How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life

Time: The Critical Investment Every Father Needs to Make: #4-Toddlers: 4.1: Don’t Try to Play Make Up

September 23rd, 2011

with my dad in my hometown on my 55th birthday!

Your son is now at an age when he is mobile and he is curious. This is also the age when you can get him away to explore on your own. “Mom trust” kicks in a bit more, she gives you a “boys” pass, and it is time to let the fun begin! You have prepared for this day since before he was born and now…

Hold on! Time for a little self-inventory:

  1. Are you going to try to give your son the focus you did not receive from your own dad?
  2. Are you going to try to create a mini-me whose interests directly mimic your own?
  3. Do you have dreams of this little bundle of joy being in the NBA, on the PGA, or going to Stanford for a PhD?
  4. Do you keep upgrading your video and photo capabilities with new hardware and software, renewing like yesterday’s magazine subscriptions?




1. Are you going to try to give your son the focus you did not receive from your own dad?

Memory research is showing us that our memories are selective at best. In fact, the latest studies are showing us that we remember more clearly the things we think about the least. The more we play those “tapes” from our past, the more reality and perception clash. You are not your father and your son is not you, neither now, nor when you were a little boy. So relax, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

“My son is a unique child of God. There has never been anyone quite like him, and there will never be anyone quite like him, ever.”

and, repeat after me:

“I am a unique father for my son. There has never been a father quite like me for him and there will never be a father quite like me for him, ever.”

Now, doesn’t that make you feel better? Isn’t that good to know? You can imitate the best of what you can remember from your own father/son relationship, imitate solid fathers you have known or know now, and learn from fatherhood resources (like this blog!), which will help along the way.

So Why Am I Writing about Fathers Raising Sons in a Healthy Way, And Why Do I Think I Have Anything to Say?

September 14th, 2011
Fathers_and_sonsGregory, David, Dana, David (my brother), Luke (my nephew)

Let me tell you a story…

Within the last month I experienced two special retreats. One weekend, I was the Spiritual Director on a Prison 3-Day retreat for 18-20 year old incarcerated young men. Two weekends later, I was a teacher and chaperone for young men on a ninth grade retreat for those youth from our church ready to make a deeper faith commitment as they enter high school.

Only a couple of years separated the young men age-wise, but life experience- wise? Different planets. The one glaring contrast between the two groups was the involvement in their lives by healthy fathers and/or other male mentor(s), Light years apart.

O, a few of the guys I’ve spent time with in prison over the years did have dads who mentored them. Stories of how-to jack someone up and rob him, how to steal and not get caught, how to shoot up heroin, are much too common. In those cases, whatever lesson these young men did learn- the few who did have fathers around, or other older male role models- whatever the lesson, obviously the results behind bars are less than stellar.

Now, the young men on the church retreat live no sheltered life in affluent luxury with doting fathers. but what they do have is a dad or other male mentor or two connecting with them in a helpful way.

The kids themselves are similar in many ways, but their upbringing, especially when it comes to fathers, obviously makes a huge difference. While research makes the same point, spending time in prison ministry brings these statistics to life.

Fathers and sons don’t deserve this.

They deserve the joy and challenge of living life as “master teacher and apprentice.” I want dads, and other adult males who have an opportunity to be a mentor, to make a difference in young men’s lives.

The best model for this? Ironically, someone who was not a father. The teaching and model of Jesus as to how to live your life in community. investing in others and expanding their lives in remarkable ways, that’s the key. Jesus is the superior teacher and model for fathers and sons (mothers, daughters, and everyone else, too). How to be a father to a son the way that Jesus would if he were in your situation, is a crying need for dads. For the sake of their sons…for the sake of society…

For God’s sake.

Why Me?

I have always been interested in mentoring youth. In my teens, I began to teach Sunday School and coach youth basketball. My undergrad degrees are in Psychology and Secondary Education. I went to graduate schooI, received my MDiv and began working as a youth pastor in 1982. By 1991,  no longer a “youth pastor,” I continued to work with kids and their parents in our Church communities: Congregation, preschool, elementary school, and middle school (where my wife, Nancy, also taught), as well as in the local community as basketball coach and mentor in public schools.

Since 1992, I have done much consulting with a national youth ministry organization,Faithinkubators, in particular working on parenting and connecting parents and kids. I have also developed a relational evangelism DVD series entitled, ”How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk!” which has a wide usage by Christian organizations teaching outreach with the next generations.  As you saw above, I serve as Spiritual Director at a local prison (California Youth Authority for 18-25 year old young men) where we lead three-day spiritual retreats as part of Epiphany Prison Ministry.

Yet, obviously, my greatest experience and interest in fathers parenting sons is raising our own sons. Nancy and I have a daughter, Kristina, 22, and twin boys, Gregory and David, 19. We have been the key adult mentors in their lives, living in the tension of being pastor, teacher, coach, and both of us volunteers in the public schools they attended, as well as mom and dad. All this without being totally enmeshed. It can be done.

As I stated in my prior launch post, I will be writing a book on fathers and daughters in this “No Jerk” series. So, Kristina, I’m not ignoring our life together, just focusing on the boys right now!

If you read what I am writing in the next several months you will make significant progress in lfie with your son(s). You will learn from the best:

  • From the best teacher who ever lived- Jesus.
  • From the best of what I have experienced as a son of a father (leaving the less than helpful stuff behind).
  • From the best of what I have invested in our sons (sharing my “bonehead” moments, as well),
  • From the best of my being a mentor of scores of young men over the years,
  • From the best of amazing fathers with whom I have had the privilege of sharing life together.

For God’s sake…and your son’s…join me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the latest post.

Hey Dad! 10 ways to Make Sure Your Son Won’t Grow Up to be a Jerk!

September 12th, 2011

As many of you know, I am a pastor in LA who has been blogging for over 7 years now. My main areas of interest have to do with evangelism and discipleship, in particular reaching out to the next generations and training others to do this. My blog, “How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk!” has been a mixture of apologetics, relational evangelism, and discipleship training, with personal lifestyle/ current event type posts interspersed. The overall vibe has been challenging us to look again at what we all “know to be true” from a different angle.

I have been using personal anecdotes and humor (yes, much self-deprecation, of course), following the filter of “sharing the compassion of Jesus with everyone; sharing the gospel with those who are receptive.” All of this in, as much as possible, a “no-being-a-jerk” zone.

I have taken a few months off from blogging now, and am ready to begin again. This time however, I am trying an experiment. Here is what it looks like.

My intention has always been working on a “No Jerk” series for Christians, and not stopping at “How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk!” Recently, I am receiving encouragement from writer colleagues to work on another book in the series, specifically on fathers raising sons. They are challenging me to get out the wisdom I have been sharing with them and others over the last several years, and applying it to a book which deals with dads training up their sons.

The result is the book (working title), “Hey Dad! 10 Ways to Make Sure Your Son Won’t Grow Up To Be A Jerk!” Through learning from mentors, and my own modeling, sharing life, and teaching my boys about being a “man” (I am not grunting as I typed that), and then working with other fathers and sons over the last three decades of ministry, I come from a strong base of parenting sons. If you have shared life with us, you know this to be true.

In the last several months, I have begun writing the book, but I need help. I need some structure and expectations to keep me moving, and so combining blogging with the writing makes sense. This will help me make progress in being more organized about the whole project, while sharing content and soliciting feedback along the way.

All of this will be written from a filter of the Christian worldview, along the same lines as my “How To Be…Jerk!” work. This certainly makes sense, because the biblical concept of discipleship is the best model out there for dads raising sons. Certainly, as with my other writing, I am paying close attention to make sure that non-Christians will discover this book to be helpful, again, if receptive.

My wife, Nancy and I have three adult children, Kristina, 22, and Gregory and David, twins of 19. I plan on writing a father/ daughter book in this same “Jerk” series, but I am starting with sons because that’s where I can be of most service right now.

In the blog, together we will explore these 10 topics (or “Ways”) of “jerk prevention”:

- Invest lots of time in him
- Treat him as unique; not special
- Be affectionate
- Help him face his fears
- Be an honorable husband
- Be his spiritual mentor
- Have solid friendships
- Model loyalty with integrity
- Help him retire your flaws
- Model how to protect and serve

I intend to publish entries three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You will be able to access them through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, along with my website

How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life