November 11, 2019

Your Kids Need Sleep

I often get asked about parenting. Maybe it's because I've been doing children's ministry for twenty years, been a teacher for twenty years, and been a parent for a combined total (if you add up my kids' ages) of 48 years. I see my own kids every day of course (at least the two that are still at home) and maybe a hundred other kids every week. So yeah, I get asked about parenting.

Not my kid (photo credit)

There are several obvious things parents can do to help their kids. Parents showing affection and respect for one another is huge. Another is setting aside time for the family to be together (not just co-location, but eye contact and words--food too. And prayer. Lots of prayer.

One less obvious is sleep habits. Kids (even teens) need eight to ten hours of sleep each night. A consistent, and early, bedtime helps in so many ways.

Mood: Tired people are grumpy. Maybe that grumpiness isn't adolescent hormones. It might just be sleepiness.

Health: Nagging coughs, digestive issues, headaches? Sleep a consistent eight to ten hours and watch the health improve.

Grades: Well-rested people can concentrate. Tired people can't. Memories get consolidated during sleep. Not enough sleep for good memory consolidation? Hours of study down the drain.

Study habits: Connected to "grades," when kids know they need to go to bed at the same time every night, there is no such thing as cramming for a test the night before. Space the studying out, and the material is learned more deeply.

Virtue: Not to judge night owls, but the kinds of things people do in the morning tend to be better things than the things they do at night.

Marital bliss! When kids are in bed before their parents, there is time for husband and wife to be husband and wife. Steep some tea, have some conversation, etc.

There are more benefits, but maybe you are already convinced and want to know how to put it into practice. I don't know what will work for you, but here is what we do.

The kids are usually fed and ready for bed by 8:30 or so. We pray together as a family. The kids (even the high schoolers) go to their rooms and lie down. That's it.

Well, that's not completely it. Computers, phones, all iDevices, stay in the living room. Also, no studying after bedtime, but pleasure reading is OK. We don't explicitly say that pleasure reading is OK. When our kids were young they felt like they were getting away with something by reading in bed until quite late. All three kids love to read now. (Sneaky us!)

March 4, 2019


I collect quotes. I usually note my sources, but somehow I failed to get this one. Googling didn't help. It's someone quoting Josef Piper quoting Aquinas. If you know where it came from, please inform me.
facing the truth that we know in part allows a healthy sense of wonder to return, for it is only the one who does not fully know who “wonders,” as philosopher Josef Piper points out: "To wonder is not to know fully, not to conceive absolutely; it means not to know what is behind it all; it means, as Aquinas says, 'that the cause of that at which we wonder is hidden from us.' And so, to wonder is not to know, not to know fully, not to be able to conceive. To conceive a thing, to possess comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of a thing, is to cease to wonder."

February 25, 2019

Study Followership, Not Just Leadership

Obvious, once you think about it. From page 276 of The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.
Robert Hogan, Robert Kaiser, and Mark van Vogt argue that leadership can only be understood as the complement of followership. Focusing on leadership alone is like trying to understand clapping by studying only the left hand. They point out that leadership is not even the more interesting hand; it's no puzzle to understand why people want to lead. The real puzzle is why people are willing to follow.

This is a good book! Although I don't agree with all of the evolutionary background, Haidt makes a good case for reason serving intuition, and not the other way around. In other words, people don't usually believe and behave based on pure reason, but we use our reason to justify the way we already believe and behave. (And this is often a good thing!)

He also shows that well-meaning people come to radically different moralities because they build from different foundations, as shown in the figures below (courtesy of the author's website

February 5, 2019

Discipline Children Forward

Tim Elmore, in a helpful article for parents and teachers about disciplining children in a positive way says this:
The idea is—this kind of discipline looks ahead at what you are cultivating, not behind at the immature act that just happened. This parent or teacher is always in a futuristic building mode.
Any number of discipline styles can work in the moment, but the truly effective parent or teacher sees today's discipline as the foundation for a joyful, purposeful life.

Read the article.

November 24, 2017

Jesus Drops the Mic

Kids in the Mainstream - Jesus’ Ministry 2

This is part 2 in a series of posts about kids belonging in the mainstream of church life. Part 1 is here.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15 ESV)

This episode comes just one chapter after Jesus told his disciples that they had to change and become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. That they had to humble themselves like children in order to be great. That when they welcomed children, they were welcoming Jesus.

But here the disciples rebuke and try to send away people who want to bring children to Jesus. Some folks are hard on the disciples here, but I don’t think they were bad guys. They probably observed that some “important” people were waiting to see Jesus. Or maybe a crowd was gathered to hear him preach. They wanted to prioritize and keep things moving.

Jesus famously scolds his disciples and welcomes the children, but that’s not all. The passage  says that after he laid his hands on the children, HE WENT AWAY! Yes, I just shouted. Because, after blessing the children, Jesus dropped the mic and left. 

Whoever was waiting to talk to him, whatever crowd had gathered to be healed or hear him teach--they had to come back another day. That’s how emphatic Jesus was about the importance of children.

This passage challenges me to be fully present with my own children and to prioritize ministry to children in my church. How about you?

November 21, 2017

Kids in the Mainstream - Jesus' Ministry

This is the first in a series of posts about kids belonging in the mainstream of church life.

When you picture Jesus and his disciples, do you picture children with them?  I mean, except for that one time when he had to rebuke the disciples. If we look closely, several episodes in the Gospels indicate that Jesus often had kids around during his ministry years.

We get the following exchange in Matthew 18: 1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, . . ." (ESV)

Jesus called a child and put him in the middle. Notice that Jesus didn't have to send someone out to find a child somewhere. The child (maybe several children) were already with Jesus and his disciples. We’ll see in future posts that Jesus seems to have had children around all the time.

Jesus told his disciples:

  • to turn and become like children

  • to  humble themselves like children, and

  • to receive children.

These three things would be very difficult for the disciples to do if they weren’t around children regularly!

Imagine two people, both trying to become like children and humble themselves like children. One has a list of childlike qualities to emulate. The other actually spends time with children. The one with the list will struggle with the abstract task. But the one who is around children catches their qualities like catching a cold. This one enters the kingdom of heaven like a child and becomes great in the kingdom while becoming humble.

Jesus was wise to spend time with children, and we would be too!

How do you and your church community treat children? Are they in the mainstream of church life?

photo credit

November 18, 2017

Feeling Inadequate?

I’m a pastor who hasn’t been to seminary and a preschool director who isn’t a licensed child-care provider. (We do have a wonderful licensed provider on our staff though!) Most of my relevant training has been on-the-job or through my own studies.

People tell me I’m doing well, but I still deal with feelings of inadequacy from time to time, especially when I’ve worked my tail off on a sermon and it still doesn’t feel quite right. It’s not to the point of impostor syndrome, but still.

That’s why I was so encouraged the other day when I read Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:4-6 ESV)
If you’re like me and feel insufficient to the task sometimes--in your parenting, ministry, work, or school--let’s remember this: Our sufficiency is from God, not ourselves.

How about you? Do you ever feel like you don't have what it takes? How do you deal with it?

Photo by H. Michael Karshis

March 2, 2017

Leaving Things Unsaid

Sometimes I feel like I need to include EVERYTHING in a lesson or a sermon or a talk with my kids. But Jesus said,

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. (Mark 4:33)
Choice words, fitly spoken, beat the kitchen sink every time.

March 1, 2017

On Asking for Feedback

"When administrators [other leaders] take the time to ask for feedback and input, teachers [and other front-line workers] feel as though their contributions make a difference. However, the best administrators never ask for information they plan to ignore, and never ask for input on a decision they have already made." -If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students p.23

This book contained a few gems like this, but was mostly long lists of ideas for supporting faculty and staff. The plethora of silly acronyms turned me off a bit.

February 23, 2017

How to Question Legitimate Authority

We are taught to respect authority, and rightfully so. God has placed parents, bosses, governments, and religious leaders over us as legitimate authority figures that we are to respect unless they forfeit that respect. 

But questioning authority (respectfully) is not the same as defying authority, and legitimate authority should welcome questions. Here's a situation where authority should have been questioned in a book I recently read called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. (amazon affiliate link)

A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there. But instead of writing out completely the location “right ear” on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read “place in R ear.” Upon receiving the prescription, the duty nurse promptly put the required number of ear drops into the patient’s anus. Obviously, rectal treatment of an earache made no sense. Yet neither the patient nor the nurse questioned it. 
In Japan, where I live, and in other parts of Asia, it is particularly hard to question authority, but there are a few ways to make it more pleasant for both the one under authority and the one in authority. 

We recently talked about this issue at my church's men's group. Here are some helpful guidelines for people under authority who face a situation where questioning authority might be in order.

  • Determine whether you are the right person at the right time to bring this up.
  • Demonstrate commitment.
  • Try to find the answers yourself first.
  • Demonstrate humility.
  • Propose solutions.
  • Assume the best.
  • Assume that you might be missing something. Ask tentatively.
  • Think about the long-term relationship.

And some things to keep in mind for those in authority who want to be approachable.

  • You don't know it all.
  • People from different perspectives have much to offer.
  • Be big enough not to invalidate questions just because the questioner didn't go through the above guidelines.