Share Your Faith Story With Your Kids

As Easter approaches, many churches and families look for ways to prepare for and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Some people give up something as a way to focus on the significance on the season. One person I follow on social media is fasting from his personal social media feeds “to focus more on my faith, family and friends.”

Others choose to add something to their schedule like devotional readings, times of prayer or specific periods of reflection.

Here’s a great idea for parents to use this Easter season:  share your faith story with your kids.

Do your children know how you came into your relationship with Jesus?

As I was reading The Jesus Gap the author gave several suggestions to youth workers and parents to help point our students to a Biblical picture of Jesus.  One was a pretty simple idea – to have families share their faith stories.

In the book the author referred to research done by the College Transition Project.  The author wrote this:  “Don’t assume family members already know each other’s faith stories.  Most don’t, even though the College Transition Project showed us that parents sharing about their own faith is vital to the process of a child growing into his or her own.”

If your family has been going to church your whole life, do your children know why?

Do they know the when/why/how that lead you to become a follower of Jesus?

Our “conversion stories” don’t have to be dramatic or even long-winded.  Taking some time to share the people and events that lead you as a mom or dad into a relationship with Jesus  can be a great story for your children to hear.

Without being too morbid, isn’t amazing what we learn about people after they are gone?  Over the years I have been involved in a number of funeral services, both as a minister and having lost family members. During the visitation hours and the meal times, you get to hear stories about the life of your friend or loved one.  Many times you learn something about that person because someone shares an experience that is new to you.  It gives you a different perspective on that person’s life.

As Easter approaches, why not take a few minutes, maybe at the dinner to table, to share your faith story?  Perhaps your children have heard it before.  But, maybe they haven’t.  Perhaps we assume our children already know it.  It could be they don’t.  Take some time to share how you came to follow Jesus and even why you still follow Him today.  It could lead to some great conversations.

My Teenage Zombie – a review

I have a confession as I begin this post: I’m not really into the zombie thing.  I have not watched a single minute of The Walking Dead.  I don’t watch zombie movies like World War Z, Shaun of the Dead or even Night of the Living Dead.

Probably the closest thing I’ve seen in the zombie genre is a particular episode of Phineas and Ferb that my son likes to watch and, of course, Michael Jackson’s classic music video, Thriller.

So, when I first saw this title, My Teenage Zombie, it didn’t really strike a chord with me.  However, as I read it, I found it to be a great description that Dr. Henderson carries throughout the book and is an image I as a parent could relate to as he spoke about the adolescent years.

This book is not bashing the adolescent years or railing against today’s teenagers.  It is rather a solid resource for parents who either have a teenager living under their roof or, better yet, have children that will be entering adolescence in the future.

In My Teenage Zombie Dr. Henderson addresses all the changes that teens are going through as well as the unique pressures students in our current culture are enduring.  He also offers some great insight to parents from his education and experience about how to understand and then engage with “teen zombies.”

He gives an apt description of what he considers a teen zombie:  “Undead adolescents are directionless, and this lack of direction leads them to focus all their attention on one thing:  themselves.”  As some students go through adolescence they sometimes fit this description and parents are left with the task of addressing their son or daughter in this zombie like state.

In offering some insights to parents, Dr. Henderson talks about these areas to address to resurrect an undead adolescent.  He writes that a teenage zombie lacks these three elements that are necessary to sustain life:

Pulse = direction
Spark = motivation
Fiber = determination

In the book he elaborates on each one both from the perspective of the teen and what he/she is going through, but also from the perspective of parents who could be feeling frustrated, confused and ready to give up.

Dr. Henderson had some good advice to parents and I thought this was especially poignant:  Parents are the stable framework that help a teen grow into a strong & mature adult. Be that stable & predictable framework for your kids.  What a good reminder that our teens need parents who will offer stability, predictability and consistency as they navigate the adolescent years.

The author offers a balance of medical information (I found the chapter that talked about the adolescent brain to be very interesting), real-life examples from his own experience as a psychiatrist, reflections from his own journey through adolescence and Biblical principles that speak to both parents and teens.

My Teenage Zombie is a good resource for parents who want to understand how to address the undead adolescent who might be living in their home and a great tool for families who look forward to navigating the ups and downs of the teen years.

To read more info on the book or to order a copy, click on the image at the top of the post to be directed to the publisher’s website.

Smartphones, Kids & Parents

I saw a link on Twitter today to a study done by Nielsen looking at kids and smartphones. The study looked at the average age at which kids first received a smart phone, why parents purchase a smart phone for their child and the concerns parents have.  It’s pretty interesting to see the responses and then, as parents and those who work with students, think through how that impacts the students with which we work.

Here a few highlights from study:

  • The most predominant age when kids got a service plan was age 10 (22%)
  • 45% of mobile kids got a service plan at 10-12 years old
  • Among parents likely to get their kids wireless service before they turn 13, being able to get hold of their child easily and that their child can reach out to them easily were top reasons (90%)
  • 72% of parents were concerned that smartphones pose too much distraction

It’s an interesting article for parents whose children have a smart phone and for parents who have the issue coming in the future.  The article shares other stats and infographics as well.

You can read the entire article on the Nielsen website.

So…how old were your kids when they got their first smart phone?

How old do you think a child should be to manage a smart phone?

Good Article for Parents of Middle Schoolers

12669641_10153940312118011_3463812157598707071_nIf you have a middle school student (or several) living under roof, you may have asked yourself the question, “How do I deal with this child?” The middle school years is a time of growth and transition both for the student and the parent. I received the following article in my inbox this week and thought it was worth sharing with parents.

Mark Oestreicher has worked with middle school students for years and has created some solid resources for youth workers, parents and students. This article is helpful to parents of middle schoolers.

Here’s the quick recap of the article:

1) The best thing a parent can do is deepen your own connection to God.

2) The second best thing a parent can do is understand young teens.

The article goes into more depth on the subject and would be worth your time. It was originally posted on TheSource4Parents.com. You can read the full article below.

I’m convinced that understanding middle schoolers is the second most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness as a parent. Yeah, it’s the second most important thing. So we’ll return to it in a couple of paragraphs.

The most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness, as a Christian parent of a middle schooler, is to deepen your own connection to God. See, parenting a middle schooler flows out of who you are, not what you know. You can have all the best tricks for getting conversation going, an almost mystical ability to motivate your child, a deep understanding of middle schoolers, and the relational ability of Oprah Winfrey, but if you aren’t authentically and deeply connected to God, how would you stand a chance of pointing kids in God’s direction?

But I want to focus here on the second most important thing you can do to increase your effectiveness in parenting a young teen. And that, as I’ve said, is to understand young teens. Deeply.

I’ve been working with and studying young teens for more than three decades. And I can honestly say that while I’ve learned a ton about kids in that time, I still feel as though I’m always learning new stuff.

Early adolescence is a profoundly unique period of human development. Really, it’s just astounding how much is going on and how different it is from other developmental life stages.

Where most people go wrong (especially those who don’t work with young teens or don’t care about them) is in making one of two assumptions. And historically, most cultures have erred in one of these two directions.

The first extreme is to assume young teens are just little adults. (Or, that they are little versions of high schoolers, which is slightly different, but still inaccurate.) Young teens seem like teenagers in many ways, and they certainly want to be treated like teenagers and don’t want to be perceived as children. So we parents capitulate to culture—and to the premature desire of kids themselves—and assume they’re slightly smaller versions of ourselves (or slightly smaller versions of their older siblings).

Historically, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have treated young teens this way (at least for the last couple of hundred years). And with a media culture that serves up more of what young teen consumers want, this perception has deepened in recent decades.

The other extreme, of course, is the assumption that young teens are really just oversized children. This, for many reasons, seems to be the default in lots of churches. I believe this often comes from a desire to protect young teens from rushing into adulthood and adult-like behaviors. In some ways this is a good motivation, and it carries some developmentally appropriate freight. But it can also be misguided—an overprotection that stunts the growth of kids during this critical transitionary time of life.

The dealio, as I’ve clearly tipped my hand, is that neither of these extremes is especially helpful.

One-Word Definition
If I asked you to summarize the young teen experience in only one word, what would you choose? I’ve asked this question from time to time during seminars and conversations, and here are a few common responses I’ve heard:

Stressed
Immature
Confused
Impossible
Annoying
Fun
Potential
Eager
Emerging
Spontaneous
Unpredictable
Challenging-but-full-of-possibility (People always try to get away with strings of hyphenated words when you ask for just one.)

If you asked me (Go ahead and ask. Say it out loud: “Marko, if you were to describe the young teen experience in one word, what word would you choose?”), I’d respond calmly: “Change.”

Change.

That’s it, in a word. The life of a middle schooler is all about change. As previously noted, it’s the second most significant period of change in the human lifespan. Stepping into puberty, and the two or three years that follow, brings about cataclysmic change in pretty much every area of life. It’s a deeply radical seismic shift that upends everything that was and ushers in a period of profound instability.

Think of a significant change you’ve experienced in your adult life—maybe a move or a new job. Remember how you felt during that time? You probably experienced a combination of uneasiness (from fear of the unknown) and excitement (from the prospect of what could be). That’s very much akin to the experience of early adolescence.

But the difference between a significant change you may have experienced as an adult and the significant change young teens are slogging through is this: Your feelings associated with change are mostly due to external factors. You likely experienced all kinds of internal stuff as a result of the external factors. But for young teens, the momentum of change is largely internal (although most young teens experience a host of external changes—such as a new school, new youth group, new friends, new freedoms—that further radicalize the internal stuff). The massive tsunami of change in the life of a 13-year-old is developmental, stemming from physical, cognitive, emotional, relational, and spiritual changes that are taking place in their bodies and minds.

This article is an excerpt from Mark Oestreicher’s book, Understanding Your Young Teen (Zondervan, 2011).

Mark Oestreicher is a partner in The Youth Cartel, and the author of multiple books for parents.

Selfie Obessession

The “selfie” has become a pretty popular thing (no news flash there). I have actually found myself taking “group selfies” on our trips with students. And the last couple pics have turned out pretty well…if I do say so myself.

But then I wonder if a group selfie is really a selfie because there are many “selves” and not just a “self” in the picture.

Anyways…this infographic is pretty interesting as it gives the stats on how many selfies are out there. Just think – 93 million selfies taken each day. WOW!

There is a story of how damaging the selfie obsession can be and some tips for people to consider as they take selfies.

Interesting information for parents, teens and those who care about students.

Selfie_Narcissism-Infographic-20151222-03

Social Media Tips for Parents

I receive a regular email from a youth ministry organization called YouthSpecialties.  They offer training, resources and events for those in youth ministry.  This week’s email contained a helpful video of an interview with Jakob Eckeberger, a volunteer youth worker and an employee of YouthSpecialties who is involved in the social media side of things.

Eckeberger offers some tips and insights to parents about social media.  He makes some good observations, especially regarding the growth of technology and the fact that we live in a word with no technological boundaries.  He makes a comment that phones used to be stuck to the wall and TV’s were huge boxes that sat in our living rooms. Now, it is everywhere.

I thought this was a beneficial resource for parents and wanted to pass it along.  You can see all the original content on the YouthSpecialties Blog.

Here’s the actual interview and below the video is the breakdown that YS provided.

3 THINGS THAT INFLUENCE HOW KIDS USE SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY:

1. We live in a world with no technological boundaries.

In my generation, we grew up with some really firm boundaries on our technology. Phones had cords that plugged into walls. The internet was only available through dial-up. Big box televisions were the only way to watch TV shows. Those literal boundaries around our technology helped us come to understand who we were outside of it. Today, there are zero boundaries to our technology. This constant, 24/7 access to technology leaves a huge impact on our kids, inviting things like social media to become an important part of their personal, mental, and sociological development.

2. Social media becomes a window through which we see and experience the world around us.

This means that apps like Instagram aren’t merely used to post pictures. Instagram becomes a window through which we answer important questions like: Who am I? Where do I fit in? Does my life matter?

We aren’t just consuming answers to those questions through the images we see on Instagram, we’re actually creating our responses. We create images to tell stories of our daily life and then compare it to what everyone else is creating. This is a significant thing for kids who are just starting to figure out who there are and where/if they fit in.

3. The fallacy that everything on line is temporary.

Darrel Girardier shared a GREAT POST that touched on this. Apps like Snapchat tap into this idea that content on the internet can be easily deleted. But we know from experience (SNAPCHAT LEAKS 100,000 PHOTOS) that it’s not always the case. Once we post something, we have very little control over what happens to it.

3 THINGS THAT PARENTS CAN DO:

1. Recognize that the issue isn’t the technology, but how that technology is used.

Most of the technology available to our kids today, and specifically things like social media, aren’t necessarily evil. It’s all in how the technology is used. When we give our kids a smart phone, we’re giving them technology that comes with a ton of responsibility. We can’t protect our kids from all the bad ways that this technology can be used, but we can help them live into the incredible amount of responsibility that they’ve been given. To borrow from Walt Mueller, it’s all apart of helping students think critically and Christianly about what they post before they post it.

2. Create boundaries around technology.

Sit down as a family to create blackout times and locations in your house where every screen is turned off, and the phones and tablets are put away. Have family game nights, or dinner times when you intentionally connect with one another. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock to have in your room so that you don’t need your phone at night.

3. Be the example.

Ideally, parents would be modeling healthy uses of technology for their kids. So set boundaries that your entire family can agree on. That way, as a parent, you can be the first one to step away from your phone or tablet. By being the example, you can show what a healthy relationship with technology looks like.

The YS Idea Labs are filmed on location at the National Youth Workers Convention. Check out more YS Idea Labs HEREand register early for NYWC to save BIG: NYWC.COM.

Parent/Student Progressive Dinner Updated!

I posted yesterday about our Parent/Student Progressive Dinner and added a slide show of some of the pics from our photo booth. After posting it I was looking back through the pictures and kept thinking we missed some people. I did! Somehow several pictures ended up in a different folder on my memory card – don’t you love technology?

Since we have such beautiful people in our church family, I felt they needed to be in the slide show.

So, check out the updated video below and gaze and the awesomeness of our families!