The Challenges Facing Young Christians by J. Warner Wallace


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.


‘Adult’ is Not a Verb by John Stonestreet


There’s a new word touted by Webster that exposes a crisis in our culture of generational proportions.

It’s been called a lot of things: “Peter Pan Syndrome” or my favorite, “failure to launch,” but whatever the term, the phenomenon is undeniable. A record number of young people today are getting stuck in the transition between childhood and adulthood.

Despite attending college in record numbers, millennials seem to struggle to move on to the next phase of life. Just a decade ago, a healthy majority of young adults were able to successfully fledge. Now, those who’ve managed to leave the nest are a minority.

Of course, the recession and a sluggish job market are factors. Millennials do have tougher career prospects than their parents did. But the economy isn’t the only explanation, and the language young people use to talk about adulthood makes that obvious.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse announced that Twitter had turned the noun “adult” into a verb. “#Adulting” is what kids post on social media to congratulate themselves for the rather ordinary feats of paying the bills, finishing the laundry, or just getting to work on time.

“I adulted!” goes the saying, as if fulfilling daily responsibilities is somehow above and beyond the call of duty. “Adulting” has become so universally recognized that the American Dialect Society nominated it for the most creative word of 2015.

“To a growing number of Americans,” writes Sasse, “acting like a grown-up seems like a kind of role-playing, a mode of behavior requiring humorous detachment.”

This isn’t just the complaint of a crotchety old man about young whipper-snappers. What we’re witnessing today, insists the senator, is a trend toward “perpetual adolescence,”—a “coming-of-age crisis,” that shows up as a real and measurable reduction in the difference between 10-year-olds and 30-year-olds.

But if our kids don’t know what it means to be adults, parents, we should be asking ourselves, are we teaching them? Isolation in peer groups of the same age, widespread complacency toward history and ethics, unbridled consumerism, and even those infamous participation trophies have all contributed to this crisis.

We’ d do well to remember what C. S. Lewis wrote in “The Abolition of Man” of those who “remove the organ and demand the function,” who “make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise,” who “castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Senator Sasse offers steps to reverse the trend of perpetual adolescence and to help kids from an early age understand the meaning of adulthood. Teach them the difference, he says, between a “need” and a “want,” embrace hard work together, travel meaningfully, and read widely. These are all important steps to forming mature citizens.

Older generations must start investing in the lives of young adults. Summarizing relevant research in 2013, The Boston Globe reported a staggering statistic: Only a quarter of Americans 60 and older had discussed anything important with anyone under 36 in the previous six months! Exclude relatives and that figure dropped to a mortifying 6 percent. How alien this would have sounded to the Apostle Paul, who in Titus 2 urges older men and older women to teach the younger.

Only by connecting and investing in their lives can we reasonably expect our kids, our grandkids, and their peers to understand that “adult” is not something you do. It’s someone you are.


Will Your Teenagers Graduate from Their Faith after High School? by Jonathan Morrow


Will your teenage son or daughter still be walking with Jesus when they graduate college? Or will they leave their faith behind as they walk off that graduation stage to start a new chapter of life?

As parents, we want what’s best for our kids. As Christians, we know that means following Jesus for a lifetime. That’s certainly what I want as a father of three. But we’ve also seen the stats and they’re not encouraging:

  • Depending on the study, approximately fifty percent will disengage from their faith during the college years (there is no indication from the research that they are or will come back).
  • Forty-seven percent of American emerging adults agreed that “morals are relative, there are not definite rights and wrongs for everybody.”
  • Fifty-four percent of “conservative protestant” teenagers affirmed that there was more than one way to God.

Welcome to College in Post-Christian America 

Did you know that a Harvard/George Mason University study found that one of four college professors is a professing atheist or agnostic (a percentage much greater than the general population, which is about five to seven percent)? As a parent, you need to know that College is not “Christian friendly.”

Today’s Christian student faces enormous pressure to bow to the tyranny of tolerance on campus. Certain moral and religious viewpoints are simply no longer allowed. The Bible is attacked and dismissed as a bigoted fairy tale that has long outlived its usefulness in our progressive society. Free speech seems to be protected for everyone except those who actually think Christianity is true.

As someone who has the privilege of teaching a lot of high school and college students, I can tell you from personal experience they are not ready. Many are simply not prepared for the ideas, experiences, and relationships that will challenge their faith during the college years and shape their future.

The good news is that they can be and it starts with you as the parent. Even as powerful as the shaping forces of our culture are, the research still shows that parents are the most influential factor in a child’s life during these formative years.

As I teach seminars for parents on how to help teenagers own their faith, one of the most common questions I get is “what can I do to get them ready and what are the most important things they need to know?” While I offer a more comprehensive answer in Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey, I want to briefly unpack the one thing you must do (and not do!) in order to help your teenager keep their faith in college. Yes, they still have to make their own choices, but this can make a huge difference!

One thing you must do:

The first thing you must do is create a safe place in your home for honest questions and sincere doubts. If you’ve ever thought very much about Christianity or the bible, then you have questions. We all just have to decide what to do with them.

So imagine your daughter finally gets up enough courage to share with you that she’s not sure if she believes in God anymore.

Hit the pause button. How you respond is critical, and you have two options—freak out on the outside or the inside. I advise you to freak out on the inside, and then calmly say something like this:

“That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked it. Can you tell me more about why you are thinking that?”

What you have done for them in this response is communicate that this is safe place, and that he/she can ask anything they want to ask.

Unfortunately, what happens sometimes in our churches, youth groups, and families is there is an unspoken “we don’t ask those kinds of things here” mindset.

There is a common misunderstanding that Christians are never supposed to ask questions or have doubts because it shows a lack of faith. This couldn’t be further from the truth! The opposite of faith is unbelief. Doubt is in the middle. Now, you don’t want to live there forever, but the pathway to a stronger faith involves walking through your doubts.

As moms and dads, we can set the tone for further conversations that build their faith along the way. Your relationship with them is the soil where truth can take root.

One thing you must not do:

Now that we’ve looked at what you must do, here’s one thing you must not do if you want your son or daughter to own their faith. If your teenager raises a tough question or shares an honest doubt with you, we can’t tell them to “stop thinking so hard about this and just have more faith.”

Two things happen when we do this with teens. First, they get frustrated and then, they become disillusioned. Think about it this way: if I ask a room full of students, “Who can hold their breath the longest?” some will last longer than others by sheer willpower. But eventually, they all have to take a breath. The blind faith view works the same way—some will hold on to their faith longer than others, but eventually they will have to take a breath.

Biblical faith is not blind. Faith is active trust in what you have good reason to believe. There have to be reasons for faith somewhere in there. A “don’t think, just believe” mentality creates two different worlds that students have to live in and navigate, and that is ultimately unhealthy and damaging to their faith.

This is not the time to abandon hope and run for the hills, but it is a time to prepare our students for the potential buzz saw to their Christian faith that is waiting for them on campus. That preparation begins in the home with us creating a safe space for honest questions and doubts while not encouraging a blind faith as they grow up.


25 Percent of Kids Sexually Harassed Online – by Friends! by Jim Liebelt


A cybercrime expert has discovered that it is not just strangers who target children online.

Michigan State criminal justice professor Thomas J. Holt, found that about one in four children said they were pressured by their friends online to talk about sex when they didn’t want to. The study included 439 middle- and high-school students aged 12 to 16.

“This is not to downplay the danger of pedophiles acting online, but it does draw attention to the potential threat of child sexual victimization by the people our kids are closest to, the people they spend the greatest amount of time with online,” explains Holt.

The study is important as it is one of the first to examine the factors of online child sexual victimization. The review appears online in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice.

Researchers found that girls and kids with low self-control, were more likely to be sexually harassed online. But the biggest surprise was the finding that 24 percent of study participants were sexually harassed over the Internet.

Parental-filtering software or keeping the computer in an open space such as the family living room did not seem to reduce the problem.

“So it seems like this is not something that can be technologically solved, at least for the moment,” Holt said. “Instead, it has to be something that’s resolved through engaged conversation between parent and child.”

Often, talking with a child about sex is not an easy conversation, yet the discussion is essential.

“Parents need to have that talk with their kids about what they are doing online and what people are asking them to do online,” Holt explains. “That kind of open dialogue is one of the best things they can do to minimize the risk.”


The 8 Life Skills All 18 Year Olds Should Have: A Checklist For Parents by Julie Lythcot-Haims


If we want our kids to have a shot at making it in the world as 18-year-olds, without the umbilical cord of the cell phone being their go-to solution in all manner of things, they’re going to need a set of basic life skills.

Based upon my observations as dean, and the advice of parents and educators around the country, here are some examples of practical things they’ll need to know how to do before they go to college — and here are the crutches that are currently hindering them from standing up on their own two feet:

How to stop helicopter parenting and set your kids up for success.

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers — faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics—in the real world.

The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around a campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.

The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.

3. An eighteen-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it— sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a house hold.

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses and workloads, college- level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.

The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money.

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks.

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they’re calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.


3 Ways You Can Be the Church for Millennials by Carryl Tinsley


Every other day there seems to be a new article or another opinion about why Millennials are leaving the church and how to stop it. But, is the problem actually being addressed?

Picture a student who has grown up in your church, going to Sunday School, participating in Bible studies, and eventually leading a small group. But soon, it is time for this student to graduate, and she decides to go to a small, liberal arts school. She sits in her first college religion class, unsuspecting of the world-shattering things she is about to learn.

Was all the time she spent sitting in the pews in your church preparing her for this environment of challenge and doubt? If not, how can we better prepare Millennials for this challenge they will most likely face in their future?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Give us real answers to our very real questions. 

We’ve all heard the classic “because I said so” answer from parents. But, all too often, this is the answer we receive when we ask difficult questions in church communities. When a spiritual leader answers a challenging question with a simple, “that’s what the Bible says,” it is a conversation stopper. What could you say instead that would encourage conversation further?

2. Teach us how to study the Bible in an objective way.

When the Bible is dumbed down to a “Pinterest version” or made to fit into the 140 character Twitter limit, Scripture loses its value. So, teach us how to study. Teach us about the places where Paul seems to contradict himself and how to make sense of it. Teach us how to value Scripture and use it as the Lord intended.

3. Engage in difficult conversations with us. 

According to a Pew Research study in May 2015, 35% of Millennials do not identify with a religion. These numbers may not be shocking to you, but that 35% of Millennials is double the number of unaffiliated Baby Boomers (17%) and more than three times the number of members of the Silent generation (11%).

Does this scare you? Because it scares me, and I know we are not going to get anywhere with the easy answers and clean truth. We need to dig into the messy places. We need to challenge the accepted norms. This is not an easy process for Millennials. There is learning and growing and doubting that needs to take place, and having someone like you walk alongside us in that could be all we need.

So, how will you welcome this dialogue among Millennials in your church? How will you take on the challenge? Culture is shifting, and “equipping the saints” to do ministry is as important as ever. It just may look differently than it did last decade.


The Future Career You Should Be Preparing Your Students For by Andrew McPeak


A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a group of high school seniors at a leadership and life skills development program. The subject of the day was becoming “career ready,” and I made a conscious choice to diverge from the given curriculum for the day (which was only written a few years ago) because it was simply outdated. I scrapped the lesson on “16 career categories” and instead led a discussion about freelance culture, networking, and the shifting job landscape. I know the path these students are about to walk all too well. It’s my story, and chances are, it’s about to be your young adult’s story, too.

According to a 2015 independent study from the Freelancers Union and Upwork, “Nearly 54 million Americans — 34% of workers — have done freelance work in the past year … [which] is 700,000 more freelancers in the workforce than last year.” In fact, it is estimated that a full 15% (up from 5% in 2005) of the U.S. workforce are pursuing temporary positions (such freelancing, retainers, temping, etc.) instead of full time work. In terms of entrepreneurship, it is estimated that there have been “just over half a million (530,000) new business owners [starting out every] month” in 2015. At the same time, unemployment has hit Millennials hard, with a reported 44% of college graduates in their 20s still stuck in minimum wage positions.

So what does this all mean? Forbes contributor Ashley Stahl puts it simply: out of mere ignorance, our Boomer and Gen X parents and mentors have “lied to [us by continuing to assume that] working hard and getting a solid education [still] necessarily leads to career success, or even a decent-paying job.”

If this comes off to you as a little harsh or overstated, please give me the grace to pause and say that this has been my exact experience. My peers and I were told something about our futures, sometimes subtly and sometimes frankly, that ended up being completely untrue.

I got a degree in liberal arts in 2011 from a small private college, and unfortunately, I was completely unprepared for the job market. It was tough: I was one of the lucky ones who was able to survive on my own, managing not to have to return to my parents house after graduation (though I still relied on them financially for several years).

In the last few years, this conversation has come up many times with my friends. The experience most of Generation Y shares is that many of our colleges were not aware of the current job landscape when we were being instructed, so we left prepared for a job market that had all but evaporated five to ten years before. This is not to fault our collegiate institutions or our instructors. We are, rather, in the middle of an unprecedented shift in the area of career.

When we recorded a podcast a few months ago with Brad Lominick (a leadership thinker and writer), he called the current career landscape a “gig economy”. Most successful creatives are not being hired with W-2s and benefits. Instead, these folks are being hired for a “gig” and then moving along to the next one. To support this shift, there are massive freelancing websites like Upwork and Fiverr that allow for gig workers to find paid work without needing to leave their living room. While some are forced into this work by unemployment or eradication of entire industries by technology, others are consciously choosing this life because of the freedom it affords them.

Four Pieces of Advice for Students

Here are a few things you need to know to help prepare your young adults for this new career world.
  1. If your child is interested in a “traditional” field like medicine, law, or education, not much about these career paths has changed. Perhaps the only thing to consider here is how the fields are changing. As an example, while the path for medicine has changed very little in recent years, the jobs available has. The medical field forecasts needing more and more Physician’s Assistants than MDs in future years. Check this list of future Millennial job paths to see where your child’s idea for their future is lining up with open positions.
  2. Success in the “freelance” world requires the values and skills of entrepreneurship, even for non-entrepreneurs. Freelance workers are effectively selling themselves for every single project, so the skills they will need are those most often associated with that of an entrepreneur. Skills like sales, networking, task management, financial management, branding, marketing, and communication are a staple for any freelancer, even if their field of influence has nothing to do with these kinds of skills.
  3. Learning to multitask will be the greatest challenge for “1099 employees” of the future.Most freelancers are required to work on projects, while still drumming up new business once their current work is complete. On top of this, freelancers have to manage their own finances and keep track of taxes, deductions, healthcare, and savings for retirement all on their own.
  4. Your kids will likely have 2-4 jobs at the same time. Most of the careers of the future will not switch out 1 job for freelancing. The major shift is that each person’s day-to-day work will look differently from everyone else. I have friends who work part-time in the mornings, run a non-profit in the afternoons, and weekends, and Kickstart music or art projects online in their spare time.

Can I make a prediction here? These hybrid careers will be the new normal within a decade. Depending on what you do now, this may be harder or easier to imagine, but mark my words: this change is coming. Are you preparing your students and children for it?


Millennials: What is hooking up? by Jim Denison


Its that time of year once again.  When day becomes longer than night.  When brown becomes green.  When what’s dead becomes alive.  When we open long-shuttered windows.  When there is love in the air.  It is spring!  For the younger among us that means Spring Break; the end of a school year; the hope for an endless summer; and perhaps finding true love.  But in their search for that love, traditional courtship has started to look much different.   What was once a quest for someone special to spend your life with has turned for many into settling to “hookup” with someone sexually for a single night.  Why, and what is this growing trend doing to the psyche of this generation born between 1980 and 2000? Continue reading


Want To Reach Millennials? with Infographic


Millennials spend an alarming 18 hours a day consuming media. They are engaged online in a whole new way. What does it mean for your youth ministry? Young adults ministry?

We need to engage millennials online, and in real relationships.  Don Tapscott said, ” “These kids are different, and they’re about to change the world.”, “This is the first generation of people that work, play, think and learn differently than their parents, … They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It’s like the air to them.”  Technology will be the air we breathe for the indefinite future.  It’s going to change the way we do youth ministry, and church.

Here are few things that stand out to me from this infographic on the millennials:

1. 5.4 hours per day on social media.  Where are you spending time?  One of the best ways to spend time trying to reach students, and communicate to students is through social media accounts. You might think this is obvious, but what is your strategy while you are there?

Last year, my youth ministry decided to run a photo booth on a certain night and we posted the photos on our Facebook page so that students could download them.  We also printed them off for them to take home.  Our Facebook page blew up(We actually called the blog post, How To Blow Up Your Facebook Page).  One of the things the photo booth did that I wasn’t expecting was to promo our youth ministry to other teenagers in town virally.

A week later we had a student message us from a town away asking if he could come to our youth group.  He said in the message that he saw his friends at our youth group and it looked awesome.  He showed up the next week.

You have to be intentional how you post on your social media accounts.  Whats your youth ministry look?  Whats your logo?

2. Check smart phones on average 43 times per day.   What is your strategy for texting out messages to leaders, parents, students?   There are tons of programs that will do this.  Trust me, you don’t want to be using your iPhone with a group message.  Nothing is worse than a group message.

You can find some awesome text message options for your youth ministry here.

I feel like a broken record when I say that buying a texting program was the best thing I have done in the past 5 years.

3. They multitask.  To be honest, sometimes I feel like the students aren’t listening.  When I am preaching, or someone else is, everyone is on their devices.  Are they listening?

A few weeks ago I had a leader ask me why the students today are so disrespectful.  I shared a story with this leader on how I watch shows at home.  I usually am watching a phone with my iPad around, or working on something for this website or for work.  A lot of times my wife will ask me if I am paying attention or not.  I am.  I am just multitasking.  I am doing multiple things at once.  So, I asked the leader what the difference was between me and the students on their phones on a youth night?

I don’t think it’s great for our students to be on their phones all night.  One thing we try to value is face to face conversations and relationships.  My small group has decided to put their phones away each night when we come together, and now that the grade 8 boys have committed to it, they police it themselves.

This culture is ever changing, and the students we are working with are more digitally connected than ever before.  This is going to require us to help each other to reach more students, and to preach the word faithfully to this and the next generations of students.


Six Steps to Help Students Practice Better Emotional Hygiene by Tim Elmore


Studies show that 27% of college-age kids experience some type of mental health problem. The issues we hear most about are anxiety disorder, eating disorders and depression. Parents and students should know that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students, and the main reason is untreated depression. “Emotional issues that were absent, controlled, or hidden in high school may start to cause problems in this new environment,” says Guy Napolitana, MD, chairman at the Lahey Clinic at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Six Steps to Good Emotional Hygiene 

Certainly not every student can avoid emotional illness—but the steps below are important ones we can help them take to have better emotional health in their lives. Psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, reminds us that we all understand dental hygiene, which includes brushing our teeth and flossing. Sadly, few of us practice emotional hygiene, which is far more important in the long run. Here is a starting point below: Continue reading