07.17.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
God wants to bring you to a place where you are not defined by your dysfunction but by your deliverance. #lusko
When you focus on everything that could possibly be missing, you miss everything that could be possible. #furtick
He who fears not the future may enjoy the present. #fuller
Trust is accepting what God sends into your life whether you understand it or not. #keller
 
FYI:
1. Guide for Teen Slang… https://netsanity.net/teen-slang-parents-guide/?inf_contact_key=212eef2d96d68c5ccc8b2ac124c863d85b4670f59a5b027563136e1e779ff5ca
2. 56 Games Students Love… http://childrensministry.com/articles/list-of-bible-games/?utm_source=internal_children’s_ministry_resource&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=
 
4. Maybe it’s Time to Shut Up… https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/07/maybe-time-shut/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=bb35a72359-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-bb35a72359-126726953
5. Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case (Below)
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Facebook Can’t Replace the Church by Grayson Pope 
Ways to Reach More Millennials at Your Church by Brandon Hilgemann (For churches and reaching millennials… but this applies to our students too!)
Why Big Fun Doesn’t Work & What To Do Instead by Aaron Helman (Blog post for youth pastors but the what we do instead has some great reminders.)
When Pain is All You Have – Why Teenagers Cut Themselves by Jim Burns (Some good info here!)
 

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

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/67995/stuff?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=stuff-2169778&utm_campaign=fp-07/14/2017-2169778
http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/68153/i-am-his?utm_source=WorshipHouse%20Media%20–%20Around%20the%20House%20(CD%20Update)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=i_am_his-2169778&utm_campaign=fp-07/14/2017-2169778
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
Why Nothing You Give Up for Christ is Ever Lost 
 
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.   Galatians 2:20

Mark 10:29-30 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 reminded me that God notices all the work we do for him and also reminded me that those who know Christ will be rewarded in heaven for what they do on earth.

When I embrace these truths, difficulties take on an eternal meaning and I am bolstered with confidence that nothing in this world can really shake me because nothing that I give up for Christ will ever be lost. Every sacrifice will be ultimately redeemed.

Joy! In Christ, we win and the story ends very, very well.

Perhaps this knowledge is why Corrie ten Boom, the beloved author, evangelist, and concentration camp victim who traveled for over thirty years telling the world about Jesus, said that material things would never be important to her again after her time in Ravensbruck. Corrie had stood at death’s door, and when she did, heaven’s priorities became illuminated.

There is an internal freedom that comes when we realize that what we do here matters for forever, and because it matters for forever, absolutely no earthly happening will ever be able to destroy us. Nothing will ultimately ruin us. No disappointment will keep us down—and nothing that we give up for Jesus will be lost. Not when we give up a job, a home we love, or loved ones as we move across the country and say goodbye. In the end, we win.

What have you given up for Christ? You can be confident that He notices. And, when you work for Him, you are storing up for yourself treasure in heaven that can never be destroyed.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Prayer: Lord, how wonderful you are that you reward those who know you, love you, and do your will. Please help me to live in light of eternity. Amen.

Jesus heals our broken hearts

The physical heart muscle, fed by arteries, pumps and regulates the blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies. If we exercise that muscle through cardiovascular workouts and feed it healthy nutrients, it grows stronger. But let it languish and feed it toxins, and we all know what happens: the muscle grows weak and the arteries get clogged.

The same is true of our spiritual hearts. The heart is the seat of our passions; it drives and compels us to be who we are and act as we do. It is the essence of our character. So what happens if our spiritual heart is fed toxins and we let it languish? It too grows weak, gets clogged, and sends those poisonous toxins pumping through our lives. When shame has been pumping through a heart, over time the heart itself grows toxic. When we are wounded, we leak toxic waste, and that waste poisons us and the people around us — even when we are completely unaware of it.
The reality is:

  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • Broken people break people.
  • Shattered people shatter people.
  • Damaged people damage people.
  • Wounded people wound people.
  • Bound people bind people.

Many of us have been hurt, suffered offense, and then lived with it unforgiven in our lives. But over time God will replace our clogged hearts with His heart of flesh because healthy hearts create healthy and fruitful lives (Ezekiel 36:26). And free people can truly free people.

  • Hurt people hurt people, but helped people help people.
  • Broken people break people, but rebuilt people build people.
  • Shattered people shatter people, but whole people restore people.
  • Damaged people damage people, but loved people love people.
  • Wounded people wound people, but healed people bind up wounds
  • Bound people bind people, but freed people lead others to freedom.
Why Christians Need to Make the Case for Making the Case by J. Warner Wallace
coldcasechristianity.com

Now, more than ever, Christians must shift from accidental belief to evidential trust. It’s time to know why you believe what you believe. Christians must embrace a forensic faith. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Christians living in America and Europe are facing a growingly skeptical culture. Polls and surveys continue to confirm the decline of Christianity (refer, for example, to the ongoing research of the Pew Research Center, including their 2015 study entitled, America’s Changing Religious Landscape). When believers explain why they think Christianity is true, unbelievers are understandably wary of the reasons they’ve been given so far.

As Christians, we’d better embrace a more thoughtful version of Christianity, one that understands the value of evidence, the importance of philosophy, and the virtue of good reasoning. The brilliant thinker and writer C. S. Lewis was prophetic when he called for a more intellectual church in 1939. On the eve of World War II, Lewis drew a parallel between the challenges facing Christianity in his own day and the challenges facing his country as war approached:

If all the world were Christian it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against the cool intellect on the other side but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether. (C.S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” The Weight of Glory page 58)

Over seventy years ago, Lewis recognized two challenges facing the church: (1) Christians are largely unprepared to make the case for what they believe; and (2) many in the church still deny the need to be prepared in the first place. We are a largely anti-intellectual group, even though the history of Christianity is replete with some of the greatest thinkers who ever lived. In spite of our rich intellectual history, we have arrived at a point where there is a need to make a case for making a case.

Blessings, Kendall

07.17.17

Facebook Can’t Replace the Church by Grayson Pope

relevantmagazine.com

Mark Zuckerberg recently said he believes Facebook can become a force for community organization, much like churches or little league sports. His comments have prompted reflection on both the Church’s place amid a changing cultural and the role of technology in organizing people. Some scoffed at Zuckerberg’s ambitions, while others asked if Facebook could indeed replace the Church.

Since the future is not for us to know, perhaps the best thing to do with comments like these is to see what they bring into focus and what they fail to see all together. Lest we think church can easily be replaced, I’d like to turn the attention to what many inside and outside Christianity often fail to see in regards to the Church. God’s design for humans, where Christians find their meaning and the reality of the church’s mission provide us three reasons why Facebook (or any other institution) can’t replace church.

WE WERE CREATED FOR FACE-TO-FACE COMMUNICATION.

Screens, no matter how immersive, are a mediated experience. We were created to relate to one another as unmediated beings, though. Put another way, we were made to relate to one another face to face. That’s because we are embodied creatures that take in information through all five of our senses, something that’s not possible through mediated experiences.

This embodied design is not unique to us; it’s an image of what the invisible God is like. When the image of that invisible God came to earth to pen the climax of His great redemptive narrative, He did so in the form of an embodied man named Jesus. It’s easy to miss that God could have done anything He wanted, but He chose to come in the most inefficient and vulnerable of all creatures–a human baby.

Jesus’ ministry was an embodied one, lived out in an area of only a few miles. This model was not lost on Jesus’ disciples, who, much like us, had a decision to make when it came to ministry. They had access to a new technology which allowed them to communicate with groups of people they had loose connections to but lived miles and miles apart from. It was called letter writing. Sure, letter writing is old news to us, but it was an amazing technological innovation in that day.

Peter and Paul, two pillars of the early Church, actually wrestled with when to write letters and when to meet face to face with the people they ministered to. Peter wrestled with wanting to continue writing down his thoughts and instructions, but decided instead it would be better to visit his audience in person. “I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face” (3 John 13–14).

Paul echoes similar sentiments in one of his letters where he goes so far as saying he and his companions, “pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Both Peter and Paul’s comments suggest there would be something lacking if they could not meet with those they ministered to in person; that something would be lacking without the embodied experience of being present in the same place at the same time.

As we live through the emergence of virtual and augmented reality, there will be an increasingly stronger pull to gather digitally. But to do so misses the context of what Jesus and the Apostles showed us. It misses that there’s something inimitable about meeting face to face, picking up on body language and voice inflection and eye contact. It makes us more vulnerable to one another, and more pliable in the hands of a God who wants to shape us into His image.

Though we’re living through a new digital period in human history, the Bible’s teaching is clear that face-to-face communication is what we were made for, and that the majority of our ministry should be carried out in person whenever possible. The Church has maintained its call to gather together (Hebrews 10:25) for the last two thousand years, and, as we’ll see below, it will continue to for the next two thousand (unless Jesus comes back first). Being a part of a family where you can be known in the most intimate sense, where anyone in the family is willing to give you whatever is theirs, is simply irreplaceable. When the Church operates as a family as it was intended to (see Acts 2:42:47), nothing–certainly not Facebook–will replace it.

JESUS IS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF MEANING.

Key to Zuckerberg’s plan to increase community involvement among Facebook’s users is the idea that all of us are searching for a meaningful life. The existential pursuit of meaning and purpose is something humanity has been after since the beginning. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This is what has often been referred to as the “God-shaped hole”–this sense that our life should matter on a cosmic level.

When Jesus’ disciples were peppering Him with questions leading up to His crucifixion, the famed “doubting Thomas” said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” His question came out of confusion when Jesus said He would take them where He was going, but Thomas’ question is about much more than that. He’s wondering where he and his friends are going to find their meaning once Jesus is no longer with them in the flesh. Jesus’ response to Thomas is, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

There’s a lot of theology in Jesus’ answer, but wrapped inside is the idea that everything finds its ultimate meaning in Him. Salvation is rooted in belief in His death and resurrection. Truth is grounded in the reality of His teaching. Life is found in giving up our lives for the sake of His. Meaning is not found in an idea or a philosophy–meaning is found in a Person.

No other institution gets to claim that Jesus is its head (Colossians 1:18). That honor belongs to the Church alone. No for-profit or nonprofit organization will usurp the Church’s position as the bride of Christ. The Church is enveloped in the love of Christ who brings meaning to all of life. As long as that’s true, nothing can replace the meaning that’s found in the Church’s witness to Christ.

THE CHURCH’S MISSION IS UNSTOPPABLE.

Comments like Zuckerberg’s often cause more of a firestorm than they’re worth because many within the Church have failed to remember fundamental truths about the nature of the Church and her mission. We just saw how the Church is infused with meaning because of its position in Christ, but what about the mission? Is it in danger of failing? Is it possible for Facebook or some other business or government to complete Jesus’ Great Commission?

The Bible’s answer to those questions is a resounding “no.” The mission of God is unstoppable. That mission has been given to the Church, which means the Church’s mission is unstoppable.

The Book of Revelation looks forward to a time where all of human history is headed. In that certain future, we finally see the culmination of the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Here’s what it will look like:

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13).

God deserves the praise of every single person and people group on the planet, and one day He will get it.

Our culture may be secularizing at a rapid pace. The world around us seems to move faster and faster, getting crazier by the day. The church may move from one place to another. It may be more and more difficult to be a Christ-follower, even in America. But make no mistake–the mission of the Church is not in jeopardy.

God holds the fate of the world in the palm of His hand, and what He has said will come to pass. No person, business or institution can stand in the way of the God who spoke into existence all of creation.

07.17.17

5 Ways to Reach More Millennials at Your Church by Brandon Hilgemann

pastors.com

Hi, I’m Brandon, and I’m a millennial.

I am one of those so-called entitled, snowflake babies born between 1980 and 2000.

Being a millennial comes with many unfair stereotypes:

  • We are lazy.
  • We want trophies just for participating.
  • We can’t find stable jobs or move out of our parents’ basements.

While some of the stereotypes are true for some millennials, I know a lot of millennials who break the trend.

But there is one stereotype about millennials that is scary because it’s true. Millennials are leaving the church in droves.

So while I cannot pretend to speak for all millennials, I can tell you what my millennial friends and I want to see in your church.

1. Put millennials on stage.

When we go to church and see a bunch of gray-haired guys on stage and a bunch of gray-haired people in the crowd, we wonder if we fit in.

Find ways to get younger people on stage. And let a millennial pastor preach every once in a while.

If you don’t have one on staff (or at least as an elder or high-capacity volunteer), that may be part of the problem.

Show us that your church isn’t just an old-persons club, but a place that we can serve and use our gifts, too.

I know from experience how hard it is for millennials to break into ministry. We are starving for someone to give us a chance.

Just look at the churches that are reaching millennials and tell me if any of them don’t have young people on stage.

2. Be real with us.

We crave authenticity.

Don’t pretend like everything in life is rosy when you follow Jesus. If you do, we will know you’re fake.

You aren’t fooling anyone. We all know you aren’t perfect. We loathe imposters, and many of us are skeptical because church leaders can seem fake.

So quit talking to us like we are naive, and skipping around sensitive subjects.

Be uncomfortably vulnerable with us about your shortcomings and struggles in your faith. Tell us how you continue to wrestle with your imperfections while trying to follow Christ.

We want the ugly truth about the messy issues in life, even when it stings.

3. Embrace technology.

Stop pretending like it’s 1985 and we don’t all have smartphones in our pockets.

Technology has dated many practices of the church.

Stop asking everyone to fill out a physical communication card with a dull pencil when you can just ask us to send you a text, email, or fill out a quick form on your website.

Don’t ask us for our home phone number. Does anyone still have a landline? Just ask for a phone number and assume it’s a cell phone.

Also, just so you know, most millennials don’t carry cash anymore. Many of us can hardly remember the last time we saw a checkbook. We use debit cards (or even our phones) and pay bills online. So it’s awkward when you pass an offering plate and don’t give us an option to give online.

I could list a hundred more examples.

If nothing else, start here: Update your church website and make it the central hub for all church information, registration, and giving.

4. Use visuals.

Like it or not, we are a visual generation.

It’s harder than ever for a preacher to hold our attention. But we are drawn to pictures and video. Please use them.

If you are talking about a location in the Bible, show us a picture of the area.

If you are preaching about an abstract concept, find a concrete way to demonstrate it.

Take advantage of the excellent video illustrations at your disposal.

Even just painting word pictures and telling stories helps.

In every sermon, ask yourself, “How can I both show and tell?” (I have an entire chapter on this in my book Preach and Deliver).

Use visual elements and imagery to help us see what you say.

Not only will you hold our attention, but you will help us understand in the way that we have been conditioned by our culture to learn.

Preaching isn’t dead to millennials, but it needs to adapt to our culture.

5. Be clear.

We like things that are clear and simple.

This goes for everything: your preaching, your theology, your programming, your mission statement . . . even your church signs.

We don’t like 12-point sermons. Stick with one big point.

We don’t like signs we have to stop to read, just point us in the right direction.

And please, for the love, stop reading every church announcement from the stage. Highlight a thing or two that’s coming up and point us to where we can get more information.

Also, understand that simplicity does not mean stupidity. It takes more intelligence to make the complex simple.

Cut the clutter.

The point

Don’t believe all the stereotypes you hear about millennials. We don’t have to be the generation that leaves the church.

But if you want to reach us, some things in your church will have to change.

These five things alone won’t do all the work for you. But if you want your church to reach millennials, this is a start to creating an environment that will help.

Otherwise, your church might keep fishing with the wrong bait.

07.17.17

Why Big Fun Doesn’t Work & What To Do Instead by Aaron Helman

ministrytoyouth.com

Twenty years ago, it was pretty easy to attract a crowd to your youth group.

Throw together a fun activity on a Sunday night, print some posters, order some pizza, and you were set.

But that was twenty years ago.

Things have changed, and today it’s so much more difficult to bring together a large group of teenagers.

And while there is so much that has changed in our world, in technology, and in mainstream teenage culture; perhaps no change is as profound as the one that so many of us have failed to notice.

Giving teenagers social, fun activities has turned into big business over the course of the last decade.

Think about it.

Even in 1995, there weren’t a ton of opportunities for teenagers to get together and do something fun with friends on a Sunday night.

Maybe the movie theater? If you were lucky, maybe Putt-Putt?

Youth group had a near-monopoly on Sunday night’s (or weekend) social teenage entertainment, and so a dodgeball tournament or messy games extravaganza was a good draw.

If you were 15-years-old, it’s not like there were a ton of other things to do at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday.

Today, hobbies like paintballing are fully realized industries.

Trampoline parks are a thing that exists.

Malls and food courts keep later Sunday hours than ever before.

The local skating rink hosts all-nighters, an activity that used to be strictly reserved for caffeinated youth ministries.

Even more, with the advent of online gaming, video games are no longer a primarily solo hobby – these too can be considered social entertainment.

You could go on and on and on, but the point remains the same.

Teenagers today have more social options and more entertainment options than ever before. If we’re competing for their time in the space of BIG FUN, we’ve found ourselves in a suddenly clustered field. 

Teenagers who are just looking for a fun time with their friends on Sunday night have a lot more choices than they used to.

And those other places? They have marketing budgets and niche appeal and a dozen other things that we don’t necessarily have ourselves.

The bottom line is that for most of us if we’re trying to sell youth ministry as the fun place to be, it’s probably going to be harder than ever before.

SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

The good news for all of us is that youth ministry was never supposed to compete on fun.

A youth group offers Meaning and Truth and Real Relationships and plenty of other Capitalized Things that you won’t find at the ice rink or climbing wall.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play games or have fun in our ministries.

Our programs should be fun.

Fun is important.

Our students should have fun when they’re with us.

But BIG FUN shouldn’t be our primary draw, it shouldn’t be the primary focus of our marketing or communication.

If you’re trying to persuade students to attend because it will be fun, they’ll compare your program against a dozen other fun options and too often, you’ll lose out.

But if you’re trying to persuade students to attend because they’ll get to be a part of something that Matters, because they’ll be a part of something Real, and because they’ll belong to something Eternal…

…they won’t have anything else to compare it too.

Your ministry is the only thing that can do that.

I know what you’re thinking that kind of philosophical advice sounds really, really good until you have to actually figure out how you’re going to, you know, do it.

Let’s go into more detail of how to put all of this into action.

BE A PART OF SOMETHING THAT MATTERS

A friend of mine runs a mid-sized suburban youth ministry.

He is a phenomenal teacher and Bible study leader. He is a gifted counselor when he meets with students in crisis.

In short, his giftedness emphasizes the Pastor part of Youth Pastor.

A typical youth group meeting for him looks a lot like a typical meeting for a lot of youth groups.

There’s some hang-out time, they play some games, eat some food. Then they worship together, hear some teaching, and break out into small groups.

The day after youth group, he always posts a one-minute hype video about everything that happened at youth group last night.

It’s supposed to be a tool that makes more people want to come.

But what’s in that video?

  • A ten-second intro featuring the youth group logo, and truly epic build-up music.
  • Captured video of students playing shaving cream games set to pounding rock music.
  • Captured video of people eating pizza and making faces at the camera.
  • A few seconds of people worshipping at a stage, before it fades out to black and says, “Every Wednesday at 7:00”.

End video.

Now, none of those things are bad. There’s nothing wrong with games or shaving cream.

There is definitely nothing wrong with pizza.

But even though I know for a fact that this youth group features rich teaching and life-giving small groups, you wouldn’t know it from the video or the Facebook page.

“Big Fun” makes up 10% of my friend’s ministry and 80% of its marketing. If you’re on the outside looking in, youth group might look fun, but you don’t see meaningful.

And the worst part is that the fun at youth group doesn’t look nearly as fun as the fun at the Trampoline Park or the Paintball Fields or the Basketball Courts.

So, how could we make that video even better?

MEANINGFUL IS EVEN BETTER THAN AWESOME

Imagine you’d just had a rough week at school.

You’re a 17-year-old junior and you’re caught in the pressures of choosing colleges.

You’ve got options about how to spend your evening, and just going to sleep is absolutely one of them.

Then your small group leader shoots you a text:

Hope you can make it to youth group tonight! We’re playing dodgeball! It’s going to be epic. 

Ugh. What does that even mean? Can any game of dodgeball really be that epic?

But what if the text said this?

I know you’re busy with college stuff, praying for you, bud. Hope you’ll be at youth tonight, I’d love to take five minutes to hear about your week.

That’s different. That’s an adult that cares.

You think the night manager at the movie theater wants to hear about your week?

Is the random person you’re playing video games with online taking time to pray for you?

These kinds of meaningful interactions probably already happen within your ministry. Now it’s time to emphasize them.

Your ministry isn’t going to the best entertainment option a teenager has in a week.

You’re not going to be the coolest social interaction they have all week, and probably your volunteers aren’t going to be either.

But your ministry can be the place where students are most cared for, where they feel most valued, and where they feel freest to be themselves.

Your ministry can be the place where students feel safest to ask questions, most supported in times of difficulty, and most prayed for in times of strife.

Your ministry won’t be the most fun, but it will be the place where teenagers discover who they are and “Whose” they are.

In fact, it probably already is.

HERE’S THE HARD PART

This stuff doesn’t make for good video.

An authentic small group conversation really can’t be videotaped for public consumption, and if it was, it would look pretty boring, even set to the hardest Skillet track you can find.

So how do you attract students to something Real and Meaningful if you can’t capture it in a cool video or colorful flyer? 

You talk to them about it.

You send text messages like the one above and you teach your small group leaders and volunteers to do the same.

You train your students not to testify about how epic youth group is, but instead to testify to how it changed their life.

When you send materials home to parents, emphasize stories of lives changes, Truth shared, and God moving; not just the craziest games you’ve played in the last month.

Most of all, every time you communicate anything, ask yourself this question –

“Am I selling my youth group based on how fun it is? Or how much it Matters?”

Always choose the second.

Your youth ministry is already doing amazing and meaningful things.

Now you’ve just got to make sure you’re telling that story.

07.17.17

When Pain is All You Have – Why Teenagers Cut Themselves by Jim Burns

homeword.com

17-year-old Lauren was despondent over breaking up with her boyfriend. She had never known pain so deep and lingering.

She tried to drown her sorrows in her favorite activities but nothing seemed to work. Even a trip to the movies turned sour when she noticed her former beau with his new girl watching the same film she was.

Trying to keep her composure but hurting just the same, she inadvertently yanked the tab off her soda can. Without much thought, she pressed its sharp edge deep into the flesh of her thumb.

The pain and the blood that followed unleashed what had been pent up inside of her since the relationship ended. But it also gave her something she had longed for all her life – a sense of control over her pain.

Within weeks, Lauren became a full-fledged self-injurer…a “cutter,” if you will. And though few statistics exist on the subject, it’s estimated that as many as 2 million Americans have been treated for some form of self-injury, cutting being the most common. Other common forms of self-mutilation include burning, bone-breaking, and hair-pulling.

As you might imagine, self-injurers don’t always come from stable, loving homes. It’s estimated that about 50% have a history of physical or sexual abuse. One 26-year-old woman said the physical pain she inflicted on herself helped her forget the pain of a childhood marred by sexual abuse.

In recent years, made-for-TV movies and popular television dramas about self-injury have brought this phenomenon to light. And in most, if not all of these storylines, the self-injurers were women. But, in reality, just over 70% are, most of those ranging in age from 11 to 26.

In years past, statistics would show that as many as 90% of those who “cut,” “burn,” or “pull” grew up in homes where communication between children and parents was severely lacking, and messy problems were ignored, avoided, and ultimately left in silence. Interestingly, those early statistics also showed that children of divorced parents are more likely to cut than children whose parents remain together even in a tense, difficult union. However, according to youth expert Ken Mueller, the practice has now become more mainstream and has reached fad status. In fact, Teen Vogue referred to cutting as “the new anorexia.”

Mueller writes, in an article for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, “Like most other destructive behaviors, cutting has moved into the church, and many Christian teens are getting involved. Those behaviors that we have so neatly bookmarked as ‘of the world’ are finding their way into our homes at an alarming rate.” And that includes homes that are self-described by the cutter herself as happy, loving, Christian homes.

What’s the appeal? Cutting is, at its core, an unhealthy act of coping. Only sometimes is it associated with suicidal thoughts; rather, it’s a means of actually feeling something – anything. Beyond that emotional release, the act of self-injury gives a sense of control, as well as a physical satisfaction, as doctors note that cutting releases pleasurable endorphins.

Following is a set of facts about cutting, produced by S.A.F.E. (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives and are reproduced here with their permission.

Self-Injury Facts
About Self-Injury: Self-Injurious behavior is defined as the deliberate, repetitive, impulsive, non-lethal harming of one’s self. Self-injury includes: 1) cutting; 2) scratching; 3) picking scabs or interfering with wound healing; 4) burning; 5) punching self or objects; 6) infecting oneself; 7) inserting objects in body openings; 8) bruising or breaking bones; 9) some forms of hair-pulling, as well as other various forms of bodily harm. The behaviors, which pose serious risks, may be symptoms of a mental health problem that can be treated.

Incidence & onset: Experts estimate the incidence of habitual self-injurers is nearly 1 % of the population, with a higher proportion of females than males. The typical onset of self-harming acts is at puberty. The behaviors often last for 5-10 years but can persist much longer without appropriate treatment.

Background of self-injurers: Though not exclusively, the person seeking treatment is usually from a middle to upper-class background, of average to high intelligence, and has low self-esteem. Nearly 50% report physical and/or sexual abuse during his or her childhood. Many report (as high as 90%), that they were discouraged from expressing emotions, particularly, anger and sadness.

Behavior patterns: Many who self-harm use multiple methods. Cutting arms or legs is the most common practice. Self-injurers may attempt to conceal the resultant scarring with clothing, and if discovered, often make excuses as to how an injury happened. A significant number are also struggling with eating disorders and alcohol or substance abuse problems. An estimated one-half to two-thirds of self-injurers have an eating disorder.

Reasons for behaviors: Self-injurers commonly report they feel empty inside, over or under stimulated, unable to express their feelings, lonely, not understood by others and fearful of intimate relationships and adult responsibilities. Self-injury is their way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings and is generally not a suicide attempt. But relief is temporary, and a self-destructive cycle often develops without proper treatment.

Dangers: Self-injurers often become desperate about their lack of self-control and the addictive-like nature of their acts, which may lead them to true suicide attempts. The self-injury behaviors may also cause more harm than intended, which could result in medical complications or death. Eating disorders and alcohol or substance abuse intensify the threats to the individual’s overall health and quality of life.

Diagnoses: The diagnosis for someone who self-injures can only be determined by a licensed psychiatric professional. Self-harm behavior can be a symptom of several psychiatric illnesses: Depression; Personality Disorders (esp. Borderline Personality Disorder); Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depression); Mood Disorders (esp. Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders); Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, as well as psychoses such as Schizophrenia.

Evaluation: If someone displays the signs and symptoms of self-injury, a mental health professional with self-injury expertise should be consulted. An evaluation or assessment is the first step, followed by a recommended course of treatment to prevent the self-destructive cycle from continuing.

Treatment: Self-injury treatment options include outpatient therapy, partial (6-12 hours a day) and inpatient hospitalization. When the behaviors interfere with daily living, such as employment and relationships, and are health or life-threatening, a specialized self-injury hospital program with an experienced staff is recommended.

The effective treatment of self-injury is most often a combination of medication, cognitive/behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy, supplemented by other treatment services as needed. Medication is often useful in the management of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and the racing thoughts that may accompany self-injury. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals understand and manage their destructive thoughts and behaviors. Contracts, journals, and behavior logs are useful tools for regaining self-control. Interpersonal therapy assists individuals in gaining insight and skills for the development and maintenance of relationships. Services for eating disorders, alcohol/substance abuse, trauma abuse, and family therapy should be readily available and integrated into treatment, depending on individual needs.

In addition to the above, successful courses of treatment are marked by:

1) patients who are actively involved in and committed to their treatment

2) aftercare plans with support for the patient’s new self-management skills and behaviors

3) collaboration with referring and other involved professionals.

If your child is cutting, or you know a child who is, there is no substitute for professional treatment from a caring, Christian counselor. You might consider contacting SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends). You can call them toll-free at…1 – 800 – DON’T CUT (366 – 8288).

Contrary to conventional wisdom, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Self-injury leaves scars that last a lifetime. Only with God’s help will they ever fully heal!

07.10.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day. #bounds
 
Critique gently. Encourage fiercely. #sauls
 
The best way to prove that a stick is crooked is to set a straight one beside it. No words need to be spoken. #tozer
 
Words create worlds. #heschel
 
FYI:
 
2. Teach the Real ‘Personal Relationship with Jesus’ (Good thought to help students understand what a relationship is.)… https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/teach-the-real-personal-relationship-with-jesus 
 

4. Survey Finds Most Americans Are Heretics… http://thefederalist.com/2016/10/10/survey-finds-american-christians-actually-heretics/

5. Air Pong Game (Below)
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Youth Ministry’s Pivot in the Faith and Science Conversation by Steve Argue (Asks some good questions.)
When Volunteers Don’t Follow Through by Syler Thomas (I know… don’t start!)
Six Simple Ways to Better Engage Generation Z by Tim Elmore (Not so simple! But worth thinking through as you plan your year!)
The Challenges Facing Young Christians by J. Warner Wallace
 
 
Wise Beyond Youth
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17

Youth is not just a passive pass through into adulthood. It is an opportunity to be a world changer, not a world gamer. God gives the young He can trust His knowledge and understanding to impact the culture for Christ. Like Daniel and his friends, the eternal energy and enthusiasm of those with less experience is an opportunity to experience God! A tidal wave of spiritual transformation is ready to be unleashed by the Spirit in the tender hearts of young trusting souls. 

What has the Lord laid on your heart that is outrageous to the status quo? What is your big idea that requires the humility of teachability, the grace of prayer, the discipline of focus and patient persistence? Wherever God has for you, be your best and always think big for His glory. It is an insult to our Lord to limp through life as if we had no support from our Savior. Ask Jesus for wisdom beyond your youth. Use technology and your relational equity to connect others to God.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9).
Furthermore, let’s release those who have yet to grace the age of thirty to engage the grace of God in a gigantic way. Help their dreams and visions come true by investing prayer and money in their ideas. Mentor them to be servants of the Most High and lovers of the most lowly. Encourage their hearts, challenge their minds, starve their egos and feed their faith. If we hold back those hungry for God, we may hinder holy outcomes. Yes, lift up the youth to believe big!
Above all, train and encourage your children in the ways of the Lord. As they get older keep pouring prayers and God’s principles into their lives. When they are married invest in their marriage by sponsoring them to attend a marriage retreat or intensive. Give them the tools, resources, and relationships to be wise beyond their years. When God blesses them with children, invest time and God’s word in your grand babies. Ask the Lord to make them wise in their youth!
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me to empower youth to be everything You’ve called them to be.
 

Jesus Christ – the same – past, present and future!

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Do you ever feel like the world is shifting and swirling so fast that it is different from one day to the next? It is simply a fact that we live in an age when everything seems to be changing before our eyes. In fact, technology develops so quickly that if I listed devices that represent the “new” technology of today, whatever I wrote down would be outdated before this book is printed!

Not only have we seen technologies change quickly, but we have also seen politics and political parties, national and international boundaries, and currencies change — and the list goes on and on. And in the midst of this climate of sweeping changes that the world is caught up in, scores of people have been swept into a seismic shift in core biblical values and morals, even concerning the most basic tenets of faith. These changes are occurring at an alarming rate, but we should not be surprised by it, because the Holy Spirit warned us 2,000 years in advance that this would occur in the very last part of the last days. Perhaps the shock we feel is that so many are abandoning former positions of faith to embrace new ones at what seems to be such lightning speed.

In the midst of this ever-changing environment, it is good to remember that there is one thing that never changes — and that is Jesus Christ! He was in the past exactly who He is in the present and precisely who He will be forever! That’s why Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Today I want us to focus on this verse because it shows the immutability of Jesus Christ!

The Greek word for the “same” emphatically states that Jesus Christ is unchangeable! What good news this is in a world where things are changing at lightning speed! Jesus Christ is the one Person we can depend on to be the same, regardless of the time or the spirit of the age. We don’t need to refigure who Jesus is, what He thinks, or what His message is because He is the same — and everything He represents is the same — yesterday, today, and forever!

The word “yesterday” is the Greek word exthes, and it depicts all time that ever was up until this present moment. It describes the past. The word “today” is the Greek word semeron, and it means today or at this very moment or this current age. It depicts the present. But in the Bible when the words “yesterday and today” are used in one phrase, as they are used here, it also portrays continuity.

The words “yesterday and today” are an Old Testament expression to denote continuity (see Exodus 5:14; 2 Samuel 15:20). So here we find that Jesus isn’t one way in the past and another way in the present. Whoever He was in the past is exactly who He is in the present. There is continuity in Jesus Christ! Therefore, if you discover Jesus of the past, you have also discovered Jesus of the present, and you have discovered Jesus of the future, because He is continuously the same. The word “forever” in Greek means into all the ages of the future. This phrase depicts all future time to come, including all ages that will ever be known. Hence, it describes the future.

Hebrews 13:8 carries this idea:

“Jesus Christ is the exactly the same in the past, in the present, and in the future.”

I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for all future ages! With all the sweeping changes happening in the world right now, I thank God that Jesus isn’t one of them! Whoever He was in the past is who He is in the present and who He will be forever!

So in light of this wonderful truth, I want to advise you to dig deep into your Bible — particularly into the four gospels where Jesus is so vividly portrayed. The Jesus you find in the four gospels will be the same forever. What Jesus said and did in those four gospels is exactly what He is saying and doing now. So if you come to know the Jesus of the gospels, you will come to know the Jesus of today, because He is exactly, identically, and precisely the same!

Air Pong

Supplies

  • 2 Blindfolds
  • 1 Ping Pong Ball

How to Play

Two students are blindfolded and sit across from each other.

Once they hear the ping pong drop they attempt to blow it off the other side.

Whichever player is successful wins that round. The best 2 out of 3 wins.

And if you want to pull one over on your students, then put flour down instead of the ping pong ball! Ha!!

Blessings, Kendall

07.10.17

Youth Ministry’s Pivot in the Faith and Science Conversation by Steve Argue

fulleryouthinstitute.org

If you’re a youth pastor or student ministry leader, one critical task you hold is planning and choosing teaching topics throughout the year. Chances are good that from time to time you wonder, “How will we address the ‘faith and science’ conversation with our students this year?” For most of us, this isn’t an easy question to answer!

Young people today live in a world where science has cloned animals, explored global warming, heard the heartbeat of a fetus, demonstrated that the earth has limited resources, improved human health conditions, and revealed up-close pictures of Saturn’s moons. Science is exciting, and young people are more informed than ever.

As new discoveries shape and reshape our understanding of the physical world, it won’t be uncommon for youth workers to be expected to address new perspectives in our teaching. Even more, young people are looking to trusted adults like us to help them speak of faith and science as friends, not enemies. Entrenched positions that demand young people choose a “side” between faith or science offer a lose/lose proposition that seems unrealistic for young people, and honestly, unfair.

But this tumultuous narrative of faith and science is not necessarily the narrative that adolescents and emerging adults want to believe. In response, we can make a few pivots in the way we approach faith and science with our students, perhaps shifting some of our assumptions in order to forge more fruitful conversations.

In particular, let’s consider making a missional pivot, a pedagogical pivot, and a formational pivot.

1. Make a missional pivot from youth ministry as an “end” to a “beginning”

The pressure youth workers feel from others who believe that their job is to “get kids back in church” rests on an assumption that youth ministry is some sort of stop-gap where young peoples’ faith is solidified before they head out into the world. This is an unrealistic expectation, but one we sometimes start believing ourselves. Instead, we must remember that youth ministry ought to establish a “beginning” in one’s spiritual journey, not an “end.” While the spiritual journey starts long before adolescence, we are guides through a season that prompts new beginnings in the way young people understand God, the world, and themselves, leading them toward faith in adulthood.

This is true with any form of teaching. As an educator, I have failed students if I have curtailed their curiosity, made them afraid to explore, shamed them into behaviors, caricatured others who are not like “us,” or steered them away from hard questions (ones that even scare me). I have failed if students pass all their assignments but cannot transfer course ideas into real-life contexts. As one person in her twenties told me, “My youth group taught me how to believe, not just what to believe.” This is a hopeful picture of preparing our young beyond youth group. This is the missional pivot.

This pivot extends far beyond faith and science, but to focus in on our current topic: What might it mean for youth workers to be the ones who start conversations about faith and science rather than try to end them? Reflect on the following questions:

  • How do we create environments where we encourage students how to believe, not just what to believe?
  • What topics surrounding science do we hear our students talk about the most?
  • Where do we feel uncomfortable about specific scientific subjects as they relate to faith, and why do we feel that way?
  • Who can help us begin to address the scientific topics that young people in our context care about?

2. Make a pedagogical pivot from passivity to agency

Youth ministry leaders’ imperative is to support young people’s need for a dynamically agile faith that grows with them. Some call this task “meaning making.”

Meaning making is an active process through which we seek to make sense of our world, identities, relationships, and purposes. This process is especially pertinent to young people. They are on a quest that needs the support of adults who encourage their questions, not short-circuit them. 1 Here is where youth ministry can do more for our young people, especially those who are interested in the sciences. Let’s help them.

The pedagogical, or teaching, pivot required of us is to help young people move from passive to active learning. Active learning requires a different approach to teaching in which young people are encouraged to be agents of their own meaning making. It assumes that young people are experts of their own lives and have something to offer. Acknowledging this reality requires something different in youth workers’ teaching. We have the beautiful, terrifying responsibility of helping young people connect what they know with the ideas and perspectives they are discovering.

To make this pedagogical pivot from passivity to agency, consider the following:

  • Create a place (a notebook, a blog, a poster) where students can write down the topics of faith and science that they want to talk about.
  • Invite students into not only asking questions but also seeking out answers to their questions.
  • Encourage a safe environment where success is in the seeking, not just in getting the “right” answer (which is often difficult with complex faith/science topics).
  • Train and support other adult leaders to withhold “solving” complex problems with simplified answers. We are teaching our young to make meaning of their spiritual quests over the long haul. Short, quick answers will promote passivity rather than fueling agency!

3. Make an environmental pivot from control to curiosity

Possibly one of the most challenging moves faith communities and youth ministries must make is to give up our power in order to empower young people. This means empowering young people’s curiosity in their meaning making—something youth ministry often resists. 2

This pivot requires us to give up control in order to nurture curiosity. Tried and true “relevant” approaches to get young people to our programs may deny the very things young people need to explore, discover, and consider.

This environmental pivot will also require something else of youth workers: admitting that we have lost our own ability to be curious. This may be for two reasons: first, we’re afraid; and second, we’re afraid.

First, we’re afraid that the topics young people may want explore will contaminate our reputations. We actually run from controversy for this reason. This may be why the “slippery slope” argument is often evoked. Boundaries that control are valued over curiosity that may contaminate. 3

Second, youth workers fear jeopardizing our own faith formation. Some research suggests that the relational nature of faith creates contagiousness. In other words, the faith journeys of young people may call into question our own faith journeys. Youth workers often manage our fears by controlling the topics and conversations so that our own theological assumptions and spiritual lives remain unthreatened. Ministry approaches that discourage curiosity out of suspicion or personal protection short-circuit young people’s faith journeys. Committing to curiosity over control, therefore, challenges (and saves!) everyone.

To make an environmental pivot from control to curiosity, consider the following:

  • How might you encourage each student’s own curiosity? What are they interested in? Make it a goal to find out!
  • Consider what topics (especially with faith and science) you address. Beyond the theoretical, walk out what these issues mean for your young people. For example, what might faith and science discussions mean for their relationships, their environment, or their town?
  • Pay attention to your own internal reactions. What makes you nervous? What are you trying to control? Why might that be happening?
  • Pay attention to your volunteer team in order to support them. Remember that they are on their own faith journeys, even as adults.

Pivoting

Cries and warnings that young people are leaving the church sometimes seem to have less to do with interest in young people’s spiritual journeys and more to do with helping churches look younger and reclaim “relevance.” However, perhaps the relevance that young people long for is generated by communities who are willing to start conversations, value agency, and encourage curiosity.

Young people need courageous adults who are willing to use their resources to encourage young people’s agency to think for themselves; their creativity to explore faithful next steps; and their meaning making to develop an agile, reliable faith that can grow with them. I believe youth workers can pivot toward better conversations about faith and science, and a host of other challenging topics, that will truly help young people and benefit us all.

07.10.17

Six Simple Ways to Better Engage Generation Z by Tim Elmore
growingleaders.com

We are leading, coaching, parenting, and teaching kids who’ve never lived a day in the 20th century. They’ve only known a world of terrorism, recession, racial unrest, corporate scandals, under-employment and uncertainty. They’ve also only known a world of portable devices, multi-tasking, social media, multiple personas and a complex world where they are more about coping and hoping.

How do you coach this new student or young athlete?

Barkley Incorporated and Futurecast LLC collaborated on a study to inform companies and brands to better engage this younger generation as consumers. While I believe part of our job is to prepare kids to enter the adult world, which includes routines and hard work, there are a number of take-aways for us in this report, as we make adjustments to better lead Generation Z. After reviewing the report, here are some of my conclusions on how to engage them:

I Will Engage Them Better If I Will

1. Be faster at feedback.

This new generation values a faster pace of classroom, practice, rehearsal and career advancement that provides frequent feedback for meeting certain benchmarks. According to Dave Weisbeck, from data firm Visier, “They want to “gamify” their careers — a reference to online games and applications that reward players for completing specific tasks.” How can you offer more frequent benchmarks to help them see and measure personal improvement? Even though our class or our season continues to be the same length of time, how can we offer quicker feedback?

2. Do it more fluid and flexible.

Young people are more likely to view themselves as being at the center of their academic paths or careers, rather than revolving their careers around one college or company. “They are building a personal brand.” Therefore, the most flexible you can come across to them—communicating that you’re adjusting to their new realities—the faster you’ll engage them. You will give the impression of being real and “organic.” The longer I “stay the same” the more I appear “plastic” or even “fake” to a student. How can you flex in your methods of delivery or communication to current news or needs that pop up?

3. Offer more frequent rewards. 

While I believe we must equip our students to sustain their interest—even when the rewards are not visible at first—we can prepare them for this lifestyle by offering frequent rewards or benefits to incentivize them to stay and keep working. Sometimes the rewards can be easy for you, yet very meaningful to them—like points for finishing a project on time; affirmation for reaching a goal; or small gifts for hitting a deadline. Once they build a habit (within 21 days), it’s fine to reduce the volume and watch the internal motivation kick in. How could you provide rapid rewards for great performance? Remember: what gets rewarded gets repeated.

4. Break up the meetings into smaller segments.

Former Rams coach Jeff Fisher learned rapidly that splitting up his two-hour meetings into four 30-minute meetings resulted in more engaged players. While some felt he was placating the short attention spans of Millennials, the average age of his LA Rams football team was 24 years old. He got more engaged attendees when he allowed them to get their “social media fix” every half hour. How can you divide your time with students into smaller bites and segments of content to enable them to stay engaged more hours in the long run?

5. Find a way to do it digitally. 

According to Barkley, Inc. and Futurecast, “Teens today are the first generation of consumers to have truly grown up in an entirely post-digital era. Beginning in early childhood, if they did not know an answer to a question, they were taught to “Google it” or, even better, “ask Siri.” As our technology rapidly evolves, the things that were once considered groundbreaking advances to other generations are taken for granted by them. For example, a smart phone is not a piece of “technology.” Instead, it is simply part of life. Teens today are not amazed by the latest iPhone because they expect the functionality and ease of use it delivers. How well do you capitalize on our digital world to teach and coach students?

6. Empower them to create and curate.

In one survey from Barkley, Inc. and Futurecast, Generation Z said, “We want to work for our success, not to be discovered.” Unlike former generations, they are not simply posting a YouTube video and hoping to be found by Usher or some music label. They are curating videos or creating videos as artists who want to express themselves. The more we can empower them to mix and match ideas and then create an idea that represents “them,” the sooner they’ll engage in the project. How can you transform your classroom or practice and let them own it?

Here’s to more creative leadership as we learn how to better engage Generation Z.

07.10.17

The Challenges Facing Young Christians by J. Warner Wallace

coldcasechristianity.com

Every other week, from May to August, I have the honor of speaking with students at Summit Worldview Academy. I typically teach on the nature of truth, the reliability of the gospels, and the evidence for God’s existence. The students are eager to learn and have many good questions. As I speak with these young men and women, I think about the many ways our kids are challenged from childhood through their college years:

They Are Challenged by the Media
Young Christians are challenged very early, beginning with their first exposure to television, movies and the internet. Much of the media is aligned against Christian values, and Americans spend about one-third of their free time, (more than the next 10 most popular leisure activities combined) watching some form of television. The messages communicated by television programming are often in direct opposition to the teaching of Christianity, and students are deeply impacted by what they absorb from the media. Two out of every three shows on television, for example, include sexual content (a dramatic increase over the past 15 years). 50% of the couples involved in sexual behavior in television programming are depicted in casual relationships (10% of these couples had just met, and 9% of television programs depict sexual behavior between teens). In a set of Kaiser Family Foundation studies, 76% of teens said that one reason young people have sex is because TV shows and movies “make it seem normal”. College students who were exposed to the many examples of sexual behavior on television were more likely to believe their peers engaged in those same activities.

They Are Challenged by Elementary and High School Programming
Make no mistake about it, when Christian values are attacked in the public education system, the basis for those beliefs (Christianity) is also attacked. Here in California, for example, comprehensive sexual health and HIV / AIDS instruction requires schools to teach students how to have “safe sex”. “Abstinence only” education is not permitted in California public schools. In addition, California schools cannot inform parents if their children leave campus to receive certain confidential medical services, including abortions. Classic Christian values related to sexuality (and marriage) are under attack in the public school system.

They Are Challenged by University Professors
Once students get to college, they are likely to encounter professors who are even more aggressive in their opposition to Christianity and Christian values. According to the Institute for Jewish and Community research, a survey of 1,200 college faculty members revealed 1 in 4 professors (25%) is an atheist or agnostic (compared with 4-5% in the general population). In addition, only 6% of university professors say the Bible is “the actual word of God”. Instead, 51% say the Bible is “an ancient book of fables, legends, history & moral precepts”. More than half of professors have “unfavorable” feelings toward Evangelical Christians. Charles Francis Potter (author of Humanism: A New Religion) said it best when he proclaimed, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism.  What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five day program of humanistic teaching?”

They Are Challenged by University Students
The attitude and influence of hostile professors is often accepted by University students happy to reject the moral precepts of the Christian worldview. Atheist student groups are multiplying dramatically in universities across America. The Secular Student Alliance, for example, grew from 80 student clubs in 2007 to over 250 clubs in 2011. These students groups are eager to identify themselves with names that challenge the intellectual capacity of Christian students. Atheist groups often seek titles such as “Free Thinker Society,” the “Coalition of Reason,” or the “Center for Inquiry”. The implication, of course, is that Christians are ignorant and constrained by their antiquated worldview.

The Church will never begin to address the growing problem of young people leaving the faith if it doesn’t first recognize the challenges facing Christian students. It’s time to address the challenges facing students before they find themselves struggling to resist the cultural tide on their own.

07.03.17

Do Christian Kids Really Understand the Gospel? by Sean McDowell

SeanMcDowell.org

The longer I interact with Christian young people, the more I wonder how many truly understand the gospel. Of course, many know the story of Jesus, but this is far different from grasping the nature of the gospel. Let me explain.

One of the most common messages I give to students is called “True For You, But Not True For Me.”[1] In this talk, I define truth, discuss why it is so important, dismantle common objections against the existence and knowability of truth, and then help students understand the difference between subjective and objective claims.

Simply put, subjective claims are matters of personal opinion, such as ice cream flavor preference. You can have your favorite (which is true for you) and I can have mine (which is true for me) because the basis of the claim is the subject merely believing something. Subjective claims are internal and thus relative to the individual who holds them.

Objective claims, on the other hand, are about the external world. People can have different opinions about reality, but our beliefs don’t change it. Here are a few obvious examples of objective claims:

  • 2 + 2 = 4 (math)
  • George Washington was the first president of the United States (history)
  • A water molecule is made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (science)

When I ask for participation from the audience, students rarely have trouble identifying these three claims as objective truths. But everything changes when I introduce an ethical issue, such as abortion. In fact, when I ask students to respond as to whether the morality of abortion is subjective or objective, typically 70-90% of Christian kids will say that it is subjective, like choosing an ice cream flavor. I have done this with other moral issues and the response is typically the same. What does this tell us?

For one, it tells us that our kids have been deeply influenced by our relativistic and individualistic culture. Students have imbibed nonjudgmentalism and are reluctant to tell others that they are wrong about moral issues. They have no problem making judgments about mathematical and scientific issues, but when it comes to morality, it’s all a matter of preference.

But with this said, I don’t believe students are actually relativists. In fact, I never believe someone who tells me he or she is a relativist. Why not? As C.S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianityno one is really a relativist. People may claim to be relativists, but their lives will betray them. And further, the apostle Paul tells us that even people without the Law still know moral truth because it is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14-16).

While Christian students do believe in objective morality, their confused response about moral issues being subjective leads me to wonder how many young Christians today actually understand the gospel. Do they really understand what it means to sin against a Holy God (whose character is the basis of the universal moral law)? Christian young people are not relativists, but I do wonder how many apply relativist thinking to their faith.

Think about what subjective morality would mean for the gospel: If morality is subjective, then there is no objective moral law. If there is no objective moral law, then there can be no sin. And if there is no sin, then there is no reason for Jesus to die as our savior. The gospel story rests upon the reality of an objective moral law, which we have all broken, and thus need redemption (Rom 3:23). If morality is subjective, the Christian story crumbles.

We must keep sharing the gospel with students today. But let’s not assume they really grasp it just because they respond with the right words. Rather, let’s help them see through the foolishness of moral relativism and clearly comprehend the reality of the objective moral law that is written on their hearts and rooted in God’s character. When students understand the objectivity of morality, then sin makes sense. And when they understand (and experience) the reality of their own sinfulness, they are in position to grasp God’s saving grace, which is the good news at the heart of the gospel.