Tag Archives: Family

Dad, here’s your legacy…

Years ago, my dad had a deeply life changing experience. He was at a small church in a new community that he had just moved to. There to see my sister get baptized, he heard the gospel, responded to the invitation, and received Christ. He was baptized that same day, along with my mom and sister.

I thought he was crazy. I knew it wouldn’t last. I figured he’d be back at his usual routine, shopping the flea markets on Sundays. I was wrong. Dad loved Jesus, and Jesus was clearly his center point of his life for the rest of his life. He was being changed daily before my eyes.

As time went on, the prayers and the faithful witness from my mom and him had an effect on my wife and me. Though I had learned religious things as a child, still, I knew of Jesus but didn’t know Jesus. Teresa received Christ before me, but I was so hardened and stubborn, I just could not see how Jesus wanted a relationship with me, not for me to merely change my religious traditions. Again, I was wrong.

God got a hold of me at that same small church in that new community in Central Florida. The gospel spoke to me and I was forever changed. My wife and I were babes in Christ, and over time, God grew us. Long story short, our entire family was changed, forever changed because of the gospel. And yes, though we’re not perfect by any means and flawed in every way, we see that we are loved by the Creator and forgiven through His Son. My kids know this and I pray that my grandkids see this as well.

Dad, this is your legacy. Your first faith steps to respond to the gospel change this. You showed me and other men that when a man follows Jesus, his family sees his example and can be changed as well. We’re not perfect, we’re flawed, yet we show them that we’re loved by the Creator and forgiven by His Son.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven, dad. You are missed but your legacy of faith in Christ lives on.

Fran

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4 Lifehacks to Form Good Habits

I never got it. I tried and tried and tried to learn how to juggle, but I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It. photo-1502144696405-e84600828d73

For those of you who are able to do it, well good for you. But me, I just can’t seem to juggle anything- whether handkerchiefs, pins, or (gulp!) swords.  I’m told that to juggle, that it’s all about muscle control and concentration. Easier said than done, I guess.

I write this because there’s a spiritual application here. For example, I think that we all want to be healthy, effective, and God-glorifying in our lives. And to do that, we need to develop godly habits to help us to grow and stretch in our walk in Christ. Yet, I know, sometimes it’s like juggling, or spinning plates, or herding cats. It’s just hard.

But it’s not impossible. This is the time of year when New Year resolutions (remember those?) have long since been gone and guilt or denial has set in because we often missed the mark. It might have been goals spiritually, physically, socially, or something else, but it didn’t happen.

Now, I’m not writing this as a guilt trip but as an encouragement. You see, large goals cannot be done unless small, short term changes are made. I would even submit that this begins with your relationship with God, that it is to be growing and flourishing. Therefore, your time with God comes first, then the other areas can follow. When we are thankful for Christ and His goodness, then other things help work together as a way to worship him. Paul the Apostle wrote, for example, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

So be thankful, and as you approach life with that in mind, consider these four lifehacks you might want to use to form good habits on a daily basis:

  1. Start with a quiet time. I know that this is difficult to maintain for some, but this is an essential to your day. There are some great resources available to you from LifeWay where you can go deep in your study. I even recommend using electronic resources such as the YouVersion Bible app, where you and a group of friends can go through short devotions together.
  2. Schedule exercise and log food. Your physical health is key to a happier, effective day. Put exercise in your calendar and stick to it, and log your meals on an app like Noom, MyFitnessPal, or another program. And by the way, some exercise (even 15-20 minutes) is better than no exercise.
  3. Keep track of your spending. Yep. That discipline is also important. I live by the 80-10-10 rule. I save 10 percent, give 10 percent (or more), and live on the 80 percent. I use apps to help me keep track of my spending and I try to watch where I am on an ongoing basis.
  4. Reevaluate your long term goals. You need to have goals in your life to remain on task. Whatever your goals are, write them down and revisit them every month on the same day. It’s a good thing to check your progress that your short term habits are going in the direction you want to go.

Most of all, have fun. Fun should come in whatever you do. When you have fun, you’ll be more relaxed, effective, and God glorifying. It doesn’t have to be a stressful set of tasks and it’s not impossible (like juggling is to me!). Try these and see what they can do for you. And if you have any other ideas, share them here.

In Christ,

Fran

On the phone… Again?

It was really, really convicting. I looked through pictures that my wife had taken of our family gatherings and there I was, phone to my ears, talking away and oblivious to the life that was taking place around me. My family was growing up without me and my phone was becoming my family. Here’s what’s worse: that was 15 years ago, and phone technology has definitely gotten more intrusive!

It’s easy to blur the lines between family and daily tasks, whether it’s ministry or the workplace. However, setting boundaries is a necessity for healthy families and for a healthy life.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says to “Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days.”

This principle applies to life with others in your family and with your friends as well. We know that we are not supposed to necessarily play all day but there is a time to turn off work and to turn on a time for rest and family. So what do you do? How do you set boundaries so that you can enjoy life with those you love the most?

  1. Spend some time in the word and repent of your carelessness with your loved ones. This speaks for itself but be sure to place your priorities where God would have you to place them. Remember, your first calling is always to your spouse and family.
  2. Turn off the phone or put it in another room. You don’t need to be accessible 24/7, and you can always check your phone later. And please, resist the temptation to check your phone!
  3. Realize how fleeting the moments are in life. Your family will grow up quickly. Your children will have children. Your influence on their lives will eventually wane. Take in every moment you can with them and keep in mind that your work or Ministry will exist long after you are gone. In other words put it all in perspective.
  4. Have some deep conversations that are intentional and express how you feel. Since I travel quite a bit now in my ministry, I have made it a priority to call, visit, and spend time with each of my family members. It’s not perfect, but my time is more focused and intentional and I think (hope) that they have seen this effort.

That’s what I have for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you put boundaries and spend more time with your family.

Fran

Five Ways to Follow Up on VBS

Over the years, I have seen incredible, vibrant Vacation Bible Schools, complete with colored-balls-1878378_640biblical teaching, gospel responses, and life altering experiences. I mean, it’s just awesome to see families, workers, and leaders with nothing but smiles as the week is finished and Sunday worship approaches. Now, if we can only find ways to connect the people from the past week with Sunday morning, right? Well, sure, we all want that!

There are many, many creative and enjoyable ways to reach those who have experienced one of the greatest efforts that you and your church family have made all year. Here are a few ideas, in no particular order:

  • Host a post-VBS Family Day. Several churches that I have visited have done this. In some cases, they have a Sunday morning worship featuring the children, followed by a church-wide picnic. Personally, I have seen whole families come to Christ through this sort of personal touch.
  • Visit with a thank you gift. To connect your Vacation Bible School with your Sunday School/Small Group, how about a thank you gift, delivered to their home? I know, it sounds old fashioned, but you wouldn’t believe the great reception people give when you show up and have a conversation at a doorstep! Some ideas: bring a small gift, a plate of cookies, a flyer advertising the classes for the child, and even a Sunday School Personal Study Guide for the parents.
  • Send a thank you card or letter. Children love getting mail, and a card to a child would make their day as well as show parents that you care. Consider sending a card or letter once in a while advertising the next big event and the regular activities.
  • Start an email newsletter. This doesn’t have to be hard. Remember this: MailChimp is your friend, MailChimp is your friend. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Build a good address list and email them great info in a newsletter monthly. It’s a great way to build familiarity with the parents. And don’t forget to include stories of changed lives in your newsletter!
  • Call to set up a follow up on decisions made. This is the single most important task that you need to do. It’s a command and a pleasure to have a discussion on the gospel. Be sure to make an appointment and clarify the key points of the gospel story with child and adult alike.

All of these ideas are for one purpose alone: to be a catalyst to conversations so people can know Christ personally. After all, isn’t this what we want to do with this giant outreach? Please share if you have used other ideas that have worked.

Fran

4 Reasons Why Parents and Kids need to be on the Same Page…literally.

bonding-1407833_640For years, I have been an advocate of families studying the same concepts while in their bible study. Thankfully, I am a part of an awesome organization (LifeWay) which supplies three avenues of synchronous activity across all age groups (some more than others, but see it here or here or here). And while there are a few resources from other publishers that might appeal to one age group or another, there’s few that specifically unite the family in this way.  Now imagine this: mom and dad can have a conversation on the same topic or scripture verse or even theological truth to reinforce biblical teaching- now that’s exciting!

But just in case you don’t think that having some sort of link between age is a big deal, here are five reasons that it is:

  1. It places the parents in their proper role as teachers. Parents are able to take the reigns and expand on what their kids and students have been taught, and a great conversation can develop as soon as the ride home.
  2. It utilizes the learning tool of repetition. As each family member talks about the lesson, the concepts are reinforced. Repetition can do that.
  3. It encourages bible conversations. Families might talk about sports, TV, or other inconsequential things. Having similar lessons will encourage real talk about real things.
  4. It moves “Sunday” to “every” day. Talking about the lesson on other days will de-compartmentalize the faith walk that many are accustomed to. Even more, having resources such as a Daily Discipleship Guide (coming this fall to Explore the Bible users) will give the parents tools to have family devotions for any age.

I am all for parents and their families to be on the same page. I am even more for parents to be the lead disciplers. If you aren’t using your bible study as a tool to train your children, think about doing it. After all, the study will be fresh in your mind and the effort will do nothing but pay dividends for years to come.

In Jesus,

Pastor Fran

5 Principles to Follow Before You Overhaul Your Children’s Ministry 

Throughout my years of ministry on a church staff and as a senior pastor, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing young children come to faith in Christ and grow up as amazing, godly, adults. 

Years ago, I took on a task of developing a children’s ministry in a suburban church. There was great potential, but the children’s ministry at the time was not meeting the needs of the families. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can now see its fruit. What were once children in our church are now moms and missionaries, husbands and ministers, teachers who are passionate for their world and the people in it. The gospel, alive in this ministry then, in still alive in their hearts now. It’s just so encouraging to recall!

Above all, what I learned from this experience and more has been very, very valuable. Some of the principles below might not be needed, but in case your children’s ministry needs an overhaul, here are some of a few principles for you:

  1. The Gospel comes first. There is no compromise on the need for the gospel in any ministry, but in both children’s and youth ministries, there is often a temptation to focus on the fun. Fun is, well, fun, but don’t miss why you’re there in the first place: to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
  2. The parents are the teachers. Deut 6 and Eph 6:4 are both very clear passages as to the role of the parents. Church leaders need to remember that their role is to help the parents fulfill that role, not take over for them. In other words, when planning on teaching children, don’t forget that parents need instruction as well. 
  3. Train your leaders. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a task to do and feeling completely inadequate for it. Leaders need training, and a leader who refuses to be trained is probably not a leader you should have on your team. Blunt words, but true. Plan on supplying plenty of training and encouragement for your leaders in all areas of the ministry. 
  4. Bring joy wherever you go. Ministry is challenging but it needs to be fun. Do a heart check and make sure that you are truly enjoying the ministry. A joyful heart will be contagious to others, so be willing to have fun with the families and celebrate life and the Lord with them!  
  5. Find good partners in ministry. There are tons of resources, curricula, and experts that would love to help you with your ministry. I am excited to be a church partner for LifeWay because I get to go into churches and help them reach more people than ever before. No leader should ever feel alone, because God has plenty of workers for His harvest. Get help, and be happy that God gave you these resources! 

There you have it. Many of the principles can be applied across to other ministries, but all of them should be considered before getting into the structure of a ministry. Hope these principles helped you as they have helped me. 

In Christ, 

Pastor Fran 

Seven Seconds

I played a recording of my dad today on my phone, an old voicemail that I have saved all this time. Even six years after he made it, I’ve kept it. It’s only seven seconds long, but to hear his voice, even for that short bit, well, it’s soothing and encouraging on occasions like seconds-droste-clock-time-minutes-hours-spiral-1752164today. Today would have been his 76th birthday and on some days (like today), I miss him more than others. He was my father, yes, but as we got older, he became my counselor, my friend, and especially my hero.

My dad was a hero when this former tough guy walked forward down the aisle one day in his church to receive Christ, got baptized immediately, and then served the Lord the rest of his life without ever looking back. He was a hero when, with tears of joy in his eyes, he walked my sister down that same church aisle to be joined to her groom. He was a hero when he preached only twice, and both times doing a horrible, awful exegesis but gave a message that was forever memorable because of his uncontrollable sobbing out of gratitude towards his Savior. He was a hero when he sang a solo with all his heart the simple words to “It is Well With My Soul.” And he remains a hero in my last memory of him sitting in his wheelchair scooter waving goodbye as I looked through my rearview mirror as I left in my rental car to the airport.

What’s amazing is how precious that seven-second recording is to me. A couple of times a year, I play that voicemail recording, a simple “hey Fran, this is your dad, call me when you can, bye-bye.” Over and over again, I play it just to hear his voice, his familiar intonation that reminds me of the many conversations we had from a distance. It’s that same soothing voice that had reminded me through the years of his favorite Scripture verses of Philippians 4:8 and Isaiah 40:31, words of wisdom when I saw how tough life could be. It’s that voice I miss.

Seven seconds is all I have, but I praise God that I even have that. Even more, I praise God that in the big picture, seven seconds is nothing compared to the eternity that he is spending with his Savior right now, an eternity that I will one day enjoy with him as well. After all, seven seconds is nothing compared to the eternity of God’s glory, because it will be well with our souls.

Happy Birthday, dad. I love you and miss you.

Your son,

Fran

Five Ways to Enjoy Life…Today

Often, we are so forward thinking, we forget to live in the present. Ponder on that for a minute.

How often have you waited for that next job, that next house, that next car, or that next life event, only to ignore what’s really alongside you today? Jesus said, “so do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will bring its own worries” (Mt. 6:31). In other words and in the context of Jesus’ teaching, stop worrying about the things that don’t matter, but worry about the Kingdom today!

That said, God brings many blessings all around you, and you need to enjoy them now. Here are five ways that you can stop and smell the proverbial roses, praising God for the gifts that He has given you:

  1. Spend some time alone with God. Admittedly, it’s been a while, but I used to take overnight trips to a state park to reconnect with God. I’d unplug: no internet, phone, or TV, and take walks while memorizing Scripture and praying. This time with the Lord helped me to engage Him in a distraction free, focused environment.
  2. Spend some time with your spouse. If you are married, go somewhere different with your spouse where you can talk (this rules out the movies). Talk about your life together, remember the past, and count your blessings with your spouse.
  3. Spend some time with a small child. If you have a child or
    12924477_10206391621089148_7117397408916686577_n
    photo by M. Teresa Trascritti

    grandchild, spend the day or even an afternoon with himor her in an activity in which you can interact. If you don’t have a child, then take out a nephew, niece, cousin, or other relative. You can go to the park, a playground, or go to a restaurant where they can enjoy a kid’s meal. By seeing the world through little eyes, you can see how big of a God we have.

  4. Spend some time with an elderly person from church. Some of my fondest memories of saints who have passed on have been the Christ-centered conversations that I enjoyed with them. They shared their lives, their adventures, and their dreams of old. It caused me to appreciate their story…and to look at my life as a joyful adventure in Christ.
  5. Spend some time with your church family. Much has been made in our culture to be efficient and cover as much territory as possible by multitasking, even when it comes to relationships. But is this how relationships are supposed to be? As God knew you, formed you, saved you, and grew you, He gave you a wonderful gift that you also need to enjoy at this moment in time: His church. Stop trying to make the church what you want it to be and instead enjoy the church as God meant it to be.

Of course, change is inevitable, and we will see change occur whether we want to or not. However, this doesn’t mean that we need to center ourselves on the future. For now, let’s enjoy today, enjoying every moment, enjoying every gift that our Father has given us!

Pastor Fran

5 Ways to Grow Your Family Spiritually…

As a husband, father, and grandfather, I have had my shares of ups and downs in trying to disciple those whom I love the most. Check out this short list of actions that you can take to help feed your loved ones spiritually and develop habits within them which can stick with them for life:December_15__2015_at_0441PM_-

  1. Read in front of them. For example, would it be unusual for your spouse or children to see you reading the Word of God rather than sitting in front of the TV with a remote in your hand? If so, maybe some changes need to be made.
  2. Pray with them. Not just pray for them, but pray with them. Not just before meals, but at devotions and whenever other life opportunities arise.
  3. Serve with them. Be involved in a ministry that your family can do. It can be inside the church, out on a family mission trip, or a special moment such as speaking to and praying with a person in need.
  4. Love with them. How you treat (and pray for) servers at a restaurant, interact with workers doing a job for you, or even how you treat the homeless matters. Those who are close to you will see your example and will likely respond in a similar way- love people and your children will learn from this valuable example.
  5. Talk with them. Your spouse and family desperately want you to talk with them, and specifically, to listen to them. As children become teens and teens become adults, communication that’s open, loving, and truth filled will have a incredibly valuable, life long effect that’s contagious for others.

Try these actions. I’m sure that you will be blessed as you care for those you love in a real and practical way.

Pastor Fran