10 Ways Winning Organizational Teams are Like Winning Athletic Teams

Basketball going through net

I live in basketball country. This area specializes in horses, bourbon and basketball. But, during a few months of the year, basketball seems to trump everything.

As a Baptist pastor, if I’m going to embrace the community, I had to embrace what the people love. So, of the three — I’ve chosen basketball.

(And, all God’s people said?)

(Seriously, though, everyone should take a ride through the horse farms of the bluegrass area and the science behind making bourbon alone is worth touring a distillery.)

Watching the University of Kentucky men and women’s basketball teams, however, always inspires some great thoughts for me on leadership.

It takes good leadership to coach a team well. And, we see good coaching around here. I’ve observed some great leadership principles watching these teams.

The win for me is that organizational teams that win — even church staffs — have a lot in common with athletic teams that win.

Here are 10 traits of winning teams:

1. The coach cares personally about the players.

2. All players understand and believe in the team strategy.

3. Dreams of big wins are a part of the culture. Everyone cheers for them in anticipation.

4. When it’s a players turn they’re ready. And, likewise, they are equally supportive when it’s someone else’s turn to shoot. They share the load and are always willing to jump in the game.

5. Risky plays are encouraged. Stupid plays are not.

6. There is a common vision. The entire team agrees on not only what a win looks like, but what it takes to get one.

7. There is ample team spirit is prevalent. Everyone participates in building momentum.

8. Losses are evaluated and used to learn how to improve for the next game.

9. Wins are celebrated. Wildly.

10. The team restructures when needed to meet the current competition.

Follow my analogy? Leader, how could these athletic team traits impact your team?

What would you add to the list?

What Leading Error-Free Communicates

Hooks on a cable #4

I sent an email to the church recently with the word “cease” instead of “seize”. My wife was the first to catch it. She always is — and it’s another reason she completes me well.

I quickly sent a correction email — because I know close-readers like my wife can’t get past one typo and read the intent of the entire message. But, before they could read the second email, my inbox was full of people letting me know about the mistake.

I understand that. Honestly, I’d have to be intentionally trying to edit something to catch that type of mistake in an email. And, I should have been more intentional about that email. I’m not wired to catch details, but, as one who studies personalities — and being married to a detail person, I can at least appreciate that a person is wired this way. (Which is why I sent the correction.)

But, I still hate making errors like that. I really do. Even though I’m not a detail-oriented person, I do strive for excellence. Some might say I have perfectionist tendencies. So, I want to be detail and error-free, as much as possible. And, I keep trying.

I realized though that I could beat myself up about the mistake, or I could learn from it and move forward. But, I couldn’t do both.

(Someone reading this needs to pause right here. That’s you’re biggest take away from this post. You need to learn from your mistake and move forward. It’s time.)

Plus, the experience was actually a good reminder of an important leadership principle.

This is true for detail-oriented people and non detail-oriented people. Leaders, you must know this principle — and you must know it for everyone you are trying to lead.

You can’t lead well and not make some mistakes.

Seriously, you can’t. Mistakes happen. No one is perfect. No one. Only those who think they are perfect think they are — no one else thinks they are.

And, if you’re leading well, you’ll be making mistakes, learning from them, and attempting to do better the next time.

But, you’ll keep making them.

In fact, I have some concerns about anyone attempting to be error-free in leadership. I’m not sure the two terms “error-free” and “leader” can reasonably go together. (Someone should have already laughed at the title of this post.)

An error-free leader indicates to me:

(Or, I probably should say “a leader who is attempting to lead error-free indicates to me:)

You’re moving too slow. There are so many times in leadership that fast decisions have to be made. The leader too slow to make routine decisions is a bottleneck-creating leader. Slowing down on minor impact decisions also slows down the potential of the organization — as everyone waits on the leader to decide. It’s important to slow down on the really big decisions, to eliminate as many mistakes as possible. Good leaders learn by experience which decisions require more time. And, really good leaders probably give away far more decision-making responsibility than they keep. But, even still, there likely still 100’s of decisions a leader will make in a day and most will have to be made quickly. Along the way, some mistakes will be made.

You’re afraid of taking risks. Let’s be honest — There is little room for error if nothing changes. If the goal is sameness then we just need a good manager. But, if you want to lead well — in fact, if you want to be what I believe is the definition of a leader — then you’ll have to take some risks. Leaders are leading into an unknown reality. Leaders spur change, they stir momentum, they even create healthy tension at times as people react and adjust to the changes around them. And, along the way they make some mistakes. Lots of them usually.

You second-guess yourself too often. If you are afraid to make a mistake and you play that mind game of back and forth about every decision — you probably are your own worst enemy as a leader. (That’s true of someone reading this, isn’t it?) Effective leaders learn to pull the trigger — even if it’s only a discipline against their natural inclination. They gather as much information as time will allow, they consult with their team, they rely on their experience and their gut, but they make a call. They make the best decision they know to make — and stand behind the decision and their team even when it is proven to be an error in decision. (Then they readjust, learn, and begin the process again.)

You hold others to a higher standard than is fair or they can live up to. Others make mistakes. Did you know that? And, some of them are even okay with that because they know it’s part of the overall learning process. But, when the leader attempts to be personally error-free, they usually pass that expectation on to others. (This happens in the home also.) The culture of the team becomes demeaning. The atmosphere is very controlling, even threatening. People are afraid to do anything for fear of being wrong. People never feel they are living up to potential.

You have no mistakes from which to learn and make you better. Here’s the reality — we learn more from mistakes than we ever do by getting everything right. When a mistake is made, if I’m a serious leader, it plants something deep in my core that makes me conscious of that same mistake again. I’ll be determined to figure out a better way. I don’t get that conviction without making a mistake.

Leader, are you refusing to make a mistake? Are you trying so desperately to be an error-free leader? I’m not sure that’s even possible, but don’t deny yourself, your team, or the vision you’re trying to attain the privilege of a few good mistakes.

Now let me be clear. This is not a post that diminishes our need to strive for excellence. Quite the contrary. We need to be learning and growing from our mistakes and we should never take a callous approach to them. As Christians, we should always strive to do our best — since we are to do everything “as unto the Lord”.

This is intended to be a freeing post — recognizing the reality that mistakes are a part of the process towards victory.

(And, if you find mistakes in this post — well — keep in mind, I’m just a leader — writing a lot of posts — always trying to get better.)

Dr. Martin Luther King Wasn’t Perfect — And That Should Be Encouraging

aa_king_subj_e

Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t perfect.

And that should be encouraging to all of us.

I’m reminded of the great prophet Elijah from the Bible. God used him once to hold back the rain. He was fed by ravens. He kept a widow and her son alive — miraculously.

Yet, one of the most encouraging Bible verses about Elijah to me is James 5:17: Elijah was a person just like us.

And, I’m reminded of that when I think of Dr. King.

Dr. King was a person — just like us.

If we aren’t careful, because he accomplished so much, we can make Dr. King something he wasn’t.

He wasn’t perfect.

Wait, don’t throw things. I’m a fan. I’ve studied him beyond his most famous speech.

Was he great? Of course.

Was he extraordinaire? Absolutely.

Did he do great things? Without a doubt.

These lines from his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” alone are grand enough for celebration:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.

As a pastor, knowing these words were obviously inspired by Dr. King’s knowledge of Scripture, I’m impressed. So inspiring. I wish I could do it that well.

But, was Dr. King perfect?

I don’t think so.

I doubt, based on what I know of his faith as a Gospel preacher that he would even claim perfection apart from Christ. Only Jesus is perfect. Dr. King surely believed this.

We honor his birth because of his impact on our world.

In fact, he’s one of the best examples of leaving a legacy that we have in modern history. His work keeps encouraging, inspiring, and making us better.

We honor him because he was fighting for a perfect dream.

We honor him because he was willingly to sacrificially give everything to achieve his dream.

Yet, sadly, his dream yet to be fully realized. His work is not finished.

This year alone should teach us we haven’t reached the dream Dr. King fought for with his very life. Ferguson. New York. Your city.

Every hill and mountain has not been made low. The rough places are not yet plain. There are still crooked places. The glory of our Lord hasn’t been fully revealed.

Peace has not been achieved.

And, here’s why it matters so much, in my opinion, that Dr. King — the man — wasn’t perfect.

If we see him as perfect, then, those of us who know we are not, (people like you and me) may feel we can never measure up to his standard. That we could never attain greatness, because we don’t have the charisma of Dr. King. Or, the courage. Or, the oratory ability.

In fact, we may not even try. We may not give ourselves the chance for God to use us for His glory.

So, we will dismiss any dream we have as unattainable. Even our efforts to continue the dream Dr. King had will cease because we falsely believe that such acts of greatness were reserved for the one man — Dr. King. Or, maybe a few like him.

But, that’s not true, is it?

Dr. King was great, but only His Savior Jesus is perfect.

The best way to honor Dr. King is to strive for impact.

Strive for a perfect dream. Strive for an end to racism, an end to the fighting, a reality of peace — where all God’s children are able to sing, “Free at last. Praise God Almighty we are free at last.”

Have a dream. A big, hairy audacious dream.

That kind of living honors the legacy.

The fact is that all of us are capable of greatness. If we have big dreams — ones that honor others and make the world a better place — and we do everything in our power to realize them, we can be used of God to accomplish great things.

There will never be another Dr. King. Just like there never was another Elijah.

But, there will never be another you either.

And, we need your dream.

We need your work.

We need your energy and your vision and your passionate attempt to make things better in our world. We need your contribution to the peace and prosperity of our land.

So start honoring Dr. King!

Be brave. Be bold. Dream big. Live strong. Do good things!

Having a Gut-Honest Talk with Jesus

Jesus asleep

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38 NIV

I have been told that the stern is the strongest part of the boat. The Creator of the universe was asleep there.

The One who made the waters and was there when the waters were parted; who led Moses as Moses led the people through on dry ground — that same One had His head on a cushion — sleeping soundly.

The One who walked with three guys in the fiery furnace — in all of His current humanity — had decided He needed some rest.

The disciples, however, had apparently lost sight of the fact that, Jesus was not only human — not only needing rest — He was also God. Creator. Master.

The One who was asleep was never out of control. He was never without a plan. (It was His idea to get in the boat.)

I am reminded that I forget the same thing at times. I accuse Jesus of not caring. Of not being aware of my current situation.

No, I don’t say that — at least not very loud. I have too much respect for the Creator to do that. So, I just mumble it under my breath — or think it loudly — as if He who reads the heart doesn’t already know.

Have you ever felt like the disciples felt?

Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared?

Has the thought crossed your mind that Jesus might not even be aware of your current situation?

Have you thought, “Jesus, I see my problems, don’t you?”

Or maybe, if you are completely honest, have you ever felt something like, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

Wow!

Of course, our spiritual piety would never allow us to admit our weakness in this area fully. Could I as a pastor really admit that I doubted His love?

Could you?

Yet if I am honest, sometimes from my perspective, it appears that Jesus is nowhere to be found when I need Him most and I am left all alone to wallow in my sorrows.

Did I just say that?

I think the best thing we can possibly do in those situations is to be like the disciples and admit our frailty to God.

And, here’s the truth we may know but not always live.

When we get gut honest with Jesus about our insufficiency — is often when He is most willing to do what only He can do.

Do you need to have an honest talk with Jesus today?

You Feel You Are To Be A Leader, But You Aren’t Yet Leading — Here Are 5 Possible Reasons

Elegant leader

Let’s be honest. Leadership is an attractive subject to many. I talk with so many younger people, and some my age, who want to be in leadership. They may feel they’ve been passed up, haven’t been given their chance (or second chance) or they sometimes they are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting.

I understand. If you are prone to leadership, or have your eye on being a leader, nothing quite satisfies you until you get to do what you think you’re ready to do.

But, in my observation, there may be some common reasons you aren’t yet leading. Perhaps understanding them can help you, if you’re in that situation. I’ll follow each one with my advice.

Here are the 5 reasons I have observed of why people aren’t yet leading:

You don’t have anything or anyone to lead – You say you would lead if someone gave you an opportunity.

My advice: Find something to lead! The world is full of problems.  Choose one of them you are most passionate about and start leading. Motivate people towards finding or working a solution. Lead. We need you.

You are afraid – You really want to lead, but you fear you may not have what it takes.

My advice: Get over it. Pray hard, lean on God strong, but lead. That’s what leaders do. Leading takes people into the unknown. It’s natural to be afraid. Be willing to walk by faith.

You gave up. – You tried leading and it was hard. You got hurt. Perhaps you failed. So you quit.

My advice: Get up and try again. The best leaders have failed many times, perhaps more times than they have succeeded. That’s what makes them a success. That they tried again and again until something stuck. Get back in the game. You’ll motivate us by your return.

You  don’t think you know how – You don’t think you ever learned the secrets of leadership. You have more questions than answers. You’re waiting until you have more answers than questions.

My advice: Join the school of leadership. Leaders are all around you. And, they are still learning too. The best never quit learning. So join in. Watch, listen, read, ask questions. It’s what we do. You can learn skills of leadership if you are teachable. The best leaders are still figuring it out daily.

You think you don’t have authority to lead. – You feel you are in a stifling environment. No one is looking to you to lead them.

My advice: Either learn to “lead up” — influencing people that are supposed to lead you — or find a place that values your input. The world is changing and the newest and healthiest environments allow people to grow in leadership. Or learn to lead within your own context. If you’re in a ministry, lead volunteers the best you know how. Be the best where you are today. Or, find a cause outside your work environment — and be a leader there. The experience will shape you for future assignments.

Just a few thoughts. But, here’s a final one. If you feel you’re supposed to be a leader — and you’re currently not — no more excuses. Lead. That’s what leaders do.

Let Your Leaders Lead

FairnessIsOverrated[1]

This is a guest post by my friend Tim Stevens. Tim is a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders. Previously he was the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact.

We call it the Loose/Tight Principle.

That is, you have to decide as a leader what you are going to hold on to loosely and what you are going to hold on to tightly.

For example, you likely want to hold on to your mission tightly. For most organizations, it’s not up for debate. When you define your mission and communicate it over and over in many ways, it gives clarity to your direction. You likely have some major values and beliefs that are also tightly held.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things in the loose category. I love to bring great leaders on a team and then free them up to lead. They can make decisions, spend money, set direction, and develop initiatives—all without a huge approval process or a bunch of hoops to jump through to get permission.

In many organizations, problems emerge like this: Perhaps bad hiring decisions are made, so senior leaders jump in and start running things. Then the organization starts to get bottlenecked, and people get frustrated. High-capacity leaders begin to leave the organization. And the senior leader is too busy running things to properly interview potential replacements. So more bad hiring decisions are made. And the cycle continues.

If you want to develop a healthy culture, decide the non-negotiables, bring great people on your team, then get out of the way and watch them do great things.

But even when you hire great people, there is another cycle that can take you down—and that also relates to running things with too heavy a hand. Perhaps you hire a great person. You take the time to ramp her up on values, vision, and the DNA of the organization. (So far, so good.) But then you give that leader responsibility without authority. You let her make all the micro-decisions, but hang on to the big decisions such as setting direction, approving expenditures, or making hiring decisions for her area. The high-capacity leader gets fed up and leaves your team. The leader isn’t disloyal; she is just wired by God as a leader and a developer. And you won’t let her do either. So now you have to start over looking for a great leader. You spend all your time looking for new staff and restating the values because you don’t have any great leaders next to you to help.

Authority is the ability to make decisions without asking someone else’s permission. So often we give a leader responsibility (e.g., run the youth ministry or oversee the marketing department) without also giving him the authority. The department leader has to get approval from the senior leader, or the person who says yes or no about expenses, or worse yet, a committee. Nothing frustrates a true leader more than not being able to make decisions, or than making decisions that are later reversed.

How to Free Your Leaders

If you want a great culture in which leaders are excited, then do six simple things.

  • Train them so their blood pulses with the mission, vision, and values of the organization.
  • Set them up to succeed. Lend them your credibility by telling everyone they are the leaders, and they have your full confidence.
  • Give them the authority to make decisions including spending money, hiring and firing staff, and setting direction for their areas.
  • Get out of the way and let them lead.
  • Connect with them continually for evaluation, values review, and rare course corrections. Be available as a sounding board to process decisions. Remember, they don’t need you to tell them the answer. Rather, they need you to ask questions and help them process the right course of action.
  • Celebrate their wins publicly, and reward them with greater responsibility as appropriate.

This is easy to put on a list, but much harder to practice. Find a leader you know who is great at empowering and releasing other leaders—and watch him or her closely. Within that leader you will likely find someone who is great at producing a healthy culture.

Learn more about Tim’s new book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.

7 Recommendations for Those Studying to be a Pastor

senior pastor

I have the opportunity to talk with young pastors each week. I also interact regularly with those who are preparing for the pastorate. I love investing in the next generation of leaders and am thankful for those who invested in me.

One of those pastors in training recently asked me, “If you were my age (about 22) and were studying to be a pastor, what would you do?

Great question!

If I were studying to be a pastor today, based on my experience as a pastor now, which is still most important, there are some things I would make certain I accomplished prior to assuming the role.

7 suggestions as you prepare to be a pastor:

Take some business and/or leadership courses

You’ll find more available, especially in the area of leadership these days at seminaries and Bible colleges, but you may have to take some courses online or at another school. Every pastor needs to know some general business and leadership principles to manage the complexities of a church. That’s true in church planting or in an established church.

Build connections with pastors

Just as in the secular world, having the right connections makes the difference in church positions also. It may be to help secure a job or to learn from other churches, but pastors should build a healthy network of peers. It’ll also keep you from having to lead alone. You’ll always be able to “phone a friend” who has been there and done that.

Volunteer in the church

Just volunteer. Its amazing to me to see seminary students who attend church, but don’t find a place to serve. They are training to be a pastor — one who will need lots of people to volunteer in their church some day — yet they aren’t volunteering. Some day you’ll want to understand the sacrifice of those who serve the church without a vocational commitment.

Work a secular job

Even if only part-time, at some point in your studies, work among people in the secular world. You’ll learn valuable principles about life, work and people. You’ll also be better able to identify with the people to whom you are called to minister. (Plus, it will be harder for that person who always thinks “well pastor, in the real world…” to discount your teaching.)

Take a people-helping or counseling course

Let’s face it! Regardless of the size church, a pastor is going to encounter hurting people. Understanding some basic questioning, summary and counseling skills is critical to pastoring and will make your teaching even stronger.

Find a mentoring pastor

Early in ministry, or even before beginning, I would strongly encourage a young pastor to find a mentor. Ask a pastor who is older and with more experience to be available to help you through situations you find yourself in where you need wisdom you don’t have. You’ll be glad you’ve recruited this person in advance.

Embrace accountability

Develop a close relationship with a few other same-sex friends and invite them to hold you accountable to God, your family, your church and yourself. These do not have to be pastors, but should understand the pressures and demands of ministry.

Bonus Suggestion BE A PASTOR

If you are confident God has called you to be a pastor, then don’t wait to get all the training. Keep receiving training, follow these suggestions, but more importantly, get some on-the-job training by finding ways to be a pastor today! Maybe to your own family, or through nursing home or prison visits. You may have to be creative, but there are lots of opportunities to shepherd people if you look — even without a paycheck.

Of course, the most important thing to do is to prepare your heart and mind spiritually, but these are practical ways you can prepare.

What would you add to my list?

10 Ideas for Raising Children to Become Generous Adults

world in child's hands

I have had conflict most of my life between what I think I want and what I really need.

Most people share this conflict with me.

That conflict also appears in our children as well.

We don’t have to teach children to struggle with determining between wants and needs. It’s a natural response to life. And, if they need any help doing so — they can easily learn the struggle from us.

As parents we are the primary shapers of our children’s attitudes towards money, things, and desires. Our children will either be “givers” or “takers” in society and that will be greatly influenced by the life they live in our home.

How do we raise generous children?

How do we help our children (and ultimately ourselves) be people who genuinely enjoy living sacrificial lives — considering the interest of others — being givers rather than takers as the Bible commands us to do?

Here are 10 tips which we tried to practice in our own home. It has been amazing to watch our boys, now young adults on their own, having developed generous hearts towards others. They are far more generous than I was at their age.

And, let me be clear. The fact that they turned out that way is all grace. God has blessed us greatly. But, we have been intentional to live out Biblical principles — and we have learned that they work when applied “generously”.

Here are 10 ideas for raising children to be generous adults:

Have fun and be generous parents.

The story is told of Jesus and the disciples attending a wedding. The party had been going for a while when something tragic happened. They ran out of wine. That was a serious problem to the host of the party. It was a huge cultural embarrassment to run out of food or wine. Jesus took some big barrels of water and turned them into the best wine the people had that night. The people were overwhelmed.

The Bible says that was the very first miracle Jesus ever did. As culturally important as weddings were in those days, it still sounds like God met a want, rather than a need.

It is very clear that God is not trying to keep us from having what we want or from having fun in life. God is not opposed to blessing us with things we want, but may not even need. We should not be afraid to do the same with our children. If we can afford to, and if our children are living within the boundaries set for our home, we should not be afraid to give them gifts they simply want, but may not even need. (I thought I would start with an easy one first.)

Help children understand the difference between a need and a want.

It is understandable why it is difficult to raise children who understand the difference between a need and a want when we as parents struggle with the same issues. This will take a lifetime of teaching.

As much as God wants to bless us with wants, if we study the Bible, God seems far more interested in helping fulfill our needs than He does in giving us everything we want. In fact, God never promises to provide our want list, yet He does promise to meet all our needs. (Philippians 4:19) Granted there are some that take verses like this out of context and teach that God gives us everything we ask for, but that doesn’t line up with the rest of Scripture.

The problem from a Biblical perspective is that we have a messed up system of determining need verses want. That thing inside us that chooses good over evil, better or best, need verses wants; is broken.

When we apply Biblical understanding, most actual needs go beyond just enjoyment for today or even just for me. For something to fall into the category of need it should provide some lasting value to society or at least to my own character. Needs, beyond basics such as food and water, become things like righteousness — and love, and joy, and peace, and contentment.

We can even ask ourselves, does this “thing” benefit someone more than just me? Does it add value to someone’s life or to my own character? A true need, in this context, almost becomes something that money cannot buy.

We should consistently invest Biblical principles into our children — helping them understand the things that matter to God. Helping children develop a hunger for things they need — as much as, or even more — than things they want.

Provide needs. Bless with wants.

It is important that parents consider their system of meeting needs versus wants. Of course, that begins with a proper understanding ourselves of needs versus wants.

Consider this question: Which gets more attention in your home?

Does having the latest technology take a bigger role than teaching children to be good citizens and to generously love others?

Does being the best on the traveling soccer or dance team have a higher priority than finding ways to serve others?

Either answer is your choice — you’re the parent, but if a goal is raising future generous adults — you may have to consider some of the places you spend your energies and resources. When it comes to encouraging generosity, consideration should be given to use of time and money.

Our boys never did without basics needs. And, by needs here I’m even referring to housing, clothing, food, etc. They had plenty. But, there were probably things they wanted that they didn’t have. In how they spent their time, we let them choose what they enjoyed doing, but, we also limited the number of outside activities our boys could participate in at one time.

And, we looked for opportunities where we could give back to others. We prioritized our time. And, we prioritized our “stuff”. We didn’t try to keep up with everyone else in terms of the “toys” they had. Having to wait until a birthday or Christmas for something they really wanted wasn’t unusual to them.

Help children make wise choices with their own money.

One of the primary reasons children should have access to their own money is so they can learn the value of it. Our children were always more careful spending “their” money than they are spending ours.

Talk with them about how they should spend their allowance, birthday, or even money they have earned on their own. Help them learn what the terms budget — and savings — and investment. And, tithe is still not a bad word either. Ultimately, they should give some to God, save some, and spend some for things they need or want (based on the system you have for meeting these in your home.)

We also freely discussed our own finances in front of our boys. We allowed them to know things like when things were tight financially and when we were giving to others.

Consider the “big picture” of your child’s life.

As a parent, we are a primary molder of our children. The choices they make in life — what they desire most — will largely be impacted by us early in their life. Their desires in life will be greatly shaped by the life they live in our home. (That’s a scary thought — isn’t it?)

I heard a statistic once that children these days get 90% of everything they want in life. That doesn’t seem like the statistic for most of our adult want lists, does it? I can’t verify the statistic, but it sounds about right for most children I know — probably even for our own. The problem this creates is that somewhere children are going to face a stark reality in adulthood — when we seldom have all that we “want”.

We have all heard stories of children of privilege who got everything they wanted in life, but who cannot seem to stay out of trouble as adults. They have no real sense of direction; no set of values to guide them, because they got everything they wanted in life, but nothing that they really needed!

We kept these principles in mind as we parented. We were raising them to be adults. That one thought changed our paradigm many times.

Spend more time, energy and attention meeting needs than wants.

At Christmas time, birthdays, and other special occasions we ask children what they “want”. There is nothing wrong with that.

Most of the time we already know what they need. We don’t have to ask them if they need to be honest people. We don’t have to ask them if they need to have character, love others or be generous. We do not need to ask them if they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We know they need those things.

We need to ask ourselves if we are spending as much time and energy helping them get what they need as we are trying to buy them what they want. Let’s be honest, providing for a want is more fun sometimes. But we must be willing to sacrifice even what makes us feel good as parents in order to do what is best for our children long-term. We need to give them what they need.

It’s much more fun to give them wants, but it is far more valuable to give them needs.

Model healthy personal choices between needs and wants.

I think we teach our children to value the need more than the want by first modeling it for them.

We cannot ask children to do something we are not willing to do ourselves. Children are smarter than that. Today’s generation is far more interested in truth and integrity than earlier generations. This generation despises hypocrisy.

If children see parents saying one thing and doing another, they will reject that as being truth. We need to model and teach our children the proper concepts concerning money. Ultimately teach them that we are to be responsible with what God has allowed us to have. (When we had to use our credit card for purchases, for example, we usually explained to them why and that we would be paying it off quickly.)

Children need to see their parents giving sacrificially of their time and resources. Volunteering at a soup kitchen may be a better activity for an upcoming special occasion than opening a bunch of gifts.

Keep children properly grounded in a material world.

Children need to know that the universe does not revolve around them. Our world as their parents may revolve around them, but the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Children need to have created times in their life where they have to wait for something they want. Teach and model for children a life that puts others needs and wants ahead of their own.

Don’t give children everything; even if you can afford it.

If children are encouraged by example to have a love of money — a love of stuff — chances are they will never have enough possessions in this world to be satisfied. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Plant within them a love of God, a love of people and a love of life and they will want to bless others — and the joy of their life will be much greater.

Regardless of how wealthy a family is children should not be so “privileged” that there are no longer any items on their “want” list. When this happens the child has a hard time developing a heart of giving, because they are often too consumed with acquiring more “stuff”.

We have to model simple living sometimes for our children. IT IS OKAY TO SAY NO TO YOUR CHILD! In fact, that may sometimes be the exact thing we need to say. Every trip to the mall should not produce a new toy! (Okay, I know number 9 hurts!)

Teach and model a love for God.

Above all else, perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do to help children be generous people is to help them desire the things of God more than the things of this world. God is a generous God. The more we know and love Him, the more generous we become.

Parenting is hard. And, we all make mistakes. Here’s a prayer your way. Be intentional. We need great parents. We need generous people.