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.
After being assured that receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award doesn’t necessarily mean your lifetime is over, I was pleased to accept a LAW from Youth Specialties at their recent San Diego National Youth Workers Convention. From what I hear, this was the first of many that will be given to individuals who have contributed in some significant way to field of youth ministry. In my case, I co-founded the organization giving out the award, so I suppose that’s the secret to getting the first one! Regardless, it was a very special night for me and I am very grateful to the staff of Youth Specialties and all who contributed to making it happen. The presentation was captured on video and posted by Youth Specialties on YouTube as well as their web site.
After the presentation, several people said they were surprised to hear that I gave up a promising career in music to pursue youth ministry. Actually, that’s not quite true. I tried to explain it in the interview but I’m not sure I explained it very well. So let me explain it a little better here.
First, I was in youth ministry before I ever started playing music. In fact, it was youth ministry that prompted me to take up music in the first place. As a Youth for Christ staff member in the 60′s, I was trying to figure out how to reach kids for Christ. Folk music was pretty popular at the time, so several of us learned to play guitars and banjos and we formed folk groups. Our YFC rallies became “hootenannies” and believe it or not, they were pretty cool.
My first group was a folk trio with my wife Marci and another YFC staff member Dave Sheffel called “The Accidents.” That was in 1966. I played bass. Later, I learned banjo and formed a bluegrass group with my brothers and wife Marci called The Rice Kryspies. We recorded a couple of albums and played for churches, youth groups and two summers at Forest Home Christian camp. I really got into bluegrass music and my obsession with the banjo kept growing, but it was a hobby, a part-time thing while I was working for YFC and doing youth ministry in my church.
I was still playing with the Rice Kryspies AND doing youth ministry when Mike Yaconelli and I started Youth Specialties in 1968.
Then, in 1972, my wife Marci contracted pregnancy and she had to quit playing bass with The Rice Kryspies. My brothers and I continued along with two new members of the band, Ken Munds and Dave Rose. We changed the name of the band to Brush Arbor. After winning a local radio station talent contest, we were signed by Capitol Records and before long we were hearing our music played on country radio stations. One thing led to another and we ended up on the Grand Ole Opry, doing some network TV shows, touring with people like Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins (my favorite) and then winning a couple of country music awards including Vocal Group of the Year (Academy of Country Music). We had a manager by then and a booking agent, both of whom were expecting us to become the next big thing in country music. Capitol Records called us “The Voice of the New Country.”
All this happened very quickly and I have to admit, it was a whole lot of fun. But in December of ’73, while taping an NBC TV Special with Johnny Cash at Rockefeller Plaza in New York (on the same stage that later became the home of Saturday Night Live), I realized that I just couldn’t keep on playing with Brush Arbor. Our booking agent was telling us that he was going to put us on the road for over 300 dates per year. Youth Specialties was just getting some traction. My son Nathan was two years old and needed a daddy at home. I was torn between too many things and putting too much stress on my wife and partners in ministry. So I quit the band in New York. Our manager told us (while we were in New York) that he had booked us on the Hee Haw TV show and wanted us to fly to Nashville immediately to tape three shows. But I just couldn’t go. I had already made plans to go from New York to Atlanta to meet up with Mike Yaconelli and Denny Rydberg for a YS event.
So, I told the band I didn’t want to hold them back and they would need to replace me, which they eventually did. I played out a string of dates in Las Vegas in early 1974 but that was the end of my music career. Brush Arbor ended up going through a few more personnel changes after I left and while they never became the next big thing in country music, they had a good run and ended up being a top Christian country band. My brother Jim kept it going for quite a few years and they made some really good records.
I never felt like I gave up anything to do youth ministry because (1) youth ministry was what I had been called to do all along and (2) I was a very mediocre banjo player. I knew I would never make it as a professional musician. I would have starved to death.
But the time I spent with Brush Arbor (and since then, playing with other bands and doing my radio show) has been wonderful. I’m very blessed and thankful to God for all the opportunities that he has given me to do what I love to do.
Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to Nashville for the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) “World of Bluegrass” trade show, awards show and FanFest. I had a wonderful time there meeting up with old friends, listening to music, shopping in the exhibit hall, re-living old memories of the Nashville I remember from my old Brush Arbor days and in general just having fun. Listening to the best musicians on the planet has a way of putting me in a very good place emotionally AND spiritually. I’ve always considered my passion for bluegrass music a gift from God. Whenever I am enjoying it fully I am engaged in a form of worship. A great musical performance draws me immediately to God who is the Creator of all good music and has given us the capacity to appreciate it.
As I laid awake in my hotel room bed after a particularly wonderful night of music on Friday evening, I thought about how incredibly blessed I was to be able to come to Nashville and immerse myself so completely in this odd world of bluegrass music. My thoughts also turned to other passions in my life. Jesus. My wife. Do I also take time to immerse myself in them—like I do bluegrass? I was starting to feel a bit guilty.
And then it struck me that yes, I think I do. A few weeks ago, my wife and I were blessed to spend a week on the island of Cozumel, off the eastern coast of Mexico. We stayed at a beautiful resort and did nothing but just enjoy each other’s company for a whole week. What a wonderful time we had together, just being together and enjoying each other without any of the distractions of my normal life. No banjos. Whenever Marci and I are able to do something like this, we are drawn together in a very intense and beautiful way. We try to do this every year.
And this summer, I had the chance to take a group to Mexico to serve Jesus in Mexico on two separate mission trips. Whenever I have a chance to go and immerse myself in serving those whom Jesus identified with the most, the poor and the needy, I am drawn so much closer to Him. I always come home from those kind of mission trips with a renewed sense of passion and love for my Savior and what He has done for me. I’ve also been considering a spiritual retreat sometime soon, just a few days to get away and spend some alone time with Jesus—not working for him but just spending time with him.
I’m thankful that God has given me these passions and that I can take time to immerse myself in them from time to time. What are your passions?
Every 5th Sunday at College Avenue Baptist, we cancel all of our childrens programming during the morning worship hour so that families can worship together all in the same place. Our services are intergenerational in the sense that our youth and adults worship together, but normally our children (K through 5th grade) have a “children’s church” which they can attend if they choose to do so. Some children remain with their parents in “big church” but not all of them. To prepare parents for last Sundays inclusive service, Pastor Carlton Harris sent out the following email to our congregation, providing his excellent suggestions and insights on how to take your kids to “big church.”
At CABC we want to make more and better disciples from among the nations who honor God by worshiping Him! This Sunday, our worship service is a 5th Sunday Family Service. We will welcome our kindergarteners through 5th graders. The worship service has been planned with them in mind. We will be singing songs that they regularly sing during their group worship time on Sunday mornings. May I encourage all of you to sit as close to the front as possible (especially if your children will be worshiping with you)?
As some of you know, I began my journey as a father in 1983. God kindly gifted us with two daughters and a son within a time span of five years and four months. From the time our children were school-aged they joined us in our worship services. Wasn’t that a stressful decision? How did we do it? A better question is how did my wife do it without my help? I was preaching and leading in most of the worship services my children participated in between the start of kindergarten and the conclusion of high school. Here is some of what I remember from that season of our life together as a family:
- We would read the sermon text for the coming Sunday during the week. Our children would perk up when they heard familiar words during the sermon.
- We gave our children their own age-appropriate Bibles. They would bring them to the worship service each Sunday. They would also bring pens/pencils and paper to draw the sermon, the environment, or take sermon notes as they grew. They also watched their mother take sermon notes.
- Preparation for worship was done on Saturday night in order to reduce chaos and distractions on Sunday morning. We would select and prepare the clothes and shoes that we would be wearing to worship. We would get our Bibles and offering money ready. When our children were infants and toddlers, we would pack the diaper bag on Saturday night as well.
- Before we entered the worship service, they would use the rest room if needed so that they would not have to unnecessarily leave the worship service.
- We desired and expected our children to be respectful toward God and other worshipers around us.
- Our children would take a worship folder. Before the worship service began, my wife might point to the different elements in the order of worship, such as songs that they knew and liked. If there was something for which they needed to be prepared such as a responsive reading, she would point it out to our children who were old enough to participate.
- We would all participate as worshipers by sitting, standing, singing, closing our eyes, turning in the Bible, etc. with the rest of our church family. My wife and I wanted our children to see us sing praise to God with joy on our faces, or tears trickling down our cheeks, or hands clapping. We wanted our children to see her listen hungrily to God’s Word and watch me preach it passionately. In short, we wanted our children to feel our hearts meeting the living God during worship. We sought to model looking at the worship leader(s). So, we sat as close to the front as possible – usually on the first or second row – to reduce distractions like people-watching or clock watching. We wanted our children to see the front as well as possible. My wife would share worship folders, hymnals, and Bibles with our young children because those things are important tools for worship. We did not bring other books to the worship service for our children to read because we wanted their focus to be on worship. They could look at the pictures in their Bibles.
- When younger, our children would draw pictures of what they heard in the sermon. Individual words or names triggered individual pictures. As our children grew, their notes would involve concepts. Always remember that not everything in a worship service or sermon goes over the heads of our children!
- We would process the sermon together and the implications on how we live life in response to the Word of God.
- We would talk about unique aspects of the worship service such as a missionary speaker from a country we had been praying for.
There were times when one of our children was restless or noisy, despite our best efforts. In those times all you can do is pray for the understanding of the people around you, and try to deal with the problem discreetly. If the child is “having one of those days” and will not sit still or be quiet, you may have to take him or her out of the service. Use it as a teaching opportunity for parental training. Then decide whether you’ll reenter the worship service or not. At CABC, we have an infant cry room (with video feed) for mothers and their babies. During our worship services, we attempt to keep the foyer as a place for parents with young children who need to leave the worship service. We have video feed in the foyer during our worship services. You can help protect the foyer space for parents by not loitering or talking in the foyer during the worship service.
One of my great desires as a father has been to see my children fall in love with the worship of God both individually in private as well as corporately in public together with the body of Christ. I feel that my most important job as a parent was and is to fall in love with the worship of God and model that for my children. Why? Because worshiping God is the most valuable thing I can do in life.