Creating a Family Rhythm in the Polar Vortex

Snow Day Polar VortexFor our family here in Michigan, this is the 6th day school has been canceled due to snow or extreme cold temperatures, (also known as the Polar Vortex). I know friends in Minnesota who have much colder temperatures, but this morning they are predicting wind-chills of -35f! I came from the UK in 2000 and I have never experienced a Michigan winter like this…

With all that said, my family and our family schedule feels a little discombobulated from the many school cancelations. But, let’s face it, whether it’s snow days, sickness, or one of life’s curve balls, every family will go through times when it’s hard to find a rhythm.

Without a good family rhythm, it’s easy to miss essential and healthy defaults for your family.

Reset and Force Quit: Last night, Lisa and I sat down with our calendars and forced a reset on our family schedule and forced quit on some non-essentials. Some of these included:

  • Looking at my ministry schedule between now and July.
  • ‘Cash and Calendar’ biweekly meeting scheduled. (Where we look at calendars and pay bills! Exciting, I know).
  • Family Nights scheduled
  • Date Nights scheduled
  • Family Meeting scheduled
  • Reestablishing family ‘house rules’ (for us and our kids)
  • Creating a simple plan for spiritual development in our kids lives
  • Scheduling time off as a family

There’s More: While there are some other defaults to be added to this list (like working out when it gets warmer), this is our start as a family. The key for our family is to set time aside to be able to check-in and make sure that we are keeping our eyes on our vision for our family. With the event of the Polar Vortex, snow days, and sickness, our vision has become blurred. It’s imperative that we come back to what we know will help us be healthy as a family…

What would add to this list? What areas on this list would you add to your list? When are you going to take time to reset and find a healthy family rhythm?

Phil <><

The Influence of Time On A Child’s Life

I saw this video last night that caught my attention…

It’s already gone viral with many TV networks and has become a talking point for many in the news. Perhaps it’s because a for once a Police car dash cam is capturing a positive moment rather than some destructive or violent scene? Maybe it’s because a police officer is extending an act of kindness and not arresting a criminal?

What captured my heart about this video is to consider the potential of this police officers actions…  His simple act of kindness has the potential to help a disconnected teenager find hope and connection with an adult who cares enough to give the most valuable commodity: TIME.

As someone who works with families, the most valuable thing a parent or adult can provide for a child is TIME.

In a world that consumes us with busyness and achievement, TIME has become a rare quantity.

But it is this valuable commodity that our kids need from us the most… (I say this as someone who constantly adjusts and reevaluates my schedule constantly, in order to make my kids a priority).

TIME communicates love…

TIME opens up conversations…

TIME builds faith

TIME brings understanding…

TIME builds trust…

TIME brings healing…

The greatest gift we can give a child in our world today is TIME. It has become our most valuable commodity. Use it wisely.

Phil <><

Time for Kids

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How To Have A Greater Influence With Your Kids

Kids InfluenceParenting in our world today can be scary as we see so many negative inputs in the lives of our children. From a skewed media, to negative peer pressure, our kids are under a constant barrage from negative influences.

How can a parent compete? How can a parent protect their kids? How can a parent have a greater influence than the media and peer pressure?

The Good News: Studies have shown that parents are still the greatest influence on a child’s life. Not only do parents have the greatest influence to protect their kids, they also have the greatest influence to shape and mold them. And, perhaps the greatest way a parent can influence their child is through the power of example. We see this principle at work in the life of Apostle Paul and the church in Philippi.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

When we read this passage, it’s important that we transport ourselves back in time and imagine this letter being read by one of the church leaders to the Christians in Philippi. As the Philippians heard these words, they would have fondly remembered times when Paul spoke powerfully to them and challenged them to live a life worthy of their calling. But, isn’t it interesting that Paul reminds them to consider not only what he taught, but also to consider what they would have seen in his life too? In 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 Paul passes on this principle to a young Timothy when he exhorts him to consider his life and example closely. Paul knew that words needed to be supported by an authentic faith and example…

So here is the challenging question: Does what we teach and instruct our kids line up with how we are living? If you are like me, that question makes me nervous… It makes me look in the mirror and realize that my example is not all that it could be at times. However, that was the case for Paul too. In Romans 7:24 he describes himself as a wretched sinner who was dependent on God to forgive and transform him. This is true for us parents too… And in the times when we miss the mark, perhaps one of the greatest things our kids could see is a parent who is humbly able to ask for forgiveness, and to extend forgiveness when others fall short… It’s not  about perfection, it’s about authentic example…

While there are many influences in our kids lives, we can be sure that what teach, instruct, and model to them will make a lasting impact. But perhaps most crucial element to our influence on them can be said in this way:

Our influence is greater when our example follows what we teach…

Or, to put it another way:

Our influence is greater when who we are and what we do align with what our kids hear us teach… 

Questions to Consider: What are some of the key areas our kids need to see us modeling for them? As you look ahead, what is it you hope your kids would be emulating and holding onto? What areas of your life need greater authenticity and transparency for your kids? What contradictory areas of your life can you ask God to give you change in?

Phil <><

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5 Steps to Successfully Deal with Failure

leadership failA greater measure of success can be seen in how we respond positively to failure when it comes our way…

Failure stinks! Whether you are leading a large team of people, or leading your kids, or volunteering, the feeling of failure does not sit well with any leader. If you are like me, it is not difficult for us to go back to a time of failure and beat ourselves up all over again. But, as I look back on my life and ministry so far, I am also able see how God has shaped me (and others) through times of failure. In this post I want to share 5 Steps to Successfully Deal With Failure:

1. Accept that failure is found on the pathway of every leader. As a young leader, I found it hard to accept failure. Somehow I thought it made me inferior and I certainly did not feel I could show failure to those I was leading. However, as time has passed, I have come to accept that failure is part of leadership, but it can also become a pathway to success if I choose to allow failure to shape me positively for the future.

2. Accept responsibility for what you can own. There is always something that failure can teach us, but so often a leader is limited by the inability to own his or her mistakes. The leader who is unable to accept their part in a failure will fail to learn lessons, but also will isolate themselves from others as the followers become disenfranchised with a leader who is unable to accept the truth.

3. Accept the lessons that can be learned. Without failure it is possible that we would never learn valuable lessons, and we would be less likely to have a crucial lesson stick.

While success allows lessons to be sketched for the immediate future, failure can allow a lesson to be etched into permanence.

4. Accept advice for the future. Anytime I have made a mistake, it’s important to share the mistake with key and trusted people around me. Not only have I made it a pattern to share my mistakes, it’s also been imperative that I seek valuable wisdom and insight from mentors in my life.

Without Godly advice for the future, it’s possible to stay paralyzed in the present failure.

5. Accept help from others. Not only is advice crucial, but it’s imperative that we humbly accept help from others when we make a mistake. As a leader, when I have made a mistake, it’s often a challenge to let others come alongside me and pick up the pieces. In some sense, I feel like I should own my mistake completely, which means I should pick up ALL the pieces. However, it’s essential to realize that a leader is leading a team towards a vision or a goal. As a team, you will rally to success, and as a team you will need to pick up the pieces of failure. When a team can be a part of a solution following failure, the failure is shorter lived and the solutions (and lessons) are owned by a greater number of people. However, it is still imperative that the leader is the one who working the hardest to turn around a failure.

How do you deal with failure? What has failure taught you? Who is helping you navigate through failure? 

Phil <><

 

 

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4 Essential Times for Families

Essential Family Time ClockRecently I wrote a post titled, 5 Priorities for Families in the New Year. One priority I mentioned was the importance of creating quantity and quality family time. The challenge for most families is trying to find quantity and quality family times in our increasingly busy lives. Before we know it, we have no time for ourselves or our families, we are worn out, and our relationships are strained.

In this post we will look at how we can effectively schedule family time, as well as focus in on 4 essential times for families that will help us to be healthier and relationally richer.

Scheduling Family Times

The biggest schedule lesson I have learned is this: Schedule the most important family commitments before anything else. Now, obviously days like Sunday and maybe a Wednesday midweek program are always on our schedules, but apart from those kind of regular activities, there is a lot of flexibility in our scheduling. Therefore, before everything else gets added in, I ensure that the following priorities get added into my schedule.

4 Essential Family Times

1) Family Meal Times: Believe it or not, it’s easy to miss these simple family times. It’s also very easy to be late to dinner regularly if we are not careful. Constant lateness home for dinner is a big deal since it communicates the wrong message to our spouse and kids. Therefore, I actually write dinner and lunches into my schedule, otherwise they can get overlooked. It also helps my wife know what to plan on a weekly basis if she knows I am going to be home for certain meals.

2) Date Nights: *Myself and my wife used to be able to have a weekly date night before we had kids! Now we are lucky if it’s once a month. We usually plan these nights out 1-2 months in advance. When I take time to make these date nights a priority, it communicates that my spouse is more important than anything else. It also ensures that we always have something to look forward to when life is busy and challenging.

*Date nights aren’t just for married people. If you are a single parent, I encourage you to start a date night tradition with you kids. Have them choose what to do, (within reason), and make sure you plan it in advance.

3) Family Nights: Now that we have two kids, we have an intentional family night where we do something “out of the normal”. It could be a family bike ride and picnic on a summer evening, or a family game / movie night on a cold winter evening. Again, we do these family nights every two weeks and schedule them in 1-2 months in advance.

4) Traditions: For us family traditions are so important! Throughout the year we have these small events / getaways planned that we all look forward to. These range from overnight getaways to a hotel with water-park, to our yearly trip to the apple orchard. As adults it’s easy to lose the excitement and anticipation of these simple events and trips. But I know how important these memory makers are for my kids! If you were to talk to my kids, they would tell you that the yearly trip to a German style town called Frankenmuth in Michigan is there highlight! Most importantly, it’s one of many yearly traditions we have established that always give us something positive to look forward to and memories to look back on…

What are your essential times as a family? What traditions have made a difference to your family? 

Phil <><

 

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How to Lead Others – Even When They Don’t Always Agree With You

Leadership JourneyOne of the greatest accomplishments of a leader is to see his or her followers capture a vision  and work as a team to see that vision become a reality. There will be times however, when followers don’t agree with every decision and direction a leader is taking.

So, the question is, how can we lead others, even when there is not complete agreement on a decision or direction?

There are many things we could look at, but I believe one of the greatest characteristics of a strong leader is someone who is committed to a vision and does not allow their convictions to waiver in the face of adversity. Someone who displayed this character was the late Margaret Thatcher; former Prime Minister of Great Britain:

“Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” Margaret Thatcher

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” Margaret Thatcher

As a boy I grew up in England under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Whether you loved or loathed the ‘Iron Lady,’ she had an extraordinary record in British government and many successful reelections. She had the ability to rally her cabinet and her country towards a vision for a better future, even in the face of great opposition. But what can we learn from her?

1. Know your vision and what you stand for: Before you set off on a journey as a leader, ask yourself if you truly know what you stand for? Do you know what you live and breathe for? Have you sought God and the advice of Godly people to discover your personal vision as a leader? People will follow someone who exudes a clarity for a vision they will go the extra mile for. When people look at you, do they see your passion and convictions or do they see ambiguity?

2. Stay on course and avoid becoming a people pleaser: There will always be questions and disagreements with a vision and its implementation. However, it’s imperative that a Godly leader looks to the end goal and does not waver under pressure. Of course, it’s essential that we humbly but confidently communicate our decisions without caving in from the pressure of others.

3. The strength of your convictions will lead others: People in your organization are looking direction. They are part of your organization because something or someone resonated with them at some point. As they ‘travel’ with you, they are looking for direction and a vision to commit to. Ultimately, the strength and confidence of your convictions will help others to become convicted too. It’s not that they won’t think objectively for themselves, they are simply looking for  a leader to spur them onto a greater purpose. What kind of commitment and conviction do others see in you?

What convicts you? What would others say you live and breathe for? Is your personal vision convincing to others? Are you convinced yourself? Margaret Thatcher did not always say the most popular things or look to keep everyone happy. She gained followers by having a clear vision, a steadfast resolve for the vision, and a conviction that convinced others. Even when they did not agree with all of her decisions, her strong leadership convinced them to continue on the journey with her.

Phil <><

Ministering to Teenagers in a Snapchat World

Snapchat Ministry StudentsA few months ago, I wrote an article for The Leadership Journal about how to effectively minister to students in a culture that is increasingly overly sexualized. Whether you are a parent or someone who works with students, I hope this article will help you as you invest in students lives:

If you work with teens, you have come across the following scenarios in recent years:

A dad discovers his teenage son has been accessing pornography on the smart phone they brought him last Christmas.

A teenage girl meets a boy online and begins “chatting,” only to discover the “boy” on the other end of the messages was actually a 40-year-old married man.

A mom learns from another parent that her ninth grade daughter has been using the SnapChat app to send and receive indecent images with a boy in her class. The situation worsens when the boy saves several screen shots of the images and shares them with other students, destroying the girl’s reputation.

These are nightmare scenarios. But as someone who works with teenagers, I am encountering them more and more. Maybe you have had to face similar situations. If not, it’s only a matter of time.

The idea that we can insulate our kids from a highly sexualized culture is naïve. With apps like SnapChat and Bang with Friends out there—not to mention sexually suggestive images broadcast in primetime (think Miley Cyrus’s MTV Video Music Awards “performance”) a new era has dawned. But I believe we can help them navigate this new world, and help them discover God’s best for life, relationships, and sexuality.

Through working with teenagers, I have discovered some practical approaches that can make all the difference. Here are a few ways every church leader can help teenagers navigate an overly sexualized culture and avoid the many pitfalls and pain it can bring.

(Continue reading the rest of the article at ChristianityToday.com – You MUST register for 90 day free trial to view the rest of the article…)

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INFOGRAPHIC: Leader Vs. Manager

What’s the difference between a leader and a manager? Why is it important to know the difference if you are a leader of people?

The following infographic  from Chuck Mache gives a simple but brilliant comparison between a leader and a manager. As a leader in the local church, it is imperative that I learn to lead more than I manage. The local church needs leaders who can develop staff and volunteers, and ultimately, make disciples.

Are you a manager or a leader?

Leader-vs-Manager INFOGRAPHIC

View full infographic Source: Click here

5 Priorities for Families in the New Year

Family PrioritiesI’m not one to make new years resolutions. Most of my previous new years resolutions have been made new years eve, or on new years day!

If you are like me, I have not been good at keeping resolutions since there is no plan or follow through.

So, rather than create a resolution that I am likely not to keep, I would rather create some evolving priorities that are easy to remember and return to throughout the year.

Here are 5 easy to remember (and crucial) priorities that we can plan and implement this new year:

1) FAITH: The foundation for a healthy family is for everyone to be building a foundation of faith based on God’s priorities. While this is easily said, so often the busyness of life takes over and a healthy devotional life and God centered priorities get edged out. The new year is a great time to start a new bible reading plan, or a devotional study. For me personally, it’s more about creating a new place and space in my life for my quiet times. Having moved houses in the last month, it’s imperative that I establish a new habit and find a new place (and time), where I can ‘hide’ away.

When is your best time to focus on your faith walk? Where can you hide away? What will you read / study this year?

2) FAMILY TIME: If your family schedule is anything like ours, it can often feel like we are barely treading water at times. So often family time, date nights, and meals together get added in AFTER everything else. I am convinced that every family will benefit by quality AND quantity time together. So often I hear people try to convince me that quality time is enough. I am still not convinced.

Healthy families need QUALITY AND QUANTITY time together.

3) FITNESS: Personally, this has been an area of struggle for me that I have had to work on over the past few years. However, it seems like every year for the past three years, I have added in some new habits and lost some bad habits. Staying in shape is challenging, but the mental and physical rewards are worth it. As a husband, father, and pastor, I have seen a positive correlation in my leadership when I am staying in shape. My energy levels are higher, my awareness is greater, and I am able to get up earlier in the morning to focus on my quiet times.

All it takes is one step at a time to make fitness a priority. Start with some small steps and work your way towards a healthier you.

4) FINANCES: A healthy financial focus is a significant key to families being content. It’s not even so much about having more money, it’s about doing better with what God has given us. When we can see that God is the provider of all our needs, (and our resources are not our own), we can take a huge step to financial contentment. When we develop God’s heart for for finances we can be sure He will bless us as we give generously and spend wisely. What is God calling you to do with your finances this year?

5) FUN: While this priority might not seem to deserve to make this list, let me explain why it should. In our increasingly busy world that is incensed with success and notoriety, I am seeing many husbands and wives losing the joy of marriage and parenthood. Busyness is creating a society of stressed out parents and kids who have lost the wonder and awe that life is waiting to provide. This year, as a family, I encourage you to create some experiences that allow you to regularly laugh and play together. What could your family look like if you were to laugh and play together more?

Well, there’s 5 priorities I am taking seriously this year. What stands out to you? What has worked for you in the past?

Phil <><

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