Tag: family

The Leader’s Family

When I was in graduate school, I worked an hourly job as a barista. I loved it, for so many different reasons. The people, the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and the unlimited supply of coffee. I cannot overstate the beauty of that last truth.

A few years later, as I was finishing up school, I took a role on staff at a church. Instead of hourly, I was salaried. No more punching a clock. No more *required* lunch breaks. No more worrying about hitting my *full time* hour mark. A consistent paycheck was a thing of beauty. I wasn’t paid by the hour anymore. Now I was paid regardless of hours. I was paid the same whether I worked 40 hours or 80 hours. I was now being evaluated not based on the time I put in, but by the work I put out. My “grade” was built on the projects I completed. The leaders I recruited. The deadlines I hit. The goals I surpassed.

Being a “doer” by nature, I loved this. I loved tackling new initiatives, writing new curriculums, and building a team to help accomplish it all.

And now I had the flexibility to work from anywhere I chose: the office, a coffee shop, outside, or even my own house. It was amazing.

Until it wasn’t.


Work continued to creep in to family time. What felt like great momentum and progress began to take over my life. I found myself checking emails at any, and all, hours of the night. On my days “off,” I was cranking through writing projects, meeting with leaders, and planning events. And everywhere I turned, I was met with a, “Wow, you’re doing such a great job!”

Encouragement for a job well done is like crack for a “doer’s” soul. It feeds pride, and affirms all of the extra hours devoted, no matter what they cost in the moment.

“Great job!” doesn’t take into consideration the sacrifice that others had to make. It doesn’t factor in the ripple effect that the extra hours during family dinner had. Or the toll that it took when you scheduled a “working lunch” instead of capitalizing on time with your family. “Great job!” feeds the visible, outward-facing side of a completed project. The place where pride loves to hang out.

What I found was that every time I sent an email during family time, I was telling them that work was more important.* I was putting in all kinds of overtime for my job, and slighting the ones I loved the most.

Being in a salaried role, you may not be tracking your hours. But your family is. [Tweet that]

You and your family

I was tired of putting my family second to my job. Even though my “job” is my calling from God, my priorities were out of whack. My family is my primary calling.

God has placed your family under your care. And if you abdicate your role, you are spurning a gift God has given you. A beautiful, precious, and at times fragile gift. One that’s not easily gained, but in a moment can be lost.

Children are a gift from God. A reward. (Psalm 127:3) And a spouse? “Fathers can give their sons an inheritance of houses and wealth, but only the LORD can give an understanding wife.” (Proverbs 19:14)

My family is my primary calling. And so is yours. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time vocational minister or not. If God’s blessed you with a family, that’s your first calling. And it’s your job to guard your time with them, and treat it as the gift it is intended to be in your life.

Here are 5 ways I intentionally guard my time.

Guarding My Family Time

1. No more emails buzzing my phone.
When I feel my phone buzz, like Pavlov’s dog I have to check. Until I do, I twitch. So I turned off the buzz, and do you know what happened? I stopped twitching.

2. Calendar my Sabbath.
I actually block off time on my calendar for my day off every week. But even this hasn’t always worked. I’d block off the time, but still find a way to squeeze in an hour or two here and there. So in addition to calendaring my day off, I had to actually honor that.

Those are two different, but equally important, tasks.

3. Capture ideas, but don’t act on them.
If you’re like me, inspiration never strikes at the perfect moment. I don’t have the grand idea when I have my computer open. I have it when I’m almost asleep at night. Or when I’m in the middle of a meeting. Or…on my day off.

So I started working out this thing with my wife, where I’d tell her exactly what I’m doing: I’m jotting down an idea so I won’t forget it.

Because if I don’t capture that idea, I’ll be haunted by it, not able to think about anything else until I record it.

Quick. Easy. Done. Back to my family.

4. Take pictures, but don’t post them.
This was a big one. Because I’d take my phone out of my pocket to capture a moment, then when I went to post it to Instagram I’d get sucked in to the web of social media. Then I’d remember that email I had to send. Then I’d text a co-worker. By the time I’d blinked, an hour had passed.

So now I just use my camera app, take the picture, then post later.

It’s an easy step, and one that keeps me engaged with my family.

5. Get up early.
When I need to get extra work done, just like you do, I get up extra early. If a sacrifice has to be made, I’m going to be the one to make it, not my family. I’ll work when it’s inconvenient for me. My wife and kids aren’t naturally up at 4 am.

6. Be present.

When I’m with my family, I work hard to be with my family. It sounds simple, but removing distractions so that I can live life in the moment with those I love communicates loads of value.

I’m still not perfect at this. It’s a work in progress. But I’m continuing to take steps in the right direction. Oftentimes, it’s 2 steps forward, then 1 step backwards. But I’m moving in the right direction.

At least, I think I am. You’re probably better off asking my wife, though.

*There are times when emails and phone calls need to be taken on a day off. I get it. Emergencies happen. I’m talking more about patterns of behavior here, not one-offs.


11 Habits Every New Dad needs to learn

I’m not a new dad. I guess I’m what you’d call a “new again” dad. It’s been 5 years since I had a newborn at the house, and in that time I forgot a thing or two.

There are a few things that I learned the first time around that I naturally, intuitively, do this time. Things that I think would’ve made life a lot easier the first time. Things that I had to learn the hard way on round one.

Now that round two’s here, things are a little more smooth-sailing.

Because here’s the honest truth: in the first few month’s of a baby’s life, dads aren’t essential. We don’t produce milk, which is essential for life. And that could cause us to disengage, and leave everything up to mom.

But there’s a better way. A way to be fully engaged, fully present, and fully helpful during this first season.

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 9.39.25 AM

11 Habits Every New Dad Needs to Learn

1. Learn how to change a diaper.

Come on, fellas. Plug your nose. Resist your gag reflex. And dive in. It’s not that difficult, and in the process, there’s a good bit of bonding that takes place. Talk to your baby, and look at this as another moment you can steal with them.

2. Learn to be full of grace.

Moms are operating on a lack of sleep. They’re emotionally frazzled. They’re giving of themselves in a more physical, spiritual, and emotional way than they ever have. As a dad, be full of grace. Overflowing with it. She’ll love you for it.

3. Learn to do your honey-do list. Now.

You’re living in a fog of little-to-no sleep. Of life being out of the normal flow. And you feel like life couldn’t get any more chaotic. But hear me when I say this: life doesn’t get less busy or less complicated. Plow through your check-list of chores now. Don’t put it off.

4. Learn how to make a great cup of coffee.

Use a chemex. Or a French Press. Or a v60 Hario. Just learn to make a good cup of coffee. It’s essential.


5. Learn how to curb your tongue.

You can start a fire more quickly with your tongue than you can with a match. When emotions are high, sleep is low, and our physical bodies are out of their normal rhythm, our words are even more powerful.

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. – James 3:3-6

6. Learn how to capture tiny moments.

Like going on a lunch date when your mother-in-law is in town. Or going to a movie in-between feedings. Or letting your spouse leave the house for a while as you watch the baby.

7. Learn how to do the dishes.

Performing menial-seeming tasks like washing the dishes, washing the clothes, and vacuuming the floor are huge helps to a mom that’s giving of herself to feed, nurture, and grow another human being.

8. Learn how to function on very little sleep.

…because you’re not going to get much. My secret? See #4, above.

9. Learn how to be on full-alert in a moment’s notice.

Even when you’re relaxed, even when you’d rather sit on the couch, even when you’d rather finish reading that page, even when you’d rather keep your eyes closed because you’re (not half-, but fully) asleep…hop up. Put your self-serving needs aside. And change that diaper. Put that pacifier in. Rock your baby. Talk to him/her. Clean the spit-up. Burp them. Do whatever it takes. In a split-second.

10. Learn how to talk with a baby that won’t talk back to you.

This one’s tough. And to be honest, it feels kinda weird. But I’ve found that a baby will listen no matter what you say. So talk about your day at work. Talk about what’s frustrating you. Talk about what you love. Talk about football. Baseball. Or your favorite band. Sing a song to them. They just want to hear your voice.

11. Learn to be at your wife’s beckon call.

She is growing a human being. With her body! Your problems are minor right now. Your convenience doesn’t matter. Your frustrations are miniscule. Your headaches are bushleague. Suck it up and love your wife with all you’ve got. Pour your heart and soul into serving her. And even after your child grows up…don’t stop this one.

To sum it up, at the end of the day, learn how to apply this verse in the context of your family:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Paul, Philippians 2:4




7 Phrases a Pastor Should Regularly Say Off-Stage

I recently wrote a post relaying phrases a pastor should never say.

Though this is important, there are also things that a pastor should regularly be in the habit of saying. And not the passing, “Good to see ya” that every pastor says. Not the trivial phrases that everyone expects.

image credit: Creative Commons, Franklin Photos

There are phrases that every pastor should say that take you off guard. These words help build culture and show what a local church values. As they say, “As the pastor goes, so goes the local church.” (nobody that I know has said that. It just sounds catchy and works here) They speak volumes beyond what a pastor communicates from stage.

 7 Phrases a Pastor Should Say Off-Stage

1. I’ll return that email tomorrow.

There are certain things that are pressing in nature. Everything else should be relegated to email…which can be checked and responded to tomorrow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the problems you’re dealing with in this moment. Most of the time, your marriage isn’t going to be fixed if we wait until tomorrow. Your job crisis won’t go away before the sun comes up tomorrow. And your parenting woes can wait until later, too. It’s okay to say, “Tomorrow.”

2. No, I can’t meet on Tuesday evening. That’s my family time.

Setting aside time to be with your family is vital. Letting others know that you’ve made a priority out of spending quantity and quality time with your family is highly important, because your congregation takes its cues from you. If you want them to value their family, you’ve got to value yours.

3. I need rest, too.

Pastor, you’re not a superhuman. We need rest, too. And if we want others to experience the natural rhythms of life, and honor God with their rest, we’ve got to model that. Don’t work 6 days/week, and also Sunday. Take your Sabbath. The work God has called you to deserves your best, which you can’t give without adequate amounts of rest.

4. I don’t know the answer.

Pastor, you’re not a superhuman here, either. Unless you’re the Bibleman. Quit acting like you always have the answer, even when you don’t. We’re pretty good at this, aren’t we? We can fudge our way around theologically even though we have no idea what we’re talking about.

When you model humility in this area, those you lead will feel the freedom to not have every answer before they feel like they can lead. They’ll also not come to you for every answer, creating a culture of self-learners.

5. I need help.

There are certain pastors that try to do everything on their own. In the process, they cap their leadership. The local church was never meant to function under the leadership of one person. Varying gifts are utilized when others are given the chance to lead and flesh those gifts out. Pastors can’t do it on their own. They should bring others to the table. (the same goes for times in a pastor’s life when he needs spiritual/counseling/financial help. Modeling that it’s okay to ask for help in this area is an important step for pastors, too).

When you ask for help, you encourage others to do the same.

6. I value my wife more than I value my ministry.

Say this and mean it. Build your schedule around it. Block off time with her. And if you’re asked about it, don’t hesitate to let people know what you’re doing. (1 Timothy 3:4-5) Protecting your marriage is one of the most important things you can do as a pastor.

7. I don’t have time for small group either. But I make time.

You’ve got the same number of hours in a day that those you lead have. You can’t make time any more than you can make dirt. You have to take time if you want to live life in community. If this is truly a value of you and your church, then model it. Block off the time once/week to minister, and be ministered to, in authentic community.


Did I leave anything out? Anything else you think a pastor should regularly say off-stage?

* image credit: Creative Commons, Franklin Photos








The anti-narcissistic medicine of community

We’re prone to thinking we have the toughest life, the most stressful schedule. That nobody understands how much we have to deal with. That nobody is as busy as we are.

photo credit: creation swap user Sharolyn Newington

Nobody gets us.

Nobody really understands.

And we can’t really imagine how life could get busier for you.

And if you think this is just as adults, you’re wrong.

Life in College

When I was in college, I remember feeling incredibly busy. I averaged 21 hours of classes each semester. I also played on the golf team. Most days, I’d go to class from 8-2, then play golf until it was dark. Then I’d either go to my room to study, go to the local collegiate ministry house, or both. I was busy. I felt like life couldn’t get any crazier. I needed others to speak into my life and say, My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality was that life would get much busier and more difficult. 

Life in Grad School

The same pattern happened in graduate school. I took a full load of classes and I worked at least one job throughout my time there. I was also married. I’d go to class most days from 8-12, then work from 3-midnight. After that, my wife and I would often head out to the store. Sometimes it was for grocery shopping, other times it was just to get out of the house. Because she was also in grad school and working. Different from college, now I was carrying more weight personally, and felt the burden my wife was experiencing too…that’s just how married life works. We carry each other’s burdens. I needed others to speak into my life and say, My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality was that life would get much busier and more difficult.

Life after Grad School

The same pattern happened post-graduate school. I’m now working full time, working on side projects, opening a small business, maintaing my house, leading a small group, and raising a son. And I thought that life was busy in college! Life has never been busier. Now, more than ever, I’ve needed others to speak into my life and say, “My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you. The reality, based on the pattern I’ve seen, is that life will get much busier and more difficult. It’s not going to slow down.

Our need for community

We need other people in our lives. We need people who remind us that this stage in life will be over. People that remind us that the next stage is full of awesomeness. People that have been where we are, and can honestly tell us that they love us and that it’s going to be okay.

My life is crazier, and God is still sustaining. I’ll walk with you.

We desperately need community.


Do you feel like you’re busy right now? 

* photo credit: creation swap user Sharolyn Newington


Family Values

As a church (Grace Community Church), we say that we value the family. Now I can personally vouch that we do.

I know that older generations accuse my generation of not working hard. But if you spend much time around me, you’ll realize that I don’t fit that mold. (and, in fact, I’d submit that my generation isn’t lazy…we just work differently)

I really enjoy hard work. And when I have to be out of the office for an extended amount of time, it drives me nuts. Not because I’m being pressured from other team members or not living up to perceived expectations. It’s simply because I love what I do, and I love working hard at it.

When Family Calls 

So when I had to be out of the office for 10 days, it was tough…

Read the rest of my guest post for Ron Edmondson’s blog HERE.


The words of a father

I’m a father.  I have a 2 year old son that I love dearly.

And I’m often thinking about the future for him, and how I can raise him so that he becomes a great man who loves God, loves his family, and ministers the Gospel well.

I love that I get to be around him so much, and get to play a huge role in his life.  I don’t take that for granted at all.  I mean, we eat dinner as a family every night of the week…how awesome is that?!?

But when I read THIS STORY, I was immediately convicted, and began thinking about what I would do if I were to die young.

What am I doing to pave the way for the future growth of my family?

What if I die in the next couple of years…is my family prepared for something like that?

Have I invested my time in the things that matter most?

Check this video out.  And think through your own life and family, the way you spend your time, and the preparation you’ve done for the future.

(HT: @BenArment)


The art of small talk

As Christmas rolls around, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with a lot of people you don’t normally spend a lot of time with.  People you don’t know or care about remember much about because you don’t get to see them that often.  And for most, the holidays involve sitting around and…talking.

So what do you do when your random uncle plops down beside you and it gets awkward because he doesn’t say anything?  Or your grandpa’s younger cousin that you’ve never seen before…what happens when she insists on sitting in the recliner across from you, and you have nothing in common?

Enter the art of small talk.

Small talk can carry you through the thickest difficult moments.  And it can help you seem like a hero who knows everybody.

Or, just like years past, if you don’t do it right, it can make you look like the jerk that hates Christmas.  And nobody wants to be that guy.

The art of small talk

1. How’s work going? Not a bad leading question.  Since most people work, you’re pretty safe here.

2. Where’s the rest of your family? Whether they’re somewhere else in the house, or they didn’t make it down this year, you’ve got your bases covered.

3. Did you try that ______? (examples include ham, turkey, pork tenderloin, pecan pie, etc.)  In this, you don’t even have to say whether you like the item in question or not.  Don’t show all of your cards right off the bat.

4. Gosh, how long has it been? Classic.

5. How are the kids? Everybody likes talking about their own children.  Everybody.

6. Talk about your kids. Easy, no?  See…told you you could do this.  Remember, everybody likes to talk about their children.  You included.

6. So what keeps you guys busy these days? Hobbies, pastimes, TV shows, and movies are always easy to talk about.

7. How was the drive in? Since we’re in the Christmas season, traffic was probably bad.  The kids probably complained.  They probably left later than they wanted.  This is a guaranteed winner.  Trust me.

8. You guys have any snow yet back home? If you live in a warm climate (like I do), this is a time to lament not having any snow in your area.

9. It’s so _____ (either ‘cold’ or ‘warm’) outside! Think quick on your toes.  This one’s not so tough.

10. I see you’ve been all over Facebook lately. Oh, wait…that’s what my family tells me.  Scratch that.

11. How long are you guys hanging around?

12. The _____ (sports team from their area) is doing ______ (either ‘good’ or ‘bad’) this year. This is a dangerous one.  If you don’t remember where the person’s from, or don’t know which team(s) are in their area, just steer clear of this one.

13. Have you seen Uncle ______? He’s looking good this year, isn’t he? Gotta be careful here, too.  If Uncle _____ isn’t looking great, your cover will be sniffed out.

14. Look at all those gifts! By the time all of the family arrives, there will likely be lots of gifts under the tree.  Capitalize on it.

15. So what else is going on? Keep this one in your back pocket.  After all other questions are exhausted, you can come back and back to this one.

Now you’re ready for any Christmas moment that your family may throw your way.

Got any additions for me?


Sometimes traditions should change

My traditions are changing this year.

And I’m thrilled.

(Photo by Karen Long)

When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve night, we’d head over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house, eat homemade lasagna with the whole family, then come back home in time to go to sleep.  We’d wake up early on Christmas morning, open gifts with my parents, eat homemade donuts my dad made, then spend the afternoon at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  That was our tradition.

When I got married, my traditions changed.  Nothing went away…but lots of traditions were added.  On Christmas Eve night, we’d go to a traditional candlelight service in Winchester, TN, then head to my wife’s grandma’s house to eat and exchange gifts.  We’d get back to Clarksville about midnight, wake up and head to my parent’s house to eat homemade donuts made by my dad, then spend the afternoon at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Then we’d head to my wife’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house to finish the day thoroughly exhausted.  Christmas was special…but often felt rushed and hectic.

This year, our traditions are changing again.  In a big way.  Our son is getting to the age where we want to begin crafting his Christmas traditions.  We’re treating Christmas Eve morning as our Christmas morning.  And if our family wants to see Rex (which is the only person they care about in our family, if we were truly honest with each other), they have to come to us.  Christmas Eve night, I’m thrilled to be worshipping for the first time on Christmas Eve with my church family (details HERE).  Christmas will be much more relaxed, yet we’ll still be able to spend time with all of our family.  It’ll just be spread out over a few days.

Traditions change. And that’s okay.  When we’re unwilling to change, it’s easy to work ourselves into a rut.  In that rut, we forget why we do what we do.  And we begin doing things simply because we’ve always done them…getting frustrated with anyone who questions or challenges our traditions.

Traditions change. And they should.  Because we change.  Life doesn’t stay the same.  It takes us through many different roads.  People are added.  Taken away.  And that changes the flavor of our families.

Traditions change. And if you stick so closely to your traditions, you’ll alienate many newcomers.  Take, for instance, my son.  If we were unbending in our holiday routines, he’d always view Christmas as a rushed, tiring, hectic, gifts-focused time.  I don’t want that.

So this holiday season, evaluate why you do what you do.  What is it that you, as a family, value? Don’t just continue the same traditions because you’ve always done them. Because if you’re not careful, your traditions can block you from that which you value.

What is your favorite Christmastime tradition?

Is there something new you’re doing this year?

How do you handle change?


Family & the holidays

In honor of all of the extra time you’ll spend with your family this season, please leave a caption below.

(HT: Awkward Family Photos)


You should join a small group if…


…you can walk into church without anybody knowing you

…you leave church without anybody knowing you

…you’ve backslidden

…you want to grow in your faith

…you want to help others grow in their faith

…you need a place to serve

…you need a place to grow

…you need a place to belong

…you’re curious about God

…you don’t even know where to start

…you are a new believer

…you are a mature believer

…you are divorced

…you have children

…you cannot have children

…you “have it together”

…everybody else knows you don’t “have it together”

…you have a great family

…your family is rotten

…you don’t have any family

…you have lots of friends, but none that share your values

…you don’t have any friends who encourage you

…you don’t have any friends who hold you accountable

…you don’t have any friends, period

…life has fallen apart

…you know life will soon fall apart

…you have lots of free time

…you don’t have any free time

…you don’t have parenthood figured out yet

…you don’t have marriage figured out yet

…you don’t have singleness figured out yet

…life is tough right now

…you find that living the Christian life is difficult

…you erroneously think living the Christian life is easy

…you can never seem to think of things to pray for

…you have a house (or apartment) that can seat more than 2 people

…your story is still in progress

What would you add to this list?


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