One of the hardest parts of parenting is helping your kids process the people who walk out of their lives. It might be a parent, a friend, or if you are a pastor, someone who used to attend your church.
As Revolution Church has grown, people have moved away, moved to a different church or just altogether decided to be done with church. All of them hurt.
This came up in our home the other night as one of our kids asked about someone who used to be in our MC and if they were coming over to watch the Super Bowl. We said, “No, they go to a different church now.” Our son looked at us and asked, “Why?”
That moment as a parent is hard, especially if that person hurt you as well. You want to be honest with your child, but you also don’t want to give your sin to your child and you want to help your child have a healthy view of that person.
It can be equally hard if you are an adoptive parent and your child asks, “Why am I here?”
So what do you do?
Here are 7 things to keep in mind when you help your child understand why someone walked out:
- Understand what is your sin and how it affects you. Every time a relationship ends, there is a death. There is sin on both sides. You may be convinced there is more sin in the other person, and there may be, but that isn’t important at this moment. Your response about this person, to this person, when you talk to others about this person will show if your heart is healed and if you have let go. If you struggle with letting go of people or your past, listen to this sermon Katie and I preached on the topic.
- Ask your child about that person. Let your child have a chance to talk about this person. As an adult, you have probably discussed the person and situation at length and may be tired of talking about it, but your child may not have had the opportunity. They may have just realized that person isn’t around anymore or this may be the first time they want to discuss it. Let them talk it out. Also, ask them what they miss the most. This will give you a window into the hole that is in their heart and how it can best be filled.
- Don’t lie. Whatever you do, don’t lie. Don’t stretch the truth to make this person look worse. It is easy to do, but that is not helpful (and a sin).
- Protect their heart. Don’t go into all the details. They don’t need to know if they are wrecking their life, that isn’t helpful. Don’t give them your jaded view of the person.
- Talk about who is still in your life. Switch gears and talk about who is coming over, who is still in our life as friends and family. Ask them who they are thankful for and why.
- It is not about the child. Remind them of the hard truth that while it might feel to them as a child that it is about them, it is not. This will be something you may continually have to remind your child, especially in a divorce or abandonment situation.
- Be prepared to be disappointed. As a parent who has been divorced or has adopted or has married a deadbeat, you will often have to pick up the pieces for your child and make do. This is part of parenting. You may not have realized it when you signed up, but it is part of it, just like the fun times. Be prepared. Protect your heart. Do not let another person steal your joy and fight with everything you have for the joy of your child.
Few dads realize how important hugging is to their daughters, but I’ve heard countless girls tell me they had sex with a boy (not even a boyfriend) simply for the physical contact, because their fathers never hugged them or showed them affection. Her body starves for you to hug her. The need is especially raw during her teen years. Fathers often assume that their teenage daughters want to be left alone and don’t want to be hugged. This isn’t true—in fact, it couldn’t be more wrong. She needs your touch during these years even more than when she was five. I know that popular culture tells you that teenagers “need their space,” that teenagers are tricky and can leave you unsure what to do, that it might seem safer to opt out and simply do nothing, but that’s all wrong. Your teenager needs you. It’s far more dangerous to opt out of your daughter’s life and do nothing than it is to be a close part of her life, and you know exactly what to do. Just be her dad: be confident, defend her and be supportive, and don’t back away from hugging her. -Meg Meeker, M.D. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
I’m often asked about book recommendations when it comes to parenting or adoption. Everything from how you get your child to eat the food you give them to organizing your day to not go crazy and everything in between. Below are some of the books that I have found to be the most helpful and useful, with a little bit about each book so you know which ones to get for your family.
Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler & others
A great book with an overview perspective on parenting traumatized children- less of a how to and more of a why things play out the way they do. MANY books are referenced, and there is an extensive appendix of additional resources and support groups/aids. There is an honest look at extreme abuse/trauma cases but doesn’t talk through cultural/language differences or more mild cases- though I would assume it is much of the same. There is a good section on how adoption affects the “original” family; including siblings already in the home.
As a mom of a resistant eater this book covered many things that don’t apply to our specific situation ie. a healthy son who refuse to try new foods, but is has some great ideas to help include a wider variety of foods into a resistant eaters diet. The book provides a middle ground that I could not see- not acquiescing to whatever your child will eat and not forcing them to eat which can promote negative attitudes toward new foods. There seemed to be many ideas for kids with special needs who need help developing a wider diet.
For a soon to be adoptive parent of an international child this book is a must. It gives so many practical tools and games to connect with a child who needs help bonding and also gives clues into what your child is feeling based on the type of play that they are engaging in. The book uses a few “stereotyped” kids to talk through typical reactions for different personality types and coping methods for kids from hard places. This book does not need to be read in one sitting, but can be read incrementally because it is written in chronological fashion.
This has nothing to do with adoption, but I know that a solid routine for kids from hard places is very helpful. This book is written by a mom, who gets at the heart behind a schedule- namely mortification- self-discipline to promote Godliness.
Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: Volume 1 by Heather Forbes
Is a how-to book in dealing with specific issues experienced in adoption. The premise of parenting from a place of love instead of fear is very freeing. I think that this book is a good first step to many of the behaviors addressed, but I would guess that there needs to be a certain amount of self awareness from the child to be able to have the discussions used as examples in this book. The biggest take away from this book is that children are not trying to be manipulative, but their behavior is the only way they know how to express what is going on inside.
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim Payne M.Ed., & Lisa Ross
Again, this book is not about adoption, but deals with… simplicity in schedule, stuff, and making sure that there is a solid connection and grounding for children. The thing that was an eye opener about this book lies in the introduction; the author talks about how he was doing some work at a refugee camp in Africa and was treating kids with PTSD, then after that he started a private practice in the states. Through his practice he started to see that children in the US were exhibiting some of the same behaviors as the children from the refugee camp… mainly because of the pace and disconnectedness that so many children grow up with in their homes. My fear is that many children are adopted out of their original culture, and then through another environment do not give them the connectedness and grounding that they need, so the underlying issues are not addressed just masked.
This is one that I am planning to read along with the workbook by Karyn Purvis; found here http://empoweredtoconnect.org/created-to-connect-study-guide/.
This past Saturday, Rex Ryan, head coach of the NY Jets caused a stir in New York City by skipping out on the last day of cuts and going to see his son dress for a college football game at Clemson. His son is a walk on for that team.
If you aren’t familiar with “cut day” for the NFL, it is when all teams must get their rosters to 53 players. This day was Saturday, the same day as the Clemson football game.
According to one NY reporter, “his trip to watch his son play is ‘big F.U. to all of the players,’ that coach was going to watch son play…Ryan shirked his professional responsibilities for personal ones.”
Did he shirk his professional responsibilities for personal ones? According to ProFootballTalk, “Ryan had permission from the Jets owner to attend the game.”
Let’s say it is true and he had permission to attend the game. The question becomes if it was a wise move.
From the perspective of a father, the answer is yes. They didn’t decide who was being cut that morning. Those cuts were in the process all week. It isn’t like Rex Ryan could not be reached if something came up.
How many times does your son dress for his first college football game? Once. You can’t replace that. I still remember my first college soccer game that I dressed for. I was so excited about it and my dad surprised me by driving 5 hours one way to see it. Right when the game was over, he drove 5 hours back because he had to work the next day. And I played 0 minutes in that game, but he was there to see me dress. I had accomplished one of my goals and he didn’t miss it.
That’s choosing what matters.
If you are a dad, you have professional responsibilities and personal responsibilities. Everyday is a balancing act of those 2 worlds. There are times you won’t be able to get back. The “first” experiences your kids have of anything is one of those. Being at games, recitals, plays, concerts, don’t come around again. As a father, every choice you make with your time and your family has enormous implications for years to come. Every adult can look back on their childhood and see the absence or presence of their father and know this is true.
I would say, as a father, Rex Ryan made the only choice that should have been on the table.
Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.
So far we’ve covered:
- Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
- A pastor being untouchable.
- The pastor’s family.
- The need to be needed.
The fifth sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of giving away too much at home. I think this sin could just be labeled to all men.
This can look any number of ways:
A pastor disciples people for a living so is lazy at home. Much like the first sin we discussed that a pastor uses his bible only for sermon prep, when you disciple people for a living, the last thing you want to do is come home and do more “work.” As a pastor, I get this. It is easier to disciple others than those closest to you. The problem is that as a man, you are called to pastor your family. Every man, every father. Many men fall into this trap because his wife spends more time with the kids, he lets her disciple more than she should. Now, hear me out here because if you miss this, you will miss the point. In our family, Katie spends more time with our kids than I do. But, as the head of our house, it is my job to set the tone of family worship and discipleship. Together, we talk through what our kids will learn, what as a family we will study, what things she thinks will work best for our kids at their various ages. Too many men simply let their wives do this alone instead of walking together in it.
Does not give a vision to his family of where they are going. Many pastors are strong visionaries. They lead building campaigns, launch new ministries, cast a vision for where their church is going. Yet, they have no vision for their family. Think for a moment, do you have a way of deciding how to spend your money or time as a family? How do you know who you should spend time with? What is the most important thing for your family in the next 2-6 months? How will you know if the next season will be busy or if it is time to slow down as a family? Your family needs this, they need the structure that you as the husband/father should provide.
If you don’t have a clear mission statement for your family, read this. The bottom line, if your ran the church how you run your family, how would it go? How long until you got fired for having no vision or organization?
Makes his church more important than his family. Many pastors children grow up to despise the church and the reason is because they grew up feeling like the church was more important than they were. Dad skipped things for church stuff. They were pushed aside for things at church. Now, pastors should work hard, just like any other man. No child should grow up feeling they got leftovers from their dad.
Here are some ways to communicate to your wife and kids they are more important than your job:
- Tell them. One day, someone else will pastor Revolution Church. I will die or retire. No one else will parent my kids.
- Date nights and daddy dates. Every week you should have a date night with your wife, pursuing her, wooing her, loving her. Every week, you should have a daddy date with one of your kids. Spending time with them, doing something they want to do.
- Don’t look at email, social media or messages when you’re off (especially during dinner). This seems obvious, but a lot of people in our culture are addicted to technology. We go into cold sweats at the prospect of not checking social media or email for an evening, let alone a whole day. If that’s you, you should for sure turn it off.
- Communicate your family’s important to your church. Tell your church from up front how much your family matters. Bottom line pastor, if your marriage or family falls apart, so does your ministry. If your marriage falls apart and your church doesn’t fire you or put you on a leave of absence, you shouldn’t be there anyway. It is one of the qualifications of being an elder. You should never use an illustration that paints your wife or kids in a bad light. Need an illustration of what not to do, use yourself as an example. Talk about how important they are. Tell your church that by valuing your family, they are valuing the church. If I’m talking to someone at church and one of my kids comes up and says, “Excuse me Dad” like we’ve taught them, I’ll ask the person I’m talking to to wait. If this frustrates them, that’s okay. My wife and kids are that important. I’d expect and hope someone would do that to me.
- Be at their stuff. As a pastor, you have a flexible schedule. Use that to your advantage with your family. You can work on a sermon after your kids are in bed, you don’t have to do it at 2pm during a school recital.
Mother’s Day is a big day for most churches. For Revolution, this is the first time we’ve actually met on Mother’s Day as we met on Saturday nights for the first 4 years as a church. While Mother’s Day is a great day, a day to honor the Mom’s in our lives, it is also a difficult day for many. Most pastor’s on their blogs will talk about honoring women, doing baby dedications, giving out gifts to mother’s, etc. on Mother’s Day.
From the first year, we’ve stayed away from that. On Mother’s Day, it is a hard day for many women in your church. For some, it is a reminder of a broken relationship with their mother, of someone who is no longer there. For some, it is a reminder of the loss of a child. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t mother’s, even though their desire is there. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t married yet, when they want to be.
So, be sensitive.
Here are some things we’ve done:
- Honor all women.
- Acknowledge Mother’s and the role they play. While you are being sensitive, don’t ignore that it is Mother’s Day. It is, it’s on the calendar, everyone knows it. You can be sensitive while acknowledging and honoring Mom’s.
- If you give out a gift, give it to all women. We’ve given all women flowers in the past. This year we are doing free pictures for families, couples or groups of friends or individuals.
- If you want to give a gift to Mom’s, give it out in your children’s ministry so as to not draw attention to it.
- Encourage those who Mother’s Day is a difficult day to come forward for prayer with a leader.
- Acknowledge that Mother’s Day is a great day for some and a hard day for others. This goes a long of way of letting all women know they matter and that you see them.
- Preach the gospel. You should do this every week, but especially on Mother’s Day. Remind women that their only hope regardless of where they are on Mother’s Day is Jesus.
Lastly, don’t preach to women on Mother’s Day. More than likely, the women you will be preaching to will be back the week after Mother’s Day. Preach to the men they drug to church that day. But, if you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you should already be preaching to men clearly.
What do you do to be sensitive to women on Mother’s Day?
I don’t know if it is because I am getting older or because I just preached through Ecclesiastes and was reminded every week in that series that life is short, you aren’t promised tomorrow, you live, you die and are forgotten.
I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with people who are itching to get into the next stage of life. Whether they are in high school and want to get to college, are in college and want a job, are single and want to get married, or they are married and want kids, they want to retire, want their kids to move out. Whatever season they are in, they are ready for the next one.
I understand the thinking.
Some seasons are hard. I remember having 3 kids under 3 and a half. We couldn’t wait until the next season.
It is easy to push your kids to grow up, get better at things, get older so life is a little easier.
I was reminded of this the other day at T-Ball practice with my boys. One of them loves baseball, the other is getting used to it. Partly because he is 4 and still learning what it means to play a sport. It is easy to get frustrated at this. As a parent, you want them to succeed, you paid for them to do this and you aren’t doing something else. Since we’re at practice, let’s play.
This thinking is easy.
In doing so, I’ll miss this time. I’ll miss playing T-Ball in all its glory and frustration if I push for the next season to hard. There will be a time when we won’t get to play baseball, my boys will think I’m not cool anymore.
While it is good stewardship to learn from the past and look towards the future to make wise decisions. Too often, we skip the present and miss God’s gifts right now.
Maybe you are single as an evidence of God’s grace to you. Maybe you aren’t ready to get married, the other person isn’t ready. Maybe God wants you to wait a little longer to have children, or maybe that isn’t his plan for you right now.
Wherever you are right now, how do you see God’s grace in the place you are in?