03.27.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 
 
We are at Training! Please pray for the trainees (their classes) and the new CAPstone class in Tulsa! God is good!!!

 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send any prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
“You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.” #keller

 
2 Corinthians 6:1 that says, “We are God’s fellow-workers.”
Our awareness of his presence may falter, but the reality of his presence never changes!
 
Three hardest words for most students to say are, “I don’t know”.
 
FYI:
1. 6 Tips for talking with teenage girls… https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/talking-with-teenage-girls
 
2. How to talk to boys…and get them to talk back… https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/how-to-talk-to-boys
 
3. More time online tied to Loneliness in young adults… https://homeword.com/2017/03/16/more-time-online-tied-to-loneliness-in-young-adults/?mc_cid=1730eefcdd&mc_eid=759fd44a0d#.WMx_LxiZN0s
 
4. Youth Group Lesson on Grace: Dude…Not Perfect (Below)
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Every Minute Makes an Impact by Dale Hudson
How Smartphones and Social Media Are Changing Christianity by Chris Stokel-Walker (Blog post – worth reading!)
Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens by Claudia Dreifus
Dear Parents of Teenagers, Here are 5 reasons you should keep your teens involved in youth group… by Greg Steir 
 

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/64799/crucified-good-friday
 
http://www.videosforyouth.com/mini-movies/64575/like-no-other?utm_source=vfyfp&utm_medium=email&utm_content=like_no_other&utm_campaign=fp-03/21/2017-2044349
 
Here are 2 just for you:
The Will To Do What’s Right
 
And being in agony, [Jesus] prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like drops of blood. Luke 22:44

Discipline is doing what you really don’t want to do, so that you can do what you really want to do. It’s paying the price in the little things so that you can buy the bigger thing.

Disciplined leaders must possess . . .

1. Disciplined Thinking: You can’t get far in life if you don’t use your head. If you keep your mind active and regularly take on mental challenges, you will develop the kind of disciplined thinking that will help you with whatever you endeavor to do.
2. Disciplined Emotions: People have just two choices when it comes to their emotions: they can master their emotions or be mastered by them. You shouldn’t let your feelings prevent you from doing what you should or drive you to do things you shouldn’t.
3. Disciplined Actions: Sharpening your mind and controlling your emotions are important, but they can take you only so far. Action is what separates the winners from the losers. Your actions always reflect your degree of discipline.

Focused Follow Through 

A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.  Proverbs 17:24

Wise leaders focus on follow through, and do not wander around detached from the details. Details are stepping-stones to success or, if ignored, stumbling blocks to failure. Discernment keeps you systematically focused on a sequence of tasks that assure the implementation of every point in a project. You are wise when you promise less and deliver more. Indeed, focused leaders who follow through can be trusted with more.

If the leader is distracted by the next new idea he will not have the energy or mental capacity to follow through with the most strategic pending project. It is a naïve leader who thinks he or she can delegate their way out of staying engaged in the execution of mission critical initiatives. Every week, or even daily, your team needs to hear  discerning questions from you that increase their accountability. A focused leader follows through to inspect what is expected. 

“Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43).

How is the progress related to the agreed upon timeline for completion? What obstacles are in the way, and how can they be removed? Is the cost of the project within budget? What did we decide and who is responsible for its implementation? Wise leaders know enough of the details to know what questions to ask. You keep wisdom in view by focusing on a few mission critical strategies. You bring clarity to the course of action.

Teams clamor to follow a wise leader who is focused on follow through. So model the way by doing what you say. Your servant leadership facilitates follow through for the team—give them the confidence to carry on. Follow through creates creditability. Above all, focus on the Lord and follow through with what He tells you to do. Faith follows through. “Am I a leader worth following, because I follow through?” “Can I be trusted with more, because I have been faithful with what I have?” Perhaps you say “no” more, and “yes” less. 

Jesus said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37).

 

Youth Group Lesson on Grace: Dude…Not Perfect

Middle Schoolers need to know that no one is perfect.  And they need to know that this is exactly what makes God’s gift of grace so valuable and so important to us.

Use this lesson to help students know that they don’t have to be perfect for God, in fact He loves them and sent Jesus because none of us are perfect.

Description: Too often we think that you have to be perfect to be a Christian. In fact, the opposite is actually true. The only way to be a Christian starts by admitting that you are not perfect.

Supplies:

NERF Blasters* NERF Darts*
3 Frisbees
Beach ball or balloon
Stopwatch
36 plastic cups
Poster board
Markers

*You have two options here. You can purchase these yourself. If you do this, watch for sales at local stores or check for good deals online. Or, you can try to save money by emailing parents and asking families to let you borrow some of what they have for this lesson. Just make sure they label the blasters so you give the correct ones back.   

Now, here’s the free lesson on “Grace”…

Game: NERF Challenges

Mix NERF blasters with adults who act like competitive middle schoolers and what do you get? Viral Videos from Dude Perfect! (And…a fun lesson with loads of game ideas)

Show your students this Dude Perfect Nerf Challenge Video:

NERF Challenges

Then allow them the opportunity to participate in a few similar challenges right there in your space! We are going to do three challenges, one inspired by the video and all three that are from NERF’s website. If these go well for you, there are plenty more there you can use too.

(And if you want to connect this lesson to a big NERF Wars event, check out this blog article for some tips and resources.) (If you have a stage, set these challenges up on three different parts of the stage.  If you don’t have a stage, try to set these up in three different parts of your space.)

Challenge 1: Saucer Invasion

Have three students each toss one frisbee in the air at the same time. The person with the NERF blaster has to try to hit each frisbee with a dart before the frisbees hit the ground. If your space doesn’t allow you to toss these high, head outside. If that’s not an option, lightly toss the frisbees vertically from a seated position.

Challenge 2: The Distance

This can be done with a beach ball or balloon and works best if three people have blasters. Toss it in the air. The students with the blasters shoot at the ball, using their darts to keep it in the air. Have someone use a stopwatch or stopwatch app to time how long the balloon stays in the air. Rotate to see which group can keep it in the air the longest.

Challenge 3: Ancient Empire

Set up plastic cups into pyramids that use 6 plastic cups. Set them up near each other so you have three sets of two pyramids. Three students will each have a blaster.

On “Go!”, they each start shooting at the pyramid. The student who gets their’s down the fastest or knocks over the most cups before running out of darts wins. The two losing students have to set up all six pyramids. Finally, in your space, have a target drawn with poster markers on a sheet of poster board.

You grab a blaster and ask the students how well they think you’ll do at hitting the bullseye on the target with only three shots. Once you have their encouraging or discouraging feedback, take your shots. You can try your best, but make sure at least one misses the target to help with your illustration.

Teach

Ask: How many of you love playing NERF? How many of you enjoy watching the Dude Perfect YouTube videos? It can be really fun to get together and try these challenges like we did today. It’s also fun to see all the crazy challenges the guys from Dude Perfect have been able to accomplish! They make it look so easy! Does it ever seem like being a Christian is supposed to be this way?

We all have access to a Bible and should know what we are supposed to do. Parents, leaders, and even youth pastors get mad at us when we misbehave and sin.

Open your Bibles to the book of Romans. It’s in the New Testament, just after Acts and before 1 Corinthians.

Whether you are using a paper Bible or a Bible app, you should know how to find this book. There is lots of good stuff in here, especially about sin, forgiveness and grace. Once you find Romans, go to chapter 3. Then find verse 23. (Once everyone has time to find it, have a student read the verse.)

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23 NLTse)

“Sin” isn’t a word we use much except for it’s main use: to describe disobeying God. When Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, the word he used in Greek for “sin” meant “to miss the mark.”

They probably didn’t have NERF blasters in mind, but more like bows and arrows. The idea is the same. Just like some of you had a difficult time with the challenges and I had a hard time hitting the target, when we sin, we are missing the goal of what God has in mind for who we should live.

When Paul says here that we have all sinned, that we have all missed the mark or the goal God has in mind for us, that is either encouraging or depressing. It can be encouraging to know that everybody from you to the Senior Pastor has sinned. It can also be depressing to know that everyone has messed up the goal God has in mind for us and for our lives.

Ever watch the Dude Perfect videos and wonder how they make such amazing shots over and over again?

Editing.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, you should know by now that there are consequences to our actions.

Paul writes about that too.

Skip over to chapter 6 in Romans and look at verse 23 there. (Have a student read this verse.)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NLTse)

Does anyone know what wages are? What if I said paycheck? It’s what you earn for the work you do.

So, if you accomplish the goal the boss has for you, you get paid as a reward for the work you have done.

Paul starts this verse by saying that our disobedience, the work we have done NOT doing what God wants us to do, has earned us death – not just physically dying, but being separated from God. Not good. Told you it was depressing.

But, the verse doesn’t end there. God offers us a gift. You usually don’t get gifts from total strangers.

Usually, you get gifts from people who know you and love you. Gifts are not given as rewards for what you have done. They are given simply because a generous person wants to show you their love. That’s what God is doing here.

He’s saying that we deserve punishment for all of our disobedience. Instead, He is offering us his gift of grace and forgiveness, to help us because of what Jesus has done for us.

That’s where these awesome verses come in to play.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17 NLTse)

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NLTse)

So, the next time you think you have to be perfect to be a Christian, remember that it’s the exact opposite. You can only be a Christian when you humbly realize that you will never be perfect. But instead of getting what you deserve, God offers you his gift of grace, which is so much better.

Small Group Questions

In what areas of your life have you felt like you needed to be perfect?

How have you felt that following Jesus requires you to be perfect? Have you ever said, “That’s not fair.”? Explain.

Looking at Romans 3:23, does it encourage you or depress you that everyone sins?

What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever received? ever given?

Looking at Romans 6:23, why is it good that we don’t get what we deserve for our sins?

Looking at Romans 6:23, how does it make you feel that even though you are guilty of sin, God offers you a gift of grace?

Looking at Ephesians 2:8-10, how does it help you to know that God wants to do good through you, that He offers you this gift to save you for a purpose?

Say: Dude Perfect videos are fun, but our lives are lived unedited. We don’t just see the good, we see the good and the bad. These guys work hard to “hit the mark” in their videos. How can that hard work ethic be combined with thankfulness for God’s gift in our thoughts and actions?

Teach Wrap-Up 

Our lives are real. That means we see the good and the bad, the highlight reel and the blooper film. The guys from Dude Perfect are Christians and know that life is not all about being perfect.

They use their talents and abilities to share Jesus with people through interviews, social media, etc. People watch their videos and know it takes a lot of work to create a short video filled with “perfect” moments.

In fact, it takes lots of work at getting close to the mark to finally create a short film of hitting the mark. In our lives, when we realize that we don’t get what we deserve and instead are offered a gift of grace from God, then our thoughts, words and actions are all done with grateful hearts, like we’re living out a thank you note to God for all He has done for us. In other words, don’t feel guilty about not being perfect.

God knew we would never be perfect so He took care of our sin problem for us.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:8-11 NLTse)

Instead of being enemies of God, we are His friends when we accept God’s gift of grace and become followers of Jesus! That’s a reason to celebrate and more exciting than even the most popular of Dude Perfect videos. And I believe they would agree.

03.27.17

Every Minute Makes an Impact by Dale Hudson

relevantchildrensministry.com

Do you struggle with any of these?

Volunteers showing up late?

Volunteers standing around talking with each other instead of interacting with the kids?

Volunteers sitting in the back rather than with the kids during large group time?

Volunteers coming unprepared and looking at their lesson during large group time instead of focusing on the kids?

Volunteers leaving as soon as the service is over rather than spending time with the kids while waiting for parents to come?

Volunteers not taking time to talk with and interact with parents?

Here’s how to change these scenarios.  Share with your volunteers that “every minute makes an impact.”

Every volunteers on your team has something in common.  Here it is.  They want to make an impact.  They want to leave a legacy.  They want to know that the time they are spending volunteering is making a difference. 

Help them see that they only have a small window of time each week to invest in the kids and parents and every single minute they spend investing in them makes a difference.  It’s in the seemingly small conversations before service where volunteers can make the biggest connection with kids.  It’s in the quick conversations at pick-up and drop-off where volunteers can encourage parents.  It’s in the 3 minutes of a worship song that volunteers can model what it means to worship God.  It’s in the few minutes after service that volunteers can speak life into kids while waiting with them for their parents.  It’s in the first minute that volunteers can make new guests feel comfortable and welcomed.

 Time spent investing in kids and families is never wasted.  Every single minute is valuable.  Every single minute presents an opportunity to make a significant impact in their life.

When you help volunteers catch this vision, they will show up on time.  They will come prepared.  They will be intentional about what they say to parents at drop-off and pick-up.  They will engage with the kids before, after and during the service.

We are in a race to children’s hearts.  Just like a minute matters in the outcome of a physical race, a minute matters in the outcome of this spiritual race.

03.27.17

How Smartphones and Social Media Are Changing Christianity by Chris Stokel-Walker
bbc.com/future/story/20170222-how-smartphones-and-social-media-are-changing-religion?inf_contact_key=8331d1dbe6ec2c544951765742a3b3d702e59860672ae028fc77602b951e79f9

When the Reverend Pete Phillips first arrived in Durham nine years ago, he was ejected from the city’s cathedral. He had been reading the Bible on his mobile phone in the pews. Phones were not allowed in the holy place, and the individual who accosted him would not believe that he was using his phone for worship and asked him to leave. “I was a bit miffed about that,” says Phillips, who is director of the Codec Research Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University in the UK. “But that was 2008.”

Next year Durham Cathedral will have been standing for 1,000 years. But its phone policy is now up to date. “They allow people to take photos, to use phones for devotional reasons – whatever they want to do,” says Phillips. “The attitude has changed because to restrict people from mobile phone use now is to ask them to cut their arm off.”

This more relaxed approach to phones is not the only tech-related update the Church has undergone in the past few years. The rise of apps and social media is changing the way many of the world’s two billion Christians worship – and even what it means to be religious.

Most churches now have a more relaxed attitude towards the use of phones than they did just a few years ago (Credit: Getty Images)

The Reverend Liam Beadle became Yorkshire’s youngest vicar when he took up his role at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Honley, a village of 6,000 people five miles south of Huddersfield. He runs his parish’s Twitter account. A colleague runs the church community’s Facebook profile. The Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Nick Baines – who is the head of Beadle’s diocese – was one of the first bishops to start a blog and is known in the church as the “blogging bishop”.

But Beadle contrasts the Church’s approach to social media with its reaction to the printing press. “The difference between then and now is that with the invention of the printing press we were proactive,” he says. “With the advent of social media, I think we are being reactive, we’re jumping on the bandwagon.”

The mobile phone Bible is now replacing the book Bible

The ubiquity of smartphones and social media makes them hard to avoid, however. And they are changing the way people practise their religion. Faiths are adopting online technologies to make it easier for people to communicate ideas and worship, says Phillips. “But that technology has shaped religious people themselves and changed their behaviour.”

Many people scrolling through their phones in Christian churches are probably looking at a Bible app called YouVersion, which has been installed more than 260 million times worldwide since its launch in 2008. Similarly popular apps exist for the Torah and Koran.

“One of the first things Christians did with the computer was to put the Bible into digital formats,” says Phillips. Those digitised Bibles then made their way onto phones. “To some extent, the mobile phone Bible is now replacing the book Bible.”

According to the company behind YouVersion, people have spent more than 235 billion minutes using the app and have highlighted 636 million Bible verses. But reading the Bible in this way could be changing people’s overall sense of it. “If you go to the Bible as a paper book, it’s quite large and complicated and you’ve got to thumb through it,” says Phillips.

“But you know that Revelations is the last book and Genesis is the first and Psalms is in between. With a digital version you don’t get any of that, you don’t get the boundaries. You don’t flick through: you just go to where you’ve asked it to go to, and you’ve no sense of what came before or after.”

One of the first things Christians did with the computer was to put the Bible into digital formats (Credit: Getty Images)

Quite how interacting with the Bible in bite-sized nuggets might affect people’s views of it is now being explored by researchers like Phillips. The way religious scriptures are read can influence how they are interpreted. For example, studies suggest that text read on screens is generally taken more literally than text read in books. Aesthetic features of a text, such as its broader themes and emotional content, are also more likely to be drawn out when it is read as a book.

In a religious text, that distinction can be crucial. “When you’re on a screen, you tend to miss out all the feeling stuff and go straight for the information,” says Phillips. “It’s a flat kind of reading, which the Bible wasn’t written for. You end up reading the text as though it was Wikipedia, rather than it being a sacred text in itself.”

When you read the Bible on a screen you end up reading the text as though it was Wikipedia

Some think that overly literal interpretations of religious texts can lead to fundamentalism. If you take Genesis as an account of six days of creation, for example, you will need to believe that science is wrong, says Phillips.

Yet at the same time, a separate strand of Christian practice is booming, buoyed by the spread of social media and the decentralisation of religious activity. For many, it’s no longer necessary to set foot in a church. In the US, one in five people who identify as Catholics and one in four Protestants seldom or never attend organised services, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre.

Apps and social media accounts tweeting out Bible verses allow a private expression of faith that takes place between a person and their phone screen. And the ability to pick and choose means they can avoid doctrine that does not appeal. A lot of people who consider themselves to be active Christians may not strictly even believe in God or Jesus or the acts described in the Bible.

Durham Cathedral has seen a lot of change in its 1,000 years – smartphones and social media are just the latest (Credit: Getty Images)

“A new kind of mutated Christianity for a digital age is appearing,” says Phillips. “One that follows many of the ethics of the secular world.” Known as moralistic therapeutic deism, this form of belief is focused more on the charitable and moral side of the Bible – the underlying tenets of religion, rather than the notion that the Universe was created by an all-seeing, all-powerful leader.

This new form of religion was first described by sociologists in 2005, but it has been supercharged by the internet and social media. “People are looking for a more personalised religious experience,” says Heidi Campbell at Texas A&M University, who studies religion and digital culture.

People are looking for a more personalised religious experience

“Millennials prefer this generalised picture of God rather than an interventionist God, and they prefer God to Jesus, because he’s non-specific,” says Phillips. “He stands behind them and allows them to get on with their own lives rather than Jesus, who comes in and interferes with everything.”

Sharing Bible verses on social media lets worshippers find their own readings rather than sitting through ones chosen by a priest every Sunday. Bible verses are also subject to popularity contests, where their acceptability to a wide audience can dictate their spread.

The most popular Bible verses bookmarked, highlighted and shared on social media via YouVersion’s app are frequently those which reflect the secular and inclusive ideals of moralistic therapeutic deism. Many concern things like personal struggles or dealing with anxiety, for example –  rather than promoting the glory of God.

Pick-and-mix religious beliefs are not new. But it is easier than ever to fashion an individualised faith. “The internet and social media help people to do it in more concrete ways,” says Campbell. “We have more access to more information, more viewpoints, and we can create a spiritual rhythm and path that’s more personalised.”

Many religious memes started as jokes but people also use them to provoke debate about religion and affirm beliefs

And that includes bringing sacred figures into memes. Story Time Jesus – where classical religious iconography is overlaid with bold text that describes religious verses in colloquial language – became a viral meme in 2012 and has remained popular since. Others include Bunny Christ and Republican Jesus.

Many of these memes may have started as jokes, but they are being used to spread religious ideas too. “People are using memes as a way to provoke debate about religion and affirm beliefs,” says Campbell. “You can’t meme a theological truth in depth but you can summarise the essence to draw people’s attention, using them as teasers.” That applies to tweeting too. There are churches around the world that encourage their congregations to live-tweet sermons.

It’s a source of friction, however. A few years ago a UK cathedral started live-tweeting its services. “There were questions about how appropriate it was,” says Beadle. “I think the jury’s still out on that one. There probably is a case to be made that if you’re on Twitter you’re not engaging as fully as when you’re not on Twitter.”

The jury is still out on live-tweeting services

On top of that, there are concerns that a series of short tweets is not an appropriate way to represent complex and subtle concepts. “When you’re talking in 140 characters or a seven-second video, you’ve got to condense things,” says Campbell. “The tendency is to stereotype or simplify messages. It’s not just about using the tools but treating the tools with the respect they need.”

Which is perhaps why Durham Cathedral was so circumspect about Phillips and his phone back in 2008. Even so, religion of all hues – not just Christianity – is becoming less about the preacher in the pulpit, she says. “Digital is all about two-way communication. People come with a certain expectation of what a community looks like and what freedom they’ll have, and religious institutions need to either adapt to that or be an exception.”

If nothing else, organised faith is good at adapting – Christianity has been reinventing itself for nearly 2,000 years. Smartphones and social media are just the latest developments to force a change.

03.27.17

Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens by Claudia Dreifus

nytimes.com

 In a new book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” the social psychologist Adam Alter warns that many of us — youngsters, teenagers, adults — are addicted to modern digital products. Not figuratively, but literally addicted.

Dr. Alter, 36, is an associate professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University who researches psychology and marketing. We spoke for two hours last week at the offices of The New York Times. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?

A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.

Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.

How do you define “addiction”?

The definition I go with is that it has to be something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.

We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin. If you’re someone who compulsively plays video games — not everyone, but people who are addicted to a particular game — the minute you load up your computer, your brain will look like that of a substance abuser.

We are engineered in such a way that as long as an experience hits the right buttons, our brains will release the neurotransmitter dopamine. We’ll get a flood of dopamine that makes us feel wonderful in the short term, though in the long term you build a tolerance and want more.

Do the designers of the new technologies understand what they’re doing?

The people who create video games wouldn’t say they are looking to create addicts. They just want you to spend as much time as possible with their products.

Some of the games on smartphones require you to give money as you play, so they want to keep you playing. The designers will build into a game a certain amount of feedback, in the same way that slot machines offer an occasional win to hold your interest.

Not surprisingly, game producers will often pretest different versions of a release to see which one is hardest to resist and which will keep your attention longest. It works.

For the book, I spoke with a young man who sat in front of his computer playing a video game for 45 consecutive days! The compulsive playing had destroyed the rest of his life. He ended up at a rehabilitation clinic in Washington State, reSTART, where they specialize in treating young people with gaming dependencies.

Do we need legislation to protect ourselves?

It’s not a bad idea to consider it, at least for online games.

In South Korea and China, there are proposals for something they call Cinderella laws. The idea is to protect children from playing certain games after midnight.

Gaming and internet addiction is a really serious problem throughout East Asia. In China, there are millions of youngsters with it, and they actually have camps where parents commit their children for months and where therapists treat them with a detox regime.

Why do you claim that many of the new electronic gadgets have fueled behavioral addictions?

Well, look at what people are doing. In one survey, 60 percent of the adults said they keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. In another survey, half the respondents claimed they check their emails during the night.

Moreover, these new gadgets turn out to be the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. If games and social media were once confined to our home computers, portable devices permit us to engage with them everywhere.

Today, we’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life. We’ve become obsessed with how many “likes” our Instagram photos are getting instead of where we are walking and whom we are talking to.

Where’s the harm in this?

If you’re on the phone for three hours daily, that’s time you’re not spending on face-to-face interactions with people. Smartphones give everything you need to enjoy the moment you’re in, but they don’t require much initiative.

You never have to remember anything because everything is right in front of you. You don’t have to develop the ability to memorize or to come up with new ideas.

I find it interesting that the late Steve Jobs said in a 2010 interview that his own children didn’t use iPads. In fact, there are a surprising number of Silicon Valley titans who refuse to let their kids near certain devices. There’s a private school in the Bay Area and it doesn’t allow any tech — no iPhones or iPads. The really interesting thing about this school is that 75 percent of the parents are tech executives.

Learning about the school pushed me to write, “Irresistible.” What was it about these products that made them, in the eyes of experts, so potentially dangerous?

You have an 11-month-old son. How do you interact with your technologies when you’re with him?

I try not to use my phone around him. It’s actually one of the best mechanisms to force me not to use my phone so much.

Are you addicted to this stuff?

Yeah, I think so. I’ve developed addictions from time to time to various games on my phone.

Like many of the people in the survey I mentioned earlier, I’m addicted to email. I can’t stop checking it. I can’t go to bed at night if I haven’t cleared my inbox. I’ll keep my phone next to my bed, much as I try not to.

The technology is designed to hook us that way. Email is bottomless. Social media platforms are endless. Twitter? The feed never really ends. You could sit there 24 hours a day and you’ll never get to the end. And so you come back for more and more.

If you were advising a friend on quitting their behavioral addictions, what would you suggest?

I’d suggest that they be more mindful about how they are allowing tech to invade their life. Next, they should cordon it off. I like the idea, for instance, of not answering email after six at night.

In general, I’d say find more time to be in natural environments, to sit face to face with someone in a long conversation without any technology in the room. There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.

03.27.17

Dear Parents of Teenagers, Here are 5 reasons you should keep your teens involved in youth group… by Greg Steir

Gregsteir.dare2share.org
 

Dear Parents of Teenagers,

Thanks for all you do to invest in the life of your teenager(s). You probably feel like an uber driver (ready to pick them up/drop them off when they call), coach (helping them perfect their sport), tutor (working with them on homework), guidance counsellor (preparing them for the future) and, sometimes, a jockey (pushing them to cross the finish line…without a whip of course!)…all wrapped up in one!

That’s why, with all the insane busyness of parenting a teen, it’s easy to let youth group attendance slide off the grid. It’s tempting to think, “My kid’s just too busy for a night of hanging out with other teenagers, playing some goofy games and hearing another Bible lesson.”

Believe me when I say, I understand the temptation. As a parent of a teenager (who has tons of homework, plays football and is not yet old enough to drive) my wife and I are constantly under pressure to measure every event through the lenses of what matters most. And we have decided that youth group attendance must be a priority. Although we view ourselves as the primary spiritual influence of our kids, we also believe that a strong youth ministry plays a vital role in his overall spiritual development.

With this as a backdrop here are 5 short, yet powerful, reasons you should encourage (make?) your teenager(s) go to youth group:

1.  Teenagers need models and mentors.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. “  Psalm 71:17,18

In the Jewish culture it wasn’t just parents that poured into the younger folks. Older men poured into younger men and older women poured into younger women (Titus 2:1-8.)

Of course you as a parent are called to be the primary spiriutal mentor of your own teenager but he/she also needs other godly adults! It’s important for your son or daughter to see that this whole “Christianity thing” is more than just mom’s and dad’s belief system. They need to have models and mentors that reinforce all of the spiritual truth they are learning from you.

2.  Teenagers need community.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24,25

In an age of bullying, gossip, slander and hatefulness (which can destroy a teenager’s self-identity), young people need other young people who can lift them up, encourage them and challenge them in all the right ways.

Youth group is also a place where teenagers can discover their spiritual gifting and begin to use it to serve others. This will help them have a heart to selflessly serve others for the rest of their lives!

3.  Teenagers need mission.

When Jesus challenged his most-likely teenaged disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations”, he was tapping into the activist wiring of these young men. In the same way your teenager needs challenged with the mission to reach their peers with the good news of Jesus in a loving and contagious way.

Youth group is a place where your teenager can invite their unbelieving friends to hear the gospel. But it’s also a place where they can be equipped to share the good news of Jesus with their own peers (which will help them grow in their faith!) As your youth leader continues to build a Gospel Advancing ministry the message of Jesus will advance in them and through them. This process will accelerate the disicpleship process in the life of your teen in ways you could never imagine!

4.  Teenagers need theology.

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”  Ephesians 4:14,15

Youth group is a place where teenagers can wrestle through the theology you’ve been teaching them (you’ve been teaching them right?) and have it reinforced in a powerful and personal way under the guidance of a youth leader who knows how to ask great questions and point teens to sound truth.

This should result in your teenagers knowing and owning their faith on a deeper level. Youth groups and small groups should be a place where teenagers can ask tough questions and even share doubts and struggles with their beliefs without fear of rebuke. Skilled youth leaders can take questioning teens back to God’s Word as the source of authority and help them process through all of the Biblical truth you are praying they grasp, believe and live out.

Great youth groups build on the foundation that godly moms and dads have laid. And, for those teenagers who don’t have believing parents, an effective youth ministry helps lay a solid foundation of Biblical truth for the rest of a teenager’s life.

5.  Teenagers need a safe place to confess and confide.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16

Often teenagers who struggle with sin and temptation have nowhere to confess and confide. They feel trapped by their sins. But a healthy youth ministry can create a safe space for teenagers to open up and talk honestly about their struggles. Of course this doesn’t mean they should confess every sin to everyone. But it does mean that they should have a handful of others who know their struggles and can pray for and encourage them to walk in victory over those sins.

When my son came back from a youth retreat last year he had this opportunity. He opened up with a handful of others about some of his struggles and then he came back and opened up to me. After he confessed his struggles he told me that he felt a thousand pound weight had dropped off his back.

Here’s the thing, my son and I have a very strong and very open relationship. But there was something about his band of brother friends, under the leadership of a caring adult in a youth retreat type setting, that gave him the freedom to confess and confide.

Skilled youth leaders know how to create a context of open and honest dialogue. Teenagers who push their struggles down and never open up often struggle later on in life with addictive and destructive behavior. An effective youth ministry can help teenagers deal with these challenges now and prepare them to be victorious both now and later.

Yes, I know that teen life is busy. But it would be a shame if our teenagers graduated from high school and were catapulted into “the real world” without every opportunity to know, live, share and own their faith.

At the end of the day, our teenagers embracing and embodying the Christian faith is more important than sports and more important than academics. Getting them involved in a healthy, vibrant youth ministry is worth fitting into a crazy, busy schedule. And if it’s not quite as healthy as you think it should be then why don’t you volunteer and make it better?

There’s too much at stake for us to get this wrong. So let’s get it right!

03.20.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send any prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. #stpatrick
 
Don’t be afraid be inspired. God gave us talents and He wants us to use them.
 
No occasion justifies hatred. No injustice warrants bitterness.

I choose love.
Today I will love God and what God does. #lucado
 
FYI:
 
1. I included an article about the X strategy a few weeks ago and this article just adds a few more thoughts…

http://www.christianparenting.org/articles/exit-strategy-parental-safety-net/?utm_source=Christian+Parenting&utm_campaign=6e677e6210-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_64355cce23-6e677e6210-273558069&mc_cid=6e677e6210&mc_eid=a5401c43e5

 
 
3. 14 Playful Ways to Reinforce Sunday School Lessons by Lisa Cowman (Below… I think all of us can find something helpful in this!)
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Here’s How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel by Chelsea Vicari (Not easy to read but please read it!)
Three Words Every Young Person Wants To Hear by Brad Griffin (For churches but some good stuff!)
How to Help Teens Through Emotional Times by Tim Elmore
Complaining Never Wins the Culture by Trevin Wax
 
 
Bringing Out Their Best

And he was called the friend of God. James 2:23

Many organizations today fail to tap into their potential. Why? Because the only reward they give their employees is a paycheck. The relationship between employer and employee never develops beyond that point. Successful organizations take a different approach. In exchange for the work a person gives, he receives not only his paycheck, but he is also nurtured by the people he works for. And nurturing has the ability to transform people’s lives.

I use the “BEST” acronym as a reminder of what people need when they get started with my organization. They need me to . . .

Believe in them
Encourage them
Share with them
Trust them

Nurturing benefits everyone. What employees wouldn’t be more secure and motivated when their leader believes in them, encourages them, shares with them, and trusts them (BEST)? People are more productive when they are nurtured. Even more important, nurturing creates a strong emotional and professional foundation within workers who have leadership potential. Later, using training and development, a leader can be built on that foundation.

 
 
Leadership – The Inside Then the Outside

So the Lord’s anger was aroused against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord was gone. Numbers 32:13

The first person you lead is you-and you can’t lead effectively without self-discipline. If only the Israelites had remembered this lesson! For forty years the Israelites wandered around in the desert. Why didn’t they get to the Promised Land more quickly? Not because it was so far away-they could have made the trip in two weeks. The real reason boils down to preparation. The people simply weren’t ready for God’s blessing until forty years after they began their trip.

How about you? How is your self-discipline? Plato said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” If you want to be a leader with self-discipline, follow these action points:
1. Develop and follow your priorities.
2. Make a disciplined lifestyle your goal.
3. Challenge your excuses.
4. Remove rewards until you finish the job.
5. Stay focused on results.

Never trade what you want at the moment for what you want most.

 

14 Playful Ways to Reinforce Sunday School Lessons by Lisa Cowman

Use these 14 playful ideas to reinforce your lessons about the Word of God.

It’s been a long week, and Saturday night has you scrambling through your lesson plan. Quickly skimming through the lesson, you frown. Hmm… not a particularly interesting one this week. How could you pep it up a few notches?

How about words? Big words, wacky words, foreign words, cheering words, staccato words? Use all kinds of words to drive home the big idea of your lesson. Let’s slip and slide through a multitude of words to arrive at our destination — meaningful and memorable learning.

1. MATH WORDS

I once taught a lesson about Jonah. My central point was God’s readiness to forgive over and over again. Throughout the lesson, the class and I said, “God forgives us googol times.” A googol is the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.

By the end of our class, the kids said, between giggles, “God forgives us…”

“Five times?” I’d ask.

“No!”

“Fifty-five times?”

“No! Googol times!”

The lesson was fun and memorable because the kids loved saying the word “googol.” They won’t soon forget how much God forgives them.

2. SCIENCE WORDS

To illustrate the way the Holy Spirit works in hearts, talk about xylem. Xylem is the part of a plant’s root system that moves materials upward from the roots to the leaves by way of the stems. Explain that just as xylem moves water through a plant, the Holy Spirit moves God’s Word through our lives. The Spirit moves God’s truth from our minds to our hearts so we can actually live out truth. The Holy Spirit is the xylem in our lives.

To make your lesson even more memorable, bring in a white carnation in a vase. Add food coloring to the water. After several days, the dye will travel up the stem and into the carnation, thereby coloring it. The following Sunday, show children the changed carnation. Discuss how the xylem carried the dye just as the Holy Spirit carries God’s truth.

3. MAKE-BELIEVE WORDS

Let your class get really creative. Perhaps your lesson is about the names of God. Have your class make a huge poster of their names for God. Encourage kids to combine words and thoughts based on their knowledge and experience of God. Some examples are heart-fixer-upper, happily-dappily-loveful, sunny-joy-rageous.

4. FOREIGN WORDS

Dust off your old Spanish book and give your main point in Español. Or if you’re first language is Spanish, try this with German! Teach your class the foreign words. For example, have kids say “Mi amigo Jesus” (my friend Jesus) whenever you say Jesus’ name during class. Have kids continually repeat the words with you as you go through the lesson.

5. SIGN LANGUAGE WORDS

Children love to learn and use sign language, so use it to reinforce and teach your lesson. Perhaps your lesson is on Christ’s healing of the deaf man. Check out a book about sign language from the library. Find out how to sign “Jesus is our healer.” Have kids periodically sign that sentence with you until they have it down. Challenge kids to sign this to their parents on the way home from church.

6. THEOLOGICAL WORDS

With one class of fourth-graders, I went through some of the doctrines of the Bible. Sound too deep? They loved it. They felt so smart knowing what Christology and angelology meant. Of course, we had to review the words frequently to help kids remember them.

7. ONOMATOPOEIC WORDS

“What?” you ask. Onomatopoeias are words such as buzz and tinkle. They’re words that sound like the concepts they stand for. For instance, if your lesson is about Joshua and the battle of Jericho, your repetitive onomatopoeic teaching phrase could be “Boom! Boom! Boom! If God is for us, who can be against us?”

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8. ALLITERATIVE WORDS

Use a phrase that contains the frequent usage of the same initial sound. If your lesson is on Satan, try the phrase, “When Satan slithers secretly, scram!”

9. RHYMING WORDS

Rhymes are a great memory technique. Just think of all the nursery rhymes you still remember. Rhymes are easy to create and help facilitate memory. If your lesson is on loneliness, repeat frequently as a class: “When you’re lonely or you’re blue, turn to God — see what he’ll do.”

You may be surprised to learn one day how that simple little phrase helped a child all through life. Or you may be surprised how the phrase comes back to you.

10. WORD PICTURES

Use word pictures to verbally illustrate a truth. For example, if you’re teaching a lesson about the importance of a clean thought life, choose 2 Corinthians 10:5 as your theme: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The word picture I’d use with this verse is a lasso. (It would be great to bring one in.) Explain how lassos are used to bring cows into captivity. Tell your kids to close their eyes and imagine a cowpoke lassoing a steer. Then have kids imagine what it’s like to lasso a bad thought. You may even want to have kids draw cartoons of themselves lassoing bad thoughts.

11. COMMERCIAL JINGLES

Think of all the commercial jingles you know. Why do you remember them? The repetition and the song make them unforgettable. So transfer those principles to your class.

If your lesson is about experiencing and enjoying the Lord, your key verse could be Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” What jingle could you create with the famous Campbell’s Soup slogan?

Commercial ideas are endless. Just pay attention when you watch television. You’ll be amazed at the ideas you’ll get for teaching memorable lessons.

12. THE PERFECT CHEER

Make your key point into a cheer. Kids will absolutely love it. The key is to keep the cheer short with easy-to-remember motions. A cheer is a great wiggle tamer and teaching method. For a lesson about Moses parting the Red Sea, teach your kids this cheer:

Give me an M! (M!) Give me an O! (O!) Give me an S! (S!) Give me an E! (E!) Give me another S! (S!) What’s that spell? (Moses!)

Moses, Moses, standing at the sea! O-b-e-y-i-n-g! First come the signs! Then comes the chase! Then splits the Red Sea… Everybody race! Go-o-o-o, Moses!

13. INTERACTIVE SONGS OR PHRASES

Reinforce your main point by using a song or phrase with parts. For instance, use an interactive song to the tune of “London Bridge.” You sing the first part, and kids sing the part in parentheses loudly.

Jesus Christ forgives my sin, (Forgives your sin, forgives our sin.) Jesus Christ forgives my sin. (He’s my Savior!)

Have fun teaching your lesson on the great forgiver of all time — Jesus Christ. Then sing this song often throughout the class. Help the kids learn both parts of the song. Enjoy using your creativity as you experiment with a variety of words.

14. STACCATO WORDS

Also keep in mind that when using words, you have different ways of delivering them. Say some words short, or staccato, and others drawn out. You can also vary the volume. These simple changes will keep your words interesting and just plain fun.

03.20.17

Here’s How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel by Chelsea Vicari

Charismamag.com

Peek behind the curtain of some “progressive” or “hip” evangelical churches, past the savvy technology and secular music, and you will find more than just a contemporary worship service. You’ll find faith leaders encouraging young evangelicals to trade in their Christian convictions for a gospel filled with compromise. They’re slowly attempting to give evangelicalism an “update”—and the change is not for the good.

It’s painful for me to admit, but we can no longer rest carefree in our evangelical identity—because it is changing. No doubt you have seen the headlines declaring that evangelicalism is doomed because evangelical kids are leaving the faith. It is no secret that there is an expanding gulf between traditional Christian teachings and contemporary moral values. But the sad truth is that the ideological gulf between America’s evangelical grown-ups and their kids, aka the millennials, seems to be widening too.

Somehow the blame for this chasm is being heaped on traditional churches. They are accused of having too many rules as well as being homophobic and bigoted. Yes, we’ve heard those false claims from popular culture in its desperate attempt to keep Christianity imprisoned within the sanctuary walls. But now popular culture is being aided by Christ-professing bedfellows whose message to “coexist,” “tolerate” and “keep out of it” is more marketable to the rising generation of evangelicals.

The seasoned Christian soldiers are noticing these distortions of the gospel. But for young evangelicals, the spiritual haze is harder to wade through. Desperate for acceptance in a fallen world, many young evangelicals (and some older ones) choose not to take Christ out of the chapel, and so they are unwittingly killing the church’s public witness. In this uphill cultural battle, mired by scare tactics and fear, three types of evangelical Christians are emerging:

  • Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically, this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
  • Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically, they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
  • Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

I know about these three types of Christians because at one time or another, I have fallen into each of these three categories. My parents will tell you that even though I was raised in church, I morphed into a full-fledged feminist, told my parents they were ignorant for not endorsing homosexuality and bought into the distorted social justice rhetoric that confuses caring for the poor with advancing socialist or big government systems and demonizing the United States for its free-market system.

I’m not ashamed to share my story because my experiences and those of my fellow bold evangelicals are a testimony of God’s awesome, transforming power. Being countercultural for Christ isn’t easy. What does the Great Commission say? Jesus commanded us to go, “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20a).

Where Did We Go Wrong?

I see so many parents scratching their heads trying to figure out where they went wrong with young evangelicals. Following the instructions of Proverbs 22:6—”Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”—many evangelical parents took their children to church and prayed with them every night before bed. Yet the values those children now hold dear do not reflect the traditional teachings of Jesus.

To be perfectly clear, I want to let you know up front that this isn’t a parenting how-to guide that, if followed, will lead your loved ones to salvation. Instead, what I can offer you is a glimpse into the world of a 20-something who sees thousands of young evangelicals being spiritually and emotionally targeted on Christian university campuses, in college ministries and at churches nationwide by a growing liberal movement cloaked in Christianity.

Research tells us evangelicals are drifting further away from the orthodox truths their parents and grandparents held dear.

Our churches have rarely—if ever—faced the exodus we are seeing today. This will have a direct effect on the spiritual and moral values that will shape the nation in the coming years. That is why it is urgent that concerned Christians start acting now before the situation gets worse.

The Collision of Faith and Culture

Faith and culture will continue to collide in America. The culture wars, the growth of family, the success of missions, the prosperity of our great nation—the future rests on millennial evangelicals’ worldview. And that is cause for concern, because something has gone wrong with young evangelicals’ theology.

The millennial generation’s susceptibility to “feel-good” doctrine is playing a big part in America’s moral decline. Millennials’ religious practices depend largely on how the actions make us and others feel, whether the activities are biblical or not. For example, we only attend churches that leave us feeling good about our lifestyle choices, even if those choices conflict with God’s clear commandments. We dismiss old hymns that focus on God’s transforming salvation, love and mercy and opt for “Jesus is your boyfriend” songs. Or we contribute to nonprofits that exploit and misuse terms such as justice, oppressed and inequality because tweaking the language makes us feel more neutral, less confrontational.

Popular liberal evangelical writers and preachers tell young evangelicals that if they accept abortion and same-sex marriage, then the media, academia and Hollywood will finally accept Christians. Out of fear of being falsely dubbed “intolerant” or “uncompassionate,” many young Christians are buying into theological falsehoods. Instead of standing up as a voice for the innocent unborn or marriage as God intended, millennials are forgoing the authority of Scripture and embracing a couch potato, cafeteria-style Christianity, all in the name of tolerance.

This contemporary mindset is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian whose Christian convictions put him at odds with the Nazis and cost him his life, called “cheap grace.” In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Right now, cheap grace theology is proliferating around evangelical Bible colleges, seminaries and Christian ministries.

Christian Doctrine Hijacked

It is not that millennial evangelicals were not taken to church by their parents. It is that their training has been hijacked by ineffective and sometimes intentionally distorted doctrine.

As constant and pervasive as the attacks on Christianity are at public universities, it is important to remember that millennials’ worldviews do not start taking shape after they move out of their parents’ houses. Their understanding of Jesus’ teachings and cultural convictions begins to form while they are still at home and under the influence of their local church.

What I hope and pray evangelical parents and leaders come to realize is that the church has been too trusting. In our jam-packed lifestyles, parents have treated Sunday school as they do softball or ballet class—drop off the kids for an hour, then pick them up and hope they learned something.

Early on in my Sunday school teaching days, my co-teacher and I followed the curriculum pretty narrowly, the exception being that my co-teacher had an outstanding knowledge of biblical history that he imparted to the kids.

One day my co-teacher and I decided to play “True or False.” We casually went down a list of worldview questions with our class, sure that our little evangelicals would nail every question correctly.

No. 1: Jesus is God. “True.” Great job.

No. 2: Jesus sinned. “False.” Bingo!

No. 3: Jesus is one of many ways to heaven. “True.” What?!

Shocked is the only way to describe how I felt. Hadn’t they been listening to us? When I asked who taught them that, one girl said, “Coexist.” Yes, these young evangelicals had been listening to their Sunday school teachers and their parents, but they had also been listening to their public school teachers, TV celebrities and rock stars.

Youth ministers, volunteer leaders and pastors also have to start preparing these kids to deal with the very real hostility that faces young evangelicals.

If we never talk about abortion in church, how can we expect the rising evangelical girl to calmly explain the option of adoption to her frightened best friend who just admitted she is pregnant?

What will surprise you is how much young evangelicals actually crave honest discussions about abortion, sexuality, sexual exploitation, feminism and radical Islam. My friend and Evangelical Action adviser Richmond Trotter has two non-negotiable topics when addressing youth: creation and life. Having volunteered in church youth ministry since 1996, Richmond is not afraid to have serious discussions about what Scripture says about abortion, evolution and homosexuality. Make no mistake: The trend away from biblical truth is not concentrated in the hipster city limits. It is unfolding in the crevices of America’s plains, hills, mountains and swamplands. All across this nation, “old-fashioned” conservative evangelicalism is being traded in for a bright and shiny, mediocre Christianity.

If America’s evangelicals disengage from the public square and fail to engage the rising generation of Christian leaders, then we risk losing our public voice, then our religious liberty, then liberty altogether.

What Happened to the Religious Right?

The last several decades witnessed tremendous evangelical influence in the United States. Leaders such as Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Paige and Dorothy Patterson, James Dobson and James and Betty Robison made a bold impact on America’s families, churches and government. Now that those few leaders are aging or retiring, or have died, there are very few traditional evangelical leaders left holding the torch, and even fewer candidates to whom they can pass it.

But religious convictions in America are not on the verge of disappearance just yet. There is still hope. In the book God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, Gallup Inc. Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport opines: “Christianity will prevail in the U.S. America will remain very much a Christian nation in the decades ahead, albeit less so than in the past because of an increase in Americans who don’t have a religious identity.”

Heed the Warning Signs

Evangelicals and culture warriors in the U.S. do not have to look far to discover what happens when Christian denominations give up on their traditional convictions and teachings. All we have to do is look at the dwindling memberships of mainline Protestant denominations.

In order to safeguard the trajectory of young evangelicals, we must uphold the authoritative Word of God. It is imperative that those in a position to influence millennials have transparent and honest discussions about the culture wars in which evangelical youth are already engaging. Otherwise they will be silent and accepting in the face of persecution and false doctrine.

The importance of arming the next generation of evangelicals cannot be overstated. If we continue to follow the example of mainline Protestants, evangelicalism will have a gloomy future. We must offer sorely needed leadership, but before we can do that, we need to know exactly whom and what we are up against.

03.20.17

Three Words Every Young Person Wants To Hear by Brad Griffin

fulleryouthinstitute.org
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in conversations with young people that bump along awkwardly and end abruptly. As one of our ministry volunteers recently shared, “I am apparently terrible at getting more than one-word answers in conversation with most of the guys.” Can you relate?

Perhaps this is because good conversations tend to be elusive in a society that is relentlessly self-focused. We haven’t had good listening modeled well for us, and in turn we struggle to offer that gift to others. We don’t even know how to ask a follow-up question that generates something more than minimalist vocabulary.

Most of us who are parents also struggle with conversational momentum with our own adolescent kids. If you find yourself in the same “How was your day?” rut as the rest of us, let’s just go ahead and confess together that we are desperate for better language when we connect with our family after work and school.

“Tell me more”

Before Steve Argue was formally part of our team at FYI, he was a great dialogue partner. One of the phrases he has championed for years when it comes to conversations with young people is a simple three-word invitation:

Tell me more.

Memorize those words right now.

“How was your baseball game this weekend?”

“Good.”

“Cool.”

That’s as far as we usually get. But what might happen if instead we offered:

“Oh yeah? Tell me more!”

Of course, we might still get a three-word answer. But sometimes it opens enough of a crack to peer inside the elusive experience of the reserved teenager. And with emerging adults who may be jaded by how little adults actually seem to want to know about them, “Tell me more” can be a relational gamechanger.

Once we asked Steve about the phrase “Tell me more” and why it’s a common prompt in their family to generate better conversations. He shared,

I think we need to remember as parents that the first question isn’t as important as the second or third question. A first question usually comes from our own agenda—we want information, clarity, or context. Second and third questions are responsive questions that emerge from the conversation. They show our kids how well we’re listening and really seeking to understand, rather than just interrogate.

I realized when our daughters went to college that I had to learn to talk with them differently. My job wasn’t to check up on them—Where were you last night? When did you get in? Did you finish your homework?—My questions had to become ones of discovery—What was the best part of your week? What class is inspiring you? What do you like or not like about your professors?

Maybe for us, “Tell me more” is more of a posture than a solo question!

Brilliant.

Rebekah’s story

My friend Rebekah is a youth pastor who recently became a young adult pastor.

Here’s why Rebekah’s church zeroed in on “Tell me more,” and what they did about it.

Listening well is such a big, important deal to me.

I think it basically boils down to empathy through a transfer of power. It’s closing your mouth when you are the person in power in an interaction and transferring power by requesting the other to tell you more—about whatever it is they want to tell you more about. I think about this all the time as the wife of an immigrant, a youth worker, a young adult, and a woman in a traditionally male field.

You’ll never find out what those who have less power are thinking or really experiencing unless you give them the power to tell you, and unless you stop talking.

People are desperate to be known. Youth group makes me sad sometimes when I watch the ways kids cloy to be worthy of noticing. Who can notice others when everyone is so desperate to get their own insecurities met? What a gift to be the person who focuses attention on the other and says, “I want to know you. Tell me everything.”

I think Jesus does that for us. Scripture invites us to pour out our hearts (Psalm 62:8). God is always wanting more of me, in whatever words I want to use to make myself known. Always inviting, even though he doesn’t need me to say the things in order to be aware of them.

“Tell me more” are the words I think everyone longs to have addressed to them, no matter the lifestage. They are words that seem to slow down time by taking the person in front of you seriously, and listening to what unfolds in that time.

They are words of with. Not of solving.

Young adults need with-ness if they—we—are going to be able to solve our stuff. “Tell me more” is a reminder to be quiet, be interested, and be present.

I am a young adult. So when my lead minister, Jessica, moved me into the position of young adult minister this year, I was a little bit unsure—excited, but very aware of my inability to lead from the position of someone who has navigated all this stuff already, because, well, I haven’t. I brought this up with Jessica at the beginning, and she told me to learn by reading, studying other churches, finding out what training is available, and most importantly, by listening. “Train this congregation how to reach your age group. Ask your age group what they need from their church. Say, ‘Our church is ready to hear us. What do we want to tell them?’ I want you to lead from the ‘we’ position.”

I immediately found that it can be awkward to ask someone point-blank what they need—especially if they are not used to answering the question. I started a lot of conversations with exactly the words Jessica gave me: “Your church is ready to hear you. What do you want to tell them?” and got a lot of, “Um, I don’t know. Maybe Sunday school?”

I realized that was kind of an overly direct approach.

So for the past month and a half I have been asking students to help me with tasks related to their interests and the church’s needs (social media, video production, artistic creation, etc.) and asking all about their lives and interests while we work together. If they give me any space at all, I am asking them to tell me more. I’m also meeting young adults for coffee all the time and asking the same sorts of things: Tell me your story. Tell me more. 

I’m learning a lot as young people slowly unfold what they are scared of, what they hope for, and what sorts of things they are jaded about. One of my fundamental beliefs is that a lot of people will tell you their hurts, hopes, fears, and dreams if you are not joking (or lying) when you say you want to hear them. Then you both can go from there, and I think God is present there.

So I have been listening and paying careful attention, and I have 47 pages of notes so far from young adults (and a few older adults) answering the request to tell me more. I changed all the names and read three pages of what I’m learning to our ministry team in an effort to listen together.

I remember hearing Dr. Argue say that “Tell me more” are the three most loving words in the English language, and I remember when I heard that thinking, “He’s right. I am dying to be asked that.” When we assume we know the other person without first doing the work of listening, we risk missing the other person.

I remember visiting a church my first semester of college. I would have gone home with anyone who asked me to lunch afterwards, or made conversation with anyone who asked me what my name was, or accepted advice from anyone who told me what to major in and gave me a compelling reason, but no one did that day. I think the older people assumed I had friends, and my peers didn’t even see me because they were as self-focused as I was in that moment. In that time of transition, I was desperate for a relational foothold and didn’t know how to make it for myself.

I also remember the times people have taken time for me. I feel like I remember every single one of those times because they were so formational and so longed for. At each transition point, I wanted someone to be with me—not to solve me or my issues, but just be with me and ask what I was thinking or experiencing.

One person who offered me that kind of time was the elderly security guard at the gym where I worked in college. He would ask a few questions and then stare at the door or security screen while I rambled on about why I was choosing this or that major and what causes made my blood boil. Sometimes he would give feedback, but mostly he would just listen and say that I was going to be someone in the world, and to keep working towards that end. If you asked me who has had my back as I have struggled into adulthood, I would say his name, because he listened, encouraged my personhood, and didn’t judge.

So now that I am considering how to train the congregation to reach people in my age group, I am noticing these themes of empathy and co-creation. If we can take one another seriously, if we can believe that each generation has a valid story and is deeply capable of offering something to the community for the sake of the kingdom, and if we are able to receive from each other, then we’re pretty much there in my mind.

But how do we begin to get there?

We have a building that is close to our primary church structure but physically separate. Two sides of that building are glass, and face downtown Tulsa. Looking out towards 10th street, you can see Tulsa Community College. Looking out the other side, towards Main Street, you can see First United Methodist’s main church building. There is a wall facing Main Street about two feet away from the glass window. It’s right by the stoplight where a good portion of the congregation waits when they are coming and going, along with others passing through this part of the city.

Jessica said to me, “That wall is a canvas. It has to be understood. Whoever looks at that wall needs to think, ‘This church cares about young adults’.” But writing, “Hey Tulsa, we care about young adults!” on the wall is not a great idea. So we wrote the three most loving words instead.

If people can invite each other to “Tell me more” and build that into their regular conversations, we will be moving towards empathy. The idea of the mural is to embed empathetic language into our minds so that it will flow naturally in conversation with people who seem really different, in this case young adults. When you don’t know where to start in conversation, you can start there. We want, as a church, to start there with young adults in our community. So the mural is a teaching tool, a prompt, and a request. We really do want to know more.

I texted a young adult who was involved in our church as a high schooler. I said, “I have a canvas for you, if you’re interested. It needs to be bold, seeable through the glass from the perspective of a car, and it needs to say, ‘Tell Me More’. This is all about working together to create the space we want to see for young adults in downtown Tulsa. I think these are the words people long to be asked, so we’re asking through our space. You can totally say no, but I hope you say yes.”

That was it. He did the rest.

03.20.17

How to Help Teens Through Emotional Times by Tim Elmore

growingleaders.org

Let me begin this blog with a brash, even stark observation:

We live in a very emotional time period.

Not only are adults divided over our nation’s politics right now, expressing volatile emotions, but our kids are navigating extreme emotions at a high level. Students often find it difficult to negotiate the alarming amount of information streaming at them, to navigate the connections they’ve made on social media and the pressure they feel academically. Recently, I encountered these three scenarios in my travels:

•Parents are witnessing kids emote over high stress from school.

•Faculty on college campuses witness students unable to have civil discussion.

•Employers witness young professionals ill-equipped and emotional at work.

Recently, I spoke to a therapist about this topic. We both agreed that our experience indicates people today have a more difficult time managing their emotions than in earlier decades. There may never have been a more important time for us to develop emotional intelligence than now.

Why Do Students Become Emotional?

Kids cry because they feel the innate need to express themselves. We all know that adolescents experience hormone change during puberty and their teen years. Kids, however, are prone to cry all through pre-adulthood. Obviously, emotions run higher in some students than others. Some cry naturally for reasons such as:

1.Failure: They feel they’ve disappointed an adult.

2.Opposition: They feel attacked by someone.

3.Disappointment: They’ve been let down by someone.

4. Fear: They get scared or don’t feel safe.

5. Selfishness: They don’t get their way.

6. Inadequacy: They don’t feel their emotions have been acknowledged.

Part of growing up is learning to manage emotions. This means performing the balancing act of allowing for emotions (on the one hand), but ensuring they are the “servant” not the “master,” when in inappropriate contexts. I remember hearing “Big boys don’t cry” when I was growing up, and I learned to keep my guard up, especially around other boys. At the same time, I learned as an adult that strong men are able to express emotions in front of others, without communicating uncontrollable weakness. The key is emotional intelligence: the management of emotions.

Strategies for Parents and Teachers to Handle Tears in Children

Below are action steps we can use when helping young people handle emotions:

Tears in Childhood

1.Model how to handle emotion for them. Adults lead well when they set an example for emotional intelligence within their family or school.

2.Acknowledge their tears. Many children have been damaged by adults who unwittingly communicate: Big boys don’t cry or it’s never right to shed a tear.

3.Help them stay in their window of tolerance. This is not always possible, but do all you can to keep them in contexts where they can handle their emotions.

4.Give them boundaries and stick to them. Communicate up front what’s acceptable behavior, with or without emotions, and stay consistent.

5.Offer them an appropriate place to express their emotions. If kids cry frequently, suggest a safe but secluded place where they can go and emote.

6.Remind kids that emotions will pass. While it doesn’t solve the problem instantly, over time kids begin to realize that tears and crying come and go.

When tears are frequent, it can be a sign kids want attention—even subconsciously. Be sure to not merely respond to crying fits with rewards to keep them calm. This sends the message that all they need to do is cry or whine to get something they want. If it happens incessantly, see a doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis.

Tears in Adolescence

With teens and young adults, the steps above can be relevant, but I would add the following responses as well:

1.Stay calm. When a teen is upset, it escalates when we meet emotion with emotion. Remain poised, let them collect themselves. It’s the best way to keep them engaged.

2.Work to offer dignity not embarrassment. Always remember: avoid judging them for their reactions. Treat them with respect during a difficult interaction.

3.Express empathy. I often try to say—“No worries. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve struggled with in this area. I can totally understand why you’d feel that way.”

4.Listen actively. Frequently, teens simply need to feel they’ve been heard in times of emotion. Look for non-verbal cues and sub-text as they express themselves.

5.Don’t try to soften the effect by using a cliché, such as: “Well, at least you’re not in a wheelchair” or “You’re lucky to still be around…” These feel like platitudes.

6.Finally, try to recognize what the teen is angry about, disappointed by or afraid of before offering some action steps. Understanding paves the way to resolution.

Marjorie Holmes wrote, “Man is the only creature whose emotions are entangled with his memory.” Let’s do our best to direct those memories with our students and young adults.

03.20.17

Complaining Never Wins the Culture by Trevin Wax

desiringgod.com

What if the biggest danger ahead for Christians today is something we don’t expect, but should?

Of course, there are some dangers of which we’re all very aware and conscious. In a pluralistic world, we know the pressure on Christians to abandon the truth that Jesus is the only way to God, so we proclaim loudly the exclusive salvation that we find in Christ. In the midst of a moral revolution, we see the temptation for Christians to deny or downplay the truth about sexuality and marriage, so we rightly seek to defend the Bible’s teaching on these issues.

Naturally, we think that to be faithful in this time means shoring up our commitments in these spheres where cultural pressure is intense. But what if there’s a bigger danger on the horizon? Something that goes beyond the truths we uphold to the hearts that uphold them?

An Unexpected Exhortation

After reciting one of the most glorious hymns in the New Testament, showcasing the beauty of Jesus’s incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation (Philippians 2:6–11), Paul commands the church to adopt the same mind of our risen Lord.

“The Christian who grumbles will neither stand out in this generation, nor hold firm to the gospel.”

And his first command — the first way he expects us to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) — is, “Don’t grumble.”

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:14–15)

Why start with grumbling? We might expect an exhortation to spiritual disciplines, or strategies for thriving as pure and faultless people in a sinful world. And yes, Paul does speak about blamelessness and purity and holding firm to the word of life (Philippians 2:16). But this purity in action is somehow connected to the first command to do everything without grumbling. Somehow, grumbling will keep us from faithfulness.

Grumbling over Gratitude

Why start here? Because Paul knows the story of Israel.

Remember the children of Israel? The passover lamb was sacrificed on their behalf; they were set free from bondage to Egypt; they went out through the waters of the Red Sea into the wilderness toward the Promised Land. Having been graciously redeemed through an act of deliverance none of their generation could have imagined . . . they began to grumble.

This was the big sin of Israel. They chose grumbling over gratitude. Grumbling stalled their journey and led to actions that were anything but “blameless and innocent.”

Gratitude in the Wilderness

Fast-forward to first-century Philippi. The church — like Israel — had been brought out of slavery to sin and death. Through the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, they had received atonement for their sins. They’d passed through the waters of baptism and were headed toward the Promised Land. In the dark wilderness of the first century, lying “in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), Paul knew that grumbling and arguing would keep them from shining like stars in a dark world.

Two thousand years later, much of our world feels like a wilderness. We, too, live in a “crooked and twisted generation,” where crooks are elevated and perversion celebrated.

“It’s hard to joyfully and consistently proclaim the gospel when all you do is complain about your mission field.”

Jesus still speaks to his church: Do everything without grumbling. You want to be blameless and pure — faultless in this generation? Then you better start right here. Why? Because the Christian who grumbles will neither stand out in this generation, nor hold firm to the gospel.

Grumbling about this cultural moment usually leaves us wistful for another. But we will never be faithful in the present as long as we are yearning for the past. The only era we should long for is a future one, when the kingdom comes fully on earth as it is in heaven.

No Ministry in Murmuring

Furthermore, grumblers are neither persuasive nor appealing when they share their faith. In fact, they rarely share their faith at all. It’s hard to joyfully and consistently proclaim the gospel when all you do is complain about your mission field. Murmuring does not further God’s mission.

The root issue, of course, is a lack of faith (Psalm 78:19–20). Whenever we look at the state of the world and wag our fingers, shake our heads, or wish that we had been born in another time or place, we question God’s sovereignty and resent the task he has given us. Grumbling over the good that we think God has withheld is, in reality, nothing short of rebellion (Psalm 78:17).

Faithfulness starts with gratitude. We trust in the God who knows where we are and when we are. This is our time. Holding firm to the word of life is a thrilling adventure. We’re not digging in, like cranks who resent societal shifts or cultural changes. No, we’re standing, with the smile of faith that knows God is good and sovereign and that his everlasting joy will spread to all peoples.

Only Joy Gives Life

Paul himself employs a military metaphor in reference to Epaphroditus, his “fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25). Armed with the divine weapon of the gospel message of Christ, the church is equipped to plunder Satan’s house, destroy strongholds, and proclaim Jesus’s freedom to those captive to sin (Mark 3:27Luke 4:182 Corinthians 10:4–5). In this spiritual campaign, a grumbling soldier is a dangerous liability, fighting on the edge of treason.

“We trust in the God who knows where we are and when we are. This is our time.”

Christians are joyful because we follow a King who endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Whether we are given suffering, chains, imprisonment, or worse (Hebrews 11:36–38), or whether we conquer kingdoms, stop the mouths of lions, escape the sword, and put armies to flight (Hebrews 11:33–34), we must know that only joy in and gratitude to Jesus will win the war for our culture. Christians who run the race experience the glorious combination of exhaustion and exhilaration that comes from knowing the Spirit empowers us to spend our every last bit of energy for the sake of Jesus’s glory.

Yes, we may face obstacles, setbacks, and tough days ahead. But in it all, and under it all, we are also joyful. And this cheerful courage comes not from ignoring darkness or looking only for the bright side, but from believing that the Light will overcome the dark.

Do you want to shine like stars? Then do everything without grumbling.