Doing Family in a Busy World

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As I watched my kids at basketball practice this week, I found myself amazed at how time has flown by. It is as though you blink and those little babies are grown. Because time is quick and family is important, maintaining balance and health in the family dynamics is utterly important. But it is hard! Finding family balance in a busy week is tough and it seems to be getting tougher.

I hear questions from young leaders and pastors frequently asking about how to maintain healthy rhythms in the home. Frankly, I am glad and encouraged to hear this question and see the concern on the faces of leaders.

Melissa has spent more time in the home than me during this season of our lives. She is active in helping me at work when time allows, volunteers at our church and in a local non-profit in our community, but sees her main responsibility to maintaining a healthy environment in our home. I have a pretty extensive travel schedule that can easily become a distraction to family life. Melissa and I have and continue to work hard at creating a stable and healthy environment for our family to flourish. Below are some principles that help guide us in this endeavor.

1. Be willing to say “no” to good things

This can be very hard to do and sometime can even feel painful. Partly because if you are like me, I want to grab a hold of any good experience when it comes and I especially want my kids to have every opportunity that they want. I want my kids to have a full palette of experiences and to be exposed to many different things during their lifetime. At the same time, you don’t want them to miss out on fun with their own friends that you know have a way of filling the emotional cup of your kids.

But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decision for your kids and even for the sake of your family that your kids aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. One question we regularly ask ourselves is “Is this wise for our family or for this particular child today?” Though my kids are still in my house I can see from friends around me that the days when your kids are in your house are precious and they disappear very quickly. Thus, your kids need you! More at this stage than ever. They need your influence and leadership and they simply need time with you. So ask yourself…what is the greater good - another sport, another activity, another evening out with friends, or more time with you?

These are things that only you can decide for you and your family. Everyone around you and in your ministry will make demands of your time. As a result, someone will have to be disappointed. Do you want your family and kids constantly disappointed or others? I want to suggest that it is ok from time to time to use the word “no.” It is actually vital to providing stability and balance in the home.

2. Be intentional with your time

Because time is limited it is important to find how to make time work in your favor. What I mean is many times the lack of intentionality can cause one to lose valuable time in the home and in building relationships with your own kids. I found out the hard way how important it is to put my cell phone down when I walked in the door after a long day at work. My tendency was to drive home trying to make one more connection and I would walk in the door and unknowingly ignore the greeting I was receiving from my kids welcoming me home.

That realization, with the help of my loving wife, caused me to change my routine when I get home. Now I stay in the car until that last phone call is finished and the moment I walk into the house I place my phone in a drawer so it isn’t a distraction. This simple discipline has helped me control my time in a way that honors my kids and our family time.

Be intentional in the time you invest in your marriage. There should be times that you intentionally shut everything down just so you stay connected. The time you take off from a very busy schedule is hard and can feel painful, but it is life giving to the marriage. 

I try to spend time with my kids in the things they are interested in doing…not trying to make them like what my interests are. When opportunity allows it I even allow my kids to take trips with me. This gives us great one on one time together. When we travel I like to find a fun unexpected way to connect to the heart of my kids. This can play out in renting a sports car to drive around or taking them to their favorite restaurant. I have even surprised my son with a fun fishing trip while in Seattle and as a result he got his first experience of hooking a king salmon.

3. Live and lead creatively

Find moments when you are together with your kids or as a family to use teachable moments. Swim together. Shoot baskets or throw a ball together. Include your kids in home projects. Learn to use breakfast time, dinner time, bedtime, and car rides - whatever time brings your way, whatever it takes, learn to use the time you have with your children well. 

When it comes to raising a busy family there isn’t one moment that we can afford to spare. Not even one. It is hard work and requires intentionality and creativity. But I have found those moments are so worth it and really fun. Every time!

When it comes to teaching your kids about God and connecting with his heart, we have been extremely intentional that we want this to be natural and part of our regular life discussions. We pray together regularly and we allow our kids to feel the weight of things from time to time and to pray with us through those challenging moments. We talk about God, God’s Word, principles of life, and values that we hold dear as Christ followers.

It doesn’t take a lot to have a captive audience. I know every time I sit in a hunting blind with one of my kids or every time a ball is in the air, I have a captive audience.

I am finding the time is passing quickly. I imagine you are seeing the same trend. Work hard at it. Find balance. There really isn’t anything more important.

Stress and the Call to Lead

Stress is real and in certain seasons, it abounds. It can limit our creativity and make us feel like we are going backwards when all effort is focused on moving forward. It can show up in our lives as a major crisis or just another busy season. Sometimes stress is caused by internal challenges and other times from external issues. Every team and every individual faces seasons of stress. It is during these seasons that good leadership is more significant than ever.

Here are a few things to never forget as you respond to seasons of stress:

1. Don’t panic

The best leaders I have observed exude a level of calmness in the midst of crisis. This isn’t manufactured or faked serenity. Good leaders have the ability to understand reality and yet see a preferred future. If the leader panics, everyone panics. During trying times, a good leader brings peace into the situation and calmly assures people; not by giving false hope but rather, helping people understand and find their balance in the midst of a challenging time.

2. Find joy in plodding

Plodding equates with long suffering. During seasons of great stress, endurance is always tested and the temptations to quit grow stronger. Leadership is about walking in faith by putting one foot in front of the other and keeping the team moving forward. The call of a leader is to remain steadfast in both good times and bad times.

3. Stay above reproach

Character is often tested in times of great stress. People are constantly watching how a leader responds when times are challenging and chaotic. A leader must remain authentic and yet unquestionable in their integrity. This is imperative for the overall health of the team and organization. Remember, people are watching. What a leader chooses to say and/or do will be taken seriously and often times open to other’s personal interpretations. This is why it is so important to lead and live with integrity.

4. Don’t neglect your own health

The call of leading a team or an organization requires that a leader is on top of their game. Thus, a leader must remain healthy personally to fulfill their calling. I have noticed in my own rhythms when facing stress that I can become a workaholic, neglect exercise, eat too much, and not get enough sleep. However, the opposite should be true. When we face trying times we need to make sure we find adequate rest, say yes to exercise, eat healthy, and stay disciplined in key areas of our lives. Watch your emotional, spiritual, and physical tanks. The health of the leader directly impacts the health of the team.

5. Live with margin

When stress is present, key decisions are more difficult to make. Even thought the decisions are harder, they are never less important an actually might be more important than ever. Having margin in your day and your life will provide room for you to get away, process, and deal with the weightiness of key decisions that need to be made. Part of the responsibility of leading is to provide the team and/or organization clarity in challenging times. Having margin will help you get there.

What else have you found helpful in leading during stress filled seasons?

6 Predictions for the Future of Church Planting

Over the past two years I have had fun traveling around the U.S. meeting with pastors, planters and potential church planters. There is no doubt the landscape continues to change and culture is shifting. Some of those things are easy to see, and some we see in the rearview mirror.  

Predicting future trends is both an art and a science. There are many authors and bloggers out there better than me at predicting the next wave. However, I want to share some of the insights that I’ve noticed through numerous conversations and trainings with the hope it encourages and inspires you. Think of these things as written in pencil. My hope is as we talk about these trends it brings greater clarity for future kingdom impact.

Here are my six predictions about the future of church planting:

1. Local churches will become the engine that drives church planting.

Church multiplication over the last century has been primarily driven by denominations. A ton of great things have happened and started from these efforts. The problem that still presents itself is the pace of planting has been too slow to keep up with recent population trends. Furthermore, denominations have been handcuffed by finances, meaning they can only plant what they can afford.

What would happen if every church-focused its effort on raising up the next generation of church planters from within? How would the landscape change if every church committed to sending two or even five planters in a five-year period? I see the role of networks and denominations slowly moving to resourcing and serving the local church to reap a fantastic harvest.

2.  More stickers on the NASCAR car.

Kingdom collaboration is a growing trend. The idea that we feel we are better together is moving away from a Christian cliche to becoming a reality. I see churches and planters across America operating with the notion that we can accomplish more together than we could alone.

Part of the change is that the newest generation of planters are more missiologically driven than being drawn to church growth books and conferences. More and more planters are seeing themselves as missionaries called to a given region, community or city. As a result, the younger generation of pastors will be focused less on denominational loyalties and more focused on reaching their communities. Coming together as local teams of leaders with a common focus will become the primary way churches impact their communities.

3. Churches will become more diverse.

Every time I walk into my local Starbucks or grocery store, it is evident the racial and ethnic landscape of North America is changing. The influx of immigrants and their migration to cities all across North America will continue, and it is spurring the need for church planting efforts to fully embrace and achieve diversity within the local church. Early stages of this are more pressing in urban contexts.

The more I talk to younger planters across differing ethnicities, diversity is a growing desire. And in many of these contexts it’s becoming reality.

4. Bi-vocational planting will become more accepted.

Resources have been a challenge, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. To plant more churches, the need for a planter to be bi-vocational or a tent maker will also increase. If a church cannot become self-sufficient within a five-year period, I would say the bi-vocational approach is the best.

If this comes to be true, we need to rethink our approach to training, coaching and even educating pastors. I would love to see more colleges and seminaries have educational tracks that continue to equip potential church planters with a strong theological and missiological foundation. But what would happen if we also help them have a vocational platform to support themselves in the early years? We cannot do bi-vocational planting and expect the pastors to act and maintain a schedule as full-time pastors. I suggest that more of our trainings, conferences and networking need to have a growing online presence.

5. Modular church becomes a go-to tool.

Just as there are many different styles for preaching and music in the church, there are many methods for planting and multiplying the church. In many urban contexts the ability to purchase land and build a building may never become a reality. If we want to reach the people in our communities, we will have to become more creative in how and where we do church. Some of my all-time creative locations I have heard of are: movie theaters, an Italian restaurant, an abandoned gas station, night clubs, etc.

If God is calling you plant a church, be creative and take a risk.

6. Spiritual dynamics drive the movement of church planting.

Thirty years ago there is no doubt that the movement of church planting was something driven by the Holy Spirit. Now hear me out: I am not saying this is no longer the case. However, I think we live in a time when there are more books written, conferences to attend and networks to join than ever before. They are great resources for those who want to plant. The danger is that some can become so strategic that the strategy, not the movement of God, drives church planting. We have to remember it is great to have a lot of “how to’s” out there, but we can never over-strategize what is spiritual.

I have a great hope for the church as the future unfolds. I hope you do, too. The mission is too important to lose hope.