices. There isn’t a perfect school or a perfect way to “do” school. One child may need homeschooling and another would love private school. We have choices and I know the LORD will strengthen our resolve. He will go before us on this journey and encourage us all along the way.
By Kathy Jensen
One’s mental picture of a homeschooling mother often evokes an image of a denim jumper wearing, makeup-less woman with a long braid down her back who is scared to death of the world around her and desperately tries to sequester her children from the evils of this life. That was not me. We were not running from society. Our decision to homeschool our children came slowly.
We were living in Chicago when our eldest daughter reached her 5th birthday, forcing us to make a choice. I first heard of the homeschooling idea from fellow parents at our church on the North side. Since the Chicago Public School system was such a mess, the trend among these churchgoers was to teach their kids at home through the 2nd grade. Being the type of mom that really loved having my kids around and also loved teaching, I reasoned…”I’d better be able to teach the subject matters to early elementary aged children.” Then I discovered that there were many types of curricula available and there was even a massive homeschooling convention each Spring. I jumped in headfirst, thinking I’d follow my friends’ lead and homeschool through 2nd grade. However, by the 2nd grade, we’d discovered that our eldest was special needs. Two tutors (who by day were public school teachers) strongly advised me to keep her at home. Twenty years later, we finished up the senior year of our 4th child…homeschooling almost all the way. No one was more surprised by that than me! Basically, each year we would step back, analyze things, and decide if we wanted to continue. Our children were definitely a part of this decision making process. We never ruled out public or private school, we just saw that what we were doing was working.
Homeschooling is a challenge though. I was painfully aware that my children’s education was completely in my hands. It was up to me to select the curricula (that is a huge feat), to make sure all their assignments were done, that each year they were up to grade level. and that accurate academic records were kept. We were blessed to find a co-op that offered classes, sports, and socialization as they reached junior and senior high. We also made it a goal to get our kids out in life through Scouts, youth groups, etc. and to have friendships with kids who attended both public and private schools. As we completed their education, we were exceedingly pleased to find that the self-motivated study habits of homeschoolers were extremely attractive to colleges.
When they graduated and went off to college, I had a very satisfied sense that (while certainly not done perfectly) I’d poured myself into each or our children. This resulted in close bonds with each of them that thus far have continued into adulthood. Home school is “a” way to educate children, not “the” way. I believe that whichever mode of education a family chooses, the parents need to be involved whole-heartedly. That’s the key to success!
Kathy has been involved in Children’s Ministries for over 35 years. She says, “It is my heart’s passion to convey the love of God and the riches of His Word to children!” Kathy is a mother of 4 grown children, one of whom has special needs. She is happy to share her life with her husband Randy of 29 years (and counting!)
Education…what an important decision for parents to make and it can sometimes be overwhelming. There are so many more options than there was when I grew up. If you are anything like me, you want to evaluate all of them.
My husband and I went through the public school system in Rockford and on the whole it was a good experience. However, for our oldest daughter we chose to place her in a private Christian school. We appreciated her education at this school, but were overwhelmed to put our younger two there. We had to honestly evaluate what was best for our family.
Some Christian friends of ours encouraged us to try the public school system in Rockford. We visited our neighborhood school by setting up an appointment with the principal. The principal took us on a tour and it was surprisingly nice. We were encouraged to see that the classroom settings were calm and the kids were engaged. Because of our conversation with the principal and the ability to visit the school environment, we enrolled them.
We were pleased with the experience our kids had at our neighborhood elementary school. For the most part, the teachers were hardworking, caring, and encouraging to our kids. There was an open door policy to come and help in the classroom, at lunch and at special events. Of course it was not a perfect environment, but when there were problems with friends or concerns with education we felt the freedom to discuss it with the administrator or teachers and it would be taken care of.
Our kids have found good friends; some even come from Christian homes. As parents, it has given us times to communicate about various things that are going on at school and with friends. The challenges became greater at the secondary level. Just like at the elementary level, we found the teachers and administrators easy to approach about our concerns and we were not disappointed in the handling of situations that arose. Also, we found our kids being challenged with how to respond to inappropriate talk, different religions, and being made fun of for their faith. These discussions are not always easy; in fact, they can be challenging and emotional, but beneficial to our faith journey. As parents, we see our role as the spiritual leaders in our kids’ lives. We believe this responsibility rests squarely on our shoulders. However, we need partners like our church and our Christian friends.
One of the things that the public schools have been criticized for is whether or not the students are getting a good, quality education. In other words, will the students graduating from the public schools be ready for college? We decided to get our kids independently tested from a learning center. It was encouraging to find out that they both tested above their grade level. This continued to validate for us that our kids are being challenged and they are college bound!
As you consider the public school system I would encourage you to do the following:
- Set up an appointment with the principal.
- Visit the classrooms, lunchroom, and recess area.
- Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions about the environment, education, and teachers. (Are the teachers approachable?)
- Find out from other families who attend the school about the things mentioned above. (Ask the principal for some names of families to talk to.)
- Look at test scores.
- Find out if there is a rating on the school from the board of education.
- Find out how long teachers stay at the school and how much education they have.
- Find out opportunities for involvement.
- Is there an open door policy to help out in the classroom?
- How do they put classrooms together, can you request a teacher? (Can you request your child not be with a certain student?)
- Honestly evaluate whether it is in the best interest of your child and your family.
- If you are concerned about their education, then get them independently tested.
- Take it a year at a time and re-evaluate. (Evaluation may need to be more often than that.)
Most importantly, come together as a family and keep this decision before the Lord in prayer. Above anything else, trust God in the decision you make. Always remember He will not leave you or forsake you. What an incredible promise!
These days the major concern of any parent is the education of their children. I know it is and always will be a major concern in our family. As parents we start getting tense as soon as our children reach school age. The question that is always asked is what is best for my child and our family. The choices are public school education, private school education and homeschooling.
I thought it would be practical to talk about each of these choices from those who have experienced them. I have asked two of my friends to share about their experiences in homeschooling and private schooling. I will be sharing about our choice and experience in the public school setting.
Before I continue, I would like to affirm that I believe this is an area in which Christians have freedom from God to do what they feel is appropriate for their individual families. I do not believe that one form of schooling is better than the next. Each family must follow their convictions on this matter.
As believers, we must validate and uplift our friends and the choice of education they make for their families. We do not want to allow the evil one to have a foothold in this area by despising or condemning those who hold a different view from our own. I know with my friends we are an encouragement to one another and we are active prayer warriors for each other and our children.
By Laura Larson
“Grieving the loss of a child is the worst form of grief,” I once read. “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents. When you lose other family members whether it be a parent, a spouse, or a sibling, you grieve the past…when you lose a child, you grieve the future.” Your arms ache intensely to hold your child, your heart is broken into a million pieces, and your mind can’t fully grasp what has happened. You look around you and wonder how can life continue for everyone else? Your world has been turned upside down and finding the strength for your next breath is all you can handle.
As humans, especially American humans, we hate pain and we do whatever we can do to avoid it! Proof of this fact can be seen all around us…..from Advil to alcohol….whether it be physical or emotional pain….we do not like discomfort. But the pain of losing a child is unavoidable…it’s like open heart surgery without anesthesia. Every form of coping that we once relied on doesn’t work for this new situation. Nothing seems to take that gut-wrenching pain away.
Coping through the pain can mean different things for everyone. Unfortunately, many people seek unhealthy alternatives when trying to numb their pain. There is never a good time to pick up a bad habit….but this is especially important when you are grieving. If you long to come out a whole and healthy person on the other side of this valley; it is important that you set up boundaries for yourself.
Below are some very practical suggestions to guide you through the first few months and years of your journey:
• Read the Psalms—they will bring comfort beyond words to your aching heart
• Surround yourself with people who genuinely love you and have your best interest in mind
• Talk about “your story” and how you feel
• Find a counselor that you trust and that can speak truth into your life and heart
• Read books by other parents who have lost children:
“From Mourning to Morning” and “From Grief to Glory” by Harry and Cheryl Salem
“I’ll Hold You in Heaven” by Jack Hayford
“Gone But Not Lost” by David Wiersbe
“Treasures in Darkness” by Sharon Betters
“One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie—and any other books by this author
• Journal your memories, thoughts and feelings
• Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine
• Plan in advance what you will do on holidays and anniversary days—these days are tough and making decisions on these days is next to impossible—have some sort of plan whether it be a vacation or a special family day in memory of your child. For example—we let balloons go every year on our daughter’s birthday—it is special to us and our other children.
• Accept help from other people when it is offered! Whether it be a meal, babysitting other children, cleaning, etc….people want to bless you during your time of sorrow.
• Be honest with God about where you are at….He longs to be everything to you and to see you through this dark valley.
You know the old saying, “Time heals all wounds”? Well…it isn’t true. ”God heals all wounds!” There are many bitter people walking on this planet that lost a loved one decades ago that have gaping open wounds. Though you and I will never be completely whole until we see our Lord face to face….we can be wholly His…broken and beautiful. It is sometimes in the face of your utmost despair that you see more clearly the face of God. Lean into Him and He will carry you!
One of the most asked questions I get as a youth pastor is, “Why are so many teens leaving the church at graduation and not coming back?” We could be here for a long time answering that questions and it really would not be very fruitful. I found an article online that greatly speaks to the “drop-out” rate from a proactive instead of a reactive point of view.
On the blog at thegospelcoalition.org I read three key elements that sets apart the kids who stay in the church and they are…
- They are converted. (Truly Changed)
- They have been equipped, not entertained. (Stop trying to please kids and start growing kids)
- Their parents preached the gospel to them. (The #1 influence kid’s lives are their parents)