Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Secret to Re-Setting a Disconnected Family

By:  Laura Wise

Today’s family often describe themselves as too busy, stressed out, tired, unappreciated, frazzled, overscheduled, overwhelmed, overworked, disconnected, disrespected and even lonely. I don’t know about you but I can relate to all of those at some point in my life growing up and it is heartbreaking to hear these things, especially from kids and teens. So what if there was something we could do that was proven to help us all feel more connected, less stressed, more loved and actually grow closer as a family or even friends.

The secret really isn’t a secret at all. For centuries families and friends have been sitting down together to eat and reconnect; there is something so intimate and special about sharing a meal with someone. Not to mention that Jesus models this with friends and family over and over again throughout the Bible for countless discussions and unforgettable conversations. So maybe it is time we to bring back family dinners, where the whole family gathers to connect with each other and see if it will transform your family.

A blog I follow called, "Families on a Mission" designs plans specifically for families to engage younger kids at dinner with questions.  Here are some of the comments made after their "40 Day What’s for Dinner Challenge"…

•    “We love the outcome of a new routine that is truly improving our family life….”
•    “Seeing my 6-yr old light up has been amazing as we’d be reconnecting each time.”
•    “It took us out of our comfort zone and made us challenge ourselves to be more intentional with each meal and to be silly in different ways.”
•    “I love hearing my kids’ thoughts, hearts, and dreams.”
•    “We have noticed that our conversations are continuing throughout the day and we are excited to hear what’s new each night.”

Experts say that eating dinner five times a week as a family is the best way to see the most change and impact, but studies have also shown that committing to two or three nights a week can still completely change your family dynamic. And it doesn’t even have to be at home, you can do this at a restaurant! No matter where you are, the main idea remains the same-sitting together as a family where your focus is on each other as you’re eating.

It is during those times where your relationships begin to matter more than your busy schedules or the media crazed world we live in. Now, to do this well, you cannot be one of those families who sit around the table together but are focused on your gadgets, individual screens, or even televisions. The purpose is to intentionally set aside time to focus on each other no matter how good you are at multitasking. This does not work without everyone committing to the process. These family dinners should allow you to reconnect with each other and decompress from your day. We suggest laughing together and sharing stories to find out what is going on in each other's lives. Eye contact matters too and is often a sign of respect. So we also suggest looking at each other when you are talking to each other and looking at each other when you are listening to each other.  And finally, if you take time to pray before meals together as a family you add a whole new level of intimacy and importance to the family dinner.

At the very least, family dinners could help teach our kids the importance of personal connections and socialization with other people. Remember that kids are learning to live based on what they see not just what they hear. Kids are learning how to be good siblings, how to be good friends, even how to be good parents from watching you and talking to you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Parent Coach

by:  Devin Dummel

Every week for nearly the past seven years I have prayed the same prayer.  It’s a prayer I imagine I will pray every week of my life.  “Jesus, please don’t let me screw up my kids.”  It’s not eloquent but it is an honest prayer.  It’s one of the greatest fears of my life.  Because I am at times consumed by this idea, I spend extra energy each week, thinking about and strategizing how I try to parent.

I don’t know if you pray a similar prayer or have similar fears, but I don’t think I am alone in trying to navigate how to be a parent and raise children well.  I believe most parents spend considerable energy trying to figure out the best way to raise their children.  We’ve all seen many different styles and strategies, but the ones that stick out to us are often the extremes.  I think when we don’t know what to do we react in the extremes. 

We have all seen parents who are desperate to control their children, trying to manufacture the future of their dreams.  Their commanding ways are well-intentioned, but their children often feel oppressed, trapped, and overwhelmed with trying to meet the high demand.   The other extreme is no better; parents who don’t know what to do – so they don’t do anything.  These parents appear to be afraid or allergic to any amount of control, so they cower any time their child demonstrates a strong-will. 

These parenting extremes seem like completely different in every way, but what they have in common is tragic.  Neither strategy helps the child learn how to live the best possible life.  Both of these strategies miss the design that God intended for parents to have in helping their children navigate life.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way they should go; and when they are older they will not depart from it.” Built into God's design for parenting isn't a role for a commander, and there is no room for cowards.  But God's design calls for parents who are willing to be coaches.

Let’s be honest; being a parent is the hardest job in the world.  So it’s understandable that we often go to the extremes.  But God has given us the role of coach in the lives of our children.  Like a coach, we must demonstrate our love for our “players”.  We have to give them instruction and train them.  We have to get them ready for the game.

Then we have to let them play.  We have to let them stumble and fall.  We have to let them learn some hard lessons.   We even have to let them lose.  Then we have to gather around them again and remind them of their training.  We must correct them and give them all that they need to succeed.  This is the role of a parent – not to command, not to cower, but to coach.

When we understand this coaching role, we don’t have to be scared about “screwing them up”.  Instead, we can be confident that we have done our best to get them ready for life, and know that when they need additional instruction, when they are looking for a game plan, that one of the first places that will turn to will likely be you – their coach – because you have always been there to love, instruct, and correct them when they needed it most.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Busy is a Four Letter Word

By Devin Dummel

There was a time not that long ago that when I was asked how things were going my typical response was “Good, we’ve been busy.”  I started to hear myself say that phrase over and over again, so much so, that I started to wonder if being busy was really that great of a thing at all.  Being a family of four we have always kept ourselves busy.  There’s always more to do: more sports, more projects more experiences and events.

But recently I've decided that I don't really like the word busy anymore.  In fact, I've decided, at least for myself, that busy is a four letter word, and it's going on the list of all the other "four letter words" that I shouldn't be saying.

If your family is like mine, then you understand the drive behind busy.  You can empathize with the crazy that is attached to the chaos.  You connected with that feeling when you finally are able to keep up your feet, relax and breathe just for a minute.  I don’t know what it is that drives us toward busy.  But I think our culture might be one of the culprits.  We live in a culture that always values being preoccupied with something.

But have you ever wondered what all this being busy costs us?  The reality is that while we are staying busy we are missing out on something else.  Every activity and every choice has a cost.  When we choose one thing we naturally miss out on other things.  So the question for us has to be are we spending our time and energy on the right things?

"Busy" becomes the environment that hinders us from evaluating if we are making the right choices and spending our resources as a family well.  Busy doesn't allow us to think or to course correct when things are getting off track.  Busy sends us into a freefall where we miss the things that matter most while doing things we want the most.
If busy is a four letter word, how do we begin to remove it from our day-to-day vocabulary?
Lamentations 3:25 says,

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

If we want to make sure we are spending our time, energy and effort in all the right places, it would be wise to make space to slow down and discover how God says we should spend our time.  When you think about it, slowing down and saying no might be one of the most spiritual things we can do in life.

When we decide that we no longer need to stay “busy” but instead want to be obedient we will begin to spend our lives on the things that matter – not just in the moment but into eternity.
Jesus once taught about the importance to count the cost before choosing to follow Him.  We must do the same when it comes to our family and our hectic lifestyle.  We must count the cost and decide if what we stand to gain is worth what we could possibly lose.

The truth is some things are just more valuable than others.  We should never lose what matters most because we were unwilling to take the time to count the cost.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Teaching Kids to Weigh Their Choices

By Laura Wise

Everyone makes hundreds, sometimes
thousands, of choices each day. That
sounds ridiculous, but it is true. And we
all know we should teach our kids to
make wise decisions, so when we
teach them to stop and think about
opportunity cost, they begin to
understand that it is ok to choose. More
importantly, they begin to see choices
as opportunities instead of missing out
or failures.

By teaching them to look at
opportunity cost in a more positive light
we give them permission to do what is
best for them as Christians using the
Bible, through prayer, and taking time to
ask other Christians to help guide them. Learning about opportunity cost also helps alleviate
pressures from peers, media, and other outside sources.

The great thing is you can start right now!  What better time of the year to reflect on what really matters than the Christmas Season as we reflect on all that Jesus did for us and begin to evaluate what we can do in the new year.

One might think that kids could easily understand that every choice we make is important.
Especially when people tweet, message, text, or share EVERYTHING these days. Well, parenting is
never that easy, they still need you to guide them. They still need you to talk them through the
importance of weighing the pros and cons of each decision.

One simple way to start is to remind them that we are living in a time when one mistake can drastically change any plans or dreams we have.  Don’t share this to scare them but share this as a guide or filter for them to use when making decisions and weighing their options then follow up with a reminder that we will all fail and that we shouldn’t be afraid to fail, but we will have to accept any consequences (good and bad). This is also a great time to talk about God’s love and forgiveness.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Where Do We Begin

By Devin Dummel

Back in the day, I thought I was pretty slick.  I think most Jr. High School kids feel that way.    I felt the feeling the strongest as I peered through the blinds watching my parents leave for church.  This wasn’t a one-time thing.  I did it often.  A fake cough here; a “Mom I don’t feel so good” there.  The real secret was heating up a washcloth and putting it on my forehead for a few minutes and sure enough, as fast as my mother’s hand left my head, they bought it.  As I would watch my parents pull out of our driveway in my father’s old Crown Victoria, a sense of jubilation would wash over me.

I would fire up the Sega Genesis and play video games for a couple hours until they got home.  When I heard the garage door I tossed the controller, hopped quickly in bed, pulled the covers up and pretended to be asleep.  At that age I was sure they fell for it every time, now I’m not so sure.

When I was that age I would do anything I could to get out of going to church.  Most kids go through a phase like that.  And as parents, we often feel pretty ill-equipped to help our children grow in their faith.  It might be because no one ever helped us at that age, or it could be because we struggle to lead ourselves at times.  Whatever the reason, most if not all parents feel this way at one time or another.  Perhaps the most difficult part of trying to raise our children to grow in their faith, is trying to figure out where to start?

Proverbs 22:6 says,   “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

God seems to indicate that there is a direct connection between how we teach our children during these first phases of their lives and the ultimate trajectory of their lives.  That’s huge when you think about it.  Not to put more pressure on you, but what you do now matters.  How you lead and teach your children about God now has the ability to impact them for a lifetime.

While that may seem overwhelming and intimidating it doesn’t have to be, because there is some great news:  You are not alone.

You may be responsible for your child, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself.  There is no question that you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.  But you aren’t the only influence.  God has designed the church to be a support for you and a partner in helping your family grow more and more in their faith.

So, if we want to make sure our children grow in their faith and start down a path toward God that they will never depart from, where does it start?  It starts with the church.  It starts with going to church.  It starts with making a commitment that being a part of the church matters.  It starts with making it a priority.

If we want to raise our children to find and follow Jesus then it begins with making the decision as a family that nothing else matters more.  Sleeping in isn’t more important.  Sports aren’t more important.  Regular weekend trips to the lake all summer are not more important.  What matters most is consistently showing up and showing our kids what it looks to make God our number one priority.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Get Ready

by Devin Dummel

After the reality had set in that my wife and I were going to become parents for the first time we put in some serious time trying to get ready.  We read books.  We asked questions.  We took notes and prepared everything so that we would be ready.  But the more people I talked to the more I heard, “You’re never fully ready to be a parent”.  

It seemed odd that this phrase would keep popping up over and over again.  I was confident that we were ahead of the curve and would be fully prepared once our baby made his debut.  At the time I shrugged off the idea and believed that it didn’t apply to us, but there may not have been a more true statement shared with us about parenting.  You are never fully ready.

If your experience has been anything like mine, then you know what it’s like to experience some parenting moments where you feel like you’re flying blind.  Sure you’ve read some books and heard your friends tell some stories, but it’s different when it’s you and your kind going through a difficult situation or phase.  We often feel less than equipped to navigate the realities and practicalities of parenting.

While it may be true that you’re never fully ready, the great news is that when it comes to parenting God hasn’t left us on an island.  After reading plenty of books on the topic, I have found that more times than not I already had the best resource for being a great parent.  God’s word – the Bible – is a wealthy source of knowledge not just on parenting but on what it looks like to live your best life.
Paul writing to his friend Timothy said this, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In my experience, I have found these words to be so true.  Through God’s inspired words in scripture, I have had new life breathed into me at every season of my life, and throughout every phase of parenting.   While I could google the latest statistics or strategies about how to raise my child, the best course of action, more often than not, is to turn to scripture to help it train me and my family in what it looks like to live a life that honors God.

My guess is, you probably don’t always feel ready or prepared for the situations that come your way.  But God promises that we will experience training in righteousness – that is training in “right living” and that we will be ready for the good work – the kingdom work – that God puts in front of us.  And I can think of no greater kingdom work for your life than raising your children to find and follow Jesus.

When parenting gets hard many of us will turn to any number of solutions, but the best solution is to turn our hearts and minds to God’s word found in the scriptures.  When we regularly root ourselves in scripture we receive the best kind of training for raising the next generation.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Checking the Scoreboard

by Devin Dummel

This past weekend my son, who is six-years-old played in his second basketball game.  As you might imagine it was a mess, not only for my son but for every child on his team who has no clue what they are doing.  Being “good parents” (whatever that means) his mother and I kept giving him instructions, trying to help him throughout the game.

We were watching every movement.  “Get that rebound”, “Pass it” and “Quit messing with your socks” were phrases that we shouted over and over during the game.  Our advice seemed to be of little use to him.  As he played I kept watching him and something else began to stand out.  As the game progressed my son kept checking the scoreboard.  Over and over again he would turn around and stare at the digital scoreboard almost as if his very life depended on it.

When he realized how bad things were getting – how badly they were getting beaten; he dropped his head and started to pout.  After the game was over I asked him why he was so upset and he told me that every time he looked at the scoreboard they were losing.

As a parent, I wanted to use that moment to teach him that the scoreboard isn't the only thing that matters, but I was confronted by the reality that often I measure my value and my worth and allow my feelings to be swayed by the scoreboard of life.

My guess is that if you are at all like my wife and I you regularly question if you are doing a good job as a parent.  Maybe you've never said it out loud, but I think the fear of failing as a parent is something we all share.

We all wonder if we are doing what it takes to help them succeed.  We keep our kids involved in everything.  Trying to make sure they have every opportunity to achieve educationally, athletically and socially.  Often at the end of the day, we are tired and exhausted and left wondering if it's all worth it.  Are we really helping them and giving them the best life there is to offer? We are constantly looking at the scoreboard, trying not to be discouraged.

What if while watching the scoreboard we were missing the more important things in life?  What if while we were checking the score we missed out on the best way to parent?  Jesus said, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world and yet lose their soul" (Matthew 16:26).   What if in trying to give our kids everything we actually lost the only thing that really matters?

There are a lot of important things in life but the most important thing is a saving relationship with Jesus.  When it’s all said and done – that’s the thing that matters the most.  You may or may not be able to afford everything you ever wanted to give your children.  But what you can do is help them discover a relationship with Jesus.

You don't have to be a perfect parent.  You don't have to always check the scoreboard.  You and I need to realize that when we demonstrate how to have a relationship with Jesus, that's the best thing, we could do as parents.  When we live out our faith – openly and honestly with our children – it will never matter what the parenting scoreboard says – we will have won because our children will have seen what it looks like to seek after God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.   There is nothing more valuable and worth your time than to model what it looks like to pursue a relationship with Christ.