If You Don’t Protect Your Kids in the Digital World–Who Will? (by Tim Stevens)

Last week I had the priveledge to meet Tim Stevens, the Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church.  I’ve admired him from a distance via blogging, twitter, etc.  Below is a post that is proof as to why.  As a parent I appreciate his wisdom & diligence.  I hope his words help you:

If You Don’t Protect Your Kids in the Digital World–Who Will?

Our kids are growing up in a different world. Here are a few things we do (or have done) to keep our kids safe…

  • Internet filtering – Curiosity killed the cat and can do great harm to kids as well. We have used different products to filter and monitor our kids internet activities. Monitoring tells us where they are going. Filtering keeps bad stuff away that could hurt them. Currently we are using Family Safety which is a free add-on product that we have loaded on every computer they access. Not only can we restrict sites based on our values–we can also monitor what sites are capturing their attention. And we can change (ease) these restrictions as they get older.
  • Computer game time — on a school day, they get 30  minutes of electronic game time (whether computer, Wii, Xbox, iPod, whatever). On non-school days, they get an hour. This limit forces them (mostly the boys) to find other things to do. They all love reading, and I think that is partially because we haven’t allowed their time to be monopolized by staring at a screen.
  • Cell Phone privileges – we didn’t get cell phones for our teens until they were in 9th grade. Why then? Because that is when it became inconvenient to us that they didn’t have one. It was never really a safety issue–in middle school there was always a friend nearby who had a phone they could borrow.
  • Cell Phone Limits – this is about helping them stay in the present and not always being pulled away into other conversations. Our cell phones have unlimited text messaging, but we actually pay an additional fee (called “Smart Limits” by AT&T) to limit the number of text messages and the time of day it works for phone calls (other than to us, of course).
  • iPod Touch restrictions – our 7th grade son saved his money for a long time until he was able to buy an iPod Touch. The first thing I did was took it, enabled the “restrictions” feature, locked it out from Safari (internet surfing) and YouTube, set a password, and gave it back to him. I don’t need my adolescent son walking around with a pocket full of temptation.
  • Email monitoring – when they first got email privileges, I restricted their incoming messages to an approved list to protect them from child predators. After awhile, I lifted that restriction but continued to monitor all their incoming and outgoing email. As the teens are getting older and more responsible, I’ve gone from 1) Monitor everything, to 2) Monitor occasionally, to 3) “You know I can monitor it if I want,” to 4) I trust you.
  • Facebook monitoring – similar to email, we monitored all of their Facebook activity when they first began using it (around 8th grade). Then it was “as needed.”
  • TV time — the biggest blessing to parents has been the invention of the DVR (or TIVO). Our kids don’t channel surf. There is no reason. We just keep the DVR stacked with shows that won’t hurt their hearts (which, of course, changes as they age). They get a limited time to watch, and when they do they can skip commercials (which saves time AND limits the consumer mentality from taking over). Parents: Think of a DVR as a parenting tool, not a tech gadget.

I haven’t even talked about the content of movies or shows, but the bottom line: You are the parent. If you don’t protect them from the digital world, who will? At the same time, if you don’t prepare them to live in a digital world without your oversight, who will? I am constantly doing the countdown: I know I have 17 months left to prepare Heather to totally stand on her own in the world. So we are constantly reevaluating our limits and lifting them as she is ready. It’s fun to go to the kids and say, “You’ve been doing great, making good choices. I’m going to ease the restriction in this area because I think you can handle it now.”

Parenting isn’t an exact science, so what would you add or change?


What I’m Currently Struggling With…

Leadership is a process of growing & stretching.  Honestly, I struggle with being stretched from time to time.  Here are a few things that I’m currently being “stretch/struggling” in…

  • Delegating the “right” things. There are some things that I have to own and some things I can give away.  My tendency is to hold on to too much.  There are certain tasks, responsibilities, etc that I need to give away.
  • Giving away both RESPONSIBILITY & AUTHORITY. When I do empower a leader (staff or volunteer) I’m working to not only have them doing tasks but taking responsibility for outcomes and carry the authority to do so.  I feel like this is something we’re working through.  Just this week I told one of our staff members, “You’re responsible for this being effective…so you need to own your authority and do it.  That may mean having tough conversations and following up on details with people.”
  • Accountability for EXECUTION. Details matter.  Even if it’s not your spiritual gift…it matters.
  • Accountability for the PROCESS.  Sometimes we focus too much on the product (having volunteers in place on Sunday mornings) and not the process (how volunteers are recruited, trained & cared for).  Part of my role is to set high accountability standards for both.
  • Allowing people to do things differently than I would. Craig Groeschel says that to effectively delegate you must be comfortable with someone doing a task 80% like you would & 20% differently.  In that 20% is where innovation and improvement comes.  This is tough for me.  I’ve had a lot of experience in a lot of areas and I tend to just want to grab something and do it!  I’m trying to stop saying, “Well I would do it this way…”
  • Not getting mad while coaching. In this role I do a lot of coaching.  Sometimes in that process I tend to get frustrated.  God has helped me with this recently and is showing me that anger doesn’t produce fruit.  Grace, love & honesty produce fruit.  Having a difficult conversation with someone because you believe in them is productive.  Doing so because you’re frustrated will only tear someone down.
  • Knowing if/when I’m “pushing” someone too hard vs. if I’m letting too much slide…and if I’m letting the right or wrong things slide.  I’m a high D on the DISC profile and I tend to focus on the things that need improvement rather than the win sometimes.  I don’t want to drive someone so much that I deflate them.

Any struggles you’re walking through in the position God has placed you in?

What I’ve learned this week…

Monday & Tuesday of this week I attended Velocity Conference put on by ChurchPlanters.com.  First off, no, I am not planting a church.  I went to this for two reasons:  To take Steve Sturgell, our Grovetown campus pastor & because I believe the best learning most often happens at the grassroots level.  Plus, I love & respect the host church and pastor: Mountain Lake Church and pastor Shawn Lovejoy.  I said via twitter that it was the most spiritual & practical conference I’ve ever been to…I meant that!

Here were some of the things that I learned, walked away with and, as a result, am now working on:

  • Their motto is “Giving you permission to lead”.  They did just that for me.  I was confirmed in some of the things I have been thinking and working on. That fueled the fire to move faster.
  • Systems matter.  More than most anything else.  Systems create behaviors.  They aren’t sexy…but they are what grow and sustain a church.  Everything needs a system.  It needs to be written down and distributed.
  • Be aggressive.  I have backed off at times due to not wanting to “move too fast” on some issues.  Those days are over.
  • I was affirmed, encouraged & taught a lot regarding our volunteer process/system.  Great things that will take us to the next level.  Most of it was mapped out with our Connections Pastor, Dorna Adams yesterday.
  • I learned that cool doesn’t replace effective.  We can chase, spend money on & idolize “cool”…all the while losing effectiveness.
  • Intentionality matters.  You will never hit a bullseye by shooting a shotgun.
  • Staffing is a constant process.  Several great nuggets on this:  When you’re larger, staff is often the growth barrier.  Spouses matter; they have to be called to partner with their spouse in ministry.  Execution, attitude and results all matter.  In evaluating staff…these things should be on the list.
  • A TEAM and a STAFF are two different things.
  • A good ministry team has ministry team values…just for the team.  Things like EXECUTION, HONESTY, RESOURCEFULNESS, ATTITUDE.
  • Don’t try to mimic anyone in ministry.  God has gifted & called me to reach my specific community.

Here were some great quotes from the conference:

  • “The only way to have God’s anointing is to live w/ integrity, humility and generosity.” Rick Warren
  • “Healthy churches aren’t based on seating capacity but on sending capacity.” Rick Warren
  • “Harvard study shows that most people can only pay attention for 18 minutes. Then they start thinking about sex.” -Dave Gibbons
  • “Harvard study shows that most people can only pay attention for 18 minutes. Then they start thinking about sex.” -Dave Gibbons
  • “Be a last 10 percent leader. Have the difficult conversation. Choose to be respected over being liked.” @shawnlovejoy
  • “Businesses go through more care in hiring than Christian church’s do.” @shawnlovejoy
  • “Even if you have all the $$ in the world, hire staff last. Equip volunteers first. Hire only when you must.” @timastevens
  • “The church that Jesus built was designed for advance, not defense.” – Alan Hirsch
  • “Insecure leadership plays itself out with COMPARISON, COPYING, CRITIQUING, & CONDEMNING.” @shawnlovejoy
  • “Your team & church will only grow to the level that you are growing.  You have to keep growing.  Stay teachable.” @shawnlovejoy

Daddy/Daughter Dance

This past Friday night I took Shelby to her Daddy/Daughter Dance.  We had a blast.  She was so incredible.  I think she had the night of her little life.  I have to be honest, it was an incredible night for me.  She spent some time with her friends…but genuinely wanted to hang out with me.  That made my night.  I love this little girl & I hope that Jesus keeps her heart as sensitive & focused on her family as it is now.  I will date her as much as I can while I can.  Hopefully I can show her how she’s supposed to be treated by a guy before she ever gets around one…you know…when she’s 35!

Here are some pics of our night together…


Today at the Creek we talked about parenting.  Marty & Patty did a great job with this message.  It’s always a tough message because, unless your kids are grown & doing well, you always feel “under-qualified” to deliver a message on this (at least I do!).

Anyway, as they were talking I found myself thinking about who has impacted & influenced me the most when it comes to my parenting.  This is a very random list…and a random post…but I thought I’d share.

Here are my top 5 Parental Influences:

  1. God. I know…I know…I have to put Him first…right?  Well, it would feel weird not to, but honestly…the bible, stories of good (and bad) fathers in scripture & the characteristics of my Heavenly Father have modeled great parenting to me.  The biggest thing I’ve learned from God on this?  Simple: Love them when they don’t deserve it.  There’s lots more…but that’s the biggest.
  2. My mom & dad. I have learned so much from them.  From what they modeled & what they said.  My mom taught me to fight for what I believe in & how to accept grace.  My dad taught me how to work hard & what commitment really means.  From both I’ve learned to always make an effort to be radically involved in every aspect of your children’s lives.  Let them know that you are their biggest fan…they were mine!
  3. Melissa’s parents. The biggest things I’ve learned from the them: The power of loving each other & how that affects your kids.  Plus, always be together when leading, disciplining and loving your kids.
  4. Families that we’ve met in ministry. Seriously.  We have been priviledged to be around tons of various families.  From some we’ve walked away saying, “We need to be sure and do that!” From others we’ve walked away saying, “We need to be sure to NEVER DO THAT!!!!!”
  5. Finally…and you may laugh…but we have learned a ton from Cliff & Claire Huxtable from “The Cosby Show”.  I’m so serious.  I know it’s a TV show.  Even so, they teach values of being unified as parents, being passionately in love, not backing down in discipline, living with humor and living life to the fullest.

Who has educated you in how to parent either by modeling, teaching or leading?

What Does The Future Hold?

“Vision:  It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be.  Imagination gives you the picture.  Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own.” — Robert Collier

Today I read a blog post by Daniel Harkavy.  He’s a great leadership coach who I’ve followed for a little while now.  Consistently great material flows from this guy.

Today he talked about vision.  Specifically a process by which he coaches leaders on how to develop & implement vision.

In short he says that a leader should ask themselves 3 questions &, in turn, answer 3 questions for those who they are asking to follow the vision.  Here are his questions in his 3-B Vision Tool:

1. To what will my team members BELONG?
2. If they invest their time and effort in this organization, who will they BECOME?
3. Together, what are we going to BUILD?

Great stuff…thanks Daniel!  You can read his entire post here :: http://www.danielharkavy.com/2010/02/belong-become-build/

The Law of “People Matter Most”

I learned this principle early in my ministry from my first pastor, Derwood Perkins.  It’s not natural for me.  I have always known it was valuable…but I struggle with actually doing it.  I was never successful in this until I created some systems to support this.  Here are a few:

  • Be strategic about conversations & follow-up. As I have conversations with people on Sundays, I make notes about what we talked about in my phone.  On Monday morning, I write them a card to follow-up.
  • Use Facebook & Twitter. I try to follow-up with every comment that people leave me.  I don’t always do this.  I’m not always on FB & there are A LOT of comments!  I especially struggle when people DM me a really important message.  If you ever need me, just use regular email…I check it more frequently.
  • When I’m around people, I’m AROUND them. Meaning, on Sunday mornings, people are there…so I intentionally hang out with them.  How?  Well, in between services I make a point to walk from one end of our atrium to the other, get coffee, and walk back.  I engage with people along the way.  I rarely actually make it all the way there & back…but I DO get coffee!
  • Get OUT of my circle of friends. When we are in our atrium on a Sunday rarely will you find 2 staff members talking to each other.  Why?  Because we can do that during the week…we are there to connect with people on the weekend.  Usually, I don’t connect with any of my close friends on the weekend until after church.
  • Honor them. This usually means honoring their time, talent, family & effort.  I learned years ago that if I take care of someone’s child…they will love me forever.  If I honor their schedule…they will honor me.  Simply, it goes a long way to just say, “Thank you for _________.  I couldn’t do this without you.”
  • Be genuine. I can talk about these practices all day long, but if I do them in an in-genuine way, it doesn’t count.  People count, not just best practices.
  • Pray. I can say that I pray for God to help me love people more.  I ask for patience, authenticity and the courage to be honest in loving ways.

Now, in the spirit of honesty, here are 2 things that I’m very bad at when it comes to this area…2 things that I’m working on and I’ll tell you how.  They are returning emails & phone calls.  There, I said it…and I feel better.  I struggle with this mainly out of a lack of time.  This is my fault, but others pay the price for it.  For that I’m so sorry.  So here’s what I’m doing about it:  I’m putting two time slots in my day for returning calls & emails.  They will be about 40 minutes in length.  My goal is to return all emails & calls within 24 hours.  This is an important way to make people feel valued that I’ve dropped the ball in…but I’m rectifying.