08.31.15

Re-Thinking How You Invest In Your Students’ Spiritual Growth by Andy Blanks

http://youthministry360.com/blog/are-you-engaged-teenagers-where-theyre-growing-spiritually/

There’s an important truth about spiritual growth in the lives of our teenagers: it happens outside of your meeting time. You need a strategy and a plan for how we use the time you meet together to lead students to grow in their knowledge of God (whether this is small group or large group). But if we’re not accounting for how we continue to lead their spiritual growth outside of our group time, we’re blowing it.

Most of us use our small group times to both invest relationally, and to help students know God more through teaching the Bible. This is a good thing. But many of us inadvertently behave as if our gathering time is where spiritual growth and change occur.

In reality, spiritual growth happens when teenagers apply what they learn outside of our gatherings. Real change happens in the day-to-day lives of our teenagers, not in the 45 minutes we spend in small group.

I like to think of our meeting time as the place where the seed gets planted and real life the field in which it grows. I don’t know about you, but I want to be involved in the “growing” aspect of their lives just as much as I do in the “planting.”

How can we begin to think about making this happen? Here’s some guidance on how I think about how we can engage in life outside our meeting time in a way that supports the learning that takes place.

LAY GOOD GROUNDWORK IN YOUR MEETING

When we teach, it’s helpful to drill down on one specific biblical truth (I call this The Main Thing), and one targeted application of this truth (I call this The Main Takeaway). I try and challenge students to come up with their own takeaway, ones that are practical and relevant to real life. If you do this, you give yourself a really focused way to follow up with students and be a part of the growth that happens outside of your meeting time.

FOCUS YOUR FOLLOW-UP OUTSIDE OF YOUR MEETING TIME ON THE MAIN TAKEAWAY

Spend your week challenging and reinforcing the specific application point you discussed in your meeting time. Here are some thoughts on what this looks like:

  • As you text students during the week, make sure a few of them are targeted with reinforcing the Main Takeaway from your lesson. Track with how they’re doing implementing it in their lives.
  • When you’re meeting, give them something to anchor your Main Takeaway, like a rubber band to wear, a trinket to carry in their pocket, or something printed on cardstock they can take with them . . . anything that helps remind them during the week to apply the truth you covered in their lives. When you call or text them, you can reference it and ask how things are going.
  • Have some of your Instagram or Facebook posts address the application. Get creative. Use WordSwag or another text/photo editing software to create a visual that reinforces your takeaway.
  • Call and ask how it’s going. Novel idea, I know. ☺

Interacting with students outside of our meeting times is the heart of what it means to be a youth worker. But sometimes we act as if our job ends when our scheduled meeting time is over. We need to make sure we’re engaging outside of our meeting time with transformation in mind.

08.31.15

3 Ways to Give Students a Spiritual Boost by Leneita Fix

http://youthministry.com/getting-students-focused-fall/

We may have already put all of our Fall planning down on the calendar, but don’t underestimate the value of encouraging our students to take ownership of their faith this school year.

What are some ways we can give them a spiritual boost?

Help With Daily Habits To Take It Up

The number one excuse for not having daily time with the Lord I hear from the three teens I live with and others in my group is, “I don’t really have time.” or another variation is, “The Bible is just hard to read.” The question really should be, “Are you wanting to get closer to Jesus this year?” They think studying the Bible has to be hours long, and they don’t think they know how to pray. Help them with some tiny applicable practices to include their relationship with Christ in their day. Show them there are Bible Apps with simple daily devotions or buy them a paper devotional of some kind, teach them how to talk to God and listen for his voice. Don’t underestimate the value of checking in on them and holding them accountable to spending time with God. Find out what they are learning everyday from the Lord, moving their faith from one more program and deeper into a relationship. I often say we can’t trust someone we don’t know. How are they looking up to the Lord and growing closer to Him above everything else?

Help Them Figure Out How To Live It Inward

Not only are they spending time one on one with the Lord, students need help learning how to stop sabotaging their relationship with him. The people we hang out with, what we watch and listen to, and where we spend most of our time can all lend itself to drawing us toward or away from the Lord. The world is bombarding students telling them who and what they are not. They will walk the halls of school and someone will tell them what is wrong with them. Students need to understand they can take a hold of an offense that will prepare them for these moments. It isn’t just fitting in some Jesus time that will help them counteract these constant feelings of inadequacy. That is ONE piece of the puzzle. Teach them how to navigate who and what to speak into their lives.

Turn Lessons Into Action, So They Can Take It Outward

For those students who attended camp, mission trips and conferences this summer, they most likely had a moment that inspired their walk with the Lord. We go away spend focused time with Jesus and then come home. Since we don’t always know what to do with what we have learned, we chalk it up to a feel good moment and move on. Have conversations with your students on ways they can take their lessons of the summer and put them into the action during the school year. Inspire students to know what it means to love their neighbor as themselves making service a lifestyle and not an activity. This means stopping and helping others in need whether at home, school, friends or other students. Compassion should move us to action. Help students to know what this looks like in their everyday lives.

The bottom line is we need to help our students know their faith shouldn’t be compartmentalized. It’s always easy to look towards the next meeting, retreat or conference to help them know Jesus better. Remind them that if they keep seeking Him with their whole heart, they will find him, but they have to actually seek him. A friend of mine always says our relationships with Christ pushes us to look up (in a back and forth relationship with the Lord), in (learning to go deeper with him), and out (bringing him to the world). If they can grab hold of the reality that Jesus isn’t just in youth group, then they will take that bigger step grabbing ahold of his love and then the desire will grow to share him with all they meet.

08.31.15

Addressing the Issue of Homosexuality by Mark Gregston

http://www.heartlightministries.org/category/blog/

One of my goals at Parenting Today’s Teens is to provide parents with all the tools I can offer to help them connect with kids in deeper, more meaningful ways.  This is a privilege I do not take lightly.  Because I want to help moms and dads as much as I can, I often have to broach sensitive issues.  If I were to shy away from these tough conversations, it would mean that I’m not doing my job.  And perhaps there is no subject today that is more sensitive than same-sex relationships.

Recent polls report that only 2 to 3 percent of the nation experiences same-sex attraction.  But homosexuality affects 100 percent of the population.  It’s an issue that is increasingly in the social spotlight, and it will not be leaving for some time.  While I have firm beliefs on the subject, my goal is not to enter into a debate or defend one viewpoint or the other.  My focus in this letter is to help you engage with your child on this topic in a loving, thoughtful and well-founded manner.  The cultural winds that blow through your teenagers’ lives are different than they were when you were a teen.  Your teen has friends who identify as gay or lesbian, or knows someone who is homosexual. And they see same-sex relationships portrayed as normal behavior on television, in interviews, and in public.  Even if you aren’t engaged in the conversation about sex and sexual orientation, your teens are.  So how can you ensure that your teen hears your voice on this subject in a loving manner? Continue reading

08.31.15

Are Your Students Prepared for School? by Chris Maxwell

https://www.leadertreks.org/are-your-students-prepared-for-school/

Do you hear the noise? Buses and bells. Feet walking and voices talking. Laughter and instructions and assignments and lunch. The sounds of another school year are growing louder and louder. Are your students ready—not just to attend classes, but to be fully present in the classroom, to listen carefully, to learn deeply? Here are a few things to focus on as you help prepare your students for the coming school year.

Desire to Learn

Some things we enjoy and find easy to do. We don’t have to be told to finish a plate of our favorite food or to stick it out to the end of our favorite movie. Other duties aren’t instinctually fun. But over time, we train ourselves to take that extra jog, to complete that additional assignment, to perform well when no one is watching. We intentionally change diets to improve nutrition. Help your students do the same academically. God crafted creative minds, and he wants them to develop.

Time management

We can’t control the movement of time. Days come and go, and once the time is gone, we can’t get it back. We can, however, budget our time wisely. What we do today crafts the people we become tomorrow. Walk with your students through their schedules. Show them how to manage it better. Guide students away from legalism or inflexibility, and toward wisdom. This is something to do now, before students get busy with school activities.

Laziness

Rest is good. Sleep is necessary. Naps are too often ignored in our culture. But laziness destroys potential. Wasting time is wasting our lives away. Encourage students to avoid laziness. Push them to give their best.

Relationships

Encourage students to spend time with the right people doing the right things the right way. Unhealthy relationships destroy many people at a young age. Teach them to love everyone, to be kind to each person. But they should be spending the most time with those who have a Christ-like influence in their lives.

Temptations

We are all tempted at some point. We all feel desires to do things we should not do. What are the struggles your students are most likely to face? What battles do they tend to lose? Who is available to help them find victory over those temptations? Are you willing to offer them help, accountability, advice, prayer, and encouragement instead of leaving them to fight the battles alone?

James 1:13–15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Tendencies

Help your students identify their positive and negative tendencies. They should think of the normal ways they respond to particular situations and determine the dangers or benefits in their tendencies. Then, encourage them to keep the healthy and delete the unhealthy.

Voices

The voices we hear influence the choices we make. What do I mean by voices? Thoughts, feelings, memories, wounds, fears, rituals, tendencies, behavior of friends and family, behavior of enemies, cultural influence, books, social media. What voices are your students hearing? Are they surrounded by negative or positive messages? Do they live in echo chambers, or are they open to voices that will help them learn and grow? Help students identify what voices most influence them, and what that means.

Traditions

Give students opportunities to continue developing healthy traditions, like spiritual disciplines, resistance to temptation, accountability, safe boundaries, and deep relationships. Study can become a tradition. So can prayer. Repetition can embed these positive habits into your students’ lives forever.

Talk to your youth about these deeper, practical issues as they jump into another school year. Do more than play games and eat junk food. Help students face the realities of life. Guide them to make healthy decisions now so their lives will be better in the future.

And talk to yourself about these issues. As you help your students get ready for a new school year, you can be motivated to change and grow and learn, as well. Prepare yourself as you help them prepare.

08.24.15

Here Come the Teens – a Bit More Jaded and Cynical by Tim Elmore

http://growingleaders.com/blog/here-come-the-teens-a-bit-more-jaded-and-cynical/

I’ve been writing about Generation Z for some time now. They are the newest population of students measured today. And they are a different breed.

Fifteen years ago, we began to hear about the Millennials. They were graduating high school and showing passion to change the world. They were engaging with civil responsibility, joining non-profits, and signing up for the Peace Corps and the military. These kids were determined to “make a difference.” Generation Y was certainly looking different than Generation X before them. The Xers were grumbling about how the world was broken; Gen Y was acknowledging a broken world but were optimistic about fixing it.

A Shift in Teens

Today, Generation Z is showing signs of a return to the cynicism. By most benchmarks, teens today reveal they have lost faith in the American “system.” The times are different and darker and more distant. Consider the world they’ve grown up in since the turn of the 21st century:

  • Their lives began at about the same time as the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
  • The Dot.com era was over and many families faced a difficult aftermath.
  • Most of their memory has been the economic recession.
  • The conflict in the Middle East continues as the longest war in memory.
  • Racial unrest erupted in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Chattanooga, etc.
  • Our leaders in Washington can’t seem to collaborate or make progress.
  • The world is full of complex and complicated problems.

Ten Observations About Teens Today

From my research, here are the new realities I see among the smaller and more cynical population of adolescents today:

  1. They have become more cautious and a bit more anxious about the state of the U.S.
  2. They want to be change agents, but realize the pace of change will be slower than desired.
  3. They are unhappy, even pessimistic, about the present direction of politics and the economy.
  4. They question their former obsession with good grades and college acceptance.
  5. They have begun to see they have little understanding of stewardship of time or money.
  6. They want to explore the future, but many are paralyzed when faced with so many options.
  7. They despise society’s moral decay, but most admit to cheating at school and on resumes.
  8. They are often at odds with their own beliefs and values, and feel they must grow up too fast.
  9. They’re dissatisfied with corporate American leadership, unlike 10-15 years ago.
  10. They feel less prepared for life after school and often return home after college graduation.

I share these observations, simply because we must prepare to lead a different population of teens (who may carry a more deviant worldview than those you’ve lead over the last fifteen years). Their greatest needs may just be:

  • Hope for the future
  • Innocence and wonder
  • Purpose for their career
  • A moral compass

May we rise to the occasion and lead them well.

08.24.15

Millennials’ And Teens’ Top 10 Favorite Apps by MaryLeigh Bliss

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/256217/millennials-and-teens-top-10-favorite-apps.html

According to our most recent monthly survey, 89% of 13-33 year olds own a smartphone. When we ask them to tell us which device they own is the one they can’t live without, 55% say smartphone, a number that is even higher for 21-29 year olds. It is well known that young consumers are hooked on their devices. They told us they look at their phones an average 13 times per hour, and 65% consider their phone their lifeline to the world.

So now we’ve established the majority are spending a lot of time on their smartphones, and will continue to do so, what are they spending that time looking at? We asked 13-33 year olds to tell us what their favorite app is, and why, and we’ve narrowed their responses down to a top 10 list. Here are the ones they love the most:

1. Instagram

2. Facebook

3. Snapchat

4. Twitter

5. Google app

6. Tumblr

7. Spotify

8. Weather app

9. Whatsapp

10. YouTube

Facebook can pat itself on the back, because their purchase of Instagram has earned them a lot of young consumer’s eyes. Instagram was at the top of their top 10 list, and according to our respondents, they love the app most for its ability to connect them with others, and give them a window into others’ lives. One 28-year-old female said, “I’m obsessed. I love seeing other people’s lives,” while a 21-year-old female told us, “I’m able to connect with so many different people with common interests. I can get recipes, look at animal pictures, see what other vegans do with their time, etc.” They, of course, also love that the app is photo-based (they are an visual communication generation after all). A 26-year-old male said, “I like taking pictures and this app has gotten me into the habit of taking pictures more often.”

Despite hand-wringing about young consumers leaving the platform, Facebook is their second favorite. Not surprisingly, connecting with friends and family was the most-mentioned reason they like the app. We should note that some did compare the two platforms when telling us why they love Instagram, often saying the streamlined content was a big draw. The theme of connection, community, and access runs throughout their top 10, which is filled with social and chat platforms. Their group mentality and desire to stay digitally close to their loved ones is clear here, and the list sheds some light on why 43% say that their social life depends on their phone.

Google apps were the only non-social media apps in their top five. Respondents mentioned everything from Gmail to Google Maps to Google Drive as favorites, and their love for Google apps is a likely reason the tech giant also made their list of favorite brands.

08.24.15

Teen stress: What’s normal and when to get help by Elizabeth Renter

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/08/13/teen-stress-whats-normal-and-when-to-get-help-552264339/

If you have a teenager in your house, you likely know that youth isn’t always carefree and positive. Learning to recognize when your child is under too much stress and knowing what to do about it can help maintain peace in your home and ensure she grows into a healthy adult who looks back on her youth with fondness.

Teenagers experience pressure from many external sources, but experts say the adolescent brain also undergoes a sort of hormonal upheaval that can make handling everyday stress more challenging. A 2013 survey from the American Psychological Association found that teens report unhealthy stress levels that exceed those of adults. Thirty-one percent of teenagers reported feeling overwhelmed by stress, and 30 percent said they were depressed or sad as a result of stressors.

Headaches, the inability to eat, withdrawing socially and frequent illnesses: Too much stress can have lasting and damaging effects.

Dr. Jamie Howard, clinical psychologist and director of the Stress and Resilience Program at the Child Mind Institute in New York, says some stress is healthy for adolescent children. The stressors may come from school, sports, their parents or self-imposed expectations. These normal worries are temporary, not too intense and don’t disrupt daily life. But these same stressors can become unhealthy.

“Worries become a cause for concern when they become so persistent and intense that they interfere with what we call the job of being a kid,” Howard says. That job includes applying themselves in school, maintaining friendships, loving their families and engaging in activities they enjoy. “When kids feel anxious about doing these things, they might experience the urge to avoid them,” which is a clear sign it’s time to intervene.

Howard says to watch out for:

● Dramatic changes in eating and sleeping habits
● Overwhelming worries about things beyond their control such as global events, parental health and being “perfect”
● Fear of humiliating themselves doing everyday tasks such as eating in front of other people or saying the wrong things
● Recurring and intrusive thoughts they can’t seem to control, such as a fear of germs or the idea that someone is out to get them
● Refusal to be away from parents or refusing to go to school

Also, disagreements and occasional outbursts are par for the course when parenting a teenager, but unrelenting anger, incessant arguments or physical confrontations are clear signs that your child is having trouble.

What parents can do

Stressed-out children need their parents’ support. This could be as simple as asking what the trouble is and giving them a safe place to open up without fear of judgment.

“Most children want to talk to their parents about stress, but their parents are unlikely to ask,” says Dr. Jocelyn Carter, associate professor of clinical psychology at DePaul University in Chicago.

The American Psychological Association says you can help teens open up by:

● Listening without interrupting
● Providing thoughtful responses
● Tempering your own emotions

Remember, regardless of how serious or trivial the concerns may seem to you, they are causing your child difficulty, so be kind.

Also, set a good example. Parents who are unable to manage stress aren’t modeling healthy behaviors, so make an effort to practice what you preach. Combat your own stress by getting regular sleep, enjoying social and recreational activities, and exercising regularly.

Where to go for help

When you’ve tried talking things out, but your child’s stress continues to affect his physical health, relationships or the sanctity of your home, it may be time to talk with a professional. Likewise, if you or your child recognizes that your relationship is a big part of the unmanageable stress, a third party can be helpful.

Your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start for several reasons:

● Teenagers may already have a level of trust built up with their pediatrician, making them a good outside source for talks or stress management advice. Also, teens may resist seeing a psychologist because of a perceived social stigma, which is absent from a visit to the regular doctor.
● The doctor can refer you to a reputable mental health professional, and that referral may be required by your health insurance.
● The Affordable Care Act mandates that adolescents be provided depression and behavioral health screenings free of charge when they visit their in-network, primary-care doctor. So, depending on the content of your child’s appointment, the pediatrician’s visit could be free.

Howard says children today are being taught more about stress management in school, often in conjunction with social skills and assertiveness training that accompanies bullying prevention programs. But a psychologist or therapist can further help your teen identify thought processes that could be trapping them in a cycle of worry and anxiety.

By talking to your child, keeping a close eye on her behaviors, modeling positive stress management techniques and not being afraid to reach out for help, you’re most likely to set your teen up for success.

08.24.15

Slay the giant of worrying how your kid will measure up by Brad M. Griffin

https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/slay-the-giant-of-worrying?utm_source=E-Journal+%2F+Parent+Update&utm_campaign=cb61619176-Family_Update_Aug_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-cb61619176-312895925#sthash.Ne0tDXrH.dpuf

This back-to-school season you might be like me. Wondering what kinds of challenges and discoveries await my kids this year.

Wondering what will happen in their friendships.

Wondering how they will grow—physically, spiritually, and a host of other ways—over the next ten months.

But underneath these questions lies another question we wonder about. We wonder how our kids will perform. How they’ll measure up against their peers in class and in sports or other pursuits. How they’ll take more steps toward the successful adulthood we dream about for them.

These underlying questions loom beneath the surface like a sleeping giant. A giant of fear and anxiety. This giant occasionally bothers some parents, and continuously torments others. It’s the reason we push our kids to add that extracurricular activity, volunteer a few more hours to boost their resume, and take the “zero period” class at 7am each weekday to get a little bit ahead of the curve.

As we head back to school this year, it’s time to wake that giant and slay him.

Here are three strategies to help you win that battle:

1. Challenge “success” as the ultimate goal.

Is “success” really the goal for our kids, or is it something bigger? Societal definitions of success have driven us to push our kids to exhaustion. This “race to nowhere” has been well documented, but the system that drives teenagers to burnout and busyness still pervades most communities. And most of us parents are complicit.

The folks at Challenge Success, a Stanford-based group taking aim at the performance-driven culture that leaves high school students “overloaded and underprepared,” offers some helpful tools for parents you can review right now. Especially check out the page of brief free videos for parents on questions that might be bugging you about achievement, homework, scheduling, and play.

2. Help them find their own sparks (not yours). 

While you might have a plan for “elite” sports, cello lessons, and chess club, your son or daughter may secretly wish they had more time to pursue what they really care about. Gather your courage and ask whether they really want to do all the things you’re signing them up for, or if other interests sound more life-giving.

Explore together what the Search Institute calls “Sparks”—interests that spur engagement and passion in kids. When young people discover and develop sparks, and have adults in their lives who support these sparks, the research shows that they tend to thrive in a lot of other areas—yes, including grades. The Thrive Foundation for Youth has a whole set of free parent resources on sparks.

If you’re getting anxious about questions of vocation for your older teenager, here’s a two-part series from our archive about helping your kids find their calling.

3. Ask different questions. 

I don’t know about you, but my questions before the start of school often center around logistics—supplies, schedule, clothing, and carpool. As our kids get older, they need us to help them reach a more reflective space as they head back to the classrooms and hallways of their new daily routines. Take each of your kids for a one-on-one conversation over milkshakes (or whatever you like to do together) and ask a few questions like this:

  • How do you want to spend your time outside of school this year? How can we make sure to include some down time and some family time in your schedule?
  • What do you hope for this school year? What are a couple of things you’re excited about?
  • What is one fear you have as you head back to school?
  • How can I help? Is there any way I’m trying to help that just makes things worse?
  • How can I pray for you?

08.17.15

Developing Friendships That Last by Sheryl DeWitt

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/developing-friendships-that-last

What is a friend?

“I feel plain, unlikable and lonely,” despairs Lisa, a bright teenager from a loving home. “It seems nobody wants to be my friend — or at least my really good friend. What’s wrong with me?”

Like Lisa, many of us experience loneliness, some more than others. The truth is that all people, no matter what their age — even the most outgoing, wealthy and popular — experience loneliness at least occasionally. But sporadic feelings along this line are light years away from facing the rejection of peers on a day in, day out basis. That’s how Lisa feels. Nearly every day she wakes up to a world where it seems no one her age cares.

Perhaps you can relate to Lisa. You’ve been there. Or you are there. Or maybe it’s just that you’re lonely more often than you’d like to be. You’d like to have more friends. Or at least one or two very special friends you can count on.

Let me begin by saying it’s healthy and natural to want to be around people who care. After all, from the very beginning of time, God has said that it is not good for man to be alone (see Genesis 2:18). We’ve all heard the phrase “No man is an island.” It’s true. We all need others in our lives.

How do I make friends?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, offers counsel in Proverbs 18:24 on the subject of friendship. He explains that if we want friends, we must be friendly and reach out to others. But reaching out involves risk. Perhaps you think, What if they don’t like me? What if they embarrass me in some way? Because we are often afraid of rejection, many of us are unwilling to reach out to others. We take a safer approach and wait for others to befriend us. But if we want friends, we’ve got to get beyond this. We must realize it is our responsibility to make friends. So just how do we go about it?

The Bible Says …

Continue reading

08.17.15

7 Easy Ways to Become a Better Listener by Bill Patterson

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/easy-ways-to-become-a-better-listener

Truly listening to others may be a lost art. Yet, listening is a key to learning and also a key to showing others they are valuable.

When we listen to someone, we are saying (without words) to that person that he is of value to God and also of worth to us. We know how we’d like others to listen to us, so we can use the Golden Rule approach to improve our listening skills.

1. Desire to understand others.

The simple truth is that if you want to listen to others, you can. Just make an effort.

2. Ask open-ended questions.

Words like “what,” “why,” and “how” form questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Ask for more information or for clarification. Don’t cut off communication by offering advice too quickly.

For instance, an associate says, “I’ve got a terrible headache.” Her coworker replies, “I don’t want to hear it unless you’ve taken an aspirin.” The reply cut off communication and probably worsened the headache!

What if the coworker had said something like this: “Yeah, I can see how you are holding your head in your hands. I’m sorry your head hurts. What do you think you should do?” That reply opens communication and shows you care. And rather than dictating a quick fix of medical advice, it leaves the next step to the person whose head hurts.

3. Concentrate on the speaker.

Put down your smartphone when someone speaks to you. Don’t answer your cell phone when talking face to face with others.

I have poor hearing in my left ear. Because of that, I cannot hear my wife when the TV is on. When she is talking, I mute the TV so I can concentrate on what she is saying. After all, my wife is more important than the TV.

4. Use reflective responses.

Try using phrases like “Tell me more,” or reflect back part of what was said. Rather than thinking about what you will say next, pause to hear fully what the other person says.

For instance, a wife says to her husband: “I think I’ll visit my sister for a couple of hours.”

Husband: “Your sister?”

Wife: “Yeah, she’s feeling kind of lonely, and I believe I can cheer her up.”

Husband: “You’re good at lifting people’s spirits. It’s one of your best attributes.”

The husband used the reflective approach when he asked, “Your sister?” It may have sounded repetitive, but that let his wife know he heard her. It also gave her the opportunity to say why she needed to go, which then led him to affirm and encourage her. The result? Communication improved. The relationship strengthened.

5. Observe nonverbal messages.

We communicate more nonverbally than we do with words. If you want to explore this, try writing a verbatim report of a recent conversation.

Also, note any nonverbal responses like He turned away from me and stared into his empty coffee cup. Writing verbatim will help you concentrate on both verbal and nonverbal responses.

Ask God for insight to improve your understanding of others.

6. Pay attention to your tone.

Some tones invite communication; others shut it down. Sometime when you’re alone, rehearse aloud a conversation you anticipate. What is your tone indicating?

7. Focus on the other person.

Listen for what he believes is important. Rather than focusing on your opinion, center on his point of view. You do not have to agree fully with someone in order to understand him. Active listening lets others know you hear them. To do this, pay close attention, and from time to time, accurately play back to them what you heard.

The Truth about Listening

Listening is active, not passive. Active listening extends the Golden Rule to communication. The key to good listening is considering how you want others to listen to you and then practicing that with them. Golden Rule listening will improve the quality of your relationship with others in your home and on your job.