Ranking Social Media Sites
Which Are Teens’ Favorites…and Why? by David R. Smith

Some teens like to keep up with their friends on Facebook. Some like to shoot short clips for Vine. Others keep it short and simple on Twitter. And many like the idea of the (supposedly) short life cycle offered by Snapchat. But which is the best?

It might depend on who you ask….

Who’s the Best?
Social media has a long history that many modern users are probably unaware of. MySpace wasn’t the first online place to connect with others…not by a long shot! However, when social media is discussed in headlines and classrooms today, most conjure up images of Facebook feeds and Twitter tweets. But there are many, many more social media sites than just those two, and lots of conversations revolve around which of them is the biggest, most popular, and most influential in the lives of teenagers. Fortunately, there’s some new data on the issue to help us better understand where kids are spending time online.

Interestingly, a year-long study commissioned by Piper Jaffray found that Instagram was “the most important social network” according to 32% of teenagers. The research was conducted from the spring of 2014 through the spring of 2015 and found that Instagram had improved its popularity by 2% during that year. Equally important, this research discovered how teens felt about other social media networks. For instance:

  • Those who felt Facebook was “most important” fell from 23% to 14%.
  • Those who believe Twitter was “most important” decreased from 27% down to 24%.
  • Tumblr also slipped a little bit in this poll, from 5% to 4%.
  • Snapchat boomed from “no data” to “top choice” for 13% of teens.

There are several reasons why Instagram is so popular among this younger generation – and they’re not afraid to say why – but before you’re tempted to say “Facebook is dead!” consider the findings of another study that was conducted during the exact same timeframe that came to different conclusions.

According to a Pew Research report, Facebook remains the favorite social network amongst teens in the US. Based on their research of 13- to 17-year-olds:

  • 71% of teens claim to still use Facebook.
  • Instagram is used by 52% of teens.
  • Snapchat is used by 41% of teens.
  • Twitter and Google+ are both used by 33% of teens.

So, which is it: Facebook or Instagram?

Technically, “both” since Facebook bought Instagram for a cool billion.

Besides interviewing different teen groups, and in different ways, the reports were actually asking two different questions. The Jaffray report revealed the “most important” social media site according to kids, while the Pew study focused on the social media site that was “most used” by kids. Are those just semantics…or do they hint at something more? Yes, Instagram is hot right now, but where better to post those awesome pics than on Facebook, the social media site that’s bigger than any nation of Earth? And everybody knows about tools like Hootesuit that allows users to link and manage multiple social media accounts…like Twitter and Facebook.

The bottom line is clear: even if other social media sites experience tremendous growth, Facebook will still be the biggest and most influential in kids’ lives for a long time to come.

The Most Important Ranking
As adults – parents, youth workers, etc. – the vastness of social media carries many implications in our lives. So much of what happens in the virtual world impacts what happens in the real world. Thus, the biggest question is not “Which social media site does your kid rank at the top?” but rather, “Where do you rank with your kid?” Here are just a couple of practical ideas to make sure you rank high in kids’ lives regardless of their social media preferences.

    1. Find out where your teens are…then go there. If you’re a parent and your teens really like Twitter, then simply “follow” them (at a respectable distance). If you’re a youth pastor and you have kids who use Instagram and Facebook, then establish a presence there. (In this instance, you may want to do so, both on a personal level and a ministry level.) No, none of this means you should stalk your kids online; just have real world conversations with them about your intentions to monitor their interactions in online environments. Maintaining a presence in your kids’ social media sphere is just as important as maintaining a presence at the dinner table or in the bleachers. Go with them wherever they go.
  1. Help your teens manage their social media…every aspect of it. There are many “bad guys” associated with social media: the potential to cross paths with a sexual predator, the prevalence of cyberbullying, the risk of isolation, the certainty of wasted time, and many more. In the face of failure, which is almost inevitable, the temptation will be to go all Dirty Harry on your kids’ laptop (or tablet/smartphone). But bear in mind, social media also offers teenagers several advantages, if managed correctly. Treat social media – whatever brand it takes – like cheesecake. A manageable amount adds flavor…but an unchecked consumption will invariably lead to unnecessary problems. So help your teenager set guidelines regarding all aspects of usage. It’s easier to manage social media than the problems it can cause when void of loving supervision.


Anxiety in the In-Between Stages of Our Lives

Healthy Strategies for Coping with Transitions

by Rhett Smith


In August of 2008 my wife and I found ourselves driving across the hot desert with our one-year old daughter as we made the 1,400-mile trek from Los Angeles to Dallas. The move was the culmination of a decision-making process that had begun in the fall of 2006, as we felt God encouraging us to make some changes in our lives. But here we are in the Spring of 2012 and all the hopes that we felt like that change would bring about in our lives feels so unsettled in many ways. Though we changed location, the transition didn’t lead to other changes we were hoping for in our lifestyle.

Why is that?

When I was doing research for my new book, The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good. 1  I came across a wonderful book by William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. 2  I soon discovered that my wife and I had prepared our lives for a change, but we failed to adequately take into account the transition itself. Bridges explains the difference between change and transition when he writes:

Our society confuses them constantly, leading us to imagine that transition is just another word for change. But it isn’t…Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner re-orientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, that change doesn’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take.’ Whatever word we use, our society talks a lot about change; but it seldom deals with transition.  3

I suspect that if you are like me, you prepare for lots of changes in your lives, the lives of your family members, and the lives of the kids you serve in ministry. But we may come up short in thinking best how to prepare for the transitions that those changes bring about. For example:

  • As parents and youth leaders we tend to talk to our kids a lot about the change of moving from high school into college, yet we don’t properly prepare them for the transition that awaits them. Change is going to college. But the transition involves tasks like learning to deal with peer pressure, self-managing projects at school, taking responsibility for one’s actions, dealing with confusion over majors and career choices, navigating sexuality on campus, or the constant wondering of where God fits into a college student’s life.
  • As youth leaders we talk to our kids about the change that divorce brings about in their lives, but we don’t adequately address the transition they encounter. Change is the divorce itself. But transition encapsulates the emotions that a kid might experience of feeling unloved, the disorientation of shuttling between two different homes, and the identity confusion of constantly questioning where they fit in and belong.
  • As parents and youth leaders we talk about the change of kids needing to “own” their faith as they become older, but we don’t talk about the transition that is involved. Change is making a decision about whether to go to church or not. Transition involves the struggle that many experience as they sort through what their essential theological beliefs are and how they are to be practiced; it involves the self-differentiation that it takes to stand up for what you believe when lots of your friends may be challenging those beliefs; it involves the restless wandering of trying to find a faith community where one can belong.

Transitional Anxiety

Why is having a proper understanding of change and transition so important?

Because it is in the transition, and in those in-between spaces, where so many kids experience anxiety. And when it is not faced, anxiety often leads to a lot of other issues in kids’ lives such as depression, anger, withdrawing, cutting, and even suicide.

The good news for us is that we are a transitional people, continually journeying through the wilderness as God draws us nearer and leads us to where he wants us to be. This journey through the wilderness is one filled with anxiety, but it has the power to lead us closer to God as we lean into our anxiety in hopes that God may transform it or rescue us from it.

A freshman college student may have recently made the change of leaving high school and entering college, but there is a world of transitions awaiting her. And it is on that journey through college that she will face many transitions that will create anxiety.

Another helpful way to frame idea of transitions and the anxiety that accompanies it is through the paradigm Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes about in The Message of the Psalms.  4  Brueggemann writes that our journey in the life of faith is embodied by a steady movement from orientation, to disorientation, to new orientation. If we look back at the college student for a moment we can see that she has moved from a place of orientation (high school: where she experienced security in knowing) to disorientation (entering college: insecurity in not knowing), and will hopefully find a new orientation (life meaning that is anchored to the person of Jesus Christ) as she faces her anxiety and navigates through this transition.

As a person of faith and a parent of two young children I am best helped by the imagery displayed in Exodus 17:1 where one translation reminds me that God led his people out of the wilderness as they “journeyed by stages” (NRSV). I like this idea of journeying by stages as God leads his people on a stage-by-stage journey. The change is the movement from one stage to the next, but the transition is all that accompanies that journey between two places…fear, insecurity, lack of trust, disconnection, etc. And when kids find themselves between two stages of their journey, there is a great sense of anxiety in their lives as they have to decide whether or not to deal with the disorientation the journey has thrust upon them.

Strategies for Journeying With Our Kids Through Anxiety

I am a big believer in systems theory so I find it highly unlikely that there are anxious kids without anxious parents.  5  As I think about strategies to help our kids navigate the anxiety of their transition, I have purposefully chosen some exercises that involve the participation of both parent and child. My belief is that when parents engage their kids in these practices it will have the effect of not only helping their kids cope with their anxiety, but also help the parents cope in the process. Youth leaders and other caring adults can utilize most of these exercises as well.

Strategy #1:Talk About It

You might be amazed to see how helpful it is for people to just talk about their anxiety. If I can generalize for a moment, I would suggest that many in the Christian community at some point or another have met resistance from well-intending Christians when they mentioned their anxiety. Pastoral care must go beyond just telling someone “not to be anxious” because the Bible says so. Help your kids talk about what they are feeling.

My own experience as a therapist has reminded me just how big of a deficit there is in our understanding and expression of our emotions, especially for boys. It’s fairly typical that when I ask a guy in therapy how he is feeling, I get a blank stare in return. Talking about our feelings, especially anxiety, helps us build a vocabulary that enables us to better understand how we feel, as well as connecting us with the listener. As we connect with the listener it has the power of helping us not feel so alone. Here are a couple of tips:

  • To help a kid better understand how they are feeling, put a list of words on a page and have them circle which words describe them.  6
  • Model with/to your kids an ability to express your own feelings and a willingness to talk about your own struggles, such as anxiety. Talk to them about what makes you feel anxious. Let them know it’s okay to be anxious about things.

Strategy #2: Ask Questions & Listen

Anxiety can be a catalyst for growth in our lives, and it is a tool that God uses to speak to us. But it’s hard to know what God is saying and what God wants us to do with our anxiety if we can’t listen. If a kid is dealing with anxiety, one of the strategies may require you helping them ask questions of their anxiety, and then slowing down enough to hear what God might be saying to them in the midst of it. Any time I have anxiety I find myself asking God, “What are you saying to me in my anxiety? What are you trying to teach me? How do you want me to respond to it?” Or, “Why am I anxious? Is there something in my life that needs changing?” Here are a couple of tips:

  • Help your kid develop a list of questions they can ask God when they are feeling anxious, or when they find themselves struggling with a transition.
  • As a parent, model practices such as Sabbath, silence, and being still as a means to create space to hear God speak.

Strategy #3: Co-Create Meaning

In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he tells a great story about a father who realized that he had not created a better story for his family to live for. The father laments the various issues in his family, but ultimately comes to the realization that as he created opportunities for his family (i.e. raising money and building a house for a less fortunate family), they became more engaged with one another, and began to see that their lives had a new meaning that seemed to be invisible before. As kids make changes, go through transitions, and experience anxiety, they are often wondering what it all means. They may not phrase it this way, but questions like, “Who am I? What am I to do? How am I to be loved?” and “How do I become all that God has created me to be?” are resounding in some form or another in their mind. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Model practices that point your kids towards a life that is anchored in Christ. For example, it might be redefining “success,” talking about how you spend money, or by not putting emphasis on looks, clothes and exterior items. Help your kids see that meaning derives from a life in Christ.
  • Co-create a family story with your spouse and kids. Talk about what kind of story you have all been living, and whether or not it carries the meaning you desire. Then write together a new family story that has its meaning centered in Christ.

Strategy #4: Practice Self-Care

Caring for ourselves is often one of the most difficult things we can learn. One of the verses that has captured my attention over the last year is found in Luke 10:27:

“He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I have been learning to use this verse as a model for self-care. One of the ways that I love myself is to take care of myself, specifically my heart, soul, strength and mind. If I don’t take care of myself, I wonder if I really love myself, and ultimately it leads me to a place of not being able to love my neighbor. Someone who doesn’t practice self-care has nothing to offer their neighbor. They become an empty well with no living water flowing out of it. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I can experiment with this month that is about my heart (heart=emotional/relational connection)? Maybe it’s a date night, or family game night, or coffee with a friend.
  • What is one thing I can experiment with this month that is about my soul (soul=spiritual connection)? Maybe it’s reading a devotional, time in prayer, or sitting in silence.
  • What is one thing I can experiment with this month that is about my strength (strength=physical/health)? Maybe it’s running, going for a walk, or eating healthy.
  • What is one thing I can experiment with this month that is about my mind (mind=intellect)? Maybe it’s a hobby, or reading a book, or a deep conversation with a friend.

As we journey through life, we are going to experience changes that thrust us into a myriad of expected and unexpected transitions. But in those transitions when anxiety is most acute, we can practice some healthy strategies that allow us to give God our anxiety so that it can be transformed for positive growth in our lives and the lives of our kids.

Action Points

  • Create some space on the calendar this month for the family to play together (e.g. going to the zoo, movies, a sporting event, or the park), and use some of that casual time to begin asking your kids about their dreams for the family. This is a good time to brainstorm ideas and dream out loud together about creating a new story and brining more meaning to your family.
  • As a parent, pay close attention this month to the emotions of your kids. Look for an opportunity to share with them your own struggles in life (age appropriately), by using feeling words that help explain your struggle. This is an opportunity to share, not preach or lecture.
  • Using the four-fold model presented above on self-care, sit down as a family and talk about the ways that you can all assist each other in caring for yourselves, and therefore the family and others. Again, this is a brainstorming exercise that can be used to empower your kids to have a voice. Don’t use it as a time to tell them what to do. Rather, use it as a time to explore ideas together.


Intentionally Connecting Into A Disconnected Culture by Mark Gregston


We live in a disconnected world. I realize that a statement like this may sound unbelievable in our era of technological know-how. After all, with Instagram, iPads, smart phones, texting, Twitter, e-mail, websites, blogs, and Skype, communication seems to have moved into a whole new realm of possibilities! Facebook users upload 250 million pictures each day. YouTube boasts more than 80 billion videos on their site. On average, over 6.1 trillion texts are sent each year. We have a myriad of ways to talk and share life with other people, and we can be in constant contact with anyone, anywhere, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! That’s a whole lot of connecting!

You would think that with all these avenues to talk and engage we’d have strong communication skills and the ability to develop deep, personal relationships.  But sadly, it’s the exact opposite.  In her latest book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair writes,

The tech effect has transformed every facet of our lives—from work to home to vacation time away—emerging, dot by dot, to reveal a new and unsettling family picture. While parents and children are enjoying swift and constant access to everything and everyone on the Internet, they are simultaneously struggling to maintain a meaningful personal connection with each other in their own homes.

To illustrate her point, Catherine interviews one stressed-out mom trying to manage in the new digital age.           Continue reading


6 Learnings on Being Present by Aaron Crumbey


Growing up I’ve had several people in my life that have made a lasting impact. I am totally the man I am today because of the people who took the time to invest in me.

I feel privileged to have been able to do the same in the lives of the students I get to invest in. And along the way, I’ve learned a ton about being present in the lives of students. I’ve also learned how serious God takes it. So i thought I’d share a few of my learnings with you:

  1. I’ve learned students are listening – They are listening to our every word. Even though they might not do what we say all the time they are still listening. I’ve had students remind me of things that I’ve said that has helped them that I don’t even remember saying. I’ve also had them call me out on things I’ve said that I didn’t think they were paying any attention to. THEY ARE LISTENING and you have the ability to speak words that will build them up in their faith. On the flip side, you also have the ability to speak words that will tear them down or lead them astray. You must know that they are listening and the things you say is affecting them for the better or worse.
  2. I’ve learned students are watching – I believe students watch us more than they listen to us. As a leader/mentor it is important we model what we preach. This is why relational ministry is so important. Because the principle behind relational ministry is that we model Christ and the biblical principles of His kingdom to students doing life together. So it’s great in the sense that they get to hopefully not just hear about a life surrendered to God, but also see one. So if you are living a life surrendered to God that’s what they will see. Likewise, if you are talking the talk, but not walking the walk they will also see that. Remember, they are watching.
  3. I’ve learned to be honest with students – Be honest about where you are in your walk with Christ. And don’t be afraid to get help with the things you don’t know. Also, be lovingly honest in your conversations where you have to speak some tough truth.
  4. I’ve learned to be their leader, not their friend – Be their leader, not their friend as if they are your age or in your stage of life. This gets people into a lot of trouble because there are no clear lines drawn. And you begin to treat them as someone you can dump all of your frustrations/worries/hangups/habits/issues on. I need to use discernment concerning sharing about my life with students; and I need friends outside of ministry that are my age (or older) and are in my stage of life or have been in my stage of life that I can personally relate to and walk my faith journey with.
  5. I’ve learned it’s important that I strive to be trustworthy and lead with integrity – Remember, having integrity is not about being right, it’s about doing what’s right. We need to point students in the right direction. We need to teach them the right direction even when you’re wrong.
  6. I’ve learned that students are vulnerable – My role in their life gives me influence. It’s important that I take it seriously and never take advantage of it. Matthew 18:6 – Sometimes we think this verse means if we cause them to start doing drugs or something terrible, but our hypocriticalness can totally cause a student to stumble, and walk away from their faith. God holds us accountable with the lives He has entrusted us with.

Your presence in the lives of students are needed. Know that it is a responsibility God takes seriously.


God Grows Us Through Practical Teaching by Brandon Cox


When it comes to personal growth, the world has plenty of solutions, and all of them are incomplete. I like inspirational quotes and pithy sayings, but I can also feel the difference between wishful thinking and truth backed by divine revelation. This is what makes the difference between fortune cookies and biblical proverbs. God has inspired His word in such a way that it shapes us, molds us, and forms us as we hear it taught and expounded.

Practical teaching is one of the five things God uses to shape and grow our faith. The others are providential relationships, private disciplines, personal ministry, and pivotal circumstances. (I didn’t come up with this list – Andy Stanley gets the credit, but I agree with him completely.) It is because practical teaching plays such a prominent role in the spiritual growth of people that I’m absolutely passionate about getting it right on Sundays when I preach. God even says of His Word,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

To quickly break that down, all of scripture (In the Greek, graphe, which refers to all of the Old Testament, but which the apostles used to refer to each other’s later-canonized writings too) is inspired (literally, God-breathed, straight from the mind and heart of God). And… and here’s the kicker… it’s useful. It’s practical. There is a movement today away from being practical in the name of being worshipful. The Scriptures should give us both spiritual life and a life that is spiritual. And Scripture always has a way of meeting us where we’re currently living with its eternal truth.

You and I need practical teaching in our lives on a regular basis. This is one of several reasons why church attendance matters. We don’t go on Sunday to check off an item on a list of obligations or to somehow please and earn the favor of God, which is un-earnable by its nature. We go because we need to hear from God through the personality of a teacher – a human representative who instructs us by expounding God’s Word and applying it to our lives so that we can be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22) Continue reading


Your Students’ View Of The Bible Starts With You by Andy Blanks


In the course of teaching or writing about discipleship, I’ll often find myself turning to a familiar passage to talk about the outcome or the goal of discipleship. Whenever this comes up, I almost always go to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1. I believe the ultimate goal of our lives is to be “imitators of God.” Plain and simple. If we see that as the goal we’re leading students to, it’s serves as a pretty good measuring stick for all our efforts.

So here’s an interesting question: If your teenagers were to imitate your attitude toward the Bible, what would happen? Would you be OK with the outcome?

Continue reading


I Can’t Fix Your Teen by Mark Gregston


Have you seen the marketing from publishers promising parents of troubled teens that they have something that will fix their kid?

You know – the commercials that say things can be miraculously transformed, or nearly perfect? A quick fix by the end of the week? Try mood therapy – it can fix it an angry teen. Try addiction therapy, because it can fix an addict. Buy nutrition therapy, it will fix a brain, and start playing Sudoku, because it will fix your memory, and then life will be perfect!

Expert as I might be in dealing with troubled teens, you will never, ever, hear me promise that I can fix your kid. You will never hear me promise that treatment of any kind is the way to fix another human being, or that life will ever be nearly perfect.   The truth is, I can’t fix your kid, and as a parent, neither can you. Living to fix a child will cause you to miss their heart with every time you try.

Just to be clear, I’m not knocking therapy, or therapists. I’m not dissing good nutrition, or taking medication if you need it, or playing Sudoku if it helps. These are effective ways to treat symptoms. That’s not the point I’m making. Instead I’m addressing the mindset that as sinful, messed up people, we can apply a simple fix-it mentality to human beings. Frankly, I think it’s stupid to even consider it. And, I just don’t see our attempts to fix a human being or live perfectly as a principle found in scripture either. Continue reading


The Case For Margins In A Student’s Life by Tim Elmore


I’ve noticed a subtle pattern in college and high school students. I wonder if you’ve seen it too. Over the past year, I’ve marveled at what kids find humorous. At times, I’m startled at the misfortunes — even “fails” — that kids watch on YouTube and find funny. Recently, I formed an informal focus group of twenty-year olds and asked about their sense of humor. (I will admit I have a bit of a warped sense of humor myself.) I inquired, however, if they have noticed what they laugh at most.

Now, please understand that I recognize the shock value of this content. It creates a buzz. It differentiates. I also realize adults started this, not our kids. Society seems to be wandering into new territory when it comes to racy remarks or capturing pitiful or shameful behavior on video. But for me, it gives whole new meaning to Socrates words: The unexamined life is not worth living. What’s happening to us?

Has Empathy Become a Lost Friend?

Over the past five years, I’ve noticed a drop in empathy among the students I teach. And I’m not alone. According to a University of Michigan study, today’s college students are not as empathetic as college students from the 1980s or ’90s. The study, presented to the Association for Psychological Science, analyzed data on empathy among almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years.

“We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000,’ said Sara Konrath, a researcher at the UM Institute for Social Research. ‘College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.” Continue reading


The App Addicted Teen with Infographic by Youth Specialties


Teenagers are more connected today than at any point in human history. We find ourselves in an interesting spot. How can we lead students to spiritually grow in a world where their digital devices are becoming the idols that they need to survive?

A student a few months ago attended an event I was running. He lost his phone and swore that someone stole it. He was insistent that the phone was stolen. So we pulled all the bags off the bus and searched each one. We never found the phone in the bags or on any student.

On the bus ride home, he kept yelling out things like, “I will kill the person who has my phone”, or “if anyone returns my phone I will give them $150.” He later found his phone in the exact place where he left it.

TIM KELLER tweeted:

“The most painful times in our lives are times in which our idols are being threatened or removed.”

This statement is true for students who live in a digital world. If their idols are being threatened or removed, they will freak out.

With that said, 90% of students are on social networks. 78% have a smart phone.  How are we going to help students disconnect? We will have to find a way.



3 Questions All Parents With Young Children Must Ask by Beau Coffin


Sometimes it’s easy to observe other families at your local coffee shop and think, “I will never parent like that,” or “at least my kids don’t act like those,” or even, “I’m pregnant, what was I thinking?”

Moments like these are the reason parenting books, websites, seminars and support groups are so popular. And while there’s nothing wrong with looking for answers from the professionals, we should first be able to ask ourselves the right questions.

Maybe you don’t have kids yet, but you plan to in the near future. You should still be pondering questions like these before you become a parent. This isn’t about giving you the correct answers, but about helping you ask the best questions that will lead you to the best answers for your family.

Here are three questions that parents (or future parents) of young children must ask:

What kind of person are you raising your child to become?

Sometimes it’s easy for parents of little kids to get stuck in a rut. It’s not because you don’t want to show your kids what it means to be a Christian, it’s because you are just so dang tired.

The youth leaders at your church are there to help, but make no mistake; you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.

Even without realizing it, we are daily putting our small children on a path to becoming the adult they will eventually be. Yes, they will make their own choices, and yes, it’s scary to think about the enormity of this responsibility. However, if you are a parent, or will be soon, you don’t have the luxury of passing this off to someone else. The youth leaders at your church are there to help, but make no mistake; you are the greatest influence in your child’s life.

The good news is that God is there to guide you, even when you haven’t slept for two days and your kid just somehow singlehandedly destroyed the living room using only a blueberry muffin. So, are your actions, attitudes and words helping your child in the journey to becoming the person God has created them to be?

Where will your children find their identity?

Most parents want what is best for their kids. This is something that unites parents of any faith or non-faith background. However, in our push to help our children succeed, we sometimes hinder rather than help them. We inadvertently encourage them to seek their identity in sports, drama, colleges, relationships and future careers.

These things shouldn’t define who your child is. The Bible makes it clear that we are adopted children into God’s family. When I promote placing my child’s athletic gifts over their relationship with God, I am telling them their identity is in sports first and God second. Their identity is not in being a future professional athlete, but it is in who they already are: A child of the living God.

As a youth pastor, I meet too many parents who say they want God to be priority No. 1, but the direction they push their kids communicates something entirely different.

When I promote placing my child’s athletic gifts over their relationship with God, I am telling them their identity is in sports first, and God second.

The problem is that when our kids fail, or things don’t work out as planned, their world can be turned upside-down. As parents, we need to let our kids know that it will be OK, because even though the temporary situation changed, they are a child of God— and that never changes.

What other parents are you surrounding yourself with?

I might be biased because I work with families and I also help run a dad’s group, but parents need other parents who are in the same life stage as them.

I am not just talking about for advice on removing nail polish from carpet or how to make the strongest caffeinated drink known to humankind. The Bible talks time and again about how we were created to be in community with God and others.

Parents need this community because it is important to hang out with people who get you. You need to know that you are having a conversation with someone that understands what it’s like when your kid changes your iPhone to Swahili and hides the keys in the toilet.

Friends in other life stages are important as well, but you must make relationships with parents who can empathize with you a priority. Who are two parents in the same life stage as you that you can build a relationship with?

There are plenty more questions you can ask, but start with these three and come up with a plan to implement your answers. Remember that whether you have five kids, or are not yet even pregnant with your first, you will make mistakes. The good news is that God has plenty of grace for all of us parents, and sometimes our kids even have grace for us as well.