Maybe our parenting approach is all wrong?!? Parenting and the Church pt. 1

My wife and I have 5 kids. We have 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13) and a 9 and 3.5 year old. Parenting is an important part of our lives. One of the most important. And, for the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to serve families in local churches and have had a close up view to many different kinds of parenting styles.

On top of that, I have traveled all over the world and have spoke to thousands of teenagers. I don’t know the exact number. Retreats, Conferences, Camps, Christian Schools, Public Schools, Churches and Colleges. All over.

One more on top of that, we have a Senior in our house. That means we have one year left before she heads out on her own. It really is amazing how quick it goes.

All of that to say, we talk parenting a lot in our house. I talk parenting with my parents a lot. All of my friends have kids similar in age and we talk parenting a lot. I read parenting books and articles. I talk to parents about their thoughts. I talk to teenagers and parents about their thoughts. Because of all that, I’m at a crossroads and I’m thinking that…

Maybe we’re just wrong…jonnywow-maybe

Maybe Tracie and I are just wrong about Parenting when it comes to the Church.

Here’s where we’re coming from. We want our kids involved with the ‘Church’ and their Church. That’s the goal. That’s the win! 

Actually, we don’t want them to ‘just’ be involved or to just be attenders. We want them to be Contributors, Investors and Owners in their local Church.

Why?

A. Because the Church is the most important organization on the planet! I mean, Jesus gave His life for us and then He gave us the Church! It is the Bride of Christ and there is nothing more important. 

AND…

B. Something becomes so much more alive when you actually own it, rather than just renting it. 

Our point of view on the Church with our kids…

So, our approach to Parenting and the Church is that the Church is non-negotiable. It’s just a part of who we are as a family. And, we don’t want to sit in the cheap sits and watch. We want to be involved. We want to be on the field. We want our kids to love their Church and to be an Owner as much as we are.

That means that our kids are expected to care about their Church, pray for the leaders of their church and to be involved. And to be involved with their age appropriate ministries.

And, from what I can tell, our kids love their Church.

  • Madison, our 9 year old, has been talking about her Club 45 SpringHill retreat for months. (Club 45 is Thrive’s ministry to 4th and 5th graders)

A side note: As a family, we have made the choice that our kids won’t miss retreats or camps. Why? Because that’s where the power happens! There is something so incredible that happens on retreats and camps. I actually wrote an article about this years ago that’s been posted on many camp websites! Here it is. 

  • Zach, our 13 year old, decided to not try out for a travel baseball team because they practice on Sunday’s and he didn’t want that to interfere with Church and Youth Group.
  • All of our teenagers have already started their countdowns to next summer’s Big Stuf Camp. 
  • Shoot, during my recent 29 days off, our kids, on their own, still decided to join our Thrive community on Sunday’s. We let them decide and they decided to be a part.

Don’t think for one second that we’re experts or have the perfect family. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are so many things we do wrong and need to do a better job when it comes to parenting and parenting teenagers and kids. 

Ok, why all of this? Why am I going on and on?

As a Pastor, I pretty frequently from parents who are beyond disappointed that their teenagers want nothing to do with the Church. 

I hear from other parents who are banging their heads against the wall and want help in getting their teenagers involved at church. 

So, all of that to say…

What if Parents gave even 10% of the passion they put towards their kids…

  • Prom Pictures
  • Football Practice
  • Travel Sports
  • Marching Band
  • 4H
  • Dance Competitions
  • School Stuff

And gave it to celebrating their involvement and serving in the Church?

I mean, its safe to say that parents are very excited about spending hundreds of dollars on Prom and then posting a million pictures of it. I mean, maybe I’ve missed something, but why is spending all that money and going to a dance all that important?

Now, I’m not trying to sound ridiculous. I love that my oldest daughter has gone to prom. She’s beautiful inside and out. I’m also proud that she hasn’t made a big deal about going with a guy and has just choose to go with friends. I went to prom. I love the dance scene from the movie footloose as much as they next guy.

But, when it comes time for parents to pay for summer camp or a youth retreat or a mission trip, sometimes its the end of the world.

End of the freaking world!

‘I can’t pay for that’ or ‘We don’t have it for that’ or ‘the church expects too much’

Hmmmm. But when it comes time to plunk down the fundage for a travel team, or a spring break trip, or a dress…the money is somehow there.

Ok, I know this a GIANT generalization. But, it’s also based on my experience of 22 years of being up close and personal to hundreds and hundreds of families.

Just imagine, MAYBE, how much more passionate our kids and teenagers MIGHT be about God and Church and Student Ministry…

If their parents Celebrated their faith like they celebrated Prom of Football or Soccer or Band?

Is this all unfair?

I know some parents slap up pictures on Facebook of their kids first communion or confirmation, but what about all the other hundreds of Sunday’s? Oh, it could be that some parents only get excited about a few milestone type church events. It could be that those parents themselves are only in Church for those milestone type events. That’s a whole other situation.

But what about all the Sunday’s their kids could be learning about Jesus? What about all the Sunday’s their kids could be leading at Church. Using their music gifts. Using their art gifts. Using their people skills.

Mom and Dad’s, we’re at a crossroads.

It’s time for us to decide if the goal of our parenting is to raise Jesus Followers or Prom dates or Soccer players or Baseball players or Marching Band Players.

The reality, if you don’t make your child’s faith a priority now or you don’t make Church a priority for your family, the likelihood of them coming back to the faith decreases rapidly.

All I know is…

What gets Celebrated gets Repeated.

(thanks for that phrase Andy Stanley)

So, if all we do is celebrate the Prom nights, the homecoming dates, the games, the grades and we don’t spend any time celebrating Church or making room for it or Youth Group or Bible Study or Small Group or celebrating our kids involvement with them. We can almost guarantee that our kids won’t be excited about them.

Maybe I’m Wrong. Maybe I’m too passionate about my kids loving the Church or being involved.

Maybe.

Or Maybe I’m onto something. More thoughts in part two coming next week.

 

 

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The Gift of Sheila = Unbelievable Generosity that rocks your life!

The Raitz family has been so blessed over the years.

And, when I say blessed, I don’t mean…’oh, we’re so happy’, kind of blessed.’

I mean the kind of blessed where your life, where your family, where your everyday life is so rocked and so moved and so blown away, you just don’t know how to function! And then, all you want to do, is do just that for other people. 

Well, a few months ago, an amazing couple from our Church came over and gave us a gift that knocked the air out of our lungs. We sat there in silence and we had no idea how to respond.

The size and scope of the generosity was absolutely amazing.

Actually, after it happened, Tracie and I went into our bedroom and shut the door and just hugged and cried. That lasted about 2.5 second because we have 5 kids! Hah!

They gave us the Gift of Sheila! Which, if you’re wondering what that is, Shiela is the IMG_8052nick name we gave their mini van.

They gave us a mini van!

I am not even kidding! Just unreal! 

I can’t even begin to express what an answer to prayer this gift was for our family. I can’t even begin to express how incredibly blown away we have been for the past couple of months as we think about what this family did for us!

This is the kind of generosity that literally CHANGES LIVES! 

And, the amazing generosity started back in 2014. We were headed as a family to Florida to speak at a summer camp. Our van was barely kicking. As a last minute hail mary, I put out on Facebook that we were asking for prayer for our van to get to Florida. That’s when I got a message that we could use this couples mini van. It was a huge answer to prayer.

Over the next 3 years, again and again, they let us borrow their van for us to travel to speaking engagements and vacations. We went to WI and to IL and to SC and to FL. Over the course of this time…

Sheila became a part of the family. 

The couple that gave us Sheila has been a part of our lives since 2012. That’s when I first met them. They lived down state and attended a Church that I was speaking at. They were a part of the prayer and I still remember the day I first me them and they prayed over me before I spoke.

Fast forward and they moved back to Central Michigan and they have been a part of Thrive since the very beginning. Actually, Thrive would not exist without this couple. Their heart to serve, to pray and to give just continually blows me away.

Every Pastor needs encouragers. I don’t know where I would be without them. They have taught me so much about following Jesus and so much about generosity!

Every time I drive Sheila I pray for them. I ask God to bless them.

Our hope is that God will use us in a similar way to bless the people around us!

 

Thrive Church: 10 Ways You Can Support One Youth’s Big Stuf Trip…

In 22 days, Thrive Church is sending an amazing group of students and adults to Big Stuf!

WOO HOO!!bigstuf-(3)

Ok, what’s Big Stuf? Big Stuf is a summer camp/conference for middle and high schools in Panama City Beach, FL. Incredible times of worship, inspired bible teaching, breakouts, group activities, bonding with small groups and the ocean!!

For 22 years I have been taking students to summer camps and for 17 years, I have been speaking at summer camps. In my opinion, not many come close to Big Stuf!

So, as a Church, this trip is incredibly important! We need the entire church to come together to support, pray and encourage!!

10 Ways you can Support One Youth’s Big Stuf trip:

1. Pray. Yes, and pray hard! Seek God on behalf of these students and leaders. Camps/Conferences/Retreats have a way of helping students bust through spiritual mediocrity or to help them own their own faith. Pray for their hearts to be wrecked for Jesus.

If you want to be a student or leaders prayer partner, just email Lindsey.msibi@thrivechurchmi.cc.

2. Write an encouraging card to an adult leader attending.  Email Lindsey.msibi@thrivechurchmi.cc for a list of the names attending. It would be amazing for them to get encouraging cards while in FL!

3. Watch the sessions on Live Stream. This would be awesome! Head HERE and check out the worship and teaching! Especially parents!

4. Bring your Loose Change to Church the next 3 Sundays. Yes, every bit of loose 19024976_1355671291194848_6650784396360443343_ochange helps! Thanks for helping raise the funds for camp!

5. Donate food. We need 6 cases of Little bottles of water. Little pop bottles. (Why little? Because we have a long van ride!) Granola Bars. Cheese Sticks. Fruit (apple slices). Fruit Snacks. Twizlers. Small bags of chips.

6. Donate Sun Screen. We are going to use a lot!

7. Hire a student to work at your house. Email Jessica.herron@thrivechurchmi.cc to get this set up!

8. Get your car washed. On June 24th, from 9-2pm, we will be at Krapohl’s Ford for a car wash. Please bring your car over!

9. Shop with Scrip. Shop at Krogers. Shop at Amazon. As you shop, you can help earn money for One Youth. This is so simple, it’s silly! Please email Sarah.gauthier@thrivechurchmi.cc and she will get you all set up!

10. Donate funds to help. This is also a very simple, yet incredibly powerful way to help. Our students have been working hard all year to each earn and raise $600 to attend this camp. Any gifts given will go towards students who haven’t quit earned everything they need yet.

You can give HERE. Just click on One Youth!

Thank you so much helping and supporting One Youth! 

We can’t wait to share with the Church about our trip!

 

 

 

Are we Crazy!?! Thrive’s 5 year Vision and our Prayer Wall!

Last month, the Pastors of Thrive Church were at the Exponential Church Planting conference in Orlando, FL. It was a GREAT trip. Lots of laughs, dreaming, praying and learning!

The theme of the conference was ‘Dream Big’ and we were challenged to do just that.

One morning, I found myself dreaming big in my prayer journal. I presented this to the other Thrive Pastors (Matt Moore, Dave Shephard and Dr. Tom Rundel) and we all tweaked it a bit. Then, this past Tuesday, I presented it to our staff and we tweaked it a little bit. Next month, I am going to present it to a combined meeting with our Thrive Elders and Financial Team.

Let me just say this…

It’s a wild and crazy Vision!

I read through it and some of the items on there scare me. In a good way, but they’re so big and so audacious, that really ONLY GOD could provide the needs to make some of this stuff happen.

So, this is our 5 year Vision at Thrive! This is what we’re praying and asking God to provide. We desperately want to make a HUGE impact in Central Michigan and the world and we’re stepping out in faith and believing that God can do the impossible.

Thrive turns 4 in October and I feel like in many ways, we’re just getting started!

Thrive’s 5 Year Vision

  • Every Life is changed by Jesus
  • Thrivers to be passionate about: Jesus, the Bible, Prayer, Giving and their Small Group
  • Elder and & Staff Unity
  • Financial Wisdom, Margin and Radical Generosity. We’re praying for a $600,000 a year budget and 4-6 months of operating budget in savings.
    • Staff to not have to raise support.
  • Partner with Local Churches who are struggling and provide help and new life.
  • 20 Acres of Land to be Donated.
  • Semi-Trailer and Box Truck to be donated.
  • A New Hub. 15,000 square feet of Offices, Prayer Center, One Youth Space, Tutoring, Thrive Counseling Center, Studios (Music, Video, Art), Do Good Space
  • Equipment. (2) MacBooks, Drum Set, Keyboard, Video Camera’s, Gaga Ball Pit, Obstacle Course Inflatable, Color Copier.
  • New Staff & Team Leaders. Small Group Director, Youth, Video, Stewardship.
  • Midland & Big Rapids Campus Pastor.
  • Add a Thrive campus in a local prison.
  • (2) Church Planting Residents.
  • Reach 1500 people weekly by 2022.
  • 24/7 Building that can be used 7 days a week by the Community. Including a small apartment complex that can be used to house Single moms, families, refugees, interns.

SHOW UP

  • Raise an additional $20,000 a year to reach students at CMU. This will give us a major presence on campus.
  • See 150 people a year Trust in Jesus at Thrive on Sunday’s.
  • 100 people to be baptized in 2017. 200 by 2022.
  • Record a live worship album.

JUMP IN

  • 500 people in Small Groups by 2019.
  • Increased Volunteers
    • 50 Road Crew
    • 200 Thrive Kidz
    • 75 First Impressions
    • 30 Prayer Team
    • 20 Care Team
    • (3) Worship Leaders
    • 40 Musicians
    • 30 One Youth Leaders
    • 30 Chi Alpha Leaders
    • 30 Outreach team
    • 25 Cars Ministry
  • Start an online Bible School. Offer practical courses to help develop life long followers of Jesus.

DO GOOD

  • Plant (2) Churches in Ecuador through Stadia and Compassion. ($190,000)
  • Join and help plant (2) Churches in Michigan.
  • Raise $50,000 a year to give away 1500 shoes to elementary students at local schools.
  • Give away 20 Cars a year and repair 40.
  • Support 15 Back to School Parties for Local Schools.
  • Sponsor a ‘Night to Shine’ Event
  • Host a community wide Halloween Party at Finch Fieldhouse
  • Sponsor a Teacher Appreciation Night for hundreds of local teachers.

NEXT GEN

  • Thrive Kidz
    • Raise up a Thrive Kidz Worship Team
    • Create a special needs room at Thrive Kidz
  • One Youth
    • Send 100 Students to Big Stuf Summer Camp
    • 40 Small Groups
    • Student Lead
    • Raise up a One Youth Worship Team
  • Chi Apha
    • (2) Houses on Campus for College Students

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180 Weeks equals an amazing Chapter One for Thrive Church!

Having a hard time putting into words how I feel about tomorrow morning. 

You see, its not just another Sunday morning!

Not one Sunday morning is just another Sunday morning! They are all special. They all mean the world!

Tomorrow is Thrive’s last Sunday at the theater we’ve been using for 180 weeks!

The night before our first Sunday (October 5th, 2013), I wrote this…

blog post.

To be honest, not much has changed since that Sunday! We’re still extremely passionate about being a Church for people who have given up on God and Church! We still exist to help people find and follow Jesus.

But, we’ve grown. We’ve matured as an organization. We’ve had unbelievable highs and super deep lows. Through it all, God has been so faithful!

So, I can’t wait.

I really believe to my core that Thrive’s next chapter will be our BEST YET!

Next Sunday we will move to the campus of Central Michigan University. Which is a miracle!

In Two Sundays, we will experience EASTER! Which is always tremendous!

In Three Sunday’s, we have our first baptisms on campus!

In Four Sunday’s, we are cancelling our morning experiences and heading out all over Central Michigan to serve!

I can say whole heartedly…

The Best is Yet to Come! 

Can 7 Sunday’s really be all that important? The next 7 at Thrive are just that…

 

Sunday is coming! I am extremely EXCITED about this Sunday! Why?

It’s Thrive’s last Sunday at the theater!

I have been praying for this day for over 2 years and I can’t wait! Don’t get me wrong, I will miss the theater! I am sad!

But, I am more EXCITED and EXPECTANT and EAGER than I am sad!!

 

Save a Seat Campaign

Have you had a chance to save a seat? If not, there are still seats to sponsor!! Right now **986**seats have been sponsored! That still leaves a few hundred that need to be sponsored!!

If you want to help, THANK YOU! Just head to http://www.thrivechurchmi.cc/give and select CMU fund. Or text, 84321, the amount and CMU!!

****THE NEXT 7 SUNDAYS****

I can’t even begin to explain how important the next 7 weeks are for Thrive Church! I know we’re all busy. But, I’m asking you to consider making these weeks a huge priority, here’s why.

March 26th…Our Last Sunday at Celebration Cinema! Let’s CELEBRATE together! Popcorn, Memories, the most IMPORTANT message ever, Communion, a time of prayer and the band has been putting in extra work on some very special songs.

April 2nd…First Sunday at CMU. 930 and 11am.

April 9th…Palm Sunday. A GIANT Sunday!

April 16th…EASTER SUNDAY [Look Again]. The super bowl of all Sundays.

April 23rd…BAPTISM Sunday at CMU!! Our first ever baptism on the stage at CMU. If you have never been baptized through immersion, please check out this link. http://thrivechurchmi.cc/baptism/

April 30th…The Church has Left the Building! We are not meeting for our experiences, but we will meet at CMU and then spread out all over the area and serve!

As you can tell, wow, this is our MOST IMPORTANT SEASON ever as a Church!!

Thank you for Stepping UP! For Showing UP, for Jumping In and for Doing Good!

 

A New Chapter for Thrive Church + #SaveaSeat Campaign = The Best is Yet to Come

 

Thrive Church is 175 weeks old! It’s been an amazing 3.5 years! Lives have been changed! Marriages have been encouraged and healed! People have found community! And…people have found Jesus and follow Him!! Through it all…God has been so faithful! 

As I look back on 2016, I just scratch my head when I think about all the ONLY GOD moments! You can check out our annual report HERE.

In fact, He has sent the most amazing people to be a part of this church! I am in awe most days when I think about the staff He’s assembled, the leadership team and the body of people who call Thrive home! Just amazing!

A New Chapter for Thrive Church! 

Very soon, we will start a new chapter. For the Church that started in a bar and then moved to a movie theater, we will move soon to the campus of Central Michigan University. WE ARE SO EXCITED!!

This is a total God thing! It’s an ONLY GOD moment and I’m so excited for this new chapter!

Why are we moving?

Simple. We have outgrown our space. Our current Sunday morning location is great and its been awesome! But, our kids ministry has suffered from a lack of space. Plus, our new location will position us in an amazing facility for both kids and adults and its in a great part of town! And we’re praying that God opens up doors for us to reach College students like never before!

So, how can we get there?

#SaveaSeat Campaign

We’re asking people to sponsor seats to change lives!! If we can get enough seats sponsored, we will be able to purchase the equipment we need to turn CMU into Thrive Church on Sundays!!

There are 1200 seats and we’re praying that we can each one sponsored at $40!!

We primarily need to create an amazing environment for our Kids Ministry! Here is a portion of what we need:

 

  • (4) Carts of Portable Kids Ministry Walls (Brand new, these are $8000). We’re praying we can get them donated or fine used ones.
  • (150 feet) of Pipe and Drape
  • (4) Portable TV Cases for Thrive Kidz and the TV’s to go in them.
  • (2) Giant rolls of carpet
  • Bean Bag chairs, toys, slides, little kids tables and chairs
  • (2) Powered speakers
  • (3) Laptops and Label Printers
  • New Signage for Campus for Thrive Kidz and Thrive Church
  • Dream items: Octoball ring, 9 Square in the air, bouncy inflatable

 

It’s super easy to sponsor a seat. Just text 84321, the amount and CMU. Or you can give online, just check the CMU Fund or give at Thrive.

 

Don’t Miss our Ramp up to Move to CMU:

March 1…40 Day Prayer Campaign Begin (Praying for God to move in this new season at Thrive Church)
March 11…Worship & Prayer Night at the Hub. 6-730pm. We will corporately pray for our move, for Easter and for God to move.
March 12…NEW SERIES BEGINS: How to Wreck Your Life
March 25…24 PRAYER DAY. People will reserve half hour slots to pray on their own or at the Hub or CMU.
March 19-31…Hanging Door Hangers all over Central MI and CMU
March 31…Tentative Set Up and Tear Down Training Night for Road Crew/Thrive Kidz/Production (630-9pm)

April 2…Soft Launch at CMU [New Experience Times: 930am & 11]
April 16…EASTER!!!! (LOOK AGAIN)
April 23…New Series: #ForCentralMichigan (Loving where you live, serving where you live) & Baptism Sunday!!
April 30…THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!! Serving local Schools!

These are awesome times Thrive Church! God is doing some incredible things!

Would you join with me and PRAY LIKE CRAZY FOR SEATS TO BE SPONSORED?