9 Important Insights about Generation Z by Sean McDowell


Move over Millennials. A new generation is here. For the past decade, there has been considerable discussion about how to understand and reach Millennials. But now there is a new generation, roughly those born between 1995 and 2010, which are the newest focus.

While the name Generation Z seems to be the most widespread, they are also referred to as the “Selfie Generation,” “iGen,” “Post-Millennials,” the “App Generation,” “TransGeneration,” and more. But regardless of the title, here are nine insights about this generation from my personal experience and research:

1. Digital Natives: While Millennials grew up in a technologically savvy and connected world, younger members of Generation Z cannot remember a world without the Internet. They grew up swiping an iPad before they learned how to talk and are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Teenage members of Gen Z are connected nearly every waking hour of the day.

2. Entrepreneurial: Gen Zers have been raised with businesses such as Uber and airbnb, seeing how easy and simple it is to use your own time and resources to make money. 72% of older members of Gen Z want to start their own business.[1]

3. Diverse: This is the last generation that will be majority white (52%). Between 2000-2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population.[2] The idea of a black president is not exceptional to them—its normal. Gen Zers have grown up experiencing diversity, and they feel overwhelmingly positive about it.

4. Less Religious Identification: In 1966, 6.6% of incoming freshman reported being unaffiliated with any religion. In 2015, nearly one-third (29.6%) of all incoming college students reported not identifying with any particular religion.[3] The question is whether young people today are truly moving away from religion or just defining themselves differently than previous generations. I tend towards the latter explanation, although there is probably some truth in the first.

5. Blurry: Formerly distinct lines are now considered “blurry.” Technology has blurred the lines between home and work, study and entertainment, and public and private. Gen Zers have a different experience of family—same-sex households, working moms, stay-at-home dads, three-parent families, and couples choosing not to have kids. The nuclear family will make up less than a third of all families by 2026.[4] And, of course, gender and romantic identities have become blurry as well. [5]

6. Overwhelmed: In her interviews with teens for her article in Time magazine,Susanna Schrobsdorff says that “there was a pervasive sense that being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it.”[6] 68% feel overwhelmed by everything they need to do each week.[7]

7. Lonely: 3 million adolescents 12-17 have had a “major depressive episode” in the past year. There has been in increase in anxiety and depression among high school students since 2012. And this upsurge cuts across virtually all demographics—suburban, urban, and rural. [8]

8. Progressive: Most Gen Zers plan to get married, have children, and buy a home—although probably later than previous generations. And they are less likely to drink, smoke, and take drugs. Yet they hold more progressive views on issues like the legality of marijuana and the morality of same-sex marriage. [9]

9. Individualistic: Anne Fisher captures the forces that have helped create an individualistic emphasis among this generation: “Gen Z is used to having everything personalized just for them, from playlists to newsfeeds to products features of all kinds. They’ve grown up expecting that.”[10]

There is a tendency to be either overly romantic or critical about new generations. The reality is that members of Generation Z face the same life challenges as previous generations, but in a super-connected and rapid-moving technological age. And let us not forget that they have the same deep needs for love, significance, meaning, and belonging as every previous generation.


20 Tips I wish I could have given parents of teens before their kids were 4 by Ron Powell


I’ve never had the chance to share with parents of young children until this weekend but I’ve wanted to for the past 30 years! Why? Because often the difficulties that parents are having with their teens could be less difficult if a proper foundation for the relationship was established in the early years…Here are 20 things I always wanted to share with parents…

First let me point out the Results of Early Parenting Problems

The Bible cautions us in  Hosea 8:7 “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” This can be so true of parenting. We are seeing the results in society of kids gone off track. This isn’t completely the fault of the parents but we are partly to blame. This many be the result of unintentional mistakes or not wanting to deal with some stuff. It could be because we haven’t set or stuck to the right goals when we know that if we “Aim for nothing and you will hit it every time”

I think James Dobson is right when he cautions, “By the time a child is two they have determined who rules the house –James Dobson (Parenting isn’t for Cowards) I also agree with Chap Clark’s research on teens that found that “We are seeing the results of systematic abandonment by adults resulting in the almost universal experience of Hurt”  –Chap Clark – Hurt

Years ago David Elkind predicted this. Even then he was able to realize: “Today, adults have fewer standards, values and beliefs and hold on to them less firmly than was true in the past.  The adolescent must therefore struggle to find an identity without the benefit of this supportive adult envelope.” (The Hurried Child)

More recently Dr. Suniya Luthar and her team found that : “Adolescents reared in suburban homes with an average family income of $120,000 report higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse than any other socioeconomic group of young Americans today.”

What did we do wrong?! How could parents do better… here are 20 tips


  1. Pray, Pray, Pray –For and with your spouse, your child –it puts your fears in perspective and God wants to answer these kinds of prayers
  1. Family Accountability – Get Mentored disclose Secrets. People need to know the truth about how you treat your children and your spouse. Be humble enough to repent of errors and weakness
  1. Sacrifice Me Time for Family Time –Fully Devoted to God and your family –serve with your family –help children see that the world does not revolve around them
  1. Social Credit Get and maintain loving respect. It is the gold standard for families. Make expressing and expecting the Fruit of the Spirit the standard – Love Joy Peace Patience Kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
  1. Recognize and defend The Hill to die upon. You must win. Your authority is final. Many things are non-negotiable. Never threaten –always follow through with consequences that you set. Both parents must agree and be consistent with rewards and consequences.
  1. Set High Expectation and Provide High Support -3 Parentng Styles one is Best –Permissive, Authoritarian, and the greatest of these is Authoritative –Loving Firm high expectations showing affection. Child feels respected and loved.


  1. Correct attitudes before they become behaviours – Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ Emerson/ Covey
  1. Disciple in all things –Use the Bible to Interpret the World –model humble devotion –do your actions betray your words? –can they see that you are fully devoted to God and your family? Or is your time and attention invested somewhere else?
  1. Patiently Discipline in Love not Anger –reasonable force when reasoning is futile – Never crush their spirit or break trust. Always practice unconditional love –don’t make them earn it.
  1. Open Lines of Communication Talk about everything including sex, relationships, fears, feelings, crushes, hopes, dreams, wishes,
  1. Limit Screen Time Maximize Face to Face Time –have fun –build memories that last –keep building as they get older –make family time your highest priority –family time does not always mean indulging your kids.
  1. Allow natural and planned consequences –it is necessary to allow your children to suffer consequences –do not shield them from everything – do not excuse them if they have done wrong –they must learn at the youngest age possible to take responsibility for their actions. Stick to the consequences that you have agreed upon.
  1. Understand the power of the Use it or Lose it Principle: children have huge potential but what they do constantly is hard wired in their brains. (Practice makes Permanent.) Constant screen time builds some skills but they are very limited compared to learning a sport, an instrument, or skills like reading, writing, drawing, knitting, painting, or gardening.
  1. Because I said so is never the right response –Loving Explanation should be given at the level that they can understand. As verbal skills increase so should levels of explanation.
  1. Seek first to understand then to be understood –It takes time for children to express themselves –spend lots of time listening to them –especially the ones who have difficulty expressing themselves. Communication is a gift for life!
  1. Get ahead of the strong willed child. Not every child is parented the exact same way. Some require firmer stance. They require a more thoughtful response and higher expectations. Stay in charge but do not break their drive.


  1. With great privilege comes great responsibility – Learning the Value of things. God has given us so much. Giving thanks always is only part of the response –demonstrating a generous life style and expecting it of our children creates better teens and adults.
  1. Teach them to “paddle their own canoe.” You should never do for a child what they can do for themselves (this builds efficacy) Helping a child to gain a sense of competence gives them confidence to go out the door. Efficacy is when a child recognizes I can do this. It improves their self-esteem without building false confidence.
  1. Why Chores make responsible adults. Erikson Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Initiative vs. guilt Industry vs. inferiority –
  1. Move from dependence, to independence, to interdependence. The goal of parenting is to prepare them to launch –build in the skills at appropriate ages so that they become self- sufficient teens

Of course these tips won’t guarantee that you will never have problems in the teen years or that your child will be a perfect angel. I do think that these may solve you a lot of grief if you apply them consistently and persist in them until your child becomes adult.


James Dobson  Hide or Seek : Building Self Esteem in your Child,               Parenting Isn’t for Cowards –the Strong Willed Child,     Preparing for Adolescence

Madeline Levine –the Price of Privilege –Disconnected and Unhappy Kids

Chap Clark Hurt and Hurt 2.0

David Elkind  -The Hurried Child

Kindlon, D. (2001). Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children in an Indulgent Age. New York, N.Y.: Hyperion.

Levine, M. (2006). The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. New York, N.Y.: HarperCollins.

Twenge, J.M. (2006). Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before. New York, N.Y.: Free Press.


When Your Teen Just Doesn’t Care by Mark Gregston


I don’t care!

Ever heard that phrase pop out of your teen’s mouth? My guess is 99.9 percent of all teens have expressed their indifference to mom and dad. Hearing sentences like, “Well, I don’t care” can drive parents up the wall. It can be maddening to watch a child shrug their shoulders or roll their eyes at something we say. I mean, how did kids get to be so apathetic today anyways? Typically, apathy is the symptom of a bad attitude. So the way we try to get past a teen’s indifference is to point out the obvious—your attitude needs to change! But how do you get an indifferent teenager to suddenly care again?

Fear-Based Apathy

The apathetic teen is not a kid without emotions. In fact, I’d say that a kid who says he “doesn’t care” may actually care a whole lot! What I’ve found is that you have to look past the attitude to see what is driving a child’s apathy towards life. Often, an indifferent teen is struggling with fear—a fear of life and the world. He hates going to school, is afraid of social events, or angry about the state of the world. This outlook is common among kids who look around at things like famine, war, disease, murder, inequality and think, Hey, this is not right! I don’t know if I really care about this world after all. It’s a pretty crummy place. So they develop an attitude of apathy and try to block everything out. Even though they give their best effort to appear shielded, apathetic teens are still struggling to express anxiety, worry and fear over situations in their life.

For the teen who is trying to overcome their anxiety through a cavalier attitude, you have to help them put life into perspective. Show your teen that this world is not always a scary place, and that it has good things to offer as well. Unfortunately, it’s the tragic and evil things that receive the majority of the spotlight in the media and on the web. Take time to point out all the pure, right, and true things happening all around the world. Talk about the things worth celebrating. Show your apathetic son or daughter that life has more joy and happiness than what he or she can see at the moment.

And let your teen know you believe in them. Many teens fear they don’t have what it takes for learning, for working, or succeeding in life. They compare themselves to others and refuse to try to do something they don’t think they can do—or do well. So here’s where you can guide them into places and projects where they can experience success and satisfaction—a part-time job, a new sport, or a fun project that you can even do alongside them. This will help them overcome the fear of failure that many apathetic teens face. It is easy to feign apathy rather than admit fear. That’s why it’s important to create a safe relationship with them. Let them know that you, too, have fears that you must face. Being vulnerable with them and allowing them to process their real feelings will go a long way in releasing them from their fears. And it will equip them to face future fears as they arise.

Grief-Based Apathy

As teenagers begin to face the realization that the world isn’t the happy and carefree place they once thought it was, they might experience a deep sense of sadness and grief. Coming face-to-face with death and tragedy causes a loss of innocence. Sometimes a traumatic experience in a teen’s life can be a secret source of grief. As parents, we don’t know everything that is happening in our child’s life. My parents didn’t know everything that I did as a teenager. And I’m guessing it was the same for you. So you can be sure that you don’t know everything your teenager is going through either. If grief is fueling their apathy, then we need to help our kids learn to process and deal with that emotion in a healthy way.

Be attentive to your teen. Notice the little and big things that indicate what he or she is really experiencing. Have patience and encourage him or her to not only express his sadness, but to his anger, and frustration, too. Show them that there are healthy ways to express all the emotions they feel. To encourage them to share, ask good questions, like “Is there a reason you don’t care about church, or school, or hanging our with friends?” Then, listen carefully to how your teen responds.

A friend who worked with me at Kanakuk Kamp in the ‘80s made a statement that has stayed with me through the years. He said, “The moods of a lifetime are often set in the all-but-forgotten events of childhood.” If your son holds on to his grief instead of processing it and moving past it, that grief may become the “mood of a lifetime.” And being apathetic may be your daughter’s way of trying to navigate these difficult feelings, when she really needs your help to process them in a safe and respectable way. This doesn’t mean you will know what your children are feeling all the time, but you can encourage them to talk with you in an open, honest way to process these difficult emotions.

Anger-Based Apathy

There is nothing wrong with being angry.  In fact Scripture says, “Be angry,” but it also says, “…but don’t sin” (Ephesians 4:26). When we see acts of cruelty, scenes of chaos, or loss of life, it’s natural to feel anger and rage over a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. But in the same way that adults need to channel their anger into appropriate outlets, teen anger must be dealt with or it will grow into an “I-just-don’t-care-anymore” attitude—or even something more destructive.

So direct your teens to acceptable ways of expressing anger. Show them appropriate ways to let off steam. You can write a letter, go for a run, listen to music, paint a picture, build something, or even talk it out. Encourage them to use those angry feelings to do something, rather then let them boil inside. I’ve found the best way to break an apathetic attitude is to get your teen to serve others. Apathy is really a preoccupation with yourself. So when you take a kid on a mission trip, serve a soup kitchen, visit a nursing home, or make dinner for your sick neighbors, you are replacing a teenager’s self-obsession with a focus on helping others.

When our kids say, “I don’t care,” the easy response is to say, “You’re being apathetic!” But pointing out a kid’s bad attitude doesn’t change it. Breaking your son or daughter out of their indifference requires getting to the root of the problem, and addressing those feelings. It also may require changing your own attitude. Do you complain about problems at work, church, or at home, but never take steps to get involved in making change happen? Would you rather talk than take action to do something? Apathy can be infectious. So if you’re dealing with a teen who doesn’t care, make sure you do! And make sure it shows in your actions.


How to Make Your Teaching Unforgettable by Taryn Seeman


From large group talks to small group discussions, so much of our time as youth workers is devoted to teaching. We put in long hours to determine the best example, the perfect story, or the right question, but sometimes it seems that our teaching still falls short. Students hear us out, and then they go on to forget the majority of what we’ve talked about. Making our teaching more memorable is a critical step to helping our students learn and grow.

Here are Four Tips to make your teaching more memorable:

#1 Use imagery. 

Forgettable teaching looks something like this:

Imagery is your best bet to engage visual learners and connect to students’ emotions, but imagery also has the power of association. Students can associate a lesson with a particular image, enabling you to use that image to help students trigger that lesson one week or even three months later.

#2 Facilitate relevant experiences. 

Grab a notepad or open a blank Word document.

Write down the main point of last Sunday’s sermon.

Now write out what you remember about the sermon before that.

Then jot down the point of the best sermon you’ve ever heard.

Compile a list of what made these sermons memorable.

Relevant experiences will help your students discover a lesson for themselves; an experience is what helps a student see a particular principle in action. Team building activities are a great example of relevant experiences. When you want to challenge your students in the area of risk taking, look for a team building activity that would require them to take risks. A lesson experienced makes for a lasting and memorable lesson.

#3 Utilize repetition.  

Teach the main point over and over again.

Teach the main point over and over again.

Teach the main point over and over again.

Repetition, while it may make you feel silly or less articulate, is critical to making your teaching memorable. Students are unlikely to remember something that they’ve heard only once. Repetition emphasizes your main point and safeguards against students’ tendency to zone out.

 #4 Go for the unexpected.

Stop reading and hold a plank position for 60 seconds.

(If you really do it, your strained abdominal muscles will help you remember this blog post well into tomorrow.)

An element of the unexpected will leave your students saying, “I didn’t see that coming.” And when you connect the dots between something unexpected and your main teaching point, your teaching will likely be more memorable. Start your next youth group lesson with your back facing the audience to talk about the ways we talk behind each other’s backs. Or send students out of the room to communicate how Christ sends us out as part of the Great Commission. Something unexpected can break the norm and shatter students’ expectations, waking them up to hear and remember your teaching.

Making our teaching more memorable won’t be an easy task, but it’s well worth our time, energy, and creativity. Go find an image that highlights the main point of your next sermon series. Design a meaningful way for your students to experience and live out a particular lesson. And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself or embrace the unexpected. With these four tips in place, it won’t be long before you overhear students talking about what they’re learning through your teaching.


Help Parents Win With Digital Media and Their Teenagers by Brad Griffin


If there’s anything that causes me to scratch my head routinely as a parent of adolescents, it’s technology. Digital devices, social media, constant connection—these realities present an endless barrage of decisions I’ve never had to make before as a parent. And they’re not just one-time decisions. They keep changing, cycling, and morphing at dizzying speed.

Like me, most parents of students in your ministry have wondered—and worried—about the relationship their kids have with digital technology.

And the relationships they have with each other as a result of emerging digital realities.

We worry about what they’re doing and saying and seeing online. Parents worry not only what they’re posting publicly, but also what they’re sharing privately. We’ve put these tremendously powerful technological tools in teenagers’ hands and we expect them to live up to incredibly high standards—higher standards than most adults—when it comes to how they use their devices.


The minimum age for becoming a device-carrying kid keeps dropping—now into the elementary years. It’s no longer uncommon for a fourth or fifth grader to show up in our churches with a smartphone connecting them endlessly to the world. Somewhere along the line, a parent bought that phone and agreed to pay for the data plan.

The age they gain access to social media platforms also continues to drop. Parents routinely cave and allow not just 12-year-olds, but also 9-year-olds to create accounts on Instagram and other social media that clearly hold the bar at age 13 (by law) for access.

What we may not see as leaders is that for many parents, it feels like a no-win situation. We shame parents for what they’ve given their kids, and for what they aren’t paying attention to or limiting when it comes to devices and social media.

They, in turn, shame their kids for what they’re doing—even when they don’t quite get it. Most often this turns into refrains of “Put that thing down!” and “Look up at me when I’m talking to you.”

Ultimately, parents shame themselves for not being better at all this.

It’s an ugly cycle.


Sometimes it seems as though all these devices and networks exist in between parents and their kids. And it feels out of control.

That’s what MEDIA means—“in the middle.” But media doesn’t have to be a divider in families. It has great potential to be a connector, a bridge, and a set of tools families can use to support their relationships. In other words, rather than putting media in the center, we can put relationships in the center. That’s good news parents need to hear.

In the midst of this conundrum, here’s our role as leaders: to encourage and equip parents. NOT to blame, shame, or add lots of “should” to their lists. Instead, this is one of the most incredible partnership opportunities we have as leaders.

They desperately need support and guidance. We typically know more than they do about what’s really going on in teenagers’ digital worlds.


Here’s one way we can help parents win when it comes to digital media in their families:


Like it or not, we can’t remove digital like a stain from young people and get them to think about media and use it like we do. That’s not the world they live in now, and it’s not the one they’re going to live in as adults. One of the biggest gifts parents can offer their kids is not to shame them for living in the only world they know.

It can be challenging growing up in a society where everything is changing at a breakneck pace, and where your parents, by default, often seem like immigrants. The last thing you need if you’re a teenager is more shame that your use of the technology available to you is repulsive.

The key shift for parents here is to help them focus not just on how they use media, but why they are so digitally connected. The how will change as fast as the next app release. The why goes much deeper.

We can help parents see that in reality, most teenagers are not addicted to MEDIA, they’re addicted to EACH OTHER. Like teenagers have always been.

Here’s one huge way that plays out on social media. Adolescents are constantly wondering, “Who am I?” They find answers in connection with others, especially peers. For a few generations now, school cafeterias have been a kind of petri dish within which young people experiment with this “work” of identity formation.

To parents and teachers, the noon break is about eating lunch. But for teens it can be the defining moment of the entire day. It’s where they can be themselves, but as people still learning who those selves are, it becomes a social laboratory. Every lunch is a kid’s opportunity to experiment, tweak the formula a bit, and get ready to test out the new version tomorrow.

The cafeteria experiment is filled not only with conversation, but also tons of non-verbal communication through students’ seating location, clothing style, what and how they eat, and how they respond to each other. Parents can appreciate this if they dig back to their own adolescent days. But some things have changed.

Parents often underappreciate how a quick scroll through social media for a teenager can be like looking around the lunchroom. Ironically, this often happens in the actual lunchroom and continues on throughout the day and late into the night.

We can help parents see that social media platforms are teenagers’ way of checking in, comparing, picking up and dropping social cues, and knowing whether they’re “okay” (at least for today). And just like the real lunchroom, sometimes they care too much.

What can we help parents do? First, help them empathize with this new reality. Social media, or for some teenagers social gaming, is one of the contexts in which their kids are working out some of the biggest questions of their lives. Once parents develop more understanding and empathy, they can take next steps like:

  • checking in about how social media is shaping friendships.
  • asking how their kids feel about the kinds of interactions they’re having online.
  • establishing mutual ground rules for how parents interact with their kids (or not) on various platforms.
  • finding and supporting offline, in-person ways for teenagers to connect with their friends in real time and space.

Ultimately, our support as ministry leaders can help families get beyond rules to relationships, walking the road of support that helps young people form healthy patterns they will ultimately carry with them into adulthood.

That’s a parenting win. That’s a ministry win.


What to Do When Teens say “I don’t believe in God” by Rob Petitfils


Too often when adults dialogue with resistant teens about matters of faith, they are guided by their need to be right, rather than to be effective. If you and the teen both need to be right, then you’ll have no influence on that teen other than to reinforce their mindset that Christian adults are egotistical, narrow minded, antiquated, control freaks who really don’t care about them. 

Here are 10 tips to guide you in talking with your teen about their views on God:

  1. Don’t panic and take your time. Influencing doubting, cynical, non-believing teens is a process not an event.
  2. Validate them. It may not be OK with you for them to “not believe in God” but it needs to be OK for them. Remember, God still believes in them and wants them to believe more than you.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions—teens are smart and they know when you’re trying to lead them or trap them and they’ll resent you for it. Then they’ll resist you and those who follow you.
  4. Come from a place of genuine curiosity. When you’re genuinely curious about how a teen has come to believe what he believes, thinks what he thinks they’ll respond favorably.
  5. Allow them to save face. This is critical. So often teens remain entrenched in temporary identities because they don’t want to hear “I told you so” or other more sophisticated adult versions of that, such as a parent saying to another adult “Well, he stopped believing in God but he’s now found his way.” While that sounds innocent, it sounds condescending and patronizing. What if doubting and not believing were his way?
  6. Give up being right. Here’s my gift to you: “You’re right.” Now that is settled. When we come from a place of “But I’m right!” we’ll try too hard convince teens that we are right about something like the existence of God, one of two things is going on: 1) We really don’t believe what we claim as strongly as we claim to believe it or 2) Our ego needs to be right, it needs to win.
  7. Don’t make it about you. Allow your teen to have his own journey with God, even though it may not look like yours and even if it looks so much like yours it scares the hell out of you!
  8. Make Church attendance a part of being in your family. Just because they don’t believe doesn’t mean they get a pass from Community Worship. But you can easily help lower their resistance by saying “I know you don’t believe in God, but this is a family practice. As long as you live in our house, you’ll be a part of family practices.”
  9. Don’t make them go “talk to the priest” unless its something they are really interested in doing or have a relationship with the priest. I’m all about getting teens and clergy together for meaningful dialogue, but too often when parents do this it comes across as “We’ll see about your atheism. Father’s gonna set you straight.” And instead of being set straight, you (and now with Father or the minister’s help) have further entrenched them in their unbelief. If you know the minister or other adult well enough to know they can utilize the approach I’m suggesting, then by all means go for it!
  10. Listen. Listen. When teens resist, its usually because we haven’t listened long and/or well enough. Teens will hear you when they feel heard by you.


What to Do When You Bombed Sunday’s Sermon by Brandon Cox


Preaching, as a pastor, is hard. It’s not hard to get up and say something inspirational. It is hard to get up and rightly divide God’s Word, build a bridge from an ancient culture to our own, and then to call people to an appropriate response to God’s revealed truth consistently week after week.

On a recent Sunday, I kind of bombed. Most of the congregation probably couldn’t tell; partly because they’re so stinkin’ nice, but I knew driving home I had missed the mark. For my own benefit, and for the benefit of pastors who may read this, I wanted to use a blog post to explore where I think I went wrong.

You must understand that every pastor prepares messages a little differently. I plan a year of preaching in advance using a spreadsheet, then write an overview of each series a couple of weeks before it begins. On Sunday night, I start reading and soaking in the primary passage and theme for the following Sunday. On Tuesdays, I study hard and usually by Wednesday, I have an outline. I purposely wait until Saturday to turn it into a publicly presentable outline and slideshow so that I can meditate through it as I get it ready for others to hear.

My message that Sunday was a tough one. My goal was to explain how Jesus perfectly fulfills the responsibilities of our high priest before God – how he grants us access to God’s presence, offers himself as a payment for our sin, and prays on our behalf before the Father.

I started by mentioning the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and then plunged into Jesus’ priestly prayer offered in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel of John. And that’s where I think I missed some marks. For example…

I failed to really explain the content of the passage well.

I was trying to cover too much ground – to preach a lengthy passage filled with details in a single sermon forced me to skip over a lot of content that was not only good, but which probably raised some good, powerful questions in the minds of my listeners.

John 17 can easily be broken into multiple parts. Jesus first prays for himself, then for his 11 remaining disciples, and then for all believers who will ever follow him in the future. The chapter should probably have been used as a three-part message series. Or, I should have used a different, shorter passage altogether for a single message, perhaps from Hebrews 7 where Jesus’ priesthood is explained a little more succinctly.

I think I probably left the congregation with a vague familiarity with Jesus’ prayer rather than an intimate awareness of its depth.

I failed to make relevant applications.

I brought out of the first portion of the passage that Jesus was asking God to use the “hour” in which he would be crucified and raised from the dead to bring glory to himself. I could have turned my attention, then, to your crucial hour of decision. But I failed to make that jump.

In the second part of the prayer, Jesus asks the Father to sanctify his disciples through his truth, his Word. He mentions “the world” 19 times in the chapter and asks God to protect us. I spent time in a bit of a rant about the problem with dividing sacred from secular and how we really ought to be sacred in the middle of the secular. It’s an okay point to make, but it’s not what my particular congregation really struggles with. I should have, instead, talked about the kinds of threats that come to our spiritual growth from the culture, and how we can root our lives in God’s Word as a primary defense.

And in the third part of the prayer, Jesus asks the Father to keep all future believers unified in love. Again, I ranted a little about how this isn’t really a call to non-denominationalism or to institutional unity, but rather to a spiritual kinship shared by all believers around the world. It would have been a great opportunity to explore the specific ways we can show love for one another within the Body of Christ. But again, I failed to make that jump.

I failed to drive home a single appeal, a single call to action.

I’m a firm believer that a simple presentation of the Gospel and an appeal to trust in Jesus ought to follow every message ever preached. But I also think every message demands its own specific call to action. I gave several on Sunday – pray for some lost people, trust that Jesus is praying for you while you hurt, and be accepting of people like a family taking in a newly adopted child.

All of those are good calls to action, but it’s always most powerful when we take the one big idea of the message and ask people to offer one response to God.

I’m not embarrassed, and I’m not beating myself up as I write this. My tendency is usually to start thinking about how I’m going to make course corrections next week, and that’s where my mind is today. This is partly because, as my wife reminded me on Sunday afternoon, nobody bats a thousand, we all experience failures and setbacks, and most importantly, God can use even the weakest of messages to work miraculous change in the hearts of people.

And that’s what happened Sunday. A man whom I deeply appreciate approached me quickly after the second service with a question. “You mean, Jesus prays for me? I’ve never heard that before…” and tears welled up in his eyes as though he’d never realized that Jesus is personally attentive to his deepest pain before. I affirmed his newly discovered understanding of Jesus’ personal compassion, then prayed with him.

It may have been a weak sermon, but it was a good day!

So what’s next? What do you do when you just didn’t preach your best message? Here’s what I like to do…

  1. Pray about it, thanking God that he is glorified in our weakness and trusting that he can still work miracles.
  2. Move on. Learn from it. Focus on next week. There are many more people to reach with God’s truth. Keep going!

This coming weekend, I can’t wait to see how God uses his Word!


Diagnosis: Entitlement Leads to Chronic Disappointment by Tim Elmore


Last month, I spent time with large groups of students and faculty. One of the hot topics of conversation was the “gigantic dose of entitlement” the students felt about their lives. The teachers said it was the number one problem in their classrooms and surprisingly, the students admitted to it. In short, they felt they “deserved more.”

Then, the subject shifted to the increased sadness and depression levels students were also experiencing. Both faculty and students had much to say about that as well. I began to wonder—while there are far deeper reasons for sadness, sometimes even chemical reasons—could there be a link between entitlement and sadness?

I began to dig. And found something interesting.

recent study on entitlement, a personality trait characterized by exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority, connects a sense of entitlement to all sorts of negative emotions. “Entitlement may lead to chronic disappointment,” say researchers from Case Western Reserve University, “and can throw people into a ‘perpetual loop of distress.’”

A Great Reason to Fight Entitlement

Time magazine summarized the data: “The authors reached these conclusions after analyzing more than 170 academic papers, and published their results in the journal Psychological Bulletin.They found that people who possess high levels of entitlement consistently fall victim to a three-part cycle:”

  • First, they don’t always get everything they think they deserve, leaving them constantly vulnerable to unmet expectations.
  • Those unmet expectations are then perceived as injustices, leading to volatile emotions like anger and sadness.
  • Finally, to justify those emotions, entitled people reassure themselves of their own specialness. This helps them feel better temporarily, but ultimately starts the process all over again.

It’s Getting Worse

Julie Exline, PhD, a professor at Case Western Reserve, says, “This research has become increasingly important, as rates of entitlement have risen sharply in the United States in the last 50 years. At the same time, anxiety and depression rates have gone up too. These attitudes are more pervasive in our society, but it’s not like they’re making us happier.”

“Along with perpetual disappointment, the consequences of entitled behavior can also include poor relationships, interpersonal conflicts, and depression,” Exline continues. “So much of entitlement is about competition—being better or more deserving than other people,” she reported to Health.com. “It really pits you against society, and it can be very isolating.”

What’s the Prescription?

There’s no easy answer to break free from the shackles of entitlement. It’s an attitude fostered by the very culture in which we live. Just watch a commercial on TV and you’ll hear that, whatever it is, “you deserve it.” We feel entitled to better services, superior products, caring friends, great vacations, and quick and easy solutions to our problems. Oh, and lots of TLC.

After reviewing the data, however, I found a few steps we (or our students) can take to get some level of control over our sense of entitlement:

  1. Since entitlement often involves comparison to others, consider how they are just as special as you are, and they also deserve some perks. Break free from the comparison trap.
  1. Stop and reflect on your own faults and shortcomings. This reminds us of our humanity and the fact that we likely deserve both sunshine and rain.
  1. When you feel “entitled” start reflecting on what you’re grateful for. In short, think of what you currently have, instead of what you don’t have.
  1. Jot down the areas in which you feel entitled. Usually it isn’t every area but certain ones. Then, ask yourself: Why do I feel deserving in this category more than others?
  1. Discuss this research with friends, inviting them to become your personal board of directors. Ask them to hold you accountable to trade entitlement for gratitude.
  1. Remember the adage: I cannot be disillusioned unless I am first “illusioned.” Fight off all unrealistic expectations you have of life being easy or comfortable.

Now, go focus on serving others and watch that disappointment evaporate.


7 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt


We don’t often stop to consider the magnitude of what the Bible represents. It is literally God revealing Himself and communicating Himself to mankind in written word.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible was inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. And many Christians believe that—in its original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic—it is without error and fault.

However, there are many things that Jesus-following, Church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical. How does this happen? Often, we’ll hear someone quote a statement that sounds nice to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in Scripture.

Several of these unbiblical statements have gained enough traction that many people believe they’re actually Bible verses. Not only are the statements unbiblical; some of them teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Here are some popular unbiblical statements that Bible-loving Christians tend to believe:

1. God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

God gave us gifts and talents that we’re supposed to use, but self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better actually gets in the way of the work of God.

This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Obviously God gave us gifts and talents that we’re supposed to use, but self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better actually gets in the way of the work of God.

In reality, Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).

2. God Wants Me to Be Happy

It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.”

Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make us feel “happy” in that moment.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

3. We’re All God’s Children

Although God has created everyone, not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father:

“But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ … If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29, emphasis mine in both verses).

4. Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

The people around you may appreciate you staying clean, but this is not Scripture. Parents may use this to motivate their kids to clean their rooms. However, I’d suggest using an actual biblical statement: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). (I can’t guarantee that will make your children want to clean up either, though).

5. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

The point of living in a fallen world is not for us to try really hard to carry our heavy burden, but rather realize we can’t do it alone and surrender to God instead.

Actually, all of life is more than we can handle. The point of living in a fallen world is not for us to try really hard to carry our heavy burden, but rather realize we can’t do it alone and surrender to God instead. That’s what faith is all about.

Everything is more than I can handle, but not more than Jesus can handle: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

6. Bad Things Happen to Good People

The sentiment of this makes sense, but if we follow it all the way through, the idea of a good person is very subjective. Often, we place ourselves in the judgment seat of what is good and bad, or who is good and bad.

The most popular way to make that judgment is by comparison. For example, Bob is a good guy, because he is not as bad as Sam. However, according to the Bible we’re all on equal ground because none of us is inherently good: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10).

7. When You Die, God Gains Another Angel

Plain and simple. Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).

The fact that many Christians believe these unbiblical statements shows our unfortunate overall biblical illiteracy. Instead of swallowing popular statements hook-line-and-sinker, may we be like the Bereans in the Book of Acts. When they heard Paul preach, they wanted to research the Scriptures themselves to authenticate what he was saying: “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).


Post-Truth by Jim Denison

“Denzel Washington Switches to Trump, Shocks Hollywood.” This headline announced the news that the famous actor was supporting Donald Trump for president, primarily because “he’s hired more employees, more people, than anyone I know in the world.” The story was fake. Not one word of it was true. But that didn’t keep it from going viral and trending on numerous news outlets.

Here are other examples of fake news in the news:

•    Donald Trump won the popular vote.
•    The Clinton Foundation bought $137 million worth of illegal arms and ammunition.
•    An FBI agent associated with Hillary Clinton’s email leaks was found dead in a murder-suicide.
•    The Pope endorsed Donald Trump.
•    The Pope endorsed Bernie Sanders.

None of these stories is true. But they were so popular that they were picked up by news feeds on Google and Facebook, giving them even more credibility.

Welcome to the era of “post-truth.” The Oxford Dictionaries just declared this term to be their “word of the year.” According to their definition, “post-truth” is an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Editors noted that use of the term increased by around 2,000 percent in 2016 compared to last year. They explained this spike “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.”

These are challenging days for truth.

For decades, we’ve been told that truth is personal and subjective. The argument runs thus: Our minds interpret our senses, resulting in knowledge. But no two people sense the world or interpret their senses in precisely the same way. As a result, there can be no such thing as absolute truth. There’s only your truth and my truth. If “appeals to emotion and personal belief” persuade you, that’s your truth. Such appeals may be “post-truth” with regard to objective truth claims, but who are we to judge?

Many in our culture are convinced of this “post-truth” approach to the world. The consequences cross the spectrum of moral issues, from abortion to same-sex marriage to euthanasia. “You have no right to judge me” is the mantra of our day.

Of course, to claim that there is no absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. Such subjectivism makes moral judgments impossible: if all truth is relative, the Holocaust could be Hitler’s “truth” and 9/11 could be al-Qaeda’s “truth.”

Don’t let the “post-truth” culture deceive you: all truth is still God’s truth. Neither human nor divine nature change, making the Bible as true and authoritative today as when the Spirit first inspired its words. Our “post-truth” society may decide that the Bible is wrong on moral issues, but it’s we who are wrong. God’s word is an anvil—we don’t break its commandments; we break ourselves on them.

Where are you tempted to affirm what the Bible forbids or refuse what the Bible requires? Jesus said to his Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Do you agree with Jesus?