COVID-19 and Family Ministry

Let’s get right to it: there’s enough people talking about the COV-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, so I do not wish to focus on that. Instead, what I want to draw your attention to is the opportunity that exists for your family in this season of uncertainty.

Consider this from Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when your rise.

In short, you, dad and mom, are God’s primary plan for the spiritual growth of your child. Even sociological research confirms that, when it comes to the spiritual growth of children, there is no individual or organization that has more power to influence than parents.

However, research also shows that many of us parents are failing to live up to our God-ordained role as the primary spiritual influence in the lives of our children. I’ll spare you the statistics, but there is an abundance of research to suggest that the majority of parents are not engaged in the spiritual formation of their children in any significant or consistent manner. The truth is that many parents have outsourced the spiritual development of their children to the church—children’s ministries, youth groups, and other weekly programs.

But here’s the problem in our current circumstances: if we’re relying on church groups and programs as the place where our children receive spiritual nurture, what happens when these groups and programs aren’t gathering?

I’m not anti-groups and programs for children. Quite the opposite—I would argue that they are good, and even necessary, stewardship of the people and resources that God has given to His church for the spiritual growth of the next generation. I am very much pro-children’s ministry, pro-youth ministry, etc.

But I’m also pro-family ministry—because I believe that when it comes to the spiritual formation of a child, family matters most.

So then—what’s the point? Perhaps at least one opportunity in this season is the opportunity for parents to resume their role as the primary spiritual influence in the lives of their children! What if we, as dads and moms, took seriously our responsibility to “teach [God’s Word] diligently to [our] children”? What if we leveraged this season of minimized distractions (youth sports, anyone?) to engage more consistently and intentionally in the spiritual formation of our children?

Maybe that’s overwhelming or intimidating to you. If so, that’s ok. There’s no condemnation or shame—we all have to start somewhere. God has a way of using troubling circumstances to remind us of what’s important. I don’t know the mind of God, but it’s at least conceivable that He might use this season to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). It’s at least plausible that this disruption in so many of our homes is actually an invitation for families to return to His intended design and function.

If you don’t know where to start, my hope is to gather some links to helpful resources and publish them as soon as possible. In the meantime, I recently put together a resource to help the parents of children in our student ministry engage in the spiritual formation of their children. You can access and download that here.

Awesome Stuff in 2015


In case you missed it, 2015 is half-over. Crazy, huh? It seems like just yesterday that we were all making resolutions we knew we wouldn’t keep. Oh, nostalgia.

Anyways, I think 2015 has been pretty awesome so far. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the aforementioned awesome things from the first half of 2015. Yes, they’re random. But hey, a wannabe writer has to write something during this summer lull. So without further adieu, here are some awesome things from 2015:

  • The Manday Tradition. Over the last couple of months, Owen and I have established a tradition affectionately known as Manday. We just spend time together. No real agenda. No women allowed. Just manly things like eating donuts, paying bills, running errands, playing at the playground, etc. It’s also inspired me to put together a father-son to-do list. Maybe I’ll share that sometime too.
  • It’s a boy! Speaking of creating a father-son to-do list, I’ll soon have two boys to corrupt. We found out back in March that baby number 2 would be another boy. We’ll be welcoming Henry Allen Larkin into the world any day now. Two boys two years apart. This is why we won’t have nice things.
  • I’m still alive. In all fairness, this should probably top the list. Kind of sets the tone for everything else, you know?
  • I started shaving like my grandpa. Before this turns weird quickly, I stole that last sentence from an article on Art of Manliness. A few months ago I started shaving with an old-school double-edge razor. It’s pretty fantastic. Yes, growing a beard would be way more manly, but Patches here isn’t quite able to complete the full beard, so shaving in a manly way seemed like the next best option.
  • Three-goggles. Saving the best for last, Kelli and I celebrated three years of marriage in June. She’s a beautiful, patient, gracious, loving woman, ya’ll. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. The way she simultaneously loves me, loves Owen, carries Henry, takes care of our home, keeps us fed, holds down a job, serves her church and more without dropping the ball is baffling to me. She wears a lot of hats. Which is convenient, because she looks good in hats.

What about you? What made the first half of your year awesome? What are you looking forward to in the second half of 2015? What are some things you would recommend to make the second half of 2015 awesome for me?

Thanks Dad


First of all, thank you for being present. I thought it was normal to have a loving dad at home all the time. I have since learned that I was likely in the minority. Because of my assumption, I overlooked the value of having you involved in my life. I wish I had paid more attention at times. I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I hadn’t slept so much in the passenger seat of your truck while we traveled up and down I-75. Thankfully, your presence in my life is not a matter of past-tense. I am grateful to have you just a phone call or short drive away.

Thanks for not living vicariously through us kids. I’ve seen so many dads put an incredible amount of pressure on their children to perform or excel at certain activities. You never did that. You always let us have the freedom to choose what activities, hobbies, interests, and sports we wanted to pursue. When I didn’t make the basketball team in middle school you weren’t disappointed. In fact, you wrote me a letter of encouragement (didn’t think I’d remember that, did you?). When I wanted to be a teenager instead of being at the racetrack on a given weekend, you were fine with that. Thank you.

Thank you for practicing what you preached. I vividly remember watching an episode of “Dirty Jobs” one night. The job at hand was cleaning out port-a-potties. One of us boys made a comment about how we’d never do that job and I remember you replying with something along the lines of, “You’ll do whatever you have to do to provide for your family.” Fast-forward several years and you lived out those words. The economy turned south, business slowed down, and you picked up a second job to provide for your family. That spoke volumes to your sons who were learning what it meant to be men.

Thanks for making us work. Once we were old enough to enter the workforce we didn’t spend summers sleeping in and playing video games. We were up at 7:58am for work at 8am (side note: thanks for living so close to the shop). Even before that you had us mowing the yard, washing trucks, and so on. You taught us that work is a good thing. Also, thanks for not bringing work home. I am still amazed at your ability to leave the stress and weight of owning a business in your office instead of bringing it to our living room.

This might sound odd, but thanks for crying. You showed us that real men can and do cry. I’ve seen your eyes fill with tears of sadness and sorrow at the death of a loved one. I’ve watched you choke back tears of gratitude as the family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. I recall hearing your voice waver as you apologized to us for the time a campaign took up much of your family time. And I’ve seen tears of joy as you held your grandchildren for the first time. Tears are powerful. Thanks for not holding them back.

I could go on and on and thank you for many more things—but instead I want to finish with the words of the great Urban philosopher (first name, Keith) who sang the words that I think every father wants to hear:

I only hope when I have my own family
that everyday I see
a little more of my father in me.

I love you, Dad.

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Why I Prefer A Physical Bible Over A Digital Bible

Earlier this week I finished reading through the Bible. It’s something I’ve done a few times now, and while each time has been a different format or reading plan, one thing has remained consistent—reading from a physical Bible.

I love technology. I try to take advantage of it as much as possible, but the whole digital reading movement has left me in the dust. I just like books. I like highlighting. I like writing in the margins. I prefer turning pages over swiping a screen.

My wedding gift from my wife was a ridiculously nice wide-margin ESV Bible. Ever since unwrapping it, I’ve been reading it (almost) every day. I underline and circle words. I highlight verses. I make notes and reminders for myself in the margins. I record important dates on blank pages—like our wedding day, the day my son was born, and the day my grandpa died. I try to make note of significant moments when I’m needing God’s direction or thanking him for his provision.

And one day, I plan to give it away.

Why? Because there’s more that goes into reading my physical Bible than preference over the digital version. For me, it comes down to legacy.

Spurgeon once said that, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” My hope is that one day when I’m gone my children will be handed a worn-out, marked-up, and tattered Bible that’s falling apart at the seams—the same oversized Bible that they can remember their dad reading from most days. I hope that through years of notes, confessions, and scribbles squeezed into the margins they’ll discover that their dad was far from a perfect man, but he desperately clung to the Word that pointed him to a perfect Savior.

Just so you know, I’m not anti-digital Bible. I have multiple Bible apps readily available across my various devices. But when it’s all said and done, I just don’t think my children will say, “You know, I’m really glad dad left us with his YouVersion app.”

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Thanks Mom

Dear Mom,

Thanks for loving dad so well; I’m not sure you’ll ever know how important it was for us to see what an “I’m not going anywhere” kind of marriage looked like (and continues to look like).

Thanks for doing without so that we wouldn’t have to; I never realized this until I became a parent.

Thanks for being so patient; dear Lord, how were you so patient?

Thanks for calling me on the nights I was out past midnight; it made me realize you cared.

Thanks for the many spontaneous road trips; they have taught me to enjoy life even when I’m not sure what’s around the corner.

Thanks for all the home-cooked meals; they were way better than eating fast food every night.

Thanks for still buying me meals when we eat out; generosity has always been your love language.

Thanks for loving my wife; she is my priority, and your love and acceptance of her means more than you know.

Thanks for working so hard; it showed us that work is a good gift to be embraced.

Thanks for family vacations; they reminded us that, while work was important, rest was also a commandment from God.

Thank you for being so strong-willed; it taught us that our convictions are worth fighting for.

Thanks for disciplining us like you did; looking back, I now know it was because you were loving us well.

Thanks for letting your boys be boys; I think it helped us to become men.

Thanks for not allowing church to be an option; it’s one of the reasons us kids are in church today.

Thanks for looking past all the things I’ve neglected to thank you for; you’ve always leaked grace on us kids.

Thanks for kneeling on the pink carpeted floor and floral print couches of the family room and leading me to Jesus; that has made all the difference.

But seriously, what made you think pink carpet was ever a good idea?

Love always,
Your son.


A Lesson from Lent

In an effort to try something different and new this year, Kelli and I decided we were going to partake in Lent. Before the 40 days of Lent kicked off on February 18 (turns out it’s actually more than 40 days) we each decided on a “lesser thing” we were going to give up in an effort to better focus on the “greatest thing”—the gospel. Kelli abstained from caffeine and sugar for the entirety of the 40 days while I took an extended vacation from social media. In addition to giving up our “lesser things” I also found a great Lent guide from The Village Church for us to walk through together as a family. The guide led us through a series of passages from the gospels as well as through a series of weekly fasts (food, TV and movies, social media, caffeine and sweets, radio and music, purchasing non-essentials, sleep—in that order) with the goal of “preparing [us] for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we enter the sorrow and pain which preceded it.”

I wish I could tell you it was a time of incredible spiritual awakening. It wasn’t. I wish I could tell you that each and every week I led my family through powerful devotions full of deep and life-changing spiritual insights. That didn’t happen either. However, Lent did reveal something in my own life that I’m certain many can relate to.

Having decided to give up social media for 40 days, I deleted the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps from my phone. What’s funny (or mildly disturbing) is that over the first few days of the fast I would mindlessly pick up my phone as if to jump onto Twitter or to scan through Instagram, only to realize that the apps were no longer available. So did I just put my phone down? No. I checked my email instead—you know, just in case I started getting emails from people who haven’t messaged me one time in the last three years. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m overconnected.

We live in a world that makes it incredibly hard to power down and disconnect. The devices we carry in our pockets make it nearly impossible. We’re always connected. Yet in the gospels we have record of Jesus slipping away from time to time to pray in a quiet place. Jesus exemplified what it means to disconnect—and if Jesus exemplified it, I think we would do well to imitate.  If you’re like me and find yourself on social media quite often, let me encourage you to shut your phone (or tablet, or computer, or whatever you use) off every once in a while (maybe even for a whole week or weekend—gasp!). Unplug. Disconnect. Your husband/wife/children/family/friends will appreciate it—and you’ll benefit from it as well.