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.

06.05.17

Hi! Happy June!! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send any prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
Preaching is not only explaining the text but also using it to engage the heart. #keller
 
God put you here to glorify Him. That is why you’re here. And there will come a point in your life when you will realize that life is more about significance than it is about success. #laurie
 
Someone will always have better coffee, music, facilities, and speaking. Showcase Christ and his gospel. No one can improve on that. #wilson
 
FYI:

1. Connecting with college students over break: they’re bringing home more than their laundry…. https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/connecting-with-college-students?utm_source=E-Journal+%2F+Parent+Update&utm_campaign=19db082c32-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-19db082c32-312895925

2. Your kids actually want you to talk to them about sex… http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/health/sex-parents-talking-to-kids/index.html

3. What Screen Time and Screen Media Do To Your Child’s Brain and Sensory Processing Ability… https://handsonotrehab.com/screen-time-brain-sensory-processing/

4. 45 AWESOME DROP OF THE HAT ACTIVITIES (Below)
 
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
How to Teach Junior Highers Without Losing Your Mind by Kurt Johnston
Social Media Making Millennials Less Social by Uptin Saiidi
How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America by David Kinnaman
7 Deadly Sins of Student Ministry Volunteers by Chase Snyder
 

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

http://www.videosforyouth.com/mini-movies/65332/searching-for-truth
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
Courage by Chuck Swindoll
 
Someone once wrote, “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap your character. Sow your character, reap your destiny.”

Standing tall when tested takes courage—constant, relentless, never-give-up courage! You can be sure that the old flesh will fight for its arousal and satisfaction. All it takes is a little rationalization—just a little. Just look the other way. Just shrug it off. Don’t sweat it. And before long you have a rattlesnake in your sleeping bag. 

First: Standing tall starts with the way we think. It has to do with the mind. As I’ve said so often, being a person of inner strength is really a mental factor. It has to do with the way we think about God, ourselves, and others. Then it grows into the way we think about business, the way we think about dating, the way we think about marriage and the family, the way we think about the system that is designed to destroy faith and bring us down to a lower standard. 

Second: Standing tall calls for strong discipline. This has to do with the will. Disciplining the eyes, the ears, the hands, the feet. Keeping moral tabs on ourselves, refusing to let down the standards. People of strength know how to turn right thinking into action—even when insistent feelings don’t agree. 

Third: Standing tall limits your choice of personal friends. This has to do with relationships. What appears harmless can prove to be dangerous. Perhaps this is as important as the other two factors combined. Cultivate wrong friendships and you’re a goner. This is why we are warned not to be deceived regarding the danger of wrong associations. Without realizing it, we could be playing with fire. 

Sow the wind and, for sure, you’ll reap the whirlwind. Eagles may be strong birds, but when the wind velocity gets fierce enough, it takes an enormous amount of strength to survive. Only the ultrapowerful can make it through the whirlwind.

 

The Five RE’s to Remembering names:

1. Repeat Names

Repetition builds memory. This is why your math teacher assigned you 50 of the same math problems for homework every night. The more you repeat a person’s name, the better chance you will have of remembering it later.

When you meet a person for the first time, say their name as much as possible. “Cool, Austin. Glad you are here, Austin. It was nice meeting you, Austin. Hope to see you next week, Austin.” The more you say it, the more it will stick.

2. Read Names

Read a person’s name in your mind. Visualize it. Spell it in your head. If you meet someone with an interesting name or a name that could be spelled multiple ways, ask them how they spell it. Then spell it in your head along with them. This may seem weird, but it works.

I can remember the names of hundreds of NFL athletes even though I have never met them or seen most of their faces without a helmet on. Why? Because I read their names every day on my favorite NFL news site.

3. Record Names

Keep a church database, or an app with people’s names on it. After the service, write new names down as soon as possible. Add little notes like “Natalie – married, two kids, husband Jeff, works at…”

Quickly review your notes once a week and picture the people in your mind. If you have a church database with people’s pictures, that is even better!

4. Relate Names

This is the most powerful memory tip on the list. When you hear a person’s name, find an image to relate it to.

In the fascinating book, Moonwalking With Einstein, Joshua Foer writes about his experience transforming in one year from an average guy who was bad at remembering names to winning the US Memory Championship. This is a competition where you have to do things like look at a list of hundreds of names and faces, then remember all the names of each face.

“The secret to success in the names-and-faces event—and to remembering people’s names in the real world—is simply to turn Bakers into bakers—or Foers into fours. Or Reagans into ray guns. It’s a simple trick, but highly effective.” ~Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein

Our brains remember images, not words. So turning a person’s name into an image is the best way to instantly recall it. The more vivid and bizarre the image, the better.

5. Remember to Remember Names

I know, “Thank you captain obvious!” Just hear me out.

Most often, the reason that we don’t remember names is simply because we do not consciously make an effort. We hear the name, but we are too busy thinking about what we are going to say next. Maybe we are preoccupied with the stress of the service or what we have to do later. Whatever the reason, we don’t intentionally listen to the name and make a conscious effort to store it away.

If you are intentional about remembering people’s names, you will remember them.

Hope these tips are helpful for you.

 

HERE ARE 45 AWESOME DROP OF THE HAT ACTIVITIES THAT YOU CAN EASILY ADD TO YOUR YOUTH WORKER TOOL-BELT.

RANDOM FUN

  • Beanboozled. Russian Roulette with candy. Maybe you will enjoy a peach-flavored jelly bean or maybe it will taste like barf. Yum.
  • KAP IT. Water bottle flipping game, but with objectives and boundaries!
  • HEADS OR TAILS. A coin flipping game where kids guess by putting their hands on the head or tail. Guess right and stay in, guess wrong and you’re out!
  • HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, CUP! Follow the instructions and be the first person to grab the cup.
  • Minute to win it! Sixty seconds to complete takes using random items from around the house. HERE ARE 30 EXAMPLES.
  • Giant cup stack. Play the cup stack game but consider giant cups or buckets. Fastest stacker wins.
  • Mannequin challenge. Have the children freeze in place while you play a worship song and capture the video.

TEACHING OR REVIEW

  • TRUE/FALSE CHAIR. Think musical chairs but with true and false questions!
  • Books of the Bible team challenge. Books are listed on craft sticks in baggies. one for OT one for NT. Challenge each team to put one set in order the fastest.
  • Globe beach balls. Pass the ball around and wherever your thumb lands, pray for them.
  • Tic tac toe review. Divide the class into 2 teams. Ask questions, team 1 tries to answer. If they are correct, they get the x, if wrong, the question goes to team 2. The first team to get 3 in a row wins.
  • Family feud. Play with whatever you were talking about in large group.
  • Review game or Bible trivia. Get bean bags that you toss and the kids race to pick up the bag and bring it back to you in order to answer the question.
  • Share missionary stories. Update the kids on what the church is doing overseas.
  • Bible drill.

GET THEM MOVING

  • Freeze dance. Play music while the kids dance and when the music pauses all the kids must freeze in place. If they take too long then they have to do 10 jumping jacks.
  • CHICKEN IN THE HEN HOUSE. Partners will make shapes using their body. Last to complete are out!
  • Impossible shot. Create a very challenging challenge for students to take turns trying.
  • SHIP SHORE. Very similar to Simon says but directionally focused.
  • Musical chairs.
  • Four corners. Use a mega dice or colors to switch things up!
  • Simon says / Jesus says. Follow the directions and the more the leader laughs the more fun this game will be for the kids.
  • Red light/green light or wax museum. Don’t let the game leader see you moving! 
  • Crows & cranes. The leader calls out either “Crows” or “Cranes.” This lets you know if you are the tagger or the person being tagged.
  • Indoor snowball fight. Either buy fake snowballs or wrinkle up paper and throw them at each other. Consider adding a twist like capture the flag or protect the president.
  • Hip hop to it! Have all the kids hop on one leg while playing Christian hip-hop. If they stop they are out, if they switch feet they are out. The winner is the last one hopping.

GET THEM QUIET

  • SILENT BALL. Leader counts down, “3, 2, 1, silent” and passes the ball to another person in the play area. Drop the ball, make a bad pass or make a sound and you’re out.
  • Guess the time. Choose a time like 60 seconds and everyone tries to guess how long that is. Start the timer and kids hop up when they think 60 seconds is over. Time doesn’t stop till last kid stands. Note time when first kid stands just to get reactions.
  • SLEEPING LIONS. The room of kids go to sleep and the lions try to get them to wake up by telling jokes or being silly. Anyone who wakes up becomes the lion.
  • DOGGIE, DOGGIE, WHO STOLE YOUR BONE. Similar to heads up seven up but with an object that the kids go get.
  • The Quiet Game. Teams have to sit absolutely still and quiet for a timed period. Anywhere from a minute to five minutes.

COMMUNITY BUILDING

EASY CLASSROOM GAMES

  • Pictionary.
  • Hangman.
  • Parachute games.
  • I spy.
  • Rock, paper, scissors and creative variations. Egg, chicken, eagle.
  • Relay Games.
  • Feather blowing competition. Kids try to blow one another’s feathers off a table using a straw.
  • Juggling contest.
  • Keep the balloon up.

Consider using lesson review words or phrases in these games.

05.15.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
Jesus didn’t come to earth to make bad people good people. He came to make dead people alive people. #holcomb
 
We become what we teach and what we learn. #godin
 
The best defense to the lies we hear from within our hearts is the rehearsal of truth – scripture. #keller
 
People are hungry for truth in this post-truth, post-fact culture, especially when it’s harder than ever to discern fact from fiction, reality from conspiracy theory. #jonestreet
 
FYI:
1. How we can minister to children who come from households with same-sex parents… http://childrensministry.com/articles/johnny-two-moms/?utm_source=internal_children’s_ministry_resource&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=
2. Depression… http://www.today.com/health/depression-s-not-word-depressed-teens-use-t111162
3. Classes teaching Millennials how to be adults… https://cassandra.co/life/2017/04/20/adulthood-101
4. The gender options on Facebook… (below)
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
Bullied in 5th Grade, Prone to Drug Abuse by High School by Valerie Earnshaw
Anxiety in Teens – How to Help a teenager Deal With Anxiety by Karen Young
Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians by David Kinnaman (Barna Group)
Young Americans Are Killing Marriage by Ben Steverman
 

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

http://www.videosforyouth.com/mini-movies/14675/the-marshmallow-test?utm_source=vfynl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=resource2&utm_campaign=nl-05/12/2017-2099879
 
http://www.videosforyouth.com/mini-movies/26033/temptation?utm_source=vfynl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=resource1&utm_campaign=nl-05/12/2017-2099879
 
Here are 2 just for you:

Give Them Themselves

And [the Angel] said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Team members always love and admire a person who is able to help them go to another level, someone who enlarges them and empowers them to be successful.

Players who enlarge their teammates have several things in common.

  1. Enlargers value their teammates: People’s performances usually reflect the expectations of those they respect.
  2. Enlargers know and relate to what their teammates value: Players who enlarge others understand what their teammates value. That kind of knowledge, along with a desire to relate to their fellow players, creates a strong connection between teammates.
  3. Enlargers add value to their teammates: An enlarger looks for the gifts, talents, and uniqueness in other people, and then helps them to increase those abilities for their benefit and for that of the entire team.
  4. Enlargers make themselves more valuable: You cannot give what you do not have. If you want to increase the ability of a teammate, make yourself better.

Three Things You’ll Have to Say to the World to Live a Surrendered, Godly Life by J. Warner Wallace 

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

I know I’m just as likely as anyone else to love the world rather than the Father, so I consistently challenge my desires in three specific areas. I bet these aspects of life have tempted you as well, and if you’re a Christian leader, these are particularly important areas of concern. All of us, as good Christian ambassadors, need to speak to these challenges on a daily basis to resist the worldliness that threatens our character:

“I Will Not Allow Myself to Be Impressed with Money or Stuff”
I can’t allow money to dictate my choices. I’ve got to separate my “wants” from my “needs,” and recognize I already have everything I “need”; it’s time to get some control over my list of “wants”. I can either decide to chase the stuff I “want” and hope to be content once I get there, or decide to be content with what I already have. The older I get, the more I realize the pursuit of money and materialism has little or no relationship to happiness. Contentment is a choice. When the pursuit of money or stuff is removed from my decision making process, my decisions are far more Godly.

“I Will Not Allow Myself to Be Captivated by Lust or Passion”
We’re living in a sexualized culture that consumes our time and attention. The age of innocence is dangerously low; our kids are exposed to concepts and ideas at an early age. By the time we’re adults, unrestricted sexual or relational desire is a real danger, and it’s been the cause of many fallen Christian ministries and leaders. This is all about resisting the first step, the initial glance, and the early temptation. I need to be careful to guard my eyes and heart in this area if I hope to make Godly decisions.

“I Will Not Allow Myself to Be Fascinated by Fame or Influence”
The Internet has given all of us the potential for global impact and influence. It’s easy to get caught up in how many people “like” a post on our Facebook page, post a response to our blog entry, or visit our website. All of us, whether we choose to admit it or not, want to be known and heard. We’re enamored with celebrities who have the attention of the culture. We admire people who create videos that go viral. We secretly long for similar fame and attention. As my own career drew the attention of television producers and publishing houses, I knew it had the potential to derail my priorities. I can’t allow myself to make decisions based on how many people I can reach, even with something as valuable as the Gospel. Instead, I need to be faithful and content with the scope of influence God has given me.

If I want “the love of the Father” in me, I simply need to say “no” in three distinct areas of worldly temptation. God has already provided abundantly, but I am often unappreciative. He’s given me the money and material items I need, a wonderful relationship with my wife, and a mission field appropriate to my abilities. It’s my choice now to speak to my worldly desires; I’ve got to learn to say “enough is enough.” If you’re an ambassador for Christ, keep talking to the culture and speaking to your worldly desires. The difference between worldliness and Godliness is often product of this ongoing conversation.

LGBT+

Ever wondered why Facebook has so many gender options or what any of the letters in LGBTQQIP2SAA mean? The initialisms are as varied as the community they represent, and keeping up with the changes or what they mean can be hard. Yet knowing them can better prepare us for interacting with and ministering to the community, as well as for discipling teens through the issues they present.

Here are the official definitions of the 11 types of people represented by the letters. (Keep in mind that many consider “sexual orientation”—what sex/gender one is attracted to—as distinct from “gender identity”—what gender one identifies with.)

  • L = Lesbian, a female who is sexually attracted to other females.
  • G = Gay, a male who is sexually attracted to other males; also used as a general term for homosexual attraction.
  • B = Bisexual, someone who is attracted to both males and females.
  • T = Transgender, someone who identifies with a different gender than the one they were biologically born with.
  • Q = Queer, an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t identify as cisgender or heterosexual, but who also may not identify as lesbian or gay and therefore prefers this broader, more ambiguous term.
  • Q = Questioning, someone who is unsure about their gender identity and/or their sexual orientation.
  • I = Intersex, someone whose sex characteristics (chromosomes, gonads, hormones, genitals) do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies (aka hermaphrodites).
  • P = Pansexual, someone is attracted to anyone of any sex or gender identity (aka “gender blind”).
  • 2S = Two-Spirit (used by some indigenous North Americans), someone who has both male and female spirits within them
  • A = Asexual, someone who lacks sexual attraction/desire to anyone.
  • A = Ally, someone who identifies as straight and cisgender but still wants to support those who don’t.

Other terms to know:

  • Cisgender = someone who identifies with the gender into which they were born.
  • U = Unsure, someone who is unsure of which gender they identify with or which gender they are attracted to.
  • C = Curious, someone who’s willing to explore their options.

Blessings, Kendall

05.01.17

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

christianparenting.org

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.

05.23.16

Faith: How to Ensure Kids Are Getting the Message by Jill Williams for Children’s Ministry Magazine

Wonder whether kids are listening when you teach? Fear your words go in one ear and out the other? When it comes to faith, here’s how to ensure kids are getting the message.

Is your teaching in one ear and out the other? Maybe—or maybe not.

Children’s ministry looks a lot different to me now than it used to. Over the past few years my understanding of the purpose behind children’s ministry has changed — dramatically. The goals I set and the approaches I take in teaching aren’t what they used to be. And — this may make you cringe — I’m beginning to realize that no matter how well I teach a lesson, much of what I say to a child in Sunday school may actually go in one ear and out the other. But that’s not because teaching is a waste of time or kids aren’t learning. It’s because as much as the amazing truths of our faith are difficult for adults to grasp, they can be even more difficult for children.

Faith: How to Ensure Kids Are Getting the Message

If you grew up going to church, think back to your Sunday school days. Maybe you remember a handful of specific things from memorable lessons. You could probably recount some main events of the Bible. But you likely didn’t grasp the deeper truths of Christianity until you were older — things such as grace, forgiveness, and sacrifice. That’s not because your teachers weren’t effective. It’s simply because developmentally kids learn on a spectrum that begins with concrete concepts and develops into deeper understanding of abstract ones. Kids build that bridge from the concrete to the abstract over years. They do it using the tools of discovery and repetition in sync with their brain’s development.

Many of the most important concepts in God’s Word are highly abstract. So when you wonder whether kids are getting the message, they are. It’s just that kids will absorb what they can when they’re developmentally ready.

Examining the Framework

Christian tradition, or our statement of faith, is one basis kids can stand on as they begin their faith journey. Ironically, I’ve found this important information is often overlooked when it comes to children’s ministry because we’re home-blind to it; we tend to assume that kids will automatically absorb the basics of our faith along the way, even if they’re never directly articulated to them. These are basic truths such as, “God’s grace, not our good works, is what assures us eternal life” and “Jesus is the only way to God.” But if we fail to carefully instruct kids on the details of our beliefs, how will they fully understand what Christians really believe? And could this lack of understanding contribute to the fact that so many Christian kids grow up and leave the church when their faith is challenged?

These two questions became very real to me in conversations with college students about their experiences growing up in church. It was during these discussions that I realized people’s views of the church and of Christianity itself varied greatly — from confusion to superficial understanding to detailed comprehension. I began to wonder if we as Christian educators are missing something when it comes to teaching our kids. I wondered how we’re ensuring kids are getting the message about faith?

My curiosity led me to create the Christian Truths Survey, based on the foundational Christian beliefs of the Apostle’s Creed and on three main categories related to our faith: salvation, the Trinity, and general biblical truths (note the distinction between biblical truths and Bible trivia). I designed the survey to gain insights about 185 elementary-age churched kids’ understanding of our faith, and I enlisted the expertise of pastors and experts in children’s education and faith to build it. The questions ranged from factual questions (multiple choice and true/false), such as, “True or False: People can get to heaven by doing good things” to open-ended questions, such as, “How do we receive salvation?”

The Right Tools

Elementary-age children have the potential to hold deep conceptions of God and can have a greater personal faith than most adults assume they can, according to researchers in the International Journal for Psychology and Religious Education.

What this means is there’s not necessarily a correlation between children’s cognitive development (perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning) and their spiritual development. My survey results agree with this: There is a significant difference in how kids age 10 and older scored compared with those 9 and under when it comes to understanding the more abstract details of our faith. Older kids scored higher in my survey when it came to questions focused on salvation, the Trinity, and biblical truth. While 85 percent of 10- and 11-year-olds demonstrated understanding of these things, almost 73 percent of 8- and 9-year-olds could. Specifically, 83 percent of 10- and 11-year-olds understood salvation concepts, while 70 percent of 8- and 9-year-olds did.

* Building Faith: Much more may be going on spiritually in children than is evident on the surface. Even so, how you teach younger elementary children-and your expectations of what they can comprehend — have to be different than with older children. Research shows that older children have a grasp of facts and may be ready to go deeper with more abstract concepts. With younger kids, however, focus on stating the basic tenets of the faith again and again in different ways so kids hear repetition and a reinforcing message — or the framework.

The Right Words

I figured that many people grow up with confused understanding of biblical events and a few moral lessons as the sum of their experience of Christianity. This was for a few reasons. First, many curricula focus on teaching traits such as honesty, obedience, and love. Though God desires all of these from us, this approach seems to aim to improve children’s character rather than increase their knowledge of God. The lessons expect children to “do good” and “be good” rather than giving them a sense of their true condition and utter need for God. In addition, my discussions with peers and experts seemed to reinforce the argument that many practicing Christians may not have a concrete, accurate understanding of the basics of Christianity and are therefore more at risk of walking away from their faith. And because today’s families are more transient than past generations, kids may travel through many different children’s ministries with many different philosophies — and fewer opportunities for consistent teaching and learning that sticks.

Kids understood a lot about who God is, though they struggled most with the abstract, Trinity-focused questions. Seventy-four percent of 12-year-olds demonstrated comprehension of the Trinity, while 64 percent of younger children did. Despite lower scores on the abstract nature of God, the survey revealed a very encouraging point to note: Kids could accurately use the terminology they’d heard used to describe salvation, even if they didn’t fully grasp the meaning of the words. So for instance, they knew terms such as grace, savior, and Holy Spirit, even if they couldn’t give a textbook definition.

Building Faith: Language is a key component of our faith’s framework for children who are learning about Christianity. By providing kids with the correct language and using that language frequently, you can give them a context for concepts they’ll grow to understand later. For teachers, it’s critical to acknowledge the importance of using faith-accurate language and to use it correctly, based on Scripture and tradition.

The Right Approach

The results of the survey data confirmed for me that our role as Christian faith educators is to provide a standard for content and a language for experience. Here’s a radical idea: Children don’t have to graduate from our ministries knowing all the content of the Bible, all the events that took place. They should, however, walk away with a plum line by which to measure their growing knowledge and experience. It’s our responsibility and honor to provide them with this tool. Shifting our mindset and re-evaluating our goals and definitions of success in ministry may prove necessary. Where before we may have felt a sense of failure if kids confused the facts of Noah’s experience or thought Job was really Moses, it’s important to remember that it’s not Bible trivia we’re teaching, but Bible truths. So if kids walk away thinking, God stayed with Noah, and he’ll stay with me when I’m afraid, too, you’ve scored a major win for your ministry. Our mission is relationship with Jesus — not trivia.

Building Faith: We don’t create faith — we frame it. Don’t get me wrong; becoming a “framer” doesn’t mean lowering your standards. In fact, the opposite is true. Framing faith for the kids in your ministry means you challenge yourself to learn anew the language and truths of our faith. It means you try even harder to articulate those complex truths in a way that’s kid-friendly and biblically and theologically sound. This is a huge task — and good reason for children’s Christian educators to be some of the best-trained people of your church.

02.22.16

What You Need to Know About Kids’ Spiritual Development by Children’s Ministry Magazine

childrensministry.com/articles/spiritual-moral-development

We tracked down four noted experts to demystify kids’ spiritual development by the ages. Read on to learn how to reach—and teach—the wonderful little people in your ministry!

Every age and every stage presents its challenges and joys—just ask the parents of kids in your ministry! No matter what age group you work with—babies, preschoolers, elementary, or preteens—you have your hands full with the big task of imparting God’s truth into kids’ minds and hearts.

BABIES AND TODDLERS: Faith-Filled Environments

Not long ago a children’s ministry volunteer said to me that little ones just can’t learn and understand spiritual concepts like older children. Perhaps others in your church agree with her impression of babies’ learning abilities. The truth is, though, that this stage of infancy may seem simplistic to adults; however, it’s a vital first step in spiritual growth.

Relationships are central to healthy spiritual growth in the lives of the very youngest. Infants and toddlers bond with the parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers who look after their physical and emotional needs. Because adults care for their needs, infants develop a sense of trust. According to the psychologist Erik Erikson, infants who successfully learn to trust develop hope. And Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In the first two years of life, the foundational concepts of spiritual formation–trust and hope–grow.

Additionally, while caring for the physical and emotional needs of infants and toddlers, adults teach them the language of faith. When soothing a crying infant, for instance, a teacher sings a song about Jesus. In the toddler room, children hear about Noah and the Ark. Parents talk about God and Jesus in their daily conversations with babies and toddlers. That’s where growth comes from.

Ministry to Babies and Toddlers You can support infants and toddlers’ spiritual growth using these tips.

  • Read to little ones about God and Jesus. Simple Bibles for toddlers such as board books about God’s creation, animals, and family are great choices.
  • Talk often about God and Jesus.
  • Tell children constantly that Jesus loves them.
  • Use teachable moments to highlight spiritual truths.
  • As children learn to talk, help instill words of our faith such as God, Jesus, Bible, and pray in their vocabulary.
  • Include infants and toddlers in spiritual activities such as worship and prayer.
  • Know that infants and toddlers really do learn at church.
  • Invite little ones to special worship occasions.
  • Encourage parents to have their youngest children present during prayer times at home.
  • Pray with infants and toddlers. Explain that prayer is talking to God.
  • Make prayer a part of the routine in your classroom.
  • Remember that children discover God from infancy. Paul wrote to Timothy “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Timothy 3:15).

Joyce Meyers holds a Ph.D. in early childhood education. She teaches classes on early childhood education at Dallas Baptist University.

PRESCHOOLERS: At Their Level

When one of my children was 4 years old, I found her searching her bedroom–in the closet, under the bed.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

She drew her hand to her hip and replied, “You said God was everywhere and I can’t find him anywhere.”

Unlike their younger counterparts, preschool children are able to understand something exists, even if they can’t see it. That’s a huge developmental step in spiritual growth and understanding God’s existence. At the same time, preschoolers are also literal in their thinking. If you tell a preschooler “Jesus is in your heart,” he’s likely to ask, “How does he fit in there?”

With all the work and effort that goes into teaching preschoolers about Jesus, ever wonder, “Do they really get it?” You bet they do. Preschoolers have many spiritual capabilities and emerging skills. Consider that they can:

• Express love for Jesus and others
• Exhibit an intense wonder about God’s world and everything in it
• Understand and often retell Bible events
• Memorize and understand simple Bible verses
• Pray to God
• Differentiate between right and wrong
• Understand the consequences of behavior
• Try to please adults
• Have compassion for others
• Ask many questions

You might be thinking, “If preschoolers can do all that, then couldn’t they just be quiet and sit still for a few minutes so I can teach them more?” Well, preschoolers learn on the go. With the best intentions, teachers have a tendency to focus on teaching–which is what we do–rather than on learning–which is what children do. Knowing how preschoolers learn will let you share God’s love and biblical truths in a way they can understand.

Keep preschoolers moving through active, hands-on learning. Play games, sing songs, create hand motions for Bible time, use choral responses, and allow lots of time for child-choice to explore their environment.

Show God’s love through your actions. Preschoolers learn by imitating us. I once heard a preschooler say, “If Jesus loves us so much, why are some of his teachers so mean?” For a child, an adult without a smile or one too busy to answer questions can signal mean.

Make every child feel special. Greet children with excitement. Spend time having conversations with each child. Praise preschoolers for successes and efforts.

Love what you do! What could be more important than telling and showing children about Jesus in a way they can understand? Many preschoolers may be too young to become followers of Jesus, but they can learn about his unfailing love for them. Kids come to church with trust, open hearts, and the kind of attitude needed to approach God. Are you willing to let the children come as they are, often noisy and active? Just bring a big heart, lots of patience, and a smile that doesn’t quit!

Gigi Schweikert has published seven books on parenting, child development, and children’s ministry. She directed the United Nations Early Childhood Program in New York City and developed and managed the Johnson & Johnson System of Family Centers. Gigi has also hosted a cable television show, “Today’s Family.”      

ELEMENTARY-AGE KIDS: Real-Life Faith Connections

It’s easy to underestimate what elementary-age kids hear, remember, and internalize. But one thing is certain: You can’t overestimate the importance of this age. The elementary years represent a special window of opportunity. This life stage is one of the most fertile times for planting seeds of faith that can be nurtured to bear fruit through an entire lifetime.

Reality and Real Questions Elementary-age children can sense their personal need for a relationship with Jesus, and that can lead to a lot of questions about faith, God, and the world we live in. These are significant questions for anyone confronted with the joys and disappointments of life, but at this age finding concrete ways to connect belief to behaviors and situations can be transformational. In hearing and recalling the truth about God, elementary children flesh out the details of their faith. We need to continue to share truths about God and let the children tell them as well.

Language and Symbols An important part of our job as pastors and teachers is to give children the language to express their faith in ways that accurately reflect what they’re experiencing. If a child hasn’t yet learned the basic elements of Christian worship, life, and fellowship, the time to begin is now. What children need to know begins with Scripture, but it reaches out to our creeds, the testimony of the faithful, our community rituals and traditions. And even at this age, children can participate fully in the worshiping community: praying, singing, reading Scripture, teaching, inviting and welcoming others, sharing their faith. While elementary-age kids may not immediately understand all the words and images we offer, embedding them now in a child’s mind allows concepts and understanding to emerge throughout the child’s life. It’s important to let them become familiar with the language and symbols of our faith; it’s as equally important to define those things, use language all kids can understand, and answer their questions without impatience.

Morality and Empathy These children don’t have to have an “Aha!” moment for God’s power to impact them fully. Sometimes faith comes in very unexpected ways; it’s not up to us to dictate how a child comes to follow Jesus. Even an elementary child’s normal moral and social development can nurture his or her spiritual senses. Children at this age begin to develop a sense of empathy. This means they begin to identify with others, their needs, and their situations. Children respond very positively when they have the opportunity to care for others. Whether it’s looking after a younger child or helping a peer with special needs participate in activities, giving responsibility and trust to a child to do those things nurtures identity, leadership, and service.

In fact, elementary children can be very passionate about the things they care for, and when that’s coupled with empathy the possibilities are limitless. Obedience, kindness, and respect are character traits everyone needs, but when we connect these attitudes and behaviors to a child’s faith, they take on a deeper meaning. Children are generous, thoughtful, and creative when they catch a vision for serving others. Child sponsorship and simple, local projects are all very effective tools for reinforcing empathy and service to elementary-age kids.

Interests and Expectations The greatest challenge of working with elementary children is merging creativity with consistency. They learn in such varied ways that literature, science, nature, art, sports, music, history, cooking, and so many other interests may all be avenues to faith. Elementary children also need to know what to expect when it comes to boundaries, consequences, and order. Your expectations of them and consistent follow through are subtle but invaluable for creating a sense of truth, faithfulness and grace in which together you can begin to explore the deep things of God.

Julia Roat-Abla holds a masters in theology. She’s the co-author of Growing Like Jesus: Essential Christian Concepts for Elementary Students, and serves her church in Dayton, Ohio.

PRETEENS: A Whole New World

Preteens. They’re silly, goofy, and obnoxious. They can’t sit still and seldom pay attention. They love screaming and doing anything that involves getting messy. And that’s just scratching the surface of their awesomeness. So what’s the best way to help teach these amazing kids about God? Let’s start by looking at what’s happening to them developmentally.

Preteen development can be summed up in one word: change. As preteens enter early adolescence, they experience incredible change. They change physically, emotionally, socially, and even–are you ready for this?–intellectually. That’s right! These crazy beings of highly explosive energy and terribly short attention spans are actually gaining the capacity to be more intelligent. In his book Developmentally Appropriate: Middle Level Schools, M. Lee Manning says, “During early adolescence, youth typically progress from concrete logical operations and problem solving to acquiring the ability to develop and test hypotheses, analyze and synthesize data, grapple with complex concepts, and think reflectively.”

This intellectual increase has a direct effect on something else that’s changing: their faith. As preteens gain the ability to analyze, hypothesize, and reflect, they ask deeper questions about God, the Bible, and Jesus. Rather than blindly accepting their parents’ and ministers’ answers, they yearn to understand faith for themselves. In other words, they take their first steps from faith dependence (relying on what others tell them to believe) to faith ownership.

As they take those first steps, we can expect preteens to learn and grow differently than they did as first, second, and third graders. No longer are they happy to take what we tell them at face value, simply swallowing what we feed them. Instead, they want to experience, test, and interact with that faith on their own. And it’s up to us to “let go” and allow them do so.

Preteens need our direction and influence. Rather than simply teaching preteens by providing the right information, we support them by allowing them to learn for themselves. Rather than telling preteens how their faith affects their life, we create environments and resources where they can discover it. Instead of giving them all the answers about God, Jesus, the Bible, and the rest of life, we invite them to grapple with their questions and even offer answers. Instead of telling them what they should do, we create opportunities to discover what God calls them to do.

Preteens truly are a special age, unlike any other. Yes, they can be crazy, overwhelming, and even exhausting at times. But to watch a preteen, for the first time on his or her own, truly comprehend who Jesus is and what he’s done for us is unlike any other ministry experience. So who cares if we get a little messy in the process?

Patrick Snow works as the director of SuperStart!, a national touring weekend event for preteens. Through SuperStart! Patrick teaches and speaks to over 9,000 preteens each year. Patrick is the author of Leading Preteens and co-founder of fourfivesix.org.

02.15.16

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

homeword.com/2016/01/20/25-percent-of-kids-sexually-harassed-online-by-friends/?cat=families#.VsHwtMc0xlg

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.”

03.30.15

Millennials: What is hooking up? by Jim Denison

http://www.denisonforum.org/morality/1451-millenials-what-is-hooking-up

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

03.23.15

Want To Reach Millennials? with Infographic

http://www.youthministrymedia.ca/infographics/want-to-reach-millennials-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.

02.23.15

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

http://growingleaders.com/blog/six-steps-help-students-practice-better-emotional-hygiene/?utm_source=Master+List+%28Monthly%2C+Weekly%2C+Daily%2C+Events+%26+Offers%29&utm_campaign=b0dc33a670-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b8af65516c-b0dc33a670-304414745

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