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Leadership Parenting

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

LADS: More than the Medal

Ezra, Colleyanna, and Eliza Jane with LADS director, Roy Johnson

It’s the most spiritually rewarding weekend of the year. I have never, ever seen an eight-year-old have such a hard time studying for Bible bowl. But he was given a choice. You can do this IF you want to do it. We will help you get to as many practices as we can. We will help you learn the answers to the questions. We will make sure you have every tool you need. BUT, the determination factor is up to you. You have to decide if you WANT to learn a whole lot about Ezra and Nehemiah. And so, Bible Bowl became a daily part of his homework. All the other children on his team were homeschooled. That means their study could be done during the most attentive hours of the day and other subjects could be temporarily rearranged as the re-building of Jerusalem 600 years before Jesus was incorporated into the school day. All the other kids on the team lived in the proximity of the home congregation, so they could attend lots more of the practices. In fact, Ezra did not get to attend one single practice competition at other congregations. SO Ezra needed to apply himself doubly after he made the commitment. He knew he was prepping for both an individual written test in February and a team competition at the convention on Easter weekend. He was doing this while prepping for the speech event, the song-leading event and the oral Bible reading event. He was doing it while his mom was also prepping his two sisters for the song-leading event, the speech event and the Bible reading event.

And there were a couple of times when Ezra wanted to “change his mind.” I did not know it was going to be this hard!” …””I did not know there would be this many questions.”…  “Can’t we just always play the KAHOOTS game online to learn this stuff?”… “Can I practice with Mammy on the phone, instead?”… “Will there be a machine and lights, like on tv, when we get to the real Bible bowl?” 

It was like pulling teeth this first year, but I watched from afar as Ezra learned about things messed up by human sin and then rebuilt by people who were determined to put things back like God intended them. He learned about the vessels, the priests, the importance of the Word and the reverence given to sanctified things. He learned much about the importance of getting back to the Word and its instructions about consecration and worship. He learned about his name’s origin in scripture and he concurrently made his speech about building for our great God and praying “Remember me, O God, for good.” His speech ended with the hope that he can pray that prayer at the end of His work on earth for God. His song was “Make me a Servant” and he learned about that theme from Ezra and Nehemiah.

vintage lads, Ezra’s Mom (left) with founder Jack Zorn.

Even in the midst of the sometimes excruciating lack of focus and strain to keep going, there was a goal that was constant for an eight-year-old. There was the fun of knowing that there would be ten-thousand other people in a beautiful place and that every one of them would be supportive of the good that even an eight-year-old can do for God. While it was like pulling teeth, Ezra’s little sister did pull a tooth, literally, right out of the front of her mouth and the tooth fairy almost collided with the Easter Bunny right there in the Opryland hotel. There was that chance to walk across the stage with siblings while “Thank God for Kids” was playing on mega-speakers throughout that huge ballroom. There was the moment when Ezra’s Papa placed those red-coats on those “teenagers” up there who had done amazing things for the kingdom and were receiving the top award that Lads to Leaders conveys on it’s hardest-working kids.

There was, prior to all of these convention activities, the day that the test was to be taken. Because of circumstances beyond control that prevented Ezra from taking the test at home, Ezra got permission to take the written test at his school with his mom being proctor in a quiet room while his class was having recess. The test was submitted and the studying for the Bible bowl at convention kept happening at home, although it was crowded in between some pretty major school projects, several sicknesses and some fairly heavy-duty life challenges. 

He did keep studying because his mom kept telling herself “It does not matter whether he wins a medal or not. It matters that he made a commitment, on his own volition, to do something for God.” She kept telling Ezra “When we promise to do something for God—no matter how hard it gets, no matter how much we want to reverse our decision, no matter how fun something else looks—we finish what we start. I do not care if you win the Bible bowl. I do care if you keep your promises. Other people are counting on you, too. You are part of a team that needs you.”  Caleb and Clark and Timmy are counting on you. You’ve got this. Just keep on to the finish line!” Ezra developed great respect for Louis Botello, his Bible bowl coach. 

But Ezra’s mother had no delusions. It seemed an impossibility that Ezra or his team would succeed….(Well at least not by the usual standards. It’s our prayer that true success is going to be a reality.) But Ezra was a second-grader on a team of older kids.  Ezra kept mentioning at convention that he REALLY wanted a medal. “Medals do  not come easy,”  we said. We almost left the awards ceremony before they even got to Bible bowl. All three kids had runny noses. Eliza was coughing up a lung and dancing in the aisles. Colleyanna was saying “My body is not used to this many people.” The day had already held eight competitions we’d attended, all told. I could have slept standing up!

Hannah was in the back of the auditorium letting two-year old Eliza run a bit when they called “Ezra GEEEZelback” to the stage. No one could see the expression on his face because he was sitting in the front of our section with all “the guys”. But there was no lack of sprint in his step as he bounded on up to the stage! His mother got so excited that she forgot she had Eliza with her as she headed  to snap a picture. While shooting the pic, she thought, “There’s a child in my lens trying to hoist herself up on the stage….Wait! That is MY child!”” Eliza was almost up there with Ezra and she wasn’t taking the stage stairs! 

There has never been a prouder second-grader than Ezra was at this moment!  There has never been a more shocked Mama than his. It ended up being the first of two medals. Ezra’s team placed second, so his little team of boys got to go up there, too, and Ezra had, not just his dream medal around his neck, but an extra one to boot! His chest was sticking out in the elevator as he kept examining them and he jangled up and down the hallway as loud as he could.

Now multiply this experience times about ten thousand all across American and in India and the Philippines, etc….See brown and white and ruddy and freckled faces in multitudes, See ribbons and trophies and high fives and hugs. See peers encouraging, both those who win and those who win-with-less-points. (There is no “lose,’ though we have been on the win-with-less-points side many times!) See memorization, creativity, prayer journals, scrapbooks, speakers, song leaders, debaters and coaches encouraging. See handicapped children and adults beaming with pride. See their teammates building victory runs down the aisles after their achievements. See red coats and parades of leaders and see new groups being welcomed each year. Just see the greatest faith leadership program I’ve ever seen working in thousands of little lives each year. I hope you can see LADS working in your home and congregation. It was our family’s 30th anniversary with Lads and we are so thankful to God for having seen the program work in our little troupe. 

See, Ezra is not unique. ( I mean, well, he is in some ways.) But his hard work, teeth-pulling study times, and ecstasy in the end, is just a little microcosm  of a great big picture of learning perseverance that happens over and over and over again in the program. This repeated process cannot help but build muscles in the big body—the ability to persevere through some hard times that surely seem to be knocking at our door as the society in which we live pushes out Christianity and its attendant blessings. 

Maggie Colley–her very first medal for Good Samaritan.

Next year’s theme is “I am not ashamed.” Next year’s debate topic is centered on authorized music in worship. Next year’s Bible bowl book is Romans. You still have time to get involved. Let me know if I can help your congregation find its place in a win-win situation for the next generation. 

And you can go here for a little levity. She didn’t know a lot about the program yet, but she did lead her song and do her “reading” and she wanted a piece of the ballroom experience. https://www.facebook.com/100082639660170/videos/155855607119567

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #58: Public Speaking

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 57  of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

In my judgment, there are few activities which actually sharpen as many skills of service as does public speaking. 

Public speaking builds boldness that’s necessary for effective evangelism in a world that is intimidating toward and sometimes even hostile to Christianity. It sharpens skills for effective communication. This is needed when we communicate the gospel in any setting. Public speaking, about any topic that’s in any way controversial, demands the development of reasoning and critical thinking skills. These developed  talents of the best minds are critical for answering the skeptics in Bible studies. Public speaking teaches our kids how to be persuasive without leaving logic behind. This is what Paul did when standing before Agrippa in Acts 26. Finally, public speaking gives your kids opportunities to go where the average child, who’s afraid of getting before people, will never go. Those places, some of them political arenas and some of them mission fields, where few go, are still places that need God’s truth. 

A quick google search of “oratory contest” yields several great venues for high schoolers. (My kids loved the National Right to Life Oratory contest (https://www.nrlc.org/students/oratory-contest/rules/) and were representatives to (and of) the states of Alabama and Tennessee on multiple occasions. This opened doors for them to speak on pro-life related issues in other venues, locally, as well. We were enriched, as a family, by the Lads to Leaders program (https://www.lads2leaders.com)  and it prepared them for speaking. I believe this influence was a large contributing factor to the speaking that they do today in behalf of the kingdom. I believe it made them more evangelistic, too, as they learned to face and overcome fears associated with looking a critical audience in the eye and stating truth. I know they (and I) are, at best, still woefully inadequate in our representations of the gospel to the world, but every bit of preparation to face the giants of atheism, relativism and materialism in our world today is needed. Homeschooling programs like Classical Conversations offer regular speaking opportunities for all ages.

But  if programs are unavailable to you, I’d work hard to make the venue for your children to get to speak before audiences, even small audiences. Ask your elders or church leaders if they can have appropriate Saturday morning devotionals in which the children are presenting little lessons for encouraging audiences. Start a book club in your home and have the kids present their reviews of  books that are filling them with moral and ethical lessons. Have a game night in your home once a quarter and begin the fun with letting one of your children present a short, well-prepared lesson before the games begin. Ask your minister for opportunities in hospital or nursing home rooms to speak on topics that will bless the sick and elderly. Remember, reading scripture is a great thing, but the force of this particular activity is preparing and being able to present one’s own ideas in an engaging way. (Reading scripture to someone will never be adequate in reaching his soul for heaven. We have to be able to articulate and apply the gospel.) Speaking, rather than reading, is the skill we’re after here. 

Along the way, teach your children that large audiences and accolades are not the goal. You can do this effectively by taking opportunities as they come, rather than saying no to hospital room opportunities and yes to national contests. Just say yes every time you can. You can do this by teaching them to always say no to any temptation to speak in any arena that’s sponsored by sinful products or activities. Never allow them to apply endorsement of sin.  Teach them that God can make great opportunities for souls out of small venues. Teach your children to give generously to the church each time they are rewarded monetarily for speaking somewhere. Teach them that seeking, serving and saving souls is the ultimate goal. Teach them daily, that whatever they do in life, the vocation will just be a catalyst for helping souls to heaven. It will be a tool for helping those around them to know God and His will for their lives. 

Being able to communicate effectively in front of others, sometimes even enemies of the gospel, will help them put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). This takes lots of “mom time”, but it’s is some of the most rewarding time you will spend. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

DIggers’ DIscount Starts Today!

Time for the Diggers’ discount on the book “Awake at Night”. This book, is one of two choices for reading in month nine (question number ten) of this year’s Authority study. One of the options includes reading that is found online and is free of charge. (I always want to include options that are available without cost.) The other is the book “Awake at Night.” This book consists of 100 actual case scenarios from real congregations in which elders have faced challenges in leading God’s people. These problem scenarios include moral issues, doctrinal errors, and challenges to delegated authority. They were composed by Glenn Colley and scriptural ideas for solving problems in churches are offered in this volume. All case studies are anonymous.

Either option for reading will suffice. What we are hoping to cultivate though this assignment is a deeper appreciation for the system of authority that God has instituted for the body of the saved on earth today, as well as a determination to search the Word for the answers to each church problem. From the reading, I am hoping we, as women of the church, will sanctify our hearts in submission to the elders of our local churches as they direct us in His Will, even if/when we may think the decisions of those leaders are scriptural, but not the ones we might have personally made.  I believe either reading will help us to do this.

I’m also hoping that those of us who are mothers and grandmothers will renew our passion for bringing up godly leaders for our churches. I believe we are experiencing a famine, in most places, of strong and godly leaders. I believe the number of men who are the right age to be starting to serve as great elders today, was diminished about thirty years ago by a movement of change and a rejection of authority in many of our congregations. Sadly, many men, who were then in their twenties and thirties, left faithful adherence to the doctrine of the New Testament and now, congregations are lacking in strong men who are in their fifties and sixties. It’s imperative that we be raising our boys to be the elders who will restore churches to the model of great leadership that God intended. 

If you do order the book and, after reading, are able to pass along to someone who is serving as an elder or some younger man who is a potential future elder, I hope you’ll do that. The goal, for this book, of course, is to help promote strong and Biblical leadership in as many churches as it can reach. 

The book will be discounted (for Diggers only) from $12.95 to $9.00 during the months of April and May at https://www.thecolleyhouse.org/store.  You can see a video about the book there as well. Discount begins at 8 am CST on April 2nd! Keep digging! You’re an encouragement in lots of ways to lots of people as you do!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #51–Mentoring Younger Kids in Sports

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 50 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

It’s easy (and fun) for us to become very involved in the sports activities of our children. This is not wrong. It’s commendable, even necessary, for us to be involved if our children are pursuing goals that could bring acclaim on some level in various sports arenas. The big deal about sports is that they can’t be the big deal in our lives and families. The biggest deal has to be Jesus and his church, of course (Matthew 6:33). So Wednesday night ballgames are preempted by Bible class, Sunday tourneys by worship, and team arrogance cannot characterize our children. There are all kinds of lessons to be learned on the diamond, the court and the field. But it takes a never ending zeal for teaching them on the part of parents. I should say that I know a host of parents right now who are characterized by this zeal. Uniforms on church pews, visitors at worship from ball teams, and Christian-dad-led devotionals on the field are just a few signs that this sort of zeal is alive and well.

But what if those teens who are athletically bent carried it one step further and  actually invited younger  kids over for a devo and a pick-up basketball game, or for a youth singing followed by a field trip to the batting cage? What if the guy who is the expert on the rowing team, invited the younger ones out on the river for a day in the canoe, along with a spiritual time together on the bank somewhere? Maybe the girl who is the star high-school basketball player could invite the younger ones to a game followed by a sundae supper at her home, and a talk about standing out for him when we are in the lime-light. This is, of course, not an exhaustive suggestion list, but you can see where your little all-stars can go with this. Even if your athletes are ten years old, they can be doing this for those who are six and seven, with a little transportation help from you! What if your twelve-year-old invited his entire team to go to a night of VBS with him followed by a coaching session around your home basketball goal by one of your congregation’s “pros”? A good “pro” is pretty easy to find when he’d be coaching twelve-year-olds; and think of the life-coaching he could be doing at the same time!

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with sports and edge out the Lord. But it’s better to be overwhelmed by His goodness and let sports be the catalyst for sharing that bounty. That’s all-star evangelism.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Remembering with Garrett

This is the best. Just when you think kids aren’t looking. Just when you think kids now-a-days are self-absorbed and disrespectful. Just when.

I know many readers were at various Lads to Leaders conventions around our nation last weekend. If you went to any speech room, you heard children and/or teens speak some pretty introspective words about the Lord’s Supper and about the memorial we honor every Lord’s Day, just like the church of the New Testament most certainly did. If you went to debate, you even heard a lively discussion about why we observe this feast every single Sunday; how we are sure that this is exactly the pattern we have in our New Testament. It’s part of our covenant and it speaks to others about His death till He comes again.

This is not the most polished speech among the ones you have heard. In fact, this is the very rough version (prior to practice) of Garrett Vick’s speech about remembering.  I hope you can take the time to listen, though. When you do, I hope you will remember.  This speech is about remembering. It’s my favorite speech of the weekend. It’s about my father and, most importantly, my older brother. (It was given in the auditorium of the Jacksonville church, just a few feet from my dad’s pew where that hugging happened every Sunday and Wednesday.)

  1. Widow(er) hugging (https://thecolleyhouse.org/mamas-k-i-s-s-number-1-widow-hugging )        makes relationships that are invaluable and may impact eternity.
  2. One spiritual project turns into another. I have never seen this principle fail any family. Parents get busy serving with your kids. Then you WILL get busy serving. Providence provides a path.
  3. Elderly Christians, go the distance for the Lord. It is your spiritual service….your living sacrifice. And little eyes are watching.
  4. Start your kids out early on spiritual paths of greatness. There are at least 3 generations of gospel preachers in Garrett’s family. This may be the fourth. (Best of all, this leadership parenting is times four. Four brothers….Just think of the potential!)  But, either way, there’s a path for heaven for many through this little life.
  5. Consider Lads to Leaders (http://www.lads2leaders.com.) It’s a great tool for raising kids to be leaders in congregations. We really need “Garretts” around our country. You don’t have to be in Lads to grow up and lead for the Lord. But leadership skills are developed in homes utilizing the best tools available. Our dreams should be less about development of players and more about development of pray-ers. Less about the team captain position and more about the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Less about success in the business world  and more about the business of true success. Less about honor societies and more about personal honor in a broken society. In short, less about personal fulfillment and more about the cross. A reflection of spiritual goals in tools, deadlines, conventions, and schedules chosen by families is an integral and necessary factor in bringing about desired results. All of the above (team captain, great playing ability, business “smarts” and academic prowess) can be used to His glory. It’s the job of parents to keep the “main thing” the main thing while navigating the challenges of childhood.
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Lads–25 Years and a New Generation


Taking a moment from the madness that is the Lads to Leaders convention in Nashville to tell you that it is still the best tool of which I am aware for developing leadership skills for the church; the church that our children and grandchildren will love and serve in the decades that will round out the 21st century. Watching our West Huntsville kids prepare has made my heart happy for that particular congregation and for the families that Glenn and I love dearly who work there with us. Those families in the program, along with many others who are working in various areas for  the Lord,  make the elders’ jobs easier and bless the efforts in the pulpit with strength and encouragement. 

This year we are taking 32 song leaders to Nashville. THIRTY-TWO young people who are ready to learn to lead in praise. I watched the youngest group last Sunday afternoon in Huntsville as they, one by one, went to that big podium to lead that large crowd in the songs they had chosen as favorites. My voice caught a little as four-year-old Timothy Johnson, whose mother is just finishing up the last of her three cancer surgeries for this year sang “Tarry with me, blessed Savior…Tarry with me ‘frew de night’”. Sometimes this year I have felt a little of the darkness of night, too. But when I get  to this place, I am strengthened. I am motivated to look to the young…and be better for the Lord. 

it was 25 years ago that we drove up to the Presidential lobby, dressed our son Caleb in his coat and tie, right there in the car, and rushed him in to his very first Lads event. We had no idea we were entering, through that Presidential Lobby, one of the most spiritually influential activities of our lives. We did not know about that year when our two children would be entering a combined total of 26 events. We did not know about the foot blisters, the year Hannah’s “Art Says It” entry would be entered as 11th grade when she was really 11 YEARS OLD, the many visits the Easter Bunny would make to this hotel, and that our family would eventually be participating in five different conventions around the Southeast U.S. We didn’t know about those 8 huge scrapbooks that are upstairs in our guest room, chronicling our kids’ teen years—books with which we could never part. We didn’t know that little Maggie Colley, who will be born next July would have her gender-reveal in Orlando this year with huge pink balloons tied to a chair in the Lakeside section of that big ballroom. We didn’t know yet about all the years we would lose hair bows, pitch pipes, scripts, and competitions, while winning confidence, lifetime friendships, character development and memories. 

As I finish this post, I’ve returned home from the convention. This year, our Lads experience took on a whole new dimension. Our first participant in a new generation of Colleys led his very first song in Governor’s Ballroom A at 4:30 last Saturday afternoon. I did not know, when that gentleman called out “Number nine”, that my heart was just going to walk right up there and sing “When we walk with the Lord…In the light of His Word.” I basked in every syllable and especially in that truth  that 3-year-old Ezra can sing with all of his might, but cannot yet fully comprehend: “There is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” I hope he will know, for all of his lifetime, the happiness that comes from that trusting obedience. What a glory He sheds on our way!