Conflict and Drive-thru Listening

Conflict is an inevitable part of any intimate relationship, especially marriages. Many believe that a loving relationship will have no conflict at all, but the reality is that fights and disagreements happen most with those with which we are closest. The key to a healthy marriage is not the avoidance of conflict, but rather learning how to fight a good fight.

If you find yourself fighting with your spouse a lot and rarely finding a solution or resolution, don’t worry! You can work together to grow in this area. Bad conflict resolution skills are not a sign of an unhealthy marriage. However, left unchecked, unhealthy conflict can lead to a damaged relationship.

Thankfully, conflict resolution skills can be learned and practiced. One such skill is what I like to call ͞drive-thru listening.͟ Imagine you are in the Chick-fil-a drive thru. Of course, when you’re at Chick-fil-a, you are treated like royalty and can get through a 20-car line in less than 5 minutes. Most conversations go like this:

Chick-fil-a employee: ͞Welcome to Chick-fil-a, God’s gift to food and humanity, how may I help you today?͟

You: ͞Yes I’d like a chicken sandwich, no pickles, and fries, and a large sweet tea.

Chick-fil-a employee: ͞Ok, I have you a chicken sandwich, no pickles, fries, and a large sweet tea. Any sauce?

You: ͞Yes, 1000 packets of Chick-fil-a sauce please, thanks!͟

Chick-fil-a employee: ͞My pleasure, may you be blessed this day friend!͟

Wouldn’t it be great if all drive-thrus were that pleasant? Anyway, we can learn an important skill from this! After your order, the employee always (hopefully) repeats your order back to you. This helps avoid confusion and (again, hopefully) avoids you getting the wrong order.

When you have conflict in marriage, especially when your spouse is telling you something that upset him or her, remember to be like the Chick-fil-a employee. Make sure you understand what is really wrong. Make sure your spouse knows you hear and understand the problem. Then, by understanding, you can apologize and work toward fixing it. Your conversation may go like this:

Your spouse: ͞I can’t believe you missed dinner again! Why do you always have to work late? Can’t you tell them no sometimes?͟

You: ͞I’m sorry, are you upset that I work late?͟

Your spouse: ͞Well, not so much that, I know your job puts you under a lot of pressure. Really I just want to know that I’m important to you. Sometimes you just stay late without telling me.͟

You: ͞Ok, so next time I will try to find out earlier in the day if I have to work late so you can plan our meals. And I will tell my boss I need to be home for dinner more often.͟

You see, the problem was not necessarily that you have to work late, but that there is a lack of communication. By repeating the issue and getting to the root of the conflict, you were able to smooth things over with your spouse. Great job, theoretical you!

Practicing drive-thru listening improves your communication, lets your spouse know he or she is heard and understood, and can lead to less conflict in the future. This is a skill you can start working on immediately!

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Guardians of the Soul: Church and Parents as Gospel Partners

“… bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” -Ephesians 6:4

Within the 5th and 6th chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he takes time to address family relationships. He commands all to “look carefully how you walk” and to live by the Spirit. He commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives to be led by their husbands as they are led by Christ. He commands children to obey their parents. But here, and perhaps most surprisingly, Paul gives a countercultural injunction to fathers not to provoke their children to anger. Instead, they are to bring them up in the Lord. Of this command, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

“If we are to carry out the Apostle’s injunction, therefore, we must sit back for a moment, and consider what we have to do. When the child comes we must say to ourselves, ‘We are the guardians and the custodians of this soul.’ What a dread responsibility!”[1]

This command echoes a common theme in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 6, it is parents who are told to teach the ways and commands of God to their children. This is not a command to priests or religious leaders, but to everyday, normal parents.

Outsourcing

While the church has not directly or intentionally taken the primary role of discipleship from parents, it has created an atmosphere that does not encourage the parental role in their children’s spiritual lives. In general, the church has sent the message to parents that discipleship is the responsibility of “trained professionals.”[2]

We live in a society of “outsourcing.” Except for homeschool families and certain other circumstances, academic training has been outsourced to schools. Athletic training is outsourced to coaches. Musical training is often outsourced to private teachers. Because of this cultural mentality, we outsource discipleship to the church. But the church cannot fully disciple your child in one to two hours per week.

Additionally, the common model of complete age-separated church programs prevents children and youth from witnessing mature Christian adults in a church setting. This stunts their spiritual growth. How can we expect children to learn how to grow in their faith if they are constantly separated from adults during worship, bible study, and prayer? While age-separated ministries are surely good and allow both adults and children to learn in an appropriate environment, inter-generational meetings must be equally, if not more, important.

So What’s the Church’s Role?

The church’s goal must be to partner with parents to see God raise up generations of children and students who love God with all their hearts, souls, and strength.[3] Parents are not wrong to “outsource” spiritual growth to the church, but both parents and church leaders must take the role of the parent seriously. In partnering with and consistently acknowledging parents, the church must seek to grow children who:

  1. Love God as a way of life (Rom 12:1-2)
  2. Love others as a way of life (Mark 10:45)
  3. Love the church and understand their roles in it (Eph 4:4-7)
  4. Love the Bible and recognize it as authority for life (2 Tim 3:15-17)
  5. Love to share the gospel (Rom 10:14-15)
  6. Love to grow closer to God through prayer, Bible study, and discipleship (1 Tim 4:7-12)[4]

Parents are indeed the primary guardians of the soul when it comes to their children, but churches must not leave them alone in this. The church not only shares this role with parents, but must also equip and encourage them as they bring up their children in the Lord.

So What’s the Parents’ Role?

As a parent, your goal must be to see your family and children in light of the gospel.[5]  You may be concerned that you lack the training and lack the time to talk to your children about God. The good news is you don’t need any training! Any bible study, prayer, or casual faith discussion, no matter how simple, can be effective. Even so, churches can provide this training. Ask your pastor “how can I teach my kids about God at home?” and you will be met with enthusiasm and helpful tips. (You can also check out the Family Ministry Resources section of my site.)

As far as a lack of time, well, that’s up to you! You have to begin to ask yourself what your priorities are. Is my children’s spiritual growth my top priority for them? Will I make whatever sacrifices are necessary to be able to teach them? If so, you may need to ask God what those sacrifices are. If you commit yourself to the discipline of talking to your children about their faith, He will help you by His Spirit.

By the grace of God, may we faithfully be the guardians of the souls of our children!

 

 

[1]David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work: An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 290.

[2]Timothy Paul Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011), 83; Jones, “The Task Too Significant to Hire Someone Else To Do,” 17.

[3]Jay Strother, “Family-Equipping Ministry: Church and Home as Cochampions,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, 150.

[4]Strother, “Family-Equipping Ministry,” 150.

[5]Jones, Family Ministry Field Guide, 97.

I want to be like my son when I grow up

My son Micah is 18-months old, and he is amazing. I knew I would love being a dad, but I had no idea how much I would love it until Micah was born. I also didn’t fully realize how much having a kid would sanctify me. I’ve had to learn patience and grace in a whole new way. But what I was truly not expecting was how much Micah would teach me. The other day in IKEA, I learned how much I want to be like Micah.

I am proud of Micah for some silly things. Like “eating 3 pieces of chicken” and “pooping.” But in IKEA, I had never been prouder. Our family has spent the last month transitioning from Spartanburg, SC to Hampton, VA. In the meantime, we are living with my parents in Richmond. Since we decided to give our couches away before we left Spartanburg, we went to IKEA in Northern Virginia to seek out our new couch.

Arriving at the store was the typical “do you want to ride in the cart or walk? Oh… you want to PUSH the cart. Awesome.” He wanted to push elevator buttons. He tried to flush fake toilets. He was all over the place, and it was slightly annoying, but mostly just fun.

As I was following Micah around, he began interacting with the multitude of children populating the living section. And that’s when I realized he was my role model.

He walked up to a pair of chairs and wanted to sit in one. In the other chair sat a little girl who appeared about a year older than him. Her father was a few feet away, holding a newborn. Her mother stood close by, wearing a hijab that covered most of her face. Being ever the social butterfly, Micah waved and smiled at all of them. I thought about how Micah had no idea that they looked a little different from us, nor that the mother’s face was covered. He just saw people and wanted to be their friend. And as I realized the purity and beauty of that moment, I fell in love with my son all over again.

As we walked through the store, Micah interacted with everyone he saw. Many were different from him, but he didn’t care. He played for several minutes with a little girl of another race at a play kitchen set. He just liked everyone he met.

At an IKEA mere miles from Washington, DC, children met each other and showed no bias. I want to be more like Micah and those other children that day. It was beautiful and amazing, but to them, it was just a normal day.

My Values for a Family-Equipping Church

As I have been developing my personal philosophy for a family-equipping church, I came up with these five key points. I believe these are essential for a church that wants to truly train parents to disciple their children.

  • A family-equipping church makes it a priority to train parents to teach the Bible.
  • A family-equipping church teaches parents to see God in everyday life so they can do the same for their children.
  • A family-equipping church prioritizes the role of parents in the lives of their children.
  • A family-equipping church incorporates parental training within current programs.
  • A family-equipping church sends families on mission.