7 Reasons to Not Shop on Thanksgiving Day

The trend for earlier celebrations of the holidays has bothered me for some time now. This year, while looking for school supplies in August, I discovered that the back to school aisle had already been converted to Halloween candy. Of course, Christmas had taken over that aisle long before Halloween was over.

You’ve likely seen the news- what was once Black Friday, the big shopping day that followed Thanksgiving Day, is now creeping onto Thanksgiving Day. Kmart and Old Navy are opening on Thanksgiving Day in the morning. Other retailers are opening in the evening.

For the last few decades, there have been only 2 days in a year when we could be relatively sure that most families could gather without distraction: Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s sad to see the practice of family togetherness on these days come to an end. Here are 7 reasons why your family should keep the Thanksgiving Day as a distraction free day.

  1. Heritage is important. Maintaining family and religious traditions help children to know they have a bigger meaning than just being consumers or pawns in this world.
  2. You’re too busy. I hear some people saying they like the idea of going shopping on Thanksgiving because they will have ready-made babysitters as their family gathers. If you’re that busy, you don’t need to go shopping. You need time with your kids and with the rest of your family.
  3. Thanksgiving is the last non-consumer day. This is a day that we pause to reflect on God’s blessings. God blesses in much greater ways than barn-buster sales. Focus on the interpersonal relationships that he’s blessed you with.
  4. Shopping is not a family outing. Sure, a few of you may enjoy shopping, but very few families are all collectively excited about being dragged to the mall. The holidays can be stressful enough without introducing this new stress to those who resist shopping.
  5. The early start to the shopping season further diminishes the meaning of Christmas. By encouraging shopping early, we continue to decrease the traditional celebration of Christmas (The Christ’s Mass) and replace it with MallMass (The celebration of materialism). Some may choose to do that, but you don’t have to join this trend.
  6. The sales aren’t worth it. There’s two reasons why they aren’t worth it. First, being together as a family, reflecting on God’s gifts, is more valuable than even free stuff, if the stores were even offering free stuff. Second, not only do stores fail to offer free stuff, but more and more studies recognize that “Black Friday sales” are often the most expensive sales of the holiday season. The truth is the super deals (i.e., the laptop for $150) aren’t available, and aren’t the quality that you really need. Skip them and save money later in the season.
  7. Others have to work. Even if your family wants to go out on Thanksgiving, the message you send by supporting Thanksgiving Day shopping is that you don’t care for the family. Think of how many 17 year olds are pulled out of their family celebrations to work the sales on Thanksgiving Day. You may hear that the stores don’t “make” anyone miss the whole day with their family, but that isn’t adequate. The truth is that many will have to make a decision- my family or my job.

I’m not going anywhere this Thanksgiving. I’ll be home with my family, reflecting on each of them as the best gifts that God has given me. I hope you will make this a day to minister to one another.

Singleness is something to be celebrated

Singles are a valuable part of the church. Whether they have chosen and are happy with that state or they wish to change it, the church should welcome them into the family. I wrote about that on March 12, 2013 and I’ve reposted it below. I’m also please that Bruxy Cavey as part of his church as family series handled the topic very well. Please listen to his message.

Singles (even without kids) are part of family ministry

Posted on March 12, 2013 by Steve

We need singles in the church. Unmarried people are an important part of the family model of ministry. They are important members of the family of God because they are legitimate members. It’s a shame that we forget the Apostle Paul said that if one is unmarried it is good for them to remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8).

Singleness, as pointed out by Paul Zahl in Living By Grace, is the natural state of each human. We are born into the world as singles and we exit the world as single. But just as true, we know that every human is born craving human interaction. Every human needs community.

In discipleship, singles are just as important as children, and just as important as parents. All members of our communities need to be adequately considered in disciple making. Unfortunately, many churches put a priority on people who live in a home with adults (parents) and children. The best reason for this is that we value our young people. The worst reason for this is that nuclear family is the most marketable demographic for churches.

Adult singles are an important part of the family-model of ministry. They’re important because they are a growing demographic in our community, as more people are choosing to never marry. Some may curse this, but they’re wrong to do so. Singles can be just as committed, if not more so, to the work of the Kingdom of God. If we alienate them from our churches by redefining church as a compilation of families, then we will lose a large part of a generation of believers.

Singles should feel welcome in the church. This doesn’t mean that we need to create large singles ministries, as in programs where singles go to hang out with the hope that maybe they will meet someone they can marry. This plan has two things wrong with it. First, it assumes that singles need to have a special, separate place in our fellowships. There will be occasions that singles should do things together, but peer gatherings should not be their primary interaction with the church. The second problem with designed singles groups is that they often become dating clubs, which again sends a message that we only value singles as potential couples and families. This path should not be supported by the church.

Rather, we can do these things to involve singles in our churches:

  • View singles as whole numbers. They aren’t partial people waiting for a spouse to complete them. Christ is their completion.
  • Lift up single leaders in the church so that those joining your church do not feel marriage is a requirement for full membership.
  • Develop a culture where families and singles mix regularly.
  • Make an extra effort to see that singles are enveloped in the fellowship and discipleship groups of the church.
  • Provide care and a positive disposition for single adults who return to live with their parents. This is becoming more common and does not have to be seen as a shortcoming of the adult child. There are many good reasons for an adult to live with parents, but there are also different kinds of relational concerns that must be addressed for both the adult child and the parent.

Our churches are composed of all types of people. As we develop the family ministry model, it is important that we recognize the value and needs of all people. Married parents, single parents and unattached adults should find their place in this model. As we prepare ways to involve single adults, we will discover that they have much to offer the other groups, including the children, of our churches.

– See more at: http://etchea.com/singles-even-without-kids-are-part-of-family-ministry/#sthash.SMnf67aP.dpuf

The church is the family

Untitled3-1Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at the Meetin House in Toronto Canada, is starting a new teaching series on what he calls the Modern Family. In the first sermon of that series, he uses Matthew 12:46-50 to make the point that the church is Jesus’ family.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

From there, Bruxy goes on to use Mark 10:28-31 to make the point that those who leave their family to follow Jesus receive a reward. Of course, most of us look to the reward of the next age (heaven), but Bruxy points out that the reward begins “in this age”. That is, one who leaves his or her family to follow Jesus will (probably when they are rejected by their family of origin) receives a much larger family here on earth. That means they receive, and are received, into the family of God.

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This is what we call the missional family at Etchea. It is the church, and goes beyond the nuclear family to include all those who follow Jesus.

The issue I have is this: I don’t often see it happening. Do you? How good is your church at welcoming others into a real family? Are your church members brothers and sisters, and treated with that much love? Are the lonely and misfits invited for dinner, holidays, and companionship? Is there a process of mourning if one is to leave the fold, or is it just a choice they made that doesn’t really affect your church?

I fear, and have experienced, that too many churches are willing to force people out of their organizational churches because of disagreements about how things should be done, or just simply because they are not the kind of friends that seem right for us. Some times these people are forced out by a request to leave. Usually, they are forced out by being ignored.

By the way, I’m not talking here about evangelizing the world through welcoming unbelievers like family. I’m talking about a foundational aspect that must exist before a church can have a testimony in this world. This foundation is that it must survive as the family of God. There’s no magical how for being the family of God, no 10 steps to being a family. What you are to do is to accept the other believers in your midst as family. Do that, and you’ll be the family.

Why governance fails and why it needs the missional family model

For generations people have talked, argued, and fought over the model of leadership for the church.

Many support the episcopal model, which has a single leader- the bishop. This is the type of leadership used by the Catholic church, Anglican church, and many entrepreneurial-style evangelical churches. One person has the final say in what the church does and believes. The leader is autocratic in making many, most, or all of the decisions. The problem with the autocratic leadership model is that it draws authoritarians who can abuse the church. It is almost always hierarchical. Lesser members of the church either have no voice or have obstacles to reaching the leader so that their voice can be heard.

The second model of church leadership is the elder led model, particularly described as a plurality of leaders. In this case some number, usually a small number in respect to the total membership of the church, make their churches administrative decisions. In some cases, these elders are chosen for their spiritual maturity. Sometimes they’re chosen for their business sense. And sometimes they are chosen based on their contribution or connection to the church. Elder led churches can avoid the dysfunctions of a single leader misleading the church, but, sadly, elder-led churches often lead to a culture of ins and outs. That is, there are those people who are the inside group. Everyone else is on the outside. Elders can wield a lot of power and often the church becomes inbred.

Finally, the congregational style of leadership breaks down the walls of the church leadership. This democratic model gives voice to every member. In a purely democratic system, authoritarians are silenced as the congregational meetings give equal power to all people. The problem with this kind of church governance is twofold. First, there is seldom a truly democratic church. Most churches have a hybrid polity where some decisions are democratic, but the rest of the decisions revert to either a single leader or a plurality of leaders. The same problems exist as under the two previous forms of leaders.

The second problem with a democratic church is that not all people are equally knowledgeable about what a church needs to help its members grow in maturity. Therefore, people’s wants and their needs are given the same weight. When this happens churches easily begin to pursue their wants, and selfishness can rule the body.

While all the above models have grave limitations, the solution isn’t to contrive a new form of leadership. To be sure, there is not another way to arrange humans to lead an organization other than a single leader, a plurality of leaders, or democratic leadership. The solution is to reconsider the organizational nature of our churches. We do that by developing a family model of ministry where our churches are not non-profit organizations to managed and directed toward greater efficiency. Our churches are families, or clans. The core of our purpose isn’t productivity; it is community. Our leaders aren’t rulers or managers. They aren’t visionaries take the church to new and better places. They are siblings with the rest of the church, but mature siblings at that, who care more about the spiritual destination of the people than about what is produced.

Our churches will be better governed when governance is minimized and parenting the children of God is maximized. As the Apostle Paul put it:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thes. 2:7-8)

Follow up this post by reading:

Leadership: Two tensions to reconcile

Marks of the early church and the family model of ministry

7 steps to introducing your children to the world without losing their souls

[Repost from February 22, 2013]

Step 1

Start young. The younger you begin introducing your children to the world the better. You can help them to approach the world with their eyes wide open so they are ready to run from danger. But teach them that they don’t need to be afraid of the world. Jesus has overcome the world.

Step 2

When your children are threatened by the world, help to create a way out. For young children this may mean pulling them out of harm’s way. With older children, give them opportunities and excuses to get out of danger. You can be a scapegoat if they need one. Better that you look like a bad guy to their acquaintances than they feel stuck in a bad place.

Step 3

Talk to them about what they encounter in the world. When they are young, be direct. Talk about what they have experienced and how it relates to your faith. As they grow older, ask questions and let them tell you how it relates to their faith.

Step 4

Help them to develop boundaries. With young kids show them where to stop. With older children, ask questions to help them develop their own boundaries.

Step 5

Give them room for failure. Your children will fail. They will sin. They are sinners, that’s expected. Give them space to be human.

Step 6

Give them grace. As your children fall into sin, offer grace first. Grace comes with forgiveness. Grace is opposed to judgment.

Step 7

Give them loving correction and advice. Be consistent with specific statements of love. Be carefully with wise advice. The older they get, the more you should keep your advice to yourself.

Note: The transition between young children and old children isn’t a line, it’s a gradation–a process. As the parent, develop a feel for movement toward maturity, and respond by trending from more direction to more coaching. Be careful not to assume that because children are a certain age that all aspects of their understanding are equally mature. Siblings mature at different rates and in their own ways, that’s OK too. Everyone grows differently.

Finally, there is no formula for parenting. It takes practice. It take discernment. If you need help ask someone close to you, talk to a church leader, or call us at Etchea Coaching.


Parents, your faith is important

Christianity Today reports on a new study about parent, children and the resiliency of faith. The study was released in a book by University of Southern California researcher, Vern Bengtson. The book is called Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down across Generations.

Key take aways:

  1. Parents who consistently model the faith have more faithful children.
  2. Parents with positive relationships with the children, especially when the father is warm and affirming, are more likely to have faithful children.

The article also says that the hard-nosed approach of making children follow the parent’s religion did not pay off. Children need to experiment and ask questions so that they faith can become their own. This is a scary proposition for parents, but I’ve seen this point worked out in life. Too many demanding parents don’t understand why their children walk away. It’s because they never really felt called to Christ. They just learned to obey mom and dad while mom and dad were close.

Finally, the study shows a positive relationship with the older generation (i.e, grandparents) is helpful in drawing children to life long faith.

I haven’t read this book yet, but the article makes me want to move it up my list. This is way Etchea exists, because if we want to pass our faith on to the next generation, we need to do it by building positive relationship between the younger generation and older the others in the church.  We need healthy families and we need the church to act as a healthy family.

The family model and the angry pastor

The reason many clergy are depressed is that they are angry. And the reason that they are angry is that they are consistently victimized by dysfunctional bullies who wield power inside the church.

The preceding quote is from Thomas Bandy’s blog post, Clergy Anger & the Urgency of a True Spiritual Life. Having been a pastor and working with many pastors since, I am firmly convinced that this wouldn’t happen nearly as often if the US church would give up it’s consumer model of ministry. Pastors need to let go of their expectations of being Super Pastors with big followings and important publication. Board (better called, Elders) need to realize that their job isn’t to make the church successful but to assure that good discipleship is happening. Church members need to see their leaders as brothers and sisters with a huge responsibility. Not a responsibility to please the people, but a responsibility to say and do what the people need in order to grow spiritually.

Until this happens, we’ll have bullies in churches and angry, depressed leaders.

If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:6-10

Trust building in parenting…and the church

photo credit: carnagenyc via photopin cc

Parenting is a matter of demonstrating Christ’s love. A cornerstone for building a loving relationship is building a relationship of trust. No one can feel loved if they don’t feel they trust the other person.

The same is true of the church family. Trust is an imperative to the mission. To break trust is the be working against the mission of the church.

Below are a list of trust builder with an opposing list of trust busters. We all break trust at times, but the goal is to build trust.

Builders Busters
  • Listening
  • Assuming
  • Expressing clear instructions and expectations
  • Misrepresenting your hopes and expectations
  • Keeping promises 
  • Offering more than you can deliver
  • Acting consistently 
  • Erratic responses
  • Acknowledging breakdowns
  • Wearing a mask of perfection
  • Spending time together
  • Mis-prioritized values
  • Being vulnerable
  • Keeping your thoughts private
  • Empowering
  • Watching over their shoulder


7 Reasons a children’s leader cannot create family ministry

The good news is that the family model of ministry is growing around the country. This means more churches are working to connect discipleship to the home and more people are finding the church to be a necessary family. I see this in many job posts. Churches are looking for family ministry pastors.

The bad news is, many (or even most) are doing it wrong.

If you look at a site like ChurchStaffing.com or Kidmin.org/jobs, it doesn’t take long to understand that most churches looking for a Family Ministry Pastor are really still looking for a children’s ministry director. Likely, they are encouraged by using the Orange curriculum or D6 philosophy, but for the most part the jobs still focus mostly on running a children’s ministry.

Here are 7 reasons a children’s leader cannot lead a church into family ministry model.

  1. A family model church must connect all generations, not just parents with kids.
  2. Children’s leaders are, sadly, still seen by most church members as specialists in children’s work, at best, and at worst they are seen as the least influential member of the leadership team.
  3. Children’s program leaders are always recruiting. Keeping a children’s program staffed is a full-time job. It is really hard to find time to enact a bigger vision as a children’s leader.
  4. Because children’s leaders are always recruiting, they often get a reputation of only calling when they need something. This means many people immediately put up their defenses when in conversation with a children’s leader.
  5. Children’s leaders are often the last one to be given time before the whole congregation. One reason is they’re too busy on Sunday morning to leave the children’s wing. For a second reason, refer to #2.
  6. When children’s directors start talking about family ministry, senior leaders often have an incomplete understanding of the family model of ministry. They see it as a departmental aspect of the church rather than a permeating vision. This is evident by the job listings. The family model isn’t just holding parent classes to teach parents to be better parents. When children’s leaders start pushing harder for a whole church family ministry, many senior leaders feel overwhelmed by the grandness of this vision.
  7. The family model of ministry has to be a corporate, whole-church movement. Only top leaders (the top leader) can build this vision.

Children’s ministry is an important part of our church and children’s leaders can be gifted leaders. However, if the children’s leaders cannot lead a church into family ministry, then who should be doing this work? Ideally, it will be the senior leadership of the church- the lead pastor or the elders. It could also be a second chair lead with a strong relationship to the senior leadership. Finally, the congregation can lead this movement by demanding more cross-generational ministries.

Say “no” to likable sermons and “yes” to the family model of ministry

I found this blog over the weekend. Sermons Are Not For Liking by Tim Challies. Challies is right when he says,

Sermons are not for liking. Sermons are for listening, they are for discerning, they are for applying, but they are not for liking. You don’t get to like or dislike a sermon. We tend to ask questions like, “So how did you enjoy the sermon today?” It is just the wrong question to ask.

CEO style pastors want their sermons to be liked, because when a sermon is enjoyable, people come back and they may even bring friends. Many church leaders set their measure of success at how many people attend their likable sermons.

The problem is that sermons are supposed to be life changing. They are supposed to challenge people to consider their life and how they need to change. Sermons are not supposed to be cruel or damning in the sense that some people want to make them, but they are supposed to be honest and probing. CEO pastors cannot be honest when they prefer to be liked.

That’s why we need a family model of ministry. A model that encourages honest reflection because the pastor is a part of the family, not a hired leader. The family-model pastor is a caretaker of the family so they know when they have to say the unpopular thing. Pastors need to take their place that the parents of the congregation, not seeking to be likable or have their work enjoyable, but seeking to help the people to grow in maturity.