“Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20, ESV)
Any great work of God is going to be much greater than what we are capable of accomplishing alone. To stand on the front side of the vision and the task is to be overwhelmed with what is before us. But God has a word to those he calls to do extraordinary things. "Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God...is with you." These were David's words to Solomon his son when passing on the task of building the temple.
A young man was given a daunting task. Be strong and courageous and do it. It should remind us to turn back to an earlier time in history. To turn back to the time of Moses who was given a daunting task and stood on the bank of a river looking into the fulfillment of the promise but knowing he would not cross over. But standing right next to him was another man, Moses' assistant who had been walking with him. Joshua looked across the river to the promise and his heart was slightly stirred. There would be a voice from heaven that would speak to him about the insurmountable task ahead of God's people that lay across that river. "I command you - be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord our God is with you wherever you go."
These are the words God spoke to Joshua when the mantle of leadership was laid upon his shoulders at the death of Moses. Joshua was going to be the one leading them into the promised land.
When God repeats himself, it is wise to pay attention because it is a clue we are getting a glimpse at the character of God. Such is the case here. God is the God who gives overwhelming tasks to ordinary people. And then he says, "Be strong and courageous and do it! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God - I AM - with you. Wherever you go. Do it." No matter the task. He is - I AM - is enough.
Are you standing at the threshold of a great dream or task? Is it overwhelming to even consider what might be ahead of you? You are in good company. When David gave Solomon the task and the blessing to build the temple, Solomon didn’t move.
It took Solomon 4 years to start (1 Kings 6:1). He spent the next 7 years building the temple (1 Kings 6:38). It took him an additional 13 years to finish building his own house (1 Kings 7:1). 20 years after he started he was done building (1 Kings 9:10).
“Be strong and courageous and do it.”
Two small words from God make all the difference in the face of the insurmountable. They can set you apart from the vast majority of people in the world. Do it.
Do you need to restore your marriage? Do it.
Do you need to build a building? Do it.
Do you need to establish a ministry? Do it.
Do you need to love your child? Do it.
Do you need to conquer an addiction? Do it.
Do you need to run a marathon? Do it.
Every day wake up…and do it.
God is always going to do his part. “…for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…”
Are you going to do your part? Do it.
August 24th, 2016
It was the day of our outreach event to celebrate the first-year anniversary of our church plant in Maui. We had spent thousands on equipment and marketing, and we had rented thousands of chairs. As we stood in the empty stadium we rented out and watching the clock ticking closer to the Easter bunny flying in on a helicopter, our leadership team felt a lump in our throats. Did we make the right decision here? Look at all these empty seats! Is there something we missed? We couldn’t shake the fear of working so hard and then nobody showing up.
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states, "the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty." Even the best of leaders find this to be true on multiple occasions in our leadership journey. Most of the leaders I know (myself included), like our following to take comfort in the fact that we know where we are going and what we are doing. The reality is that we face moments where we feel stuck, directionless, not knowing which path to take.
The unknown is a hard place to be, because the general population is not comfortable with their visionaries or leaders, admitting that they are not sure what direction to take on a particular issue. One example is when President Obama stated that he did not have a "complete strategy" for dealing with ISIS, leading many of his critics to use this example of his lack of leadership. Leaders of organizations of any size can identify with external pressures to look like we know what we're doing whether we lead a church, non-profit, business, or political campaign.
Leading a church is particularly difficult because we have people questioning us at every turn and on every decision. Rick Warren, one of the most notable leaders of the Church in the U.S. wrote in his book Purpose Driven Church, concerning some of his early ministry decisions:
"In the early years we had nothing to lose, so we tried out all kinds of ideas. Some of our ideas were spectacular failures. And I wish I could claim that all our successes happened just the way we planned them—but it would be untrue. I'm not that smart. Most of our successes have been the result of trial and error and some of our discoveries were purely accidental."
Warren's humble self-assessment and honest approach encourages me because I have had my fair share of failures. We can take big risks when we have nothing to lose. However, it makes sense to me that the more we have to lose, the more uncertainty weighs in on our leadership decisions.
One Biblical example of leading well through uncertainty is in the story of the fourth king of Judah, Jehoshaphat. Modern literature refers to him as "Jumping Jehoshaphat." He was considered, in general, to be a good leader because of his commitment to the law and worship of the one true God, Yahweh. His leadership produced a great deal of prosperity and peace, but that was not always the case.
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat faced great uncertainty as Judah faced a vast army, a Moabite alliance on the warpath with every intention to destroy his kingdom. Jehoshaphat cried out to God, "we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You" (verse 11 NASB). Then after the nation of Judah prayed and fasted, seeking the direction of God, the LORD spoke through the prophet Jahaziel and said:
"This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's" (verse 15 NLT).
When I am facing a dilemma or tough decision, and someone gives me the cliché Christianese response like, "don't worry—God's got this," it's not very reassuring to say the least. Then after the promise from the prophet that God has got this, King Jehoshaphat responded by appointing:
"Singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:
‘Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!'
At the very moment, they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves…when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see" (verse 22+24 NLT).
As I was reading this story, I learned several lessons from Jehoshaphat in leading through uncertainty:
1.) A leader needs to admit that he or she is powerless and doesn't know what to do. Admitting that we don't know might not be the popular or comfortable way our peers want to view us. Making the right decision in uncertainty requires honesty and self-assessment, taking into account an accurate measure of our influence and resources in having a positive outcome in solving the problem.
Jehoshaphat was honest in his self-assessment knowing full well that if God were not with him he would fail. Paul also warns us in Romans 12 not to view ourselves more important than we are, and I am sure you will find several other instances where the Bible warns of pride leading to defeat. Sometimes the best answer is, "I don't know!"
2.) A leader needs to fast and seek God with his or her people, collectively setting their eyes on God. Every time there ever was a great move of God's Spirit leading to great revivals; there was always one thing in common that preceded it all, prayer! Prayer changes everything! A holy desperation that drives a leader to cry out for God to help is not unattractive nor should it shake their followers confidence in their leaders. In fact, acknowledgment of weakness before a powerful God should give you greater confidence in your leadership! Unless they are continually seeking God in decisions, "the work of the builders is wasted" (Psalm 127:1 NLT).
3.) A leader needs to wait for God's direction. I will not go to deep into this but God speaks first to us through His WORD, the Holy Bible, and then he speaks to us through others. Many times God has spoken to me through seeking wise counsel. Jesus said, "what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him" (Luke 14:31 NLT)?
The step of seeking wise counsel does not trump or nullify the truths of the Scriptures. Another way we hear God is directly from the source whether by a dream, a gut feeling, or audible voice. Again God will not speak to us something contradictory to His WORD. Wait for it, it may not be immediate, but God will be faithful to answer you. Be specific in your prayers and include the: who, what, where, when, how's. Why, because God will be specific with his answers!
4.) Once the leader hears God, now it's time to take a leap of faith. How do we do that? Whichever direction you go, lead off with worshiping God, thanking him in advance for the victory. Jehoshaphat quickly appointed men to sing and sent them out in front of his army. There is power in worshiping God in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death. Joshua did it, Paul and Silas did it, Jehoshaphat did it and so should you. Satan hates valley worship!
5.) Watch God win the battle. Watching God win is the fun part! Watch your ministry thrive, watch your business grow, watch your plans succeed. Especially for those of you who have been given the high and noble calling of leading a church, watch God build it! Jesus made this promise to Peter and all of us; "I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it" (Matthew 16:18 NLT).
As you lead and make tough choices, just remember you will sometimes make the wrong decision. Pastor craig groeschel from Life Church Oklahoma stated in one of his sermons that, "sometimes failing is the first step to succeeding." He encourages us that if we're not occasionally failing we're playing it too safe, and that "we cannot play it safe and please God" (Hebrews 11:6)!
You may be wondering how our outreach event with the Easter bunny turned out. I had taken all the steps that I listed above, but now it was time for God to move. I walked up in front of the stadium, and there was a line wrapped around the entire front side of the venue. Over four thousand people showed up that day. After just ten minutes of sharing the story of how Jesus changed my life, over one hundred and fifty people rededicated or gave their hearts to God for the first time.
In leadership, we must remember that the only thing certain is that there will be uncertainty. In our journey, we will have success, and failure, but we should keep in mind that God doesn’t waste failure so neither should we. Admit that you don't always know, seek God, wait for an answer, take a leap of faith, and watch God win!
Fears of starting a 2nd service
1 It will double the work
No true. All the message, music, folders, etc are the same. You are also already doing the set up and tear down anyway. It actually eases recruiting in the children’s ministry.
2 We won’t know everyone.
True. However, if you are above 60 people you don’t know everyone now anyway. It’s not as if you have a meaningful conversation with everyone at church each week.
Benefits of staring a 2nd service
1 It gives people options
30% of population cannot attend services on Sunday mornings.
It puts more “hooks” in the water. Rather than catching one fish at a time on one hook at a time, you put multiple hooks in the water and catch multiple fish at a time.
2 It creates new ministry teams
You will begin to create new leaders and areas of ministry. It will also help people not be as burned out, specifically in the children’s ministry.
Adding an additional service gives people an opportunity to serve one hour and worship another hour.
3 It maximizes your space.
But realize, you won’t create growth. Starting a 2nd service only manages growth, it doesn’t create it. The best time to add a service is when you are already growing and have momentum. By creating a 2nd service you create double the space for the growth you already have.
4 It gives you time to make mid-course directions.
Between services you can make mid-course corrections for the other services. Quickly debrief with your key people to make small changes to the message, music, video, announcements, transitions, etc.
5 Opening additional services allows your church to reach new people.
The moment you open seat for people to fill, you will have more people to fill them. By faith you open seats and by faith you trust God will bring people. Remember, we are talking about churches that are already moving forward, growing, and have momentum. If you aren’t moving forward, aren’t growing, and don’t have momentum, don’t try to gain them by adding a service. There are most likely other factors at play that is keeping your church from growing. Figure out what those are, address and correct them, and start growing again- then add another service.
When To Add A 2nd Service
1 Is your existing service full, or close to being full?
Consider the 70% rule. When a room is 70% at its seating capacity, that room is full. It used to be 80% but Americans are larger and more greedy regarding their personal space.
Once at 70%, we think we can grow to 80% or 90%. You might bump that every so often but you will drop back down to around 70%.
Figure what 70% of your full yet comfortable seating is and make plans that when you get to that 70% figure you will either create more space, or start an additional service. Once at 70% you won’t stop your growth all together, but you will seriously hinder it.
2 Do I need to find new space, or do I need to add another service?
Be careful about adding an additional service when you are in a room that holds 150 to 200 people. If you try to divide that group without significant numbers in both services, the small service can appear exceptionally small. If you make the decision to divide that smaller service of 150 people, secure your leaders to commit to coming to both services for, say, 6 months so that neither are less than 50% capacity.
3 Is God leading me to start this service?
Do you have a clear call from God that this is God’s agenda, or is this motivated by your ego and desire for a more “noses and nickels”.
4) Am I focused on the harvest?
Am I starting this service to reach unsaved people, and not just to grow your church. The additional service must be solely motivated by the desire to reach unsaved people.
How To Start An Additional Service?
1 Work to two Sunday morning services before an evening service.
Get two quality Sunday morning services going before trying an evening service. The majority of unchurched people are already preprogrammed for church to be on Sunday morning. One person has said that the goal of a Saturday or Sunday evening service is to get your Christian people to attend it in order to create more space of unchurched on Sunday morning.
2 When you start an additional service, change the time of the existing service.
Changing the time of the existing service will make everyone make some adjustment. It will keep the focus on the unchurched you are trying to reach by making everyone invested in the process.
If you just add an additional service some people from the existing service may attend the new service, but the majority of people’s routine will not change. The existing service will always be “their service”. You will gain a greater balance in the two services. A change of 30 minutes start time will be a huge adjustment to most people. Play with the start times in 30 minute increments till you find the perfect time balance.
3 Once you begin one Saturday night service, begin a 2nd Saturday night service as quickly as possible.
Someone said the only reason to begin your first Saturday night service is to begin a second Saturday night service. If you ask people to work Saturday night and then worship Sunday morning (or vise versa) you are taking up their entire weekend.
How To Start An Additional Service
1 Position that adding a service is a big win for your church
Educate your people that this is a God opportunity to continue to reach unchurched people. Cast the vision and the purpose for the additional service. This can be a big win for your children’s ministry department as ministry teams are easier to create because now they can both work in ministry and attend the worship service. Craft language that your people will latch on to; educate your church to the need; ask your church for their commitment to the vision and process. Use the “rule of 65” by reminding your people that they will only really know about 65 people at the church anyway, so adding a service won’t break their fellowship.
2 Begin your additional service in the proper time frame.
The younger the church is, the faster the growth, the greater the momentum the church has, and if the Lead Pastor is the founding pastor, the new service can be started with little notice. A general rule of timeframe to being a service is within two months. Give yourself two months to educate and motivate your church before the service begins. Don’t wait too long to pull the trigger or you will loose momentum.
3 Begin your additional service at the right time of year
Use the natural “big” seasons of the calendar. Easter, back to school in the fall, etc. Don’t try to begin the additional service at the low times of the year. Begin promoting the new service within two months before these natural big seasons.
4 Secure a commitment from some of your people to switch services.
You will know which most will gravitate to. Ask them to commit to attending one service or the other and see where they choose. Collect their commitments and see what the split actually is. If one is over weighted, ask however many you think you need at the other service to commit to switching to the other service and commit to it for a 6 month period.
5 Use the service as a launch point to invite their friends to come to church.
Now you have available seats for people to fill. People like to be a part of something that is new.
6 Kick off the additional service with a special new series.
Challenge those who come to stay with you for the next 4-5 weeks of the new series. Create a buzz with the open seats, the new service, and the new series for new growth.
7 Equip your people with tools to invite people to the new service.
Give to your people invite cards, e-invites, and personal invites to invite their family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to the new service and series.
What Happens If It Doesn’t Work?
Sometimes you start a service and it goes for a few months and it is evident is just isn’t working. What do you do?
1 Give it enough time to work.
If you were convinced that the new service was God’s plan, don’t quit too soon. Either you were right and need to persevere, or you misread God’s plan. Before you shut it down make sure you aren’t closing it just because you are tired.
2 When it is time to shut it down… shut it down!
Once you are certain you need to shut it down, don’t wait. Your people know it needs to end and they are watching you to see if you are going to lead. Lead! Announce the service will run 2 more weeks and then you will shut it down and reevaluate and make new plans. Celebrate the step of faith you took in beginning and celebrate God’s goodness at the end. It might be painful up front but everyone will get through it. As someone has said, “when the horse is dead, dismount
By Karl Roth
Flipside Christian Church
Deflated, embarrassed and frustrated, I walked out of a Spin Class today – and I bet you have friends who have done the same at your church. My family and I just joined a new gym and while I wouldn’t say we are “gym rats” or workout junkies, we are no couch potatoes either. We are familiar with the machines and know our way around the exercises we want to complete. I was excited to see the schedule of classes at the new gym included a group cycling class, aka Spin Class. I immediately put it in my calendar twice a week, moving a few other things around to make it a regular part of my week.
Now before I go any further, there is a detail that might be helpful in driving home my later points…I don’t want this to sound braggadocios, so please hang in there – this little detail about my life is valuable for context in describing what I learned about reaching my 8to15 by walking out of that Spin Class.
Since childhood I have been an active competitive cyclist. I started racing BMX in my early teens and within a few years won a state championship. I moved on to Mountain bike racing where I had some notable success – even signing a few lucrative sponsorship deals before I was 18. When I tried my hand at road racing I progressed quickly and had the privilege to bang elbows racing against the likes of American greats, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong.
So it’s safe to say that while my fitness has waned, walking into my first Spin Class at the new gym was nothing too earth shattering. I know my way around a bike and the “workout” is not intimidating to me. And still, I walked out before I even got started. Walking home I could not help but parallel my experience with what MUST be the experience of so many people who are trying to get reconnected at church and meet with God for the first time, or first time in a long time.
FIRST: Welcome is appreciated, but newcomers long for DIRECTION.
When I walked into the class, sure, I hoped people would be nice. But as I walked back out I realized what I really needed was someone to say, “There’s an open bike right back there…” “Can I help you get set up?” “You’ll know it’s time to start when the lights dim and the instructor gets on her bike up front…”
The lesson here was clear: welcome your new guests at church, but of equal importance, look for the people wandering the halls and be sure to offer more than “friendliness,” give them clear direction of what’s next.
SECONDLY: Insiders love a full room, outsiders prefer it half full.
I am not sure why this is so difficult for churches and their leaders to understand –myself first and foremost! No one hopes when they go to a movie that the theater will be jam-packed. Never has someone been encouraged by a shoulder-to-shoulder experience at the restaurant or shopping mall. Walking into that Spin Class every bike appeared occupied – it doesn’t matter that they weren’t, they looked like they were. I didn’t know where to go and I was not about to start asking strangers, “is that your water bottle?” or, “is this bike taken?”
The 80% rule is dead in my city. I say if you’re 65-70% full, it’s time to add a service if you hope to add outsiders.
If there is not an EASY way for people to see if a seat or row is open it’s time to add one at the back – mid service if you must. Most people are not simply looking for an open seat, but they are thinking, “could my friends and family fit here too?”
THIRDLY, Describe the culture just as much as you describe the experience.
My church’s website is very similar to my gym’s website in terms of explaining things. “Here’s what to expect…” But walking into that Spin Class, even having read ahead of time and knowing it was a 60-minute workout, designed for all levels of fitness – As it turns out, that was not enough to lower my anxiety.
What I really wish I’d known is, expect to see people in lycra cycling shorts and cycling shoes. Expect a loud and energetic instructor. Arrive early if you want to get a bike in the back row.
As it relates to my 8to15 trying to re-engage with God & church, I think we do a solid job of explaining the length of service, the style of the talk (we even have videos to pre-watch). But what we do NOT explain is the overall culture…A newcomer walking into my church might wish they knew the room will be a bit on the cold side; there will be about “this many” people in the room; It will take you about 10 minutes to check your kids in, get coffee and get seated.
So there I was, a guy who knows all about cycling and is not intimidated by the cycling part of the Spin Class. Yet after wandering around the room with no direction, difficulty finding an open spot and shaken by the unexpected vibe, I simply walked out. And with every step towards the door my embarrassment grew.
I hope I’ll go back to that Spin Class at some point and give it another shot, but I’m not sure the average person in my 8to15 will be so forgiving if they have a similar experience at my church.
Several months ago I posted a comment on social media concerning the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in France. I wrote, “I’m so glad to serve a God who doesn't need me to avenge Him when insulted by mere humans (#MyGodIsLove).” I posted this as I contemplated the actions of several known terrorists who were massacring innocent French citizens as they were heard shouting out, “the Prophet has been avenged!”
I began to think about the many instances where religious zealots feel compelled to violently, whether by guns, stones, or words, attack those who live or say anything contrary to their beliefs/religion. When fanatics defend their god, or avenge people who insult their religion by not abiding by their religious codes, it is obvious that they believe it is their duty to avenge or defend god. Then the thought hit me, “why would an all knowing, all powerful God, need anyone to defend Him by being his hand of vengeance or judgment?” This may be the unmistakable difference between the god that terrorists serve and the God that has changed my life from being full of hate to being filled with His love.
As a Christian, there are three things that give me a sense of relief when it comes to defending the Christian faith:
1.) The physical Bible is not what is “Holy”, but the words contained within that are “Holy”. So you can attempt to desecrate the Holy Bible by burning it, walking on it, or throwing it in the toilet for all I care. I am not offended because I have “hidden God’s word in my heart,” and I know that God’s word is alive in all who believe in Him (Psalm 119:11). I once heard a story of man far from God, who asked a missionary if he could have his Bible and use the pages for cigarette rolling papers. The missionary didn’t blink an eye and passed him the Bible and said, “You can have this under one condition, read every page you smoke.” In the end the man inhaled something much more powerful than mere paper, he ended up becoming a Christ follower.
2.) Cartoon depictions of Jesus don’t offend me, nor should they offend Christ Followers. Death on a cross couldn’t touch Jesus, so I’m sure a cartoon depiction of Him won’t either. I may not be gaining any fans from the Christian community by saying this, but I actually on occasion enjoy a little South Park, Jesus vs. Satan action and it cracks me up. Yes it can be a little sacrilegious but again, Jesus doesn’t care, and obviously Christians don’t either because you don’t see them threatening someone’s life or killing someone over a cartoon show. Even when people directly insult our faith, we ought to do what Jesus did as people spat on and insulted Him stating, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When Christians face blatant persecution we ought to “Love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44).
3.) It’s not a Christian’s job to judge the world for how they live and what they do. Many professing Christians have vacillated from loving to judging society. It’s like we’re saying, “I love you…but I believe you should live by my convictions, when you don’t even know my God.” We are not called to hold the world accountable for their sin…that’s God’s job. Paul reminds Christians in Romans 2:1-4;
“You may think you can condemn such people [people outside the Christian community], but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
Christians are not in charge of holding people outside our faith to our own religious standards however, what we are called to do is love! We’re called to love people inside and outside the Christian community. If we love them, then they will be more likely to turn God, and then HE can change them.
Now to be clear, the only place in the Bible that says we ought to defend anything other than those who are too weak or poor to defend themselves is when Peter encourages us to, “Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.” Notice it does not say, “Defend God,” but it says to “defend your confidence in God.” This can be easily done by sharing your story on how God has changed your life, “your testimony.” The story of how God changed me is one of the most powerful things I can share with people who don’t understand my faith.
In conclusion, it’s not at a Christian’s job, or anyone else for that matter, to defend God. Paul again states, “don’t take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God’s anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, ‘I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord.’” Sometimes I observe fellow believers who are passionate in their faith get caught up in defending God especially in the political arena or on social networks. They get caught up just like Job’s friend Elihu who instead of consoling Job for his loss of family and home, chastised Job for his lamenting and concluded, “Let me go on…for I have not finished defending God” (Job 36:2)! In the end God chastises Elihu and his friends by stating; “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” (Job 42:7).
I wonder how many terrorists or religious zealots may hear these words one day standing before the throne of God’s judgment! Elihu’s defending of God prevented him from sharing the love of God through consolation. Defending God takes a Christian away from their best offensive strategy of sharing the love of God in action, to a world outside its faith! I hope one day all humanity can see that God is love…and love always wins! Let’s choose love!
In the 10 years of marriage to my wife Amber, I often find myself thinking; “Man, my wife needs to be better at this whole homemaking thing.” Sometimes I would come home and it would look like a tornado had torn through my house. I kept telling myself; “I could probably do it better.” However, I was soon to discover how wrong I truly was.
Over a year ago, I had to step away from leading a church that my wife Amber and I planted. She stepped in as interim lead, while I stayed at home with our two baby daughters. Things got real…real quick! My eyes were opened to a whole new world. The first days and weeks went by excruciatingly slow, but did get easier as time went on. After a year of being Mr. Mom, I learned 7 profound lessons for all dads to consider:
1) Our Work Can Become An Excuse to Check-Out:
I decided early on in life that I wanted to be a father who was home every night to eat dinner with my children and tuck them in at night. However, I had not set any guidelines, and as the years went by, my work took more and more time away from my family.
I would often put in 12 to 14 hour days and have little to nothing left over for my wife or baby girls. I would justify my actions with the common mantra many fathers throw out there: “Someone has to be the bread winner!” My excuse to provide for my family was preventing me from experiencing one of the most important things in life; the joy that comes with seeing children grow.
2) Some Dads Have No Idea What They Are Missing:
If God had not intervened in my life, and given me the opportunity to stay at home with my girls, I would have never realized how much I was missing. Those two little girls give me so much joy and priceless moments that are indescribable.
Some of you moms may be thinking as you read, “Yea, having children is amazing, but WOW, it is tough work.” Many dads may not yet realize, this simple truth, so you might need to experience it yourself.
3) Walking In Mom’s Shoes is Tough:
Some dad’s have no clue how grueling, and draining it can be to be the primary caretaker of your children day in and day out. It’s kind of like that Vicks DayQuil commercial, “Moms Don’t Take Sick Days,” because there are no time outs in being mommy. Most dads won’t get it until they walk a mile in their wife’s shoes.
4) Fathers Need To Unlearn Bad Habits:
Dads come from many different backgrounds, some more dysfunctional than others. Along the way we may have probably learned or picked up one or more bad parenting habits. Here are just a few that we all struggle with: not telling our children we love them enough, not enough hugs and kisses, not continually telling them how proud we are of them, not showing up for recitals or games, missing birthday parties and holidays, using divorce as an excuse to not be there, and so on…and so on…and so on. I could do this all day! Is that how we want to be remembered by our children? What could be worse?
5) We Dads Can Be Home but Not Really Home:
In a technological saturated culture, there is the temptation for dads to checkout on social media, Netflix, or watching a good basketball/football game when we get home. What’s worse is if you take work home with you and tune your family out. It’s probably torture for a young boy or girl, starving for attention from their father, to be so close to him yet so far. Maybe it’s time for a change.
6) There is No Shame in Being Mr. Mom:
If you’re considering being Mr. Mom, you need to know that there need be no shame as more and more dads are jumping in. Recently, The Washington Post put out an article called, Don’t Call Them Mr. Mom, which highlights the fact that “the number of stay-at-home Dads has doubled in the last 25 years, reaching a peak of 2.2 million in 2010, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.”
It also states that the majority of dads would prefer to work or stay at home if finances permitted. I am the luckiest dad alive because I had a whole year with my baby girls and I would have not traded it for anything. Now unfortunately, it’s time to go back to work. This leads us to my 7th and final learning.
7) What’s Going to Change Going Back to Work Full-Time:
So for you dads who can’t become Mr. Mom for a year or two, here are a few applications to get the most of your time with your children. It’s as simple as ABC:
A. Give them three, 10-minute connections a day: before work, dinner, and bedtime. Use these times to engage and turn off the phone or TV. Of these three, bedtime is the most important. These are crucial moments that say, “you matter to me!”
B. Get home early. It’s my goal to be home by 4PM to get some extra time with the girls. For you this may seem impossible, but try it even if it hurts the wallet. Try to pull it off even if it’s only a couple of times a week.
C. Take one week off work to be Mr. Mom. It will give your wife a much-needed break, and it will help you appreciate everything that goes into being the primary caretaker of your children.
There are those fathers out there who face tremendous difficulty in their ability to spend time with children. But the point here is to encourage us dads to be better. That is my goal every day, and I hope that we all push ourselves to be the best dads we can be.