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.

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The Jesus Gap – What Teens Believe About Jesus

jesus-gapOne of the books I wanted to read as 2017 started was The Jesus Gap. I started reading it months ago, but somewhere along the way got off track. So, I decided to get back on track and set aside some time to really dig into it.

After reading it, I went back through the things I highlighted and marked.  Once I typed it up, it filled almost four pages in a Word doc.  Needless to say, there is a lot of useful information in the book.

Bradbury shares the motivation behind writing the book.  She was taking a class on Christological foundations.  The final project was to conduct a small research study on your own ministry to determine what teens believed about Jesus.  She was surprised by the results from her group.

As she continued to study this topic, she decided to find out if what was true of the teens in her youth ministry was true of others teens.  That brought about her survey and this book, The Jesus Gap.

For those who work with students, the question that will linger in your mind as you read this book is this:  “Is this true of the teens in my church?”  I asked that question a number of times as I read the results of her research.

While there is too much information in the book to boil down to one post, a couple of things kind of rose to the top in my thinking.

One is how students look at Jesus as both God and as being sinless.

According to Bradbury’s research, when students were asked the question, “Is Jesus God?”  44 percent of students answered Yes,” 44 percent said No,” and 12 percent confessed, I don’t know.”

There are a number of conclusions a person could draw, but the numbers are a little startling.  Consider that the teens from the survey had a church background, were active in their congregations, and yet under 50% of them agreed that Jesus is God.

When asked if Jesus was perfect (or sinless), 34 percent of teens affirmed Jesus was perfect. 57 percent said Jesus was not perfect9 percent said, “I don’t know if Jesus was perfect.”

So even a smaller percentage agreed that Jesus was perfect.

Along with sharing the statistics and results of interviews, Bradbury also shared some practical steps youth workers can take to strengthen the Christology of the teens in their churches.

One area where I think The Jesus Gap is helpful is that it removes the blinders from our eyes.  We have to assume that what is true of Bradbury’s original research study in her group and then the following larger study she did, is also true on some level for the students in our sphere of influence.  One of the take-a-ways I have from this book is to find out where our students are and what particular truths about Jesus we might need to address in the future.

Another interesting thing Bradbury brought out is why students question that Jesus was perfect.  Early in the book she referenced some research done by Scott McKnight in Christianity Today where he concluded this:  “We all think Jesus is like us.  Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.  To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.”

Students seemed to carry this idea when they viewed Jesus.  Here are a couple of quotes from students in Bradbury’s book talking about why Jesus wasn’t sinless:

“Jesus was God’s Son, after all He was human.  It’s really hard to know.  You’d think he would be perfect.  But humans – it’s impossible to be perfect.”

“Jesus sinned because he was a human being like the rest of us.
Even the best people in the world sin.”

One challenge to students seeing Jesus as perfect is wrestling with His divine nature.  If He was human like us, the conclusion many of them draw is that He sinned, because all people sin.

Bradbury also revealed a distrust for Scripture.  She shared responses from students that shared the opinion that the Biblical writers left our Jesus’ sin intentionally, in an effort to make Him appear more godly.

After sharing results of her research, she offered this conclusion:  Don’t assume teenagers view Scripture the same way you do.  Perhaps we operate under the assumption that because we have talked about the Bible and have a certain set of beliefs, our students hold those as well.  The Jesus Gap reveals that for a large number of teens, it’s not true.

The challenge is to not only read the results of Bradbury’s research, but then apply it to your particular context.  This is a good read for those who work with students and could create some good discussion.

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.

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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.

Teens Use Media 9 Hours Daily

Lightstock-Stock-Photo-Pearl-Smart-Phone-AddictionFor the past few years, I have heard the statistic that students spent 7.5 hours of their day connected to some type of media. A recent survey from Common Sense Media shares that students on average spend 9 hours every day connected to media.

For parents and people who work with students, it’s kind of important that we know what students are spending their time doing. What was interesting to me in the article was that only 10% of teens rank social media as their favorite activity. Model Essena O’Neill created a buzz on social media when she announced she was quitting social media because posts are edited and just try to get more views.

It would be interesting to engage in a conversation with students in your world and find out what they do with their time on media. Maybe it is social media, maybe it is texting. Whatever they do to fill the time, it is pretty clear that media is a huge part of it.

Here’s the text of a brief article related to this Common Sense Media survey posted on YouthMinistry.com. Check it out and maybe find out what your students do with media.

New York—According to a report from the nonprofit Common Sense Media, teenagers spend about nine hours each day using media for their enjoyment. That doesn’t include media use for homework.

Calling the numbers “mind-boggling,” James Steyer, the group’s CEO, said teenagers “spend far more time with media technology than any other thing in their life. This is the dominant intermediary in their life.”

The study also found that 67 percent of teenagers have their own smartphones, poorer kids have less access to technology, and boys gravitate toward gaming, while girls prefer social media. Only 10 percent of teens rank social media as their favorite activity, however, and Steyer believes that’s because checking those sites now feels like a requirement. “They don’t love [social media],” he said, “and that’s good, in my opinion.”

One person who stopped loving social media is Essena O’Neill, a 19-year-old model who had more than 1 million followers on various platforms. This week, she announced she’s quitting social media, saying it made her miserable and wasn’t “real life.” Post are “edited and contrived to get more views,” she told followers before deleting her pages. “Social media is an illusion.”

O’Neill said she followed famous people on social media, trying to emulate them. But then she realized, “I didn’t live in the real world, I lived through screens. And I created a celebrity construct of myself, believing it would bring me happiness. That couldn’t be further away from the truth.”

O’Neill, who’s launching a website called “Let’s Be Game Changers,” said, “I no longer want to spend hours and hours of my time scrolling, viewing, and comparing myself to others. I want to do something, anything, something radical, something a little different. I want to use my imagination, my individual mind, my unique take on the world.”

Sources: commonsensemedia.org, cnn.com

Teens Still On Facebook

facebookThere have been different voices talking about what social media outlets teens are using. For the last year or so many people have been saying that teens are moving away from Facebook. With the growth of Instagram, SnapChat and other outlets, the fairly common opinion was that students were abandoning Facebook.

As someone who works with students, I’m always looking for ways to communicate with students and I go back and forth between social media outlets. Most times, I use both Facebook and Instagram along with a group texting service.

A recent article from the Pew Research Center shows that teens chose Facebook most often out of the social media options. From a survey of teens ages 13-17, it shows that 41% of teens use Facebook most often. While they are using other social media utilities, it’s interesting to me that Facebook leads the way.

Social media continues to change.  I wonder what will be popular when my almost 2 year old reaches the teen years.  Right now, Facebook seems to be on top for teens.

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Celebrating Small Groups

Small Group wierd no wordsSmall Groups have been a key part of our ministry for the past number of years. We think one of the best things our students can do is to meet consistently with a group of students and adult leaders to connect, study scripture, pray together, serve together and support each other. I am continually grateful for the small group leaders we have who meet regularly with our students to build trust, encourage and model what it means to follow Jesus.

One thing that I have become convinced of is the need to celebrate the “wins” that happen in student ministry. When you have students for 7 years (6th – 12th grade), it is important to celebrate when good things take place. Much of the fruit of student ministry doesn’t show up sometimes til years later and discouragement can easily set in.

This weekend I saw where our small groups are developing fruit. There are a few wins we celebrate.

We celebrate when we see growth. I talked with one of our junior high small group leaders and he shared how he has seen growth in his group. They are starting to ask more questions and they have volunteered to lead the group. For the next few weeks, each of the guys in the group will prepare and lead a devotion for the group. It’s a great chance for them to get into the Word to read it, understand it and prepare to share it with a group of peers.

We celebrate when we see service. In just the past 10 days, I’ve seen where our groups are serving together. Several members of two of our high school girls groups showed up on a Saturday to serve at our concession stand that will benefit our 1MISSION project. Most of them couldn’t say for the whole event, but they came and served alongside their small group leaders.

One of our high school guys group is serving in our Upward program. Almost every member of that group is either helping with the technical side of the games (running lights, clock, etc.) or serving as referees for the games.

I know that our students are growing and serving in other ways that we don’t always see, but it is encouraging to see specific examples of how our students are growing and serving.

We continue to look for ways to make our small groups better, to equip our leaders more and add additional leaders. While we do that, I think it is worth to time to stop and celebrate the wins.