Want Better SAT Scores? // Try Family Meals

All parents want their children to do well in school. When it comes to moving onto higher education, high school students have to take the ACT or SAT. Some students take the test more than once to try to raise their score. Others do practice tests online or attend classes designed to prepare them for success on the test. I received an email today that pointed to another key to success on the test: Family Dinners.

Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders referenced a couple of studies which show the impact of families having regular meals together. At one point in the post Elmore wrote this: “Students who enjoyed talking over a meal with family members also enjoyed rising scores on standardized tests.”

I did some quick googling about family meals and while there are other factors at work, the general consensus from research is that there is benefit from families that have regular meal times together.

While studying for tests is a plus and there is value in taking prep courses, there is also merit to regular family meals. A study from Cornell University said, “Most studies have found that medium and high levels (i.e., 3 or more days per week) of frequent meals yield the most positive benefits for children.”

The Cornell study concluded with three suggestions:

1. Set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times per week, if possible.

2. Remember the benefits of consistent family mealtimes

3. Don’t forget, quality of family meals is just as important as quantity.

The research on family meals shows that regular family meals impact relationships within the family, increase academic achievement, help with overall health and nutrition among other things. Take some time during the week to sit together with your family and share a meal. While juggling busy schedules can be a challenge, regular meal times show a lot of benefit.

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Conforming Jesus to our Own Image

facesofjesusDuring the summer months, as I was ordering some small group curriculum from The Youth Cartel, I picked up a copy of Jen Bradbury’s book The Jesus Gap. I just started digging into it this week and am intrigued to move farther through the chapters.

The book takes a look at what teens believe about Jesus and it is based on both research and the author’s experience in working with students. In the opening chapters, Bradbury references a 2010 article from Christianity Today written by Scot McKnight. He writes about how people view Jesus and His conclusion is that we as people conform Jesus to our own image.

“Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted. Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves. If the test were given to a random sample of adults, the results would be measurably similar. To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.”

In the first chapter Bradbury shares some of the views that students have of Jesus – from Jesus as a Superhero to an Average Joe Jesus – and whether they see Jesus as being either obedient or rebellious or quiet or talkative.  The responses are so varied that she feels her investigation supports what McKnight wrote about in 2010.

For church workers, it does raise the question of how students (and adults) in our congregations view Jesus.  I have to assume that the views we would discover are as varied as the research Bradbury shares.

For followers of Jesus – and for me – I have to wonder whether I have conformed Jesus to my own image.  Is my view of Jesus based on what is revealed in Scripture or do I view Jesus more in line what I think He is?

I’m curious to not only read the rest of the research in the book, but also to learn how to apply that in our specific context. The point (I think) is not just to learn about how people – how our students – view Jesus, but how that impacts our relationship with Him. Bradbury quotes Carl Braaten in her introduction pointing to why our view of Jesus is important: “…faith stands or falls with what it knows about Jesus of Nazareth.”

 

Nomophobia – do you have it?

I learned a new phrase this weekend – nomophobia.  It stands for no-mobile-phobia – the fear of going without your phone.

Just tonight before our small groups started, one of our guys got out his phone, accidentally dropped it and cracked his screen. He was upset because he just had his phone fixed a few weeks ago.  I’ve seen phones that have multiple cracks throughout the screen (kind of looks like a bunch of spider webs).  Rather than get the phone fixed, people continue to use them because they don’t want to be without it.

Last week one of our junior high girls was stressing out a little bit – her iPhone was on 4% battery.  She was afraid she wouldn’t make it home before it died.

I have to admit I have had a touch of nomophobia.  My son dropped my phone at the doctor’s office and cracked the case enough where the SIM card wouldn’t read. So, I couldn’t send texts or receive phone calls for a while.  I have to admit I was a little concerned.  I mean, what important call or text might I miss out on that afternoon?  Scary stuff!

That’s what the infograph shows below, based on a study done in the UK. Check to see if someone you know (or maybe even you) suffer from nomophobia.  Interesting stats.

This infograph was posted on the Youth Ministry Media website.

 

surviving-without-smartphone-infographic

Just Say Thank You

thanksHow many times have parents needed to remind their children of the “magic words” – please and thank you? My wife regularly prompts us to say thank you, whether to a coach, a server at a restaurant or whoever purchased the meal on that day. Not only is it good manners, scientific research is showing there is real benefit in expressing gratitude.

I try to write occasional personal thank you’s to volunteers. Even if someone isn’t being paid for a service, a heart-felt thank you can go a long way.

Dr. Robert Emmons, from the University of California Davis, and his team have done research on the role gratitude. They have learned that people who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an “attitude of gratitude” experience multiple advantages. “Gratitude improves emotional and physical health, and can strengthen relationships and communities.”

In explaining his research, Dr. Emmons wrote, “Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being.”

Another great reminder to all of us to just say thank you!

You Pick: Your Car or Your Phone

iPhoneLast night I attended an area all-star game where my daughter was one of the players. The crowd was mostly made up of parents, siblings and friends. At the end of the game, a group of high school students to my right were exiting the stands and one of the teen age girls dropped her phone. There was a sudden silence that seemed to grip that area of the gym as all the students paused to see if the phone was damaged. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief when she picked up the phone and found no cracks. That little event reminded me of an article I received via email last week.

Tim Elmore cited two different sources that showed the importance of cell phones to adolescents. Now I must admit I have been accused of being overly attached to my phone at times, but I found this information to be interesting.

Here’s some of what he shared:

According to recent Pew Research, adolescents put technology in the same category as air and water. They feel they need it to live their lives. In fact, they would rather give up their pinky finger than their cell phone. I interpret this to mean they use their smart phone far more than they do their smallest finger. Incredible.

Furthermore, a study commissioned by a car-sharing company called Zipcar shows that nearly 40 percent of Millennials believe that losing their phone would be a bigger hardship than losing their automobile. They also believe it would be a greater tragedy (so to speak) than losing access to a desktop, laptop or a TV.

So, what would you give up before you let go of your phone?

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group

pollsThis month I started reading a book titled Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. I’m still reading through it and processing some of the data and conclusions the author shares (I’m sure something will appear in this space on a later date regarding the book).

So, as I’m thinking through this idea of living in a post-Christian world, I see this research from Barna. I thought it was interesting, especially for leaders in the church. One paragraph especially caught my attention:

The rising resistance to faith institutions is evidenced in the newer language used to discuss spirituality today. When it comes to matters of the soul, disclaimers are emerging as the new faith identifiers. Today, there are those who self-describe as “spiritual, but not religious”—individuals who like to associate with what they perceive as the positive elements of spirituality but not the negative associations of organized religion. Or consider the rise of the “Nones”—the much-discussed adults who are religiously unaffiliated and who don’t want to use any conventional label for their religious faith. And in many places, the prefix “post-” is being attached to matters of faith. Post-Christian. Post-denominational. Post-evangelical. Post-religious.

You can read the Barna article below, but it added to the churning in my brain about what it means to lead youth ministry (or any kind of ministry) in our post-Christian culture.

Thoughts?

Three Major Faith and Culture Trends for 2014 – Barna Group.

Barna on Adoption

BU-110513-infographic2As many of you know, we are in the process of adoption. Max was placed with us back in October and we are working our way through the steps toward finalization. For the last couple of years, our awareness of adoption has grown, which caused me to check out this article from the Barna Group.

Through our own consideration of adding to our family through adoption and several of our friends who have adopted or are considering it, I found this information to be interesting.

Here are the highlights of the article. You can read the entire article on the Barna Group website.

1) Today, there are more than 150 million orphans worldwide.

An orphan is defined as a child with at least one deceased parent, and there are enough orphans in the world today to fill a Super Bowl stadium—not just once, but 180 times. There are also 18 million “double orphans,” those who’ve lost both parents, in need of a home.

2) While one–quarter of all adults say they have seriously considered adoption, only 2% have actually done so.

Adoption serves one of the world’s greatest needs, but while it’s deeply meaningful, it’s not always easy, for many reasons. And the gap between those considering adoption and those who go actually adopt reflects the many challenges that crop up to prevent needy children from finding homes.

3) Practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population.

While Christians have built a reputation for many of the things they are against, adoption and foster care are emerging as a cause they are for. While only 2% of all Americans have adopted, this rises to 5% among practicing Christians.

4) The global weight of adoption efforts is carried by just 2% of Americans.

As some of the most privileged people in the world, it’s no surprise that Americans are leading adoption efforts internationally. But when this is put into statistical perspective, this disproportion becomes far more striking: Since American adoptions comprise nearly half of all adoptions worldwide, this means the global weight of adoption efforts rests on the shoulders of the 2% of American adoptive parents.

5) The typical adoptive family is a multi–ethnic one.