Will Our Kids Succeed?

Recently, I read “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. It’s a fascinating book about the psychology and sociology behind success.  The ideas presented in the book have helped me rethink what is most important in parenting.

As a parent, I’m constantly focused on two things:  excellence in the classroom and moral character.  If I’m honest, I want “A”s and good, moral behavior.   I’m particularly vigilant about honesty. I deeply desire for my kids to grow into adults who speak the truth and easily gain trust with others. What I’m realizing, though, is that moral character is only part of the equation for successful kids.

I grew up in one of those families that is dominated by the family business. We’re a water well drilling family and have been for years. I am a 5th generation water well driller, or at least I was, until I became a student pastor.

Growing up, my father developed in me a strong work ethic. From an early age, I was expected to chip in, work hard and problem solve. I want to see these traits in my kids as well, but I’ve never been able to describe what I want with any sort of clarity until I read “How Children Succeed.” Paul Tough breaks performance character into 7 qualities.

1. Optimism


Kids who grow into successful adults tend to look on the bright side. They believe in their future and they are able to set goals and run after them. Put simply, kids who succeed believe they will succeed.

2. Zest


Life is an adventure. Kids who succeed, do so, because they bring energy and zest to the challenges and opportunities before them. Rather than becoming paralyzed with fear of the future, challenges energize successful kids and activate their inner drive.

3. Self-Control


Success often involves delayed gratification. For example, good grades usually require doing your homework before plopping down in front of the TV. For kids who grow into successful adults, learning self-control is a key ingredient.

4. Grit


I love this word. Grit is that quality that enables a person to push through. It’s when a child initially fails, but picks himself off the ground and powers through to the finish line. People with grit never give up and never quit.

5. Social Intelligence


Kids who grow into successful adults learn how to navigate society. They learn acceptable social behaviors, how to influence others, how to listen and how to engage in teams.

6. Gratitude


Gratitude is simply thankfulness for the blessings of life. Kids who learn gratitude become adults who are satisfied with what they have been given. They don’t need the next shiny thing and they are capable of staying committed to important relationships.

7. Curiosity


Curiosity has unleashed every major techological breakthrough in human history. Every significant advancement in human society has been born out of, “What if?” Children who grow into successful adults–adults who change the world for the better, are driven by curiosity. They just have to know, understand, and see what happens.


Obviously, I believe that education is important, but if the basic premise of this book is true, the character we develop in our kids is far more important than what they learn in the classroom.  How they go about education and what they do with education, as filtered by their character is what will determine success.  I’d almost go as far to say that how we play with our kids is more important than what we formally teach them and surely how we model is definitely more important that what we speak.  What are your thoughts?


Grit photo credited to filin ilia – aliyo.hu via Flickr

Self-control photo credited to Robert Plaskota via Flickr

Zest photo credited to Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

Optimism photo credited to Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Curiosity photo credited to Broterham via Flickr

Thankful photo credited to MTSOfan via Flickr

Social Intelligence photo credited to Philippe Put via Flickr

How To Thrive in Ministry for the Long Haul

Is anyone else tired?  Have you noticed that ministry is exhausting?  Over the last year and a half, our church leadership has transitioned me from a high school small groups coordinator to leading our student ministry team of 13 staff.  I love my job and my team is phenomenally talented and fun.  However, the workload, responsibility and stress can be a overwhelming.  In my most tired moments, I wonder how long I can last.  Let’s be real, not many pastors are still thriving after a decade or more of ministry.  That’s why when someone who has been in the game for decades still loves ministry and leads with passion and grace, speaks about thrive in ministry for the long haul, I listen up and take notes.

Last week, our senior teaching pastor, Jeff Manion, shared a few thoughts on how to keep yourself fresh and vibrant through years and years of ministry.  He’s in his early 50s and still leading and teaching with passion.  Jeff has been leading our church for somewhere around 30 years and he has he energy of a 25 year old.  Here’s what he shared about thriving in ministry over the long-haul.


The overall image that Jeff shared was of being poured out.  In ministry, the work, the conversations, the crises, and everything else, require that we pour ourselves out on a weekly basis.  In order for us to pour ourselves out again, again and again, we need to refill ourselves.  What Jeff shared are three practices that refill.


Sometimes, Sabbath seems like one of those Old Testament laws that doesn’t apply anymore.  It was cool for Israel but this is America.  Jeff disagrees.  To him, the practice of Sabbath has been vital to his ability to stay fresh, vibrant and passionate about ministry.  Sabbath is not a day off.  It’s not a day when you exchange to-do lists.  Instead, it’s a day in which you don’t have a to-do list.  It’s not, “What do I need to do today.”  It’s, “What do I want to do today?”


Is there a day in your weekly schedule in which you simply unplug and do things that give you life?  If not, you may be in danger of pouring yourself out without a means to resupply.


I’ve blogged before about how ministry has a way of turning even the most die-hard extrovert into an introvert.  Ministry is about people, and it should always remain that way, but the truth is that when your entire world revolves around serving, listening, speaking, and helping people, you find yourself in desperate need of getting away!

I’ve heard this argument many times but Jeff put a fresh spin on it.  What he argued is that what is needed here is friends.  In ministry we have a million acquaintances but what we are desperate for are deep friendships.  One of the keys to thriving in ministry over the long haul is to identify the people in your life who are deeply enriching, life giving friends, and then organize your calendar around these life giving relationships–create space for them to grow.  Invest in the friendships that give you life.  Spend inordinate amounts of time with the people with whom you can be honest, real and raw.

When you have friendships in your life in which you can unplug, unwind and come unhinged, you are ready for ministry for the long haul.


I think Jeff’s most important statement in his conversation with us was this:  “The best thing you bring as a leader is not your talents and abilities but a relationship with God that is worth having.”  In the end, ministry is living out your relationship with God in front of and with other people.  Said another way, you can’t lead people where you haven’t been.


Sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s all about God and our relationship with Him.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the programs, numbers, issues, crises and events that I forget that eternal life is all about “knowing Jesus.”

So, if like me, you’re experiencing a season of exhaustion, I would plead with you to make sure you are refilling and recharging by focusing on sabbath, life-giving friendships, and the relationship that matters the most.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly if you’ve uncovered other ways to thrive in ministry for the long haul.


road image credited to Mark Sebastian via Flickr

bench image credited to Oliver Kendal via Flickr

Bible image credited to Ryk Neethling via Flickr

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s getting colder, which means it’s a good season for reading!  Here’s what I’ve been up to…

100Cupboards-coverSigh…I didn’t love book.  I feel terrible saying this because I met the author at the Hutchmoot Conference and he’s really cool!  He was very engaging, the kind of guy I’d want to meet for coffee and talk life.

I picked this book up because I’ve been looking for great stories to read to my kids.  And, maybe it would have been different if I had actually read the book, but my friend Kirk and I listened to it on the way back from Nashville and we both felt confused by the storyline and under-impressed with the characters.  The story is built around an incredibly creative idea but it just didn’t work for me.  But, who knows, maybe you’d like the book.  It receives great reviews on other sites.


Novelty captures the human imagination and these guys have mastered the art of presenting ideas in a novel way.  They understand how to package an idea in such a way that it becomes utterly unforgettable.  They are wizards of story, which is probably why they’ve sold so many books.  Like their previous two titles, I couldn’t put this book down.  Honestly, I’m not sure that the book “retrained my brain” as the subtitle suggests, but I was fully engaged and learned a great deal.  I loved this book.


Recently, I asked my boss to recommend a few books on leadership and management and this is one of the books he recommended.  Peter Drucker was a legend in the realm of management and this is one of his most popular books.  It was originally written in 1967 and some of the stories and a bit of a language are outdated  but I didn’t mind because I love history.  If you lead people, this is a great book.  And, don’t be afraid of the title.  The book isn’t just for “executives.”  It’s for anyone who isn’t a manual laborer and especially for those who lead other people.