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.

 

 

I took 29 days off and lived to tell about it!

It’s true. I did it. I took 29 days off from my role as Pastor of Thrive Church. I also took 29 days off from social media. I also took 29 days off from constantly replying and checking my messages/emails/voicemails/texts.

And guess what? I lived! And, Thrive Church…

THRIVED!

Let me tell you why I did it. Why I took 29 days off, consecutively. By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this in 22 years of serving at Churches.

Here’s why I did it…

I let myself get to a very unhealthy place of life. 

You don’t understand. I was drained. I was exhausted. I had nothing left. My tanks were beyond empty. I felt like a zombie most days. For 20 some years, I have worked hard. 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. I have traveled all over the country speaking. I have always tried to do whatever I needed to get the job done. Even when I was exhausted, I always had reserve energy tanks.

But, for the first time in my life, the reserve energy tanks were gone. The past 4 years of my life have been a wild ride. We planted Thrive. Which, that journey alone has been amazing and exhausting. After we planted, my already bad back went to def con 5 and then came back surgery. It took about 16 months to start feeling better. But, every day I experience some kind of pain. Whether it’s a limping day or not is up to the weather.

Then there is the day to day stuff of leading a Church. And, we have seen God move in powerful ways and we have seen satan attack the Church in crazy ways.

We also pursued the calling on our lives to adopt and that journey was both amazing and exhausting. Raising $35,000 and doing mountains of paperwork and the waiting and the going back and forth. Dealing with the people who don’t quite understand adoption and receiving some of their non emotionally intelligent thoughts.

This year started in China picking up Kai and bringing him home. It was amazing! But, after I got home, we knew that God was calling us to move locations and we started a major fundraising campaign at Thrive. And, every time you do something like this, satan seems to up the attack. Then, our Church moved locations. To a much larger space that was a miracle. And, every time you make a change, there are those people who either don’t come along with you or criticize every move.

Then, over the last six months, our family has been adjusting to having a new family member in our house and having another child with PKU and the costs associated with that.

I was spent. My normal tanks were depleted and my reserve tanks were long gone. I was leading and living on empty.

AND…ON YEAH, MY PEOPLE PLEASING WENT OUT OF CONTROL

You see, my name is Jason Raitz and I am a People Pleaser. Even the thought of saying NO to someone causes anxiety to well up. Not good for a Pastor. Because honestly, I have to say no a lot. In order to keep heading towards the vision God’s given us for our Church, I simple can’t say YES all the time.

And guess what? 

I started to let a lot of people down. I let my family down. I let myself down. 

I couldn’t fulfill all the YESSES! I dropped balls. I wasn’t fully there for my family. I slept a lot. I gained a lot of weight. I began to let worry and anxiety rule my life.

And then the chest pains came. They set up shop and decided to stay for awhile.

Lastly, not proud of this at all, but in my complete and utter exhaustion, I started to let bitterness well up in me.

What do I have to bitter about? Great question. I mean, God continues to bless my family. I love my Church, I love my staff team and I love my job. The Patriots won the Super Bowl!

Because I’m such a raving people pleaser, and since I spend quite a bit of time pouring and investing in people. When they up and disappear from Church, I take that very personally. When they say negative blanket statements on Facebook or to other people about our Church, I take that personally. When they head to another Church and never have a conversation with me or another staff member, I take that personally. When they look the other way in a grocery store, that hurts.

And, unfortunately, in my extreme exhaustion, I let all that bitterness well up and  it started to take over.

I was no good to nobody. 

Tracie and my parents were worried about me. I know the kids knew something was up.

That’s when Dr. Tom sat me down. And then Matt. And then Sarah. Some of Thrive’s key leaders noticed a difference in me.

Multiple people asked me if I was ok.

Honestly, in my exhaustion, I stopped doing the practices that helped protect my soul.

I stopped reading. I stopped my every morning prayer walks. I stopped seeing my counselor. I stopped working out. I stopped blogging.

I started to dream about working at Meijer’s. I mean, I would keep that parking lot clean! I could push carts and I would do it well! I started to wonder what a 9-5 job would be like. A job that I could leave and clock out and they weren’t going to call me if a grocery cart went rogue.

This is all embarrassing, I know. It’s probably too raw to write about and post. But, it is what it is.

So, I went to our Elders at Thrive to explain and ask for some extended time off and before I could barely pitch my presentation, one of our founders said…’yup, this is a no brainer’. Another said…’is this enough time, take what you need’.

Talk about being loved! Talk about being supported. Talk about being cared for! 

 

29 Days

So, the day after we got back from Big Stuf Camps, I started this 29 day journey. I’ve never taken a full 2-3 month sabbatical. But, I can see how after a month, you really start to do some healing!

My 29 days looked like this…

The first week I slept. No really. I slept a lot. I was utterly and completely exhausted. I also changed my cell phone number. This was recommended to me and this was a hard one to actually do. I did it. I know some folks probably thought I died.

But, in the midst of constant messages/texts/emails, we had a mix up with Kai’s medical insurance when he first came home and we now owe $6000! Its been a ridiculous mess! Anyways, not having the constant phone calls asking for those funds has been nice.

The second week our family went on a vacation. This wouldn’t have happened without some amazing generosity from some friends! We had a blast together. We went to DC. We walked the capitol. We stayed with friends. Saw family we haven’t seen in forever. The kids kept asking, you sure you’re not speaking somewhere? Hah! IMG_8805

The third week, I started to get back into my rhythm of prayer walks and I decided to walk an hour a day around the campus of Central Michigan University. It was a great week.

The fourth week, I tried to listen to my wife and kids as much as possible. 

In these 29 days…

I started a new prayer journal. I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel and the book of Matthew.

I read ‘Emotionally Healthy Leader’ by Pete Scazzero. A must read! This book has helped me heal in ways I never thought was possible!

I re-read ‘The Circle Maker’ by Mark Batterson

I read ‘People Pleasing Pastors’ by Charles Stone

I saw my counselor and spent time with a mentor.

I went on a lot of walks with my wife and kids.

I talked to God.

I took 29 Days off and I survived!

28 or 38 year old Jason would have never been able to do this, but almost 42 year old Jason knew I needed this to replenish my tanks and for some healing to occur and to happen.

I’m thankful for my Church. I’m thankful for my family.

I’m expectant and excited for this next season of ministry!

Oh, here are a few photo’s from our trip to DC.

10 Ways to Support your Church in the summer

Summer is AWESOME!! Many people get to vacation. They get to rest. They get to breathe a little bit.

For some, life slows down a little bit. For others, it ramps up.

For most Churches, things slow down in the summer. Which is good. People need to rest.

BUT…FullSizeRender

If you’re a fully devoted follower of Jesus, your Church home is pretty special and important to you. If its not, you have some things to work through and do them quickly so you can get fully on board with your Church.

As an owner or partner or member (whatever term your church uses to describe being ALL IN), there are some very important things you can do to help your church still move forward during a slow time.

Let me give you a quick list on how you can support your Church in the summer.

1. Pray for your Church. Please don’t pray tiny, whimpy prayers. PRAY BIG, PRAY BOLD.

Ask God to grow your Church. Ask God to give your Church His favor. Ask God to financially bless your Church. Ask God to ready you for the fall.

2. Pray for your Pastor. Again, pray hard! According to this latest survey, about 250 are leaving the ministry every month. Pray for strength, pray for their health, pray for their family.

3. Watch the messages you missed. Keep up to date on what is being taught. Take the time to hear the vision.

4. Like stuff. If you’re not around, and that’s all good, you could still have an online presence. Its super encouraging to the leaders of your church when you take the time to LIKE posts online and comment.

So, like stuff. Comment. Reply. Respond.

5. Give financially. There’s an interesting thing that happens with some people. They only give financially to God when they attend Church. In one way, that’s kind of like giving Him a tip. In another way, it’s an interesting way to be faithful with your generosity.

6. Set up Online Giving. This is really awesome. Some people don’t do this because they like to actually write the check, totally get that. But, it really does help your church when you set up an automatic and reoccurring giving online. It helps with planning and spending on necessary resources.

7. Step up to serve. There’s an interesting dynamic that happens in many churches. A small percentage does the large amount of the stuff to do. So, change that. Volunteer. Commit.

8. Ask. There are always lists and lists of tasks to do. If you have time, ask if you could help.

9. Check in with people. Summer is a strange time. People are traveling. Some may miss every Sunday in the summer. So, check in with them. Start with the people in your small group. Check in with the people you serve with or sit by.

10. Help your Church win! Yup, I guess this is all of these ways combined into one, but do you help your Church win? If not, start today! Support your church. Encourage your church. Be there for your church. Help your church.

Summers are awesome. But, be careful to NOT disappear from your Church family!

Meet Thrive’s new Small Group Director…Jon Strifler!

Are you even kidding me? God just continues to blow me away!

I am beyond excited to introduce Thrive’s newest staff member.

Why?

Because has God sent an amazing leader to Thrive and He has filled a tremendous hole! And that hole has been for someone to lead our Small Groups. I have been trying to fill that hole and honestly, I haven’t done a great job. Cue our newest staff member.

Meet Jon Strifler. He’s our Small Groups Director. 

Small Groups are the secret sauce of Thrive Church! Sunday’s are awesome, but it’s just a small part. Small Groups are where it’s at! And, I’m so thankful that God lead Jon and wife to be a part of Thrive! Jon will be working closely with Dr. Tom to create healthy communities for our Church to be a part of and they will be creating tools to help us grow spiritually!
Here’s a little bit about Jon:
How long have you lived in Central Michigan?FullSizeRender.jpg
-Been in Central Michigan for 4 years. Originally from the Indianapolis area
What’s your favorite thing about Thrive?
-So far my favorite thing about Thrive has been the amount of fun we have working as a staff team
How excited are you to lead Small Groups at Thrive?
-I am quite excited–super geeked–fangirl moment, whichever you want to use
If you had to pick between either Hootie and the Blowfish or Country music, what would you choose?
-Certainly not country, so give me Hootie
Jon has been married to Jennise for a little over a year and together they have a dog. Jennise is a professor at CMU and is an amazing artist!
If you want to be in a small group, lead one or have questions, shoot Jon an email. Make sure you go out of your way to welcome him on a Sunday morning!
Jon.Strifler@thrivechurchmi.cc

 

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!

 

 

 

5 Reasons I’m beyond EXCITED about Thrive’s Dad Fest Sunday!

This Sunday is one of Thrive Church’s most exciting Sunday’s…

DAD FEST!18951327_10158911643060235_5540560706029634397_n

We host Dad Fest every year to honor dads, to hopefully attract men and dad’s to Church and to remind people how amazing our heavenly Father is and how much he loves us!

Some of my favorite Sunday’s in Thrive’s almost 4 year history have been Dad Fest Sunday’s.

Here’s 5 Reasons I’m so Excited! 

1. It will be a blast to honor Thrive’s ‘Dad of the Year’!

This year we’re doing something new. We are awarding a prize for Thrive’s ‘Dad of the Year.’ This will be an awesome moment! Many friends and family have nominated their dads, friends and relatives. Our staff looked over each nomination and prayed and picked. I can’t wait!

2. It will be a blast to remind Thrivers that we have a good, good Father!

The amazing Dr. Tom (Thrive’s Spiritual Formation Pastor), helped me find 5 amazing truths from Psalm 103 about our heavenly Father. I can’t wait to encourage our Church with those truths!

3. It will be a blast to combine both experiences into one!

This is always a treat! It doesn’t happen much, but this Sunday we get to gather all together!

4. It will be a blast to worship outside at Island Park!

I am so proud of how hard our band works to provide an amazing worship experience. Plus, they’re going to play a few pretty fun songs as well! I hear Whitesnake and the Zac Brown Band are making an appearance!

5. It will be a blast to see families experience EVERYTHING!!

This Sunday will be the first time we have all 8 Giant Inflatables set up! It’s going to be awesome! We have also some cool cars coming, a fire truck, police cars, an archery game and a bacon tent! Yes…a bacon tent!

What are you doing on Sunday? 

I so hope you can join us! I know its nice out, but I hope you will consider giving some of your time to gather together!

We will be at Island Park from 9 (ish) to 1230 (ish). Can’t wait!

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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