Olive Tree Parenting – Growing Children of Character

Smiling little boy digging in vegetables garden

Every time I write about parenting, people email me asking for more. I understand.

Parenting is hard work.

Most people who follow my ministry closely know this is one area of my life I have taken very serious. One specific desire Cheryl and I had in raising our boys was encouraging them to love Christ and display His character. It’s great to teach our children how to play sports or to do well in school, and I think we should, but our greatest goal should be to help them be people who aspire to have good character – specifically the character of Christ.

Recognizing the Bible is a great guide to do this, I once developed a model for parenting called Olive Tree Parenting.

This model is based upon a couple verses of Scripture.

Psalm 128:3 says, “Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.”
Psalm 144:12 says, “Our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants.”

Here are a few facts I’ve read about olive trees:

  • They were a symbol of peace and happiness to Hebrews.
  • It takes some varieties 8-10 years to even bear fruit.
  • It takes 20-50 years for an olive tree to be mature and really productive.
  • No one knows for sure how long they grow, but estimate is at least 300-600 years, with some estimates up to 2000 years.
  • When the tree trunk of an olive tree dies new sprouts come out keeping the tree alive.
  • Olive trees are evergreens.

Do you see any parallels there in raising children – or your desires for them in life?

I firmly believe we are more likely to get out of life what we actually aim for, so our goal became to raise children to be adults that bear righteous fruit for generations. We began to think strategically how to develop Biblical characteristics of fruit in our two boys.

The Bible also gives us some clear indication of what righteous fruit looks like.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Here are some suggestions to encourage each of these fruits to grow:

Love is the first fruit mentioned and perhaps the most important. Jesus said “love” was the greatest command for us all. I don’t believe we can teach our child to love. We must model it for them.

Here are some actions you can take, however, to instill this fruit in their heart.

  • Ask your children questions about their life. Get to know your child and what they are thinking.
  • Do everything in love — even discipline. (They will know when you are not acting in love. You will too.)
  • Discipline. Don’t neglect discipline in “the name of love”. Discipline should actually be an indication you love them enough to train them to do the right thing.
  • Watch how you treat other groups of people — including other races and ethnic groups.
  • Watch your child’s attitude — always recognize attitudes over actions (1 Sam. 16:24) and respond accordingly.
  • Love your children’s friends.
  • Be kind to your neighbors, friends and family. They are watching.
  • Get involved in church and community not out of compulsion, but because you love other people.

The goal of producing joy is not to make your children happy – even though most parents rightly want that for their children. The Bible makes a distinction between joy and happiness. (Psalm 68:3)

Here are some actions you can take to instill the fruit of joy in your child’s heart:

  • Don’t reward everything. Life should not be a big celebration. Life shouldn’t revolve around the next big event.
  • Have a sense of humor. Have fun parenting. Let them see you enjoying life.
  • Be positive. Children can’t take the pressure and stress of life that an adult has to handle.
  • Allow your children to enjoy life at the age they are – without trying to make them someone they are not.
  • Life is difficult and there will be trials, but let your children see you use trials as something you learn from and have faith during; trusting that God will work all things for good.
  • Remind yourself Scripture says to “be joyful always”. Model it for them.

Peace is a foundation for other great character traits you will want your children to have. The Bible says we can have peace that is there regardless of the storms of life. I know many adults who would like this kind of peace themselves. You would certainly want it for your children.

Here are some actions you can take to model peace for your children:

  • Pray for your children daily in their presence. This shows them the importance of prayer and relying on God for daily strength.
  • Teach them to pray. Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Help your children understand they can talk with God anytime. They will catch on quickly. Faith comes much easier when built as a child.
  • Let them see you read your Bible regularly. Truth can ground us when we are afraid or stressed.
  • Talk about your faith. Peace is found in a relationship and they need to see that modeled for them.
  • Remain cool in stressful situations – as best as you can. It’s okay that they see you emotional, but they should quickly see you display a peace that surpasses understanding.

This is a tough one for me, because it is one of my weak points, but it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit God has encouraged us to have. And, our children need it greatly.

Here are some actions to help your children have this trait:

    • Let them see you waiting patiently. (If my boys or my wife reads this they will be wondering when they will see this in me. Still, I have had to wait for many big picture things in my life many times. I’ve attempted to do so patiently.)
    • Make children wait sometimes. Yes, I said it. Children shouldn’t get everything right away and they certainly shouldn’t be able to demand it with temper-tantrums or tears. One statistic I read says that children today get 90% of everything they want, yet as adults they will get less than 25%. We are setting them up for failure when we give them everything.
    • Don’t be a complainer. Do everything without complaining or arguing.(Phil 2:14)
    • Don’t let your children think they are the center of the universe. They are not – actually God is. Encourage them, but don’t crown them kings.

Kindness could be defined as “genuine friendliness, helpfulness and generosity”.

Here are some ways to instill kindness in your children:

  • Be a giver and not a taker. Let your children see you giving to others regularly.
  • Never let children see you being unkind to the cashier or waitress.
  • Know your neighbors and actually have concern for them.
  • Never allow degrading comments to be made to other family members.
  • Care for the hurting people of the world.
  • Be a regular giver/servant at church and in the community.

Jesus said “well done good and faithful servant” and “a good tree produces good fruit”. This is the opposite of bad. (Makes sense, huh?)

Here are some suggestions to instill goodness in your children:

  • Reward good acts towards others.
  • Give extra praise to your children for doing good things. (This can be done verbally and doesn’t always mean buying something.)
  • Never let them see their parents argue and fight.
  • Demand respect always. They don’t always have to agree, but they should always have to respect.
  • Always declare truthfulness. Never let them see you telling lies; even “little white lies”.
  • Teach prompt obedience. Don’t let them “think about” obeying you. This is especially true for younger children.

Children will be as faithful as you are, so in order to see them grow into faithful individuals you will have to model it for them.

Here are some action steps to help the process:

  • Be faithful early in their life to what you want them committed to later in life. If you want them to go to church as adults then take them faithfully as children.
  • If you commit to doing something then do it. Let your Yes be yes and your No be no.
  • Be an anchor in their life in whom they can always depend upon.
  • Be faithful in all relationships. They are watching.
  • Be consistent. If it is morally wrong today — it is tomorrow.
  • Let them know they can depend on you to do what you said you would do for and with them.
  • Let them find you in your devotion and quiet time on a consistent basis.

The word means “not harsh”. It doesn’t mean to be a “mealy mouse” and it doesn’t mean to avoid discipline. It means to be gentle — even in your anger. In John 2, when Jesus went into temple to drive out the money-changers, He first made a whip. It was a definite and determined response, but it was “gently” planned.

Here are some steps you can take to instill this character trait in your children:

  • Grant forgiveness easily. Don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you.
  • Don’t let your children fear coming to you about anything, because of the way you may react.
  • Get down to the children’s level when trying to explain something or in the way you respond to them.
  • Always be available to talk with your children.
  • Talk gently to your spouse.
  • When there is a disagreement in public, such as in a restaurant, it is okay to protect your interests, but it should always be done with gentleness and respect for the other person. There is never an excuse to be rude or obnoxious.

The opposite here is being undisciplined. This is an important trait, because it affects all the others.

Here are some action steps to help build self-control into your children:

  • Don’t allow temper tantrums. “Expressing themselves” is not an excuse for unruliness.
  • Learn personal disciplines and model them — things such as daily Bible reading, exercise and tithing.
  • Know sin has consequences and teach this principle to your children. (Unfortunately you may have to model it also.)
  • Use appropriate discipline for each child. All children are different.
  • Determine the motive behind the action before disciplining your children.
  • Provide appropriate tests for them as they mature to see if they can handle a situation. As they get older grant them more and more trust.

There is a final step in the Olive Tree Parenting Model. You must teach your children to abide!

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If our children can learn this skill all these others will become and remain a part of who they are. They will learn this best as they see you doing so.

I’m praying for your parenting.

I need to remind you that this is a “model” – and I wasn’t perfect at doing this. Some I did better than others. The fact is, however, we seldom hit a target we aren’t aiming for – so make this your goal and you will find it easier to achieve than with no plan at all.

7 Random Suggestions for Younger Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

I love working with younger leaders. It keeps me young and it helps to know I’m investing in something and someone who will likely last beyond my lifetime.

I also love sharing some things I’ve learned from experience. Some of it hard experiences.

If you can learn and practice some of what I’ve learned early in your career it will help you avoid having to learn them by experience.

Please know these are intended to help – not hurt or discourage. I believe in you.

Here are 7 random pieces of advice I give young leaders.

Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes

It helps you remember to write it down, but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed. If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people this is what you are doing.

Respect your elders

The fact is you may not always feel respected by them, but that’s their fault not yours. Showing respect to people older than you now will help ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Learn all you can from everyone you meet

This includes the awkward, even difficult people that you encounter. (You may actually learn more from them if you’re willing.)

Keep a resume handy and keep revising it

You may never use a resume again in today’s work world. It’s all about knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone. But, the discipline of gathering your experience as you gain it forces you to think through your worth to a future employer. You’ll likely be asked to defend this someday and need to be prepared. (Also keep your LinkedIn account up-to-date. Future employers will look.)

Never burn a bridge

You’ll be surprised how many times relationships come back around. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leave well always. Always honor your past.

Be an encourager

Encouragers win the approval of others and are rewarded because they are liked. Be a genuinely positive influence on your team.

Never underestimate a connection made

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. Follow through on the opportunity to know someone new. Always value networking. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will work for good.

Drop the defensiveness

Young people often get defensive when a person with more experience challenges them. This is especially true when being corrected by a leader. Remember you don’t know what you don’t yet know. It’s okay. Learn from your mistakes. Grow from correction. Be patient with those who are trying to teach you. Get the chip off your shoulder and allow feedback to make you better. Over time you’ll win over those who see you as inexperienced.

There are 7 random suggestions.

Elders, what other suggestions would you advise?

An Important Parenting Concept: Especially for Parents of Young Children


I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality which only came to me when my boys were nearly grown I had observed it for years — we practiced it — but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting. 

Here’s the observation.

Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.

My theory.

Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.

I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.

I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And, I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.

But, here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”.  I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.” 

The fact is you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than them. You may not feel you are – the little ones can be intimidating– but you are. And, I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all. 

But, I do think it’s important – even Biblical – to train a child in the way they should go. And, the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not okay to throw a temper tantrum. You can.  And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions – ultimately their heart – towards thing you know, because of your life experience – are best for them.

That’s what parents do. We raise children – children who will one day be adults.

Here’s the deal and why this matters so much and actually how this whole concept even developed.

Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority. And, if we have this parenting thing backwards what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. 

How does that work for a teenager? It doesn’t.

They have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around. The biggest problem with trying to control children into their teenage years is they can completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?

Many parents release early then try to control later. It doesn’t work. They hang out with the wrong kids. They wear the wrong clothes. They aren’t making wise decisions. The older they get the harder it is to control. At some point your parenting moves from more control to more influence. The key is to control early, things which need controlling – things like heart and character issues – then be able to release gradually as they get older and as they mature.

If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. That’s most important. But know you don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young. You do it by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if a trust relationship has been developed. 

My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you can still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.

For more parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

3 Easy Parenting Principles We Used and Saw Amazing Results

Happy children playing with toy laptop at home

I am frequently asked what we did or didn’t do as parents. I am amazed God has allowed us to raise the two young men we have. In their mid-twenties they are far better men than I was at their age. They love Jesus. They work hard and provide for themselves. They love others well. What a blessing!

It’s all grace.

But, there were a few principles we practiced consistently.

Here are 3 easy parenting principles all parents should consider:

Be intentional

Parenting is hard work. Don’t try it without a plan. It’s amazing how we tend to plan for everything in life, but seldom for our parenting. I know men and women who have a plan to improve their golf game, but nothing to help them grow as a father or mother. Parents who plan great social events but have no plan to instill values in their children – they simply react to life as it happens. Some parents scramble to make their children happy, making sure they are in every activity available, but never stop to think what kind of character they want their children to have as adults and what is going to best help them get there. 

If you want to be a great parent, you must be intentional about the role. You must have an overall goal and plan for your parenting. This includes an individual plan for each child. They are each different and require unique discipline, interaction and approaches to parenting. It means deciding in advance what the character and values you are going for and thinking through – intentionally – ways to develop them. 

At the beginning of each new year, we discussed each boy and came up with a shared goal for each one and talked through ways we could better mold their character in the coming year. We thought about character traits should as honesty, integrity and kindness. It made us limit some of their activities so we could spend quality time with them and make sure they were in the right programs (yes church was one) and around the right people influences.  

Shape the heart

The Bible is clear we should “Above all else guard the heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) I believe in firm discipline. I also believe in extending much grace. More than anything, however, the parent should learn to know, protect and shape the heart of their child. It is the heart, which will ultimately determine the decisions and directions the child eventually makes in life.

I learned great lessons from older friends and things they did which tended to push their children away rather than draw them closer. I always wanted to have a heart connection to our boys. That doesn’t mean giving them everything. Ephesians 6 commands us not to exasperate our children. We exasperate when we have needless rules, when our homes lack grace, or we give them everything but never helping them develop discipline and structure for their life. 

We taught our boys biblical principles. We shared with them our own struggles. We built deep connections with them. Again, this required time to develop. We ate most dinner meals together and never turned down an opportunity to throw and catch a ball. 

Enjoy the ride

Children are children for a very short time. Enjoy those days. The diaper days turn into the diploma days quickly. Be a fun parent – balancing love with discipline. Laughing with your children will help relieve the stress of your life and theirs and keep them wanting to be close to you well into the difficult teen and early adult years.

Let their friends know yours is a welcoming home – where love abounds always. You may not allow everything, but the door should always be open for a child to return. Children can’t handle all the stress of the adult world. We didn’t hide problems from our boys but we did help them believe God was in control, they could trust Him and us and enjoy being a child. 

We played games and made up songs and laughed until it hurt sometimes. We loved seeing our boys enjoy life and grace in our home. 

For my complete parenting philosophy see THIS POST or read other parenting posts HERE.

Which of these do you most need to improve upon as a parent?

(Speaking of principles, be sure to read my disclaimer post about them by clicking HERE.)

8 Paradigm Shapers for Making Discipline Decisions as a Parent

Time Out

I frequently have parents ask me what type of discipline they should use with their children. I’m glad parents are asking the question, but I seldom can give a standard answer for every situation.

I prefer to use a paradigm through which parents can make their own decisions. That’s the purpose of this post.

Perhaps these steps will help you make wiser decisions regarding discipline.

Here are 8 paradigm shapers for making discipline decisions as a parent:

Have a vision – If you don’t know where you want to take children you’ll be less likely to take them there. This should be decided before the need for discipline arises and it should ultimately help shape the discipline you use.

Have a purpose – The purpose of discipline should not be to cause harm, but to teach. Discipline is to help a child learn how to live. Keep this in mind as you discipline and it will help you make wiser choices. Ask yourself, “What can I do to best teach my child what he (or she) needs to learn from this experience?”

Step back and process – Immediately after an offense is not always the best time to administer punishment. It’s okay to let children wait for a response. Sometimes this is the best discipline for the child and it almost always makes your decision better. This step becomes more important as they get older and the discipline decisions become more difficult.

Never make a decision in anger – You don’t want emotions to make the decision. You want a well thought out response.

Consider the bigger picture – This is where having a plan/vision comes in handy. Considering where you want to take the child, how they are progressing in life, and the motivation of their heart, what punishment will most help accomplish your objectives for the child in this specific circumstance?

Make the punishment fit the offense – In my opinion, you shouldn’t have a standard punishment. Grounding for older children or time-out for younger children may work in some circumstances but not in others.

Make the punishment fit the child – All children are different, learn differently and require different methods to teach the principles you want to teach.

Reinforce love – Every discipline should be used as an opportunity to show children how much they are loved.

Let’s face it, parenting is hard work. I’m hesitant to say anyone is an “expert” in this subject. We all have room for improvement. I’m not assuming you will carry around this list in your pocket, whipping it out at the appropriate time of need, but I do believe having a framework of this sort in your schema will help you better address the issues of discipline you face as a parent.

In the end, having this type of paradigm thought process, before the need for discipline arises, should help us be better parents.

What is the most difficult issue you deal with regarding discipline? What would you add to my list?

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Millennials

young people

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

I was a part of a church plant built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We were amazed at the number of young people we reached. Defying statistics.

I’ve now updated this post, because we are currently in a growing, revitalized established church and — amazingly — our fastest growing group is the millennial generation. Again, defying statistics.

It must be more than structure or age of church — or even style of worship.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things — and these are the things which regardless of type of church have remained true. 

Here are 7 thoughts for the church to reach millennials:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults — and they want it to be unconditional love — through the good times of their life and the times they mess up. And, they want us to love first, without qualifications added.

Be biblically true – Millennials don’t want fluff or sugar-coating. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want the people who teach to teach what they believe — and then be willing to discuss it with them as they explore.

Be culturally aware and relevant – This generation has been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world. And, changes are coming fast. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to plug-in – They want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want you to support them in their pursuits. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world — and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input – You have to allow Millennials to do things their way — often with technology — within groups of friends — sometimes unscripted. A church which is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them – The overused word is authentic, but this generation wants to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them – I love this about them — they are wisdom-seekers. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today crave older adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis; while extending love, grace and support.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching Millennials?

Again, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s as much a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

7 Ways to Lead Younger People

Smiling Asian businesswoman doing a presentation

If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you’ve ever led before.

Here are 7 ways to lead younger people:

Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea — let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That’s likely how you learned. 

Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization’s continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

Realize the generational differences. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. They affect how we relate to people, change, and technology. Be honest when you don’t understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

Allow flexibility. Don’t let structure control how people complete their work — allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren’t as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how — and often where — of work progress.

Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But, they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with “When I was your age…” In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don’t dismiss their input because you don’t feel they have enough experience. They aren’t limited usually to all the reasons you think something won’t work. And, it just might this time. 

Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they’ve completely “earned” it. But, younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder. 
Anything you would add?

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


Introducing Urbana (And giveaway!)

Winners (selected by Random.org) have been notified by email. Congratulations!

Now giving away 3 registrations!

Pastor, let me encourage you to get your leadership team…or yourself…to Urbana!

I recently attended a global church mission forum. I’m still processing all God did in my mind from that event and will share more later. The same people who introduced me to that event let me know about Urbana. It’s got to be good. If you want a better orientation to what God is doing in the world then you should attend the Urbana conference.

Urbana puts you in touch with today’s culture like no other conference can. It helps you know what is driving the concerns of a new generation. As a pastor, I am called to effectively disciple all ages. Urbana will give great insight and new resources to deal with the younger generation, especially those in college today.

It is guaranteed to be a fun event, because, as I’ve experienced at other events, there is something special about worshiping with the nearly 20,000 young people. In addition, you’ll walk away with needed information for your ministry.

Sign up for Urbana today! (Click HERE)


As a bonus, I’ll give away three (3) registrations to Urbana. That’s an incredible deal. Please don’t sign up unless you will attend, but if you’re interested, comment on this post, make sure I have a valid email address, and I’ll choose 3 random names sometime early next week.

(This is a non-paid endorsement. I simply believe in the people behind this.)

7 Ways to Minister to College Students

Recently my friend Guy Chmieleski asked me to write for his blog Faith on Campus. I wrote under the heading “If I were a college pastor today.” Here is that post adapted for my blog.

Living in a college community, I can’t imagine not investing in the next generation intentionally at that college. Austin Peay State University, our local university, is not only the fastest growing university in our state (Go Govs!), it’s also my alma mater. I also have two college-aged sons (one a graduate), which naturally draws me to the age.

I love college ministry, because it involves college students. Sounds like a fair reason, right? College students are confident, idealistic, and full of hope and passion for life. I love investing in them knowing they have years to carry out what they are learning. We have an incredible college ministry at Grace Community Church, led by Brandon Reed, a great college pastor, but I must be honest, sometimes I envious of his time with college students. I take advantage of hanging out with students whenever I get the chance.

So, while I’m not a college pastor, if I was one these days, I think I’d:

Help students understand their worth in Christ – When a student can operate out of this identity it will help them withstand some of the temptations they face.

Intentionally mentor a few superstars – I can’t reach all of them, but I can invest in a few. I would work to develop leaders who would in turn invest in others.

If invited, meet on their turf – I was invited to a college apartment recently. As they cleaned a place off the couch for me to sit and kicked various drink cans under the bed (which was in the same room), I was reminded that this was a special opportunity I had been privileged to attend. I felt I had enter the sacred grounds of college life again.

Feed them – I like to buy lunch for college students. Now if any of ours read this my requests will increase and I may have to say no, but it’s amazing how open students become when there is a free meal in front of them.

Let them be themselves – I think it’s important not to try to change them or conform them to a standard, other than Jesus. They are in a period of discovery. Let them explore and stay close enough to help steer them to Christ.

Be myself – Don’t try to “fit in” with college students if you aren’t one. Be the age you are and the person you are. They can spot an impostor quickly.

Have fun – College is a fun period of life. It should be less stressful. When you are hanging out with college students, don’t expect to be serious all the time. There will be times when they are very serious (even deep), but sometimes are just to hang. That’s okay.

I’m not a college pastor, but if I was…I’d love it! Anyone looking to hire one? (Just kidding…kind of…)

What would you add to my list?