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D6: Reaching and Equipping Disengaged Parents

ParentsToday was my last day at The D6 Conference in Louisville, KY. It’s been a great experience and I have enjoyed meeting some incredible people from all over the country. D6 is a fabulous conference full of inspiring and challenging general sessions, along with some highly practical and essential breakouts. I was privileged to lead a breakout titled: Reaching and Equipping Disengaged Parents. 

As promised to those in my breakout, below is an outline of my breakout.

Reaching and Equipping Disengaged Parents. (To be used with permission only).

If you were at D6, I hope you had an incredible conference! I did!

Phil <><

D6: Family First – It Starts with You!

Fathers day composition - photo album with a black and white photos. Studio shot on wooden background.

This week I have been hanging out with some great people at the D6 Conference in Louisville, KY. It’s an incredible event and is packed full of great general sessions, workshops, and an brilliant community of people. It’s been great to be here.

One of the breakouts I led was titled Family First – It Starts with You! As someone who leads a family ministry team, I know how easy it is to allow ministry to consume and dictate my own family life.

Over the years, sadly I have watched many good friends in ministry burn out or make poor choices. None of them set out with that plan, but over time, unhealthy patterns dictated their paths… A number of years ago I came to a crunch point in my life where I recognized things needed to change. Thankfully by God’s grace and through some incredible mentors in my life, I am learning and applying what I shared in the workshop here at D6.

As promised to those who attended my breakout, here is my shortened outline: Family First – It Starts with You! (To be used with permission only).

If you were at D6, I hope you had an incredible conference! I did!

Phil <><

[Podcast] ★ How to Team Up With Parents! ★

Terrace CrawfordLast week I had the privilege to speak to my friend and youth ministry blogger Terrace Crawford about my book Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

His podcast This Week in Youth Ministry is quickly becoming one of the most listened to youth ministry podcasts. I appreciated the opportunity to talk about my vision to partner with parents and I greatly appreciate how Terrace is bringing together voices from the trenches of ministry to equip others!

To listen to the podcast you can click here

Phil <><

7 Keys to Influencing Church Leadership to Partner with Parents

You’ve likely heard it said that our time with kids and students is getting shorter in an increasingly busy extra curricular culture. Parents however, still have the greatest influence with their kids, While what we do on a Sunday or midweek program is vital, it’s imperative that we make a shift in our time and resources to help parents to succeed at home. But, it’s not entirely up to us, is it?

Influencing church leadership to embrace a vision of reaching the whole family is critical. After all, your leaders set the direction of the church. And if the church employs you, it’s likely you will have to get them to buy into partnering with parents. But that’s not always easy to do! Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents.

Here’s the question I get asked a whole lot! How can I get buy in from my pastor or church leaders to reallocate my time and resources to partner with parents? 

Climbing Leadership

While it can often feel like climbing a mountain alone, there are some practical and tactical steps you can take to gain buy in from those who lead us: 

  1. Focus on your Job Description First. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer or full-time, the leaders in your church see your primary responsibility to invest in children or students (or both). We have to remember that the idea of partnering with parents, and the titles of “Next Generation” or “Family Life Pastors” is foreign to many leaders in the church. We also have to consider that there is a certain way children’s and youth ministry has been done over the years. Therefore, it is essential that we gain influence first by doing a great job in the role that we were called to. It can take two or more years to establish a healthy ministry before partnering with parents can truly become a focus. While this might be frustrating, it doesn’t mean you can’t infuse partnering with parents into your role, it just might take a little longer to arrive…
  2. Pursue Healthy Conversations. Part of our role is to constantly find ways to passionately talk up the need and vision to partner with parents. However, in my experience it is crucial to pursue conversations that are positive and filled with great reasons why, as opposed to criticizing what the church is missing out on. In pursuing healthy conversations with the decision makers in your church, keep in mind that they are usually managing multiple people, plans, and ideas. Therefore, ensure that you come prepared.
  3. Own the Vision. Can you articulate why it’s essential to partner with parents in a sentence or two? Can you provide a biblical basis along with specific examples of how partnering with parents is more effective? Chapter 4 in my book provides a clear vision for you to articulate. If you need help in this area, consider picking up a copy.
  4. Have a Strategy. One of the greatest shortcomings in my early days was not having a good strategy that other leaders could support. Having a strategy that includes a timeline and specific steps showing a progression of implementation is crucial.
  5. Share Stories. A story of life change is always going to be the most effective way to cast vision with leaders in the local church. We all want to know one thing. Does it work? Providing stories of how partnering with parents is making your ministry more effective and how it is helping parents to be more effective is so crucial. It ultimate serves as a crucial way to cast vision for leaders.
  6. Request “Stage Time”. I am very fortunate in my church when it comes to my senior leaders supporting the vision to partner with parents. It’s not difficult to ask for opportunities to cast the vision in the overall church. However, this has not always been case. Even though there are always so many events to be promoted and given stage time, it shouldn’t mean that we do not ask. As long as we don’t come across as whiney kids, you and I might be surprised by the opportunities that come our way.
  7. Commit to the Long Haul. One of the greatest ways you and I can influence leadership to capture a vision for partnering with parents is longevity. When you have been around for a while and you have a track record of “getting your job done” as well as having gained trust with key leaders, longevity brings influence.

What would you add to this list? How much “buy in” do you have with your church leadership to truly partner with parents? Is it just an add on, or is it something that is weaved into your role? Who are the leaders and influencers you need to connect with this week to discuss your vision to reach the whole family?

Phil <><

photo credit: Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc via photopin (license)

4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 4

money balancingIn this series of posts,  I have talked about the importance of seeking out a vision for family and ministry, while also establishing healthy defaults as we seek greater balance. Although balancing family is often a moving target, it doesn’t mean we should not aim to establish healthy patterns and systems in our family life. So far in this series we have talked about spiritual, relational, and physical defaults. Today, we wrap up the series by addressing financial defaults.

Now before you think finances are boring, consider this:

The way we manage our finances will positively or negatively impact both our family and ministry.

In addition, balancing family finances and ministry is a challenge and often feels like a sacrifice over time. My hope is that the sacrifice certainly feels worth it. (I know this is true for Lisa and myself). But it doesn’t mean that there are times when it is painful and bewildering.

Our Story: Six years ago we were blessed by the birth of our second child. We were also “blessed” with ER visits for myself, my wife, and our newborn in a span of 4 weeks. Before we knew it, we had thousands of dollars of medical debt and we were down to one income for a season. I can confidently tell you that our finances became a huge distraction that negatively impacted our family and ministry… I wish I could tell you that it was due to a set of unfortunate circumstances, (in part that was true), but I have to confess, we had our part to play in the perfect storm of financial struggles. Having medical debt only amplified our lack of healthy defaults in our financial planning…

What about you? I don’t know what your financial health looks like, but I would affirm the need to find some healthy defaults in this area of your family. Ultimately, financial health impacts family AND ministry.

  1. Determine your limits. Quite honestly, for us, we have often made the mistake of not setting appropriate limits on what we need and want. We have also discovered that my priorities differ from Lisa’s needs. It’s essential we take time to get on the same page and agree on what is essential when it comes to spending.
  2. Agree on a plan. Creating a budget and sticking to it is imperative. I’m fortunate that Lisa is a number cruncher and is a stickler for detail. There are often times when she needs to reign me back in and remind me of our budget plan that we took time to create and agree on.
  3. Save for the rain. Growing up in England, I could confidently expect rain. I wish I had learned to expect more rainy days in our finances. It’s not that I want to be thinking negatively, but it’s simply a reality that we need to face. After all, stuff breaks, emergencies happen, and savings are needed. Expect rainy days and find shelter under your savings. Practically speaking, how are you ensuring that you are saving a specific sum to build your rainy day fund?
  4. Save for the sun. In our experience, saving for rainy days and paying for “boring” stuff is made a whole lot easier if we are also saving for a vacation or getaway. Part of our family vision is to have experiences with our kids that are memorable. In particular, we love to travel and allow our kids to experience different cultures. While vacations can cost a pretty penny, we would rather go without new furniture and gadgets than miss making memories on our family getaways. They are worth saving for.
  5. Give generously. In our experience, tight finances are always an opportunity to trust God more with what He has given us. While our default might be to cut back on giving God our first and best, it’s the lean times that allow us to learn about God’s faithfulness. Therefore, it’s essential that we not only continue to give generously, but also pray about giving sacrificially. God has amazed us with His faithfulness even when it has seemed to make no human sense to give generously… How about you?

What would you add to this list? What financial plan do you follow? What have you been learning about how best to balance family finances and ministry? 

Phil <><

photo credit: Precarity via photopin (license)

4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 3

Phil Bell RunningIn my first post in this series I talked about the importance of seeking out a vision for our own family while we journey through ministry together. So often we are quick to craft vision statements and values for our churches, yet we neglect to have a God-given vision for our own family. If you are like me, when things are way out of balance, we begin to lose joy in what we do, while our families struggle with our workload… Know the feeling?

In my last two posts I have looked at two healthy defaults for balancing family and ministry. While balancing family and ministry is like trying to hit a moving target, it does not mean we should not seek to place some healthy defaults in place. These healthy defaults, along with a clear family vision can make all the difference. It’s imperative we create healthy spiritual and relational defaults, and today I want to focus on the third default of physical health. 

I have a confession… Up until about 3 months ago, I used to run 3-4 miles at least 3 times a week, play indoor soccer once a week, and mountain bike about once a month… My diet was mostly healthy with a few treats added in… Then we moved to North Carolina!

Changing ministry, moving 4 times in 4 months, (long story) has a way of not only tiring me out, it’s also killed many of my healthy habits! In the past 3 months I ran twice, I have not kicked a soccer ball once, and my mountain bike just arrived on the moving truck last week, (the tires are flat and my compressor is broken – It feels like a representation of my exercise life right now). As for food, it seems like tiredness has encouraged me to give-in to comfort food more often than I should…

Why is this a problem? It’s not hard to know the obvious problems of health and wellness. Little exercise and poor diet will obviously catch up with me in some way, but I wonder if we often miss out on a greater reason for staying healthy?

What are the emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits to being healthy?

What is the impact on our efficiency when we have healthy defaults?

When I have healthy defaults that are part of my rhythm, I just get more done! Have you ever experienced that? If not, let me tell you, it is a brilliant feeling! Right now, I feel like I am missing out a little… How about you?

So, what is next? While this post would get more traction around the new year,  I can’t wait for a resolution to get me back to my healthy defaults. Below, are some quick bullets that I hope will allow me to reestablish some healthy defaults in my life. While I don’t want to become legalistic, I need to set some goals in place to help me to get back on track… How about you?

Add in: 

  •  Running 2x a week. Start at 2 miles. Work up to 3 miles.
  •  Join an indoor soccer league locally, (by the end of the year).
  • Mountain bike once a month
  • Drink 6-8 cups of water a day

Change: 

  • Stop eating after 7pm. (I often snack in the evenings… Chips and salsa can’t be good for me every night before bed)!
  • No snacks / candy during the day.
  • 2 cups of coffee a day. (Currently, I drink 3-4 cups a day).

What about you? What do you need to add into your schedule? What needs to change? How could some healthy defaults impact your emotional, mental, and spiritual life? How would it help you to be more effective in your family and ministry? What simple steps can you take to establish some healthy defaults in your life?

Phil <><

 

4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 2

Balancing Family MinistryIn a previous post I talked about the importance discovering a new vision for balancing family and ministry. Ultimately, trying to find balance often feels like a moving target, so it’s essential that our family has a clear God-given vision of what is needed for the long haul. While finding balance is a moving target at times, it does not mean we shouldn’t try to discover healthy defaults.

In my last post, I talked about how imperative it is to create a healthy spiritual default that allows us to minister to our own family as well as the family of God. In this post, I want to focus on the importance of seeking and finding healthy relational defaults. Too often it’s easier to say “no” to our own family and friends, while saying “yes” to ministry.

While the following relational defaults are mostly for married couples with kids, I would encourage you to take note no matter what season of life you are in. Ultimately, it’s essential that we encourage the families in our own ministries to seek after these defaults…

  1. Cash & Calendar: For us, cash and calendar is a meeting we have every two weeks, where we pay bills and schedule. While paying bills and scheduling might seem to have nothing to do with relationship building, it helps us to tackle the bills and all that stressful calendar stuff without bleeding into our relational times. It used to be that our date nights were dominated by stressful topics until we began to implement this “business meeting.” It also helps us schedule in essential dates for our family and ministry, and for me to communicate the ministry calendar far ahead of time. Below are some essential times we schedule together: 
  2. Family nights: While our family gets quite a lot of opportunities to spend time together, we have found family nights to be an incredible opportunity to laugh and play with our kids. Often we will ask them what they want to do (within reason), and look to plan the night a few weeks in advance. In the crazy seasons, it’s always good for my kids to know they have some quality time to look forward to. Typically, we have about 2 family nights a month.
  3. Date nights: Before we had kids we could have a date night once a week. These days it’s about once a month and it’s not always a date night out. Sometimes given time and resources, we have to get creative and have a date night in! Either way, date nights are essential for Lisa and I and it’s crucial our kids see what a priority marriage When is your next date night scheduled for? Is there a day of week or certain time to make dates count?
  4. Daddy / Mommy / Child Dates. Our kids love to go on dates with us. Just this week my nine year old gave myself and wife a note saying she is looking forward to her next date with us. Over the last few years we have created a schedule whereby Lisa and I share taking the kids out on a special parent / kid date. The key is find something to do that is on their “turf.” While one kid wants a picnic at the park, another kid wants to shop at the mall. As long as it’s within reason, we try to do something that communicates an interest in them and what they want or need. In my experience, some of my most memorable conversations with my kids have come out of a date. You see, sometimes our kids just need time to “warm up” and open up to us. Having regular dates not only builds great memories, it helps nurture faith…
  5. Mentor time: If you follow this blog, you have likely read about my mentor Ron in the past. Ron is the guy who has poured into my life for the past fifteen years. It began with me seeking out a godly guy to grab a coffee with and ask questions about ministry and marriage, and turned into a mentorship.

I could also expand on the importance of personal friendships and being a part of a small group, but I wonder if you already hear that in your own church? For now, I want to encourage you to start at home and consider how you can make your calendar reflect your relational priorities. What are some relational defaults you have found to be helpful? What are you doing to be creative in dating your spouse? What kind of dates your kids would love to go?

Phil <><

photo credit: Get the Balance Right via photopin (license)

4 Healthy Defaults for Balancing Family and Ministry – Part 1

Balancing Family MinistryIn my previous post I talked about the importance of allowing a God-given vision for family and ministry. After, trying to balance family and ministry is a moving target for most of us. Just when you think you have it figured out, it changes! While trying to find balance seems like an impossible task, it should not mean that you and I shouldn’t seek out healthy defaults for our family.

In this post, and the following three, I want to take you on a journey with me. It’s a journey that my family has been on as we have looked to implement God’s vision for family and ministry.

 WARNING!

While this list is not the last word on healthy defaults, I consider it a good beginning. Please do not see it as a legalistic list of obligations. Rather, see it as the start of a road map on a journey to greater health and balance for you and your family.

Healthy Default #1

Spiritual: How is your relationship with God taking a greater priority over what you do for God?

  1. Sabbath – Do you take a full day off from ministry? If not, why not? Once a friend said, “Does God need you so badly to build His Kingdom that He wants you to put aside His own relationship with you?” It hurt, but he had a point…
  2. Quiet Times – Are you able to reflect and listen to what God is calling you to do? When can you schedule a time of quiet? There’s a vast difference between rushing with God and resting in Him.
  3. Bible Study – Rather than studying God’s Word for another lesson plan, seek out a study or devotion to rediscover the wonder and awe God has for you. When is the best time to get away and read? What is your reading plan?
  4. Small Group – Are you able to grow in community? We often tell people the importance of being in a small group, yet it’s a challenge for us to make the commitment. What can you say “no” to in ministry that will allow you to say “yes” to being in a small group?

Confession Time: Before you think that our family is the model family in ministry, please know that we are far from it! It’s easy to read posts like this one and play the comparison game. Please don’t! The truth is, this recent season of moving and relocating has meant that some of these healthy defaults have taken a back seat. Therefore, would you consider joining my family and myself as we rediscover our vision and healthy defaults for family and ministry?

Next Post: We will take a look at Healthy Default #2!

Phil <><

photo credit: Balance of nature via photopin (license)

A New Vision For Balancing Family & Ministry

Balancing family and ministryEvery time we say “yes” to something will always mean that we are saying “no” to something else. For those of us in ministry, it’s often easiest to say “no” to our family. They understand better, right? But, fast forward a few years and your spouse (if you are married), and your kids, (if you have any), will likely resent you (and the church) for always “cheating” on them.

In my previous post I wrote about 8 Signs of an Unhealthy Youth & Children’s Ministry Worker. It’s possible you read that post and walked away feeling convicted of the need to find a healthy balance for yourself and your family? But it’s also possible you were looking for answers of where to begin? Before we find answers, let’s face a reality:

Balancing family and ministry is often like trying to hit a moving target.

My family AND ministry is constantly changing. Just when I think I have it figured out, it changes again… Know the feeling? With so many different seasons of family and ministry, it’s like trying to balance a pile of rocks on a moving surface…

It Begins with Vision! 

The task of  balancing family and ministry is simplified when we seek God to create a compelling vision for family and ministry

AND

While many of us have a vision statement for our own ministries, how many of us have taken time to ensure we are seeking a God-given vision for our own family?

Even though balancing family and ministry is a constant moving target, it is a compelling vision for family and ministry that will help us keep taking the steps towards balance. Healthy balance typically follows closely to a God-given vision. Or to put it another way:

The balancing point for family and ministry is often found closely to a God-given vision

So, where can we start?

  1. Understand what vision is: Simply put, vision is a picture of a hoped for future.
  2. Craft a new vision for you and your family. What words or phrases do you want to describe yourself and your family a year, five years, or ten years from now? Sit down with your family and seek God to create a vision statement for family and ministry. Know that this process will require a lot of prayer and discussion and is not something that can be created quickly, (but it’s well worth it).
  3. Set goals that support your vision: What goals do you want to attain for you and your family? Under that vision statement, what are some specific goals you have yourself and your family. Do the goals support your vision, or do they just add to the busyness?
  4. Think about the steps that are needed: What steps do you need to take to attain your vision and goals?
  5. Create a timeline and schedule: When will you make time for these steps? Saying “yes” to everything will mean you say “no” to many essentials. What do you need to ruthlessly clear in your family schedule? What needs to be replaced?
  6. Who will hold you accountable? This is key! Who knows you well enough to hold your task while also holding your hand a little? If you have a mentor or friend in ministry who understands the unique challenges, ask them to hold you accountable.

In my next post, I will take a look at some foundational habits we can strive for (with God’s help), to help us support a vision for healthy family and ministry. 

Phil <><

photo credit: Stone pile via photopin (license)

8 Signs of an Unhealthy Youth & Children’s Ministry Worker

8“The way you invest in your own family will significantly affect the influence you have with parents.” Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

God has called parents to be the primary investors of their child’s faith journey. It’s essential that we comprehend the greater influence of time that parents have with their children.

Our ability to partner with parents will depend greatly on the example we set before them. 1 Timothy 3:5 calls us to take care of our family first, so that we can know how to take care of the family God…

What are the signs that our own walk and family life could be in trouble? Here are eight signs that I list in Team Up! The Family Ministry Playbook for Partnering with Parents. 

  1. People Pleasing: We live to impress others instead of pleasing God first. We say “yes” to everyone and everything and feel ashamed at the idea of saying “no” to anyone who asks. We almost feel selfish if we want to say “no” to someone’s request. In the meantime, we become worn out and ministry has little joy or excitement. We are running on empty and our own family gets the few leftovers, if anything meaningful from us.
  2. Platform Builders: We attempt to build a platform of significance for ourselves and live little to no room on the platform for Christ. We are constantly fueled by the accolades of success and by the making a name for ourselves.
  3. Stolen Identity: Our identity is staked in what we do rather than who we are in Christ. It only takes a negative comment or a failed event to make us wonder if we are really cut out for ministry. Rather than being confident in the person God has called us to be, we are stooped in the identity of the position we hold.
  4. Broken Boundaries: We don’t know how to say “no” to ministry needs, yet we constantly say “no” to our family with our time and focus with our own family. Saying “no” to family is often the easier route since they will be more understanding, right? Wrong. Over time an understanding spouse or child can easily become bitter and resentful of the church and your ministry.
  5. All Work and No Devotion: Our personal devotional time has become more of a study time for creating the next great idea or message for our ministry. Reading God’s Word and applying it personally and practically has been replaced by lesson preparation for the benefit of others.
  6. No Time for Worship: Making it into the church worship experience is a distant memory as we look to serve others and ensure that everything depends on us. While we encourage families to sit together in church, our own family has not experienced this for a long time…
  7. Present but not Really Present: In an over connected world where we can be contacted every minute of the day, it’s easy to be with our own families but not fully present with them. Rather than shut off the communication at strategic times, we feel like every phone call, text message, email, and social media request has to be answered instantly. Over time our kids and spouses conclude that the outside world is more important than what happens inside our own homes.
  8. The Temple is Crumbling: We are told that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, yet for some of us it feels like the temple is crumbling. There’s no time for exercise and food is often a comfort that leads to health complications over time. More than anything, we lack energy, and always feel like we need more sleep…

I know there are more to add to this list. What would you add? What steps are you taking to ensure that your family is healthy and your example to parents is worth following? Remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about seeking the author and perfecter of your faith…

Begin to today by admitting to God the areas in your life and ministry that need help… Invite a friend or mentor to encourage you to take healthier steps. Pray for God’s strength and wisdom to discover a healthier way to balance family and ministry… 

Phil <><

photo credit: Two Infinity…… via photopin (license)