Today features a guest post from Vikki Huisman, continuing the discussion of “Sticky Faith, Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids. To read other posts on this book, please check out her blog at www.vikkihuisman.wordpress.com. 

I wish with all my heart that Proverbs 22:6 was a 100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

As I move closer and closer to a child graduating high school and heading off to college, I can’t help but wonder what I could have done to help him me stronger in faith. I also wonder if it’s too late. He’s 15. If it’s not too late, what else can I be doing?

I started reading Sticky Faith by Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark. The authors are from the Fuller Youth Institute. Powell, Clark and their team spent years studying and interviewing church kids and seeking to answer the question, “what makes a vibrant faith fail to stick?”

The statistics are sobering. Frightening. Their conclusion is that “40-50% of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college.”

Read that sentence again.

40-50%

Let’s make this statistic a bit more real.

If you have two children, one of them will stay with their faith. One will walk away.

Here’s another statistic generated from their research: “only 20% of college students who leave the faith planned to do so during high school. The remaining 80% intended to stick with their faith but didn’t.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

As I reached this point in the book, I wanted to cry and quit reading. The situation seems daunting. Hopeless.

Now for the good news. Their research does show that it’s never too late.

So what exactly is “Sticky Faith”?

Powell and Clark describe Sticky Faith as:

  • both internal and external
  • both personal and communal
  • both mature and maturing

So where does one begin? Email the youth pastor? Corner the senior pastor after Sunday service and demand more funds for the Children’s Ministry?

Graduating high school seniors were asked to rank five groups in order of importance in the quality and quantity of support they received from them.

  • Friends inside youth group
  • Friends outside youth group
  • Youth leaders
  • Parents
  • Adults in the congregation

Guess what? Parents ranked number one.

That’s right. Sticky Faith starts at home. Or as the authors state it, “How we as parents express and live out our faith is the greatest impact on the lives of our sons and daughters.” To put it another way,

When it comes to kids faith, parents get what they are.

-Christian South

Now that I’ve made you feel ill, or guilty, let me tell you there is great stuff coming. We’ll be discussing the next chapter “The Sticky Gospel” at www.gokidsri.com later this week.

We’d love to hear from you and have you be a part of this discussion. Pick up a copy of the book at your local bookstore or library, start reading and jump in.

Vikki Huisman is a writer, wife, mother and virtual executive assistant. When she’s not driving her children to their events, she blogs at www.vikki.huisman.wordpress.com

My 6-year-old son just returned from a trip to Florida with his mom.  Officially they were going to help Grandpa and Grandma who were moving down there.  But in Bryce’s mind, this was an adventure!

When he returned he couldn’t wait to tell me about all the things he did – the lizards he chased and when he finally caught one, how its tail fell off.  He told me about the ocean and the games he played in it.  He shared with me how he met a family from Germany and how he played with their kids even though there was a language barrier.  And then he looked at me and said, “Daddy, I want to have an adventure with you!”  I told him we would and that I couldn’t wait to have an adventure with him!

But his comment got me to thinking.  He can’t wait to have an adventure with me – those words flooded my heart with love and pride.  I realized I want to have an adventure with my son too.

It isn’t just him that wants that adventure, but I do as well.  And then it struck me, if I want an adventure with my son, how much more does my heavenly Father want to have an adventure with me?  And what better adventure with God then to do that with my family – with my wife and sons and daughter!

When is the last time you told your Heavenly Dad, that you wanted to have an adventure with Him?

I dare you to pray that and then see what happens.  But be ready for an adventure like no other – one that will require trust and awareness of the Holy Spirit.  And as you do this, you will be setting an example to everyone else, that this is what life with God can be like!  Ephesians 3:14-21 describes the adventure I want to have for my family with God – I want us to be experiencing God like this!

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

That was how my 6-year-old answered me.

It was one of the last days of school for him – it was “field” day and I was volunteering.  We ran some fun games for all the kids at the elementary school, one of which was a sponge war.  Basically you throw wet sponges at each other.

When my son got to my game (which was not nearly as epic as sponge wars), he was soaking wet.  I asked him if that was from sponge wars and he said, “Of course dad!”  (yes, he has that kindergarten attitude down)

Then I asked him if he got Miss Hughes at all (his teacher) and he said, “Yeah, like a thousand times, in the face!”  And I said, “Bryce, that isn’t very nice.”

And he looks at me, square in the eyes and says, “Figure… of… Speech, Dad!  I didn’t really do that.” (just like that with the pauses too!)

Now besides being a bit taken a back by the attitude, the thing that stood out to me about this exchange was that I wasn’t the one that taught my son what “figure of speech” means.  And when I asked my wife she said she hadn’t taught him that either.  But he learned it somewhere and used it in the right way!  Now it wasn’t a bad thing that he learned this or that he learned it from someone, somewhere else, but it reminded me that my kids are learning things from places other than at home and from people other than mom and dad.  And he is going to continue to learn things from other influences.  I can’t really control that.

But the question I was asking myself is, “What am I feeding into my children?  What am I teaching them?”  And then really the biggest question for myself was, “Am I equipping him to make the right choices?”  I can’t be there for every decision he will make in life, but am I giving him a foundation of faith for which he can know a Christ-like response?   I don’t know that you can know the answer to this question until it is tested and you see how your child responds.

However, I can tell you if you aren’t being intentional about this – guess what?  It ain’t happening.

So, what can you do to be intentional about building a faith foundation for your children to make their decisions from?  Step one is be intentional – now you just have to figure out what that looks like for you and your family.  I would love to hear how some of you do this?

Baby’s first hiccups!

Posted: 10/22/2011 in Uncategorized

I will never forget the first time my oldest son got Hiccups.  I was changing his diaper and then putting his pajamas on him.  He was about 9 months old.  And suddenly his chest began to cave in and pop back out over and over and again.  At first I was sure something was wrong.  This wasn’t supposed happen.  

I yelled for my wife Emily to come quickly because something was seriously wrong with Bryce.  When my loving, caring, sensitive wife got into the room she began to laugh very hard.  I got very upset with her – as far as I was concerned our son was dying a tragic death and we needed to immediately give him CPR and here she is laughing.  Then she told me it was just the hiccups.  It honestly took me watching his chest go in and out three more times before I realized she was right.

Sometimes there are things in life we don’t understand.  Sometimes it feels like God is throwing us a curveball and we ask why is this happening.  I didn’t understand the hiccups – I thought it was the end.  Maybe you are going through something right now where you feel like it is the end and you don’t understand – kind of like me with the hiccups and my son.  You might just need to reminded that God understands what is going on like my wife did for me (did I really just compare my wife to God?  She is good, but she’s not that good – love you hon!).

I just talked with a friend who told me about going through some difficult things this past month, he prayed and then saw God’s hand in answer to prayer all over the place.  He was very pleased with this.  I told him he needed to write it down that he saw God’s hand at work in answer to prayer in his life, because there will be a time when he won’t be able to see God’s hand and he needs to trust that even though he can’t see how God is at work in the situation, that God is indeed at work. 

So, if you are going through something right now that you don’t understand and it is honestly hard for you to see God’s hand at work, then let this be a reminder to you that He is at work in that situation.  And if you are going through something at this time and are fortunate enough to see God’s hand in it, write it down so you will remember that the next time!  God is at work, even when we can’t see His handiwork or recognize the fingerprints of his presence.

“I just wish I could do more” – ever find yourself saying those words?  My wife and I have found ourselves saying that a lot.  It’s funny though, we live in a part of town that well, the gas station down the street has bars on it, we have heard gun shots just a block away on several occasions, and the Pizza Hut two blocks away has a nasty habit of getting robbed – our neighborhood isn’t exactly upscale.  And we see needs all around us.  It can be overwhelming – extremely overwhelming.

In fact, sometimes, the needs we see are so overwhelming that we usually do one of two things. 

We either allow ourselves to get used to them as a coping mechanism and then we no longer see them.  Or we see them, but tell ourselves, there is no way I can meet all those needs and declare ourselves released from the tension of feeling that we should do something about it.

We treat this as a problem that should be solved, and because I can’t solve it, it isn’t my problem.  But the truth is, it is my problem.  There is a reason why God put Emily and I in the neighborhood we are in.  And while I can’t meet all of the needs I see, but what if I could do for one, what I wish I could do for everyone.  What if I would greatly and deeply invest in just one of the needs, one of the people, one of the problems I see and be a part of the solution instead of a part of the excuse.

This last weekend, I got to hear Andy Stanley preach about this kind of thing.  And over and over again he kept saying, “Do for one, what you wish you could for everyone.”  I would like to challenge all of you if you will let me, to do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. 

For my wife and I, we have decided that we will be deeply investing in a young man who lives next to us who lost his mom this past winter.  We haven’t figured out what this looks like, but we know we must respond to this challenge – Do for one, what you wish you could do for everyone.

So, what will you commit to do for one?  And who or what is that one?  Pray and ask God who that might be – and I would love to hear about it and what you are doing for one, that you wishing you could do for everyone.

If you saw the sermon this weekend I preached about how to Read Your Bible – and I showed you some ways you can read it, understand it, enjoy it, and be challenged by it, without having any of the fancy tools us pastors like to use so often.

However, many of you have asked me some questions and I will do my best to answer some of those questions here.  Also, be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post so you can see the pictures of where many of you are now placing your Bible to remember to read every day!

Question 1:  Where Do I Start?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this.  I can make some recommendations though.  Like Numbers sounds like a bad place to start, but it is a lot better than Leviticus – believe me!  The gospels are always a good place to start (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John).  Whatever you do, don’t let “I don’t know where to start” stop you from actually starting.  That is just an excuse straight from Satan – tell him to get behind you, pick a book of the Bible and then start!

Question 2: I would never have got out of those verses, what you got!  How do I get to that point where I can?

Ever heard, “Practice makes perfect”?  You have to remember I have been reading the Bible fairly consistently for 20 years now and studying it and using it to teach for more than a dozen years.  I have a lot of practice.  When I first started, I wouldn’t have seen half the stuff I pointed out in the sermon.  But the point isn’t for you to see what I saw.  The point is for you to see what God reveals to you.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us the Word of God is alive and active!  He will use his Word to reveal to you, if you will slow down and take the time to really read it.

Question 3: What if I come to something I don’t understand?

That is okay.  Here are some things you can do.  1 – find someone else and ask them.  This might lead to a great conversation and understanding for one or both of you.  2 – its okay to just read on.  Don’t let not understanding something make you stop reading.  Look – I took a lot of Math classes in High School and I didn’t understand everything, but I didn’t let that make me stop and not graduate.  3 – Pray and ask God to reveal to you what that means.  It might not happen in that moment, but you might be surprised when you hear a sermon at church or on the radio that talks about that passage of scripture and you get your understanding!

Question 4:  Why did you read so few verses?

It is not that you can’t read more verses – you can.  But I believe for a lot of us, we will get more out of our Bible Study, if we just read until we learn something and then stop.  Write about that something and spend your day thinking about and focusing on what you learned.  Try to apply, tell others about it.  I think you will enjoy your Bible Study and get more out of it if you do this than if you are reading more but when asked what you read you can only give the book and chapter number but can’t really talk about how it is affecting your life.  When you read God’s word, it should affect your life – but you have to allow it to!

Now, I will tell you all that I will monthly try to take a Day Alone With God – or at least an afternoon or morning.  I will spend that time in prayer and study.  And during this time of study, I will read much more than a few verses.  So, it isn’t that you can’t, but it is about figuring out what works for you.

Question 5: How long should I read for?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here.  But again, I will say, I encourage you to read until you get something and then stop.  Maybe until you get a few somethings and then stop.  This might be 10 minutes – it might be 30, and it could be more.  But the point is, you want to be able to apply what you are getting and learning.  And sometimes if we learn 3 things we apply all of them or at least one.  But if we learn 30 things in one sitting, we end up applying none of them.

Question 6: Do I have to write down notes?

No, you don’t have to.  But I will be honest, it does help. If you want what you are learning to stick – writing it down is one of the best tools.  Also, sometimes for study, I will just go back and read my notes – it can be very challenging to see what I have applied and what I intended to, but didn’t.

Question 7:  Can we finally see the pictures?!

Ok, here you go.  I put my Bible on my pillow, my friend puts his on his toilet, and here are the pictures of where some of you put your Bibles so you will remember to read it each and every day!

From John Biermann

My Kids Charge Me Rent!

Posted: 08/01/2011 in Parenting

Ever feel like your kids are running your house and they are just kind enough to let you stay there?  Of course there is a pretty hefty rent – you get to pay all of the house payment and bills, you provide the food (and cook it too), you clean their clothes and often it is you putting their toys away.  Now, I am a children’s pastor, so we never have this problem in our house…     Ok, that’s just not true.

I have now been a parent for almost 6 years.  And I am still learning how to do it!  But let me tell you about one of the most valuable lessons I have learned.  No matter how bad one of our children are being or acting, they don’t get to ruin our family plans – whether those plans were simply for a dinner at the table or going shopping together, or going on vacation.  A child’s behavior doesn’t get to change the plans.  Let me give you an example.

My family loves to go to Garage Sales – in fact in the summer, most every Friday morning, we load up and head out.  On one particular Friday morning, our son Bryce decided he didn’t want to go to Garage Sales.  He continually told us this and when we still didn’t change our plans, he proceeded to throw a temper-tantrum and insist that he was staying at home.

For a moment, my wife and I debated not going, or one of us going and the other staying at home and then I remembered something.  Something so profound, yet so simple.  Something so many of us forget in times like this – I was the adult, not my son!  Sometimes the most important step in parenting is reminding ourselves of this fortunate reality – We Are The Parents!  Go ahead and remind yourself now, say it with me, “I am the parent.  I am the parent.  I Am The Parent!”  Feels good doesn’t it.  😉

It would have been a huge mistake to “reward” our sons behavior by changing our plans.  So, we all went to Garage Sales – well kind of.  We all got in the van and drove to Garage Sales, but upon arriving at each Garage Sale, Bryce had to remain in the van – he had lost the privilege of actually going to the sales and looking at the toys or spending any of his money on any of the toys.

At first, when we told him what was going to happen he began to throw another fit, but we stuck to our guns and he had to wait in the van (don’t worry we never left him in the van alone for long and it was locked and we could see it and it wasn’t too hot).  Now this is important – when you dole out an appropriate punishment for a child, you cannot give in just because they throw a fit again.  All that does is teach them, “Hey, if I keep throwing a fit, eventually I get my way…”

Now, there were several important lessons Bryce learned that day.  But the most important may have been that he is accountable for his actions, not the whole family.  He was having a bad day and making some bad choices and that might have ruined his day or made it a more difficult day for him, but he didn’t get to make decisions for our family based on his behavior.  His behavior didn’t get to ruin our family’s day.  It is important for children to learn to be accountable for their own behavior and to be reminded that you, as the parent, are in charge – not them no matter how poor their behavior is.

So, the next time this happens you – don’t let a child’s behavior change your plans, instead, see it as a teaching moment.  Remind yourself you are the parent and in charge, find a way to make the punishment fit within the confines of your family’s plans.  Be in charge and be the parent!

Do I really trust God

Posted: 07/21/2011 in Trust
Tags: ,

This last month our van broke down – ugh.  And I mean it broke down – a rod in the engine broke and… we had to replace the engine.  We, like most people did not have a savings that was capable of paying for this (note to everyone – make it a priority create an emergency savings fund for times like this!).  So, it became my challenge, my mission, to figure out how we are going to pay for this.  I looked into personal loans, credit card loans, payment plans, and even spent an afternoon at the corner of the exit of I-74 and Middle Rd (ok, I didn’t do this last one – although it did cross my mind).

Finding a way to fund our new problem became a mission for me. And I am embarrassed to say this, but the whole, “Ask God for help” thing did not occur until I was well into my study of what would be the best way to do this.

It wasn’t until my wife (she is an amazing woman!) said, shouldn’t we pray about this, that I finally stopped and realized that there was a way out.  I needed to trust God.  So we gave the problem to Him.  And wouldn’t you know, just a day later, he began to answer that problem as we received an unexpected monetary gift from someone!

We do this often though don’t we?  We preach and teach and learn about trusting God.  And we say that we do, but then when we have the opportunity to trust Him, when something goes wrong in life, many times, our first thought is not to turn to God, but to turn to man and try to figure out how to solve the problem ourselves.

Is there a place in your life right now where you need to seek God?  Maybe a relationship that is hurting or failing?  A decision that seems to be bigger than you?  A situation in your home or at work?  A decision about your child?  About school?  About your marriage?  Have you turned that over to God yet, or are you still trying to figure out the solution on your own?

Now, I will tell you, sometimes the way God meets us in these times is by giving us wisdom.  He did not provide for all of our financial need, but we are going through our budget and carving out ways for us to pay for our new, used engine.  God is granting us the wisdom to know what we can cut and change in our budget and what we can’t.  He is also giving us the ability to cut and change these things (some of these necessary changes are hard to make!).  However, it wasn’t until we asked God for his wisdom that we began to really see these things and see the right way to go.

So the next time you encounter an opportunity to trust God, try not to waste any time like me thinking about how you will solve the problem. But instead, humble yourself and realize that you aren’t the answer and you don’t have the answers, but you know someone who does.  Turn to God and ask for his help.  And then be ready to act upon the help and the wisdom he gives.

1 Peter 5:6-7 says, 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. “

The First Poetry in the Bible

Posted: 03/10/2011 in Bible
Tags: ,

About 7 years ago I read a book called “Searching For God Knows What” by Donald Miller.  There was a chapter in there that has stuck with me for sometime.  Donald Miller gave a little synopsis of Genesis 2 and he saw some things I had never seen.  It was this chapter of his book that opened my eyes to what I am about to discuss below.

In Genesis 2 God saw that Adam was lonely and so he and Adam set about looking for a suitable companion.  However God did not immediately create Eve.  Scripture tells us that God had Adam name all of the animals while in search for that companion.

Well, this would have been no simple task.  Turns out there are between 10 million and 100 million different species of animals in the world.  And Adam isn’t just naming them and moving on, he is trying to find a suitable companion.  I imagine him wrestling with the Lions until one of their claws leave a permanent mark on him.  I imagine him swimming with the dolphins only to realize he can’t keep up.  I imagine him thinking twice when it came time to name the dog and see if that was a suitable companion, only to realize that communication was very limited in that relationship.  And I imagine this took Adam several years before he was done.

What Donald Miller points out in his book is Adam’s plight  – years of naming the animals and spending time with each of them to see if one of them is the right companion for him.  Only to find out, in the end, none of them are.  He finally finishes naming the animals and Adam falls asleep.  When he wakes up there is Eve.  Imagine years of considering animals and then suddenly there is someone just like him, but only prettier (probably much prettier and I am sure she smelled better too).  Standing before him was someone who talks like him.  Someone who loves like him, cares like him.  Imagine his joy, – imagine how much he immediately appreciated the companionship of Eve.

Adam’s response in Genesis 2:23 is the first poetry in all of scripture (no wonder women like poetry so much) as he says, “Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  I know it doesn’t sound like the most beautiful poetry to us, but to Adam and Eve would have been the most beautiful poetry they had ever heard.

And now stop and think what those words really meant to Adam.  Immediately he realizes the differences between the animals he was naming and now Eve who stands before him.  Imagine how much Adam would have appreciated Eve, how he would have valued her and treated her.  After years of looking for a companion only to fail each time and then suddenly there she is.

I bet Adam wouldn’t have let a tv show be more important than time with his wife.  I bet Adam went to bed with his wife every night, no matter how badly the Lions asked him to play one more game of wrestle.  I bet Adam recited more poetry to Eve – whenever she wanted.  I bet Adam was a pretty good listener.  I bet if you asked Adam his favorite creation of God, it would be pretty easy to guess his answer would be Eve – and he would probably tell it wasn’t even close.

Why do I say these things?  Because after God made Adam wait for many years and name all the animals, Adam would have realized the value of his mate who was standing before him.  My question to you is, if you have that special someone, that wife or husband – do you realize their value?  And how do you show them that they are that valuable?

I have begun a new endeavor – something I have never done before.  I am going to read through the Bible in Chronological order (not order of the books, but chronologically, as they happened).  I just started this and I am excited to announce I have already learned something very significant for my marriage.  I was right and Emily was wrong.

Emily and I both like to relax, but it is the “when should we relax” question that we often debate.  You see, Emily can’t relax if she knows there are significant amounts of work to be done.  She needs to work first, check things off her list, and then she can sit down and rest.  But in my opinion, a part of resting is knowing there are things to be done and I ain’t doing them!  This is a debate we have been having for almost 9 years now (that’s how long we have been married).  And today, I finally found scripture that shows I was right!

We often think that we are supposed to rest on the 7th day – that is what God did.  However, as I was reading a passage of scripture today that I have read hundreds of times before (Genesis 1 and 2) I saw something new (now I am certain I am not the first to see this, it’s just the first time this “struck” me or occurred to me).  On the 6th day God created man, and on the 7th day God rested.   Now, that was God’s seventh day of creation, but that was man’s first day.  Man was to rest on the first day, not the seventh.  Rest first, work second.

Mark 2:27 tells us that the Sabbath was made for man.  It is as if God’s 7th day of creation was spent creating the sabbath – a day of rest for man, for us, for you and me.  And while I jest that this solves the debate between my wife and I, I do believe that this shows the heart of God in a way I hadn’t seen it before.  I used to think of the Sabbath, the day of rest,  as a reward for a hard week.  But it is actually more like God is saying, you need this in preparation for next week.  I made this for you.  It isn’t a reward, it is God looking out for us and saying, because I know you and love you, I want you to rest right now.  He wants us ready for the week ahead.  When you take your sabbath let it be a day that prepares you for the week ahead.  For it seems to me that that may have been at least a part of God’s intent.