Reaching Millennials — Is There One Way?

Thumb Up young couple

This is a guest post by my son Nate:

My name is Nate, and I’m a millennial.
That means I must love liturgy, hate big production in church, want to ask really hard questions about faith all the time, go do organized “social justice” every Saturday, am nowhere near shallow enough (or I’m just far too clever) to attend a church with a hashtag campaign, want a pastor who preaches messages that are “on point” and filled with “authentic, hard truth”, think that the majority of Christians I grew up with were hypocritical bigots who suppressed all of my doubts, love Jesus but question institutionalized Christianity, yet simultaneously desperately desire a church that will help me get back in touch with the “historic roots” of the Christian faith.

So, church leaders… if you want to reach me and all my millennial friends, decipher how all of that fits together, then get busy changing to become exactly like me so that I can have a church that’s perfect for me. But make sure you stay “authentic” along the way, otherwise we will see straight through you and discount you completely.
Heew. What a difficult task you have. Unless, of course, that’s not true for all (I might even argue, most) millennials.

The last couple weeks, there have been several articles posted about how the church can reach millennials. Below are just two examples.

Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’

Dear church: An open letter from one of those millennials you can’t figure out

These kinds of posts have been rolling out for a few years now. The reason I’ve decided to write this post is because several older believers and pastors I deeply respect have been sharing the articles, almost as if their ministries are completely irrelevant and headed toward extinction.

I simply don’t believe that’s true.

You can read the rest of the post by clicking

HERE

7 Pieces of Wisdom for Navigating through the Disappointments of Life

Upset

I have the opportunity to sit with many people who are experiencing disappointment in life. Many times, even when we are doing the best we know how, we find ourselves disappointed with where we find ourselves in life at the time.

Life happens. It could be tragedy or a minor set back, but it hurts. Pain is always relative to context. And, if we don’t know how to respond we can have a very hard time recovering.

Having faced disappointment many times in my own life, I’ve learned a few things about navigating through these times. I hope some of my wisdom gleaned through experience can help you.

Here are 7 pieces of wisdom for the disappointments of life:

Keep your heart close to God. That’s important always, but especially during times of disappointment. The Psalmist said, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” God is most likely at work in ways you cannot presently see or understand. Often disappointment ushers in some of the greatest seasons of God for your life. Don’t miss it by not listening to Him.

Wait for your emotions to heal before you make major decisions. Recall how the prophet Elijah was ready to die during a difficult period. (1 Kings 19) Yet God still had great plans for his life and ministry. We tend to make irrational decisions immediately following times of disappointment. Let some time pass and make sure you are thinking rational again before you implement major changes in your life.

Don’t quit doing what you know to do. While you shouldn’t make major changes, an equally dangerous tendency to give up or stall until the next opportunity arrives or life gets “easier”. You may need a resting period, but keep your mind and hands busy doing what there is to do today. It will help protect your heart and mind from the attack of fears and doubts. And, do things that keep you alive and healthy. Eat, sleep, exercise.

Don’t allow a disappointment to determine your sense of self-worth. Read many of David’s Psalms. (22, 69, and 121 are a few of my favorites.) You can read his despair — then as He reminds himself of God’s love and faithfulness — he is restored. Be restored who you are as a child of God. Beloved. Let God and the people who know you best help determine your worth. It’s monumental worth. Yes, even today! You don’t have to be defined by your disappointment. 

(And, be on the lookout for signs of severe depression. Things like withdrawal, constant feelings of despair, severe worry, not eating, dark fears or thoughts, etc. Don’t resist professional help.)

Remember, you are not alone. Even though it may feel that way. Back to the story of Elijah, he couldn’t see it at the time, but God had reserved an army of supporters for him. Disappointments are a part of everyone’s experience. There is likely someone who has experienced the same type disappointment. Don’t be afraid to find them and let them walk through this period with you. (This is not a time to remove yourself from the church community — this is a time to find real, life-giving community.)

Learn everything you can from this period. No one welcomes disappointment, yet most who have experienced them learn some of life’s best lessons during those times. Even failure can be a great teacher. Don’t miss the value of experience.

Move forward when opportunity presents itself. Too many people become paralyzed after a period of disappointment, refusing to ever move forward again. Living an abundant life requires risk-taking. Dreaming again. Loving again. Ultimately, to be obedient to God’s call on your life, you will have to walk by faith again. If you ever hope to escape the moment of disappointment — when the time is right — and you’ve grieved your loss or disappointment sufficiently — get on with life.

Learning how to handle disappointments will make your life better. Eventually, God will — if you allow Him to — grant you the privilege of helping others who experience disappointment.

What wisdom have you gleaned from times of disappointment?

10 Suggestions for Raising Godly Children

Family Pic 2010

Most of the believers I know have a strong desire to raise their children to be godly; to be passionate followers of Christ.

Years ago, before I even had children, God laid on my heart to develop a plan for my fathering. Though at the time I didn’t put this on paper, over the years I have begun to write it down in an effort to encourage other parents to have a plan for their parenting in the area of spiritual development.

That plan was covered in previous posts — this is an expansion of that — but in addition to having a plan, we thought through as a couple actions which could help attain our plan for parenting.

You can have the best plan in the world but with no steps to implement them they will just be pretty words on paper. That’s true in every area of our life, including parenting.

One of the things we wanted to see was our children following after Christ. We wanted to instill godly principles in their life. These are some specific suggestions we thought through for the spiritual development part of our plan. You can use a similar approach but alter them  to fit your own plan, life situations, and the individualities of your children. This is what we did. And, by God’s grace — and so far — with two adult children who love and serve Jesus — it is working.

Although, I would say these should be good suggestions for any parent.

Here are 10 suggestions for raising godly children:

Realize that raising godly children does not usually happen by accident. It will require proper planning and implementation. You can’t just “hope” for the Bible to impact the life of your children. You’ll have to work at it daily.

Know what you want your child to look like as adults. Ultimately, as I said before, we wanted our boys to be like Christ, so He became the primary model we used. We talked about Jesus often. He was no stranger in our home — not just a Sunday occurrence.

Define for them what it means to be a Christ follower. For me that definition is one who knows what God requires of him and is willing to do whatever it takes to meet that requirement. We wanted our boys to understand that was not just a term it was a life mission.

Strive to live like Christ personally. I realized early in parenting that our boys would each, in many ways, be copycats of both of us — but especially me. Because of that, we were conscious of the fact they must see us willing to live out our own definition of who a Christ follower — being willing to walk by faith, even when we didn’t understand all He was doing — which was often. We had numerous hard seasons of life when the boys were little. We wanted them to see us handling the stress of life by seeking Christ’s input into our situations.

Have basic principles of spiritual growth that you want each child to learn. For me those were:

  • How to hear from God.
  • The importance of prayer.
  • What it means to be a student of God’s Word.
  • The act of surrendering to God’s will.
  • To apply Scripture to daily life.

Find practical teachings from God’s Word. Boys seem naturally attracted to stories about action, even violence to a certain extent. Of course, we wanted them to understand those things from a biblical perspective. And, the Bible is full of great stories. That meant looking at the characters of the Bible and how their lives represented Christ, how they heard from and obeyed God, and also how sometimes they failed to do so. Also, reading through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes was another helpful too to help implant wisdom in our boys. We talked about the stories of the Bible and how they impacted us today.

Individualize teaching time for the child. We seldom did the typical Bible study setting. We weren’t the weekly family devotion family. It simply didn’t work for us. We looked for teachable moments with our boys — for one boy, with me that was often while pitching a baseball together and for the other it was while kicking a soccer ball. Bedtime was another opportune time for teaching. It is amazing what children will do to delay bedtime, but if the discussion is productive We always felt their character development was most important. Dinner time was another opportunity when we could talk about the things of God.

Be purposeful to talk about the specific character traits you want your child to have. We decided each year what was most important for each boy to learn that year. We purposely brought up character topics, such as honesty or how to treat girls and discussed it with them during teaching moments when we had their full attention.

Be willing to grow in your own learning of who Christ is. Over the years, our understanding of who Christ is and how He relates to us and the world around us has continually grown. We allowed our boys to walk through those changes with us. We weren’t afraid to let them know we didn’t have answers or that we were wrong.

Pray and trust Christ. I know plenty of examples where parents did everything we did, yet they haven’t experienced the same results. Only God’s grace can really build godliness and every child has the ability to resist that grace. In the end, do all you know to do and trust God with your children.

I took personally that one of my responsibilities as a father was to see that these implemented in our home. I am thankful for a supporting wife who has worked with me to balance my role with her more nurturing role (which she is excellent at completing). So far our now adult young men are following after God’s heart in their own way.

My role has changed from my boy’s primary teacher to one of a mentor or coach. I’m their friend — still their dad, but it’s different now. They call me regularly for advice. They want my input in their life. More than anything, however, I’m thankful for the godly young men they have become.

Do you have a plan for your parenting?

7 Things You May Not Know but You Need to Know about Your Husband

couple sitting on sofa at home

I recently wrote a post about 7 things you may not know about your wife. It was a popular post and I committed to write a companion post for the wives.

Here are 7 things wives need to know — but may not know — about your husband:

His ego is more fragile than you imagined. I know, you’re probably tired of hearing about the male ego. I get it. But, it hasn’t gone away and, frankly, the world isn’t too kind on our ego. We see the jokes on every sitcom and commercial about how inadequate we are at times. But, there’s not a man with a soul that’s alive that doesn’t want to be admired by the woman in his life. Not one.

He is very visual. Very. More than you are probably thinking. You see his eyes roam. That’s a natural reaction for him. He doesn’t have to work on it. Now he has responsibility over his eyes — not the girl who attracted them — but if there’s a pretty girl around, he probably saw her long before you did. And, he likely battles staring more than you will ever understand.

He doesn’t want you to be his mother. You can say “Ouch!” if you need to, but men want a wife, not a mom. I hear this from men frequently — especially young men. If you’re a mom they want you to be a great mom — just not theirs. I know we need mothering sometimes. All of us do. We may even act like big babies at times. But, mothering a husband never works. Ever. Be our partner. Our best friend. Not our mother.

When you correct him you hurt him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t need correcting. He might. But, the way you do this is huge. Your respect for him is huge for him. His greatest emotional need. That could be in how he fixes the bed — or the fact that he doesn’t — or for things far worse. If he senses you are talking down to him — not respecting him — he may comply with your wishes in actions (or not) but inside his heart will be growing colder towards you.

He loves you uniquely. He probably won’t love you all the ways you expect him to love. And, frankly, he won’t be all the love you need him to be. He may not always feel love as an emotion as strongly as you do. Your heart is capable of much more than he can fill completely. There will be times — hopefully even seasons when he does — but no man will meet every need of your heart. (Other than the man Jesus.)

What he does really is who he is many times. It’s his identity. If it’s golf, his career, fishing, antique cars or his extensive comic book collection — that’s a part of him. When you miss that or don’t value it he may feel like less of a man.

He probably thinks you’re more wonderful than you think he does. He probably thinks higher of you than you do. How you look. What you’re able to do.  e wonders how you keep up with everyone and everything as you do. He may even envy that about you. And, he has a strong desire to protect you because of his view of you. He respects you — probably more than he knows how to communicate to you.

Guys, anything you would add?

7 Ways To Honor Your Pastor’s Wife

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One of the toughest jobs in the church is that of being a pastor’s wife. 

It has been called the loneliest job in the church.

No doubt I have one of the best. Cheryl has a professional job as an accountant, is an excellent mom and wife, but the demands on her as my wife are some of the most overwhelming.

Still she handles it with grace and a smile.

In this post, I want to help you know how to honor and protect your pastor’s wife. 

Truthfully, I am not talking on behalf of Cheryl. She would never ask for this and frankly we are mostly in a good church environment as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated. Plus, we came out of the business world into ministry. We were older and more seasoned by life, so we’ve always approached things differently — protected our personal time more. Sunday is Cheryl’s favorite day of the week.

I know, however, because of my work with pastors that many pastor’s wives are facing burnout, a sense of loneliness, and some even struggle to come to church. That should not be.

Here are 7 ways to honor your pastor’s wife:

Do not put too many expectations on her. 

Regardless of the church size, she cannot be everywhere, at everything and know everyone’s name and family situation and still carry out her role in the home. She simply can’t. Don’t expect her to be super-human.

Do not expect her to oppose her husband

She will be protective of her spouse. Hopefully you would equally protect your spouse. If you bad mouth her husband she’s likely to respond in a way you don’t want her to — but should expect her to. Don’t complain if she does.

Protect her from gossip.

She does not need to know the “prayer concerns” that are really just a way of spreading rumors. And, you know when that’s the case. Check your motives in what you share. Don’t share what you don’t have permission to share.

Let her have a family. 

The pastor is pulled in many directions. The family understands the nature of the job. Life doesn’t happen on a schedule. But, in reality, there are often unreasonable demands on the pastor. That always impacts the family. If you can — limit your demands to normal working hours for the church and the pastor. Send an email rather than calling at home if it’s not an immediate concern. It will help the pastor have a family life.

Include her without placing demands or expectations on her. 

That’s the delicate balance. The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church. She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times that are just for fun. Don’t be afraid to treat her as a normal human being. She is. But, if she says no — don’t hold it against her either.

Never repeat what she says. 

Ever. If the pastor’s wife happens to share information with you about the church or her personal life, keep it to yourself. Always. There will be temptation to share her words as “juicy news”, but you will honor her by remaining silent. And, over time, you will build her trust and her friendship.

Pray for your pastor’s family.

Daily would be awesome. And much needed.

Finally, if your church really wants to honor the pastor’s wife, find ways to give her time away with her husband and/or family. That is probably what she needs the most.

Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor’s wife here and share practical ways you can honor your pastor’s wife. If you are a pastor or pastor’s wife, I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Two closing notes. First, these may work equally well for the husband of a pastor or minister, but I can only speak from my perspective. Second, I’ve been told numerous times that a pastor’s wife IS the problem in the church. That’s the subject of another post, but I do understand and recognize that there are times this is the problem. It is very difficult for a pastor to be effective without a supportive spouse.)

7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

Time Out

Talking to younger parents often reminds me of a parenting phenomenon that we experienced firsthand. Perhaps, if you’re children are older, you did also. It’s called the “terrible threes”. 

Ever have a three year old try your patience?

As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the “terrible twos” that is a problem — it’s the “terrible threes”.

It goes something like this: One day your precious angel — the one everyone thinks is so cute — who was hardly ever a problem before — suddenly becomes a living terror at times. You don’t know what to do — how to respond — and how to stop it.. You have never dealt with such temper tantrums, back-talking, and outbursts of anger. 

If that’s your story — you may have entered the “terrible threes”.

Children cycle through many phases and it shouldn’t be too surprising if they go through a rebellious stage early in life. The terrible threes, or twos, as the case may be, most likely is the time when the child most openly expresses his or her independence. 

And, the more independent the child — the more difficult this time can be. And, the longer it might last.

He or she is exploring a new world, testing boundaries, discovering their own personality, and filtering through reactions of others. As with other phases the child will experience, this one is difficult for the child as well as the parent, but in this phase the child is the least mature in the relationship and their reaction, by the way, should be likewise.

Here are 7 suggestions for surviving the terrible threes:

Suffer through it!

I know. That’s not what you wanted to hear, but most likely, it will not last long. Perhaps not even a whole year. And, there is hope on the other side — if you act wisely at this stage.

Be consistent

This is not the time to give in to the child’s outbursts. That almost never works. This is the time to consistently follow through with prescribed discipline. The child is learning. They need to learn that outbursts don’t work in your home.

And, why is this important? Well, you’re raising them to be an adult. Are similar outbursts usually okay in high school — or in the workplace?

Keep loving 

As much as your child tries your patience, continue to always exhibit love to your child, even during discipline. Most likely they know when they are having a temper-tantrum. They are possibly even doing it for the attention it brings — wondering how you will react. Make sure they know and understand that even when you aren’t happy with their behavior — you will always love them.

Experiment

Use different discipline methods until you find one that works for this stage of the child’s life. Every child is unique. Some things work. Some things don’t. Again, you’re wiser at this point than them. Wisely experiment to find the right action to correct their action — or encourage better actions.

Remember you are the adult

Sometimes when the child is showing his or her worse side it is tempting to show yours. Don’t do it. Keep your cool. Be mature. Handle these days firmly, but calmly. Remember you are modeling behavior for your child. They are watching you — closely.

Teach your child

This phase can be a great opportunity to teach your child how to respond to disappointment and frustration — what an appropriate emotional response looks like. They’ll need that the rest of their life.

Don’t be afraid to share your situation with others

Often parents are embarrassed because of their children’s behavior during this stage of life. Grocery store visits can be embarrassing. Restaurant visits may be avoided. So, the parents hide the struggle. They falsely assume other parents don’t experience the same with their children. That’s a myth. The biggest surprise at this stage of your child’s life may be when you discover you are not unique in this struggle. Ask for help. Find a mentoring couple. That’s helpful at every stage of your child’s life — but especially at this one.

By the way, most of these are good suggestions in other phases of a child’s life also.

But, here’s a bonus one.

Enjoy!

Seriously, enjoy every season of your child’s life. They pass so quickly and each one has its own set of challenges. (And, it’s true, the challenges do get bigger — even into your child’s adulthood.)

The fact is that even the “terrible threes” can be filled with laughter and wonder as your child is becoming their own person. Zig Ziglar actually said to call them the “terrific two’s” (or threes). You sometimes get what you’re looking for in life. Marvel at what God has done and is doing in your child’s life. Even in the most difficult of seasons — children are a gift. A precious gift!

Praying for you parents! You’re probably doing better than it feels at times.

7 Things You May Not Know but You Need to Know about Your Wife

family crisis, conflict, strife, discord

Guys, can I be honest with you? Marriage can be hard.

Did you know that already?

Sometimes you do the wrong thing before you even knew you did the wrong thing. You try to figure out the one you love the most but the more you try the more confused you get. I get it. I understand.

Men and women are different. (You can tweet that.)

We don’t always think and respond to life the same way.

And, likely there are some things about your wife you just didn’t know.

Over the years, through counseling training and actual counseling — and learning from my wife — I’ve observed some things. And, I’ve realized some men simply don’t know them — or don’t realize how important they are to their wife.

Here are 7 things you may not know but you need to know about your wife:

You step on her feelings more than you know.

You just do. And, you don’t even mean to — or know that you are most of the time. She may think you do, but you don’t. You’re just not as aware of how she’s wired emotionally. And, most of the time she overlooks it. She knows it wasn’t intentional. But, it hurts. And, the more you do it the more it hurts. So be careful with your words.

And, that leads to the next one.

Your words are heavier than you think they are.

You need to know that. When she asks you how she looks, for example — yes it is a quandary on how to respond and there are plenty of jokes around about that dilemma — but your response matters. Probably more than any other response of her day. It’s a small question to you but big question for her. And, you communicate things to her continually through how you say what you say and the body language you combine with your words. And, they weigh a ton to her. A ton.

She wants you to take the lead.

At least occasionally. I know all the women’s rights issues cloud this for you. It can be confusing, but there’s likely something in your wife just waiting for you to make a decision. She values your input and she wants you to lead in the home as well as she sees that you can lead elsewhere. And, speaking on behalf of men, I know you don’t always want to be the leader. She’s better at making many of the decisions than you are. Still, she’s waiting — hoping, that you’ll step up where you need to lead.

She doesn’t want to be like her mother.

Or to be compared to her mother. And, these type jokes aren’t funny. Ever. Trust me. And, in fact, she doesn’t want to be like any other woman either. She wants to be seen for the unique wonder she is — which by the way was God-designed.

She is likely with you even when she’s not.

At least in her mind. Our wives are very relational. So if she asks about your calendar– now you know. She’s not trying to be difficult or suspicious. She’s trying to be with the one she loves.

It’s okay just to hold her hand.

And, also, to occasionally be romantic. You may have established a long time ago that you’re not the romantic type. She may realize she married funny — or serious — or dedicated — more than romantic. But, every woman needs a little romance occasionally. It makes her feel special — especially when it comes from you.

The way her world looks is often how her heart feels.

All her world. The house, for example, you think it doesn’t matter, but to her it reflects her — not you. She’s also conscious of what others think of her appearance. She carries this burden heavier than she wants to sometimes. Don’t diminish this to her. Understand it.

In a future post, I’ll share the companion post for wives to understand.

5 Tips For Leading Strong-Willed People

Stubborn donkey

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led?

The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one. Perhaps you are one.

(I know one personally — me!)

But, have you ever tried to lead one?

It’s not easy.

In fact, I’m convinced many strong-willed people end up leading just because they couldn’t be led — and yet they probably didn’t need to lead. But, no one ever learned to lead them.

And, I’m not sure I am an expert. But, I have some ideas — since I’m speaking to my own kind.

Here are 5 tips for leading strong-willed people:

Give clear expectations

Everyone responds best when they know what is expected of them. That is especially true of those with strong opinions of their own — shall I say — those of us more stubborn people. If you have a definite idea of how something needs to be done and you leave it as an undefined gray area — we will redefine things our way. Keep this in mind with strong-willed people: Rules should be few and make sense or they’ll likely be resisted or broken more often.

Give freedom within the boundaries

Once the guidelines and expectations are established, allow people to express themselves freely within them. That’s important for all of us, but especially for strong-willed people. Strong-willed people need to know they can make some decisions — that they have freedom to explore on their own.

Be consistent

Strong willed people need boundaries, but they will test them. They want to know the limits of their freedom. Keep in mind they are head-strong. We’ve even labeled them — strong-willed. They aren’t the rule followers on the team. Make sure the rules you have — and again there shouldn’t be too many — are consistent in application. If it’s worth making a rule — make sure it’s worth implementing.

Pick your battles.

This is huge. Strong-willed people can be the backbone of a team. They can loyal, dogmatic, and tenacious — all for the benefit of the vision. What leader doesn’t want that? But, those same qualities can be where the problems start also. Don’t cross a strong-willed person over issues of little importance to the overall vision of the organization. If you back them in a corner they will usually fight back.

Respect their opinions and individualities

Strong-willed people ultimately want to be heard (as all people do). They aren’t weird because they sometimes seem immovable. But, they do resist leadership most when their voice is silenced. Learn what matters to them and give credence to their opinions — you’ll find a loyal teammate.

Be honest: Are you strong-willed? How do you like to be led?

7 Suggestions for Raising Boys Who Welcome Your Input as Adults

boy and father

People ask me all the time for advice on raising girls, and honestly, I’ve got some, but they all involve a shotgun and long ankle-length dresses, so you probably don’t want that. Just kidding. I always wanted a daughter, but God gave me boys.

And, I think He knew what He was doing. Imagine that!

I’ve learned a few things about ministering to men — and understanding myself more — by raising boys. One thing I’ve learned is that boys are desperate for wisdom. They crave it. They want someone to speak into their life — save them from making the wrong decision.

But, equally true, they are often either too timid to ask for it or they just never know to do so.

(Someone told me guys seldom ask for directions either, but I’m having a hard time believing that one. :) )

I’m close to my two adult boys. We’ve walked through a lot of life together — mine and theirs. They are on their own, have good careers, and live healthy, productive lives. They love other people with grace. Best of all, they both love and pursue Jesus actively. I couldn’t be more proud as a dad.

Gratefully, and the subject of this post, they still call me for the major decisions they make in life.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad when I was their age. I wanted the type relationship with my sons where they would always feel welcome and ready to learn from my experience. I’m blessed to say both my boys call me often, sometimes daily in certain seasons of their life. They want my help making life decisions. I can only credit God’s grace with that blessing.

Even still, I’ve observed there is something in them that wants to appear not to need the help at times. Something in a guy resists the need for help — even when we desperately need the help.

How do you get your sons to want to come to you for wisdom, long after they leave home?

I get asked that a lot. I have a few thoughts.

Here are 7 suggestions for raising boys:

Do activities they want to do – I spent lots of time with my boys, but I did that by assuming their interests. If it was baseball or wrestling, I loved and lived what they loved. I know dads who try to get their boys to love fishing or golf because they love fishing or golf. I simply chose my interests around theirs.

Stay close – Boys grow to become men. That sounds simple, but it’s huge to remember. They want to be independent. Some days they don’t want you around as much as others. (That may sound appealing for a moment when they are colicky as infants, but believe me you will miss them.) I tried to stay close enough that I was there when they were ready for me. Ephesians 6 says not to exasperate the children. I simply tried not to get in the way of their growth pattern, but to always be available when needed. I found I was “needed” more often that way. And, the funny thing, it almost seemed like they tested whether I was going to be there when they called.

Be fully present – Like all men I always had plenty I could be doing. I tried to let the boy’s time be the boy’s time. Children know when you’re not really being attentive. There were times my boys told me I needed to put my phone down. I listened. I wanted them to feel I was listening to what mattered to them. If my boys wanted to kick a soccer ball or throw a baseball, I did it, no matter how tired I was from a long day. And, it’s amazing how much more a boy will engage in conversation when a ball is involved.

Offer wisdom more than solutions – This is huge. I explained this more in THIS POST, but I tried to help my boys form a paradigm for finding an answer, rather than always giving them the answer. Honestly, this is harder. It’s easier just to do something sometimes. Give the answer and move on. Solve the problem. But they don’t grow that way. And, they learn to use you as a crutch, rather than develop into independent young men. Boys want to find their own way. They like solving the mystery, creating a new path, and discovering the answers on their own. I wanted them to always have access to me for the wisdom of experience, but to develop the ability to make wise decisions apart from me.

Love their friends – My boys knew their friends were always welcome in our house. They knew I’d fix them lots of pancakes on Saturday morning. They knew we stocked our fridge with every drink their friends might like, just in case our house was the hangout house for the night. They knew the doors was always wide open for anyone they brought through them. Honestly, we didn’t always approve of their choices in friends, but we talked them through it and tried to steer them towards better friends. But, we never turned away their friends. This did two things. It protected their hearts towards us. And, it helped them learn principles of grace. Over time we discovered that if we were building wisdom into their lives in other areas they would discern for themselves the wisest choice in friends.

Give solid boundaries – We were a house of grace, but boys need structure. Let me repeat that — before someone gets hurt — boys NEED structure. They need someone to tell them when they’ve gone too far in how they talk to their mom. They need someone who will counsel them when they are falling behind in school — and hold them accountable to do better. They need to know there is someone who will pull them aside and discipline them when they do wrong — and be consistent in that discipline.

Let them explore – Boys are risk-takers. Most likely we have steered it out of them if it’s not there. It’s innate. They use potty language and wrestle and bounce balls that break lamps and pee places you never thought someone would pee. They’ll jump off something and you’ll likely end up in the emergency room a time or two. But, that’s part of being a boy. And, discovering. And, growing courage and faith and the ability to be a man. Of course, there’s a line. And, I wasn’t great at finding that line. You can’t let them be too stupid (Although one of my favorite Proverbs says, “Surely I’m too stupid to be a man.”) But, you should let them be boys. That includes exploring. And, that’s a word to moms and dads.

There are probably other suggestions I could share, but if you are raising boys, you probably need to go break up a fight or stop them from jumping off something. We can talk more later. :)

What suggestions do you have for raising boys?