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Pixels & Presence

Pixels & Presence

“I’m praying for you,” is a phrase we often see on Facebook, often expressed to a person who is facing loss or tragedy. To me, this expression has many times been a great source of encouragement.

I was recently reflecting, though, on something than has had even more meaning, and that is when a person has done what’s been called “the ministry of presence.” In other words, the power of a person just being there. Whether it’s the person who comes to give you a meal, or the individual who shows up at the family member’s funeral, there is power in personal presence.

This should not surprise us. As human beings, we are made in God’s image, and we are His embodied creations. As our age becomes more hyper connected through screens, we need to be reminded of the power of in-person connections.

One Christian writer said about the Incarnation, “Jesus did not come to earth as a pixel, He came as a Person.” If Jesus Christ—the Living Son of God—came to earth to walk among the people and share among their hurts, diseases, struggles and more—we certainly could do the same.

When the trials and troubles of life come, it is a blessing to have God’s people praying for you. In it also a great blessing to have people with you and praying with you. It may be a friend, a family member or fellow church member. That someone by your side through struggles is powerful.

While we don’t want to show up when we are not welcome, and while we don’t want to be like Job’s friends who “ministered” through presence and bad words and ideas, there is a way to do it right. The next time a door of opportunity arises, where you sense God giving you an opening through just being there for that person, consider stepping into that door.

Your presence for that person could hold more meaning for them than what you are able to offer through pixels on a screen.

In praise of summer camp

In praise of summer camp

This summer, from church camp to sports camps, kids across Oklahoma are taking part in a wide array of activities. While most people still think highly of camps and activities for kids, some so-called “Helicopter Parents” have a tough time sending their kids off to camp for a week, or even a day.

Yet I want to offer three reasons why camps continue to be popular and are helpful:

1. A break from the ordinary

Wake up. Eat Breakfast. Watch YouTube. Eat Lunch. Play video games. Eat dinner. Play more video games or watch a movie. Go to bed. The summertime routine can quickly become same-old, same-old. When kids take part in the camp, they learn to get outside their routine and try new activities. It could be a zip line or fishing; it could be learning a new sports technique or even memorizing Bible verses. The camp experience, like no other, puts a young person outside their normal routine and allows them to break into new areas of interest that could fuel new positive hobbies and habits.

2. A break from digital distraction

A study showed that people check their cell phones 150 times per day on average. In the summer time, for kids with devices like iPads, that could be even more. I don’t have to quote the latest experts for us to recognize that our technology-crazed society has gone overboard with digital entertainment. With camps, especially those which don’t allow personal devices to be brought, the kids get a mental break from all those text, pings and GIFFs.

3. A connection to the outdoors

If you look in the Bible, you see that Jesus spent a great deal of time outdoors. He often withdrew to pray and draw strength. We can do the same with camps, where we experience the awe of God’s Creation (Psalm 19). Whether it be a rustic-setting family camp or on a soccer field, getting some fresh air and exercise does these youngsters well.

I am the first to admit that not all camps or camp experiences are positive. But this summer and beyond, hopefully your family and friends have found an opportunity to take a break from the ordinary and technology, as well as connect with other people and God’s Creation.

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 3, final)

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 3, final)

Although my children did enjoy most of what came with being a minister’s kids—instant identity, a chance to serve early, an extended family of believers ready and willing to invest in them and help their parents, the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, a front row seat to what God was doing in the congregation and community, etc.—they might have been wiling to give some of it up just to avoid all the yuck.

I hate that. 

What’s more, I hate that the yucky stuff they experienced is not unique to them.  Apparently, it just comes with life in the ministry fish bowl

Want to bless the kiddos who are still swimming?  Consider the following insights and suggestions from twelve grown ministers’ kids who survived the fish bowl to tell, their love for Jesus and the Church intact.    

Ministers’ kids often feel isolated. It only takes a few non-invitations and quickly shushed conversations for ministers’ children to understand they are different and can expect to be left out from time to time.  Add to that disappointment a few forced or assumed volunteerings that further separate them from their peers, and you’ve created a lonely kid. 

Compound the problem by giving them special privileges they don’t want or need and making an example of them when they fail to live up to your expectations, and you’ve built a wall they must scale just to make and keep friends.  In their efforts to scale this wall and prove they are just like everyone else, many ministers’ children overcompensate, further alienating those who work with them and their peers. 

Relax.  Ministers’ kids are not spies for their parents.  They probably tell their parents what they see and hear because that’s what kids do with their parents, but it’s very unlikely they were sent.  Their parents have enough to deal with without looking for something else, and if their parents do misuse the information they receive, that’s on them, not the child.  Besides, if you can’t say what you were saying or do what you were planning to do in front of your minister’s kid, you probably shouldn’t be saying or doing those things anyway.  

Just treat ministers’ kids like you would treat anyone else.  Give them time to develop according to God’s plan for their lives without the distraction of a spotlight.  Respect their individuality.  Most importantly, be real.  Invite them to watch as you let God transform you into the image of Christ, polishing that which resembles Christ and chipping away the rest, so they’ll know it’s okay not to be perfect yet even as we aim for perfection together with God’s help.  

Minister’s kids are more self-aware than you think and harder on themselves than you’ll ever be.  Odds are, if you’ve thought something about your minister’s kids, they have, too, and are just hoping they can work through or cover up what they consider to be glaring inadequacies in themselves before those inadequacies are noticed and yield consequences.  They know their actions affect their parents.  You don’t have to tell them.  They feel it every day and probably hear it more often than you think. 

When your minister’s kids need correction and your relationship to or with them makes it appropriate for you to do the correcting, correct them the same way you would any other child.  Give yourself time and space to cool off, take a moment to prepare your heart so you don’t misrepresent our just, but loving Heavenly Father, and then say and do only what must be said and done as privately as possible. 

Don’t project.  Don’t extrapolate, and don’t drag things out.  When it’s all over, give your minister’s kids the same clean slate other children enjoy for free.  Ministers’ kids who are made to work for that clean slate—and many are—often struggle to believe they are truly free in Christ.  Some spend the rest of their lives trying to earn grace, and some just give up.  Those who give up often leave the church altogether.  

Ministers’ kids may be reluctant to trust.  Many have been burned personally.  Almost all have watched their parents suffer.  Go easy.  Don’t force it.  Once you’ve earned their trust, you’ll get it.

Listen, friends, whatever else they may be, whatever else they may have done, ministers’ children—of all ages—are just sinners in need of a Savior and the social and emotional space to get to know Him better among brothers and sisters who illustrate His mercy and grace. 

Just like me.  Just like you. 

Please, please, please, “love your (minister’s kid) as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

How to fight culture wars

How to fight culture wars

The people who write your favorite sitcom disagree with you. The news disagrees with you, the movies, your neighbors, the school board, politicians—many of them disagree with you. The area where they disagree is a big one that affects everything else down stream.

You believe that Jesus is God and that He is the designer, creator and sustainer of all things good. Those who disagree with you think this story is nothing but a silly fairy tale.

There are several ways you can deal with this belief gap, and most of them are unhealthy. We could isolate ourselves from those who disagree; we could argue and yell; or we could dehumanize the other side and mock them for their lack of faith.

Those sound like awful ways to proceed, but they happen far too often. How should Christians deal with the vicious rhetoric in this current culture war? Allow me to give you a few foundations that you can build on.

First, know that, whatever divisive issue is before you, it is not the end of the world. This pattern of rebellion is as old as humanity. Issues like abortion and transgender rights can seem like the beginning of a full-on war, but in the larger scope of history, these issues have been around in one form or another for a very long time. These issues are merely the symptoms of a fallen world.

When we feel like these issues are so big and devastating, we can panic, and that’s when we respond out of fear not love.

God is still in control, and none of this is a surprise to Him. Therefore, we should respond as those who have already won the victory, not as those who are fighting for our lives. Yes, these are big issues, but on our own, we are powerless to stop them. It is only with God that we win these battles.

Secondly, lost people will always act like lost people. We should not be shocked when an unbeliever does something that goes against the desires of God. This is their nature, and they have no other choice but to chase sin. Instead of thinking that these people are the enemy, recognize that they are simply prisoners of the enemy. We don’t shoot prisoners of war; we set them free. It takes humility to see yourself in every lost person you come across, but we must remember that if it wasn’t for the grace of God we would be slaves to sin, just as they are.

Lastly, know that the victory does not depend on you. Jesus has already won the culture war. It’s over in the future sense but still playing out in our present reality. This has some similarity to your own journey. In the future sense, you are perfect and holy. You have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, but you still stumble. That’s because the victory has been won, but you are just learning to live out the truths that Jesus made possible.

I want to encourage you to not get caught up in the worldly drama. Have a presence about you that is calm and hopeful, so that you can love people regardless of their rebellion.

Jesus knew that the world He created would demand His life, yet he managed to still love those around him. This verse has always helped me maintain my composure when the venom of the world seems too big to defeat:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 2)

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 2)

If it’s God’s will for a person to become a minister, then it’s His will for that person’s children to grow up in a minister’s home, but life in that fish bowl isn’t easy, folks!

For a scene from my own daughter’s life, see Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids Part 1. 

Many ministers’ kids grow up carrying the weight of a calling not their own. Want to ease their load and love these young people well?  Here are a few more insights and suggestions, courtesy of 12 grown ministers’ kids who still love the Church and Jesus with all their hearts.

Ministers’ kids are just kids. Ministers’ kids move from immaturity to maturity as time and experience provide opportunity without skipping any steps or stages, succeeding and failing in sporadic rhythm like everyone else. Although some may exhibit behavior that suggests advanced maturity in one or more areas, this doesn’t mean they have fully matured in every area. It’s more likely they’ve simply gotten good at reading and pleasing people. 

Interact with ministers’ children on an age-appropriate level. Don’t lay on their shoulders any burden of expectation that you would hesitate to lay on the back of any other person at their stage of development or level of experience. Don’t tell them things they don’t need to know, and don’t be surprised when they take three steps forward and two steps back like everyone else. That’s how we learn. Highlight their progress, not their regression.

Ministers’ kids are not super-Christians. They may not even be Christians yet. Assume nothing—including an individual call to vocational ministry, as we no longer assign “priesthood” by tribe—but inform, encourage, and correct them with the same love and patience you would show any other person who is learning to walk to and with Jesus. 

Remember, it is God Who convicts, draws, rescues, and transforms sinners—not ministers—and He does it in His wisdom, His way, and His perfect timing so as to bring about His greatest glory in the process. 

It could take a while. 

For some ministers’ children, just being a minister’s kid is itself a hurdle or roadblock to their placing their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and/or growing in their faith, as many have either had a peek behind the curtain and witnessed less than Christ-like behavior from those whom the congregation at large considers to be spiritual leaders or are hesitant to admit they need more information or help because they don’t want their ignorance or personal struggle to discourage or reflect badly on their already overwhelmed parents.

Understand, your minister’s family is on a learning curve, too, often counseling and leading others ahead of their own life experience and just praying they don’t trip anyone up. Rest assured, if you are ready for your minister’s child to become more like Christ, so is your minister, for their child’s sake and God’s. Lend your encouragement, support, and prayer as God does His work, not unrealistic expectations and deconstructive criticism. 

(To be continued…)

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 1)

Understanding and Loving Ministers’ Kids: A PK Mom’s Plea (Part 1)

“Can anyone name one of the twelve apostles?” 

Ebbing at the altar steps, tiny bodies form a choppy sea that ripples in all directions, a spotlight their temporary sun.  

I scan the throng for my child’s face and find it, front and center.  Eager, her chin is tilted toward the man giving the children’s sermon, a trusted friend. 

She’s thinking.  Others are wiggling and waving, but she’s thinking hard, wanting so much to please. 

“Hope?” the man asks, calling her out. 

Her jaw drops.  Her chin tucks. 

My breath hitches.  She isn’t ready.  Anyone with eyes can see she isn’t ready. 

Callous or clueless, he presses, “Surely you know the answer, Hope.”


“P-p-paul?” she squeaks, face white, fingers working fast.  My ears begin to ring.

“PAUL? Hah! Nooooooo.” Hope hugs her tummy and looks for me.  Our eyes meet, and my heart takes the weight of her shame. 

The nightmare continues.

“I thought surely the youth pastor’s kid would know.” Looking to the audience for consensus, this trusted brother chuckles. 

The man laughs

Response is mixed.  Some chuckle on cue.  Others shift, obviously uncomfortable, but no one corrects him in that moment, and the damage is done.  A checklist of musts that God did not write is forever tattooed on my daughter’s heart. 

I don’t expect everyone to understand the effect this kind of behavior has on ministers’ children and their families, what goes on in their hearts and minds on a daily basis, or the unique burden that these people carry.  I truly think you have to live it to get it. 

Or be told. 

This being true, I interviewed a dozen ministers’ kids who are now all grown up.  With their help, I offer the following insight into their shared experience and a few suggestions as we move forward together.

Ministers’ kids are not their parents.  They may look like their parents, sound like their parents, and possess some of the same mannerisms as their parents, but they are their own people, complete with their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, needs, and opinions. 

When interacting with them, do not assume familiarity you have not earned.  When attempting to build a relationship with them, start at square one like you would anyone else.  Ask thoughtful questions.  Listen to their answers.  Do life with them and build on that common experience rather than on a shared history with their parents that will never mean as much to the children as it does to you and their parents.  Give them time.  If they seem uninterested in building a personal relationship with you, respect their wishes.  Their parents may have a vocational obligation to minister to you beyond what the Bible requires of any other set of spiritual siblings, but they do not.

Don’t pump ministers’ kids for information or use them to manipulate, punish, or get close to their parents.  Not only does this not work, as their parents are most likely pros at spotting this behavior and dismissing those who practice it as untrustworthy, but the kids are often pros as well.  They may not fully understand nuance or be able to explain what’s happening, but they know in their gut when someone is being fake or using them.  At best, they will build an emotional wall meant to keep you out.  At worst, they will build an emotional wall meant to keep most people out, just in case, and arm the battalions, preventing healthy connection with people who could have become effective mentors and stunting their spiritual growth.

(To be continued…)