Engaging Parents in Your Church in Conversation

Partnering with parents–wait…it’s not what you think. I’m not going to rattle off statistics, cliches and trite admonitions that we need to do better. Instead, I’m going to invite you to consider engaging parents in your church in conversation.

Kidology has graciously agreed to host my doctoral dissertation on its website. You may go directly to the download page here.

I won’t lie: it’s a dissertation, not a popular level book on church life. That said, I do define obscure terms in a brief glossary of terms within the dissertation. Also, the formatting of the work follows conventional scholarly protocols within my academic discipline. In other words, it may seem academic at some points, and downright dry at others.

Nevertheless, I happen to know there are gems contained therein. The literature review alone is worth the download. But of greater significance is where the study led me in terms of practical application: parent coaching.

Although I am no longer a Children’s Pastor or church leader of any kind, I continue to use the principles learned as I engage my neighborhood in mission. Don’t be put off by the title Praxis of Nurture in Small Churches. Praxis refers to truth discovered in action, as well as applied truth. It speaks to the necessary synthesis of theory and practical application and how they inform and impact each other in mutual process.

The reference to small churches was chosen against the advice of my primary reader. He thought I was unnecessarily limiting the impact of the work. He was probably right in some respects especially insofar as parent coaching truly can be beneficial to any size or type of church context. But I do not regret my decision because of the reasons stated in the body of the document which can be summed up as: small churches cannot always hire to their weaknesses so we need to think through how we might help families intentionally disciple their children without the aid of professionally trained specialists.

If you are a church leader who impacts parents and families, I hope you give the dissertation a read. It’s relevant for youth and children’s ministry leaders and for senior leadership, too. If you do read all or part of it, log on to the discussion forum to give me your feedback or ask questions. Thanks!

Initiating Post-doctoral Detox

Just over two months ago I graduated from seminary, hopefully for the last time. Yes, definitely. Absolutely the last time. :)

What now? Many initiatives are underway at my church for summer ministries, with VBS taking place through July on Wednesday evenings and planning going on for August midweek ministries. Fall looms around the corner and looks to be a challenging, innovative (for me and my church), and very busy. I feel the pressure on several fronts, but I think I am weathering it well. As long as I can complete my post-doctoral detox.

It is hard to explain but school does something to me. There is an ever-present pressure to complete one more project, to delay one more personal goal, to place academics before family and friends so as to fulfill the expected benchmarks. I am so over it.

Ministry is not unlike school in this way. Maybe that is why my ministry and academic career went so well together, even though at times I had to set limits on ministry to accomplish academic aims, and occasionally vice-versa. Ministry also can place stress on family relationships and friendships. I do not intend to allow ministry to fill up what some assume is the void left by the absence of school. I intend to maintain my margin, picking and choosing carefully what I do  in ministry and how I do it.

Yes, I am initiating my personalized post-doctoral detox program.

  • I will still read widely, but the authors and their works are of my choosing. And, I will decide whether or not to write any reviews. Oh, and most of the works will be novels. :)
  • I will continue my pattern of placing priority on relationships rather than the priorities of church business. In other words, church work is important and will receive its rightful attention in the arena of my responsibilities, but within realistic limits. Yes, this means I will continue to opt out of some of the extra-curricular duties people have been asking me to do over the years. On the other hand, I will opt in to meeting specific needs so as to bless a person, or more often, do tasks which will never be seen in the light of day.
  • I will continue to be a life-long learner, but primarily through non-traditional means. They say that curiosity killed the cat. Better than being bored to death through the fear of new experiences, hobbies, friendships, and so on. I plan to keep my mind active through rigorous study and activity, but primarily outside the confines of academic halls.
  • I plan to enjoy the delights that God has given us through exploring new places, and revisiting the writings of antiquity in both the biblical Hebrew and Christian traditions, as well as their contemporaries.
  • Mission will ever be on my mind in whatever I think and do.
  • I plan to continue loving people in the context of my love for God. Perhaps this is my most daring statement, the one most difficult to attain. It is too easily made a slogan without substance. For I know the selfishness of my own heart, preferring to be around people who show kindness to me, rather than loving others even when they despise me.
  • I appreciate my time in seminary. The detox I am undergoing is more an issue of correcting my own shortcomings, than a reflection on the academy. Perhaps the days following seminary will round out my perspective as distance gives a view of the broader picture.
  • I will try my best to focus on being a simple, yet thoughtful (I hope), practitioner.
  • Simplicity will continue to define my personal lifestyle, even as I deal with complex issues related to work and to ministry.
  • Most importantly, I will endeavor to grow closer to God.

wondering about the way forward


 Thinking about the future. What surprises lay ahead? What tasks will I engage? My pursuit of degrees is behind me. During the process I have lived life fully. Yet new opportunities await, though some are veiled from my awareness for a time. In the meantime I continue my work as a warehouseman. And I continue to dream even as I live. Will the grandest dreams see fruition? Will hope enchant reality into a dance? May a new morning provide clues for the way forward….

and so it ends, only to give way to the new

Glen WoodsI have reached the end of a journey. I now commence a new one. The commencement ceremony for Western Seminary was quite lovely and distinguished. It is fair to say I will not forget it.

I invite you to join with me in the days to come as the continuing story unfolds.  For the moment I rejoice and celebrate honorably. Yet, I am aware that there is great urgency in the coming year to implement the results of my research in cooperation with my pastor and the church we serve. That will be the true test of my efforts. This is why I chose the title Praxis of Nurture in Small Churches for my Doctor of Ministry dissertation. Praxis is truth discovered in action, as well as applied truth. As we work with parents to help them in the faith and life nurture of their children, there will indeed continue to emerge the interface of the theoretical and the practical. Thus, application will give rise to the correlation of new ideas and skillsets, and ongoing adjustments to the culture, while maintaining biblical fidelity and faithfulness to first order theological truths.

My priority will be to do what I can to partner tangibly with parents so that they experience first hand the benefits of our mutually negotiated partnerships. I must give thanks to Karl Bastian for his work in developing VIP (Very Intential Parenting). It is one part of the solution which I will be seeking to implement in the coming months. You may purchase the download for your church by logging on to www.kidology.org and going to the Kidology store.

when night approaches

The day is done. The banquet was lovely, with good food, skillful music, and delightful testimonies by six master’s level graduates. A full night of celebration among kind people. I sat at a table in the far corner of the hotel banquet hall, along with seven other people, three of whom are also graduating. The two girls to my right are from Indonesia and Japan. The couple to my left are from the Portland area where he serves at the mission and in his local church working with marginalized adult men. Precious people, all. It is a shame I couldn’t get to know them better. But I enjoyed the time we did have.

And so now night approaches with the promise of a new day, a day of celebration and joy, a day of reflection and hope. I look forward to seeing my family and honoring them for their part in my journey. I embrace the night knowing that God is not finished with me. A new chapter is about to dawn.

sending out graduates in prayer

Today we had the graduation rehearsal. We learned where we would sit and stand and walk during various parts of the ceremony. We received our regalia. We smiled for photos. We prepared to be sent out. Not figuratively. In actuality. We are graduates. We are being called by the heart of God to go all around the world. To urban areas and rural. To the powerful elite and to the poorest of the poor who have no voice. And to the entire spectrum of social strata in between. We are called to love them, laying down our lives and our ambitions in the process. So, please pray for us.

Pray that God will continue to crush our pride and prepare us for the gritty realities set before us in the marketplace and communities. Pray for boldness to speak in the face of political correctness, and to confront entrenched power brokers prophetically who are unjust toward others and poor stewards of that which has been entrusted to them. Pray for wisdom to know when and how to speak or write, and when simply to remain silent. Pray that we would be pure before God, not led estray to the temptations which so easily distract. Pray that we will finish well,  not in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes.

Tomorrow, during commencement, the leaders will ask each graduate to find a spot in the auditorium and to kneel facing away from the platform. This is symbolic of our being sent. They will pray for us. Will you join them? The hour is urgent. We cannot fulfill our mission apart from the power of God and his grace. While we have been prepared in many ways, we understand that it is not simply by our intellectual ability or growing skills that we will be effective in reaching the generations to come with the gospel of Jesus Christ, demonstrating God’s presence in the world and the hope of eternal glory. It is through God’s anointing and sustaining grace. So our need and desire for prayer is sincere. God is on the move and we invite you to join us in engaging his mission for the world.

to each their own celebration

I think it is fair to say I have a lot of experience graduating. This will be my fifth graduation in twenty-six years. Each was a milestone in its own right.

After my high school graduation, I went out to Shari’s in Newberg with a friend and we talked. I think I had hot chocolate. That was the extent of the festivities. I was simply glad to be done with public school.

After my college graduation I went out to icecream with my family. They had already eaten dinner, after arriving too late to include me due to car problems. I probably ate Mac and cheese that night at home. I went back to work at the wood products mill the next day. It took me two years to recover from burnout and to seriously consider that maybe God wanted me to minister in some fashion.

After my MA graduation, I stepped it up a notch and invited some friends and family to a meal at a decent restaurant. I made a point to thank key people, but especially my parents. I went back to work in the floorcovering store the next Monday. I had high hopes to pursue Ph.D. but a poor showing in my GMAT demonstrated that I needed to do much work to prepare to pass the GMAT. I still don’t see what relevance advanced algebra has for a student of New Testament. So I decided to pursue the ministry side of graduate education with an MDiv.

After my MDiv graduation there was a small gathering at my church and people stopped by to wish me well. I appreciated the gesture and continue serving at that church to this day. I went back to work the next monday, still a laborer in floorcovering. My Ph.D. dream was fading and I simply struggled to make ends meet. However when I became a Senior Consultant at a national distribution firm I decided to go ahead and pursue the DMin since it was more doable, kind of a mini-D.

And now my final graduation approaches. Tomorrow is my rehearsal during the afternoon. Then I travel to pick up my niece to bring her back to Portland and attend the graduation banquet. I take her home immediately following the banquet. It should be a lovely evening, primarily because I get to spend time with her. And then Saturday is the graduation ceremony. My family will need to get home right away following the graduation, so I will see them off and then head on home to prepare for my Sunday responsibilities. And then I will return to work as a laborer in floorcovering. I am thankful for my job and I am glad I have the privilege of doing something I enjoy.  As I have already stated in previous posts I have no intention of pursuing additional degrees. I am too tired and see no point of adding to my pedigree given my chosen profession as a warehouseman. Yet I will keep seeking to learn and write and think. I will hope and dream. And this time, in some form, I will try my hand at celebrating after a fashion. After all, it really is to each their own celebration. Mine just happens to be a bit understated in comparison to others who have gone before me.