More Churches Should Be Like Danny Tanner

Did you ever watch Full House growing up? Not the recent reboot, but the original with Danny Tanner, the father of three young girls who was trying to raise them with the help of his family and friends. A lot of the episodes had a similar theme to them. Throughout the episode one of the girls would be dealing with some sort of issue that comes with growing up, and at the end of each episode, either the dad or one of the other characters would be in the kids’ bedroom sitting on the bed trying to help them navigate the ups and downs of life. After eight years of fatherhood, I can now say I’ve had one of those moments.

My eight-year old daughter had a school project that she was really excited about. The project was to recycle things like cardboard boxes and plastic bottles and make something useful out of them. She had decided to make a claw that could pick things up from far away.

Unfortunately, she had been working on the project for three days at school, and it wasn’t coming together. She wasn’t allowed to bring it home, and the teacher had told them, once they started it, they couldn’t switch to something else. Oh, and they only had one more day to finish it.

I didn’t know these details until the night before. As I sat on my daughters’ bed to do our normal nightly prayers, my eight-year old didn’t want to pray. When I asked her why, she started filling me in on all the details and tears started to stream down her face. This project she had been so excited about, now had become the source of her greatest pain.

I had never seen my daughter filled with so much anxiety and fear. Her tears quickly turned to sobs, and nothing I said was making her feel any better. I quickly discovered this wasn’t about a failed project, it was about the fear of being judged.

In her mind, she was going to fail and everyone was going to make fun of her. They had already been asking her what her project was supposed to be, and this had embarrassed her. Their projects were coming together, and hers wasn’t. To make matters worse, the projects were going to be displayed outside the room for everyone to see. So now, not only would her classmates be making fun of her, but the rest of the school would be as well.

I told her not to care what anyone says or thinks, but she does. I told her everyone fails sometimes, but she never had. I told her it was going to be ok, but she didn’t believe me. In that moment I saw her as broken as she’s ever been, and my heart broke for her.

Every bit of it was because she was worried about what others may say or think about her.

And as I thought back upon what she was going through, I couldn’t help but think about broken people and their view of the church. Their fears of being judged, and their fears of what people may say or think about them. And how those fears many times keep them from experiencing the love of Jesus.

My daughter didn’t need me to tell her she messed up. She didn’t need me to say you should’ve known this wouldn’t have worked. She didn’t need me to say you should’ve told us sooner. She needed me to love her and to show her a better way.

So, that’s what I did.

And that’s what so many churches need to do a better job of.

That night we all got out of bed, we found some sturdier cardboard, we modified the design, and I gave her the tools to make it work. Danny Tanner would’ve been proud. The next day she came home with a smile on her face, and a little closer to her father.

Let’s hear your Full House story. Tell us about a time you shared love in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get emails on church leadership, growth, and sappy dad stories delivered to your inbox each week.

4 Ways to Make the Most of Summer

In the famous words of Olaf, “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a – happy pastor!” I know spring is awesome because you have Easter and Mother’s Day. Fall is nice because the kids go back to school which means parents go back to church. During the winter, you have Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Resolutions. But for me, personally, I love the summer.

If you’ve been pastoring very long, you know that ministry really never slows down, but summer seems to be the least crazy of the seasons. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work as hard during the summer; it just means your work may look a little different than normal.

In order to maximize your summer and set yourself up to grow this fall, I would encourage you to do these 4 things.

  1. Continue to encourage your congregation to invite. Yes, your weekend attendance will more than likely be less this summer than it was this spring. People are going to take vacations and enjoy the weather. That doesn’t mean evangelism should take a vacation also. Quite the opposite. You need to continue encouraging people to invite. Families could be visiting from out of town, new people could be moving into the area, and most people have more free time during the summer than any other time of the year. So, invite them to church.
  2. Don’t be afraid to do an attractive sermon series. If you’re not already doing sermon series, you need to be. Here are four reasons why they work. Many times our tendency during the summer is to avoid attractive series because we believe our attendance is going to be down. Life.Church has proven that’s not necessarily the case. Each year they do their “At the Movies” series during the summer, and each year it’s their most attended series.
  3. Get plenty of rest. It’s hard to rest as a pastor, but it’s absolutely necessary if you’re in this for the long haul. There are around twelve Sundays between Mother’s Day and mid-August. I personally believe you should take off at least four of them. Take a couple to spend with family, and take a couple to spend visiting and learning from other churches. A friend of mine said taking a sabbatical saved his ministry. Don’t underestimate the importance of rest.
  4. Don’t cancel your small groups. I really have no business giving pastors advice on small groups because my church isn’t very good at them. We struggle to get leaders, and we struggle to get people to attend. However, some of our best small groups have happened during the summer. The days are longer, which means people have more time to get things done and more time to attend a group. One of the most popular groups getting ready to start is an ING group. They’re going to be grillING, hikING, and kayakING. Summer fun groups allow relationships to form, which hopefully will carry over to groups in the fall and spring.

I hope these four thoughts help you, and I’d love to hear your ideas. What’s worked well for you to maximize summer? Leave a comment and let us know. Also, if you love tips on leadership and church growth, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.

Is Student Ministry Dying?

Just a few years ago, I was part of a thriving student ministry that was reaching between 120-160 kids every Wednesday night. Now, that same ministry averages around 25 middle and high school students. What’s changed? For one, our student pastor who was leading the ministry transitioned into a very successful campus pastor. Also, in the three years since then, we’ve gone through two student pastors, with myself being the third. Oh, and we stopped running church vans because of lack of volunteers and safety concerns. That’s what has happened within the church, but what’s happening outside of the church seems just as drastic.

  1. More Practices. Sunday and Wednesday evenings used to be designated church nights that were protected for the most part. That’s no longer the case. Sports and extracurricular activities are now invading that space.
  2. More Homework. The pressure for good grades and higher test scores has never been more prevalent. It’s not unheard of anymore for students to have one to two hours of homework each night.
  3. More Social Media. It used to be that if you wanted to hang out with your friends, you actually had to be in the same room. That’s no longer the case. Instagram and SnapChat provide plenty of community for kids who used to have to go outside to find it.
  4. More Jobs. Parents in small rural communities are financially strapped. It’s very hard for them to pay for their teen’s cell phone, insurance, and vehicle. This means more and more students have to find jobs that don’t always work around their church schedule.
  5. More Freedom. It wasn’t that long ago most Christian parents made their teens go to church. As busy as parents are these days and as much as they’re already running their kids from place to place, church has become much more of an option instead of a requirement.

So, how long will student ministry as we currently know it survive? Five years? Ten? Twenty? And is it being effective?

If not, is there a better way to do student ministry? Perhaps, something that’s led by students and works around their schedules. Maybe something online? Or is student ministry even necessary?

I’d love to hear your thoughts because this is something I’m wrestling with and honestly don’t have any answers. Leave a comment and let me know what you think, and if you enjoy the blog, make sure to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.