What To Do When You’re Worried

The Cure for Worry

Earlier this week I posted Part 1 (A Game Changer for People who Worry About…Anything) of this 2 part series on Worry. You may want to read that before reading this one.

So, the obvious question is “Doesn’t everyone worry? Isn’t it just part of the human experience?”

Isn’t it just a Way of Life?

No!

2) Worry isn’t a Way of Life. In fact it’s the opposite of the life God wants us to live.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“ Matthew 6:27 

Worrying doesn’t change the situation, it just causes you a bunch of stress and fear.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.- Corrie Ten Boom

Instead listen to this:

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. 1 Peter 5:6-9 (NLT)

Verse 6 says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God…”

Humbling myself under the mighty power of God…that sounds like what I do when I worship. I recognize my position and His power!

I believe you can worship away your worry.

When I worship, my attention is redirected away from what I see right in front of me to the object of my worship.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

There’s tons of context here but I want you to see the imagery of lifting my eyes off my worry and up to the hills to see the help coming.

Worship is a secret weapon for you. I realize not everyone is the same, but when I get worried, or stressed. When I’m facing temptation. Any number of things… I turn on worship music. It changes the atmosphere.

Taking that thought even further

Paul says this in Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

No one can pray and worry at the same time.- Max Lucado

The translators of the Message say “Let your praise shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” You have the power to turn your worry into worship. Telling God exactly what you’re worried about and focusing on Him, His goodness toward you, and His example of faithfulness throughout Scripture, history and your life.

Whenever you’re worried…worship!

Focus less on what has you down, and focus more on the One who can lift you up!

I’ve been praying for you this week!

A Game Changer for People Who Worry About…Anything

The Truth About Worrying

My son Cooper is 13 years old. I don’t know how much you remember about being 13, but it is a pretty tough deal. He has to deal with school, and tests, and his brothers and sister. He has to deal with his mom and dad who are constantly on him about something. He plays baseball against kids pitching pretty fast. He has friends, and then he has these girls he thinks are cute. It’s a lot to take in when you’re 13.

Cooper, as our oldest, is pretty cautious in general. He is also pretty nervous about trying new things. On his baseball team he hates to bat leadoff, the first batter in the lineup. He loves to bat 2nd. He needs to see another one of his teammates face the pitcher so he knows what to expect. He’s a very good baseball player, but almost every single game he walks up to me at some point to tell me how worried he is about facing this pitcher…even if it’s a pitcher he’s faced before.

Last year, when his school started their Standardized testing, I was driving him to school and he said, “Dad I’m worried about these tests.” I told him that I completely understood and that we would pray before he got out of the car. I also reminded him that he made good grades, is a good student and does really well picking up things he hasn’t learned yet if that happened, so not to be afraid. We prayed, but I could see as he was getting out of the car that he was still worried.

As his dad, I would have given anything to take away his fears and concerns but I couldn’t.

I would love to admit that worry is just something kids deal with, but we all know that isn’t true.

I asked a question on Facebook and Twitter a while back and got tons of great feedback. I just asked a simple question: “What do you worry about?”

Here were some of the public responses. I also got some private ones.

  • Not succeeding
  • Letting people down
  • Making decisions or taking risks
  • Getting older, unfulfilled dreams, children growing up
  • Career choices
  • The future
  • If you’re doing enough
  • Missing out on what God has for me

If I were to sum it up, the biggest things people seem to be worried about are success, money, health, family, and the future.

I realize there are probably things that you worry about that aren’t on this list, and that’s okay.

Jesus talked about worry in Matthew 6. Evidently He felt that it was important, because it’s pretty early on in His very first sermon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“ And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

He starts pretty specifically and sums up everything we could possibly worry about when He says, “Don’t worry about your life…”

It’s hard to be much clearer than that.

But when you hear that, you might think, “Well how am I supposed to do that? Isn’t worry human nature?”…

Well kind of.

I don’t want to pscho-analyze you, but I want us to dive a little deeper into our worry and see if there’s something there that Jesus might be speaking to.

What do we think worry is?

1) We think worry might be a warning. We’ve heard those stories of someone who had a feeling or a premonition just before something bad happened, and so we convince ourselves that our “worry” is a warning that something bad is going to happen.

2) We think worry is a way of life. We think we are supposed to worry about our jobs and our future and our kids and…

So let’s address each of these thoughts about worry.

1) Worry isn’t warning. The reason I can say this with certainty is because Worry isn’t the voice of God. The voice of God is the voice of God. When I learn His voice I won’t mislabel it as worry! If God wants to warn me of something, He warns me of something. He doesn’t give me an obscure worry that causes me to doubt if it was His voice, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with what I’m feeling.

Jesus told us about a helper we would have after He left the earth.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:26-27

He said that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate. That’s someone who is on your side. Someone who is there to help you. And when Jesus said He was leaving the Holy Spirit for us, He said that it was a gift of peace for our hearts and minds so that we didn’t have to be troubled or afraid.

So worry isn’t warning. Warning is warning. If I’m unsure whether something is a warning I would ask 2 simple questions:

  • Is this a way God speaks (to me)?

Be careful not to interject that you think someone, somewhere, that one time felt something before something bad happened…has God ever specifically spoken to you this way?

  • How am I supposed to act in light of what God has warned me?

I believe if there isn’t a specific response that it’s just worry and not warning. A warning is “Get out of the way, a car is about to hit you”. A worry is “This is a dangerous world where bad things happen to kids.” There’s nothing I can do with that other than to just worry.

So worry isn’t warning. Warning is a warning.

 

Later this week I’ll unpack the 2nd part of our worries, and how we should deal with them.

Until then, try to evaluate your worry. Where is it coming from? What are the triggers?

Now spend a moment in prayer and thank God for clarity in the moments where He may be warning you, and ask for peace in the moments where you are worried!

Until next time…

 

 

The 1 Thing People Need From You

You Already Have it

This post appears as an article in the October edition of Around Canton. I write several times per year for this local publication and always enjoy the feedback I receive. I wanted to share it here in hopes that it will encourage you too.

 

Several years ago my grandmother gave each of her grandkids a small book that she had written and bound. Each page was filled with stories of faith that she had personally experienced. There were stories of answered prayers she and my grandfather had prayed over the previous 50+ years. There were stories of wonderful sermons she had heard or church services she had attended. Each page was different, and very powerful. When she presented these books to each of us she informed us of her motive. It was her desire that while she was still able to remember the wonderful things God had done, that she would make sure her family knew as well. What a thoughtful and forward-thinking idea.

Perhaps one of the saddest verses in the Bible is Judges 2:10 which says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” While that might not seem all that sad to you, keep in mind that the Lord had done some amazing things for Israel in the previous generation or two. He used Moses to lead as many as 1 million Hebrews out of the Egyptian bondage of slavery. They spent 40 years in the desert preparing to inhabit the land that was promised to their forefather, Abraham, 700 years before, all the way back in the book of Genesis. Upon entering the Promised Land they defeated enemies, inhabited new land, and established themselves as a new nation…and then they stopped telling their stories.

I can’t imagine that. These stories included frogs, locusts, darkness, water turning to blood, walking across a large body of water on dry land as God supernaturally rolled the waters back, defeating giants, and so much more. But eventually their children didn’t know.

So the question for us is this: “What stories do you have that need to be shared with your children and grandchildren?” Unfortunately there will come a day when each of us will no longer be able to share these stories. So we must be intentional to share them while we can. It doesn’t have to be in a book. Maybe it’s a time of sharing after the turkey has been eaten and the table is cleared. Perhaps it’s just an email or letter written and sent. No matter what method you use, don’t put it off one more day. You have a story to tell, and someone needs to hear it.

I Know Why You’re Disappointed

What You Can Learn from Middle School Basketball Tryouts

I’m all for evolving, stretching yourself and constantly trying to improve, and goal setting is a huge part of that process. So how is it possible to set a goal, reach the goal and still be disappointed?

My son recently tried out for the 7th grade basketball team at his school. His one and only season of organized basketball was in 4th grade, but when it came time to sign up he decided to give it a try. Before the tryouts he explained that the coach described the process as daily tryouts, beginning on Monday, with cuts at the end of each day beginning on day 2. He said his goal was to “just make it to Thursday.” He felt that making the team was unrealistic given that he hadn’t played much basketball, there would be nearly 50 boys trying out, and most of his friends have played basketball for the last several years. So we supported him and held out hope that he would make the first few cuts.

Wouldn’t you know it, he actually did pretty well early in the week and as he got in my car after Tuesday’s tryouts he told me that 21 boys were cut, but he was in the group invited back the next day. As I asked for a rundown of the day’s tryout he concluded his description with this line: “You know dad, I think I could actually make the team!” The amount of excitement in his voice was matched by the caution in mine as I responded, “that’s awesome, Cooper. I hope you do.” Then I added my obligatory parental disclaimer, “But if you don’t make it, it’s okay. Remember you just wanted to make it to Thursday, and you’re halfway there. Just keep working hard.”

Wednesday came, and he was invited back for Thursday.

Thursday evening I parked my car on the curb in front of the school and waited…

As he walked out of the gym I could see it on his face.

Disappointment. Embarrassment. Frustration.

He got in the car and the floodgates opened. I prepared my comments, but he didn’t want to hear them. He hadn’t made the team and his 7th grade world was CRUSHED!

 

Cooper made it to Thursday and was still disappointed. Why? Because early results opened up new, better possibilities that were previously unthinkable. Thursday is a great goal until you realize you were one day from making the team.

Exceeding your goal of losing 10 lbs can be disappointing if the scale shows a loss of 14.9 and you focus on missing out on 15 lbs.

Maybe you’re a pastor who set a goal of 500 people on Easter Sunday. Before leaving the church you got the news: 595 in attendance! You should be thrilled, but all the way home all you can think about is how close you were to 600.

You set a goal of 10 new sales leads this month and you ended the month with 12. Instead of cake you’re wallowing in your morning coffee because the guy who shares your cubicle set the new company record with 17 new leads.

Disappointment can often be the result of unmet, unrealistic expectations you set for yourself.

 

It can also be the result of giving your heart to new possibilities before taking the time to celebrate present successes.

Are you disappointed?

If so, is it because of unrealistic expectations, or

is your original successful goal no longer enough due to comparison or success in the process?

Go buy a cupcake, celebrate what you’ve accomplished and set a new goal!

Disappointment is Dumb!

No Judgement Monday

How to Handle the Day after the Day

I just read on social media where a Pastor friend of mine commented about how motivated he is to get work done on Mondays…not me!

I’m a pastor. So Sundays are a pretty big deal! I, along with our staff, work all week long to prepare for Sunday when guests and regular attenders will show up at Canton Church. Some of them will be “checking out” a possible new church home. Others will be in search for God to help them make sense of their present circumstances. Still others will be there because it’s “family” and they’ve found belonging here.

No matter the reason, we do our best to prepare for their arrival. Kids curriculum is prepped. We order any supplies that are needed. The band prepares for the songs they will lead. Graphics and videos are created. I prepare to preach. The building is cleaned. We are ready!

Sunday comes…

And then Monday comes.

 

The best way I know to describe how Mondays feel to me is this: imagine the day after you throw a big party for a friend or family member. Maybe after you gave the best man speech at a wedding. The day after you gave a big presentation at work. The day after you hosted an open house while trying to sell it.

I’m incredible sensitive on Mondays. I’m not normally a sensitive guy, much. But on Sundays I really do try to be as vulnerable as possible. Both in my preaching and in relationships with others. Preaching isn’t performance for me. It is unpacking God’s Word and trusting the Holy Spirit to change hearts and lives. I want to sincerely empathize with those I’m praying with. I genuinely want to know how you’re doing when I ask “How are you doing?”

So on Mondays I’m thinking about everything I said, everything I did, and regretting a good bit of it.

Corrie is much the same way. Most Mondays she’s trying to follow up with some of those she talked to in the lobby. She’s making sure someone reaches out to the “new family” who had trouble at Kids Check-in. She texts some folks she didn’t see the day before.

After leading worship in multiple services, or coordinating volunteers in multiple environments, or troubleshooting a leaking toilet, or any number of other things, most of our staff has a similar case of the Mondays.

Coffee is usually on constant drip around our office. There are a lot of “low-maintenance” wardrobe choices. More hats than hair gel. More joggers than skinny jeans.

 

 

So Corrie and I created a new phrase for our team: “No Judgement Monday.” It’s not a get out of jail free card. We still work, and work hard. There are things to be done, and we get them done. But any decision that doesn’t have to be made on Monday is pushed to Tuesday. I try to let someone else choose where we are going to lunch.

 

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. But Mondays are the worst day of the week for me.

It’s amazing though what happens every week. Tuesdays are like Mondays except completely different. Our team works like they’ve been shot out of a cannon. They seem more motivated. Productive. Inspired. Energetic. And can’t wait until Sunday!

So, if you’re having a rough day, just remember there’s no judgement here.

I’ll pray that tomorrow comes soon for you too.

What about you? Is Monday rough or are you super motivated?

#NoJudgementMonday

I’m Afraid to Ask you to Buy My Book

The Challenge of Self-Promotion

I realize the irony of this post. By writing what I’m writing you think I’m being passive-aggressive, but I PROMISE I AM NOT.

The easiest example is my recent book. This summer my brother Jason and I  released a new book called “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide to Leading without Losing Heart.” Jason has done a great job promoting the book, selling the book and getting the word out. If I’m being honest, I have not been an equal partner in the effort. It’s not because I don’t believe in the message of the book. I believe wholeheartedly that every Pastor I’ve ever met would benefit from this book. Not because I wrote it, but because I believe in the commonality of our struggles and the solutions or ideas that Jason and I collected and/or wrote.

But it’s not just about the book. I struggle to share the podcast of sermons I’ve preached at my church. Again, I believe the messages were God working in and through me for the sake of others. I’m sure I have friends on various social media platforms who would benefit from the messages. And yet, I struggle to share the links each week.

I serve as a coach for pastors but struggle every semester to advertise for the group sessions.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

There seems to be 3 groups of people in the world:

Confident Promoters

It seems that the most successful content creators among us are confident when it comes to promoting their product or service. I’m not saying they weren’t insecure at first, but they don’t seem to struggle with it anymore…or they’re just really good actors.

Insecure Promoters

I’m probably in this group. We promote, when we have to, but we second guess ourselves the whole time. We hope people don’t misinterpret our motives, but we’re sure they are.

Prayers

Sometimes I find myself here too. While every group prayers that their content is advantageous to those who find it, this group is just not going to promote themselves. They have resigned themselves just to pray that it will find it’s way into the right hands.

When having this conversation with someone not too long ago they asked me this question: “Do you believe the content will help people?” My answer was “yes.” They then asked me this question: “Then aren’t you being unfair or insensitive to withhold information from them that may help them?”

I guess sometimes I am. And yet I’m still paralyzed by my fear of self-promotion.

I’ll second guess this post. I’ve edited it more than most posts I write so you won’t misunderstand me. But some of you will.

But here goes nothing…

Here’s my brother’s blog post promoting his new book, (written with me) 😉

It’s the best I can do for now!

Yawn Like Somebody is Watching

The Response to What You’re Doing

The other day I was driving down the road and passed a car heading in the opposite direction. I glanced over just before the other car passed by to see the driver yawning. In a flash they were gone…and I started to yawn.

Even typing the words, I actually just yawned. I just yawned again. I’m not tired, but I can’t stop yawning. Are you thinking about yawning yet? Have you yawned yet? How about now?

Maybe you are one of those rare people who can refrain from yawning even when you see it happening or hear about it. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I yawned several times while looking at Google Images of people yawning to find a picture for this post.

Yawning is contagious. If you’re ever bored at a restaurant, just find someone at another table and fake a yawn while making eye contact with them. They’ll start yawning. It’s hilarious.

I don’t really want to talk about yawning though. I want to talk about what I learned from my encounter with the yawning driver who passed by.

After she passed me, I imitated her behavior. It wasn’t a premeditated response, but it happened. She had no idea how her action affected me.

Have you ever thought about how your actions are affecting other people? If you have, perhaps you have attempted to alter behavior you didn’t want repeated. However, in the rhythm of everyday life sometimes we forget that people may be watching and we quit acting and just yawn…I mean live our actual lives.

If people mimicked the way you talk to your spouse, would their marriage be healthy?

If someone talked to their kids the way you talk to yours, would you think they were good parents?

If another Christian followed Christ the way you do, would they be growing closer to Him or falling further away?

I recognize that this might seem overwhelming. It may make you sweat. It might scare you, but it doesn’t have to. Their responses could be positive or negative things. Somewhere, someone is probably emulating some of your good behavior too.

The reality is, people are always watching. If you have kids living at home, they are for sure. You are consciously and subconsciously modeling for them what it means to be an adult. Even beyond kids, people on your job, people in your community, your neighbors, your friends, and total strangers. They are just passing by, observing your behavior and it has an affect on them.

What actions are you taking that may be causing a response from someone else?

Live like someone is watching. Because they are!

How to Be Strategic

It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Most Saturdays for our little family are filled running between baseball games, lacrosse games and eating food in the car. We’ve been pretty lucky thus far to juggle practice nights during the week without feeling like we are all running in opposite directions. However, Saturdays are a bit trickier. Everyone plays on Saturday. This usually involves at least two cars, some expert scheduling to get everyone where they need to be on time, and a lot of FaceTime calls so one parent can include the other parent in watching an at bat or goal scored from miles away.

A few weeks ago Tucker had team pictures at 8am, a baseball game at 9am, Cooper had a baseball game 20 miles away at 9am, and Branson had a lacrosse game 10 miles away, but not until 3pm. To complicate things a bit, Corrie’s phone had been dropped that week and her screen was cracked so much she was getting glass on her face whenever she talked on the phone. Knowing that our schedule would not be conducive to getting it fixed the next week I decided to “fit in” a Genius Bar appointment around lunchtime.

So…after the morning games I went and parked my car at the field where Branson would play later that afternoon, Corrie met me and we rode together to the mall to eat lunch and get her phone fixed. Then we drove back to Branson’s game where we had two cars.

I’m a dork, so I have to tell you that I actually sat down the night before to chart out the plan and talk it through with Corrie. I had checked Waze to make sure I knew how far it was between the various locations we needed to be throughout the day. I was pretty pumped about my plan.

That’s really all strategy is…a plan.

A lot of people say, “I’m not strategic” or “I need someone to help me develop a strategy for that.” While I agree that there are people who are more strategic thinkers than others, I think we can all be strategic. It just requires a little planning.

So here’s 4 ways to be more strategic.

1- Define the goal.

For us on that Saturday it was getting everyone where they needed to be as efficiently as possible. At my church, we have a goal to see 15 people get outside the United States this year and serve on the “mission field.” In your home, maybe it is getting all the laundry done before guests come visit next weekend. It doesn’t really matter what your goal is. You just have to know what it is.

2- Decide who will be involved.

Some people wait to add people to the process after the plan is developed. I like to know who and how many before I work out the how. Having a few more or a few less people may dictate what we actually do.

3- Determine the plan.

Work backwards from your goal. We had to get to Branson’s game by 2:30 for warmups. So what time do we need to leave the mall? Okay, is there a Genius Bar appointment between 12 and 1pm? How long will it take us to get to the mall from the field? What time would Tucker’s game need to be over for us to get to the mall on time? There seems to be extra time, would it be beneficial to park a car and meet so we are only driving one car to the mall and back?

Or…The guests arrive on Friday. I have 96 loads of laundry. It takes 2 hours to wash, dry and fold a load. I need at least 6 hours of sleep per night. So I have 18 hours a day of non-stop laundry to get it all done. 😉

You may realize as you work backwards that you have to eliminate some steps, or you don’t have time or the resources to do what needs to be done. So you have to change the plan, move the deadline or change the number of people involved.

4- Don’t be too rigid.

Work your plan, but be willing to adapt if necessary. Strategy is only as good as it’s execution. So don’t give up if it doesn’t work exactly like you hoped it would (more on that later this week).

I promise you can be strategic. You just have spend some time developing a plan.

 

If you are trying to accomplish something and need an outside set of eyes to help you develop or think through your strategy click here. I’d love to help.

Swing at Every Pitch

Why Taking Risks and Failing is Worth It

My son Tucker plays “coach-pitch” 7 & 8 year old baseball. I am not coaching his team this year, but his coach asked for a volunteer to pitch and I answered the call.

The first practice I was pitching to the kids in the batting cage and trying to figure out their skill levels, how aggressively to pitch to them, etc. The third batter into the cage was the smallest kid on the team, but I knew immediately I was going to like this kid. He stepped into the batter’s box with a very confident approach and  no matter where I pitched it he swung, and he swung HARD! One pitch was a little low, he swung at it, but didn’t hit it because it was almost on the ground. I said, “sorry, that wasn’t a very good pitch. You don’t have to swing if it’s not a good pitch.” He replied emphatically, “It’s okay. I swing at EVERY pitch.”

I literally LOL’ed.  While his approach may not be approved by the MLB or score well with Sabermetrics, but having coached little leaguers for about 10 years, his is a good problem to have. The overwhelming majority of my players have had to be taught to swing the bat, and swing aggressively. They are more concerned with finding the right pitch or not getting hit by the pitch than they are to give it their all on every pitch. By being passive in their approach they let a lot of really good pitches go by.

What’s your approach in life and leadership? Do you have an “I swing at every pitch” mentality or an “I don’t want to swing at a bad pitch so I let some good ones go by” mentality?

I recognize that this metaphor has some holes in it. Not every pitch is worth swinging at, but so often people miss great opportunities because they are being too cautious.

I’ve heard you have to spend money to make money. I’ve read that a large percentage of millionaires have also filed bankruptcy. Some of my favorite authors talk about being embarrassed when they read their first published book. Maybe you (or your “friend”) laments missed business opportunities, the investment that “would have” made them tons of money, or the guy/girl they “could have” married if they’d had the courage to ever ask them out.

Don’t be that person. Be aggressive. Take a risk. Sure you may strike out every now and then, but you’ll also have way more fun playing than the guy who watches every pitch go by and walks back to the dugout knowing he never even tried.

 

My Freshman Year of College Almost Killed My Parents

Navigating an Awkward Transition in the Parent Child Relationship

Recently my dad and I had a heart to heart conversation reliving some of the details of my freshman year of college. In his words, it was one of the hardest years of his and my mom’s life. For me, it was probably the most confusing year of my life.

To give you just a bit of backstory: I was a “good kid” growing up. Pretty smart. Room stayed clean and organized. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I didn’t do a lot of the normal stupid teenage stuff. I wouldn’t say my parents were strict, but they had pretty specific expectations for me and my brother.

So I moved away to college and experienced my first taste of true freedom. I didn’t go to class like I should. I rarely went to church that year. My grades were AWFUL! I didn’t come home to visit and called less frequently than they would have hoped. I made other VERY poor decisions.

I realize in the greater scheme of things there are still worse things I could have done, or that others have experienced. However, within our context it was a very trying year.

From over a decade working in Student Ministry and  another 5 years or so walking with families that are making similar transitions I believe there are several reasons parents and children struggle in the “off to college/moving out” phase.

  • Distance

For most, it is the first extended period of time that distance is created between parent and child. Whether they are moving across the country, going to backpack around the world, or moving into the dorm across town, the physical separation is a huge adjustment for both parties.

  • Decisions

Again, this is perhaps the first time that decisions are being made completely autonomous from parents. These are no longer petty decisions. They are choosing majors, potential life-long relationships, and financial decisions with long-term effects. Which leads us to…

  • Dollars

Often, parents are, wholly or partly, invested financially in the decisions their kids are making in this college season. They are paying tuition, co-signed on the student loan, or sending living money. So when they see their kids making poor decisions or not honoring the time and resource being invested in them it creates stress and strain on the relationship.

So, if you are a parent (or child) who is trying to navigate “the first year away from home” transition season I would offer the following advice. I am a parent of 4 kids not yet in high school, so I offer the advice as someone who lived on the “child” side of this equation and as a “spy” in a foreign land through my years in ministry to students and families.

Try to maintain proper perspective

I once read a quote that was attributed to John Maxwell. I haven’t been able to corroborate that it was actually him, but I’ll attribute it to him nonetheless. He said, “If someone overreacts in a situation involving someone else they are saying they value the situation more than they value the person.”

Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I realize some things need a reaction, maybe even a big one. However, if you can maintain a proper perspective you might be able to correct a wrong and still convey your love for the other person without overreacting. If you overreact you run the risk of losing the relationship over something that may or may not be important 5 years from now.

The reality for a lot of parents is that they are reacting out of a desire to help their children avoid some of the mistakes they made themselves. I heard a parent say not too long ago, “Walking through some dark days and living with the consequence of my poor decisions made me the person I am today. But I want my children to just become those kinds of people while avoiding the things I didn’t avoid. I’m not sure how that’s possible.”

While we want the best for our children there are various stages in their lives where we have to let them live with their decisions and the consequences. As long as their life isn’t in jeopardy and their future is still possible, it may require parents to step back for a season. On the flip side the son or daughter has to realize that mom and dad really are trying to help. They aren’t trying to rob you of fun experiences or get in your business, they just see with a little more clarity the possible repercussions of the things you are doing.

Keep talking

When I do premarital counseling I probably say the word communication 25-30 times an hour. It is that important. Well the same could be said for parents and young adults during this season of their lives. Keep talking. Communication is the key.

Some conversations will be better than others. Some conversations will end with one or both of you hanging up angry. Just keep talking. Maintaining the relationship and open lines of communication now will help to have a relationship in the next season.

Take the long view

While this may seem like it fits within “Maintaining proper perspective”, it’s somewhat different. The difference here is realizing that this season won’t last forever. Yes, I know, some students may take the 10 year plan toward graduation. But it won’t last forever.

Ultimately you want to be sitting in the crowd cheering at their graduation. You want to be standing beside them or sitting on the front row when they get married. And you want them to want you there.

Try to remember those future moments in the present moments you’re not sure you can live through.

Every situation is different and I realize you could read this and say, “Well you just don’t know our set of circumstances.” And you’d be right. But I lived through this season in my life. And my dad and I were able to talk about it and laugh the other day. I pray you can too one day!

Keep going. You can make it!

What advice would you offer to others in this season? Comment below.