I know it’s hard to believe by looking at Marci and me, but we now have five grandchildren. Our oldest is 14, our youngest was born last month. All five of them are beautiful, brilliant kids who will excel at whatever they choose to do in life. If you don’t believe us, you are obviously not one of their other grandparents.
In August we had the opportunity to lead a Summer Seminar on grandparenting and in the process of doing so, we learned a lot about how special grandparents really are. For example, we learned that there are key roles that grandparents play in the lives of their grandkids.
- Teller of Stories. Grandparents are family historians. Today’s kids have been called the “cut flower generation” because they have no roots. Every child needs a connection to their past and if you’re a grandparent, then you’re it! In Joshua 4, the Lord commanded stones to be set up so that when future generations asked “What do these stones mean?” they would hear stories about the faithfulness and power of God. We too set up stones by telling stories to our grandchildren about the faithfulness of God to our family down through the years. Parents give their children wings, but grandparents give them roots.
- Giver of Blessings. It has been said that the best thing about being a grandparent is that we get to spoil our grandchildren … and then send them home to their parents! Well, we also get to bless our grandchildren, not with money or things, but with our acceptance, our words of encouragement, and our prayers on their behalf. As grandparents, we want to spend as much time with our grandchildren as possible so that they will hear often how much we love them and how much God loves them too.
- Maker of Memories. I have vivid memories of time I spent with my grandfather in Tennessee, learning how to whittle a hickory stick into a slingshot, or learning how to fish with a cane pole, or watching him make watermelon rind false teeth. Mostly I remember how my grandparents would put their hands on my head and pray with loud voices as if God were hard of hearing. Those are unforgettable, life-changing memories. Likewise, the time we spend with our grandkids today can become memories that last a lifetime and make a powerful impression.
- Example to Follow. As grandparents, we pray that our grandkids will grow up to become people of great faith and character. While parents tend to worry about their children’s behavior, their schoolwork, their achievement in sports and academics, we don’t worry so much about things like that. We just want our grandkids to grow up to become good people—people who love God and love others. Researchers tell us that the influence of grandparents on their grandchildren is second only to the influence of their parents. With this in mind, we pray we will be good examples of the kind of people we want our grandkids to become.
At our Summer Seminar we learned lots of great ideas from the grandparents who attended, but mostly we gained a whole new appreciation for what an awesome privilege and responsibility being a grandparent really is. As the Word of God says: “Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your hearts wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.” (Deut. 4:6b MSG) No doubt about it. Grandparents leave for their grandkids a legacy of faith they can’t get any other way.
Last week I led a group of 20 people from CABC (College Avenue Baptist Church) to Ensenada, Mexico for an intergenerational short-term mission trip. Once again, we stayed at YUGO Ministries’ Ensenada Outreach Center (EOC) and worked with their staff to build a home for a family living in poverty and also to conduct a VBS program for neighborhood children. We have partnered the past few years with a small church in the community of Salitral called “Fuego de Dios” (Fire of God). Pastor Nicolas Gallegos shepherds a small flock there and does a remarkable job of reaching out to this little community. YUGO’s “Houses of Hope” program helps local churches serve families in the neighborhood in a very tangible and practical way. Families who receive new homes feel a special connection to their local church long after the house is built, and the ministry continues.
We built a home for a family of six who were living in a one-room house that was built for them by another ministry (Amor, perhaps) many years ago, probably when the family was much smaller. The new three-room house that we built was right next to the old one, so the family can now use both. Their kitchen, which was outside, can now be moved inside. The children will now have beds of their own rather than all sharing a common one.
We also conducted a Vacation Bible School program at Pastor Nicolas’ church each morning for about 35 children. Along with games, crafts and Bible stories, we did a puppet show each day. I built a portable puppet show stage made of PVC pipe and curtains and I purchased some pre-recorded puppet show scripts that were in Spanish, so our puppeteers only had to move the mouths of the puppets in sync with the dialogue. They worked great, although on the first day, one of the children began crying hysterically when the puppets started to talk. Apparently the little guy had never seen puppets before and they scared him to death. You can imagine what a small child would think upon seeing such odd-looking creatures come to life. He seemed to like (or at least to tolerate) the puppets the rest of the week.
It was a good week of ministry. Although our Mexico team was smaller this year than last, we had a good mix of people who worked hard and accomplished much. Chuck and Shannon Fisher, with their kids Jon, Sara and Chris, are old pros—this was their third year in a row. Bill and Debbie Gossett, with their two sons Joe and John, came out all of the way from Minnesota. Laura Morales, a single mom, brought her two children Roy and Victoria. Sara Fisher invited two of her friends (Tori and Maddie) and made up the puppet team. Bob and Luanne Holaday, longtime members of CABC, joined me as senior members of the team. Esther Tejada and Oscar Miramontes served as our interpreters. Bryce Klabunde, CABC’s Pastor of Soul Care, also came for the third year in a row and helped immensely on the construction team.
This was my fifth year doing a family mission trip to Mexico and my third with CABC. In my view, these trips perfectly accomplish my ministry goals as “Pastor to Generations” at CABC. It’s my favorite week of ministry of the year. Hardly anything else comes even close as a vehicle for passing faith from one generation to the next.
A week in Mexico is a complete immersion experience in intergenerational discipleship. Parents and children serve Christ together, working side by side for five days. They engage in extended conversations about faith and values. They participate in doing something together that is truly remarkable and very significant as they impact the lifestyle of a family much like their own. They worship together and receive biblical input each day from the YUGO leadership who help them process and learn from what they are experiencing during the week. They have a fun, positive family experience which rivals any family vacation or family camp. And with Mexico being so close to us in San Diego, it’s not expensive and easily accessible. All that’s needed is a passport and an appetite for some of the best street tacos on the world.
Hopefully we’ll be doing it again next year. Let me know if you’d like to go with us.
With so many graduations going on this month, it occurred to me recently that I graduated from high school FIFTY years ago. Yep, a half-century ago, I marched with the Camarillo High School class of ’63.
More significantly, it also occurred to me that it was fifty years ago that I started doing youth ministry. I wrote about it briefly in my book Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again]:
My call to youth ministry came in the form of an actual phone call.
After I graduated from high school in 1963, I went to work for the architectural firm that gave me a job after I won the drafting contest. After several weeks working for the architectural firm I was absolutely bored to death. On top of that, I noticed how bored (and boring) everyone else there seemed to be. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to become an architect after all.
A few weeks later Don Goehner, the executive director of Ventura County Youth For Christ, called me and wanted to know if I’d be interested in working part-time for YFC as a club director. My responsibilities would include running one of the high school clubs, helping out with Saturday night rallies and doing some graphic design work. He also wanted me to help start a new junior high club program. The pay would be $50 a month.
I was stunned and absolutely overjoyed. It took me all of five seconds to say yes to Don. I definitely wanted that job. The pay didn’t matter. I was only seventeen years old, and gas was only thirty-five cents a gallon. What mattered was that I got to do something I really wanted to do, what I believed God was calling me to do.
While there have certainly been times when I’ve wondered what my life might have been like had Don Goehner never made that phone call (Would I have become a world famous architect, designing impressive buildings and making millions of dollars …?), I have no regrets whatsoever. Youth ministry has provided for me a very rewarding and fruitful life. I met my wife in youth ministry. I learned how to preach, teach, write and play music in youth ministry. I made a lot of dumb mistakes and learned valuable lessons and leadership skills in youth ministry (as my old friend Bill Wennerholm was fond of saying, “Learn to run a junior high group and you can rule the world.”) I got to work alongside a lot of amazing and inspiring people in youth ministry. And I learned to follow, serve, trust and love Jesus more authentically in youth ministry.
So here I am, fifty years later, Pastor to Generations at College Avenue Baptist Church. Am I still in youth ministry? Of course I am. It really doesn’t matter what your job description is. Once you’ve been called into youth ministry, you’re in it for life.
I have a special fondness for family bluegrass bands, I suppose because it combines two of my passions — family ministry and bluegrass music. I work with families at my church and do my best to help parents stay connected to their kids so that they can pass on their faith and values, which is what I call the “First Commission” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) of the Bible. The “Great Commission” came later (Matthew 28) when Jesus told his disciples to take the Gospel to the whole world. Our first priority is to tell our kids.
Being so involved with bluegrass music as I am, I constantly hear about families like the Harris Family (The Trinity River Band) of Callahan, Florida, who play and sing together so well, and while I don’t know their whole story, they also seem to have a strong faith connection with their kids as well. They perform a lot in churches and have recorded some wonderful gospel songs. I got their new CD just this week and will be playing their new single on my radio show this week. They have a very impressive sound.
Here’s a video from a recent TV appearance.
Obviously there’s a lot of musical talent which the Harris parents have been able to encourage in their kids. I know we can’t just issue every family a bunch of musical instruments and tell them to start practicing but I do think there are some principles here that we can take away. One is that when parents are passionate about something, kids are very likely to pick up on that and want it for themselves. Most kids see their parents as role models. Another principle is that parents must be very intentional about passing their passions on to their kids. They won’t be passed on simply because you all live in the same house. The Harris parents taught their kids to play, got them the instruments they needed, and were very intentional about achieving their family goals. They are well on their way to realizing them, I think. Trinity River Band, you have a fan in San Diego!
The article below was excerpted from my book Cleared for Takeoff by HomeWord for the March edition of their parent newsletter:
Respect is obviously short in supply these days, but is absolutely something our kids need to learn for their own benefit. When kids learn to respect others, they also learn to respect themselves. You must give respect before you can get any, even from yourself. And self-respect plays a huge role in how young people mature. As parents, we can play a key role in helping our kids learn about respect and incorporate it into their lives by using consequences consistently when we discipline.
Of course, respect is a two-way street. Especially with teenagers, parents need to show respect as well as expect it. Kids who are treated respectfully are more likely to be respectful. Mutual respect doesn’t mean that parents and children have equal amounts of authority in the home. Instead, kids respect their parents by obeying them. And parents respect their kids by expecting them to obey. This kind of mutual respect results in greater trust and more freedom for both parents and kids.
So how do you teach kids to be respectful? Certainly not by demanding, begging, or pleading. Respect has to be earned. Parents earn respect by establishing their authority and being competent and consistent year in and year out. This, of course, is where hanging in there with well-defined expectations and consequences comes in.
Whenever you set limits or make agreements with your teenager regarding behavior or expectations, you also need to discuss with him or her what happens in the event there is a failure to comply. If this is done well before the fact, rather than after, it can be done without emotion, without struggle, without disagreement. If the consequence is reasonable, your teenager will likely understand the need for it and agree to it without argument. If he or she can’t agree to a consequence, then you have reason to believe that your teenager has no intention of compliance anyway.
Consequences are best understood as a way of balancing privileges with responsibility. For the privilege of using the family car, there are consequences for not coming home at the agreed-upon time. For the privilege of having a wardrobe of clothes, there are consequences for not picking them up and putting them away.
Once consequences are in place, they should be allowed to take effect without parental intervention. Once they are established, there is no need for further disciplinary action. The consequence should itself provide the discipline.
The object of consequences is to teach responsibility. Once consequences become punishment, retribution, or vengeance, they lose their effectiveness. To prevent their misuse, authors H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson (in their book Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-indulgent World) suggest remembering the three Rs of consequences.
1. They should be related to the behavior in question. In other words, the first place to look for a suitable consequence for a behavior is the behavior itself. Rather than grounding kids for every bad thing they do or using some other one-size-fits-all consequence, try connecting the behavior with the consequence in some logical way. If your teenager can’t return the car with a full tank of gas, he or she loses driving privileges or has to wash the care the next day or get up early the next morning and get the gas tank filled at his or her own expense. It’s impossible to make every consequence logical, but that’s usually the best way to make them effective.
2. They should be reasonable. If a consequence is too severe or too harsh, teenagers are likely to become angry and resentful and rebel against it. While no consequence ever seems fair to a teenager, they will be more likely to accept them and learn from them if they make sense. Sometimes parents make the mistake of imposing consequences that are not only unreasonable but also unenforceable. “Either change your behavior or find another place to live!” They know you aren’t serious when you say something like that. On the other hand, consequences shouldn’t be so inconsequential that they don’t act as motivator or deterrent at all. If a teen’s consequence for coming home from a party with alcohol on his or her breath is a $20 fine, the teenager is likely to think that’s not a bad deal. Minor behaviors should result in minor consequences, serious behaviors in serious consequences. This will help teenagers understand values and choices in their proper perspective.
3. They should be respectful. What this means is that we implement and enforce consequences out of a desire to help our kids become capable and responsible, not out of a desire to see our kids suffer, to get revenge, or to win. Again, our objective is not to punish, but to provide adequate and effective discipline.
Teenagers care deeply about fairness and respect. Even though they cry “unfair” at ever opportunity, they do have the ability to understand why you must set limits and enforce consequences. Most kids will reluctantly admit that they respect and admire teachers at school who are clear and consistent with their requirements and rules, even though they have a hard time living up to them.
It will probably take some time for you to learn to use consequences effectively. It’s much more than a science. You’ll probably make some mistakes and have to feel your way along as you decide when to use consequences, how often you will use them, and what exactly they will be. Some kids require that you use them a lot; others won’t. Some require very severe consequences; others don’t. You’ll have to be creative and use your best judgment. Your kids need to learn that the real world operates by laws of cause and effect that can’t be suspended just because they are inconvenient. The consistent application of consequences will help teens learn this principle, which will in turn result in their growing in the areas of respect; for those in authority, for others in general, and for themselves.
Our church (College Avenue Baptist Church) recently held it’s first-ever intergenerational, all-church retreat at Pine Valley Christian Camp, about 30 minutes out of San Diego. It turned out to be the coldest weekend San Diego county has had in quite a few years. Temperatures dropped into the teens at night (we even got some snow) but during the day, sunny blue skies in the mid-50’s. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for a winter retreat. About 200 people attended, about a third of our Sunday morning crowd.
Our theme was community-building. I presented three seminar-style messages on the topic over the course of the weekend and since all ages were together, I had the challenge of engaging all the children who were there (as well as the adults). A few word-games and puzzles based on the theme seemed to do the trick. The feedback we’ve had from the retreat has been very positive so far. Whether or not we will actually see more unity in our congregation, more relationship-building between the generations and more disciples being made remains to be seen but I think we achieved what we set out to do.
One of the highlights of the weekend was our Saturday night talent show. At first I wasn’t sure we’ve have any talent at all (folks were a little hesitant to sign up in advance) but after we got there, the talent emerged and we had about 15 acts competing for the “CABBY” award, a trophy that was created especially for the occasion. Our winner was a 15-month old little girl named Karis who danced while her father played the guitar and sang. I emceed the show, or should I say “Buck Stud” emceed the show, an alter-ego of mine from Youth Specialties days who you might say is a cross between Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Swaggert. There’s a brief shot of Buck in the video clip. Buck did a Christian version of “New York, New York” called “New Jerusalem..” After the talent show, one of our older ladies at the retreat asked, “Who was that man who emceed the talent show, anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him before.” Ha. I guess I was disguised pretty well.
CABC@PineValley turned out to be a very successful and fun intergenerational event that included children, youth, college students, families and seniors. We played together, roomed together, laughed together, learned together, worshipped together and came back energized and excited about what our church can ultimately become. It’s a slow process of change, but I think it’s happening. To all the Generations team at CABC, I say job well done. Let’s do it again next year.
Actually, I wrote these tips about twenty years ago but they were recently reprinted in HomeWord’s January 2013 Parent Newsletter. Here they are for a whole new generation of parents:
Parenting adolescents can be a scary prospect, as kids get older and begin to create some distance between them and us. Still, it doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. There are some simple, yet powerful steps we can take in order to ensure our influence level remains high. Here are twelve tips you can use right away that will make your responsibilities as a parent a bit easier to manage.
- When your teenager comes home from school today, smile when he or she walks through the door. Do that several days in a row and your kid will actually look forward to coming home!
- Next time your teenager tries to be funny … laugh.
- Make a list of all the things your teenager does that makes you mad. Now, go through the list and cross off all the stuff that doesn’t really matter. Save your anger only for those things which have lasting moral consequences.
- Take your teenager out for breakfast or lunch once a week. Promise yourself that you won’t use that time to lecture or nag. Just listen and talk about good stuff.
- Invite your teenager’s friends to your house for pizza, soft drinks and a movie rental. Extra points if you can secure a big-screen TV or video projector.
- Ask your teenager to play his/her favorite music on your stereo. Listen and discuss the music with him or her. Find out why he/she likes it so much. Try to avoid criticism.
- Think of something positive you can say to your teenager today … and say it.
- Put a love note (from you) in your teenager’s backpack or lunch sack.
- Before you criticize your teenager’s behavior, try remembering your own teenage years. Chances are it will help you communicate better.
- Love your spouse. A strong family provides security for teenagers.
- Respect your teenager’s privacy. Snooping without a legitimate reason is a no-no.
- Communicate your plans to your teenager frequently. Let him/her know where you are, when you’ll be home, what you’re doing. This sets a good example that will encourage them to do the same thing for you.Bonus tips:
- Be patient with your kids. Growing up takes time … but they will grow up.
- Learn to trust your kids more. The more trust you give them, the more opportunities they will have to prove themselves trustworthy.
- Keep your sense of humor. Healthy families are laughing families!
- Pray daily for your kids. Remember, God loves them even more than you do!
Do you think they still hold up after all these years? Any other tips that need to be added to this list?
Today my old friend Dan McKinnon was laid to rest at Miramar National Cemetery after a very Christ-centered funeral service at Clairemont Emmanual Baptist Church. He died on Thanksgiving Day, having lived a fruitful life of 78 years. You can read an article about Dan’s life in the UT newspaper by clicking here.
Before he died, Dan meticulously planned his own funeral service, which is exactly what took place today. Congressman Duncan Hunter and his former pastor Tim LaHaye spoke, as did several other friends and relatives. Dan asked for specific songs to be sung: I Saw the Light, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Daddy Sang Bass, Angel Band and the old spiritual Amen. It was my honor to play banjo and sing those songs for Dan today along with my old Brush Arbor band mates Ken Munds and Dave Rose.
I first met Dan around 1966 when he was serving on the board of San Diego Youth For Christ. He was a young man, in his early 30′s as I recall and he owned a radio station in town, KSON. A few years later KSON sponsored a talent competition called “Country Star” (an early version of “American Idol”) and by that time I had formed a band called Brush Arbor. We decided to enter the contest. There were more than 100 entries and we managed to make the cut to the finals, a show that was broadcast live on the radio. Contest judges included a producer from Capitol Records, a Billboard magazine executive, and several other people who I don’t remember. We won the contest that night and the producer from Capitol (Steve Stone) asked us if we would be interested in a record deal with Capitol. Needless to say, we were very happy to sign a record contract that would put us on the same label with Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and the Beatles.
After we were signed by Capitol, Dan offered to be our manager, and so we entered into an agreement with him which turned out to be very beneficial to us. Not only did he own KSON, but he had connections with the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Association and many other country music industry leaders. With Dan as our manager, our very brief career as country music stars really took off. We got Nudie Suits, started playing Vegas, making appearances on the Opry, touring with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, the Everly Brothers, Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings and the list goes on and on. I stayed on with the band for a couple of years before departing to continue my calling in youth ministry.
About the time I left Brush Arbor in 1974, we won the Academy of Country Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year. We received a nice trophy (presented to us by Kenny Rogers) and so we gave it to Dan to keep in his trophy case. Thirty years later, Dan organized a reunion of the band at his Wildcat Canyon Ranch where he presented each one of us with our own Academy of Country Music Award which he made possible. Mine is prominently displayed in my home.
In 1975 I had a conversation with Dan regarding bluegrass music. I mentioned that there were quite a few bluegrass music fans living in San Diego (me, for one) and I suggested that it might be a good idea to feature some bluegrass now and then on his radio station. He thought it was a great idea and he asked me if I would like to do it. I was completely surprised by the offer because I had no radio experience at all. (I thought radios worked because there were little tiny people inside.) Dan just grinned and said “Oh, anybody can be a DJ. We’ll show you how.” Ha. I have since learned that professional radio personalities are incredibly talented people. I still haven’t got the hang of it and I’ve been doing a weekly show on KSON now for almost four decades.
Dan sold KSON back in the eighties to Jefferson-Pilot Communications, who then sold the station to Lincoln Financial Media. I’ve had lots of bosses and program directors at KSON over the past four decades. But each year on the anniversary of my show, I like to give credit to Dan for its success and longevity. He made it all possible. In 2001, on our 25th anniversary extravaganza at the East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon, I honored Dan by presenting him with a commemorative Deering Banjo. He always wanted to learn how to play one but I don’t think he ever found the time to work on his banjo licks.
So goodbye old friend, and thank you. Thank you for believing in me and providing me with some of the most memorable and significant moments of my life. You will always be remembered with great fondness and respect.
My sister Mary sent me this photo for my birthday. It is a picture of me, apparently taken 65 years ago on the occasion of my second birthday. If I remember correctly, we lived on Deodar Street in Oxnard at the time. I must not have had any friends, or if I did, they weren’t invited to the party.