Many times I get parents who have questions from their kids they can’t answer. Kids love to ask hard questions about God, life, death, sickness, injustice, heaven, hell, the Bible etc. I think we get frustrated when we can’t articulate answers. I used to think I had all the answers or I was somehow coming up short. I thought being a good pastor, father, and Christian meant I had to have an answer for everything. Now I have changed the way I think. Here’s how I’ve come to think.
- If we had all the answers we wouldn’t need faith. Faith is about the unknown as much as it is the unseen. We can’t know everything there is to know. Some things just take faith. If we knew everything that is in the mind of God we wouldn’t need to trust Him daily. God wants us to lean on Him when we don’t know the answers. If God gave us everything we needed including all the answers, we would be tempted to not rely on Him.
- God is bigger than us. I know this one is obvious but it needs repeating. If God was able to be completely comprehended by our finite minds He wouldn’t be a God worth serving. I know that statement might challenge your belief system. Our minds and comprehension is limited. When we are young we think we are all knowing and invincible. Age brings wisdom for most of us. God is so powerful, so vast, so marvelous that we can’t wrap our minds around all He is. Angels in heaven sing His praises for eternity, each moment having a glimpse of His glorious might revealed. Our small minds can’t fathom the depths of His love and therefore can’t entirely know his character.
So as parents what do we do when our kids have questions that challenge our faith?
- Don’t freak out. When you freak out kids stop telling you things. Sometimes they are testing you.
- Realize it’s perfectly normal to have questions. There’s nothing wrong with your kids if they are asking these questions or having doubts. This is natural. A tested faith is a stronger faith.
- Be OK with not having all the answers. I think sometimes we think its bad to not have the answers because we want our kids to put their trust in us. Remember the ultimate goal in life is to train our kids to trust God.
- Be open about your own struggles of faith. Sharing your story helps your kids see an end or a least a progression to their story. Don’t think you have to appear invincible to your kids. Think about how much you connect with a pastor when they are vulnerable. Do the same with your kids.
- Teach your kids to pray. Here’s a crazy idea. Show your kids how to talk to God and bring their questions. You don’t know everything but He does.
- Teach your kids how to read the Bible. Get them some devotional books. Use our placemats and devotional materials from church. Use the SOAP method (read more here or here).
- See if you can find the answers. Some questions can be answered if you dig in yourself. Ask a pastor. Google it but be prepared that not all answers are created equal.
Everyone likes to win, I sure do. In fact I have such a desire to win that if I can’t win something, I don’t do it. I actually have a hard time playing games of chance because it bothers me that I can’t figure out a way to maximize the chances of winning. It drives me crazy. I probably need to see a counselor about that but I think there’s a point to winning.
Look what Paul said about it…
1 Corinthians 9:24-27New Living Translation (NLT)
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
What does it take to win according to what Paul is saying here?
- Run to win
- Paul says that not everyone is in it to win it. Some are just in it to finish. He says the prize comes to those who run to win. What are your wins? Are they attainable? Are they quantifiable?
- He mentions discipline twice in this passage and training once. What that sounds like to me is that its doing to take some work. To win spiritually, you need spiritual disciplines (Bible, prayer, journaling, etc). To win physically, you need physical disciplines (healthy eating, exercise, rest, etc). To win as a leader, you need leadership disciplines (reading, problem solving, strategy, delegation, etc.) Every area of life requires disciplines to succeed in it.
- Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your motives? Let that fuel your desire to cross the finish line. Christ needs to be the center of our purpose or we are running the wrong race. Make sure your purpose is God-breathed and God-ordained.
My story, like so many others, is that I didn’t want to be a children’s pastor, I got drafted. I was young and dumb and the only problem was I didn’t know it. Like most young people, I believed I knew everything. Unlike most young people, it took me a while to grow out of it. I was stubborn and didn’t want to have to depend on anyone outside my small circle of influence.
I was a legend in my own mind, but my ministry was a giant mess. No one could tell me anything. My pastor tried to help me but I wouldn’t listen. My team stayed relatively small and I had to depend a lot on my wife and myself. I was stuck at a level and wasn’t even trying to do anything about it.
That all changed when Jim Wideman came into my life. I remember the first time I met Brother Jim. He was on a tour with his church doing regional training meetings. When they came to our area, I loaded up our team in the church van and drove the thirty minute trip. I met Brother Jim in the men’s bathroom right before a session he was teaching. I had heard him teach before and had some of his Puppet Trax so I knew who he was. I greeted him and wanted to shake his hand. He probably thought “Who is this weird guy trying to shake my hand in the bathroom?”
His session was great and it challenged me in many ways. It was towards the end of a year so I geared myself up for a new year with a renewed commitment to ministry growth. I even went on eBay and bought an used set of his Club lessons. I then bought everyone of his books and got a hold of any audio teaching I could. As I was reading the book Children’s Ministry Leadership: The You-Can-Do-It Guide, a quote jumped off the page:
There’s no success without a successor.
I had done nothing to ensure lasting success at my church. I didn’t get help for five reasons:
- I didn’t know how to ask for help.
- I thought I could do it better.
- I never thought I would leave that church.
- I didn’t trust other people do things.
- I wanted all the credit.
Since meeting Jim and joining his mentoring program, Infuse, I have changed those old bad habits. Everyone does better with a coach and I would encourage you to take a look at Jim’s program. Its well worth the investment and I say that as someone who paid the fees out of my own pocket for the first year. It was worth every hard earned penny! If you’re a kids pastor, youth pastor, family pastor or work in any of those areas, check it out today.
Here’s three things I like to ask leaders I lead and leaders who lead me:
- What is your story?
- Getting someone to talk about themselves is the best way to tear down any walls. That’s pretty much everyone’s favorite subject to talk about anyway: themselves. If you know where someone comes from and what they’ve been through you have a better understanding of them as a person.
- Where do you see yourself in future?
- After you know where they’ve been, you can see where they are going. High capacity leaders have a vision for themselves, their organization and their families.
- How can I help you get there?
- Lastly you connect yourself to people by asking how you can help them get to where they are going.
I don’t usually ask the questions in this format and definitely not all at once. I try to make it as natural and organic as I can. I certainly ask lots of other questions but this is the basic strategy behind how I approach helping leaders.
I was looking through some old Evernote’s and saw one of my first notes when I came to Element Church to start my new position.That was almost two years ago now. It was a kick list of everything I needed to work on with the ministry personally. I started the list with my four “values” priorities:
- Love people
- This should never change. We are in the people business. God has called us to the people we serve.
- Cast vision
- As the Family Pastor I take the overall vision of the church and cast specific vision for each of the areas I lead.
- Celebrate the past
- When you take a new position the temptation is to come in and change everything just for the sake of change. I spent time celebrating what was done in the past rather than tearing anything down. One of the best honor moments we had was celebrating a staff person who was moving out of kids into another area. I bought flowers and had the teachers present them and pray over her in front of all the kids. This brought honor to her, my pastor and the church knew I was for them. I didn’t do everything right with this but that is maybe the one thing I did do right.
- Evaluate for the future
- Lists are a good way to think through what needs to be changed. One of the best practices is to walk around and see things through the eyes of a new person. Now I wouldn’t suggest carrying a clipboard or iPad to write those down as that can be intimidating (I made that mistake).
I thought that was a good reminder and sent those four to some of my staff. What are thoughts? How about your priorities, what are they?
Here are some bad habits that I’ve noticed over the years in kidmin:
- Offending attention spans
- The general rule of thumb is 1 minute per age of child. Anything longer than that and kids can shut us off. The mind can only process what the rear can endure.
- Not being prepared to teach
- When we aren’t ready to share the message because we didn’t prepare, it shows in our confidence and delivery.
- No teaching on the correct level
- If your presentation of the gospel is on a level that is too shallow or too deep for the kids they won’t receive it. You can’t give a baby a steak and you wouldn’t feed a teenage baby food. Know the level and tailor the message to your audience.
- Saying things we shouldn’t say
- Shoot, crap, dang, darn, God’s name in vain, heck, sexy, sexy, inappropriate stories, etc, Yes, I’ve heard all those things in kids over the years.
- Trying to do it alone
- Some of the biggest issues I’ve had over the years came from trying to do it all by myself. Sure no one can do it like me but unless I want to do it that way by myself forever I have to let someone else help. Plus, I couldn’t always do it that way anyhow.
- Recruiting the wrong way
- Emotional pleas don’t usually work. Getting in the pulpit and begging never works. Your pastor shouldn’t have to do all the recruiting for you. There is no shortcut to recruiting volunteers. A friend said it this way: “recruiting is like doing the laundry; no one likes doing it and you’re never outgrow doing it”. It takes personal invites and work to make recruiting work.
I’m sure I’ve made many more mistakes and errors than these. How about you?