Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 8: Embracing Biblical Methods - Communication

Let's summarize the last few chapters before we move on. We are called to reject unbiblical (chapter 5), and turn to God's Word to direct our parenting goals (chapter 6). Also, we are called to reject unbiblical methods (chapter 7). The next few chapters will give counsel in how to apply God's Word to our parenting methods. More specifically, there are two key elements in training children -- communication and the rod -- and both of these must be tightly woven together, as seen in Proverbs 23:13-26.

Good communication is dialogue, not monologue. It's one thing to learn to express your own feelings, but there is a higher level of communication -- learning to help draw out someone else's thoughts. As parents, we must strive to understand our children, not just have them understand us. When they sin, our aim should be to understand the nature of their individual struggles, since their outward behaviors are merely a reflection of what is going on in their hearts. "What you must do is peel away the behavior and discern the inner world of your child in this situation. While you can never understand the issues of the heart flawlessly, it is a pursuit worthy of effort."

As an illustration, you can think of good communication as playing tennis (back-and-forth volley), not like playing keep-away ("I'm in control, and I decide when I'll let you in."). With a young child, "Why did you . . . ?" is usually an ineffective way to understand his heart. Better questions tend to begin with "what" or "how," and Tripp gives some examples. The goal is not to merely fix his behavior, but to "help him understand himself and speak with clarity and honesty about his internal struggles with sin."

Above all, remember that not only do we stand above our children with regards to their sin, but we also stand beside them. They must see and hear that you are in a trusting relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that you needed Him to die for your own sins, too.

What has helped you draw out the thoughts and feelings of your child? Where are you in this process of communication?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shepherd Press Blog

If you want to dig deeper into the principle of reaching your child's heart with the Gospel, Shepherd Press has a blog ( that can help give further instruction and guidance. Here are a few recent articles:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serving in Children's Ministry

Thanks to all the volunteers we've had in Grace Children's Ministry this school year. With over 800 children that participate regularly in our programming, we have many opportunities for every one of you to be plugged into an area of service that has a meaningful impact in the lives of children and parents.

Well over half of the 550 volunteers have served in Children's Small Groups, from Nursery through 4th Grade. Teaching Biblical truths in the context of community is a central part of who we are at Grace, from young children to students to adults. You Small Group Leaders have made the impact that God wanted you to have, through your consistency and love.

We have had over 100 volunteers serve in a Big Group setting, either with music, in drama, or running A/V equipment. You Big Group volunteers have made the impact that God wanted you to have by modeling and leading in what worship in community can look like, and by teaching Biblical truths in creative ways.

Of course, our Children's Welcome Team has been cruicial in providing a secure and welcoming environment for families at Grace Church. Do you know that we have at least 25-30 first time guest families (who have at least one child in our programming) visit every month? That is at least 60 new people who come into our Children's Center (on either Pelham Road or in Powdersville) every month! Thanks for reaching out to them and helping them know that their children will be ministered to.

If you are not currently serving in anywhere on campus, we do want to encourage you to do so. I think this is important for us parents for several reasons:
  1. Minister to guests. With so many guests visiting Grace Church every week, we want to create an opportunity for their entire family to be equipped and loved on. Our staff is not focused on doing ministry so much as equipping others like you for a life of ministry.
  2. Connect with others. By serving, you have the opportunity to meet other adults who are serving. Serving together on a team is a great way to connect and form deeper relationships.
  3. Know our programming. While we provide take-home materials, there is no better way to know what your child is learning than you being involved in the programming. It gives you a more full insight, to help you engage the heart of your child with Biblical truth.
  4. Discipleship issue. We know that Jesus called His disciples to a life of service and sacrifice. He never asked His disciples for a little bit of their time. He asks for us to give Him our entire lives, putting others' needs above our own (Philippians 2:3).
  5. Example to our children. Another reason for parents to serve is to be an example for their own children. I recently heard a college-age son say that for all the great instruction he received from his parents, what sticks out to him most is the life of discipleship that his parents lived out. He said that his parents "walked the talk," and that has been what shaped him more than anything else.
I know that serving regularly is not always easy, especially if you have young children, but I would like you to consider that maybe what is hard on our kids is actually what is good for them. For example, I think that for my 2-year-old to go home exhausted on Sundays (barely eating any lunch at all before taking a nap) helps him begin to understand that his own comfort should not be the most important thing in life. Him being tired is his way to sacrifice for the church body.

If you are interested in getting plugged into service, to have the opportunity to be used by God to minister in a meaningful way, and to model serving the church body, please email me at Even if you don't want to serve in Children's Ministry (though we'd love to at least give you the opportunity to Jump-In without a long-term commitment!), I will pass your name on to the appropriate person.

-- Joey Espinosa

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Shepherding" Survey

Whether or not you have ever read or are currently reading "Shepherding a Child's Heart," will you please take a couple of minutes to fill out this survey? Thanks for your input!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Shepherding" Chapter 7: Discarding Unbiblical Methods

In the past few chapters, we focused on what of our parenting goals are and why they are our goals. But we must also realize that God is just as concerned with the how of parenting. The means are just as crucial as the end result. In this chapter, Tripp gives a representative (not exhaustive) list of some unbiblical parenting methods. It is crucial to remember that we must not evaluate our methods based on our feelings or experiences. Rather, we must assess whether these methods are biblical and whether they bring glory to God. A summary of some of these unbiblical methods:
  1. Heritage. This usually comes from thinking, "I was raised this way, and I didn't turn out so bad." But tradition does not necessarily equal biblical.
  2. Pop psychology and behavior modification. Some "experts" encourage the use of bribery or behavior modification as an effective method. However, these methods don't deal with the heart; rather, they just address the behavior issue at hand. Making contracts with your child does not easily address the heart issues of esteeming others and submitting to authority, for example. Furthermore, in rewarding children for fulfilling their normal responsibilities, we are appealing to their greed and self-focused desires. Instead, we ought to appeal to God's standards.
  3. Emotionalism. It is good to share feelings, but that should not be the main point of reference for reaching a child's heart or for changing his behavior. Again, the appeal should be that they must obey for the glory of God.
  4. Punitive correction. Be careful that in punishing your child, that you are not doing it out of frustration. Discipline and consequences are needed, but the parent must be constantly engaging the child with formative instruction as well.
  5. Erratic eclecticism. Do you get a variety of ideas from a variety of sources? Do you continually mix them, discard them, and try new ones, in an attempt to find something that "works?" This will usually lead to frustrated parents and confused children.
In summary, we need to remember that unbiblical methods (such as those described above) lead to superficial parenting, instead of getting to the heart-issue. It's not that we should ignore behavior. "Biblical discipline addresses behavior through addressing the heart."

The main problem with addressing behavior is that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to shift the focus from behavior to the message of the Gospel. "The gospel is not a message about doing new things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given His Son to make us new creatures."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Q&A: "How do I explain to my child that it is not OK to hit, even though we spank our child for hitting?"

We had a panel of fathers at Grace Church give their thoughts on this question:

The key difference is the question "Why?" Why does your child hit another person? Usually, it is out of angry and self-centered motives, such as not getting his way or trying to get something that another child has. James 4 states that selfish desires lead to conflicts, and this behavior is equivalent to murder. No one ought to ever hit or attempt to hurt another out of anger or selfishness.

On the other hand, a parent must never spank a child in anger. Discipline must always be an act of love and care for your child (Proverbs 3:12), not an act resulting from frustration or anger. Spanking in anger does not bring about God's righteousness (James 1:19-20).

During any form of discipline, including spankings, your child needs to know that you are acting as God's agent, out of love for him. Through discipline, you must model the same love that our Heavenly Father has for us (Hebrews 12:7-11).