Changes come fast and furious in life even when you anticipate them such as a wedding. My life and that of my family has changed forever. And, yes, I’m not alone. This transition has taken place in many father’s lives in the past. But, this is different. Why? Because it’s happening to me!! 🙂
I tried to dance with Katy at the reception. I’m a TERRIBLE dancer, as all in attendance witnessed. In fact “horrible” might be a better word.
Katy just laughed and we danced and I bit my bottom lip. Just like I did the next day. Sunday morning. You see, Katy would always ride with me to church. She had Praise Team practice and I needed to be there early, so we rode together. And we did something together that no one else ever knew.
We held hands. Strange? Perhaps? But, I held hands with my “little girl.” I’ve always held hands with my girls and I still do with Kandace and Clara. Something comforting holding the Father’s hand. So, I held Katy’s hand going to church on Sundays. But, this past Sunday she wasn’t there and I cried. I wept in sadness as I felt the strong punch in the gut that comes from the whispered thought, “Things will never be the same.” And I drove the same road alone. Yet, I wasn’t alone. I drove with the knowledge that now she held hands with him…
Josh! My daughter’s Knight in Shining Armor. And he is just that! And they held hands on their honeymoon and stared at the beauty of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (just like Pam and I did 22 years ago).
And I remembered the look in her eyes as she looked at him as she had her first dance with Josh. What joy! Unadulterated joy in a Father’s heart to see God’s plan unfolding right before his eyes. Joy! Pure joy! And yes, sadness. Is that possible? Can you be full of joy one moment and sad the next? See the joy on her face and then, thud…there’s that punch in the gut again! She’s leaving… She’s going to be gone Kevin! It’s never going to be the same. True. But, now here comes the choice. What will I dwell on in the next moment? Will I dwell on the joy of her smile as she looks into her eyes? Would I hold her back selfishly for myself? No! Never! This is God’s sovereign plan. It’s His design!
So, I will focus on joy of a wonderful celebration at the wedding… Two lives becoming one.
I will focus on the joy I saw on her face as they loaded up in their car and headed out for Tennessee…
And you must know that I know Josh will take good care of my girl. He already was or I wouldn’t have let him marry her! 🙂 He is such a blessing…
And boy does my girl love that guy!
And this picture keeps coming back to my mind…
That’s Josh back in 2007. He was helping at our Vacation Bible School. That’s Dawson Ellis on his shoulders. Josh was needed mentoring and loving. Yes…a church can hire a “Youth Pastor” to do this sort of thing. But, really…is that what he needs? Most (not all mind you), but most youth pastors are in their 20’s and have never raised a single child and we think we can pay them $35,000/year to spiritually train ours.
No…that’s not the model. The “older” men and to teach the “younger” men. And thus, I’m convinced, if a young person walks into a church with no mother and father, then the families in that church ought to look at one another and say, “Do you want to take him, or do you want me to take him?” You might say, “What are you talking about.” What I’m talking about is: Who’s going to mentor that young person? Who’s going to roll up their sleeves and say, “Come sit with our family young man.” Who’s going to take the young man home and show him what a Biblical “family” looks like? Who’s going to be willing to disciple the young man? Get down and dirty in the details of his life? That’s discipling folks! And that’s what Jesus called us to do. He said, “Go make disciples…” He didn’t just say, “Go make converts and turn them over to a 25-year-0ld to train them, who has no experience at the job.”
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not against youth pastors. I’ve said this many times before. I was one myself for a couple of years. But, I eventually told everyone I wanted to be a “family” pastor and not just a “youth” pastor. I wrote about this in my book.
It’s on Kindle, you know. 🙂 You can click here to get it for $7.99.
Here’s what I wrote:
It seems the Church has stepped in to do what we don’t have time for or the appetite to do ourselves. Many churches today are unknowingly saying to parents, “Just bring your kids to us and we’ll keep them out of trouble, give them something to do, show them a good time and do a quick devotion, so you can do what you need to do.” As a result, parents drop them off and the church and its staff do the rest. This service is so unbiblical. The Church means well, but is hindering the family. I believe anything the Bible tells us to do that is done for us by staffers in the church, serves to cripple and impair us from doing our part. In the case of training children and leading the family, fathers and mothers must be empowered by the Church, not hindered.
Let’s face the facts. Over the last 40 years, we have seen unprecedented numbers of trained professionals enter our churches that have been taught to do youth and children’s ministry by our seminaries. These are all good, well-meaning people doing the best job they can, still we have seen the largest decline in attendance of young adults in the history of the modern church. We must wake up and realize our burgeoning staffs, bloated budgets, and programs galore are not helping the family raise godly offspring. Instead, even though the attempts are genuine and honest, we are taking the fathers “out at the knees” and hurting the families by trying to do the job for them. There can be some level of success in these programs, but that success has created a perception within the families of our churches that they have been abdicated from their responsibility to raise godly offspring.
Can youth groups be a negative influence on our young people? Sure they can. We place our young people in these peer-driven groups where the spiritual maturity is usually very low and yet we desire for them to grow spiritually. How? How can they grow spiritually in these environments? Most of the time, youth pastors are trying to administrate some sort of crowd control versus being able to really teach. Unfortunately, our young people tend to find their identity in their friends or what they wear, drive or have. Some young people have their entire identity wrapped up in the type of clothes they wear, cell phone they carry and who they are dating. This same mentality often transfers into our youth groups and can even be fed within the youth group.
Through the years, I’ve become more and more dismayed that we no longer mix our young people with our adults in our churches in any way. We keep our youth in their own rooms, as far away from everyone else in the church as possible, in case they get too loud or rowdy. We let them paint the walls tie-dyed, put up posters of Christian musicians, many of whom honestly look like leftovers from the 70’s group KISS, and bring in sofas for them to lounge on while they play video games and hang out. Some youth rooms I’ve seen look more like arcades. Some churches have even given their youth their own building, where they come for an entertainment smorgasbord anytime they want. Is this the structural model we really believe is going to grow mature, solid, faith-filled, Christ-centered, young adults? We must stop kidding ourselves. The numbers, the surveys, and the statistical data do not lie. Many of our young adults continue to abandon their faith and will continue to do so unless we change our strategy and return to a Biblical model.
So, this is from the “father’s heart,” and I’m blessed and so thankful for God’s mercies and the tender way He has held my heart in the past few days. Yes, it’s different in my home, but Katy and Josh are starting their new home. In fact here is where they going to be living in Cherry Point, NC. This is the outside of their new home.
And so life goes on… And I’m choosing joy! Thank you Lord Jesus for your many blessings!