08.21.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 
 
I know most of you are super busy right now (training and kicking off your classes…) so please be praying for one another!!!! 

 
Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
 
Quotes:
The power that raised Christ from the grave is the power that resurrects hope in our hearts. #lucado
 
Without the gospel we hate ourselves instead of our sin. #keller
 
The only way into the presence of God is from where you really are — not from where you wish you were. #furtick
 
Until Jesus is enough for you, no person or thing will ever be. #furtick
 
 
FYI:
4. Six Prayers to Pray for Students as School begins… (below)
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
How Gen Z is Changing Television as We Know It by Dale Hudson
New Survey: Millennials Learn More from Technology Than from People by Tim Elmore
Real vs. Fake Relationships by Leneita Fix (I have been reading so much about this lately… good for us to help them navigate.)
Four Gifts Every Student Needs From You This Year by Tim Elmore

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

 
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
God’s Leaders Have a Higher Standard

 

Priests… must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the LORD by fire, the food of their God, they are to be holy.   Leviticus 21:6

Ministers of the Gospel submit to a higher standard and answer to a holy authority. There is something special and fearful about being a vocational servant of Jesus Christ. This is not a role to be undertaken lightly or to be chosen casually, as some secular career paths. God places eternal expectations on priests, pastors, and ministry leaders. Leaders in the church have the Lord as their baseline for behavior. Deviant behavior is unacceptable for those who lead on behalf of the Lord. 

The leader’s character is his greatest asset. Someone cannot determine acceptable behavior based on what he wants when the Bible and church history have already defined the standard. How hypocritical and foolish to think leaders can flaunt immoral behavior when church members are disciplined for the same sin. Double standards may be for the uninformed and the unaccountable, but not for faithful and educated followers of Christ. How surreal to need to declare that character in the church matters! A church or ministry leader cannot practice immoral living and still lead the Bride of Christ. They cannot practice homosexuality, adultery, stealing, or lying. They cannot practice unfaithfulness in any of its destructive forms. 

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly o the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:6-9).

There is a holy obligation for leaders to model and teach holy living as defined in God’s Word. Holiness is not a creation of culture but defined by God. Leaders of God’s church and ministry are to be holy as He is holy. Therefore, you can’t say you are a leader on behalf of Jesus Christ if you embrace and endorse the very sin for which He died on the cross. It would be the epitome of hypocrisy to do so. . 

Holy leaders do make people thirsty for God. They shine their light of holy living on the Lord. Embrace His higher standard, and expect the same of your church and ministry leaders. Elect men and women of the cloth who behave biblically, whose character aligns with Christ’s, and who model faithfulness, not perfection. They are not conformed to this world but transformed by God’s truth. 

The Bible is clear: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

The Brave Friendship of God

 

Oh, the bravery of God in trusting us! Do you say, “But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing good in me and I have no value”? That is exactly why He chose you. As long as you think that you are of value to Him He cannot choose you, because you have purposes of your own to serve. But if you will allow Him to take you to the end of your own self-sufficiency, then He can choose you to go with Him “to Jerusalem” (Luke 18:31). And that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you.

We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all— we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same. We do not know what God’s compelling purpose is, but whatever happens, we must maintain our relationship with Him. We must never allow anything to damage our relationship with God, but if something does damage it, we must take the time to make it right again. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.

Six Prayers to Pray for Students as School Begins

Like many other families, we are trudging back into school this week after a great summer. For our part, our kids seem neither despondent nor over the moon, but somewhere in the middle. They’ve had a great summer, but they’re also ready for a change, and ready to get onto the new possibilities this year in school will bring. So here they come – a rising 7th grader, 5th grader, and 2nd grader.

Here are some of the prayers we are praying for them as they begin this year:

1. Free these children from the idol of popularity.

Oh, how seductive is this idol. I still feel the pain of knowing when someone doesn’t think well of me for some reason, and even as an adult I feel the tug toward compromise if it means being well-liked. Even while feeling that temptation, I remember well the intense desire to be invited to the right lunch table or the best birthday party. I’m praying that our kids would, by God’s grace, find their worth and identity in Jesus rather than in the “likes” they receive from others.

2. Guard their hearts from materialism.

It’s inevitable that kids are going to come in contact with others who have different brands of clothing, whose parents drive different cars, and who live in different sized houses. The love of money is fostered and nurtured from a very young age, most of the time through comparison with others. We are praying that the Lord would guard these growing hearts from this and instead would help them to learn a sense of gospel-centered contentment in any situation.

3. Help them see our home as a safe place.

In classes, on the court, in the band, and most other places the kids will encounter a spirit of competition in which they will not only be tempted, but encouraged to be the best, whatever that means in that particular environment. But, please Lord, may our home be a safe place. Help them to see that at home, they can be themselves, with all their insecurities, fears, and hurts they could never show somewhere else lest they be considered weak.

4. Create in them a desire to communicate.

“Fine.” That’s the dreaded, but common, answer that often comes when a parent asks their children about their day. We continue to pray that our kids would go past this stock answer – that they would communicate honestly with us about the real things that are going on in their lives. We continue to pray that, because our home is safe, our children will confide in us the things they aren’t willing or able to say anywhere else.

5. Teach them perseverance through their studies.

With each grade jump, the homework seems to grow more and more intense. While I’m still able to help our second grader with his math, our seventh grader has moved beyond my capacity. That’s a difficult thing for me, but it’s an opportunity for them to learn a greater lesson for life. The perseverance to keep at it, though it means hard work, will prove (I think) even more valuable in the years to come than their mastery of the quadratic formula.

6. Help them understand more deeply the greater purpose of education.

I remember the tunnel-vision of the teenage years, how you can only focus on what is immediately relevant to you at a given moment. Those were the days when life seemed to begin and end with each test or game or whatever. But in education, as with all things, there is a greater purpose for those who know Jesus. That greater purpose is to honor God through stewarding the resources He’s given us, including our brainpower. Education is a means to love the Lord our God in yet another way and glorify Him through the effort we bring to the task in front of us. We are praying that God would, by His grace, begin to expand our children’s vision for this greater purpose.

These are not the only prayers to pray as this school year begins, but it’s a start. And while we’re on the subject of prayer, here’s an extra one that I’m praying for myself and my wife as we get going in another fall:

Help us, Lord, to represent your kindness, compassion, discipline, and forgiveness that you perfectly display in the gospel through the way we parent our children.

May it be so, Lord.

Blessings, Kendall

08.21.17

How Gen Z is Changing Television as We Know It by Dale Hudson
relevantchildrensministry.com
I remember the days when TV’s were part of a large, cabinet-like console.  And there was no remote control.  I was the remote control.  I had to get up and change the channel by turning the knob.  Which wasn’t too big a problem, since there were only 3 to 4 channels.  Maybe 5, if the weather was right and I titled the rabbit ears that had aluminum foil on them just the right way.  And TV went off at midnight.  They played the national anthem and then it went static until the next morning.  As TV’s progressed, they moved out of the furniture console and stood alone.  But they had a big back and weighed a ton.  Especially the large screens, which were large, but clunky.  Standard definition was the only option.

Later HD was introduced and TV’s began to get thinner and thinner.  Kids who saw an older TV would ask what was on the back of the TV….not knowing that TV’s used to be very thick and heavy.

Today, TV’s come in ultra thin sizes and the screens continue to get larger and larger while the clarity gets better and better.  There are hundreds of channels to choose from.  And if you miss a show, you can always watch it on-demand.

Yes, TV has changed.  Both physically and programmatically.  But the changes are just getting started.  When you consider factors like evolving technology, relevant programming and the rapidly expanding internet, it is obvious change is continuing to accelerate.  Futurists say by 2020, TV may not look like TV as we know it.  The viewing habits and expectations of Gen Z are set to shape the future of TV.

Here are 3 ways Gen Z is changing television as we know it…and what children’s ministries should do as well.

Interaction.
Gen Z expects to interact with TV in a way their Millennial parents didn’t.  In apps like Minecraft, kids create worlds from scratch.  With Musical.ly, they create their own videos.  They participate in choose-your-own adventures, explore in virtual reality and customize their apps and video games.

Kids don’t have the opportunity for control in much of their life and they love the control and creativity these formats allow them to have.  As they grow up, they won’t let that go.  They will demand content that they can give input into and help create.

Children’s ministries that want to connect with Gen Z and reach them with content, must shift toward interactive lessons that provide kids with the opportunity to give input and help create the lesson agenda and flow. 

Fresh Content.  

Gen Z expects fresh content.  Their favorite YouTubers post weekly, daily and even hourly.  Information comes and goes by the minute and in many cases, by the second.   Once Gen Z kids move past their preschool years, they have a very low tolerance for reruns.  Gen Z is also very aware of current trends and know when content is outdated.  Which can happen rapidly.

Children’s ministries must stay up-to-date with what is happening in the culture and provide relevant and fresh content.  Up to this point, we have made references that something is outdated in the church world if it is from a decade ago.  It’s time to rethink that and realize something from a month ago may be outdated.  

This doesn’t mean we change our message.  We are anchored to the truth of God’s Word.  But we must also be geared for the times.  The timeless message of God’s Word must be presented with timely methods.

Diversity. 
Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever.  They are diverse in ethnicity, family make-up and much more.  Content that captures their attention must reflect diversity.  It must be a mirror of how they look, act and feel in this area.

Children’s ministries that want to be effective must be diverse as well.  Places where all people are welcomed.  Places that mirror the group that will gather at the throne of God one day.  Kids from every tribe, nation and language.  

In many instances, television content is a reflection of the culture as a whole.  The 3 insights above give us a good picture of the changes Gen Z is bringing to not only television, but to the culture as a whole.  Ministries that will continue to be effective will be those who adapt as well.

Here are some questions to talk through with your team:

  • Are we giving kids the opportunity to participate and give feedback in our lessons?
  • Are our lessons interactive?
  • How can we give kids the opportunity to help create and plan their experience at church?
  • What are some ways we can keep our ministry fresh in kids’ eyes?
  • Does our ministry reflect the diversity of Gen Z?  How can we improve this?

08.21.17

New Survey: Millennials Learn More from Technology Than from People by Tim Elmore

growingleaders.com

In June of 2017, our organization, Growing Leaders, collaborated with Harris Poll to conduct a survey and discover the perspectives of various generations in the U.S. The survey looked at how different generations feel prepared for adult life; whether they had/have an adult mentor preparing them for adulthood; how overwhelmed they are by daily life and the role technology plays in learning.

The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll from June 28-30, 2017 among 2,264 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older. Some of the results were quite profound.

  • 70% of U.S. adults say children growing up today will not be ready for adult life (i.e., life after graduation from school).
  • 2 in 3 U.S. adults (66%) say that when they were in their teens, they had an older adult (other than a parent) who positively impacted their life. Baby Boomers age 65+ (59%) are significantly less likely to agree with this than all other age groups, but particularly Millennials age 18-34 (71%).
  • Nearly 3 in 5 U.S. adults (58%) say they learn more information from technology than from people. Millennials age 18-34 (69%) are significantly more likely to agree with this than those ages 45+ (50%).

So, let’s interpret what these numbers seem to be telling us.

First, while all generations agree that we need adult mentors to help us prepare for life and leadership, the youngest generation surveyed says they learn more from technology than they do from people. So, seasoned veterans either need to:

a. Find a way to connect with the younger generation online and invest in them via a screen—since it is their natural habitat. In this option, we discover ways to redeem social media for constructive purposes.

b. Encourage them to meet face to face, believing some skills or qualities are better cultivated that way than on a screen. Hence, we give them what they need—not necessarily what they want.

If we believe there are soft skills (employability skills) that cannot genuinely be learned and practiced on a screen, we must engage our young adults in meaningful conversation and experiences that convince them of this as well. This means we have to be more than “talking heads” downloading information to students. We must create environments that magnetically attract the young and coach them. While 7 in 10 Millennials say they have an adult in their life, screen time still prevails, and they don’t feel ready for the leap from backpack to briefcase.

Here is another takeaway from the survey.

A large percentage of respondents regularly feel overwhelmed with everything going on in their daily life. However, the generational difference is substantial with 59 percent of Millennials significantly more likely to agree with this statement than those age 45+, at 32 percent. In short, the younger the person, the more likely they are to feel overwhelmed by everyday life.

As I dug through the findings, a conclusion came to light. At least so far, content on a screen has failed to prevent a person from angst, or feeling overwhelmed. In fact, quite the opposite. The more time we spend on screens, the more likely we are to feel overwhelmed by the information. There is a direct parallel between the rise in social media and the rise in anxiety among adolescents and twenty-somethings.

My Conclusions

The findings indicate to me that the need of the hour is face-to-face mentors. Real-life experiences, not virtual ones. Genuine relationships, not social media connections. Authentic conversations full of transparency and trust, not Tweets or Snapchat videos condensed to a few sentences. We need depth—not breadth.

Emory professor and author Mark Bauerlein recently said something that may explain a phenomenon in America today: “Students spend less discretionary time with adults than in former generations. They have never been so present with each other (online) than they are today.”

In times past, one chief element that prepared students to move from graduation to their career was the time they spent with adults who, in many ways, apprenticed them for adulthood. This would include educators, family members, coaches and employers. This survey indicates many Americans wonder if that’s working anymore.

Today almost one-half of the world’s population is 21 years old or younger, and they’re poised to lead our world into the future. This survey tells us we, as a society, have progressed into a new reality. Most of us don’t believe kids will be ready for adulthood when it arrives. Our young people don’t need us for information, but they need us for interpretation. Adults must find a way to pass on timeless values and principles our young will need, regardless of the complex world in which they live.

08.21.17

Real vs. Fake Relationships by Leneita Fix

youthministry.com

We are living in a connection driven world.  Everyday it seems technology is advancing to help us better stay in touch with those we love. The upside of this is that those High School reunions are way less awkward now that we can deal with all the drama before we ever get there. The downside is a generation is rising that doesn’t always know the difference between “real” and “fake” relationships.

There are different types of relationships. As a nation, we once took this to heart. A person with common interests who you felt safe enough to share your secrets with was a close friend. The guy you make small talk with while waiting at the dentist’s office was not. Now since we can go home and follow dentist guy on Twitter, we don’t always know how to define him.

Today’s teens are the first generation to never recall a time when they could not connect to someone via technology. They are used to having access to people at anytime in any format. We can learn about them through pictures, videos, and 160 written characters or less. It can give us the illusion that we know someone just because we know some information about them.

Sociologists use the term, “social ties” to explain the way are truly connected to a person. How strong a tie is between any two people depends on the amount of time spent together, the emotional connection, the level of closeness and (I like this one) the reality of how reciprocal the relationship is.

They claim there are three types of social ties we can have with someone. I think it is vital to start teaching our students the truth about these different types of connections.

They are:

Weak Ties

These are “acquaintances” or people we interact with but are not emotionally attached to. This is the person we see every day in the hallway and say.”Hi” to but that’s it. We follow them on social media because we met them once. We might see a lot about their lives, but don’t really have anything to do with them.

Strong Ties:

These are the relationships that are most important to us. These are people we share our lives with, and who share their lives with us. Some would say this could never happen via social media. Personally, I would contend there needs to be sometimes when you truly interact with these people in person or face to face in some way. However, with Skype or a good old-fashioned telephone, we can have long-distance friendships pretty easily. What’s important in these ties is that you are going deep and that the connection is not one-sided.

Intermediate Ties:

These may go slightly deeper than just watching someone on Instagram, but they aren’t the people we will share our innermost desires with either. This is where many of our social media interactions lie. They are somewhere between an acquaintance and a true friend.

When we don’t know the difference between these types of relationships we can get confused. We follow someone on our social media of choice and maybe have some witty interactions. We don’t know what to call this person. Are they a friend or an acquaintance? We can navigate this in person, now to learn it online.

Various scientists keep studying the effects of our new way of connecting via technology. The common find is that the deepest intrinsic longing of people is for quality over quantity of relationships. Personally, I think that started way back in the Garden when we knew what it was like to walk and talk with God. He created two at the beginning, not a mass mob. It speaks to the very depth of our soul’s need in so many ways.

We need to understand safety in building relationships online as well. Is there someone we shouldn’t be talking to? Don’t tell your students talking online to friends is evil.

What’s vital is to understand the level of truth those people hold in our lives. There needs to be a way of building a safe relationship that is not a manufactured version of ourselves.  It’s funny, but we have to teach our students how to make friends in this new world.

08.21.17

Four Gifts Every Student Needs From You This Year by Tim Elmore

growingleaders.com

I remember the story of a seven-year-old boy who loved parades. One Saturday he heard about a local parade that would march on the street just behind his house. In excitement, he scampered out to see the band, the majorettes, the clowns and the floats—but there was just one huge problem. His backyard had a tall fence around it, preventing the boy from seeing over the top of it. In fact, the only way he could see the parade was through a tiny knothole in the fence. Unfortunately, this small hole only allowed him to watch what was directly in front of him at any given moment. It was very limiting.

In time, the boy’s dad noticed him trying to watch the parade and decided to offer a little help. He picked his son up, placed him on his shoulders and for the first time, the boy could see the panorama of the entire parade. He saw the big picture.

That’s what I’d like to do for you, in this article.

A Big Picture Vision as You Begin a New School Year

We are about to launch into another extremely busy school year, both in colleges and in K-12 education. I have already spoken at some faculty “kick off” events and seen excited educators commenting on how fast the summer flew by. In a matter of weeks, we’ll all get lost in the grind of our day-to-day work.

I’d like to offer a reminder of the big picture of why we all do what we do with young people, regardless of whether we’re parents, teachers, coaches, employers or youth workers. I’d like to place you on my shoulders to see a panorama of your work.

The Four Gifts Your Students Need from You

In order to grow and flourish, students need four gifts from the adults in their lives. These four may look slightly different to you, depending on your role in their lives. These four represent the fundamentals good leaders provide young people each year:

1. Love

I recognize this sounds very syrupy. But students perform best when under a leader they believe genuinely cares about them—as a person, not just a student or athlete. A growing body of research demonstrates that teens develop best when learning from someone they have a relationship with and from someone they believe likes them. When there is no relationship or the student doesn’t think you even like them, learning is diminished. Love makes a difference between employers and team members; coaches and athletes; teachers and students, and between parents and kids. It’s been said, “Today there are so many broken children living in grown bodies, mimicking adult lives.” When love is absent, growth is hindered. This is why social-emotional learning plays such a vital role in education. Forget reading, writing and arithmetic if a kid is struggling to feel they belong. Love is the first ingredient to growth.

2. Limits 

Students need leaders in their lives to provide boundaries and limits. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Without limits, kids develop insecurities and begin pushing against any boundaries, just to gain attention. As they grow into adults, limits offer guidelines for students to follow. Providing limits actually, communicates we care for them. Think about it: if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t bother to furnish any limits. Limits harness their energy and channel it in a positive direction. Author Ravi Zacharias writes, “The loneliest people in the world are amongst the wealthiest and most famous who found no boundaries within which to live. That is a fact I’ve seen again and again.” Limits for students may include technology and social media, budgets and spending, time with certain people, etc. Limits help us mature well.

3. Latitude 

While this may sound paradoxical to the item above, it is not. While I believe all emerging adults need leaders to give them limits, I believe our limits should have limits. To fully mature, young people need latitude: the ability to spread their wings and fly in the direction they believe is right. Limits should guide them away from unhealthy movement, but latitude empowers them to move. All genuine maturity includes two ingredients: autonomy and responsibility. The purpose of limits is to foster responsible living. The purpose of autonomy is to foster risk-taking and decision-making. With autonomy, adolescents explore possibilities, learn the benefits and consequences of their choices and develop their own sense of identity. Without latitude, they simply borrow the decisions of others. There is nothing more pitiful than a grown adult still requiring their parents to tell them what to do. Growth requires freedom along with responsibility.

4. Leadership 

By this, I mean someone who provides high expectations. Most young people do not push themselves to their limits without someone they respect communicating their belief in the student’s capabilities. Effective leaders are both supportive and demanding, challenging students to rise to the expectations that are possible with their best effort—not unrealistic, but definitely stretching. When a caring adult communicates love, limits and latitude to students, they are in a position of respect and can furnish high expectations for the student—expectations that are seen as belief in them, not punishment. Students rise or fall to the expectations we place on them.

These four items are the pass, dribble and shoot our students need. I’ll let you stay on my shoulders if you’ll promise to keep these in view.

08.14.17

Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
 
Quotes:
raying is not about getting God to give us what we want; it is about learning to want what God wants to give. #deSilva
If we hope to mentor our kids and foster their leadership gifts-we must understand how they think and the world they live in. #elmore
The best way world views are shaped is in the context of relationships. #McDowell
Believe that change is possible. Believe that grace works. Don’t give up — just give everything up to Him. #voskamp
 
 
FYI:
1. Has the Smart Phone Ruined a Generation… https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/?inf_contact_key=5fce34c0c9ddadab40399a40ae6ac0515ab199b1fb7f5ed71ae437d2d05b8873
2. Gen Z Research from UK… https://www.bpi.co.uk/assets/files/MIDiA%20Research%20Gen%20Z%20Report.pdf?inf_contact_key=c9b48c18e86f894990c221a4fc8d883ef339a1312e1907a97bf0afd3a3e6d80e
3. Broken Trust with Teenagers… https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/08/picking-broken-pieces-shattered-trust/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=3b2a85d0c0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_05&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-3b2a85d0c0-126726953
 
4. FAN Favorite Youth Ministry Books… by youthspecialties.com (below)
 
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
 
The One Thing That is More Important Than Your Reputation by Tim Elmore
Are You in Charge of Your Kids or Are They in Charge of You? by Tim Elmore
How to Teach Kids Who Respect – NOT! by Carmen Kamrath
“I don’t believe in anything anymore”: How to respond when young people doubt God by Brad Griffin
 

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

Ideas on using social media.. 3.5 minutes
https://youthministry.com/using-social-medias-stories/?utm_source=bm23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Watch+Now&utm_content=YM_20170807_Content&utm_campaign=08/07/2017&_bta_tid=41331316245476417335822032074687714161699307345621509658686028812822610397407609900005661492759565867525
 
Here are 2 just for you:
 
The Enemies of Patience

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things. –Galatians 5:22-23

We all have things that trigger our impatience. Maybe for you it’s traffic, or kids, or being late, or parents, or your spouse. But, what is it that actually fuels impatience in our lives? I think there are three big enemies of patience:

1. Overload. We try to cram too much activity into our schedules and this results in a lifestyle that has no margin. It leaves no breathing room. So when we find ourselves running behind, it breeds impatience. When you live a life with no margin, any little mismanagement or unforeseen circumstance can result in losing your patience.

2. Unrealistic Expectations. Many of us place high expectations on those closest to us. Typically, these people are our spouse, kids, and closest friends. Then, when they don’t live up to our expectations, we grow impatient. But, the truth is that people cannot possibly live up to every expectation (many of which are unspoken) that we place on them. People aren’t perfect and sooner or later, they won’t live up to our expectations.

3. Pride. Impatience rears its ugly head whenever pride is challenged. When we selfishly think we deserve better treatment than we receive, our egos puff up and our impatience blows out.

I wish there were some easy answers for resolving these enemies to patience. But, these are issues that most Christians continue to wrestle with throughout their lives. I know that I do.

The bottom line is that we need to continually pursue the reign of God’s kingdom in our lives, where we say, “Not my will Lord, but Yours.” When we do this, we begin to see new options for how we can respond. We see that we don’t have to walk hand-in-hand with the enemies of patience. When someone smacks our face, we can turn and give her the other cheek. When someone wants our shirt, we can offer him our coat as well. When someone forces us to walk a mile on his behalf, we can walk a second mile voluntarily.

Each day we face choices where we either embrace the enemies of patience or embrace God’s kingdom. As we seek His kingdom, patience grows. Our patience changes us, and it changes others as well. Today, choose to allow God to reign in you and grow the fruit of patience in your life.

How to get where you don’t know you are going by Kurt Johnston

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew where we were headed?  Sure, like many people, you’ve probably made some long term goals and have a path of sorts you hope your life journey takes you. Maybe you’ve even gone the extra mile and met with a life coach who has helped you learn more about yourself than you know what to do with.

Because I’ve been in youth ministry for quite a while, I’m often asked what it takes to last in ministry…how did I get where I am?   Honest answer: I don’t know! I had no idea when I began ministry as a junior high pastor back in 1988 that I’d still be doing it….and enjoying it!

The reality is none of us really know where we’re headed. Sure, we make our plans, but God often times has plans of His own that you could have never predicted (P.S. They are ALWAYS better than your plans).  I try not to make promises because I’ve been guilty of breaking far too many in the past, but I’d like to make one here: Your life will not turn out the way you’ve planned. I promise. Money-back guarantee.

Discouraged?  Don’t be!  Remember this: When you don’t know where you’re headed, Remember…God knows where he’s taking you!  Your future is in His very capable hands, and he has amazing plans for it.

But what do you do in the meantime?  What do you do on your road to where you don’t know you’re headed? How do you get to where you don’t even know you’re going?

THREE THOUGHTS:

EMBRACE THE AMBIGUITY

I’ve discovered something over the years. Humans seem to crave clarity and God seems incredibly comfortable not providing it.  Pick your favorite person in Scripture and reread their story. Odds are it is chuck full of ambiguity and uncertainty. Embrace the ambiguity of life.  Hug it out with the uncertainty you encounter on a daily basis. Might as well, because it’s here to stay.

PERSEVERE THROUGH ADVERSITY

Think about your favorite bible character again.  Not only was their life marked with ambiguity, but I’d be willing to bet there was a fair amount of adversity, too!  Ministry is tough. There’s adversity with parents, with students, with volunteers, with other staff members and with the church janitor….and that’s all just on Sunday!

When I’m asked how I’ve lasted in youth ministry, my typical answer is a fairly simple one: I refuse to quit.   When ministry has felt brutally tough, I’ve refused to quit.  I’m not an awesome youth pastor, but I’m a stubborn one!  On your way to where you don’t know you’re going there will be times you have to dig in your heels and simply persevere through the adversity of the moment, minute, month or year.

REST IN HIS AUTHORITY

I love this verse from Job’s life; a life marked by a season of tremendous ambiguity and adversity.

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Job 42:2

God is the ultimate authority for where your life and ministry are headed. The creator of the universe; the one who knit you together in your mother’s womb, spoke calm to a raging sea and raised Himself from the dead has a plan and purpose for your life, and nothing can thwart it.  Like Job, it may be valuable to simply rest in your heavenly Father’s authority from time to time.

Life is a journey. Throw youth ministry into the mix and things get bonkers in a hurry.  There’s simply no way to accurately chart your course.

You, my friends, are on a road to God knows where!  But remember….God knows where!

 
FAN Favorite Youth Ministry Books… by youthspecialties.com

So in no particular order, here were some of the fan favorites and why they were chosen.

DIVIDED BY FAITH, by Smith and Emerson—great resource if you’re building towards a multicultural church/youth ministry.

YOUR FIRST 2 YEARS OF YOUTH MINISTRY, by Doug Fields—comprehensive book to help you not only survive, but thrive during the beginning phases of your youth ministry career and prepare for the long haul in ministry.

SUSTAINABLE YOUTH MINISTRY, by Mark Devries—in this book Devries pinpoints problems that cause division and burnout in addition to dispelling strongly held myths. He does all of this while providing practical tools and structures that church leaders need to lay a strong foundation for a youth ministry not built around personality or trend.

THE MINISTRY OF NURTURE by Duffy Robbins—a practical, in depth look at leading your kids into discipleship.

ADOPTIVE YOUTH MINISTRY by Chap Clark—the focus of this book is to help you learn how to integrate emerging generations into the family of faith, helping young adults become active participants in God’s redemptive community.

TAKING THEOLOGY TO YOUTH MINISTRY by Andrew Root—focuses on addressing key theological ideas in a modern youth context.

THE MASTER PLAN OF EVANGELISM by Robert Coleman—this book reminds disciple makers to teach to the masses, model to large groups, mentor a few, and multiply yourself through 1 or 2 people.

SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT by Donald Miller—this book reminds us that relationship is God’s way of leading us to redemption.

YOUTH MINISTRY MANAGEMENT TOOLS 2.0: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE YOUR MINISTRY by Mike A. Work and Ginny Olson—it honestly simplifies all of the practical essentials, gives you sample forms and provides a quick primer on background checks, medical releases, etc.

THE THEOLOGICAL TURN IN YOUTH MINISTRY by Kenda Dean and Andrew Root—the book helps you to reflect on your own practice of theology, and learn how to share that theology through rich, compassionate conversation and purposeful experience.

LETTERS TO A YOUTH WORKER by Mark Devries—this book allows you to have some of the best youth ministers in the country ride shotgun on your journey by providing wisdom and insight into practical and effective youth ministry.

PRESENCE-CENTERED YOUTH MINISTRY by Mike King—this book gives shape to what it means to develop a ministry where kids learn what it is to love and follow Christ through the classic disciplines and potent symbols and practices that have sustained the church over the centuries.

LOVE DOES by Bob Goff—this book is a light and fun, unique and profound read with the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude and just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

GOSPEL-CENTERED YOUTH MINISTRY—both practical and theological, the authors work to explore how each ministry activity serves to teach, form and equip our teens with the gospel.

GOSPEL-CENTERED DISCIPLESHIP—outlines a spiritual transformation through the work of the gospel in an intentional relationship between shepherd and sheep.

CHOOSING TO CHEAT by Andy Stanley—a great book for setting healthy boundaries around your team so that you can effectively serve your family and serve in your ministry.

BECOMING A COACHING LEADER by Daniel Harkavy—this book shows how coaching makes developing people a high-payoff activity. It allows you to equip tomorrow’s leaders today. And it gives you the ability to improve performance while raising the quality of life inside and outside of the ministry.

GETTING TO YES AND CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS—this book is useful for learning to navigate the important church staff and parenting issues that go with student ministry.

DON’T DO THIS by Len Kegler and Jonathan Hobbs—helps rookie youth leaders to know some things that may be more advantageous to stay away from in their youth ministry journey.

PRACTICING PASSION by Kenda Creasy Dean—does a great job of placing youth ministry in the context of the local church, and the responsibilities that each has for the other.

THE YOUTH BUILDER by Jim Burns—this book can help you to make a life-changing impact in the lives of your young people.

PLAYING GOD by Andy Crouch—this book looks at the concept of power and how we’ve made it a dirty word and how the misuse of power causes many different problems in the world.

YOUTH MINISTRY 3.0: A MANIFESTO OF WHERE WE’VE BEEN, WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE NEED TO GO by Mark Oestreicher—in this book youth workers will explore the voices of other youth workers, why we need change in youth ministry, from a ministry moving away from dependence on programs, to one that is focused on communion and mission.

MY FIRST 90 DAYS IN MINISTRY by Group—practical, from the trenches advice to keep you on safe ground as you navigate a new church culture, settle into a ministry role, and sort through a pile of priorities.

THIS WAY TO YOUTH MINISTRY by Duffy Robbins—in this book thirty-year youth ministry veteran Duffy Robbins explores the theology, theory and practice of youth ministry to serve as a field guild to helping you navigate this unique calling.

THE GODBEARING LIFE by Kenda Dean and Ron Foster—in this book the authors offer a spiritual primer and practical guide for those who pastor young people.

REVISITING RELATIONAL YOUTH MINISTRY by Andy Root—this book shows that true relational youth ministry shaped by the incarnation is a commitment to enter into the suffering of all, to offer all those in high school or junior high the solidarity of the church and gives us guidance for how to effectively enter in.

Blessings, Kendall

08.14.17

The One Thing That is More Important Than Your Reputation by Tim Elmore

growingleaders.com

For years, educators, employers and parents have told our young adults to build their personal brand. Now that folks can do this on-line, it’s become the pursuit of millions of 20-something Millennials and teens from Generation Z. Every young person wants people to recognize and follow their “brand.”

However, because our personal brand can be constructed through an inaccurate persona we post on social media platforms, I am concerned our students have received the wrong message. They are in a hunt to build a “reputation,” but they are building it on an insecure foundation.

This is a subtle shift from the past, but an important one.

While I believe our reputation is vital in a community (a school campus, a club, a company or with our social media followers), it is an outcome that can be achieved artificially with little or no substance. I have never seen so many young people pursue “image management” as I do today. Unfortunately, our young people have learned this from their elders. After all, most of the outcomes we’ve put on them are external (like grades, behavior, or athletic performance), not internal.

Our Culture’s Push to Create a Reputation

Coach John Wooden always said, “Your reputation is who people think you are; your character is who you really are.”

I have seen this quote illustrated countless times. It takes the form of a college student who works tirelessly on his or her reputation but has very questionable character. When people discover who they really are (which eventually happens in time), the truth is a letdown and their social media reputation eventually catches up to reality. The resume they padded, the Instagram account they set up, the website they built, the social media messages they sent—all lose meaning. In short, people discover our true integrity via intimacy. When our integrity is sketchy, intimacy is lost and reputation sinks.

Once again, it’s a let down.

Author Donald Miller echoes this when he says, “People don’t judge who we are, they judge who we’ve led them to believe we are. The more time and effort we put into making ourselves look great, the longer and harder the fall when the truth comes out. And eventually the truth comes out.”

My Resolve to Change Pursuits

Over the years, I have decided to ditch working on my “reputation” and work on my “reality.” In other words, my integrity is the key to solidify how others view me. Remember, the term “integrity” simply means “one” or “whole.” In math, an integer is a single digit. When I have integrity it doesn’t mean I’m a perfect leader. It means what I say and what I do are the same. I am transparent about who I am. It’s the opposite of hypocrisy. As I work on my character my reputation takes care of itself, because I am not pretending to be anyone other than who I really am.

At Growing Leaders, I air much of my dirty laundry to my team and we laugh at my humanity. As a Type 1 diabetic, they’ve all seen my vulnerabilities, when my blood sugars go low and I can’t think straight for a bit. They’ve seen my weaknesses because I disclose them. I ask for help. I don’t merely hide behind my strengths. We talk through the glaring mistakes we all make so there are no “elephants in the room.” The phrase I often use with our team is: Let’s take our mission seriously, but let’s not take ourselves too seriously. This doesn’t mean I am not serious about building my character, it simply means I am authentic in the process.

Integrity beats image. Character beats reputation.

So, let’s allow our reputation be an outcome, not a pursuit. Let’s work on our character and not on our image. When others judge us, let’s not react, but stay steady, developing a robust character that will cause others to not believe any gossip about us and hence, maintain our solid reputation.

Consider this statement Donald Miller makes: “People only judge those who claim to be better than others…more righteous, more moral. When I’m ethical, I just look good. When somebody who works on their reputation isn’t ethical, they find themselves in social court. Working on our reputation is just a dumb move.”

Axioms to Live By:

1. To the degree I pretend, I lose a proportionate amount of intimacy. I can’t be close to someone if there is pretense. Intimacy demands transparency.

2. When I focus on reputation, I turn life into a game or contest and keep others at arm’s length. I wear myself out keeping score on both me and others.

3. When I’m caught up in my image, I must remember all the white lies I’ve told, which becomes laborious in relationships. We can forget who we really are.

4. When my pursuit is an amazing reputation, I can be prone to distort, deceive, or exaggerate my stories or descriptions. The end justifies the means.

5. When I am proactive about my lifestyle, and live by principles, most of my reputation and image issues take care of themselves.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.”

08.14.17

Are You in Charge of Your Kids or Are They in Charge of You? by Tim Elmore

growingleaders.com 

Four months ago, our family bought a puppy. We named her Sadie, short for Mercedes. She is a Morkie, a hybrid of a Maltese and a Yorkshire terrier. At this point, she is the life of our family—very cute, cuddly, confident and full of energy.

And right now, she’s the “alpha dog” of our family.

I know, I know. It’s not supposed to be that way. She’s a puppy for Pete’s sake. But I am traveling quite a bit and my wife has been far more responsive than directive with Sadie. Because we’ve given to her every desire, our puppy thinks she’s in charge. In our busyness, we’ve not taken Sadie to a trainer or exposed her to much training at all from anyone. Outside of her mealtime regiment, Sadie pretty much requests what she wants, and someone gets it for her—be it a toy or a treat. After all, she’s adorable.

I am not trying to throw anyone under the bus. Because I am at the office during the day or gone on a trip, my wife finds herself in survival mode with this cute little critter. Sadie can be a handful. Cleaning up after her can be exhausting. But this also explains, however, why Sadie assumes she’s the alpha dog.

When we give her everything she wants, she begins to believe that she must be in charge. Does this situation sound familiar?

Students or Adults: Who’s Leading Who?

Our experience with Sadie illustrates what I frequently see as I speak on campuses of schools across the country. Over the last three decades, a growing number of schools and families have migrated into a new leadership style. Aware of the psychological needs of adolescents, we want to be responsive to them, meeting their every requirement for self-esteem, safety, security—you name it. And because so many students come from single parent homes or from a lower socio-economic-status (free or reduced lunches), we want to lead with empathy. I believe that’s a good thing. Sadly, however, many of us have not figured out how to be empathetic while still remain directive or demanding. We lower our standards. We let down our guard. We grade on a curve. We upgrade our language to hyperbole, in an effort to praise our kids and help them feel good about themselves. We become reactive, not proactive . . . and it’s had a sinister effect on millions of students.

The result? Much like our puppy, many of these teens feel like they’re in charge. At times it happens subconsciously and unintentionally. And sometimes, the students know it’s happening. I’ve watched them brag on social media about how they’ve manipulated their teacher, how they’ve negotiated a grade, how they’ve persuaded their parent to get them the latest Apple product, and how they’ve threatened to “quit” if their coach or leader doesn’t give in to their requests.

When we show a pattern of giving in, even in the name of compassion or empathy, we actually begin to confuse students. They become fuzzy about what rules will be enforced and which ones will be adjusted. Just like Sadie. Our puppy is confused right now because we’ve not offered clear parameters to her. We say something, but she figures out we really don’t mean it. We cave. We’ve unwittingly conditioned her to keep barking or continue pushing for what she wants, knowing that her will may just be stronger than her owner’s will. At least she’s figured out that it’s worth trying.

Both our students and our cuddly pets need a wise alpha dog. Unless we’re proactive (rather than reactive) in our leadership—we can send the wrong signals.

Six Steps We Can Take

1. Be clear. Lack of clarity breeds insecurity.

Kids often learn that if they argue long enough, they can wear us down and eventually get their way. As our leadership vacillates, our kids feel uncertain about their boundaries. In short, a lot of little uncertainties produce a few big insecurities. Our fuzzy-ness usually results in our kids’ insecurity. The greatest gift leaders can offer students is the gift of clarity. It fosters security and energy in them.

2. Be consistent. Lack of consistency breeds confusion.

Parent psychologists Jayne Rutherford and Kathleen Nickerson, write, “No matter how well you’ve selected your rules, how much you praise your kids, or how effectively you discipline them, you must be consistent, or your efforts will be in vain and your household will still be in crisis. Kids need consistency to get the message because your actions speak louder than your words—it’s part of how they’re wired.”

3. Don’t cave. Lack of strength breeds instability. 

When adults give in to the requests and demands of our children, we begin to send mixed signals to them. At first, they like it. After all, they just won the argument. They got what they wanted. In time, however, our constant “caving” begins to foster a constant “craving” in them for strength. With boundaries unclear, they need more direct attention. Unwittingly, we actually breed instability in our young.

4. Stay committed. Lack of commitment reduces growth.

Dr. Kathleen Nickerson says: “Sticking with a new endeavor is what makes it become a habit, and the sooner you start, the easier it will be for both you and your child. What’s going on around children strongly impacts the development of their brain. In order for your child’s brain cells to learn healthier rewards, rules, and consequences, and to behave accordingly in a way that becomes automatic, you must remain consistent while his brain develops.”

5. Determine your compass. Lack of direction breeds anxiety.

As a parent or teacher, if I am fuzzy on what should happen next, I tend to be fuzzy in my direction and in my behavior as well. I may waver back and forth, trying to figure out my dilemma as I go. It’s like building a bridge as you cross it. It’s very difficult. Up front, write down the non-negotiables and make them known to everyone. Be both supportive and demanding. This actually can lower the level of angst a kid feels.

6. Stay accountable. Lack of accountability diminishes grit.

In the end, decisions only have weight if people are held accountable. We’ve all heard the phrase: “You can only expect what you inspect.” If you’ve made a decision, find ways to hold students or children accountable to their part. We can be friendly but firm. Model this yourself. Everyone performs better when they are “watched.” If a student fails to come through, talk about it, don’t ignore it because you’re tired.

In the end, I wonder if we need just as much training as Sadie does.

08.14.17

How to Teach Kids Who Respect – NOT! by Carmen Kamrath

childrensministry.com

Do you ever feel like respect is disappearing from kids’ vocabulary these days? If so, read on.

As I passed by a Sunday morning kindergarten classroom a few weeks ago, I overheard a frustrated volunteer negotiating with a 5-year-old boy to join the rest of the class for the Bible story. As the boy ran in circles around the other children, the volunteer kindly asked him again to please join the group. I stopped to watch his response as he walked over to his classroom leader, stared her directly in the face, and shouted, “You can’t make me! You’re not the boss of me!”

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” the song made famous by Aretha Franklin, has become a favorite tune for many — and a battle cry for many adults who work with today’s children. From the school classroom to the local athletic field to the weekend children’s ministry program — today’s kids have gained the unpleasant reputation of being disrespectful. And adults aren’t the only targets of disrespect — kids lack respect for property, each other, even themselves. Why is a lack of respect one of the biggest problems among kids today?

What They See Is What You Get

Flip the channels of your television and you’ll get a glimpse of how respect is modeled via the media. Whether it’s prime-time sitcoms, cartoons, or a movie on the big screen — kids are viewing programming that encourages them to be less respectful of others. Music and video games can also lay a foundation of disrespect and hostile behavior, especially when there’s a lack of guidance and discussion about appropriate behaviors at home.

Good Intentions Out of Control

In an eagerness to raise independent children — those who think for themselves rather than bow to the demands of others — many adults have stopped disciplining children for being disrespectful.

Resistance to exercise authority for fear of stifling a child’s independent nature has bred children who display a lack of honor to individuals in a position of authority. Today’s kids often believe they’re on the same level as adults and have a right to know the reason behind adult decisions; they argue against every decision made that doesn’t meet their expectations. In a desperate attempt to be liked by their children, many parents compromise their parental role to be their child’s “buddy.”

Children Learn What They Live

This poem displayed in many schools and physician’s offices is all too true when it comes to the virtue of respect. Attend a youth soccer game and watch parents who yell at the referees or chew out the coach when their child doesn’t get enough time on the field. Or listen to the mom who intimidates a teacher in front of others regarding her son’s reading progress or the dad who explodes at his daughter in front of her friends for being late. Despite the outside influences, the bottom line is that many kids today lack a positive model for respect at home. The “Do as I say, not as I do” method may sound good in theory, but the reality is that kids are watching their parents carefully as they model the behavior of the people who have the most influence in their lives.

Cultivating Respect in a Field of Rudeness

Can the church plant seeds of respect in children and expect those seeds to grow when they aren’t being properly tended at home? The question is one of faith. Will God honor the values we teach? Will God instill those values on the hearts of the kids — that one day they may be a positive model of respect for others? Learning respect is an integral part of healthy child development, and it’s never too late to start instilling this virtue in the children who walk through your doors each week. Here’s how.

  • Be a role model. Many kids in your ministry may not have a healthy model of respect at home. But if you treat children with respect, you’re teaching them to respect others. Facilitate respect by having kids make cards for others who are sick, saying “thank you” when someone offers help in class, or acknowledging people when they show kindness to another. Talk to kids in a kind tone — even when disciplining a child, your tone can be confident without yelling. Kids will learn more from our behavior than from our lectures.
  • Set the ground rules. Kids need boundaries to feel safe and secure in their environments. Boundaries and simple rules lay the foundation for what will and won’t be tolerated. Kids respect adults with rules that are fair, and it often helps to let kids have a say in what rules they’re expected to follow. Kids who have no limits at home will have trouble with limits at church. But limits will inevitably bring comfort to children, especially when the rules are consistent and are followed through with love.
  • Create immediate consequences. Kids need to know the consequence for disrespect and that you’ll follow through. If possible, make the consequence logical to the offense. For example, if a child makes a rude comment about another child, have him write an apology and include at least two positive comments about the child he offended. Sometimes a reminder of the Golden Rule followed by discussion is consequence enough — “Sally, would you appreciate it if I made that rude comment to you?” Or have a child who’s been disrespectful to you explain his actions to his parents when they arrive to pick him up. This will not only acknowledge to them that there was a problem, but it can also be a teachable moment in assisting families with communication. When a child displays disrespect for property, such as deliberately smashing crackers into the floor, have the child clean and vacuum the room at the end of class.
  • Name rude behavior. With the vast array of messages children receive, they may genuinely be unaware that their words or behavior are inappropriate. Respond to inappropriate behavior with comments such as, “Jacob, the tone you just used was disrespectful and is not acceptable in this room.” In the same manner, give praise when kids display respect to others: “Ashley, thank you for waiting to talk until I was finished. That was respectful of you!”
  • Help kids look in God’s mirror. It’s amazing how many young children display behaviors that are disrespectful to themselves. Even preteens are experimenting with behaviors such as cutting themselves, binge eating or anorexia, and inappropriate Internet chatting. If children can’t show respect to themselves, they’ll definitely have difficulty showing respect to others. Tell kids that they’re created in God’s image and that God loves them unconditionally. Helping kids respect themselves is the first step toward respecting others.
  • Help respect bloom at home. Children’s ministers have an hour, sometimes two, to influence a child’s behavior each week. Parents have a greater amount of time to model respect for their children during the week. Remind parents of the important role they play in developing positive behavior traits in children. Help parents learn how to instill values in their children that’ll last a lifetime. Provide materials with activities and devotions that families can do together. Offer parenting classes that teach parents the importance of being a respectful role model for their children. Lead a worship service designed for families that teaches kids and parents together the importance of respect, as well as other positive values that are important to a child’s development.

Respect is a character trait that should be foundational for children as they grow and mature. Letting kids get away with inappropriate behavior will only breed more of the same, but kids will typically demonstrate as much respect as we ask of them. In a world where respect is rarely modeled for kids today, it’s essential that we do all we can to instill this value in the lives of the children we minister to each week.

08.14.17

“I don’t believe in anything anymore”: How to respond when young people doubt God by Brad Griffin

Fulleryouthinstitute.com

“I don’t believe in anything anymore. Christians are all such fakes.” 

These were the words her 17-year-old son yelled just before she walked out the door for our meeting. Even for a mom who can handle a fair amount of conflict and pushback from her kids, this was a heavy blow. It was meant to be.

Teenagers can be like that. They know just how to press on our sensitive spots and trigger our reactive emotions. What they don’t know is how much fear and uncertainty these moments evoke in us. They aren’t yet sophisticated enough to realize that our first responses, like theirs, can unhelpfully shut down the conversations we really need to have.

Adolescents and emerging adults need parents and trusted adults in their lives who will receive these moments perceptively. To see what may be under the harsh words, sarcastic questions, or searing critique about faith, Scripture, or the church. Because often what’s underneath those outbursts are really important questions.

Is God real? 

Why are Christians so messed up?

Can I trust the Bible? 

Is it wrong to doubt God? 

Through our research at the Fuller Youth Institute, we’ve learned in our Sticky Faith and Growing Young studies that it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith—it’s silence. Young people who have safe relationships in which to share their questions and struggles tend to have stronger faith, to carry that faith into young adulthood, and to share their faith with others more often. When articulated, young people’s questions open up exploration of both doubt and faith.

The problem tends to be that as parents and leaders, we typically get caught off guard by these questions. Like my friend, we’re on our way out the door to a meeting. We’re wrapping up an already-over-time small group session. We’re exhausted and have very little capacity to give a “Jesus-answer” worthy of a decent Christian, let alone one who is supposed to be a spiritual leader to their children or to others’. We feel outmatched and underprepared.

In these moments, we want to remind you—and ourselves—of a few powerful phrases. Our team has created a set of wallpapers for your computer and phone this month to help you remember, share, and use these two responses:

1. Yes, you can ask that

2. I don’t know, but…

First, every young person needs to know that all of their questions, complaints, doubts, and struggles have a hearing. They need to know that you—and God—are going to hear and hold the questions without pushing the young person away. They need to know that God is big enough to receive these questions and is not afraid of them (just read the psalms or Job for examples!) They need to know that they are not somehow deficient, unfaithful, or unworthy, and that their questions won’t cause God to love them any less.

Second, young people need to know that we don’t have the answer to every question. It isn’t the goal of mature Christian adulthood to be “answer-people” or to have everything figured out. In fact, the more we lean into faith, the more we realize it is marked at every turn by mystery, unseeing, complexity, and paradox. As most of the biblical witness portrays, these features deepen our awe, wonder, and humility before God; not our certainty, arrogance, or pride.

It may push against everything we’ve been conditioned to say, but often a helpful first response to a tough question can start with the words, “I don’t know, but …”

This isn’t just a stall tactic, but a way to both affirm the question and create a holding space for it. We might say, “I don’t know, but that’s an important question,” or “… I wonder that, too,” or “… let’s work on that together. Who could help us find out more?”

If you’re like me, you hear pithy, helpful phrases all the time but can never remember them at just the right time you need them. This month we are helping you out with these wallpaper reminders. Use them, and share them with parents, ministry leaders, and any adult who cares about young people.

Together we can become safe spaces—safe relationships—in which teenagers feel invited to bring their real selves, their hard questions, and their deep frustrations, and truly be heard.

Yes, it’s okay to ask that. Even if I don’t know the answer.