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!

Parent/Student Progressive Dinner

When our IMPACT Leadership Team met in the summer to look at our school year calendar and plan various events, activities and service projects, we also talked about how we could do specific events for the family. We wanted to have something on our calendar that brought the family together. One event happened this past weekend – our Parent/Student Progressive Dinner.

We have done progressive food events in the past and thought it would be a fun event for families. Who doesn’t like to eat? We decided to host it in the church building and incorporate some interactive elements. We made it a football theme, gathered food you might eat while tailgating and included some football trivia activities. We also had a photo booth. It’s always fun to capture pictures of each event and the photo booth was a way to do that and let the personalities of our families come out.

A brief video containing some of the photo booth pictures is below. We look forward to doing more events that bring students and parents together!

Two Helpful Youth Ministry Blog Posts

reblogThe internet is full of blogs about a number of different topics. You can read a blog about just about any subject imaginable. Look, you are reading a blog post right now about blog posts!

One of the benefits of youth ministry in 2015 is that there are a lot of free resources, articles and training tools online. Some of them come in the way of blog posts. I had two links come into my email today that pointed to two helpful articles. One is for youth ministers/volunteers in general and the second is for those who work specifically with junior high/middle school students.

Whether you are a paid youth worker or an unpaid volunteer, we all benefit from hearing from other voices and gleaning information from those who serve students and families.

The first is titled “What I Wish I Knew” written by Josh Griffin. He reflects on what he has learned in the past 20 years of serving in youth ministry. While all the thoughts he shares are good, I thought the point he made about youth ministry being about students and adults was on point. You can read the article below or by clicking the link above.

The second post was called “Top 10: 5th-8th Grade Years Transitions” and was written by Dan Istvanik. I think this is the first time I’ve visited his blog, but I thought what he shared about students transitioning into junior high/middle school was helpful. Sometimes we forget what it is like to be a student who has to navigate the junior high years. His article was kind of a quick bullet point list of the transitions students face. Check it out below or by hitting the link.

Thanks to all who share your wisdom on blogs, websites and social media!

WHAT I WISH I KNEW – JOSH GRIFFIN

I’ve been in youth ministry for 20 years. That’s still a crazy thing for me to write – I still feel sometimes like I’m just getting started and know very little. But the truth is, I’ve been living this out for a couple of decades. I still love it and still love being in the trenches of youth ministry (and serving youth workers through DOWNLOAD YOUTH MINISTRY) if I could go back and talk to my 21-year old self a few things about youth ministry, here’s what I would say to that eager, exciting just-graduating college young man:

IT ISN’T ALL GOING TO BE FUN AND GAMES.
Youth ministry over the next 20 years of your life is going to be SO fun. You’re going to laugh and play so much. You’re going to smile a ton, and just love doing what God has called you to do. You’re going to make memories all over the world and impact teenagers at a crucial point in their life. BUT, it is also going to be really difficult. It is going to test you. You’re going to see things that discourage you. You will be frustrated. You’re going to be pushed to the edge of your patience and the edge of your faith. It is going to be SO fun, but it is real work and you’ll battle real spiritual warfare, too.

YOU ARE GOING TO BE IMPACTED.
You think this thing is all about students – but YOU are going to grow a ton. As you lean into the Scriptures for guidance as you teach, counsel and help others, you will grow so deep in your faith. Of course, the temptation is to do this in your own strength, but that doesn’t end well. Your life will be changed because of youth ministry when you walk with Jesus.

IT IS ABOUT STUDENTS AND ADULTS.
When you think about youth ministry, you think about youth. But it is so much more than that. Yes, it is about teenagers making decisions for Jesus. You do get to help serve them in this crucial life stage. But it is also about parents and adult leaders. It is about the team you get to create and do life with. It is about the moms and dads you get to equip and encourage. And you’ll grow from single youth worker to married parent in the process of this whole thing and realize more than ever when you’re in the thick of it just how important youth ministry is to your family, too.

IT IS THE MOST REWARDING CALLING EVER.
Through the ups and downs, through everything, there’s no better calling on the planet. There’s nothing more rewarding to give your life to. Stay the course, stay close to Jesus and after a while you’ll realize just how incredible it is. You’ll think about your teenagers … now adults and watch them flourish (and some flounder still trying to find) their faith as followers of Jesus. You’ll look at your own children and smile as you reflect on them growing up loving the church.

What would you go back and tell yourself when you started youth ministry?

TOP 10: 5th-8th GRADE YEARS TRANSITIONS – DAN ISTVANIK

10. One Classroom to Multiple Classrooms.
Going from the elementary school, one maybe two main classroom setting to the middle school/Jr. high setting of a homeroom and changing classrooms for every subject.

9. Stable to Emotional.
With changes all around them and internal, hormonal changes. Middle year students may go from being stable, consistent emotionally to having ranging emotions from highs to lows often inside a short period of time without much real cause or warning.

8. Dependent on Parents to Independent of Parents.
Middle year students with the various changes in schedule and personality will also move from childhood dependence to a maturing need for more freedom.

7. Arranged Friendships to Chosen Friendships
Friendships go from parent arranged “play dates” to students choosing their own peer groups based on mutual preferences and interests.

6. Innocent to Knowledgable.
With social education, media access, and parent’s having “the talk” the middle year are marked by a stage from a more innocent view of the world to a more knowledgable, realistic view of life.

5. Fearful to Risk Taking
Along with the move from innocence to knowledge and the transition from dependence to independence to knowledge the middle year are time of being fearful to taking risks socially, emotionally, and even physically.

4. Sexually Unaware to Sexually Aware
More specific in the innocence to knowledge transition, these are the years of becoming aware of sexuality, others and their own. Often leading to some questioning and identity awareness.

3. Concrete to Abstract Thinking
A black and white, right and wrong simplicity of thinking moves to a processing of grey areas and synthesis of understanding and thought.

2. Child Body to Teen Body
Growth spurts, puberty, and sexual discovery are the physical transitions in the middle years that move a child into being a teen/young adult.

1. Family Faith to Personal Faith
Where the role of middle years ministry and importance of a church providing a solid middle year specific ministry becomes so paramount. Belief moves from what parents believe and teach to what a student personally discover, question and claim as their own. The reason we do what, we do as 5th-8th pastors/director/leaders/volunteers!!!

Some Good (& Free!) Parent Resources

Lunch Box Note from Matthew Paul Turner's Instragram (https://instagram.com/p/6zkxRKB4WS/)

Lunch Box Note from Matthew Paul Turner’s Instagram (https://instagram.com/p/6zkxRKB4WS/)

About a week ago I received an email with some free resources for parents.  After looking through the resources, I thought they were definitely worth sharing.

These resources come from a ministry called Parent Ministry.net.  They desire to help churches build an excellent parent ministry.

Around the same time I received the email, I remember seeing a lunch box note post on Matthew Paul Turner’s Instagram account. He shared a lunch box note he left for his son.  It underscored the importance of the resources that Parent Ministry shared.

The first resource is called Lunch Box Notes. They provide ideas for parents to use to leave various notes of spiritual encouragement to their children.  They offered 50 ideas for parents of children and parents of teenagers. You can view, download or print these PDF resources at these links:

Lunch Box Notes for Parents of Children.

Lunch Box Notes for Parents of Teenagers.

The second resource Parent Ministry provided was short videos for parents.  The videos are geared for parents of toddlers to parents of teens.  They deal with a variety of subjects that may speak to the specific season of parenting you may find yourself in. If some of the videos don’t apply to you, my guess is you have a friend or family member who could benefit from hearing one or more of them.

Besides, who couldn’t use some free parenting tips?!?

You can check out each of the videos below.  It is set up as a playlist and there are 8 different videos.  You can watch all 8 or just select the ones that interest you.

IMPACT 2015-2016 Overview

Last weekend we kicked off our IMPACT school year calendar with a Tail Gate Party and Parent Meeting. We know that once the school year begins, families keep busy with school, school activities, sports events, mom and dad’s work schedules plus all the other things that life throws at us. In order to help our families manage the busyness, we provide a calendar of events for the school year. The parent meeting is our first attempt to get information into the hands of parents.

You can click on the image at the top of the page to get a closer look at what is on this year’s calendar.

For those parents (and students) who may not have been able to attend the meeting, here is a somewhat brief overview of what we talked about.

WEEKLY PROGRAMS:: Here are the programs for students that we offer on a weekly basis. During the school year, we invite all students to join us for these weekly program.

Sunday:
High School Class (B103); Junior High Class (C102) 9:00 am
Small Groups 4:30 pm

Wednesday:
IMPACT Praise Band Practice 6:30 pm

A FEW HIGHLIGHTS:: Each fall we participate in the retreats that are hosted at our local church camp, Butler Springs Christian Camp. The two weekends are a great opportunity for our students and leaders to spend a weekend together, for our students to connect with other students and to grow in our relationship with God. Check out the information on the retreats below.

The Junior High Retreat will take place October 16-18. Cost for the weekend is $65 and the registration deadline is October 4. (The price goes up after that time)

Click on the image below to read more about “This Is Whatever.”

whatever_poster

The High School Retreat will take place November 6-8. Cost for the weekend is $55 if you are registered by the early bird deadline of Sept. 21. (The price goes up after that time)

Click on the image below to read more about “Backpacks and Burdens.”

Backpack&Burdens

We’ve also added Two Parent/Student Events to the calendar – one in the fall and one in the spring. They will be fun events where our students and parents to interact with one another.

COMMUNICATION:: There are a few different avenues we use to communicate with both parents and students.  We would love it if all of our parents and students were connected to at least one of these outlets for communication.

FACEBOOK:   “Like” our IMPACT Facebook Page and/or Wilmington Church of Christ Facebook page

TEXT:  text the phrase IMPACT909 to 95577 to receive occasional text updates

EMAIL:  we send out occasional email reminders.  Email tonysturf@wcconline.org to be added to email list

WEBSITE:   We post updates to the IMPACT Page of our church website.

We are excited about the start of the school year and what’s taking place in IMPACT Student Ministry.  If you are a parent or a student in the Wilmington area, we’d love to connect with you.  Share this information with other families as well.