Posts in category Communication

3 steps to create a family tech plan



Editor’s Note: This post by Dan Martin originally appeared on the official blog of pureHOPE, an organization whose aim is to inspire and equip followers of Christ to flourish in this sexually exploitative age and lead their families and communities to do the same.

TeenCellphoneFor the last five years I have had the unique privilege of speaking to and hearing from parents all over the country. The question I am asked most by parents is how to handle all of the tech gadgets invading their kids’ lives and what I would recommend as a dad who has raised three teenagers in the digital age.

Finding the balance between face-to-face and digital connection is the key.  As the Apostle John said: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” – 2 John 1:12

What John understood was that technology (his being paper and ink) was a substitute for something better: face-to-face interaction and connection.  John, and all of the writers of the New Testament, mastered the art of balancing these two connecting opportunities.  Just like them, we ought to seek a healthy combination of both.

Here is a three-fold strategy for managing technology in your home:

First, we are to protect our kids. 

Protection involves several layers in today’s wired environment.  A comprehensive protection plan involves activating parental controls on all digital devices, browsers, specific social media sites and apps.  Also important to this endeavor is protecting at the router level.  This will help with devices that are brought into our homes by friends of our children who might not have parental controls activated.

Filtering and/or monitoring (aka internet accountability) are also important parts of a comprehensive protection plan.  Our family has used Covenant Eyes for both filtering and monitoring for several years and we have found it to be a wonderful piece of our overall protection plan.  We used filtering when our kids were young and moved to monitoring when they got a bit older.

I also recommend that technology be used only in common areas in the home, i.e., no technology in bedrooms. Besides the obvious risk of kids viewing porn is the fact that cyber bullying has become all too common in the digital age and a 24/7 occurrence.

Second, we are to equip our kids to thrive in a digital world. 

If all we do is protect our kids … we will fail to equip them.  A home strategy should involve lots of equipping when it comes to technology.  I would much rather send an equipped child into the world than a protected one. Equipping means that our homes become incubators for healthy learning, healthy growth, healthy correcting and healthy dialogue about the impact and influence of technology. If we want them to make good decisions when they leave the security of our homes, they need to understand why prudent tech use is so important to their spiritual and emotional well-being.

Third and (in my opinion) most important, we need to model wise and healthy technology use for our kids.  

It remains true that observational learning is the primary way our kids develop understanding and learn behavior.  It also remains true that parents are the primary influence in their kids’ lives.  Not peers, not media, not celebrities … parents!  If we desire for our kids to use technology wisely, then we must model this behavior in our own lives, in our own homes.  Here are a few things I recommend doing as a family and yes, parents, you need to set the example here!

  1. Create a Tech Basket – a place in the home where all technology is placed at a specified time each evening in order to protect valuable family time. We have a rule that family meal times are also tech-free!
  2. Tech Sabbath – This could be a night or a weekend of complete rest from technology. Our family loves to go camping together, which provides time to reconnect with each other and disconnect from technology.
  3. Model Good Tech Use – As parents we also need to have our own Internet activity monitored in order to model good technology health to our kids.  When my oldest son left home for college, he received a laptop as a graduation gift.  I will never forget him bringing me his laptop prior to moving out and asking me,  “Dad, will you install that program (Covenant Eyes) you have on your laptop?”  One question to ask yourself: are you modeling the type of behavior you want to see in your kids?

A three-fold strategy involving protection, equipping, and modeling is our best bet as parents to help our children thrive when it comes to living in this digital age.

© 2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission.

MartinDanMugDan Martin serves as Parenting Associate at pureHOPE, developing ministry activities and resources to equip parents to raise kids in the sexualized culture around us. He is also the Adult Ministry Pastor at the Chase Oaks Church Fairview Campus. Dan and Kathie have been married for 24 years and live in Lucas, TX; they are recent empty-nesters with three college-aged children. 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “3 steps to create a family tech plan,” by guest blogger Dan Martin of pureHOPE ministry.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHow are you doing in protecting, equipping, and modeling good digital behavior with your children?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet more guidance on managing “Screens and Teens” from Dr. Kathy Koch on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGet with your spouse to develop a family tech plan, using resources like pureHOPE and Covenant Eyes.

True leadership to aspire to



Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

On Saturday nights before NFL games, most teams watch a bit of film of their opponent to sharpen their minds for the next day. My 49ers coach, Bill Walsh, added a twist: he showed a highlight clip of our team the game before that week, so long as we won or competed admirably. On a big run by the running back, Bill would narrate the play, giving special emphasis to a key block.

“Gentlemen, look at our left guard Guy McIntyre. Watch his footwork and his speed pulling across the formation to lay out, with his head on the correct side of that linebacker that he blocks. This is perfection. It’s a great effort by a great San Francisco 49er. I look forward to seeing you men play at this level tomorrow.”

Man! How do you think Guy felt after that? How did we as buddies feel? How much would you want to be the guy to make the plays that made the highlight film the next week?

Bill had a way of lifting our view of ourselves from average to elite, from athlete to intellectual, from winner to champion. This is the kind of true leadership I aspire to, and so can you.

To husbands, dads, managers, and Little League coaches: make a mental highlight reel; describe the character, the effort, the kindness, or the sacrifice of someone on your team. You can help someone face their blitz, reach their heart, and fill their tank.

©2015. Adapted from Facing Your Blitz weekly video encouragement, and from the book, Facing the Blitz, by Jeff Kemp.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “True leadership to aspire to” by Jeff Kemp on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistGet these devotional encouragements weekly in video format from Jeff Kemp’s Facing Your Blitz Youtube page.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement on turning trials into triumphs, get Jeff’s book, Facing the Blitz, from the FamilyLife online store.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEvery day this week, text, email or speak to your your wife, child or friend about a thing they’ve done well.

Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey



This is the final post in a three-part series about “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” The second post, “Man up to Christian Grey and Fifty Shades,” offered ideas about what you can do to reflect real manhood: Be a man of integrity, love your wife unconditionally, and show your daughters their strength. This post picks up that list with four more suggestions.

4. Raise men of honor.

The way a young man treats a young woman tells her what he thinks of her, and even feeds into how she thinks of herself. We need to remind our sons to value young ladies like we value their mom and treat them with the same honor and deference. The same axiom I mentioned earlier works in reverse: “Be a gentleman; get a lady.”

We also need to remind sons that they need to take responsibility for the self-discipline of the relationship. Just because of how we’re designed, we men are more likely to be the pursuers in a relationship. We will advance as far as we are allowed, and even push the boundaries to find out how solid they are.

As dads, we endeavor to raise our sons to be men of honor and integrity. And our desire is that they date young women with high moral standards as well. But we know that, as romance and hormones blossom, the tendency is for those physical boundaries to get mushy. In generations past, a young woman might put on the brakes if the passion got too high. Today, though, young women are just as likely as young men to be the aggressors.

We need to remind our sons (and the guys who date our daughters) to not let the passion rise to those hard-to-stop points, even if their dates seem to be giving the go-ahead. When things have settled down, she’s likely to appreciate him taking the leadership, and more trusting that he’s watching out for her.

5. Warn the women in your life about pornography.

At one time, porn use among married men wasn’t something “polite” women brought up. In recent years, women have bravely begun to speak up about how it hurts them and makes them feel inferior to the sex objects on the pages of magazines and computers. But at the same time, strangely, pornography has become more accepted among women.

Men who have battled porn addiction should be the first to speak up to warn and protect women.  We know firsthand how pornography lures us with the promise of sexual fulfillment and release, but it eventually dominates our thinking. Advances in neuroscience have confirmed what we already knew from experience: the more we give ourselves to porn, the more our brains are trained to want more of it, more often, and more graphic. Eventually, we’re more drawn to the instant fulfillment of a sexual fantasy than to work through a real relationship with a real woman.

The same thing is beginning to happen to women. Many are becoming obsessed with pornography and erotica and the fulfillment it offers. They become trapped in a world of fantasy where they attempt to meet emotional and sexual needs with a fantasy man. They may not be as attracted as much to the visual stimulation as men are, but they do notice the beautiful, sexy women in porn and imagine those women as themselves, the objects of desire.

With the power of the smartphone, young women have discovered they have the ability to create their own porn in the form of nude selfies and videos. They do it to connect to a love interest or to get noticed. With all the increase in women’s use of porn, the bottom line is that they seem to be willing to put up with objectification and debasement in order to find a way to be desired and fulfilled.

6. Be open with your wife about romance and intimacy.

Many married women defending the book often say it has improved their sex life. Certainly a film like Fifty Shades that blends heavy doses of romance and flesh can’t help but awaken many women’s sexual desires. It’s the same reasoning a man might give for watching pornography with his wife—to jump-start their sex life. But that’s trying to create a reality based on fantasy.

There is a much healthier way to jump-start romance and intimacy in your marriage. It’s called communication. Open, honest conversations about intimacy and sexual fulfillment keep romance and passion alive through years of marriage.

Talk honestly about how each of you assess your love life, frequency, likes, dislikes and wishes. Maybe you can start with some simple questions that you answer together.

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our intimacy?
  • What things that I do make you feel most wanted and fulfilled?
  • What would you change about our love life?

God has designed marriage as the place to enjoy a lifetime of intimacy between “the wife of your youth” and her “beloved” (Proverbs 5:18-19; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Song of Solomon 7:6-10). Talk and explore together how to get out of the intimacy rut and together create a more fulfilling sex life. Not sure what’s okay and what’s not (especially in light of all the junk passed off in Fifty Shades of Grey)? Here are some helpful guidelines borrowed from Marriage Today:

  • Is it forbidden in Scripture?
  • Does it violate your conscience?
  • Does it violate your wife, or is it against her conscience or will?
  • Is it physically safe or might it cause health risks?
  • Does it treat your wife in a disrespectful way or damage your relationship?
7. Understand submission God’s way.

What is presented in Fifty Shades of Grey is being called submission, but it’s actually subjugation. Subjugation is defined as “defeating or gaining control of a person for their obedience.” Submission is when a person voluntarily places themselves under the authority and guidance of another.

The Bible teaches women to submit to the God-given leadership of their husbands in the same way that Christ submitted to the will of God the Father. But here’s a reminder, guys: God doesn’t command a husband to remind his wife to submit. Instead He calls the husband to unconditionally love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave his entire life for her. Subjugation is the furthest thing from God’s design in the marriage relationship. Our wives are His gift to us as our completers, and we are God’s gift to them as shields of protection.

Out of reverence to Christ, both husband and wife are to put their personal desires aside to serve each other (Ephesians 5:21). That brings out the best in a man and a woman. It brings us together in mutual trust and fulfills the deepest longings of our souls.

When you rely on God’s word to guide you on how a man should treat a woman, it’s easier to see black and white. Thankfully, a real Christian doesn’t have to muddle through fifty shades of grey.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Real manhood: Black & white, not Fifty Shades of Grey” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“7 Things to Remember About Sex” is one great way you and your wife can start a discussion about your sexual desires.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistLet women see a better example of manhood by passing “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” along to your male friends.

The NFL and safer, stronger homes



KempScottKATV

Second-generation NFL players Freddie Scott II and Jeff Kemp get to the heart of domestic violence issues.

Recently, a couple of Stepping Up blog contributors (who happen to both be second-generation NFL players) were together at FamilyLife for a TV interview to give their perspectives on the NFL and its recent domestic violence issues.

While most every other voice you’re hearing blasts the league for the rampant problems among players and how poorly it’s handling the issue, these two former NFL players have a different take. A much more positive one.

Freddie Scott is actually working with NFL teams, players, and the players union to address issues like these, how to avoid them, and how to create a new paradigm for players who grew up in unstable homes. Jeff Kemp contends that the disciplines that the NFL teaches to its players to make them great performers and teammates are the very disciplines that make for strong fathers, husbands and men, creating safer, stronger homes.

Check out some additional footage from the interview that wasn’t part of the final broadcast:

By the way, just after Jeff and Freddie did this interview, they were in FamilyLife’s video studio to talk extensively about the subject. Our video team is working on editing those clips and we’ll pass them along to you as they become available.

6 sentences your child needs to hear from you



Editor’s Note: Those of us who have parented at least one child from newborn to early adulthood recognize the power of the parent-child relationship in developing the confidence and character needed to make it in the world.

As he so often does, Mark Merrill boils down the process to a few easy-to-remember, easy-to-do phrases that can make all the difference in the life of a child, now and into their adult years.

6SentencesChildNeedsIn raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.

Saying these 6 short sentences will give your child a strong sense of security, identity, belonging, and value.

1. “I’m here for you.”

Being available for your children is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough … it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”

2. “I’m proud of you.”

Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dads say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dads just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.

3. “I believe in you.”

Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your children need to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.

4. “I want the best for you.”

This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your children that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” … and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their hearts, that you are for them, not against them.

5. “I will stand with you.”

I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your children that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.

6. “I love you.”

This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”

© 2014, Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.MarkMerrill.com.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a guest post, “6 sentences your child needs to hear from you,” which first appeared on MarkMerrill.com.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHas your child heard any of these sentences from you recently? How did they react? Tell us your story.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistDetermine to say at least one of these sentences to each of your kids this week. Add more each week until it’s a habit.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Pass this article along to your wife or a fellow dad. Keep each other accountable to speak life into your kids.

Avoid being a social media casualty



social media casualtyDid you know that a third of all divorce filings contain the word “Facebook”?

That’s according to a recently-released report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But before you go telling all your friends that “a third of all marriages end because of Facebook,” recognize what the report really says.

The truth is that Facebook is mentioned in one-third of divorce filings. A lot of those filing papers only make reference to an online relationship. Some husbands or wives have even declared their intention to break up through Facebook, email, or Instagram. But a great number of the divorce papers simply use Facebook messages or wall posts to make a case for divorce by pointing out a spouse’s uncivil behavior or poor parenting skills.

The widespread use of electronic media today makes it almost certain that Facebook and Instagram could be used by lawyers to build a legal web to snare an uncommitted spouse. And that’s on the rise. Consider that three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.” Whatever the case, social media is definitely playing an increasing role in families and family breakup.

More important than that, I believe the level of social media engagement in our culture today is evidence that we’re putting a lot of time into passing interactions with others and not enough time in deep relationship-building with a spouse.

Recently I saw a comment on one of FamilyLife’s Facebook pages by a husband who took a little passing snipe at his wife for everyone to see. In all fairness, he was probably reaching out for help in an area of frustration in his marriage. But those kinds of comments, when read by a wife, often make the problem worse by feeding a sense of embitterment or hurt.

Here are some principles that may help keep social media interactions from becoming words in a divorce filing.

1. Keep everything in the open.  If you don’t have a joint husband/wife account (on Facebook for example) make sure what you say online is nothing you couldn’t say with your wife standing there beside you. Before messaging, ask yourself, “Is this something I wouldn’t mind my wife seeing?” You may even consider letting your wife read it first. It’s good for accountability, and it’s a good way to double-check that what you’ve written isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.

2. Say what you need to say … and say it to the right person.  Rather than gripe about a marital problem on social media, talk directly with your wife. If you think it might hurt her feelings or get you in hot water, think of a way you can soften the blow when you raise the issue.  In most cases, the following approach is helpful: “I know you care about me, and I know you probably didn’t think about it, but I feel (insert your emotion) when you (insert the offense). I don’t want problems to build that will isolate us. Can we work through this together?” This works for wives, too.

3. Use social media to build each other up.  It’s never been easier than it is right now to send notes to each other for no reason at all, or to brag about your wife in front of others.  Social media makes it easy to connect with each other while you’re apart during the day, and that will keep a relationship from drifting.  Just make sure that what you say online is reinforced by what you say and do when you see each other that night. Remember, your wife is always looking for proof that she’s important to you. That gives her a lot of security.

4. When you’re together, come together.  It’s very easy, even when you’re home, to drift to your own individual social media corners. By the end of the evening, you realize that you’ve hardly spoken a word. This happens with father-child relationships, too. Set your personal devices aside, and plan some face time (the real thing, not the Apple feature.)

Above all else, remember these two driving principles of building and maintaining a relationship:

  • The quality of your relationship depends on the amount each of you invest in it.
  • If you aren’t intentionally growing toward oneness, you’re automatically drifting toward isolation.

Don’t let your marriage become a social media casualty. Be intentional about strengthening your marriage and avoiding the things that could potentially destroy it.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Avoid Being a Social Media Casualty” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“The Unmasking of an Online Affair” tells the story of one couple who came back from emotional infidelity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Boehi’s 3-part series “Are We Replacing Conversation with Connectivity” on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post and these articles with your wife and work together to keep social media under control.

Patience Thin? 5 Keys to Keep Your Cool



This blog post first appeared on Freddie Scott’s Legacy Builder blog.

Let’s be honest. Some days are just harder than others. There are days where our patience with those we love and people we work with is just paper thin. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is quoted saying, “A man who is a master of patience, is a master of everything else.” A man who is able to control himself when his patience is running thin, is a man that can govern his thoughts, words, and actions.

Another great principle actually comes straight from Scripture:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19).

With those principles in mind, here are 5 tips to keep your cool.

1. Give yourself a timeout

Sometimes it’s okay to give yourself a timeout in the middle of a stressful situation. Think about it: when a basketball coach calls a timeout when the other team is on a run, or has made a great play, we think of it as a great strategy to break the momentum of the other team and quiet the crowd. This allows his team to settle down, not make any further mistakes, and most importantly to be reminded of their purpose and of the game plan after the timeout.

You can do the same thing! In the middle of a stressful moment, give yourself a timeout to reset and refresh so you don’t make the mistake of saying something in the moment that you may regret later.

2. Beware of the earthquake effect

I have to be honest here. There have been times when I lashed out my frustrations on my wife and kids. Not because they did anything wrong, but because I was low on patience, and they happened to be the closest people around me. Remember, those closest to you will feel the effects of when something is wrong with you. Very much like there is much more damage to buildings closest to the epicenter of an earthquake than those that are farther away from it.

When you feel yourself erupting, remember the possible damage that you could cause to those closest to you, and put their needs ahead of your own.

3. Don’t raise your voice

Have you ever noticed that when you raise your voice, everyone else in the conversation also raises their voice? Not raising your voice not only allows you to control your emotions during a stressful situation, it also allows you to control the intensity of the entire conversation.

Proverbs 15:1 states, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” This is not saying that you are soft, or the reply is not firm. Rather, your tone is soft and controlled. Almost Presidential in character. When you control the tone of your voice, you are communicating that you are not rattled and are in total control in the situation. This attribute will make it easier for those around you to see and respect you for the leader that you are.

4. Avoid using escalator words

We’ve all done it. When our emotions are high, and in the middle of a heated argument we decided to throw an insult or bring up an issue from the past that we are still hurt about. We may be talking about who should’ve washed the dishes, but now we are bringing up something that happened years ago! Every conversation has opportunity to escalate in intensity, or not. We choose which way it goes based on what we say at the time. Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should say something.

Remember the wise words from Kenny Rogers, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Remember, that it is okay to punt. You don’t have to be right every time! Just punt. Let the other person think they won the point. The real winner is you for demonstrating your leadership by not allowing a situation to turn into an unnecessary argument.

5. Just listen

Don’t respond at that moment–especially if you sense that you are at a place emotionally where you feel like you are about to erupt and you can’t separate yourself from the situation to give you some space to calm down. This is when you should not focus on your frustrations and feelings at the time. Rather, try to focus your energy and attention on simply listening to the person with the purpose of trying to understand where they are coming from.

This is not the time to give your side of the story, or offer your input, because you still need to get your emotions under control. This is the time where you simply lean in intently and listen for the key feelings that the other person is expressing. Sometimes it’s effective to simply repeat what you hear the other person saying in an effort to make sure you understand them. This gives the person the opportunity to share what’s on their heart, and feel understood. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts and emotions, and have a greater understanding of the feelings of the other person.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the blog post Patience Thin? 5 Keys to Keep Your Cool by guest contributor Freddie Scott II

STEPthink - keep your cool

Listen to Chip Ingram on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast discussing The Heart of Anger

STEPembrace - keep your cool

What triggers your anger? Plan ways to react differently. Ask your wife or a trusted guy to help you change the pattern.

STEPpass - keep your cool

Who do you know who struggles with anger? Pass these resources along to them, and offer your support.

FreddieScott

Freddie Scott is a former NFL player, pastor, author, and founder and president of Unlock The Champion. He is a Transition Coach for the NFL Player Engagement Program, and serves as a family expert for the NFL Players Association conducting workshops across the country helping men to be better husbands and fathers.

– See more at: http://unlockthechampion.com/wp_UTC/5-keys-to-control-your-temper/#sthash.eHE3ClIH.dpuf

Stepping Up as couples



I’ve led small groups in my home and in church for years, but the response from a group of ladies actually took me by surprise.

The Stepping Up 10-week video series is geared toward men, challenging them to be all God desires them to be as husbands and fathers. I was a little more than halfway through leading my third group of men through the study when I heard the voice of a woman in one of the sessions.

stepping up as couples

Chuck and Melissa Douglas

“It must be hard to be a man today.”

That sentence validated what I suspect so many men feel in our culture, and I wanted my wife to hear it. Melissa is very supportive, but she was not involved with the details of my leading this study. After all, this was my thing with the guys, not something for the ladies.

That is until we talked that evening.

I told her that I really wanted her to understand not only how the series was challenging me as a husband and father, but how most of the struggles that we men face are really common to all of us. That is when she suggested that we go through the study together with other couples.

Navigating the masculine landscape from a woman’s perspective

Most of the more than 100,000 who have done Stepping Up, have been men participating in either a small group or a weekend event setting for men. Still, we took the study to our couples’ small group at church with a question: “Can a wife learn anything from attending a video-based Bible study geared toward her husband?” In other words, would it work to do a study where we were stepping up as couples? After just the first session, we had our answer: a resounding “Yes!”

Rebecca Jarrard, one of those ladies, commented, “Women need to be clear on the pressures their husbands face daily so they can understand and encourage them in ways that fulfill their biblical roles as wives.” For Rebecca, attending the Stepping Up small group was a “peek inside the male mind.” The study helped her understand God’s perspective on the subject of masculinity, not the kind the world offers, but the biblical kind of masculinity for which God designed men.

Another friend and classmate, Chrissy Batson, thought that attending the study as a couple was a great idea. She did not shy away when she heard the study was originally geared toward men and contains mostly male-oriented subject matter. “That doesn’t scare me,” she said. “I’m always interested in my husband’s perspective, even if it’s not easy to hear.”

Coming into the study, she felt she was doing a pretty good job of understanding her husband, but also recognized her failures. She wanted to be more proactive in setting her husband up to be the leader in their home that they both wanted him to be.

Counter-cultural – in a good way

A surprise in presenting the study for couples was how the material applied to our daughters. Each of the women commented on their eagerness to understand real biblical masculinity—not just as a way to make them better mothers to their sons, but also to be better equipped to talk to their daughters about what “Mr. Right” really looks like.

Each couple who participated in the study agreed that they don’t want to just talk about real biblical manhood in their homes—they want to model it. They acknowledged that little exists in the current culture which resembles manhood and family leadership the way God intended. In the course of the study, a few of the ladies commented on ways that society is working against them and their children in their quest for building a family based on God’s design. Stepping Up helped them understand how important it is for husbands and wives to be proactive in teaching their children time-tested biblical principles that apply to every member of the family. They also came to understand how important it is to work together as a team to fulfill God’s purposes for their families.

The benefit of a wife … stepping up

Of course, we husbands are reaping a benefit as well. Several of the men expressed genuine eagerness for their wives to hear the same things they would have heard in a Stepping Up series for just men. One of the husbands said having his wife on the same page, as he works to achieve his goals for manhood, is invaluable.

“Knowing that she understands and empathizes with my struggles is deeply comforting. I know I’m not alone, but I have my best cheerleader at my side. Each of our wives wants the best for us as men, and their investment in this study proves their sincerity.”

Rebecca’s husband, Ken, put it this way, “We’ve always been partners, but now she understands how she completes me like never before. After 22 years of marriage my wife is beginning to understand the male mind in new ways—our struggles and challenges. What a benefit to my sons!”

The perspective of a group facilitator

Experiencing Stepping Up as a couple has given my Melissa a deeper understanding of how to come alongside me as I seek to pass along a biblical legacy to my boys. She is regularly encouraging me to live out the commitments I’ve made to my family. Rebecca and Chrissy are doing the same thing for their husbands.

As a group facilitator, I had a sense that the Stepping Up material would be valuable to the couples. But I really wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response of our wives and the insightful discussion they contributed to the study. What is even more important is the sense of unity all the couples have gained by attending the Stepping Up series together.

One wife expressed it best when she said that going through the workbook study with her husband made them feel like they are part of a team.

A winning team.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPSeekTruthYou have just finished reading the Stepping Up as couples post from the Stepping Up blog for men.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPthinkHave you and your wife ever talked about what it means to be a man? What would that conversation look like?

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPembraceAsk your wife what she and your children need you to be as a man? Tell her what she does that empowers you.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPPassItOnBe part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, or even with couples.

– – –

stepping up as couplesChuck Douglas earned a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A former police officer, Chuck authored a study in the Homebuilders Couple Series, Protecting Your First Responder Marriage. Chuck enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, hunting and fishing near their home in the North Georgia mountains. He and his wife Melissa have been married for 22 years and have been on staff with FamilyLife since 2001. They have four children.

 

10 ideas for keeping strong family relationships



“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

“You always hurt the ones you love.”

The timeliness of these old adages speaks volumes. It seems we reserve our least kind words, our most thoughtless deeds, and our meanest actions for those who mean the most to us. And because those close to us care  more about what we say and think, those words and actions hurt more deeply. It’s a double whammy.

Because the stakes are so high in the family, we must ensure that our communications not only stay away from the negative, but that they lead everyone to the positive. Here are ten passages of Scripture that can be very helpful in building and maintaining strong family relationships.

1. Mining for Good – Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

During the Gold Rush of the mid 19th century, prospectors would scoop up pan after pan of rocks and carefully wash away the useless lumps in hopes of finding just one gold nugget. We need to be prospectors of the good in other family members.

2. Rot Not – Ephesians 4:29

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Unwholesome, in the original Greek, can just as legitimately be translated “rotten.” The contrast in this verse makes it clear that our words fall into two categories:  “Edifying” and “Rotten.” If our words are not lifting our family members up, we don’t need to be wasting our breath.

3. Takes One to Know One – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

When we’re considering how we ought to respond to an unkind word from a spouse or other family member, we need think no further than what Christ has done for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

4. The “I Insist” Principle – Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I come from “The Hospitality State” (Mississippi), where it’s not unusual to have two drivers stopped at an intersection, sometimes for 10 seconds, each politely signaling to the other to go first. Sure, that may be a bit of overkill, but in this age of selfish individualism, maybe a pendulum swing in the opposite direction would be helpful … and closer to Scripture.

5. Go Deep Into Debt – Romans 13:8

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Scripture warns against being in financial debt to anyone. But here, Paul makes the point that there is an acceptable – even desirable – kind of debt. And because God, who is the author of love, offers an endless reserve of the commodity, the more debt we carry, the better it is for everyone.

6. It’s the Law – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

All the laws of the Old Testament, Jesus proclaimed, hinged on loving God and others. The burdensome, unattainable “to do lists” created by the Pharisees are preempted by one single command, which Jesus deemed important enough to repeat twice. And rather than being burdensome, it is incredibly freeing to both the giver and receiver.

7. The Checklist of Love – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Few passages of Scripture are as widely accepted and as lightly applied as this one. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful tools for revealing my own unloving attitudes in times of turmoil. People generally don’t appreciate having it pointed out when they’re wrong, but because this passage is so well loved, it tends to disarm even the most stubborn combatant.

8. Egg ‘Em On – Hebrews 10:24

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

How many quibbles turn into full-blown disputes because one person has “stirred up” (the word is “provoked” in some translations) the other to anger? Instead of being students of one another’s hot buttons, we need to consider what can nudge each other back into the right direction.

9. Share the Load – Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

In this age of radical individualism, a person’s responsibility goes no farther than the tip of his nose. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that when we notice someone limping down the highway of life with an oversized load, it is our responsibility as Christians to claim some of that load as our own.

10. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – Ephesians 4:26-27

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Few marriages are destroyed as the result of a single action. The vast majority collapse under the combined weight of unconfessed sin and bitterness held in reserve. God’s way of preventing that kind of stockpiling is with a self-imposed sunset clause. Knowing that you have to deal with an issue before bed not only defuses the dissension, but it improves communication, which makes the marriage (or other family relationship) stronger.

 

Time talks to teens



time talks to teens

Standing in a cold creek bed with numb feet, I learned that the relationship between my teenage sons and me depends more on acceptance and availability than rules and authority.

Several years ago I heard one of my four boys using a four-letter word while playing ball with neighbors in the backyard.  I reacted immediately by pulling him into the laundry room where we have our family “business” meetings.  I was determined to teach him that his behavior was unacceptable and that he was accountable.

Things didn’t go according to plan.  I had literally backed my son into a corner and he refused to admit his offense.  I accused, he denied, and the conversation escalated into an argument that wasn’t getting either of us anywhere.  We were both fortunate when my wife Stacy intervened.  She convinced me to drop the subject for the moment and try a different approach.

My opportunity came during a family outing next to a little stream where my son wanted to hunt for crawdads.  I would have preferred playing catch with a football to standing in that icy water and lifting large boulders, but before long both of us were totally involved in the hunt for our slippery prey.

After about 30 minutes, I casually reminded him of our laundry room “discussion.” What happened next amazed me.  He quickly apologized for his denials and acknowledged his offense.  We were both eager to put that episode behind us and get back to the crawdads in the creek bed.

This experience taught me that my children want a relationship with their father and I can only influence their attitudes and behavior by making myself available to them.

Time talks to teens

Pre-teens and teens may go out of their way to show that they’re not interested in spending time with their mom and dad, but they do want your time.

So talk and listen to your teens frequently.  Don’t simply wait until they rebel against your rules or expectations to “converse” with them.  Be available to them when they are ready to talk rather than only approaching them when it’s convenient for you.

Talk to your teens about the things they think are important and be sure to take their thoughts, opinions and concerns seriously.  Most importantly, listen carefully.  Ask questions about the music they listen to, the video games they play and the movies and television they watch.  You demonstrate to young people that you think they are important when you show interest in the things and friends they care about.

Think about it.  If your teens don’t feel safety and acceptance when talking with you in everyday conversation, will they discuss the really tough issues of adolescence like relationships with the opposite sex, alcohol, and drugs?  Your conversations may seem unproductive at times, but each small investment of time can pay big dividends when your son or daughter really needs to talk.  They will not only come to you, but they will listen when you give them advice.

The experience I had with my son in that creek bed reminded me that rules without relationship lead to rebellion.  It also made me realize that my attention – given on my son’s terms and timetable – was the key that opened both of our hearts.  The numb feet in that icy cold water were definitely worth it.

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