Archives For Family

A New Story to Begin

Matt Lawson —  March 26, 2014 — 1 Comment

Los Angeles

Eight years ago today, we started a journey as the High School Pastor at First Baptist Woodstock. Laura and I were engaged. I was fresh out of seminary when an incredible Pastor and Education Pastor took a chance on hiring me. I didn’t have the experience or the resume and not much to offer. In fact, I was so nervous when I got to Woodstock that I carried a leather brief case with me to every meeting for the first six months trying to prove I meant business. Finally, our executive pastor looked at me one day and said, “Matt, you’re home now. You can leave the brief case at the office!”

I was so green and so inexperienced. Woodstock was (and is) the penultimate. We had no idea this church is even better than we heard it would be. We serve in the best place on the planet, under the authority of the greatest servant leader I know, on a team of some of the sharpest and best ministry practitioners in the world.

Over the last eight years, our furtherest dreams have become reality.

We came to Atlanta with no family but today we have so many we call family. Our students and parents embrace the vision to love Jesus with all their hearts and to change the world. We’ve been blessed under God’s favor to witness over 1000 high school and middle school students baptized in the last 8 years. An incredible student facility now exists. Student pastors are launched to great churches each year out of our 1-2 year Minister in Residence program. A Global Year ministry led by Johnny Condrey sends high school graduates overseas to four different continents. Next week, we’ll launch six student ministry mission teams to four states and two foreign countries. We have great students, great leaders, and great families.

Woodstock is even better than it seems. It’s been an incredible journey that we can’t imagine ever ending.

Eleven months ago, God initiated a thought in our hearts through the unsuspecting words of a good friend. That began an eight month journey sensing God was asking us a question. I flat out rejected that question every day for eight months. There was zero interest in what God was proposing. In fact, I consistently asked Him to find someone else.

But we couldn’t shake the thought of pastoring or planting a church. It was a daily reality. At the suggestion of my wife, we started praying Exodus 33:14-15. We said, “God, please don’t lead us to a place if you don’t go before us and with us.”

I took off the month of December 2013 to exit the daily rhythm of ministry and to try to hear God definitively. God spoke through a friend named Tony Nolan on one of the last days of that mini-sabbatical. He was preaching to 5500 students at a conference we just happened to attend because we were in the area for a funeral. It was a single moment of clarity in the midst of 8 months of grey. That night I begged God to use someone else but said yes if He wanted to use me. In what capacity, I still wasn’t sure.

A little over a month later, I was preaching at a weekend event in Oklahoma. Through a crazy series of events over 72-hours, I found myself reluctantly serving this event not knowing the weekend would be another memorial stone in a new story God was writing. The short of it (and I will tell more at a later date) is that I placed my yes on the table to the city of Los Angeles. God had planted four cities on our families heart: New York City, San Diego, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. I preached a message that weekend that I’ve been preaching to students for four years. God made it evidently clear that Saturday night that this message was meant for me. He was asking us to start over in LA.

Yes on the table

Two weeks later we met with our Pastor to seek his wisdom and inform him of what God was saying. He gave his full support, which helped our love for him to increase even more.

Two weeks after our meeting with our Pastor, he was in a meeting with the president of the largest church planting network in the world. In that meeting, the president of that agency asked our Pastor if he would assume the leadership to rally other churches to support the planting of churches in…Los Angeles!!!! C’mon now. That’s God. Is that an answer to Exodus 33:14-15 that we have been praying? Without a doubt!! This was another memorial stone in the story that God has been writing.

There are other supernatural events that have happened that continue to confirm what God has been doing. We’ll tell those stories at another appropriate time. For now, our Pastor announced this past Sunday, March 23rd that we are being launched from Woodstock to plant a brand new church in the city of Los Angeles.

There are so many parts of this story that have been left untold. We’d love to keep you updated and ask for your prayer support.

We are currently praying two very specific and urgent prayers:

1. The Place

We’re asking God where we will specifically be planting in LA. We’re headed out to LA soon to see the city and to try to discern the location of the church. Please ask God to make that clear to us.

2. The People

It’s likely that we’ll launch with three other staff members and probably several families who will make the journey with us. Would you ask God to give us clarity as to who those staff members will be and for those families who are praying through whether God would have them go? Maybe it’s you! BTW…It seems likely that God has already supernaturally made provision for the salaries of two of those staff members as well as their housing. Not confirmed but possible!

If you’d like to be kept up to date on how you can pray for us and this story, please shoot us an email to

For the Story of God for the City of LA!!



This is #winning…


I need more days like this. I love my family.




Got a recommendation today from a parent who’s using the following book as a conversation guide with her sons. I’m ordering a copy tomorrow. I think this is a must have for dads.


By the way moms, this book was written by a woman. If there’s no dad in the house or he’s not ready to #manup, I recommend you buying this and navigating this journey yourself.

Vicki also wrote 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter

Read Vicki’s blog for valuable parenting info





Fantastic article for parents.  Find the original article here 

Your Kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday He’ll Be Average Like the Rest of Us.

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.

Use this post however you find helpful. Reprint, repost, link to it or whatever. A link back to would be awesome.


Today we find out if we’re having a boy or a girl in October. This morning we asked Deacon what he thought.  He was funny as usual and here’s his pick.


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Deacon is all smiles and laughs.  Man, this is a fun time. I love this little squirt! Laura took him to the doctor and then came home to make Dinosaur cookies. We took some video after dinner and he was all laughs!


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Last year I attended a gathering of youth leaders at Winshape facility in Rome, GA where I met and heard Ron Luce speak to our group. Besides wearing really cool jeans for a relatively old[er] student ministry leader, Ron is wise. Very wise. And a great leader. As well as a great parent.

Below are five questions Ron asks himself as a parent:

1. Are You Parenting By Convenience?
Life is busy and time is limited. Are your sons/daughters an interruption to life? Do you just give them a computer or a video game to watch to distract their attention while you march ahead with life?

2. Do You Have a Cultural Dashboard?
How much of the world am I letting into my house? How much TV, internet, and phone usage do I allow? If you don’t have a standard that you allow, the world does…as much as possible.

3. Who Owns Your Kids Heart?
The answer to question #2 will likely reveal the answer to this question. Parents should own a student’s heart and allegiance. How? Time. Whoever owns their heart is who exerts authority in their life. What if we don’t currently have their heart? When we lean towards them, they will lean back.

4. Are You Going Through the Windows of Their Heart?
Teenagers can sometimes painfully communicate with the ability of a mute. However, when they do is when we should seize the moment. When they open their heart to talk, then is the time to talk. It’s not always a time to rebuke or even to give answers. It’s just time to talk. Don’t let those moments slip.

5. How Are You Communicating Your Values?
Ron has a written statement posted in his house known as the “Luce Family Values.” It communicates what a Luce should be know for, by, and about. Be proactive about communicating your values. Don’t hope they’ll just suck them up.

Parents, do you have a question to add?
Student pastors, what other advice would you give?
Students, what else do your parents need to know?

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In honor of both of my teams playing today (Clemson class of 2000 and a Gator by marriage), here is one of my all-time favorite dips.  It’s the Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip.

Laura has made this at least five times this fall for various games.  Here’s the recipe:

8 oz cream cheese, softenend
1 large can chicken, drained
1 cup ranch dressing
1 tbsp buffalo wing sauce (we’re using Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Combine cream cheese and chicken together. Spread in an 8×8 baking dish. Combine ranch and buffalo sauce. Pour over cheese/chicken mixture.  Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you try it let me know how it goes.  If you have another suggestion for a dip, please share it!  Laura is always looking for new dips for big games!

After tweeting last week that Laura and I would be spending Thanksgiving in Atlanta rather than visiting family, we gratefully received multiple Thanksgiving meal invitations.  We serve great and loving people and were honored that we would be invited!  It’s not that I didn’t want to share a Thanksgiving meal with some of our wonderful people, but after giving it some thought, I decided that we as a family would create our own celebration. 

We scrambled to put together a nice traditional Thanksgiving meal last Wednesday and below is the result!  I think my wife did a great job preparing the meal!  Notice the fine china. It’s the second time we’ve used it in 3.5 years.

Someone reminded me recently that as husband and father, I am responsible for creating memories for my family.  I have to be honest and say that I haven’t been a great memory maker for Laura and our family.  Probably the most memorable tradition that Laura and I have had in our first three years of marriage is to make it a point to vacation somewhere nice each year and to also take a long weekend each winter and go to the mountains.  Most of our family time is spent at home or traveling to see other family.  Rarely have we done something memorable or traditional.

Well, that all changed this past week.  I will have to say that it was some of the most precious time we have spent together so far.  I got to know my son a little more (beginning to distinguish his cries, his schedule, we even got to see him roll over for the first time!).  My wife and I had a chance to talk, laugh, and even cry together.  It was a very special and memorable time.

Memory maker moments can become relational milestones in a family’s life.  A sudden schedule change taught me a valuable lesson on being the chief memory maker in my family this past week. 

If you have a unique family tradition, I’d love to hear.  Feel free to share how you and your family have created memory makers!

So my mom calls this morning at 9:28 telling me that the entire family has the flu and that we shouldn’t come home so that Deacon won’t get the crud.  Bags packed. Car ready. Plans have been made.

No problem.

I am looking at this as an opportunity to create some memories for Laura, Deacon, and I.

Plan B: The Lawson Family Thanksgiving Tradition…well…at least this year.


Wednesday: Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park

Thursday: Watch the Macy’s Parade as a family, then the Inaugraul Lawson Thanksgiving Family Feast (see menu below) followed by football, sleep, and then Lighting of the “Green Tree” at Lenox Square

Friday: Football, maybe shopping, and decorating the Lawson house for Christmas

Saturday: Clemson v South Carolina game at noon.  Florida v Florida State @ 3:30.  Georgia v Georgia Tech @ 8pm.

So, here is the Lawson Thanksgiving Family Feast Menu

Thanksgiving Feast 
Waldorf Salad
Roast Turkey w/ Dressing
Sweet Potato Soufflé w/ Marshmellows and Pinapple
Rice w/ Giblet Gravy
Honey Glazed Carrots
Fresh Pole Beans
Sister Shuberts Scrumptious Rolls
Adrienne’s Pumpkin Crisp and Granny Smith’s Apple Pie

I’m off to do some grocery shopping. Until next week, happy turkey day and here’s to you creating memories with your family this Thanksgiving!