Monthly Archives: June 2009

Every Family Should Have A Podcast

James & Jenn Podcasting

My wife and I have been podcasting together since 2007. I won’t get into the details of how to get your wife to podcast because this article is an open call to every couple out there: YOU SHOULD BE PODCASTING!

Obviously podcasting is a fancy word for recording an audio file, turning it into an mp3 and uploading it on the internet. I’ve written several podcast how-to articles on how to start your own show and how I podcast myself. Check them out if you’re looking for some tips.

In our context podcasting becomes an audio timeline of events in your family. Sure we have scrapbooks full of photos… but photos can’t remind you of the weekly events, funny things someone said, little stories that you might forget. Photos can’t capture the voice of your children, the tone of your spouse’s voice. Podcasts can do all of this.

Podcasting, when done correctly, can also serve to bond your family together. Whether you podcast with just a spouse or your entire family, this is a regular event that stands to connect you almost as much as dinner time… but with more lasting effects.

Even if you go through all the work to record, upload, set up the feed and all of the things necessary to do a show… and no one listens… who cares! This is something your family will cherish for years.

Ready to give it a shot? Here are some places to start:

How To Use RSS Feeds To Read Blogs

This week our theme is “Using Online Technology in Children’s Ministry”. Today we’re going to look at the best way to read the websites you frequent regularly.

First things first! Some Definitions:

  • A Blog is a made-up name that comes from a merging of two other word. Web and Log: Weblog – shortened to just blog. Basically it’s another name for a webpage. Someone who writes a blog is called a “blogger”.
  • RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You’ll hear most folks refer to it as an RSS Feed or just a Feed. Blog readers (you) can ‘subscribe’ to an RSS Feed using a Feed Reader (such as Google Reader) and whenever a blog is updated, the new article will appear in the feed.
  • A Feed Reader is a service that collects new articles from RSS Feeds that you subscribe to. It enables you to quickly see new posts from all of your favorite websites without having to visit each one. It’s like your own personal newspaper.
  • Subscribing to an RSS Feed means that you have added that feed to your reader and will now receive updates from that site automatically. There is no cost or fee involved with subscribing to a feed.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Visit Google Reader and set up an account if you don’t have one already. Be sure to bookmark Google Reader so you can find it again.
  2. Click the Add a Subscription button and type in the web address ( of your favorite blog. Google Reader will search the site for it’s RSS Feed and subscribe you. Alternatively, if you go to the blog and see a link labeled RSS Feed or Subscribe you can click on it and add it to your reader or cut and paste the feed URl into Google Reader.
  3. That’s It! You should see the latest 10 posts from your entry listed in your reader. Posts will be shown as ‘unread’ until you scroll past or click on them. You can mark entries with a star or keep them unread. This way you can refer to them quickly later if you wish.

Here are a list of CM Blogs to get you going:

Note: It surprises me how many of these sites did not have their RSS Feed linked to at all! Remember, you can usually enter the URl into Google Reader and it will find the feed for you.

What are your favorite CM Blogs? Post yours in the comments and share them with the other readers and myself!

Children’s Ministry Links From Around The Interwebs

Here are some Children’s Ministry links collected from around the internets for today.

A Selfless Marriage Trains Your Children

They're Watching Us... Learning

One of the greatest benefits of selflessness in a marriage is the example it gives to others. When those others are living in the house with you, share your last name, and look like the both of you (aka your children) the impression is far greater than we can imagine.

Here’s a fact. Children will grow up, and if they marry, they will choose someone exactly like their father (boys) or mother (girls). I have seen this trend almost without exception. Even in the case where the father was absent. I blame traits passed on from mother to daughter in that case. If mom picked badly, daughter will learn that from mom.

If we want our kids to have a great marriage, we’ve got to model it for them. Dads… want your daughter to choose a great guy? Be a great man! What your son to learn how to treat his wife? Model that behavior by treating his mother with respect (and demanding he do the same).

Seems like a lot of work. Not really. If we can focus on being selfless, sacrificial spouses, as the Bible says, “All these things will be added unto you.” Being a great natural example is a side-effect of a great marriage.

Men, when we love our wives properly, we’re teaching our sons how to do it and our daughters what to demand. Wives, when you love your husband properly you’re teaching your sons that inner goodness is rewarded, not an outward image and your daughters that a lasting love is the only thing worth giving herself to.

Comments? Feedback? Is anyone even reading this crizzle? Leave a comment for the love!

Struggles With CM Discipline


I interviewed a few kids from my children’s church last week. I asked them what they thought would be the greatest struggles a children’s minister would have. Without exception every single one thought that they, themselves were the greatest challenge.

“Trying to get kids to sit still and listen.”

“Kids talking too much.”

“Making sure we don’t try to leave.”

Though I’m convinced their answers come from a naturally me-centered world due to their level of development, they still have a bit of a point. For many children’s ministers maintaining discipline in children’s ministry is a huge struggle. It doesn’t really matter how much you prepare that illustrated sermon if the kids won’t still still enough to listen to it.

Though I thoroughly cover Proper Discipline for Children’s Ministry in a podcast series, and I encourage you to give them a listen, here are a few basic tips for lowering the ‘badness’ level in your group.

1. Discipline is not a bad thing.

Many of us hate the word discipline because we were mistreated or abused under that banner. Discipline is not punishment. It is helping children into becoming more like Jesus. Proper discipline is discipling.

2. Discipline is based on a relationship of mutual respect.

Children don’t respect people because of position… they respect the folks who they have a proper relationship with. It is only though relationships that we can learn what makes a kid tick. It’s only through relationship that they can see your example. It’s only through relationship that they’ll open their heart to you and allow you to shape them into the person God created them to be.

3. Discipline is not trying to get a child to be good… but to be Godly.

For to long we’ve been trying to get kids to be ‘good’ in church. We succeed… but only in teaching them to put on a face when they come to church. Then we wonder why they turn up pregnant or suicidal in their teens. “They were such a good kid,” we’ll say. Teaching a child to be good only teaches them to not get caught. Teaching a child to be like Jesus goes beyond changing their behavior (so that I can get through my service without drama) and becomes more about changing their motivation. We should be teaching them that it’s okay to be themselves, but that they only become who they truly are when they allow the people God has placed in their lives to guide them.

Feedback? Do you have any? Post in the comments.

Sacrificial Love


I’m learning more and more that getting along with a spouse is less about compromise and more about sacrifice. Compromise means neither person really gets what they want or need from the situation. The goal is to keep the peace and make the issue go away. Sacrifice means someone is giving up what is good for them for the good of the other. Ouch.

Compromise happens when both are to selfish to give the other what they want. The result is no one is happy. No one has their needs met completely and the marriage begins a downward spiral where both spouses are passively positioning themselves to recover lost emotional resources.

Sacrifice means that someone in the relationship has got to be the most willing to stuffer for the other’s good. I’m not talking about a spineless person who always gives in and hates it the entire time. Sacrifice is willingly and lovingly giving up your rights… and that changes everything.

In the Bible the concept of sacrifice is perfectly summarized, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing”. Sacrifice isn’t sacrificial unless it costs. When it’s done right, it’s one of the ultimate displays of love.

Not all sacrifices are huge. The little ones are often the most hard to do anyway. Going to Panera with the wife instead of dragging her to Red Robin. Taking the kids on the weekend mornings so she can sleep in. Doing more than your share of housework.

Another concept I’d like to expose you to, “You can’t out-give God”. The idea is that you can never go wrong giving time, finances, etc to God because He is always giving beyond what we could ever repay. I think wives are the same way. I know for a fact that I can’t out-give Jenn. My sacrifices pale in comparison to the things she has given up over the years to make our family work. Not to mention the daily sacrifices. Countless. I owe her my best. I will love sacrificially.

The Foolish Farmer (To Get Love, Give Love)

<em><img style=”border-width: 0px;” title=”plowed” src=”” alt=”plowed” width=”240″ height=”180″ border=”0″ /> </em>
<blockquote><em>There was once a Farmer. A foolish man indeed.
He was angry at his crops for staying in their seeds.
He needed food so badly; himself, his wife, and daughter.
The plants refused to grow so he refused them any water.
— James Kennison</em></blockquote>
I wrote that up to illustrate how the Golden Rule applies to marriage. Firstly, what is the Golden Rule? Do to others what you would have them do to you. Or you could say, treat others how you want to be treated. In the context of marriage you’d say, <strong>love your spouse the way you want them to love you.</strong>

How many spouses who need to be loved by a husband or wife are like that Farmer? Like the Farmer wants food from a plant he won’t water, they hold back their love and will only give it on the condition that their spouse loves them first. Our goal may be to show a spouse it feels… to give them a taste of their own medicine… but in doing so <strong>we’re actually robbing them of the resources they need to even consider giving love in the first place</strong>.

If you’ve been holding back hoping to show a souse how it feels… consider changing your tactic and incorporating the Golden Rule into your relationship. Give before it’s given. Treat the other how they should be treating you. Love them how you want to be loved by them. It’ll take time to see the results, just like a seed takes time to grow and produce fruit. <strong>Just don’t expect fruit from a seed you won’t water. </strong>

Struggling With Parents

This past Easter we did a super simple Candy Hunt in our gym after the main service for our pre-school and elementary students. Parents and families were naturally invited along to watch. We had half of the gym reserved as the field for the hunt and invited the families to spread themselves all the way around the court.

I quickly explained what was going to happen. We were going to have four hunts. One for pre-schoolers, one for 1st-2nd grade, another for 3rd and 4th then a final one for the 5th graders. I was clear that everyone would get a chance and that they needed to wait for their group.

We started the hunt and things went well for a while… but during hunt number three it became apparent we had a lot of older kids… and quite a few younger kids involved. I darted around removing them from the field and noticed that that most of them were returning to parents who had egged them on. In once case in particular I walked up on a parent giving their 18 year old son and 3 year old daughter instructions on how to pick up even more candy.

It was enough to make me want to shut everything down! How could these parents not appreciate our efforts enough to respect a few basic rules? On a greater level, how could I expect my messages on Sunday to get through to children who’s parents morals counteracted and contradicted everything I was teaching.

On the way home, broken and angry, I chose to pray it through. I knew God would give me a different view on things. He first gave me pity for those parents. What kind of life must they live that stealing candy off a gym floor makes things seem more fair and right? He also helped me to realize that rather than canceling future hunts, we just needed to do them during the main service and remove the only discipline problem at the event. The Parents.

I’ve met more than a few children’s ministers who have had experiences like mine and have developed a real distain for parents. This is a real problem. See, we’re here to partner with our parents. We cannot afford to see them as the enemy… even if it seems they’re heck-bent on convincing us they are.

Let’s look at some common reasons CM’s struggle with parents:

They’re inconsistent in attendance.

Yes there are parents who just don’t care… but after a bit of digging I found that most of my parents do come, but their kids are with another parent every other weekend. With the rest of them… accept, pray, get over it, and make every moment you do have count.

They bring children but don’t want to help.

When you’re short on help, it can drive you crazy to see parents dart by the door, pushing their kids in not even looking inside to see how much your struggling with the kids you already have. It’s easy to begin hating on them. It can make you feel like a babysitter and an unappreciated one at that. The truth is that even if that’s all you were, giving those parents a child-free moment to spend receiving from God is one of the best gifts you could give your kid’s family. It really took me having my own children to fully understand and appreciate that.

They don’t understand the spiritual potential of their children.

I’ve heard CM’s say this, and it’s always with an air of superiority. Makes me want to slap them. How can someone with this mentality every hope to partner with parents for the betterment of the family? When did CM’s get to the point where we think we can take responsibility for every child’s spiritual well-being? God gave that job to the parents. Do we know better than God? If they’re not doing it right, it’s up to us to humbly help them.

They struggle against our policies.

I’ll give you this one. Some of them do push hard against anything you expect/need them to do in order to keep a smoothly running program. It’s annoying… but it’s always a minority. We just don’t notice the good parents in these situations. Plus we see them when they’re late for church and late for lunch. Is that really a fair time to make a judgment about someone?

They don’t give us the respect they give other pastors.

Stinks huh. We don’t get the respect because we don’t carry the responsibilities he or she does. We may think we have it so bad and he has it so easy… but trust me… you’re better off being told you’re a kid’s pastor because you’re a big kid yourself than dealing with a church-full of issues.

They don’t support us by disciplining their children properly.

I’ll give you this one too. A properly disciplined child is a rarity in this world we live in. But rather than fight against it, we need to adjust to compensate for it. CM’s can get a lot of pointers from the public school system. They deal with the same things we do… but on a daily basis so many times I find they’ve evolved to it faster. They have things that work without relying on the parents to back them up.

I hope it’s obvious that most of those reasons are actually perceptions of reality, not necessarily reality itself. It my feel that these things are true… and in some cases with some parents they very-well may be, but in general, most parents are doing the best they can and want to do better. We typically judge parents by a series of instances and lump them all in our minds into one huge parent prototype and judge them all by that conception. It’s not fair, not true and not right. It’s a tool that Satan will use to keep you at odds with one of your greatest resources… your kids’ parents.

Tune in tomorrow for insight into ending the mental struggles with our kids’ parents.

Selflessness: The Key To Fulfillment In Marriage


Most folks will tell you that in a marriage each person has got to give, 50/50. Though it does take two to make it work… true love actually means each person is giving 100% of themselves to the other, independent of what they may or may not receive in return. It is only through selflessness that both are truly fulfilled.

So many marriages today fail because we expect our spouse to fill a void in our lives… to make us happy… and we then hate them when they don’t or can’t. The marriage was doomed for failure from very the beginning because we weren’t going into it to give our love… but to receive it.

There’s a timeless principal in the universe: It is more blessed to give than to receive. It is one of the last undisputed truths in the world. It holds true both on Christmas morning and in our marriages. Fulfillment doesn’t come from getting what you need… but in giving what you are to someone else. Because in giving ourselves completely, we by default open ourselves up, showing who we are and where are true needs are. And because we are giving selflessly, it sparks the same response in them (eventually) and our needs are met by default.

We’re really just talking about unconditional love here. One of the most impossible things for a human to give in life… but one of the only things that will keep a marriage thriving. We’re afraid to give it because all to often it is abused before it is appreciated. It’s abused because it must be tested. And tested before it can be trusted. Hang in there. Give love to your spouse unconditionally and it will do it’s work. True love never fails.

But what about my needs? Give and it will be given to you. Do for others and it will be done for you. Meet their needs and your needs will be met. Any other way leads to complete misery.