Friday, September 29, 2017

The Kind of Friend Every Leader Needs

The Kind of Friend Every Leader Needs
Matthew J. Hall / February 8, 2017
Does leadership have to be a lonely venture? Listen to some of the most prominent voices on leadership, within Christian circles and beyond, and you will be reminded that leadership more often than not brings with it a measure of aloneness.
The leader will, at times, find himself or herself standing alone. And the experience can make one feel as though there is no one else who fully understands the burden of decisions and pressure. A 2012 survey reported half of all CEOs expressed feelings of loneliness in their work.
Christian leaders are not immune.
Though there are unique burdens to bear, friendship is essential for a Christian leader. I remain a relatively young man with a limited leadership role entrusted to me. But in my experience and reflection, I am convinced friendship is vital to joyful and effective leadership. Friendship is more than a luxury afforded only to the fortunate few. It is part of what it means to be human, to live a good life. And leaders are not, thanks be to God, exempt from that divine design.
Friendship is more than a luxury afforded only to the fortunate few. It is part of what it means to be human.

As historian Martin Marty wisely noted, “The quality of friendships or the absence of them tells more about the lives of great people than most other features.” In the hyper-individualistic West, I fear we miss this ancient truth. But consider it for a moment. Many great figures in Christian history depended on friendship in their vocation.
Here are three lessons I continue to learn by God’s grace, and will for the rest of my life.

1. A true friend tells you the truth.
Our relationships mirrors the divine fellowship. And that kind of friendship is built on truth telling. The Christian faith holds this as integral. Fellowship with God requires truth telling, finding that the God of the cosmos has spoken his Word to us, revealing himself to his creatures as an act of friendship. He is therefore fully trustworthy, worthy of adoration and faith.
At their truest and best, our human friendships reflect this reality. Friends tell us the truth about others, ourselves, and the gospel.
Leadership is predicated on forming judgments and determining a wise course of action. These necessarily involve judgments about others, including those we’re called to lead. I’ve often found my judgments misinformed or incomplete, and I needed a true friend to provide me with a more accurate perspective. When someone disappoints the leader, it’s easy to dismiss them or assume the worst. But a friend explains there is more going on than meets the eye. Friends help us assume the best about others. And when needed, they also caution and warn against those who present themselves as allies, but have set themselves against the organization’s mission. We need both. Only a friend will do that for a leader.
Friends are also necessary to tell us the truth about ourselves. Like all humans, leaders are tempted to believe their own press. Sin and pride make us quick to understimate our weakness and overestimate our abilities and virtues. A colleague may reinforce those blind spots, whether out of unvarnished sycophancy or fear of disappointment. But a friend steps in and, with near prophetic courage, calls us to account. Do you see your friends as gifts sof grace to protect you from yourself?
Do you see your friends as gifts of grace to protect you from yourself?
Most importantly, a Christian friend tells us the truth about the gospel. They keep the good news before us in concrete and personal terms. A friend reminds the leader that they’re a sinner, that they need daily grace, and that any good thing—even their leadership ability—is entirely a gift. A friend reminds us that the most important thing about us is not our organizational success or status, but our identity in Christ. A friend presses us to hope in what is enduring, not in what is fleeting.

2. A true friend is motivated by love, not self-interest.
Friendship is preferential love. Not only do we prefer some above others, but Christian friendship means we prefer others—our friends—above ourselves.
We can be friendly with many people, but true friendship is rare. Our lives are embedded within institutions and organizations that, by necessity, demand a culture of friendliness. We see colleagues in the hallway, at meetings, at social functions. And certainly a broad culture of warmth, courtesy, and amicable goodwill is an essential characteristic of healthy organizational ethos. But true friendship that extends beyond professional conversations and sheer transactionalism is a rare gift.
The reason for this is an ancient truth rooted in the beginning of all things. We are made for God, to be sure, but we are also made for others. At the center of this design is the dynamic force of love. Self-interest draws us to see others as opportunities for transactions, beings from whom I can make a withdrawal to satisfy my needs for security, affirmation, validation, and pleasure. But love, which is part of the overflow of Trinitarian relations, is not self-seeking. It is self-giving.
The commodification of friendship is seen in the countless ways we look to people to render us some sort of service. Instead of mirroring the intra-Trinitarian fellowship of joy, friendship is traded for something far less. Because of sin, all of us are prone to distorted and skewed realities in our friendships. But Christian leaders need to be mindful of the specific ways self-interest can subtly masquerade as friendship. It may yield something that has the appearance of friendship, but is a lethal counterfeit.

3. A true friend remains when your leadership fails.
At some point, your leadership will wane. Age will bring this about naturally, but failure has a way of accelerating the process too. It’s one thing to find yourself in a season of success surrounded by many who appear to be friends. But what happens when your company fails, your organization goes bankrupt, or your reputation is no longer about competence and skill?
The Bible presents a picture of friendship enduring: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). While your siblings are there in moments of crisis, your friends are present in all life’s ups and downs. We don’t get to choose our siblings; they are providentially assigned. But there is a voluntary nature to friendship that makes it all the sweeter. A friend can reject and spurn us. That elective dynamic makes friendship a risky venture, but one that holds potential for unspeakable joy and love.
If you’re a leader and think you’re surrounded by friends, don’t be too sure. On the other hand, don’t let awareness of the fickle and opportunistic nature of professional relationships make you crudely cynical. A far more biblical and wise tact is to approach relationships with a measure of realism. Cynicism will compound your loneliness and make you distrust others, robbing you of opportunities for the joy of friendship. Realism will give you a clear-eyed appreciation for genuine friendship and protect you from disillusionment when others disappoint you.
Friendship is a risky venture, but it holds potential for unspeakable joy and love.
A true friend will be there when all else is gone. This kind of loyalty and steadfastness is a sign, pointing us to an even greater reality—to the One who perfectly embodies friendship. It surely is as the hymn writer said, “Jesus! What a friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul / Friends may fail me, foes assail me, he, my Savior, makes me whole.”
Acquaintances vs. Friends
You likely have fewer friends than you realize. In an age of social media and pseudo-friendships, there is a noxious counterfeit that easily misleads us. You may have hundreds of acquaintances, but chances are you have only three or four true friends. If that sounds disappointing, perhaps you’ve misunderstood the nature of friendship and so are routinely frustrated by misplaced expectations.

Many of us have confused what C. S. Lewis clarified in distinguishing between friendship and companionship:

Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

10 Skills Every Husband Needs

10 Skills Every Husband Needs
Darrin and Amie Patrick on Cultivating a Healthy Marriage
November 4, 2015/Matt Smethurst
Listen. Talk. Fight. Grow. Provide. Rest. Serve. Submit. Pursue. Worship.

Being a husband is easy. Being a good one, however—one characterized by those ten actions—is not. That’s why I’m thankful for Darrin and Amie Patrick’s new book, The Dude’s Guide to Marriage: Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well (Thomas Nelson). Cultivating such behaviors in a consistent manner, they contend, is the secret to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage.
I spoke with the Patricks—highschool sweethearts, pastor and wife, parents of four children—about the biggest issue couples face, the danger of mere compatibility, the effect of kids, and more.
What's the most serious problem you perceive in typical Christian marriages?
Darrin: The husband is passive and the wife gets disillusioned with his lack of engagement and leadership. It’s a huge failure in headship.
Amie: I think we tend to impose all kinds of our own ideas and expectations onto our marriages that aren’t biblical, which leads to a great deal of confusion and disappointment.
Darrin, you confess: “It didn't take too many years of marriage for me to see that I had a deficient philosophy that would destroy my marriage if I did not repent of it.” What was this deficient philosophy and what, humanly speaking, occasioned your repentance?
My deficient philosophy centered around how my wife likes to be loved. The popular treatment of this is in Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. The premise is that human beings prefer to be loved in specific ways. We have a whole appendix in the book that explains it, but let me answer the question succinctly. My wife loves to receive gifts; I love to be served. For years I loved my wife the way I love to be loved (being served) instead of loving her the way she wanted to be loved (receiving gifts).
What’s wrong with merely looking for compatibility in a wife or husband?
Darrin: I think the word merely is relevant here. It’s essential that some polarities exist in a marriage relationship. For instance, my wife is super-detailed and I’m hyper-visionary. This causes a ton of conflict, but it also helps us stay future-oriented without neglecting the present. The problem is functionality: looking for someone who will help me fullfill the dream I have for my life as opposed to looking for someone to worship with as we pursue God’s dream for the world.
Amie: Compatibility is important, but since it’s often based on preferences and circumstances that inevitably change, it’s simply not enough to build a marriage on for a lifetime. When tragedy turns our worlds upside down, or a season of suffering or disappointment seems endless, we need something more substantial than shared likes and dislikes in order to love one another sacrificially for the long haul.
You discuss the importance of husbands pursuing their wives mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Amie, what’s the single-most helpful thing Darrin has done to pursue you in each area?
Amie: Physically, Darrin is great about being affectionate in lighthearted and playful ways. Especially in a tense or stressful moment, he often lightens the mood with some sort of affectionate gesture, which is a great reminder that we truly enjoy each other and and have fun together. Mentally, he’s almost always up for an interesting or challenging discussion. He genuinely respects my intellect, and shows it by engaging me in thoughtful discussions with insightful questions, particularly in areas where I’m more knowledgeable than he is. He also looks for opportunities to engage my sense of humor; we laugh a lot together. Emotionally, Darrin’s willingness to go to counseling by himself and with me has been transformative for our marriage. He knew emotional health was an area where he needed some help, and he was humble enough to pursue it—both for himself and so he could learn to be more emotionally available and engaged with me and our kids. And spiritually, although there are many things I could mention, the most profound way Darrin pursues me in this area is in his willingness to admit and repent of his own sin. His continual choice to do that is a beautiful reminder to me that we are both sinners desperately in need of the grace and mercy found only in Christ. And nothing is more humbling and honoring than when Darrin prays for me and asks me to pray for him.

You’ve done marriage and relationship counseling for hundreds over the years. What’s the biggest issue couples need to address for their relationships to honor God?
Darrin: Taking a sabbath. Period. Without a weekly Sabbath, our scheduling overwhelms our spirituality. This is true even if both spouses can’t take the same day. God gave us one day to refocus on him and be renewed by him.
Amie: It’s important to regularly consider where we’re looking for joy and fulfillment apart from Christ. Our attempts to do so always have an effect on relationships with those closest to us, particularly our spouse and our children.
What would you say to people who genuinely feel they’ve fallen out of love with their spouse?
Darrin: Welcome to marriage. Since love is not primarily a feeling, we all go through dry times. The most important thing is to get help—now! Find a good counselor who can help you and your spouse work through this tough season. Also, get some Christian friends who are married to hang out with. Married couples need community all the time, and counseling some of the time. Don’t give up!
Amie: I talk to a lot of people who feel alone in this struggle, and I think it’s important to know it’s not at all uncommon, and doesn’t mean your marriage is hopeless or over. C. S. Lewis’s chapter on Christian marriage in Mere Christianity is one of the most helpful and enlightening things I’ve ever read with regard to this issue. He writes at length about the value of “being in love,” but also about the futility of trying to build a whole life on that state—as well as the beauty of letting that initial “thrill” go in order to experience something different and deeper. Darrin and I have been married for 22 years, and I’ve found the realities Lewis writes about here to be profoundly true and helpful, year after year.

How has parenting four kids affected your marriage? What's your biggest piece of advice for fellow parents with respect to their marriages?
Amie: Parenting has definitely exposed things, both good and bad, that we didn’t know or understand about each other before we had children. That’s been really fun and and incredibly hard, as we both have strengths and weaknesses as parents that need to be graciously affirmed and respectfully challenged. Overall, parenting has deepened our love for and understanding of each other as we learn to unselfishly love, enjoy, and parent the amazing children God has entrusted to us.

It takes a lot of ongoing and intentional refocusing to keep your marriage from drifting to a place where everything revolves around your children and a healthy marriage becomes a low priority. This is true when kids are little, and we’ve found it continues to be equally true as our kids get older. It’s rarely convenient or easy to get time alone or away together. But we’ve seen a lot of marriages disintegrate after kids grow up and leave home, and have learned it’s not healthy or beneficial to anyone when kids are raised as the primary focus and goal of a marriage and family.

4 Lies About Introverts

4 Lies About Introverts
April 24, 2013/Amie Patrick
I'm an introvert. Most people who don't know me well wouldn't guess this about me, but it's true. On a practical level, being an introvert means I'm generally more energized by time alone than by time with people, and I have a preference for a less externally stimulating environment. I feel very alive in a quiet, empty room. On the introversion/extroversion spectrum I fall closer to the middle, but still lean decidedly toward the introverted side.
The process of understanding introversion and the way it's expressed in my life has been both a tremendous relief and also an ongoing source of doubt and concern. My daily reality is people-intensive and externally stimulating. I'm married to an extrovert, we have four children, and we live in an urban setting. Our home and surroundings are fun and energetic—not exactly low-stimulus. My husband pastors a large church, and we're involved with many congregations and ministries throughout the world; consequently, our social circles are large and complex. To complicate things even further, my spiritual gifts are often expressed publicly as are the (non-innate!) social skills I've managed to learn and practice over time. These realities, combined with my definite need for quiet and solitude, have often left me and others confused about who I really am.

The lie I'm most tempted to believe is that the way God has wired me is incompatible with the life he's called me to live. The logical conclusion of this lie is that joy and contentment aren't possible—and that constant frustration is inevitable.

It took a while for me to unearth and articulate that lie under the layers of fear, doubt, and insecurity it was producing. I knew these beliefs didn't line up with God's character or promises, but it's taken extended immersion in the truth of God's Word to renew my mind and dismantle that deception. Along the way, I've discovered some subtle and not-so-subtle assumptions I'd unwittingly latched onto over time.

1. Extroversion is the biblical ideal

There's little question our culture leans toward idealizing extroverts. Those with intrinsically good social skills, who appear to thrive in party-type atmospheres and exude confidence when meeting new people, are often considered worthy of emulation. I spent many years wondering why small talk felt so awkward for me when it seemed so effortless for my friends. In some churches, an appropriate focus on community life can inadvertently favor those who are most comfortable socially, quickest to share their thoughts and feelings, and most likely to throw a party. But there's no biblical precedent for idealizing extroversion, just as there's none for idealizing introversion either. I know extroverts who feel condemned because a quiet environment and time alone are somewhat distracting. They find it difficult to avoid comparing themselves to more introverted, contemplative types and avoid attributing their struggle to a lack of self-discipline when, in fact, a preferred environment has little to do with self-discipline at all.

The comparisons aren't helpful and neither is holding up an ideal the Bible does not. The body of Christ includes persons at all points on the introversion/extroversion continuum, and no one's contribution is more important than another's. We're all responsible to spend time both privately and corporately with God and others in worship, study, prayer, and service. Caving to a cultural standard that doesn't line up with scriptural truth is destructive to individuals and to the body of Christ.

2. Introverts don't like people

This has perhaps been the lie that's stung most for me. I care deeply about people, but I need time alone to recharge in order to be able to give them my best. It's taken me years to view this as good stewardship rather than some sort of flaw I need to overcome. Actually, and perhaps ironically, the chief thing that's kept me from loving people well has been my attempt to be someone I'm not. The more I've tried to be that “life of the party” girl, endlessly accommodating others without considering what I need to recover, the less capacity I've had to actually love people well.

We're all responsible to obey biblical commands related to loving people sacrificially and living hospitably and generously. And it's a cop-out to use introversion as an excuse for self-protective isolation. But there's not just one or even ten “right” ways to love people well. I've learned to get better at small talk and interacting with strangers, because it's important and necessary, but it's never going to be my greatest strength. I've become much more comfortable in opening our home to small and large groups of people, both in planned and spontaneous ways, but going deep with one or two people over coffee is always going to be a place where I thrive. Accepting my God-given introversion, I still allow myself to be stretched or uncomfortable. But I passionately pursue opportunities where I can love people deeply with my gifts and life, and then humbly take responsibility for what it looks like for me to be refreshed.

3. Solitude is selfish and indulgent

Now there's a reality here that can be true. If my choice to be alone is primarily to serve myself and intensify a me-oriented focus, it is a problem. But for a long time I believed solitude for the purpose of prayer, Bible study, or worship is necessary, but anything beyond that is probably frivolous. However, I've come to experience great benefits from a variety of solitary activities. Solitude in itself isn't inherently helpful or harmful, but the underlying purpose is pivotal. I can go for a run by myself to clear my head and enjoy God's gift of nature—or to sinfully distract myself from something I need to confront. I can sit alone in a coffee shop in order to think deeply and process life events—or to worry about things beyond my control. When I cooperate with the way God has designed me, and surrender my solitude to him, he uses it to refresh my soul in often unexpected and powerful ways.

4. Introversion is incompatible with teaching and leadership gifts

Last year, after an acquaintance watched my husband and me team-teach in front of a few thousand people, he remarked in a good-natured way that I couldn't possibly be an introvert. I knew he meant this as a compliment, and I also understood his confusion. People who are confident and capable in front of large audiences don't exactly fit the introverted stereotype. And while it's true many introverts aren't comfortable in front of people, I am. How much of that is due to my natural personality, gifting, or years of training in music, theater, and teaching, I don't know, and it probably doesn't matter. What I do know is that once the adrenaline wears off after such an event, I need some silence and solitude in order to be replenished. I'm passionate about teaching God's Word, and I love to get to use my gifts in this area, but it's equally important for me to take necessary steps to make room for quiet rest. By God's grace I'm learning to see my more public and more private sides not as incompatible or inauthentic, but as balances to each other.

Additionally, my leadership gifts aren't expressed in the same way as my extroverted husband. I tend to lead best from a more contemplative place. My creativity flourishes, and my best ideas rise to the surface when I have time to be alone more so than when I'm brainstorming with others in a highly dynamic environment. Since there is no one-size-fits-all model for leadership, our churches will be best served when there's room at the table for extroverted and introverted leaders alike.

Accepting the realities of my God-given personality has been a process of sanctification. I've had to repent of people-pleasing and trying to be someone I'm not. I've had to humbly acknowledge my limits and weaknesses and to live in God's strength rather than my own. Ultimately, this process has been about God and his kingdom, not me. The more I rest in his gracious acceptance of me in Jesus, the more free I become to be myself for his glory. And that's a place where joy and contentment abound.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Humility of Parenting

The Humility of Parenting
October 22, 2009, Juan Sanchez
I have a confession to make. Parenting is the hardest, most humbling task I have to do. If ever I think I have already obtained the goal of the upward call in Christ Jesus, parenting helps me realize how far I have yet to go. While parenting our daughters, my shortcomings are magnified and my sins exposed. However, I want to suggest that parenting can and should be a means of our sanctification. Allow me to share some thoughts on why the humility of parenting is of great benefit to us.

Parenting exposes the progress of our sanctification. Before we ever teach our children the truth of who God is for us in Christ, we will be declaring our faith as we live it out before them. Our children are watching us, noticing our hypocrisies, lies, abuses, speech and conduct. Parenting is so hard and humbling because our family observes us when we respond to the difficulties of life, when we have conflict with our spouse and when we have conflict with one another. It is at home where living in light of the gospel counts the most, but for too many this is where it matters the least. Let us make it a priority to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ so that we may live holy lives before our family. May we as parents provide a picture of the gospel at home.

Parenting helps us better understand and apply the gospel. Unfortunately, much parenting has behavior modification as its ultimate goal. If this is the case with our parenting, we will necessarily be instilling in our children a works-righteousness mentality - “do this, and/or you’ll get this.” I do not mean to imply that we should not hold our children to a biblical standard or that we should not discipline our children when they transgress God’s standard. My point is simply that keeping commandments is not the ultimate goal of parenting. The ultimate aim of parenting is that our children would “set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7) or as Paul says, that our children would become “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15).
A biblical understanding of the gospel takes into account human inability to justify ourselves before a holy God; therefore, we set God’s standard before our children to show them what God requires and to expose their rebellion. Sinfulness and rebellion against God’s standard receives God’s judgment, so when our children transgress against God’s Word, we discipline them accordingly with the purpose that they would understand God’s justice. Throughout our parenting we should continually be displaying God’s unconditional, steadfast, covenant love, grace, mercy and forgiveness so that they would see that while their rebellion deserves punishment, God forgives repentant sinners through the person and work of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

As we parent we should continually point to the greatness of our God and His works. We should share with our children God’s continual faithfulness and present Christ as the one who satisfies all our longings. Oh, may our children have a BIG view of God because we as parents have a BIG view of God. May they see our passion for God’s glory through the exaltation of Christ so that one day they too may confess that Jesus is Lord and their all in all.


January 12, 2016, Contributors: Trevin Wax
In a recent edition of Comment magazine, James K. A. Smith marvels at the achievement of our educational institutions and the privilege we have in benefiting from so many opportunities to grow and learn. Then, he makes an observation:
"As someone who spends countless hours on airplanes, I never cease to be amazed at the number of professional, college-educated adults who, when presented with a three-hour stretch of downtime, proceed to spend that time playing video games. Our countries invest 5 percent of their GDPs in universal education; teachers invite us into the labyrinths of history and the imaginative worlds of literature; parents make sacrifices for us to attend Christian schools and colleges. And we play Angry Birds. We’re not educated for this, surely."

He goes on to warn his students:
"If I ever see you on a plane playing a video game, I will accost you, and I will be disappointed, and I will forthrightly remind you: you weren’t educated for this. The world needs your (continuing) education, and your soul is starving for it. We are remarkably well-educated dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants who could only dream of what we enjoy. Let’s not squander our inheritance."
With Smith, I'm also disappointed when I see people fail to fully appreciate just what a privilege it is to receive an education, own a library of books, and have access to so many resources in the English language. But I'm afraid this squandering is likely to get worse, not better. The generation coming after us has never known of life without video games, electronic devices, and iPhones with countless apps.

What can we do as parents to shape the habits of our children?
What can we do to help them make wise choices regarding the time they spend on electronic devices?
Do we ban devices and games? Do we set limits? What is the best way forward?
Many parents wrestle with these questions. I know, because my wife and I have discussed this issue with other couples on many occasions.

Our family has implemented a system that works well for us. I realize our way isn't the only way, so I've asked a few Christian leaders and thinkers to share how they approach this issue. Below are some principles to consider.
1. Instead of banning electronic devices altogether, train your kids to discipline themselves.
The assumption among every family I spoke with is that there is a legitimate place for video games and iPhone apps and other forms of entertainment. Like watching television or listening to the radio, we can enjoy entertainment and leisure time in moderation.
Trillia Newbell, an author friend of mine, explained her family's view:
"We think devices are fine as long as they are monitored and have clear instructions, and restrictions."
In other words, it is better to help your children order their time wisely than to take away the opportunity to show self-control. Never use a device as a babysitter.
Aaron Earls, online editor of Facts and Trends, sees value in using video games for family time. On Friday nights, for example, his family will have a Wii family game night and everyone will play together. Electronic devices, in their proper place, can bring the family together instead of causing everyone to drift to separate rooms with separate screens.
2. Never allow your children to be alone with unfettered access to electronic devices.
Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church and father of six children, confesses that it is difficult to keep up with everything all his kids are doing. But there is one rule his family won't budge on:
"No TV, computers, phones, or tablets in the bedroom. Screens are used in public areas, not in private."
In the Wax home, our kids have limited access to our old, no-longer-in-use iPhones. But we set restrictions on those phones. That way, the kids are unable to unlock the phone, access the Internet, or make purchases. Take advantage of the restrictions settings on phones and tablets.
3. Set the timer.
When our kids play the Wii, they have to set the timer in the kitchen. When they play on our old iPhones, we set the Timer feature to "Stop Playing" so that the game shuts down and the phone locks when the timer goes off. Our rule is 30 minutes a day during the week, and an hour a day during the weekend.

Dan Darling, an author who works at the ERLC, limits his children's screen time to an hour a day, with some give-and-take on holidays, special times, etc.
For Trillia Newbell's family, the timer has been a huge help:
"The kids know exactly what to expect and it helps eliminate confusion. It also gives them something to look forward to. They enjoy their time on devices much more now than before we implemented to timer. They focus on playing because they realize they’ll need to be off for the night/day otherwise."
4. Use electronic devices as motivation for reading.
A few years ago, I asked one of my favorite authors, N. D. Wilson, how parents can instill a love of reading in their kids. He told me that he and his wife allow their kids to stay up at night as long as they want, as long as they are reading. We tried that a few times, but our kids like to go to bed early.
What has helped them develop a love for reading is what we call "reading for time." Our kids have the opportunity to earn more than their 30-minute-a-day allotment of electronics time by matching that time with reading. If they want to play games for 30 more minutes, great! But first, they must read for thirty minutes.

Our kids love this system. They've both taken to reading books they enjoy, and it helps them see electronic time as a privilege, not a right.
Aaron Earls' family does something similar. In 30-minute segments, they can earn additional time on an electronic device. Using this method, his boys have already read classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

I want my kids to enjoy the Nintendo and the iPhone and the creative worlds of Minecraft. But I also want them to enjoy playing outside, reading good books, and growing up as well-rounded kids. I'm thankful that my parents limited my access to Nintendo when I was growing up, and that's why I can't imagine setting them loose to play devices for hours on end.
The challenge for parents is to be consistent in the principles we put into practice in our homes. Make sure your kids understand why you're setting limits. Discuss why certain games and shows are inappropriate. As Dan Darling says,

"Try to instill in your kids a sense of discernment that will help them when they leave the nest."

That's right. Discernment and self-control, where you can take time for leisure without letting leisure take over your time.


September 20, 2013, Kevin DeYoung 
Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be. It used to be, as far as I can tell, that Christian parents basically tried to feed their kids, clothe them, teach them about Jesus, and keep them away from explosives. Now our kids have to sleep on their backs (no, wait, their tummies; no, never mind, their backs), while listening to Baby Mozart and surrounded by scenes of Starry, Starry Night. They have to be in piano lessons before they are five and can’t leave the car seat until they’re about five foot six.
It’s all so involved. There are so many rules and expectations. Parenting may be the last bastion of legalism. Not just in the church, but in our culture. We live in a permissive society that won’t count any sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids’ hot lunch. I keep hearing that kids aren’t supposed to eat sugar anymore. What a world! What a world! My parents were solid as a rock, but we still had a cupboard populated with cereal royalty like Captain Crunch and Count Chocula. In our house the pebbles were fruity and the charms were lucky. The breakfast bowl was a place for marshmallows, not dried camping fruit. Our milk was 2%. And sometimes, if we needed to take the edge off a rough morning, we’d tempt fate and chug a little Vitamin D.
As nanny parents living in a nanny state, we think of our children as amazingly fragile and entirely moldable. Both assumptions are mistaken. It’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like. Christian parents in particular often operate with an implicit determinism. We fear that a few wrong moves will ruin our children forever, and at the same time assume that the right combination of protection and instruction will invariably produce godly children. Leslie Leyland Fields is right: “One of the most resilient and cherished myths of parenting is that parenting creates the child.”


July 1, 2014, Contributors: Kevin DeYoung
You probably have a book mark somewhere with promises to pray for your children. You probably have good kid verses on your refrigerator about obedience and kindness and sharing with others. You probably have a few standby verses you share with the little ones when they start to get defiant and lippy. All good.
But do you have any verses for yourself?
My kids need Bible promises, but on most days I need them even more. I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I want them to love.
So here are ten promises from the Bible that every Christian parent should remember, especially the Christian parent writing this blog.
1. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3). Since the verse refers to trials of various kinds, I assume that James is talking about more than martyrdom and death. Sleepless infants, tortuous bedtimes, muddy feet, spilled orange juice, moody teens–they all count too. And we should count them all joy, even when they feel like the biggest pain. God promises he’s at work to produce steadfastness.
2. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10). You’re tired, scared, defeated, weary beyond all reckoning. Good. Get low, and God promises to lift you up.
3. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). It doesn’t depend on me. It’s not about me. My kids are not for me. Stop freaking out. Stop trusting in horses and chariots.
4. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). They are. They really, really, truly, actually are. Whether you have one child or two or ten or twenty, God has given you those children because he loves you. The world thinks they are burdens. God tells us they are blessings.
5. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Yup, that verses is for parents too. The anger in our kids is from their hearts, but the mouthy way they learn to express that anger may be from our example. Why do I think my gasoline will help put out their fires?
6. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). The only way to be a strong parent is to be a parent with self-control.

7. “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Parenting is hard work. Period. But parenting up to the expectations of your (fill in the blank: mother, mother-in-law, girlfriends, next door neighbor, own little taskmaster) is impossible. Parent for Christ’s sake. He promises not to weigh you down with impossible burdens.
8. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). God knows that you sacrifice your time, your desires, your sleep, your money, and often your own dreams for your children. He sees and he smiles.
9. “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4). Everything is a mess, all the time. What else did we expect? We have dirty oxen running around. But there’s joy, memories, laughter, sanctification, and gospel growth from those wild animals too.

10. “But he gives more grace” (James 4:6). Ah, sweet grace. Grace to forgive your impatience (again) and your laziness (again). Grace to get you off the ground. Grace to get you walking. And grace to lead you home.