Archives For Parenting

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David Kinnaman’s recent book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith, highlights a recent study by the Barna Group that focuses on young people who drop out of church and leave the faith. He discovered three distinct patterns of those who have “lost their faith”: prodigals, nomads, and exiles. According to the research, prodigals make up “one out of nine young people who grew up with a Christian background and lose their faith in Christianity.”

Many Christian parents are seeing their children leave their faith and are longing to understand why and what they can do about it. And that’s where this webinar with James and Cari Banks can help.

James is a pastor and author of the book Prayers for Prodigals: 90 Days of Prayer for Your Child. James and Cari know firsthand what it’s like to struggle with children who have wandered from the faith of their parents. Both their adult son and daughter have struggled with Christianity for themselves. The Banks know the plight of parents who deeply love their children and yet find themselves sometimes left to do what seems at times to be an anemic response—to pray.

But prayer is anything but powerlessness. James and Cari help parents focus on the One who loves their children even more than they do. It’s time to pray.

To listen to the audio recording from the live webinar event, click the link: Praying for Prodigals.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Praying for Prodigals PPT.

To get a free PDF download of an excerpt of the first 30 days of James’ book from Discovery House Publishers, click the title link: Prayers for Prodigals. You can also visit James’ website for more helpful information on his speaking and writing ministry at: www.prayersforprodigals.org.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you love your children well, click the link: Parenting Resources.

Listen

Dennis Moles —  May 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

 

Porch Swing-Flickr: Creative Commons/Danie Becknell

Porch Swing-Flickr: Creative Commons/Danie Becknell

In my culture (I was born and raised in Appalachian coal country), storytelling is both an art and a way of life. I’m not sure of the degree to which illiteracy and economic depression nurtured this gift in my ancestors, but the ability to teach, entertain, and communicate via stories is highly prized where I come from.

I’ve been many places and met loads of intelligent and gifted people over the years, but some of the best storytellers I’ve ever known are from back home—not the lest of which is my dad.

The storytellers

The storytellers

Dad was and is quite the storyteller. He has a gift for the art of it. Dad uses words the way a painter might use oil or acrylic—the imagination of his listeners is his canvas. Dad has the flare, imagination, and creativity to spin a tale, but he’s still not the storyteller my grandfather was.

Why? Poppaw has better stories. Dementia has robbed my children of the joy of hearing their great-grandfather tell his stories, but it has not and cannot keep them from the wisdom he has passed on through them.

Poppaw wasn’t the artist dad is. His stories didn’t run on wit. They ran on wisdom—maybe that’s why they were so powerful. Some storytellers have to be the hero in their stories, but that wasn’t the case with Poppaw. Sometimes he was the one who needed saving. In his stories, he wasn’t a war hero but a terrified 21-year-old from Confidence, West Virginia, who jumped out of a C-47 on June 6, 1944. He wasn’t a “Screaming Eagle” bravely running through the French night but a farm boy who didn’t know whether he’d live to see another sunrise. In his stories, the German soldiers weren’t monsters. They were boys who stood on the far side of a river that was small enough for the Germans and the Americans to throw packets of cigarettes to each other from one side to the other.

His stories didn’t always cast him or our family in PoppawArmya favorable light, but they almost always taught me an important life-lesson. They were gifts that I could not fully appreciate at the time but have grown to treasure over the years.

The writer of the Proverbs says: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (1:8-9).

The older I get, the more I realize that wisdom permeated Poppaw’s stories. He wasn’t telling me stories just to entertain or inform me. He was telling me his story with the hope that I would find wisdom in the retelling.

So tell me, who in your life is (was) worthy of listening to?

 

 

 

Santa Arrives!—Flickr/Creative Commons/MIKECNY

I recently heard a woman’s compelling story of victory through Christ over a persistent sin in her life. One thing she stated stood out in light of the upcoming Christmas holiday. She shared that when she learned as a young girl that there was no such thing as Santa, she also began to wonder about Jesus. She reasoned that if her parents could lie about Santa, surely Jesus could be a cleverly devised lie as well.

You may not have experienced what this woman did when she learned the truth about Santa, but you probably felt some disappointment, disillusionment, or even anger. I know that both my husband and I were disappointed when we learned that Santa wasn’t real and for us Christmas lost some of its magic, and that’s why we didn’t insist to our children that Santa was real. What we told them was that once upon a time there was a real person named Saint Nicholas and that Santa was patterned after him. We also told them that we give gifts at Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birth. They were totally fine with that.

I’m not saying we should never tell the children in our life stories about Santa or the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy, but I think we need to think twice about how we do. After all Santa is a myth, and when we perpetuate the myth of Santa we can inadvertently downplay the true meaning of Christmas. We relegate the story of Jesus in the manger to just another heartwarming but fictitious story.

The story of Santa is a sweet little story, but that’s all it is. Jolly old Saint Nick brings gifts, but Jesus was the gift—God’s gift to us. Let’s remember this holiday season to put the emphasis on the Christ child, the Son of God, who left heaven to come to Earth to live as an example for us to follow and to suffer and die so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. It doesn’t get any better than that!

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

Let’s be honest: The family is a flawed institution. We’re all broken. We’re all part of a family that’s broken. All of us. No exceptions. Brokenness is normal.

But we’re not left without hope. And that’s the message Elisa and Evan Morgan shared with us in our webinar: The Myth of the Perfect Family.

While they didn’t attempt to glaze over the messiness of family life, Evan and Elisa described how God has been and still is restoring beauty in the midst of their brokenness because of His great love for broken people. He’s restoring hope and love because of the “broken family values” that they’ve learned along the way.

To listen to the audio recording of the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar audio

To download the PowerPoint for the webinar, click the link: Myth of the Perfect Family Webinar PowerPoint

To get a free download of the introduction and first chapter of Elisa’s book The Beauty of Broken from Thomas Nelson, click on this link:

The Beauty of Broken (Free Sample Chapter)

To purchase the book Click Here

Tell Them Your Story

Dennis Moles —  September 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

We all have a story – but very often we don’t tell it.

As a minister, my story includes helping families say goodbye to loved ones. That’s what I was doing in Big Stone Gap, VA on April 12 of this past year: helping four children, 11 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren say goodbye to their mom, grandma, and great grandma.

The difference on this crisp spring afternoon is that my wife was one of the eleven, my children three of the twenty, and my mother-in-law one of the four. This time it wasn’t someone else’s grandmother; it was mine.

We all have a story – and sometimes they’re painful.

After the interment, we all went to lunch and then loaded into the van and headed toward the little coal camp where my mother-in-law grew up. As we drove the winding roads of western Virginia, my wife’s mom told stories. She told stories about her childhood, about learning to drive on those crooked roads, about her parents and grandparents. She pointed out the little church she went to as a child. We saw the house she grew up in. For several hours that day, this place was home. It was home because we were seeing it thought the eyes of my mother-in-law.

We all have a story – and sometimes we don’t even know it.

The hours passed and the stories flowed. Some of them were new even to my father-in-law. That day, my children were given a great gift. Their grandmother told them her story – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And in so doing, she told them THEIR story.

Some of our stories are happy and light, but many of them are sad and troubling. Some we feel are fit for public display while others are just a little too raw and unflattering for the world to see. That leads most of us to keep our stories in two categories: the ones we tell and the ones we don’t. But I wonder if that’s what’s best?

I think these unflattering and painful stories need to be told as well, as they can serve a special redemptive purpose. They communicate hope in a way that other stories can’t.

We all have a story – and all of it is worth telling.

If you think your story is too painful for God to redeem and use I’d invite you to join us for an RBC Webinar on September 19 at 12pm EST https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1023795211087515648. Host Tim Jackson will be speaking with Evan and Elisa Morgan about their story of struggle, heartache, redemption, and hope.

Hope to see you there!

In her new book The Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan writes in the introduction:

“Formulaic promises about the family may have originated in well-meaning intentions, but such thinking isn’t realistic. It’s not helpful. It’s not even kind—this prodding one another to think we can create something we can’t: families immune from breakage” (p. xii).

Like the vast majority of Christian parents, Elisa had bought into the unspoken, unwritten, and unrealistic expectation that if she did all the right things—like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and teaching her kids about God—then her kids would turn out okay or, in her words, would be “paragons of Christian virtue.” When the desired outcome was radically shattered by the entrance of issues like alcoholism, learning disabilities, legal issues, abortion, homosexuality, addiction, teen pregnancy, infertility, adoption, divorce, and death, Elisa was forced to confront the myth she’d wholeheartedly embraced: the myth of the perfect family.

The journey that Elisa and her husband, Evan, took together radically transformed their view of family life and values. They came to understand that there are no perfect families. Every family is broken because everyone in every family is broken. Broken families are the norm, not the exception.

And that’s why I’m excited to sit down with Elisa and Evan in our next RBC webinar to discuss their journey and what God has taught them along the way that we can all learn from as well. Please consider joining us on September 19, 2013, at 12:00 p.m. EDT for our webinar “The Myth of the Perfect Family.” Space is limited, so please sign up at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1023795211087515648

 

One of the great gifts my father gave to me was the ability to tell stories. One of my preferred pastimes as a boy was to sit and listen to Dad tell stories about his childhood. One of my favorite involved my grandmother and her prayer closet.

Dad, according to his recollection, was about 10 years old when my grandfather (Poppawe Damon) took him and his two younger siblings, Joe and Eileen, out to mend a fence that was about 200 yards behind their house.

As they worked my grandfather suddenly stopped what he was doing and looked back toward the house. Poppawe’s sudden lack of activity caught the attention of the kids, and he answered their unspoken question with a simple, “Listen.”

As they stood there in near silence, the kids began to hear what he had heard. In the distance, they made out a single voice. It was hushed but earnest; tender and pleading.

It did not take the kids long to figure out who was talking. It was their mother. And it didn’t take them long to figure out who she was talking to—God. The longer Momawe prayed, the louder she became.

Dad still remembers standing there at the edge of the woods listening to his mother pray. He remembers the intensity and passion in her prayer. He remembers hearing her pray for him, Joe, and Eileen. He remembers her crying with joy at the presence of her Lord as Jesus met her in the midst of her worship and petition. He remembers Poppawe telling them that Momawe was in the closet, where she went to meet with God (Matthew 6:5-6).

I heard this story many times while I was growing up. And while the actual event took place nearly 20 years before I was born, I still sense the reverence of that moment.

Dad was given a great gift that day. He was able to hear how his mother prayed when she thought no one was listening.

Christian prayer in its most intimate form is like that. It is an intimate conversation. It’s raw but beautiful. It is not ritualistic and measured but relational and empowered. It’s saying what you would say when you think no one but God is listening.

If you have a desire to grow and be strengthened in your prayer life please join us for a live webinar event, “Prayer: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters”.

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6822142345903290368

Register soon; space is limited. Hope to see you there!

Kids need adults in their lives. Two recent studies have captured my thinking over the last 6 months:

  1. The Barna Research Group tells us that 6 in 10 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 are leaving the church (You Lost Me by David Kinnaman).
  2. The Fuller Youth Institute tells us that adult engagement is the most consistent factor in determining whether or not a young person will continue to stay in the Christian faith (Sticky Faith).

In short, the Barna study tells us that younger people are leaving the church at a greater rate than they are staying. This is discouraging. But the Fuller Youth Institute study gives us hope. It tells us that the most significant determiner as to whether or not a young person’s faith will “stick” is directly connected to adult interaction.

The study says that if a young person has five adults of varying ages who intentionally invest in them, they are much more likely to stay in the faith. When I was a youth pastor, we were told that we should have one adult leader for every five kids. But the FYI study indicates that we ought to turn that ratio around. Not only do kids need more adults, the study also says that they need people from multiple age groups.

The kids whose faith “stuck” the best were those who had relationships with five adults from multiple generations who intentionally built into their lives.

Now I know that the Holy Spirit is the One who draws us, illuminates us, and saves and seals us in Christ. And I do not intend to say that anyone can come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit; nor am I attempting to say that human effort can keep us in Christ. But I am intrigued by this common thread of multigenerational adult relationships with young people whose faith sticks.

What do you think? Is it noteworthy that young people whose faith sticks have adults other than their parents who are available and present? What is the significance of this multigenerational aspect to spiritual relationships? Is it fair to say that if young people have present, active, and intentional spiritual fathers, mothers, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters, they are more likely to be persons of faith?

I’ll be honest, I don’t know most of you nor do I know your children or your children’s friends. So based on that confession I know what I am about to say is COMPLETE conjecture and is in no way meant to disparage the character or call into question the worth of any person or persons living or dead. But…my kids have the BEST friends in the world.

I’m serious. They really do and I love them – all of them. They are funny, loud, smart, and at times just plan silly. I love being around them. They challenge me to think well and live life to the fullest. Amy and I love to have them in our home. They are so much fun!

Until recently I have never really considered what my role in their life ought to be. But the more I am around these kids the more invested I feel, and I can’t help but wonder if I am representing well the rule and reign of Christ in their presence.

If I am called to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and if I am called to represent Christ in the everydayness of my life (Colossians 1) then how can I be a better example of Christ’s love toward my kids friends? How do I, “parent other people’s kids?”

We’ll unpack these statements over the next couple of weeks but test these thoughts with me. My kids friends don’t need me to be their dad but they do need me. They need me to…

  • be available and present…
  • provide a safe and loving environment…
  • listen well before speaking…
  • tell them stories not give them lectures…
  • value them as image bearers of God…

So what do you think? Is this what kids need or do they need something else? Are all of these points equal in importance? How do we encourage and love our kids friends without overstepping your bounds?

I can’t wait to talk with you about this!

Piling Up Stones

Dennis Moles —  January 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

This past weekend was a special time for me as a dad, a friend, and the follower of Jesus. It was a time of remembering the past, connecting with the present, and casting a vision for the future.

Every January the current and former members of a college organization called Theta Rho Epsilon meet for a weekend retreat. This year the meeting was in Chicago and my sons and I attended. Theta Rho Epsilon, which we affectionately call OPE (pronounced Opie—like Ron Howard’s character on the Andy Griffith show) is a men’s organization that began at Cedarville University back in the early nineties. The purpose and creed of OPE is summed up by Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” And for the last 20 years I have lived in community, often from a considerable geographical distance, with these guys—each of us trying to help the others look, act, and love like Jesus Christ.

When OPE began, I don’t think any of us had a clear idea how important the relationships we were making would be to us and our families. From the very best of times to the very worst of times, these guys have been there for me and I have been there for them.

As we gathered this weekend with friends old and new, I was reminded of the profound truth that none of us were meant to take this journey of discipleship alone. I was reminded that I need my brothers and they need me. I was reminded of the story we share and was encouraged by the story we are writing. But this year something else profound took place. This year all the alumni set aside some time to have a special ceremony for our sons.

It wasn’t elaborate. We simply told them stories, presented them with gifts, and shared our hearts. Essentially, we reminded them of the story of Joshua leading the children of Israel across the Jordan: 

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” . . . “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” . . . “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground’ ” (Joshua 4:1-7, 21-22).

This past Saturday we piled up stones of our own. We reminded our sons, who range in age from 6 to 14, of the story of OPE. How before any of them was born we set out to help each other follow Jesus. How we have continued through the years to sharpen one another for the purpose of looking, acting, and loving like Christ. After we shared our story, we confessed to them that our greatest desire is for them to follow Jesus too and to know that they have a community of men who love them and are there for them no matter what.

Each boy left Chicago this weekend having received a necklace, hearing a declaration, and receiving a promise. The necklace simply reads “Proverbs 27:17.” It was presented to them by a man other than their dad with the simple declaration, “We choose you; we love you.” And it was solidified as 12 men stood to their feet and made these promises to 8 boys:

“We promise, as time and opportunity allows, to be a sharpening influence in your lives.”

“We commit, as the Holy Spirit brings you to our minds, to pray for you.”

“We are willing, should you ever need us, to be a safe place for you to share your questions and struggles as you grow and progress through life.”

“Regardless of the choices and decisions you make, we choose you.”

This weekend reminded me that I need to take more time to pile up stones. I need to remember the faithfulness of God in the past and declare that faithfulness in the present. It reminded me that I need my brothers, and it reminded me to pray for my own kids that they would find the same kind of relationships that God has blessed me with.

How long has it been since you piled up some stones?