Network, Cable, Streaming: What Americans Are Watching in 2015 by Barna Group


May 20, 2015—The medium of television is—like newspapers, magazines and books—undergoing massive disruption.

The average number of cable stations Americans receive ballooned from 129 in 2008 to 189 in 2013, an increase of one-third in just five years.(1) During the same five-year period, Netflix introduced subscription-based Internet streaming of both TV shows and movies, a service that has multiplied to include more than 60 million subscribers around the globe.(2)

What effects, if any, have these seismic shifts had on the TV audience? Barna Group surveyed a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults on their viewing habits and preferences. Continue reading


How to Connect With Kids by Greg Baird


One of the most important skills for children’s ministry is knowing how to CONNECT with kids. After all, isn’t that the key to making an impact in their lives? If we don’t CONNECT, we’re not going to make a difference.  So how do we CONNECT? There are seven ways that we can do so…here’s the first: Continue reading


8 Timeless Qualities Millennials Must Cultivate by Tim Elmore


We’ve all been reading about Millennials (or Generation Y) for fifteen years. As they graduate school and enter their careers, they’re bringing a new set of expectations with them. Their idea of a “work day” often looks different than their Baby Boomer boss’. As I interact with established employers, coaches, educators and leaders, I find they fall into one of two major camps as they view these new workers.

What Two Kinds of Executives Say About Today’s Graduates:

  • “These kids are lazy, entitled slackers. They’ve got lots to learn about a job.”
  • “These kids are redefining the workplace. They’ll reinvent what jobs look like.”

In reality, there’s a kernel of truth in both of these viewpoints. No doubt, students will need to adjust as they move from a dorm room to a cubicle. They may not be able to wear flip-flops or shorts when working for a Fortune 500 company (at least right now), but I believe they’re on the front edge of a new “on-demand” workforce that’s more about projects than the clock, who may do their best work at midnight rather than noon, and who communicate virtually more than face to face. I believe management will need to adjust as these Millennials become the majority in 10 years.

The Cultural and the Timeless

The fact is, effective leaders are able to separate what is cultural (trends that change all the time) from what is timeless (the changeless virtues all team members must possess). They adapt to the changing culture—the new rules and new ways to get work done more efficiently—but they cling to the timeless truths that make for a good workplace.

Think about it: if leaders never change anything, they’ll become dinosaurs quickly. If they’re always changing everything, they create a volatile and unstable culture at work. Both consistency and change are necessary. So here is my question as we attempt to equip graduates for work: What are the timeless qualities leaders must build into team members in every generation? Let me suggest eight virtues that will never go out of style:

Timeless Traits Regardless of the Generation

1. Discipline
There comes a time in everyone’s career when the work is no longer glitzy or glamorous — it just needs to get done. We don’t feel passionate in that moment, but we must do what is right, even when we don’t feel like it. This is a timeless virtue. While kids always want to find work they are passionate about, nothing takes the place of grit and old-fashioned work ethic.

2. Respect for authority
While this virtue may look slightly different in each new generation, civilization will cease to make progress unless each population of workers learns to submit to governing authority. Even if it comes kicking and screaming, growth cannot be achieved without coordination and organization from an agreed-upon leader. Respect for those who cast the vision and manage the progress is essential.

3. Empathy
Imagine a new population of colleagues who possess zero empathy for their peers. While job descriptions may still be followed, organizational culture would be lifeless. Genuine excellence occurs when people care more about each other than they do about money. This turns a one-mile walk into a second mile and motivates people better and faster than perks. It gives work meaning.

4. Resourcefulness
More and more leadership gurus are proposing that resourcefulness is the meta-competency of the 21st century. Why? Because information is no longer scarce. Anyone in any position has access to any question. Resourceful team members who can dig and find solutions will be in high demand. Organizations seek out people who can adapt and reinvent themselves because they possess this trait.

5. Delayed gratification
Regardless of what age we live in, team members who are not slaves to instant gratification will be attractive to employers. People perform better when they can wait on solutions they want and perform due diligence on rewards they seek. Delayed gratification is not only a mark of maturity, it is a sign of value. People who embody it frequently get promoted to leadership roles.

6. Self-awareness
This is the first component of emotional intelligence; it is also a rare trait in people. I believe this is a timeless skill or quality because of the pace of progress we are making with technology. Screens don’t cultivate emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills like genuine face-to-face interaction.

7. Teachable spirit
This is all about remaining coachable into one’s later years. It means maintaining a hungry mind, a humble heart, and a growth mindset, even into the second half of your career. Once again, this is timeless because change happens so rapidly. So it’s important for people to adapt and adopt new ways.

8. Resilience
Much is being written about this topic today, probably because so few of us (and the Millennial generation) possess it. Due to modern culture, we’re conditioned to quit early when things get tough or never make a long-term commitment. We are used to a world that is fast, convenient, and full of stimulation. Team members are needed who can bounce back (and even bounce forward) from a fail.

Here’s to balancing the art of adapting to culture and technology—and embracing the timeless virtues that teams will always need.


Fighting FOMO: How to Disconnect Your Kids by Craig Jutila

Fighting FOMO: How to Disconnect Your Kids

What Is FOMO?
Fear OMissing Out

Irritability, frustration, anxiety, argumentative, crying, eye rolling, anger.

Symptoms follow closely after having an electronic device such as a computer, tablet or phone taken from them, usually by a parent.

FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, infects about 90% of kids today. Most parents are immune but will, on occasion, catch the virus. Symptoms manifest themselves in different ways for adults. The symptoms often seen in adults are not being present in the moment, multitasking and generally unpleasant demeanor if not connected to the outside world through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Words With Friends.

Our culture is fast-paced, and if you are offline for even five minutes you may “miss it,” whatever “it” is. It could be a study group, invitation to a party, church event or a general understanding of what’s going on in the world of your friends.

When we take our child’s phone from them as a consequence or punishment, we are in a sense taking away their community. We are not simply taking away their phone. In fact, when was the last time your child used their phone as a phone? You know, as a device to “verbally” speak with someone else?

When I was growing up, my mom couldn’t take away my phone because it was attached to the wall! The only way I knew what was going on with my community—my friends—was if I received a push notification called the doorbell.

When the doorbell rang, it alerted me to the fact that a friend was at the door and probably wanted to play outside. Today’s children are losing all three of these things: the doorbell, playing and outside. My community lived on my block; our children’s community lives online. If their phone dies or is lost, misplaced or removed from them, the symptoms of FOMO can begin to show.

FOMO is relatively new within the last decade, and doctors are still trying to figure out a treatment. However, there are some things we can give our children that will help ease their pain and decrease the symptoms of FOMO. Continue reading


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