• Will Spink
    Senior Pastor
  • Wyketa Shipman
    Executive Assistant
  • Ron Clegg
    Associate Pastor, Discipleship
  • Shannon Clark
    Administrative Assistant
  • James Parker
    Chief Musician
  • Peter Render
    Assistant Pastor, Youth/Families
  • Christine Betts
    Assistant Director, Youth/Families
  • Ty Commons
    Youth & Families Intern
  • Kim Delchamps
    Administrative Assistant
  • Derrick Harris
    Assistant Pastor, Shepherding & Young Families
  • Angela Sierk
    Director, Children's Ministry
  • Niña Banta Cash
    Director, Nursery
  • Robert Blevins
    Director, Community Development
  • Janice Crowson
    Director, Facilities/Finance
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    Print & Digital Media Specialist
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Parenting Partners

Parenting Partners

Parenting!  What comes to mind when you read the word?  Good?  Bad?  I don’t wanna talk about it?  Do you gloat in your successes or loathe the memories of past mistakes?  Whatever comes to your mind, it will never change one fact:  there is only one perfect parent and it is not you.  It’s not us either.  It IS God.  Though, if we analyze his style of parenting, it can become, well, downright confusing.

Many have judged God by our modern secular parenting standards and accused him of cosmic child abuse for letting his only son die, abandonment for watching it happen, and negligence for being nowhere in sight.  But wait, Jesus IS God!  Therefore, we should rightfully and respectfully award God with the glory that he is due.  God, the Author of life, redeemed the entire universe through his life, death, and resurrection, offers us eternal security, provides constant presence and friendship through his Spirit, and extends the opportunity to be adopted as his sons and daughters through faith.  He also has a plan to renovate all of creation through lives that are surrendered to his will until he returns to take us all home.  When we really remember who God is, we are forced to focus on his righteousness that has been imputed to us and has washed away our ultimate failures.  Parenting is yet one more opportunity to remember our Creator, our redemption, and our future hope.

Peter and I have been working with parents for nearly 40 years combined, and we have never heard a parent say, “I’ve got this parenting thing down and I don’t need any help or support.”  Rather, it has been the complete opposite.  It’s been countless meetings with families, typically done in confidence, where they unmask their struggles with parenting. Most feel as though they are the only ones who have difficulty, describing the lonely island that they inhabit as castaways from the “normal” life.  This lonely island feels like separation from the rest of the world where they are just trying to figure out how to survive.  Many times, they blame themselves for the struggles they are facing.  They feel ill-equipped to face the challenges that rearing another sinful creature affords.  The struggle works itself into every crevice of their lives, especially their marriages.  We get the amazing opportunity to pray with them, lead them to God’s throne of grace, and remind them of the truth.  You are made in the image of God, and so are your children, which means that you are not alone AND that you are not in control.

As parents, God has given you influence, but he has not given you control.  To find joy in parenting, we must surrender control to the Author of our children.  God has not designed parents to be perfect or to control their child’s faith outcomes or choices. Rather, he has designed parents to have influence, over time.  Influence means that we cannot control the outcomes.  Trying to control outcomes will only leave us busier, emptier, and missing even more opportunities to relate with our children.

Our lives are made up of phases.  Those phases change fast.  For our children they change every year.  Family ministries expert Reggie Joiner defines a phase as “a timeframe in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future and their faith.“ That’s why it is important for us all to learn as much as we can about the ever changing phases of our children.  Joiner also writes that “the average parent has less than 1,000 weeks from the time their kids are born until they move out of the house.”  WOW!  That means that every moment counts.  Though every child is unique, there are similarities that we can learn.  God has hardwired us for different needs in different phases.  The book It’s Just a Phase So Don’t Miss It sums up the major developmental phases of our children in four words: EMBRACE, ENGAGE, AFFIRM, and MOBILIZE.

EMBRACE their physical needs (Birth-Preschool):  During this phase parents must learn to “embrace” their child’s tangible needs so they can begin to establish physical trust.  In doing so, they teach them about the loving embrace of our loving Heavenly Father.

ENGAGE their interests (1st Grade-5th Grade):  During the elementary years, parents should take a crash course in storytelling and play so they can “engage” the interest of their child.  This will be the best time to earn relational credit, which you’ll need to cash in later.

AFFIRM their personal journey (6th Grade-8th Grade):  During middle school, parents need to master the skill of never freaking out.  This is when they learn to “affirm” the personal journey of their tween.  During this time, they will have plenty of opportunities to prove a relational commitment.

MOBILIZE their potential (9th Grade-12th Grade):  At ninth grade, parents start mastering the art of negotiating.  They have approximately 200 weeks left to “mobilize” their kid toward a better future.  This is when parents need to leverage their relational influence.

Whatever phase or phases of parenting you are in, it’s going to move fast, and God has designed you to be the primary influencer.  Remember that you are not alone and you are not in control.

Deuteronomy 6:1-8 reads, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

This reality is the reason why our children and youth ministries are necessarily FAMILY ministries.  Yes, we love you and want to be actively involved in your lives, learning from each other in Christian community.  But also, we are charged with something similar to you.  God’s ultimate role for parents is to be mature followers of Jesus, raising up immature followers to maturity.  Our ultimate role as pastors is not too different.  We struggle, together as one family, “with all Christ’s energy that he powerfully works within us” (Col. 1:28-29).  None of us is on an island.  None of us is too far gone for help.  None of us has it figured out.  But our Creator and Father has made a way for us to be better parents.  We have a way to grow in our abilities through the Holy Spirit in the same ways that we grow in other areas that we cannot figure out.  Intentional pursuit, interrupted by sin, repentance, and running to Christ.  Sound familiar? 

What we do every day matters.  How we do it matters, too.  It requires intentionality, support, and learning on our part as parents so that we may do our best to prepare for the parenting phase that we are in and the one we’re moving towards.  That’s one of the reasons that Peter and I have designed something called a Parent C.A.F.E. that will begin on Tuesday, April 17.  It’s all in the name.  This is an environment designed for us to C-onnect, A-cknowledge that we don’t have it all together, F-ocus on what really matters, and E-ncourage each other.  In short, this is an evening designed to support, encourage, and help equip each other for this journey called parenting.  Would you consider joining us?