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After 17 years as a full time staff pastor at a large church, I am have a much DIFFERENT perspective now, as a children’s ministry consultant, as a “visitor” in a brand new church at least twice a month. I do believe that as a church staff we run the risk of getting closed into our “bubble”, unintentionally oblivious to the situations that turn new people off to our church. We’ve all heard the statistics that people make up their mind in the first few minutes of visiting your church whether or not they will come back. And we know our mission is outreach! Who DOESN’T want to grow? So what is really making new visitors stay away, or come back? Based on the last 3 years of my experiences as a “visitor”, let me share with you my top 10 turnoffs that just might keep a visitor from going back to your church.

10. Too Many “Inside” Jokes and References-

This is a big one. I cannot tell you how many times, even just this year that I have visited a new church and heard something like this from the pulpit: “We are all so happy for Mandy today. Yesterday was tough, but we all got a good laugh too didn’t we? Can we all just wave at Mandy and give her a hug?” It is not a fun feeling to be the only one in the room who has no idea what is going on. I’m sitting there awkwardly thinking, “Who is Mandy? What happened to her? Oh no, now I am the only one not hugging her.” I fully realize that a church does become a family, a community of believers- that is the way it is supposed to be. But too many inside references can close your family away and repel any potential new community members. A good idea is to think about what you are going to say from the perspective of a brand new visitor and perhaps do a quick explanation of what is going on.

9. No parking-

Think about it this way. If you went to a grocery store, and you drove around and around without finding a place to park, then had to park down the street and walk, wouldn’t you think about going to a different grocery store the next time? What’s worse, (what happened to me last Sunday), is when there is no place to park, no one to tell you where to park, and you have to drive around a new neighborhood and find a place to park. It seemed that all the regulars knew exactly where to park, but I felt awkward not knowing if I parked in an ok spot or not (a couple of blocks away).

8. Taking forever to fill things out on first visit-

This one can be tricky. I do not recommend sending home something for new visitors to fill out/mail in. If it doesn’t happen right then, it is not going to happen. You need that information to do great followup if you really want to grow. However, it is a HUGE turnoff to new visitors if your guest information page goes on and on, gets too personal and takes forever to fill out. They either just won’t fill it out or will still be filling it out during your message (a huge part of what visitors are there to hear). I think it is smart when churches include the guest card in their bulletin or seat pocket, instruct guests to pull it out and fill it out during announcements, and then have them turn it in right away during the offering. Our guest card is no more than an index card size and asks for name, address, phone number, email and family size. Remember that a lot of people are becoming more and more reticent toward giving out personal contact information, so keep it short and sweet.

7. Too much attention-

One church actually had the visitors stand while the congregation all applauded. During this time they put the lights onto the new visitors and played a special “guest song.” I am an extrovert and even I felt uncomfortable. The couple next to me were very quiet people and seemed mortified. I heard the wife mumbling that they wouldn’t be back. Some people are nervous about crowds and do not want to be singled out.

6. Too little attention-

Again, balance is so important. One of the chief complaints of brand new church visitors is, “No one greeted me. No one made me feel welcome. No one followed up on me.” Without embarrassing someone, it is important to have warm, friendly greeters to acknowledge people and make them feel included. Most churches drop the ball on followup. They fail to call new visitors or followup with them after their visit. If you really want to grow, do not “hope” that someone follows up with a guest. Intentionally ASK a warm caring person to call them/visit them. Make SURE that each guest is followed up with during that very first week after their first visit. Too many churches complain that they aren’t growing, but they are not willing to put the time/effort in to follow up on the new guests that are coming through their doors.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week- my top five new guest turnoffs! How about YOU? What is a major turnoff for you, when you visit a new church? Any good stories?

Love Trisha

church

The dictionary defines a “boundary” as “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line,” or “a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.” As Henry Cloud so aptly puts it in his book, Boundaries, “A boundary tells us where a property begins and ends.” Spiritually, a boundary says, ‘This is where I begin and end. This is where you begin and end.[1] Too many Christians have been the victims of false teaching that having boundaries or limits is selfish or unbiblical. “Loving our neighbor,” is thought to mean giving our time and resources no matter what our own needs are, to whoever wants them. However, the idea of having boundaries was actually started by God Himself. In Genesis 1:7, it says, “God made this space (boundary) to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. So God made the expanse and separated the waters beneath it from the waters.” Job confirms Genesis by saying in Job 38:11, “I (God) said to the sea, ‘You can come this far, but no farther. This is where your proud waves will stop.’” God in His wisdom has chosen how to reveal Himself/Godself to us through Scripture. God has made known Who He is through “likes and dislikes,” and works of creation. God is love, yet God has well defined rules for being in relationship with Him or being “in His house.” Human beings are made in God’s image and therefore are also beings who express themselves through likes and dislikes. Human beings also establish relationships through rules.

Without clear boundaries, a pastor and their family suffer “boundary ambiguity” and become completely enmeshed in their parishioner’s lives and problems There is no life “outside of church.” This can cause pastors to feel that they cannot leave town for vacations or family get togethers because their parishioners need them too much . Strong bonds of friendship usually form when pastors and their church members minister in the community side by side. The ministers lives with this group of people through the most important events of life, including marriages, births, chronic illnesses, losses, tragedies, baby dedications, counseling and funerals. The church operates in an unusual way, as both a community of families and as a business. The business model is more inspired by our modern culture and has to do with how the church manages taking care of their leadership, their resources, budget and calendars. Enmeshment becomes a problem for churches when family and community life collides with the necessary oversight of the church. For example, the pastor may have a tough time confronting a parishioner if that person is also his best friend. Where is the boundary line for accountability if one staff member answers to another staff person, who is also a family member ? Some churches have established bylaws stating that family members cannot report to one another. One pastor lamented that his friendship changed forever, when his best friend was elected as chairman of the church board. His best friend was now in charge of accountability meetings with the pastor. They remain friends but it is not the same.
Ministers can battle loneliness, in part because there is so much they cannot share with friends in the congregation . It is not appropriate to share things that were discussed in a board meeting or a counseling session. It is important for the pastor to find “safe” friends outside of the church he or she is serving in .
On the other hand, pastors tend to uproot and move every few years, possibly due to burnout. Each time the minister moves, they suffer the loss of their entire “world” (enmeshed environment within the church) and must start all over.
The exit from a church can feel like the death. Ministry is like no other job on earth. Rather than a vocation, ministry can become a person’s whole life. The people of that church become a pastor’s family, support system, counselors, and prayer partners. When a minister leaves a church for any reason, they not only lose their source of income, and their security. They also lose their place to attend church, their close friends, and their support system. They lose their entire way of life.

The minister’s spouse and children must grieve as they say goodbye as well. It is the loss of hopes and dreams for that ministry and that church. This can be a profound grieving at the loss of the good that was, and the loss of a future that now will not be. In a “normal” career, if a person transitions to a new job, their family will likely stay in the area, in their own home, with their current friends, in their usual school, with the support of their church family and friends. A pastor loses it all when their church position is gone. Many times the church will bar pastors and staff from attending the church after they resign or are let go, to “assure loyalty to the new staff.” During a pastoral transition, a minister and their family may have to go through all five stages of grief- shock, anger, sadness, bargaining and finally acceptance. It is very important however, that pastors learn to embrace these endings. Endings are natural. If the pastor tries to deny an ending, he or she will have trouble moving on to what God has for them next. Pastors must prioritize their own physical, spiritual and mental health. Taking care of the “self” is not selfish. It is good stewardship of the resources God has given. Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising and going to the doctor should not be considered optional. God has given us physical and emotional boundaries that He wants each human to respect. When a pastor does not respect these boundaries, by overworking, eating poorly, and not resting, it grieves God. However, God will not violate the pastor’s boundaries. God will allow the pastor to feel the consequences of his or her lack of boundaries. The ensuing illness and exhaustion is supposed to teach us to better respect the limits God gave us. Ministers need a strong commitment to physical and mental health, exercise, healthy eating, seeing the doctor regularly, sleeping, and taking vacations.

Every person has limits. We are limited by the amount of energy we have, the time we have etc. Pastors are usually not great at living within their limits. They will self sacrifice to the point of harming themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Taking care of the self is not selfish. It is good stewardship of what God has given. Ministers need some solid boundaries, self discipline and self control in order to stay effective and stay in ministry. Your marriage, children and outside friendships must be guarded and prioritized about “work at the church.”

The most important boundary of all is for the pastor to prioritize and guard their time with God. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of confusing “working in a church” with “time spent with God.” It is in the presence of Jesus, through prayer and the study of Scripture, times of worship, that we are “filled up” to minister. With proper boundaries in place, a pastor can be better equipped to minister for the long haul!

[1] Cloud, Henry, and John Sims Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.                  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017 pp 29-30

[2] Hardie, Gayle, and Malcolm Lazenby. The Emotionally Healthy Leader. Pp 201

[3] Scott, Greg, and Rachel Lovell. “The Rural Pastors Initiative: Addressing Isolation and Burnout in Rural Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology64, no. 1 (2014): 71-97. doi:10.1007/s11089-013-0591-z.

[4] Fallon, Barry, Simon Rice, and Joan Wright Howie. “Factors That Precipitate and Mitigate Crises in Ministry.” Pastoral Psychology62, no. 1 (2012): 27-40. doi:10.1007/s11089-012-0486-4.

[5] Scazzero, Peter, and Warren Bird. The Emotionally Healthy Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. Pp 143

[6] Harbaugh and Rogers. Pastoral Burnout: A View from the Seminary. Pp 44

[7] Abernethy, et al. “The Pastors Empowerment Program: A Resilience Education Intervention to Prevent Clergy Burnout.” Pp 183

 

focus

I’ve even heard it said that when we tell people about Jesus, but do not follow up and plug them in, it is like we are inoculating them AGAINST Jesus because they hear the message over and over and over without any tangible life change, so they start to believe they are somehow right with God. Scary! Your church should be growing through the outreaches you are doing. I have advised churches NOT to do certain outreaches if they do not have a clear plan for follow up. What’s your plan for bringing these kids and families BACK and plugging them in to your church? This is the downfall of too many church events- tons of planning, sweat, hard work, tears, budget dollars and all those new people never come back to visit your church. The number of people who come back and eventually begin to attend your church is called RETENTION. How important is retention? It should be your top priority and your main goal of any outreach that you and your team invest yourselves in.
A child or a parent who accepts Christ as Savior at your outreach has a MUCH better chance of keeping their faith and growing in their walk if they get plugged into a home church. So are you and your church doing a vbs or other outreach this summer? Here are a few tips for better retention:

A. I suggest having every person register at the door, with name, address and email.
B. Intentionally block off time with you and your team right after the event (despite your exhaustion) to follow up on each and every visitor.
C. Send out a welcome letter to new families letting them know what you have coming up next and what you have to offer their whole family!
D. Intentionally tie in your outreach event with what you are already doing week to week. For example, you can say, “Come back this weekend to see your favorite puppet, costume character, game, song etc”. People like to know what to expect and to see at least a few familiar things when visiting a church.
E. Craft those weeks right after your outreach to cater to new families and help them “stick”. That is when they ate most likely to visit, so be prepared with extra smiley greeters, lots of coffee and opportunities to jump in.

Remember: Finishing the event itself is not End Zone -so to speak. When you finished your event your team brought the ball really far down the field;  But the game’s not over yet. Now your follow up will either kick you that field goal or fumble. Your follow-up will help new families find their church home to be planted and grow for the long haul. Retention for the WIN!!!

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single parent

My friend, Linda Ranson Jacobs, has done it again. She’s already an author, speaker and creator of the DivorceCare For Kids Program- which I have seen in action. It is FANTASTIC. But she has just released a brand new book The Single Parent, Confident and Successful. Every children’s and family pastor should have this book on their shelf and read it often. The reality is that there are many single parents in our churches who desperately need love and support! Jacobs shares some of her own heart breaking journey into being a single parent. She identifies the top struggle of single parents as loneliness. I love the fact that she addresses single moms AND single dads. Among the topics she explores are building a strong faith-based single parent family, establishing limits and rules, parenting when you have the children part time, and serving in ministry as a single parent. I love this book. Here is an excerpt in Jacob’s own words about what single parenting was like for her in the beginning. This really grabbed my attention, and I hope it “hooks” you as well:

“I was in such turmoil and kept everything inside- it seemed as though the world around me no longer existed. Nothing was funny anymore. I wept late at night. I mumbled my way through my day at work…I fell into such a pit that I felt I would never be able to claw my way out of it. I thought it was the end of my life- and it was the end of the life I had known for many years. I tried to pray, but my prayers seemed to reach only the ceiling of my bedroom. I tried to read God’s Word but the words just blurred on the page.

What I thought was a nightmare that would never end eventually did end…there was a way out of the deep, dark hole after all.” pp 11

Want to read more? Get your copy of her book here- https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K4FG3X3/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_PtNlDb0MZQPCR

also Walmart, Barnes and Noble and more.

Also, please check out my interview in person with Linda Ranson Jacobs on my Youtube channel “The Peach Buzz.”

Thank you Linda for the important and much needed ministry you share with all of us!

Trisha

True words then and now. President Abraham Lincoln:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain –

that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

“Let us hold allegiance to a land that’s free. As storm clouds gather across the sea, Let us all be grateful for a land so fair. As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. ”
[Song:]
God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above
From the mountains, to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America
My home, sweet home
God bless America
My home, sweet home

Happy Independence Day!

The student ministries pastor has “scaled back” midweek services for the summer. The lead pastor is off with his family on vacation to somewhere amazing- judging by his facebook photos! The associate pastor is so chill right now (he’s growing a full on beard!) because he has “limited” small group sessions planned this summer. He’s using summer to work on fall. So why oh why are you, dear kid’s ministry leader, frying like an egg out on that hot hot hot sidewalk? Summer is not a break for children’s ministry leaders. It is typically VERY busy. Here are just a few reasons that summer can be tough for kid’s ministry leaders:

  1. Most of you have a summer outreach-or two. VBS, Summer Camps, Drama Camp, Sports Camp, Sidewalk Sunday School etc. This is one of your craziest, most impactful seasons of the whole year! And all of these outreaches are usually in ADDITION to your regular ministry times on Sundays and midweek. Which can make it more frustrating that…
  2. Your volunteers are AWAL. Those summer outreaches usually need a LOT of man and woman power. But your volunteers will be taking their vacations and will be off of their usual schedule. I live in the great state of WI. After so many months of bitter cold and snow, many of our leaders literally head out to go camping- ALL SUMMER. The ones who stay on in the summer, still have their vacations to go on.
  3. Parents are EXTREMELY distracted. The parents of the kids in your ministry are carrying out vacations, summer sports, family trips, family reunions, prepping for fall school etc. If your parents and volunteers need to be told something 8 times during the school year before it “sticks”, I think they need to hear information 17 times during the busyness of summer (also during the Holidays).  I do not give out a lot of very important information during the summer. Make SURE you make parents and leaders aware of all important summer dates BEFORE school lets out. We have our parent and volunteer meetings right after school starts.
  4. Your attendance drops. Most churches report that their Sunday and midweek attendance dips in the summer (including the kid’s ministry programs). In the past, when we tried to have a volunteer training or parent meeting in the summer, almost no one showed up.  Do not let this discourage you. It happens to us all. I do not showcase my amazing new curriculum in the summer. I usually pull out a smaller curriculum, tried and true, and then take new risks with it- like REALLY messy games, water play, or a guest speaker who enters on stilts! Summer is a great time to try some newer things with perhaps “older” lessons. Our focus changes in the summer to making VBS and Camp AMAZING and also preparing for the fall kickoffs.

A Few Summer Survival Tips for Those of Us in Children’s Ministry:

  1. Do communicate frequently with your lead pastor and other staff. Many times they have NO idea how difficult summer is for you. They are throttling down while you are ramping up. Let the staff know how crazy this season can get for you.
  2. Try recruiting a whole separate set of volunteer leaders for your regular services in the summer. I started recruiting a small group of summer leaders that would commit for those 12 weeks. Then I gave all of my leaders the option to take summer off. Some stayed all summer and loved it. Others came back to the ministry in the fall. Our retention level is very high. Many said they respected that we value them as people, and we want to see them building their own families too.
  3. Plan Plan Plan. The earlier in the year you start planning for your summer outreaches, the better they will go. Plan downtimes for yourself as well after EVERY event. Try as hard as you can not to plan your outreaches back to back or right off of an all church event. AS tough as it is, try to take your day/days off.
  4. Give yourself a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Most people can push through a tough time if they know there is great reward on the other side, and that the tough time is only temporary. We know the reward for our summer outreaches is beyond measure- children and families coming to know Christ, our church and the kingdom expanding, our community a better place etc. But too often we feel like that insane pace of ministry should be happening at all times, year round. Ministry has SEASONS. For me, fall is my “breather.” After we get all of our fall programs kicked off and running smoothly, I have a couple of weeks that are a bit “saner.” But I have to work hard and plan before that to make sure I do not burn out. I can push through a tough patch of summer, when I focus on the amazing impact of these outreaches and the smoother season to come.
  5. You need to delegate and build teams. And this takes time and patience. Sometimes you have to have a few “wins” under your belt before your dream team will jump on board. But I highly suggest teams to help with each outreach, and above all a prayer team that you meet with regularly. You need others encouraging you and cheering you on as you run that “ball” through to the end zone.

How about you? How are summers different fromIMG_0017 the rest of the year in your ministry? What have you found that helps you the most in your summer ministry?

Love and encouragement always,

Trisha

This past week, I heard several people on social media broach the subject of Christians being “pro-birth, but not pro- life”, meaning against abortion but not for more big government welfare programs. One young lady said, “Christians are only pro-life until the embryo is born, then they couldn’t care less about the child or the mom.” Another responded with, “You can’t be pro-life when so many kids are stuck in the foster system with no family.” And yet another, “I cannot understand why so called Christians refuse to adopt any of these kids they claim to care about.”

I am interested in this topic because I am a Christian, a children’s pastor, a parent AND my sister and brother in law adopted this beautiful angel- Eva Marie Hope. This is a hot button issue right now…volcano! I also

baby1

have several good Christian friends who have adopted children. I very much would like some of them to weigh in on this, as well as adults who grew up in foster care, to hear from those who have first hand experience.

I am 100 percent FOR adoption. Each of us is adopted by God after all. I am thrilled to see a rising interest in adoption by Christians and churches alike (our church celebrates an “adoption day”.

My experience tells me that more Christians have not adopted children for many different reasons. The assumption that Christians do not WANT to adopt or are not interested in the lives of at risk children just does not seem to be accurate to me. Here are a few reasons that Christians may not adopt, that have nothing to do with apathy.

  1. MONEY- If you did not know, adoption is INCREDIBLY expensive. Yes, the costs vary from state to state, and from agency to agency. But overall, these costs can be prohibitive for the average person. My sister was literally told by one agency “It would not be worth it to apply until you can show at least 20,000 in your bank account.” YIKES! This was impossible for them. Overseas adoption was creeping up on 50,000 from certain countries. A friend of mine had a private open adoption, and the costs still went over 10000. Parents determined to adopt may be forced to go instead to foster care and HOPE they can someday adopt. My sister went this route twice before this. She ended up adopting privately through a girl she met at church- a private adoption, but it still cost 18,000+. Anyone else feel like we are SELLING CHILDREN HERE? Why are these costs so high? I am honestly asking. It seems we are limiting adoption to the rich, as if rich people are somehow better parents.
  2. RACISM and DISCRIMINATION- This may be a very controversial section of this blog. And I’m certainly open to other perspectives on this one. But it is a fact that certain children, in certain states cost MORE than other children, based entirely on the color of their skin or the state of a disability or their gender or age. For example, white female babies in some areas are considered “very desirable” and therefore cost more. My sister was told that Americans want to adopt girls because we think they will be “easier” to raise. They told her that if she would consider a child of color, or a bi-racial child or a child with disabilities the costs would be MUCH cheaper. Someone please explain this to me! This ANGERS me. Isn’t this institutional racism? Isn’t this SELLING CHILDREN? This is appalling!
  3. Unreasonable Requirements- Did you know that most states, adoption agencies have a long list of requirements that you and your spouse must meet in order to adopt. These requirements MAY include, but are not limited to A. Age- you may have to be under the age of 37-40 B. Medical History- Any medical problems on your or your spouse’s record may disqualify you to be an adoptive parent. C. Finances- If you do not have the required money on hand, or your finances are not what the agency considers good, you may be disqualified. D. Size of family- Some agencies will disqualify you if you have ANY children of your own (infertile couples only). Others, such as the one my sister was first using, will not allow you to adopt a BABY if you already have children. E. Single people often have a harder time adopting children F. Sometimes you will be required to be the same race as the child you are adopting. What wild requirements have YOU heard about/encountered? It is my opinion that these requirements disqualify too many people who would be GREAT parents and provide wonderful homes. And children wait in foster care for a person who matches these expectations.
  4. Heartbreak- Due to the high costs of adoption, my sister started with foster care, in hopes of adopting. Both long term placements went almost all the way up to adoption. In both cases, at the very last second, the child went to be with a family member. Even though my sister knew if could happen, and she knew not to get attached, it was still heartbreaking. We have all heard horror stories of adoptive parents thinking everything is fine, only to have the child taken away later. Many brave Christian parents step up every year and take that risk, trying to adopt. But I bet others simply do not want to put their hearts on the line like that with no guarantees. I have never heard my sister sob like that, like when she lost the second child. She described the loss as, “I feel as if I lost a child, but I’m not allowed to mourn publicly. I have no monument to mourn at. No one will be sending us cards or meals. But the pain is still here.”
  5. A Broken Foster System- A lot of attention has been given lately to the problems in our American foster system. It seems that the well being of the children isn’t always top priority to put it lightly. Too often the children suffer due to over regulation, outdated rules, politics, corruption and red tape. I highly suggest reading these articles: http://michellecaldier.houserepublicans.wa.gov/2017/04/18/op-ed-time-reform-broken-foster-care-system/ and ABC’s “Foster Care- Stretched Too Far,” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130266. The state in which I live, proudly asserts, “The best place for a child is with the birth parent.” I have to disagree. The best place for a child is where they are safe, loved and cared for. What about adoptive parent’s rights? As a children’s pastor, I have personally witnessed children returned to abusive homes FAR too soon, only to be abused all over again. Where is the protection for these vulnerable children???
  6. Our culture of Materialism- Sometimes we think we cannot provide all the “stuff” that kids “need.” People matter so much more than stuff. And children can be happy, safe and healthy in a loving home, without all the “stuff.”

How about you? Do you have experience in the foster system? As a foster parent? An adoptive parent? Why do YOU think that more Christians do not adopt? How do you feel about proposed foster/adoption system reforms?

Love and Blessings- Trisha

I absolutely LOVE my baby niece!! Love you peanut!

So today is my 20th wedding anniversary. We have had a great day- dinner by the river, thoughtful gifts etc. My husband remarked, “Wow, even with all we have been through, all those moves and more, it still feels like it flew by, doesn’t it?” I had to agree. Here on our anniversary are just a few of the things I simply adore about my husband Scott:

  1. I love his sense of humor. After all this time, he still makes me laugh. There are times in a marriage, when you desperately need to laugh so you don’t cry- or laugh through your tears. At home and work, Scott is known for making people laugh- and pranks…
  2. He is so supportive of ministry. Not many people understand that my books came out successfully in large due to Scott’s technology know how. He came up with the idea of the Kickstarter Campaign and Kindle Publishing. Scott has been there side by side with me in ministry. He has moved for ministry. Scott has held me while I cried at home after a bad meeting (you know the kind)- let’s just say his psychology degree has come in handy more than a few times in these 2 decades.
  3. Scott is an awesome dad. Before we had kids he worried so much “Will I be a good dad? Will I be patient? Why is there no manual for this?” Our kids will tell you, “We have the bestest daddy in the world.” He is loving, patient and thoughtful.
  4. He works so hard. Scott is devoted at work and at home. His company loves his work ethic. I love how he works on our house and plans fun trips.
  5. Scott is incredibly romantic. He never ever forgets an anniversary or birthday. He makes every holiday so amazing. We have a date night about once a week and he always thinks of the most fantastic dates!

I love you so much babe. Here’s to our next adventure together!

And here is the continuation of last week’s discussion on tips for staying married!

Top Ten Tips for Staying Married: Part 2

  1. “Set up fences” – Jewish rabbis in ancient times used to “set up fences” around each law of the Torah. This means that if God said “do not commit adultery”, then they would “build fences” by not looking lustfully at a woman, avoiding being alone with a woman etc. That way, they would never even come near breaking one of God’s rules (in theory). This is also what Jesus taught about “whoever lusts after a woman has committed adultery.” My grandmother would quote Scripture, “Avoid the very appearance of evil.” This means we have accountability in place and we do not “play with fire” by allowing lust, pornography, or long periods of time alone with someone other than our spouse.
  2. HUMOR!- See above for how important humor can be in marriage. Keep laughing together!!
  3. Yes, sex is important- God created sex to be between two adults who are married to each other. And sex is very important in a marriage. Too many times I have had the woman in a marriage tell me, “Oh, I just do not like sex. He’s such a great Christian that he does not mind.” What???? Usually as sure as the wife leaves the room, the husband will admit that he is miserable but does not want to upset her. I’ve also seen this with the husband/wife roles reversed. I always counsel the partner that is not interested in sex to go to the doctor for help, counseling, etc. Usually they are so shocked, thinking, “Well does it really matter?” YYYYYYEEESSSSS. It does. No matter how long you have been married it is good to work on your intimacy and make time for each other.
  4. Counseling is an awesome idea- Most pastors agree that by the time a couple finally comes in for counseling it is usually a thousand miles past too late, and one or the other has already left or filed for divorce. How can we change this stigma so that couple go in for help earlier? Working on your marriage with a professional is a GREAT plan for ANY marriage. Sometimes we just need that wisdom from someone who can be objective. It is a chance to learn and grow so much!
  5. Speaking the truth in love- Too often we don’t have those difficult or important conversations because we are avoiding conflict. Are we calling each other out on the really important things? Are we telling the whole truth? Are we speaking in love and kindness? Or are we just being nit picky, critical, hard to please etc? This is such an important part of marriage!!

So what about you? What did I miss? What great tips have you heard, learned for staying married for the long haul?? God bless and talk to you soon!!!

Trisha

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On the long drive back from my grandmother’s recent funeral in Michigan, I turned her ring over and over in my hands. Suddenly, I realized that there was an inscription inside the tiny wedding band. I finally was able to make out, “Jack to Shirley, 1949.” This was from my grandfather to my grandmother. They would have been married 70 years this year. WOW.

This makes my husband and I look like beginners with our mere 20 years of marriage in comparison. Though, our 20 years is like 3,427 years in Hollywood years. What have been our biggest secrets to staying happily married for 20 years? What secrets did I learn from our parents and grandparents and other Christian leaders who have stayed married for the long haul? Well, after careful reflection and conversation, here goes:

Top Ten Tips for Staying Married:

  1. Keep Jesus First- Your faith is the foundation of any marriage. Every single couple I have ever known that has made it in a long term marriage credited their faith in Jesus for helping them make it through. Promises get made and broken every day. A covenant is supposed to be forever. God’s intention for marriage was a beautiful picture of everlasting faithfulness and love between Christ and His Church. Yes, we humans are flawed and marred and divorce is a tragic reality in our world. I know many fantastic Christians who were blind sided with a divorce they did not want, or a divorce after infidelity, addiction or abuse. For these Christians, their faith in a faithful God, even when others are unfaithful to us, can be a lifeline. Because we humans are so messed up, I truly do not know how any marriage can make it without Jesus. The best “weapons” for fighting for your marriage are prayer, shared faith, Godly counsel, Scripture, participating in a church body. A lasting marriage needs Jesus!
  2. Keep dating- My sister and I used to wonder about the girls in Bible College getting the “hag look” as soon as they got married. These girls would be the most gorgeous, fashionable and sought after girls on campus. But as soon as they “got” their man, they immediately wore only sweats, no makeup, hair unkept, stopped showering… etc. Perhaps they thought, “Well I got him now. I don’t have to be attractive anymore.” Marriage is a relationship that is supposed to go on for life; not a “bait and switch” where your spouse only sees you put in any effort before you say I do. This is a common mistake that I try to confront when doing marriage counseling. Too many couples spend tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding day, but they do not put the same time and effort into their marriage and life together.  It’s about the marriage, not the wedding day. Dating your spouse needs to continue for life. This means that common interests, keeping a date night, getting away together regularly and working toward common goals is a MUST. Marriage is not a “One and done” one day event.
  3. Do NOT give yourself an “out”. As my husband would say, “Do not give yourself any kind of plan B, in case this marriage thing does not work out”.  None of us should fantasize about what we would do to leave our marriage, to be with someone else. If you give yourself an escape route “if this marriage thing gets too tough”, well, guess what, it will get that tough and you will use that escape route. Don’t build escape routes or dwell on contingency plans.
  4. Be careful during the high risk times- death of a loved one, job change, move, birth of a child etc. These are the highest risk times for a marriage.  Every single engaged couple always says the same thing, “Oh not us. We never fight. He/She is awesome. So perfect. We know how to talk through things. God just make us for each other.” They stare at each other all gooey eyed. And every person in the room who has been married for awhile looks at each other and nods. It is pointless to try to reason with a new couple in love. They already know everything.  But marriage is not just the sunny times of planning a wedding. Marriage is also 4 a.m. when you are up AGAIN for the 4th time that night to feed the baby, even though it was HIS TURN and you feel a cold coming on. Marriage is working a 13 hour day and coming home exhausted and frustrated to a wife who is cranky and serving PB and J again for dinner. The strength of a marriage is not seen during the honeymoon. The strength of a marriage is shown- and further forged- during the death of loved ones, parents etc. There will be fantastic vacations, birthdays- also lost jobs, financial woes and illnesses. Psychologists say that the highest risk times for a marriage are during the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a job change, a move or the birth of a child.  If you are in ministry, chances are that you and your spouse have faced times when you were neck deep in all of the above…Trust me, I’ve been there. My husband and I fought all of 5 times in our first five years of marriage. Then came year 6 when our first baby was born, we moved, we changed jobs, faced illness and for awhile stopped sleeping. Yeah- marriage took on a different tone then. But in the end, it made our marriage so much stronger. God got us through. It is important to recognize when you marriage is going to be under intense strain. This is when your faith and your support system will be crucial. And remember, it is a season. And seasons don’t come to stay, they come to pass.
  5. 80/20 principle- I learned this principle from a professor marriage counselor who was on staff at our church. He taught that every single married person believe that they are doing 80 percent of the work in a marriage. Their own spouse will then swear that no, they are doing 80 percent of the work for the marriage. He concluded that in most marriages, each partner will feel that they are doing 80 percent of everything. He urged each spouse to embrace that feeling, to serve each other. He said that marriage “didn’t add up like ordinary math.” A great marriage consists of 2 people each giving more than 80 percent to make it work.

Now, please stay tuned for next week, when I go over the other 5 best tips I have ever gotten on staying married for the long haul. And YES…one of them is all about SEX. More on that next week. Love you all- Happy Marriage! Love Trisha and Scott

 

A few great quotes on marriage-

“Try to remember how you felt at your wedding, especially when you are disagreeing with your spouse. This is so hard to do. The focus needs to be on resolution, not “winning”.- Scott, my husband of 20 years 🙂

“Medical staff continually asked how long we had been married, and then wanted to know what the secret was to 43 years—”humbly serving one another the way God intended, and the way we vowed.” I’m thankful they could see that being lived out, even in the most difficult of situations.-Tina Houser

“We just grew up in a time when something broke, you fixed it- you didn’t just throw it away.” (couple married 65 years, when asked how they stayed together so long).

I am blessed with a vivacious mother who passionately loves Jesus and her family. I wanted to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this year, and show my gratitude for having a happy, God-focused childhood, by relaying a few of my favorite memories I have with my mom…so far!

  1. My Wedding Day- On the day I was married, 20 years ago, my father AND my mother walked me down the aisle. It was a very special day.
  2. The Night I Almost Died- When my ulcer burst, and I began to bleed out, I called to my husband as the paramedics closed the doors of the ambulance “Call my Mom!” Scott couldn’t go with me because he was finding someone to watch the kids. God had already awakened my mom to pray for me, though she did not know why. When Scott called, she went into intercession immediately- at 2 in the morning. The surgeon told me later on that there was no possible explanation for why I survived. I know God used my mom’s prayers, and spared my life for a reason.
  3. Mornings When I was a Child- EVERY morning, my mother would open the door of our room (my sister and I shared a room) way TOO early in the morning, flip on the light and cheerfully exclaim, “Time to get up. What will we accomplish today? It’s a beautiful day to praise the Lord!” I would groan and roll over. Mom is a morning person. I am not. If we did not hurry up and get up, Mom would begin to loudly sing songs- hymns or choruses. Every. Single.Morning.
  4. Travel- Anyone who know me, knows that I love to travel. And I probably get this from my mom. We were monetarily-challenged, as a ministry family, but my money savy mom always saved up and found a way for us to take trips- Texas, Michigan, Johnny’s Fish and Game, Superior’s beaches, mansions and ships, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis Arch, Carlsbad Caverns, Disney and Epcot, Oklahoma- and more.
  5. Unwavering Support- When the time came for me to try to publish my first book, my mom encouraged me to do it, and was one of my first contributors to my kickstarter. I’ve been traveling a lot lately to speak and do ministry- so she bought me a suitcase set and a book cart! When I walk the line, graduating with my Master’s here in a couple of weeks, my mom will be there. My sister, brother and I know that no matter what, if we are right or if we are wrong, mom will have our back- and she’s a fighter.
  6. Faith and Family- Mom unwaveringly teaches us that God is first and family a close second. Nothing matters more to her than her relationship with Christ and her family. NOTHING.
  7. Persistance- As I said, my mom is a fighter. She had fought through so many physical issues after her car accident- many surgeries etc. If she decides that she is going to do something, than she is going to do it- whether it be landscaping, redoing a room of the house, planning a trip, saving a certain amount of money etc. etc. Mom forced me to apply for SO MANY college scholarships. She absolutely would not give up on trying to find a way for me to go to college. And that is why I graduated my undergrad debt free. Mom always believes there is a way. I think/hope I picked that up from her. She taught us to work hard and never ever ever give up.

These are just a few of my favorite memories so far. If you know my mom, what are YOUR favorite memories of her? Love you Mom and Happy Mother’s Day! Your Sunshine (who is still a night owl.)