i am the church // i am the family

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First off, I am completely aware that I am posting something about Father’s day September.  That may be an indication of how crazy my summer has been…

This past Father’s Day, my church had father’s come up on stage with one of their kids and a little cardboard sign.  On the cardboard sign was a number– a number signifying how many more weekends that dad had left to be the primary influence in his kid’s life (before they went off to college).  It was a powerful moment.  I’ve written about the concept before here.  Also, my header (for now) on my FB fan page is a picture of all the dads.

This video followed.  These are the dads who were “at zero.”  In other words, these were the dads whose sons and daughters were graduating and heading off to community college or college.  Just being a part of the filming process with these men was humbling, and it really made me think about the time that I have with Evie.  Thank you Jon, Mark, Paul, and Brian for sharing you heart in this:

Here in the lovely Central Valley of California, we are going to be having an event called: Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A. Members of the family ministry team and I were able to attend the Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A when we went to the Orange Tour down in So-Cal this fall, and it was an awesome experience. Why is it cool? Here’s my top ten reasons:

1. The people who work there have to say, “My Pleasure” when you say, “Thank you.” C’mon. That’s fun to experiment with.

2. You get to meet with other Orange thinkers from your area and bounce ideas about the application of the Orange strategy in the local church. This is what it’s all about.

3. The Original Chicken Sandwich. Seriously, there isn’t a fast food place that I get excited to be at more than Chick-Fil-A.

4. When I went, I was convicted by the questions of other people; and I had the encouragement to do something!

5. You get to wear orange (which just so happened to be my favorite color before the philosophy was even invented).

6. You get to see how other people can take the same curriculum, books, and ideas and put them into practice in totally different, creative ways.

7. Texas Pete hot sauce packets. They’re made in the town I grew up in (Winston-Salem, NC), and they’re vinegary bombness.

8. You can talk to an Orange Specialist. We’ve got one with us in Fresno (Stephanie Porter), and she’s a great resource for when you’ve got questions or are wondering if something has ever been done before.

9. Sweet tea. Cravin’ Mellon (a South Carolina band) wrote a song about the merits of sweet tea. “On the eighth day, God made sweet tea.” It stimulates the mind.

10. Networking. The conversation doesn’t end at Chick-Fil-A. Through Facebook, Twitter, and all that other dinosaur stuff, you can stay in touch with other people who are trying their best to partner with families to incite wonder, provoke discovery, and fuel passion in the next generation.

Find out where there’s a “Meet Me at Chick-Fil-A” Event close to you. As for you Central Valley people, it’s going to be at Chick-Fil-A on Blackstone (near River Park and right off of 41) on Thursday, February 9th at 2 PM.

I’ll be wearing orange.

When I was in high school, I worked the triple crown of fast food restaurants. I worked at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway. So I am going to say what I’m about to say with a little bit of fast food credibility. Very few (except for Chick-Fil-A) workers at fast food restaurants actually greet anymore. I used to do this as a social experiment (and don’t recommend it for mature Christians). I would walk into a fast food restaurant and stare at the person working there until they greeted me. Sometimes it would be an awkward few seconds, and they would impatiently look at me as if I was doing something wrong. I just remember in all the training videos that they used to tell you that you were supposed to welcome someone to the restaurant and ask, “How can I help you?”

This might not be a dad issue, per se; but I think one of the greatest things a dad can do is love his wife. And, in that vein, I have to wonder, “Do we really ask our wives ‘how can I help you’ enough?”

I had one of these tough conversations recently. This may be a semi-universal issue in that we all want people to know what we want without having to say it, but we also wish that people would tip us off on what they want. And this isn’t a selfish thing– it’s just literally that I think we sometimes forget how limited our point-of-view really is.

So…when was the last time you, husband dad-type, have asked how you can help your wife? I’m not talking about the “ok-do-I-have-all-my-bases-covered-so-I-can-watch-the-game-in-peace” kind of asking, but the “I-value-you-so-much-that-I-want-to-make-sure-that-you’re-doing-ok” kind. The second kind is a lot more difficult, but it goes a long way. This may affect things that you enjoy. This may affect how you go about doing something. You might not “like” the answer. Chances are, since you defaulted to doing something else in the first place, your wife’s answer might not even seem natural for you to do or against your nature. But here’s what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3-5 (in the Bible):

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Paul goes on to explain that Jesus was able to take on the nature of a servant when He deserved so much more. Maybe we feel like we “deserve” our me-time around the house when we’ve had a hard day of solving the world’s problems, but our “deserving” doesn’t even compare to Jesus’ deserving. He served. We should too. The wife. The kids. Others. Orange Dad’s serve. We are called to be servant-leaders.

Back to the main point– I’ve also found that the more “how-can-I-help-you” conversations that I have with Mary Kate, the more I can sense what she wants without even asking. When you’re not asking those questions regularly, that may sound like an impossible mind-game. When you are, though, I think you become in step with her heart. There’s honor in that.

You’ve heard it said a million times: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So be like a Chick-Fil-A employee and ask, “How can I help you?” And when she thanks you, say, “My pleasure.”

Well, there’s no denying the fact that Christmas was different this year. Having a little baby changes everything. [Ugh...I can't get that Connie Francis song out of my head!] Evie’s still so young that she doesn’t really respond to much, so I think this year was more about laying down some foundations for the future.

I got to serve on a team that created an Orange Christmas morning activity. Since our church was dark on Christmas morning, we provided our families with a great opportunity to talk about “the true meaning of Christmas” as a family at home. You can check it out here: NHC Christmas Parent Cue

I bought a super-discounted Advent calendar. I figured that Evie could get into that next year. Anyone have good ideas for what to do each day of Advent with a one-year-old?

Going to the Christmas Eve service at my church with my baby was a fun experience. First of all, my baby was cute in her little Christmas outfit. Secondly, she was fidgety all night. I have a new sympathy for any parent of a small child at an event that does not offer childcare! He he he…she was inconsolable throughout the worship, message, etc.; so I was hanging out in a makeshift “cry room” for most of the night. But, you know what, I just thought to myself, these are moments that you can’t get back. I sang Christmas songs to her to try to get her to quiet down. She finally did chill (right at the end).

I looked out for cool dad moments throughout Facebook, and I saw them. Whether it was my friend Ryan painting his daughter’s nails or my friend Tony going clothing shopping with his two daughters, I stored up these images of fighting for the heart for when Evie’s a little bit older. I want to do things like that.

I’ll share what I gave my wife a little later. Basically, I’ve been writing a book for the last eight years to express that all of us (my wife, my daughter, and me) are part of this way, way bigger story that God is writing. This year’s installment was book number six. I’m really excited to start writing children’s books this year for my daughter called, “Tyv, the Shapeshifting Elf-Fairy Princess.” Time to start cluing her in on this story that God is writing.

What my wife got me was pretty amazing. I’ll share a little more of that later. She really honored me, and provided a great gift that I can give to Evie when she’s eighteen. More on that later too.

I’m going to get to more later. I hope you had a great Christmas with your family. God bless you all during this magical time called fatherhood.

I’m trying to figure out how to get traction in the Orange Dad community. It’s not so much that I’m concerned about whether or not I’ve got a high readership, etc. I am more concerned with the fact that I’ve been writing but there hasn’t been much interaction, discussion, or even pushback with the dads out there.

Am I just coming up against years and years of conditioning that tells dads that the best way to be a parent is to be a “provider”? Although being a provider is important, that’s certainly not the only thing. But I feel like a lot of guys have more to say about sports, their fantasy teams, their jobs, politics, etc. than they do about one of the most important roles they will ever play: being a father.

Is it that we spend too much time fantasizing about other things on the internet when we could get serious about the reality of our roles as dads:

Is the internet just a place to act like a hotshot by talking junk about political things or being the most sarcastic guy in the world?

Is it merely a place that men go to check the stats of their players so they can feel like they are a GM of a pro team?

Is it a place to become a hero in a fake world by playing hours of video games that won’t contribute at all to our “hero” status on this earth?

Is it a place to objectify women and steal away our hearts?

Is it a place to acquire more stuff to keep up with those fictional Joneses?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I feel like this issue is an important one. I guess that if I felt that there was an outlet or regular “real life” forum for men to discuss these issues I wouldn’t be so frustrated about this community’s failure to launch. But is there? Where are the men talking about these things?

I want to be a part of changing this culture.

If you disagree with me, fine. Tell me. Let’s get into some serious discussion.

If you’re skeptical about what all this “God stuff” has to do with being a good dad. Fine, let’s talk about it here.

If you’re embarrassed because you know you’re dropping the ball, should we let the fear of people knowing we’re flawed (just like everyone else) be the reason why we don’t participate in the iron sharpening ability of community.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This can’t happen if I’m talking to myself all day. I’ll be about as sharp as one of those pool noodles.

So…what’s relevant to you? Pitch ideas. Let’s explore the tough stuff. If you want to anonymously propose topics that are kicking your butt right now, do it.

Let’s leave it all out on the field when it comes to being a dad.

After all, being a dad is kind of a big deal.

I’ve been wrestling with the idea of what is REALLY looks like for the church to partner with the family, and a wise man gave me a great idea. I asked this guy, who is a ministry vet and a guy who really “gets” the orange philosophy what was the best thing he did to grow in his relationships with entire families in his ministry– and I’m not sure what I expected to be his response– but sometimes the simplest answers are the ones that make the most sense.

“Have a Bible study for dads of teenagers.”

I remember already having pushback in my mind, “Wait, no, I’m the ‘student’ ministries director. Could or should I be spending that much time with grown men?” Yes, I know, I laugh at myself sometimes too. But, hey, I’m being honest.

I want to grow alongside other dads. I think that’s the stance that I want to take. I know that I am way, way behind them as far as being a dad goes. I have a six-WEEK-old. They would at least have a twelve-YEAR-old. But experience or even having something to bring to the table isn’t really the issue.

Then my friend when totally counter-intuitive on me and told me to resist the temptation to make the Bible study a topical one about parenting. Instead, he said to just go through a book of the Bible. Again, my mind is thinking, “What, no, I need to be a better ‘steward’ of the time that we would have together.” Actually, what would be better than to go through the Gospel of John, grow in WONDER at who God is, DISCOVER who we are in Christ (and as dads, husbands, etc.), and develop PASSION for others (the world, our family, our co-workers). I think the Bible can do that on its own. So I am going to trust God in this one.

It’s going to be an interesting journey. Something I’ve never really tried before. I’m just the assembler, not the teacher. Something tells me that I am going to learn so much and be blessed on Wednesday mornings at Denny’s.

The joke around New Harvest is that my nickname “PM” is an indication of when I do all my ministry. Some weeks, that’s the way it feels (with an event or meeting nearly every night). Rarely, do I use the AM as a time to do anything productive (I’m recovering). But this is a priority to me, so I am getting up early enough so that almost no one would have an excuse for why they’d miss: 6 AM – 8 AM. I hope that, by creating a middle, dads will meet me there.

So, yesterday I officially became an “orange” dad. All this orange jive comes from the book “Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide…” by Reggie Joiner. It’s an awesome read that I’m reading in small chunks because it’s so, so rich with wisdom of WHY it’s so critical for the family and the church to partner together. In the book, Reggie says:

There are two powerful influences on the planet–
the church and the home.

They both exist because God initiated them.

They both exist because God desires to use them
to demonstrate His plan of redemption and restoration.

If they work together they can potentially
make a greater impact than if they work alone.

They need each other.

Too much is at stake for either one to fail.

Their primary task is to build God’s kingdom
in the hearts and minds of men and women, sons and daughters.


And yesterday was a great first day because MK and I actually got to drop Evie off in our pre-K ministry, which New Harvest calls “Starting Line.”

I wasn’t even remotely nervous because I know how competent the volunteers are, and I know that this is God’s plan for Evie. It was awesome to go to the front desk and have one of the volunteers, Ken, snap a picture of the “drop off” for posterity. [I wanted to bring my camera, but I didn't want to be "that guy" who brings his camera to everything. Thanks, Ken, for helping me have what I wanted!] Here’s that pic:

Then we dropped Evie off with Holly and Sam. It was really cool that Sam, one of our high school girls, was in there that morning! It just felt right. I know Jocelyn (our Starting Line Coordinator) probably made a few visits into the baby room to “see how Evie was doing” too. Evie was surrounded by love. :-)

I love the aim of Starting Line. No, the aim isn’t just, “Survive crying, change diapers, and give them goldfish to eat.” Instead, they are going to do their best before she even enters kindergarten to help her realize that:

Jesus Wants to be My FRIEND Forever

Awesome, awesome. The circle has officially widened beyond just family. Evie had some church up on Sunday. And it felt delightfully orange.

Oh, and she was fine. And so were we. After her day, full of Starting Line, “big church,” and Family Life Live, Evie actually slept through the whole night last night. A first. Awesome.

Wow…what an amazing, though-provoking post by Reggie Joiner that came up today. In it he says:

“We handed out jars of marbles to every family. There was one for each child in the home. There were enough marbles in each jar to represent the number of weekends children had left at home before they headed to college. For example there were jars with approximately–

468 marbles for 4th graders
364 marbles for 6th graders
208 marbles for 9th graders
104 marbles for 11th graders

Some parents used calendars to calculate the exact number of weekends for each individual child. They kept the jar in a visible place in their home and removed a marble each passing week to illustrate how much time they had left with their kids. It was a sobering visual reminder of how fast time goes.”

Sobering indeed. So I had to calculate. I will be dropping Evie (maybe “Evelyn” by then) to college sometime in August of 2030. That means I’ve got approximately 970 more weekends with her. Wow. I’ve already enjoyed the three that we’ve had. I can’t imagine what I’m going to do with the 970. I know that I want to turn up the dials in her life to show her that God is amazing, she is an amazing creation, and she can love and add value to others.

So…what’s your number for all your kids? I encourage you to read Reggie’s post.

What’s your number, and what are you going to do with the time that you have?

My friends from Orange sent me a book that I’ve been wanting to grab ever since it came out: “The Slow Fade” by Reggie Joiner, Chuck Bomar, and Abbie Smith. I was thumbing through it in the resource area at the Orange Tour but just didn’t buy it.

And then they sent it to me. I’m glad I waited, but I don’t think having two copies would be a bad thing (one to keep, one to share).

I was fascinated by how the Orange Philosophy fits into college/young-adult ministry. I mean, isn’t the whole idea of the Orange Philosophy for parents and the church to unite to raise up the next generation? College ministry has constraints. Sure, some of their parents are around their parents still or even still living at home; but, for the most part, college/young-adult ministry is about kids transitioning to adulthood (sans parents). So how does the Orange crew address it?

In two words: SIMPLY yet PROFOUNDLY.

In this quick read (I read it in two sittings), the three authors combine their voices to present a case of a relationship-driven (not program-driven college/young-adult ministry experience). The book progresses through the notion that, in most churches, this age group is pretty ghostly (almost invisible); but it’s not that hard to connect them to older people in the local church and help them “rematerialize” before the church’s very eyes.

I’ve got a bunch of ideas that I want to explore from this book (in no particular order):

* Abbie talks about the “mentors” she had when she was in college. Who were mine? Who were yours?

* Is it really that hard to find common ground with this age group? Here’s a hint: NO!

* An adult mentor can subtly turn the dials of WONDER at who God is, DISCOVERY of who they are in Christ, and PASSION for the world through a “mentor”-like relationship. And it’s not as hard as it sounds.

* There is a great template for how to connect adults in the church at large to people in this critical age group. I personally became convicted that, in order for the college/young-adult ministry at New Harvest (Reaction), to thrive and be sustainable, I’ve got to widen the circle of influence beyond me and Mary Kate.

* Once an older adult makes a connection with a person in this age group, it makes it that much easier to connect them to other people in the church who they glean maturity from.

* People in this age group want to not only be involved– they want to serve in a meaningful way. (Phew…at least I already knew one thing in this book. :-) )

* The thing that works best in these mentor/mentee relationships is that there has to be humility on the part of the mentor to realize that both sides of the relationship are in a process of maturation– and they can grow and learn together.

* Chuck Bomar’s charge to ministry leaders should be a post in and of itself because of the richness of the challenges.

* “Old people” can say a lot of things that are unintentionally (but still have the effect of being) discouraging to college students and young adults. I love that the book provides some basic perspective shifts on some typical conversation points with this age group. Again, another post for another day. Rich (and kind of funny).

All in all, I think I have my marching orders. I’ve got to widen this net. There have to be more people involved in the lives of this “invisible” age group, otherwise we should not be surprised that our churches are aging out. We make a false assumption when we think that “Oh, this is just a phase. They’ll come back when they have kids.” Will they?

I’d rather keep them connected if it’s all the same and not throw up a white flag at the slow fade.

…”Parenting Beyond Your Capacity” by Reggie Joiner & Carey Nieuwhof. You can do it here.

No, seriously. You could buy four Starbucks drinks with the amount of money it costs and watch a week’s worth of Wheel of Fortune in the time that it would probably take to read it and realign your gauges for what’s important as a parent.

I am the skeptic of all skeptics. I don’t drink anyone’s Kool-Aid, even if it’s “orange” Kool-Aid. When I read a book, I think the burden of proof is always on the author to show me that what he/she is saying is the real deal.

That’s why it’s so remarkable that, when I read “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity,” I literally would get so excited about sections that I would have to tell my wife, “Hey, listen to this!”

The book is organized in a conversational tone from both authors to discuss ideas such as:

* A parent’s influence is best realized in partnership with the church.
[Orange 101]

* God isn’t holding up a perfect picture; He’s writing a bigger story.
[So stop trying to appear "perfect."]

* Pursue strategic relationships for your kids.
[You can't do this by yourself! No one can or should.]

* Focus your priorities on what matters most.
[Imagine the end. WHO do we want our kids to become?]

* Communicate in a style that gives the relationship value.
[Fight for the heart!]

* Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
[How do you interact with your kid? Is there a rhythm?]

* Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.
[Does your faith make your kids believe more or less in God?]

* You can mobilize your family to demonstrate God’s love in a broken world.
[Focus the family.]

I’m on the early, early end of the parenting spectrum. Shoot, my baby is like, what, seventeen days old. But I’m hoping that I will still be implementing the strategies and ideas from this book when Evie is seventeen years old.

This is a resource that I can literally put in any parent’s hands if they are humble enough to ask for help!

I will hit more of this book as I continue to write on this blog because I’m now fully wrapped up in “Think Orange” (the mothership of Orange books– aimed at church leaders). What makes this book great, though, is that it speaks directly to the parent side of the equation. Good, good stuff.

I’m not saying this book is the end all be all, though. With that being said…

Are their any other parenting resources that you have read (or would like to share with me) that have really helped you as a parent (or you as a family ministry person) to grow up your kids in their faith?


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