7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Happy Family Portrait at Park

If a pastor is not careful, the weight of everyone else’s problems will take precedence over the issues and concerns of the pastor’s immediate family. I see it frequently among pastors I encounter. 

How many pastors do we know who have adult children that don’t even attend church anymore? Lots. I’ve heard from many who resent the church which stole their family time. 

There have been seasons of my ministry where this was the case, especially on abnormally stressful days. It should be the exception, however, not the rule.

I decided years ago when I was a small business owner, serving in an elected office and on dozens of non-profit boards that my busyness would never detract from my family life on a long-term basis.

Cheryl and I are in a different season now. It’s easier to protect our time. My heart, however, goes out to the young families in ministry. Please heed my advice.

Here are 7 ways I attempt to protect my family from the stress of ministry:

Down time.

Saturday for me is a protected day. I normally work 6 long (up to 10 hours and more) days a week. (I’m wired to work and to take a true “Sabbath”, according to Exodus 16:26 at least, it seems one would have to work 6 days — just saying :) ) This also means I agree to do fewer weddings or attend other social events on Saturdays. There are only a few Saturdays a year I allow this part of my calendar to be interrupted. We are blessed with a large, qualified staff. Pastors, it doesn’t have to be Saturday for you, but there should be at least one day in your week like this. If you are wired for two — take two!

Cheryl and the boys trump everything on my calendar.

I always interrupt meetings for their phone calls. If they are on my schedule for something we have planned together it takes precedence over everything and everyone else. There are always emergencies, but this is extremely rare for me — extremely!

Scheduled time with my family.

If I’m going to protect time with my family then they must be a part of my calendar. I’ve been told this seemed cold and calculated, and maybe it is, but when the boys were young and into activities with school, those times went on my calendar as appointments first. I was at every ballgame and most practices, unless I was out of town, because it was protected by my calendar. It was easy for me to decline other offers, because my schedule was already planned.

I don’t work many nights.

Now it’s just a habit and my boys are grown, but when my boys were young, I also wrote on my schedule nights at home. The bottom line is I’m a professional. You wouldn’t want my time if I weren’t. Have you ever tried to meet with your attorney or banker at night? Of course, there are exceptions — I have some monthly meetings where I have to work at night — and life has seasons which alter this somewhat — but in a normal week I work 6 full day time hours a week and that’s enough to fulfill my calling.

I’m not everyone’s pastor.

This is hard for members of my extended family or friends to understand sometimes but, I pastor a large church, so if someone is already in a church elsewhere I’m not their pastor. I am simply their brother, son or friend. Obviously, if someone doesn’t have a church at all then this is a different story, especially since my heart is to reach unchurched people.

I delegate well.

We have a great staff. If something is better for them to do, I let them do it. Every event doesn’t require me to be there, nor my wife. I try to support the activities of the church as much as possible, but not at the detriment of my family. I realize smaller church pastors struggle here, but part of your leading may be to raise up volunteer people and entrust them with responsibilities and leadership. It also may be to lead people to understand your family remaining strong is just as important as other families in the church and part of having a healthy church is having a healthy pastor and family.

I try to stay spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

It’s hard to lead my family well and engage them when I’m always stressed by ministry. This is a constant battle, and requires great cooperation and understanding by my family, but I recognize it as a value worth striving to attain.

Pastors, I hear from you — and sometimes your spouse. Some of you are drowning in your ministry and your family is suffering. Many are going to say they have no staff or a small staff, but I encourage this same approach to ministry for every person on our staff. I would expect no less of a commitment to their family than I have to mine. Ask yourself this question: How healthy is your family? What are you doing to protect them?

Help me help other pastors. Share how you protect your family.

You might also read 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry from an Affair

5 Tests to Determine If You’ve Forgiven Someone

Mother and teenage daughter giving each other a big hug.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Wow! Those are hard words, aren’t they?

Whether in business, in church, or in family — relationships can cause pain and separation.

It’s tempting to get even. Holding a grudge is easier. Our first reaction is not always to forgive.

But forgiveness is not an option for the believer — even for the person who has hurt us the most.

And, there is another wow moment — especially if you know it applies to you.

Even with the importance the Bible places on forgiveness I frequently hear people give excuses for not forgiving someone. Things such as:

“You can forgive but you can’t forget.” And, that’s most often true. Only God (and sometimes time and old age) can erase a memory.

“I’ve tried to forgive them, but they haven’t changed.” This may be true also. Forgiveness can be a catalyst for change, but it doesn’t guarantee change. And, I don’t seem to read those qualifiers in the commands to forgive.

“I may have forgiven them, but I’ll always hold it against them.” Okay, while it may sound logical, it’s not really forgiveness. Sorry, to be so blunt.

Forgiveness is a releasing of emotional guilt you place upon the other person. It’s a choice. It happens in the heart. It’s not a release of responsibility or an absence of healthy boundaries. It doesn’t even mean justice — legal or eventual is removed from the situation. It is, however, a conscious choice to remove the right to get even from the person who injured you. It’s a release of anger and any bitterness or grudge.

Plain and simple, forgiveness is hard.

I was talking with someone who wants to forgive the person who has hurt her the most. She wants to be free from the guilt of holding a grudge. She wants to follow the example of Christ in Biblical obedience. The problem? She’s not sure she has truly forgiven, because she still hurts from the injury.

I shared with her that while forgiveness is a decision — a choice — it is not an automatic healer of emotions. It helps, but emotions heal over time. Then I shared some ways she could determine if she’s truly forgiven the other person.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ve forgiven someone:

The first thought test.

When the first thought you have about them is not the injury they caused in your life you have probably extended forgiveness. You should be able to have normal thoughts about the person occasionally. Remember, you are dropping the right to get even — the grudge you held against them.

An opportunity to help them test.

Ask yourself: Would you help them if you knew they were in trouble and you had the ability? Most likely this is someone you once cared about — perhaps even loved. You would have assisted them if they needed help at one point. While I’m not suggesting you would subject yourself to abuse or further harm, or that you are obligated to help them, or even you should, but would you in your heart want to see them prosper or would you still want to see them come to harm? This is a huge test of forgiveness.

Your general thoughts test.

Can you think positive thoughts about this person? Again, you’ve likely been on positive terms with this person or in a close enough relationship for them to injure you to this extreme. Is there anything good you can come up with about them which is even remotely good? If not, have your really forgiven them?

The revenge test.

Do you still think of getting even with the person? There may be consequences which need to come for this person and you may have to see them through to protect others, but does your heart want to hurt them? If so, would you call this forgiveness?

The failure test.

When someone injures us we can often wish harm upon them. This is normal, but it’s not part of the forgiveness process. Have you have stopped looking for them to fail? If you have truly forgiven someone, then just like you would for anyone else, you would want them to succeed or at least do better in life. Forgiveness means you’ve stopped keeping a record of the person’s wrongs. That’s how believers respond to others. We consider their best interests.

I realize this is a tough list. Those struggling with forgiveness will most likely push back against it a bit. I know this, however, for your heart to completely heal, you eventually need to forgive the one who hurt you the most.

And, if you’re struggling to “pass the test” don’t beat yourself up. Pray about it. Ask God to continue to work on your heart. 

Have you seen a lack of forgiveness keep someone from moving forward in life?

What would you add to my list?

5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

A vector illustration of father helping his teenage son moving to a new campus

We are well into our years as empty-nesters. Both of our boys have finished college, one is in grad school, but both are supporting themselves and on their own.

I loved the time with our boys at home. We had great relationships. They were (and are) two of my best friends.

The first son attended a local college and lived at home most of the time. It was a different season, but we still got to spend a lot of time together. The youngest went to school 8 hours from home.

I’ll never forget the feelings of driving away from him freshmen year. Wow! It was painful. I mourned. I cried. It was a deeply sad occasion. If you’re going through that now — I’m praying for you as I type this post.

In the process of him leaving I learned a few things:

It was much harder than I thought letting go. My counseling background tells me I began a mini-depression about a month before he left and it was a few months afterwards, probably shortly after the first semester ended and the Christmas break ended, before I felt “normal” again.

I prepared my boy, but not my emotions. I am not an extremely emotional person. This changed the day I said “goodbye”, got in the car and drove back home. I was an emotional wreck.

It is never the same, but it can be better — at least in some ways. I missed seeing Nate terribly, but our talks became even more open and honest than when he was at home. As he grew to be a man, our relationship became deeper, more personal.

I couldn’t wait for his calls/texts/emails. There was a charge in my spirit when I looked down at my phone and saw it was Nate. I longed for communication. When our boys were at home we had disciplines — such as a nightly meal — where we could discuss the events of the day. We couldn’t expect those every day from college. And, most days they didn’t happen — but when they did it was golden.

It began a new phase of life for Cheryl and me. Our parenting is not over, but our role has changed. We began to make new dreams — just for the two of us. We enjoy our time with our boys when we are with them, but we love our life together. It’s a good season.

Shortly after Nate went to college I wrote him an email and posted it here. You can read the post HERE.

For some things I have learned in parenting, see this CATEGORY.

7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath – A Challenge For My Pastor Friends

Man using a tablet computer while relaxing in a hammock

This is a hard word for some pastors, but after a recent post I was asked about how I protect my Sabbath. That’s a great question, because many pastors struggle in this area. In fact, many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.

Protecting my Sabbath has proven to be crucial in protecting my ministry.

I observe my Sabbath day on Saturday most weeks. It’s my day with Cheryl. It’s not a day where I do nothing. That’s not how I rest. It’s a day where I do what I want to do. On my Sabbath, I don’t work. I play. I rest. I recharge. I clear my head and prepare for the week ahead.

Here are 7 ways I protect my Sabbath:

Recognize the value – I have to realize there is a reason to observe a Sabbath. It’s almost like God knew what He was doing. :) If I value it enough, I’ll make it a priority. The value of a Sabbath is not only for myself, but it aligns me with God’s design for mankind. “On the 7th day He rested”. Have you read that somewhere? We were created with a need for the Sabbath. That makes it valuable.

Make it a priority – Not only do I value the importance, but I make it a priority in my week. As important as any other day, my Sabbath is a must do part of my week. A Sabbath is good for the pastor, the pastor’s family and the church. That’s worth prioritizing.

Place it on the calendar – The Sabbath needs to be planned in advance. If you think it’s going to happen when you “catch up”, you’ll never take a Sabbath. Depending on the size of your staff or the demands of your church, your day may not be the same as mine, but you choose a day that works best and calendar it regularly.

Trust others – One of the leading reasons I hear for pastors not taking a day off is that they don’t have anyone who can handle their responsibilities. This is especially true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Regardless of staff size, pastors need to surround themselves with some healthy people and take a risk on them. I delegate well so that when I’m gone I know things will continue to operate efficiently. Ultimately, however, when I honor my Sabbath I’m demonstrating that I trust God. After all, the plan was His idea.

Discipline myself – I just do it. I make myself take a day off. (You should consider this discipline!) Now, here’s the hard part of that. In addition to saying “Yes” to yourself, you have to discipline yourself to say “No” to others. Without a doubt, if you try to protect a day there will be multiple invitations, seemingly good opportunities, and non-emergency interruptions. It will happen. You’ll have to continually help others (and yourself) understand the value in this discipline. It’s part of being a healthy pastor. And, I assume, most churches want that. Frankly some will never understand the value in your Sabbath (even if they see the value for themselves), but they will also be the first one to complain if you aren’t performing at your best in other areas of your ministry.

Prepare for it – I have to work hard prior to a Sabbath so I can comfortably take it without reservation. That means I handle any details I can in advance. Whether a pastor works five or six days a week, (I personally work 6) it is important to work hard and smart enough where there is no guilt in taking your deserved and commanded sabbath. Not trying to be cruel here, but if you are not finding time to take a Sabbath, it could be a planning and organizational problem as much as it is a demand of your time problem.

Learn to enjoy -Some pastors, like me, are not wired for a Sabbath. I realize some people have no problem taking a day off, but I honestly would work seven days straight if no one stopped me. There’s always plenty to do. I’ve learned, however, that I function better the other 6 days if I have one day that I’m not working. It’s been a challenge to maintain it, but I now truly look forward to the rest. It’s proven to be as important for my wife as it is for me and when she’s happy, I’m happy.

Now, please understand, there are no perfect plans. This works most of the time for me, but not all of the time. There are, of course, exceptions, interruptions, and Kingdom opportunities, which cause me to not be able to protect every Sabbath day. (Jesus had those too.) As much as is possible, however, I stick with this plan, and when it is interrupted, especially if it happens several weeks in a row, I will make up the time with some extra time away. I try to get my downtime back at some point. It’s that important to me now.

Pastor, are you protecting your Sabbath? Be honest.

The strength and success of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastor, what tips do you have for helping some of my burned out pastor friends maintain a weekly Sabbath?

Bonus question: Pastor, do you have a plan for extended time a way…a Sabbatical of some form? Could you share what you do in this area to help the rest of us?

5 Suggestions to Make Family Time More Effective

happy family

Frankly, I wish it happened more often, but I am always encouraged when it does.

Occasionally a young father will come to me wanting to know how to be a better husband or father. One thing they specifically ask is how to take advantage of the time they have with their family and to be more effective with the family’s time together.

Time seems more at a premium these days than ever in my life. Time has always passed quickly. It has always been valuable, but today’s family time seems more stretched than ever. So many distractions, activities and interruptions face busy families.

Wise parents realize the need to make the best use of the time they have together.

To be candid, our family never excelled at “family devotions”. Having a weekly Bible study and prayer session together just never seemed to take root in our family. We tried them — and we did some — but we were far more intentional with the unstructured time we had. Reflecting now, we have two young men as sons who love Jesus, are active in their church, and strive to serve Christ vocationally.

From what we learned — much by mistake and all by grace — we learned a few things about making the best use of our time as a family.

Here are 5 suggestions to make family time more effective:

Begin with a plan for your home and each child

You seldom hit a target you aren’t aiming to hit — certainly less likely to hit one you haven’t defined. Just as adults may have a plan for their career or finances, parents need a plan for operating their home. It may help if it is written, but should definitely summarize the major goals you hope to accomplish in your home. Because each child is different, I also believe parents should have different plans for each child. Ask yourself:

  • What do we want our children to be like some day?
  • What kind of people do we want them to be?
  • What should their character be like?
  • How can we best encourage them to get there?
  • What does this child need from me most — right now, at this stage of their life?

You’ll find your family time more effective when you have a plan, because it will consciously and unconsciously help focus your attention and energies on the things that matter most when you are together. And, here’s the flip side — without a plan you waste a lot of energy on things which really won’t accomplish what you say you want to accomplish.

Major on the majors, not on the minors

I found my boys were more willing to talk, listen, and interact with us when they weren’t always worried if they measure up to our approval. Children feel burdened under the yoke of rules. It weighs them down trying to stay within the lines. Some things matter and some things don’t. Figure out the non-negotiable issues and primarily concentrate on them. I tended to lean towards character issues as majors and individual preferences as minors. You’ll choose what these are for your home, but everything shouldn’t be major. Majoring on everything produces very stressed-out, perfectionist children, who always seem to struggle to meet other people’s expectations of them. And, when this is the culture of your home your time will be less than effective. It made it easier to concentrate on bigger issues they would carry into life — character, moral type issues.

Make the guidelines in your home easy to figure out

There does need to be rules. Children need guidelines to follow — again, especially those that focus on the major things you want to accomplish in them. Talk about the rules you have for your home and be sure to tell the children the why behind those rules, as much as they can understand. Be consistent in carrying out the rules in the home, in a firm, but loving way. If you’re not going to enforce a rule — don’t have one. Children shouldn’t have to guess how you’ll respond to an issue. As children learn your heart and ways, they can better trust you, which will help them enjoy themselves around you and rely on you for your wisdom and input as they get older. That’s really the overall goal we were were seeking in our time as a family. We knew we were raising them to be adults. The bond we built with them when they were young has directly impacted our relationship with them as adults.

Be purposeful with your time

Look for teaching moments as they are presented and keep your desired outcomes in mind as you parent. For our family that was often at dinner time — which we tried to make happen most nights in spite of our busy schedules of work, ball, school activities, and church. It also involved me kicking or throwing a ball, even some nights when I was tired and all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with a remote in my hand. I’ve never seen effective parenting accomplished while in front of the television. (Ouch!) If you want more effective family time, take advantage of the time you do have and be intentional, implementing the plan you have for your family. Children won’t always be available to you, especially as they get older. As much as you can, to be an effective parent, always strive to be available to them when they want you to be.

Surround everything with grace and love

We wanted our home to be a “fun” place for children to be. We wanted to belly laugh often and have special memories of those times. That required lots of grace and love. I tried to remember, as a dad, I was many times modeling Christ for my children. Much of their understanding of Christ would come from their relationship to their earthly father (and mother). I’ve been given so much grace shouldn’t my children reap the benefit? Great families realize everyone makes mistakes — parents and children — and so they give multiple chances, forgive easily, and reconcile quickly.

Obviously these are just suggestions. Implementing them in your home will be different than it was in my home, because you are different and your children are different. Thinking through your parenting in a more systematic, intentional way will make you a better parent and help your time as a family be more effective.

What are some suggestions you have for making family time more effective?

7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts

Thinking man

I am an introvert. Some people can question whether they are or not. I don’t. I’m certified in Myers Briggs, so I know the language well. I’ve studied the concept. It didn’t require much study though for me. I’m in the camp.

It means Sundays I’m more tired when I go home. It means I avoid certain crowds unless I have a clear purpose for being there. It means I run alone…and I’m okay with that. It means I’m probably harder to get to know that some people. I get all that. I own it. It’s me.

I’ve written before about the struggles of introversion in ministry (read that HERE) and ways I work to overcome those limitations (read that HERE). What surprises me is how misunderstood introverts are sometimes. There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted.

Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert:

I’m shy – That may be your word, but it’s not mine. I prefer purposeful for me. Others may call it something else. I talk when there’s a purpose. I’m not even afraid to do so. Three year olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That’s not me.

I need more courage – Why I oughta… (You’ll get that if you are a Moe Howard…Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I “ain’t chicken” when I choose not to speak. I’m just being comfortable.

I’ve got nothing to say – Actually I have lots to say. Did you notice I blog almost every day? Do you see how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have bunches to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t express it, but many times how I choose to communicate will be different than how others choose to communicate.

I’m ignorant – Yea, in a lot of ways I am. But, in some ways I’m smarter than the guy who never quits talking. You know the one. I am less likely to say the thing I wish I hadn’t said, because I didn’t think before I talked. It happens, but not as often as it might for some.

I am arrogant or don’t like you – Honestly, I love everyone. Or at least my Biblical commitment and personal goal is to do so. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determination of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak. Maybe.

I need you to talk for me – Ummm — actually I’d rather you not. Now that said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She’s good at it too. But, if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I’ll speak for myself. Or regret later than I didn’t. But, either way, please don’t try to be my voice.

I need to change, mature, grow as a person or leader – There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just quieter than some leaders you know — or your immediate perception of a leader. Actually, there are lots of things wrong with me. Introversion isn’t one of them.

Those are some of the false assumptions that have been made of this introvert.

Introverts, what misunderstandings have been made about you?

Something I Want for My Boys Even More Than Their Happiness

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My boys are in their mid 20s. They have pretty stable lives. They came off our payroll pretty much right out of college, which I guess is considered a blessing these days. They work hard. They are responsible.

Best of all they love Jesus and people. They both serve Him in their own way.

They have great relationships in their life. Everyone seems to love them who knows them. As every parent does, I love when people brag on them. And, I get to experience it regularly. One of them is married to a wonderful Christian lady. 

I know, it seems I’m bragging — and I am. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord and I give Him all the glory. Our family is truly a product of grace.

Every parent wants their children to be happy. That seems to go without saying.

I certainly want that for my boys. It’s something I even pray for frequently.

But there is something I want more for my boys more than their happiness.

In fact, I’d almost sacrifice their happiness — at least in the short-term — for them to achieve this in the long-term.

I want my boys to be obedient.

I want them to go wherever God leads and do whatever God commands. I want them to trust His leadership, follow His plan, and surrender their will to His will. I want them to some day hear those words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Well done!” 

Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when it’s not their plan.

You see, I’ve learned by experience in my own life.

I know the center of God’s will is the absolute best place to be.

Granted, it’s not always the safest place in terms of the world but it’s always the safest place in terms of the kingdom of God.

Do I want my boys to be happy? Don’t let me close this post without you knowing I do. Yes, I do want their happiness. In fact, I believe ultimate happiness is found in living within the pleasure of God — delighting in the things in which He delights.

But, more than anything — I simply want my boys to be obedient.

7 Reasons I Need to Regularly Exercise as a Leader

back view of legs and shoes of young athletic man practicing running in urban background in summer fitness workout representing body care, sport training and healthy lifestyle concept

I’m a runner.

I had some knee issues for a few months that kept me from running as much as I would normally. As much as I hated missing my runs, and I tried to substitute the time with other workouts, I learned a few things about myself during the time of healing.

I was reminded, by not running as much, how valuable to me the exercise is for me personally.

I have always encouraged leaders to have a regular exercise routine. I think it’s a necessary discipline for a healthy leader. If you aren’t currently an active exerciser, I have even more practical, first hand experience to encourage you to begin.

Here are 7 reasons I need to exercise:

Forced down time – I discovered that my running time — or when I exercise — is one of the few times each day where I am not answering emails, taking phone calls, or doing something that requires mental power. Exercise forces me to be still — or — well, you know what I mean. My mind is cleared to pray more — to think more.

Physical health – I am better able to maintain my weight when I am running. I feel better. I sleep better. My blood pressure tests lower. The doctor’s office loves taking my vitals when I am in a regular exercise routine. (Due to a heavier than normal travel schedule I am actually up a few pounds — just to be transparent, but thankfully it’s a few pounds not 15 or 20.)

Mental stimulation – My best ideas come while I am running. I suppose because my body is energized and I’m free from other distractions, I’m so creative while I’m running. My biggest obstacle is figuring out how to record or remember them when I stop running. (I’ve even started to walk for a minute just to record the thought quickly.) Some of my deepest, most intimate times with God come when I’m on a long run. God seems to work in my mind during those times — probably because I’ve given Him better access to my mind.

Longevity – Long days are nothing for me when I am in a healthy running discipline. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have more energy in the day — not less — when I’m exercising regularly.

Maximum effectiveness – Exercise — while it seems to take time out of my day — actually ends up being the most effective use of my time. It increases my productivity and gives me a better overall attitude towards my work (and life). It’s powerful enough — I’ve learned from experience — that on my busiest days I try to break away and exercise in the middle of the day. The fastest way for me to get out of a productivity slump is to step away from the “work” and go for a short (or long) run.

Eat with less worry – I enjoy food. A lot. People will often make a comment I must not enjoy food as much as they do because I seem to maintain my weight. The reality is they’ve never seen me eat. I don’t think you can totally ignore your diet regardless of how much you exercise. I try to be healthier in most of my choices, and I do discipline what I eat (wish I was better at how much), but I pretty much eat what I want. I’m certainly never hungry long. Running — or exercise — affords me less guilt in my diet and the occasional splurges I enjoy.

Stress reduction – I find if I’m especially stressed a good sweat gives me a calmer perspective. It’s an excellent way to decompress. It was crazy how much not running — before I found exercise which could substitute — added to me being more tense. My family noticed it. I’m certain the people who work with me did also. I know I did. I’m a nicer person to be around when I’m running regularly. It took me a while to associate the cause of additional stress on the lack of exercise, but the return to healthy routines made it clear.

I’m back to running, thankfully. In fact, I just completed a 10K with my fastest time in several years. I’m usually training for something — even if I never run another race — because it keeps me disciplined in a routine. And, I know the value. It’s been proven to me.

Do you have a regular routine of exercise? It doesn’t have to be running, but it should be something. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before you start something extreme, but I’ve never had a doctor who didn’t value some form of exercise.

If you are not regularly exercising — especially if you’re a leader — answer this question:

Considering the stress in your life, and how productive you hope to be with your life, could beginning the discipline of exercise be one of the missing ingredients?

Let me be a voice of encouragement to you. Find the exercise routine which works best for you, discipline yourself for 30-40 days, then enjoy the lifetime of benefits.

An Encouragement To Be A Dad (Happy Father’s Day!)

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Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3

The role of a father is so important in the home.

God bless the fathers of the world today!

A friend told me once about an incident at her daughter’s house. Her son-in-law was really excited about finishing a book in a series of fiction novels. He was so anxious to finish the latest release that he stayed up most of the night, doing nothing other than read. Normally very interactive with his family, this night he did nothing but read. Seated comfortably in his favorite chair, his back was to the rest of the house. The first time he got up was well after midnight. He was startled to stumble over something on the floor — one of his sons. His son was sleeping behind his chair, just to be close to “Daddy”.

What an impact a father has on his family!

The statistics of fatherless homes are astounding. Sobering. Scary even. (Read some of them HERE.)

One of the greatest gifts I could give my boys when they were home was to simply spend time with them in the backyard. They loved to pass a ball together. I fully believe God used these times to mold their character and help shape them into godly young men.

Children love to spend time with their fathers. They long for male attention, male interaction, and a father’s approval. They learn from dad how much they can accomplish and how secure they are in this world. They learn to love in strength. They learn to take risks and get up after failure. And, so much more.

Fathers, please, don’t neglect your greatest responsibility. I know the world is demanding much from you these days. I know you are tired from the pressures and stress of life, but your family’s health depends so greatly on the important role you play.

I know men who would love to be a dad if God allowed and I know those who have lost their dad or never knew him. It’s a deep pain. I know moms who had to play both roles. I know those who have lost children. Can’t imagine. If you have the opportunity — or if you’re dad is in your life — take advantage of the blessing.

I’m praying for you! Happy Father’s Day!

7 Ways to Parent with Grace

family lifestyle portrait

Cheryl and I had a model for our parenting.

Whenever I say that to people they hear “complicated”. It wasn’t. We aren’t complicated people.

Simply put, we attempted to implement grace into our home.

Our boys are now grown — in their mid-twenties, but we have seen the fruit from our methods. We have two amazing sons. They love Jesus, they serve others, and they respect their parents. (And, they are self-supported. That’s a good thing.)

Our heart is now to help other parents learn from things we did wrong and things we did right.

Grace-based parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

For an easy definition: Grace-based parenting attempts to parent children the way God parents us — by grace. It makes sense to me — if God leads us by grace we should lead our children by grace. I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Grace even disciplines and corrects. Oh, the power of grace.
We are not under the law — but grace.

Grace-based parenting does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to the last sentence.) It didn’t mean we released them to sin.

The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace-based living. (Romans 6:1-2)

To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

Basically with grace-based parenting we had some basic principles with which we parented. We considered these often.

Here are 7 ways to parent with grace:

Set clear boundaries. 

Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these — primarily because they intrinsically want to know how real they are. When they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. For example, one of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us — anything — but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me in the way they responded and talked to us. Another solid boundary was honesty. Punishment was more severe if they did wrong and lied about it than if they confessed.

Recognize the individuality of the child. 

You can’t parent all children the same with the same results. Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination — a path for him. He would get there in his own way.

Have certain goals.

I am not sure our boys ever knew, but we had goals for them every year for improvement. For example, we concentrated on building their patience. We tried to encourage more honesty in them. Basically, we talked about where we saw our boys — what we saw they needed — and together we planned an intentional effort. That was grace to them — as we intentionally imparted truth into them by stories, Scripture and by example — even when they just thought we were throwing a ball together.

Major on the majors, not the minors.

This is huge. There should be some things, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tended to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly. Of course, they are still handled with love, but we made sure the boys knew we were very serious about them. The minor issues — those which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but can be handled less severely. Leaving clothes on the floor or forgetting to take out the trash may feel “major” at the time, but it isn’t likely going to help determine who they are as a person years from now. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart.

We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily.

God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children — especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them even in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

Be a “fun” parent.

Children should enjoy having a good time with you. That’s true even when they aren’t fully living up to your standards. You want your children giving you access to their lives later in life. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house. At the same time, we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model. There were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents. There will be some days that are no fun — but if children are living within the boundaries of your home, don’t take the stress of your world out on them. When you’re home — be home — and have a good time being there.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.