Archive for teens

.::Teens Marketing Themselves

Posted in adolescence, Ministry, Parenting Teens, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , on December 15, 2011 by Walter

Recently I was talking with bunch of parents of teens where we were talking about the biggest sexual temptations that our teens are/will be facing.  In the midst of the discussion, one of the parents used the term “marketing” in reference to the ways it seems teen girls have to present themselves to the opposite sex in order to gain any modicum of attention.

I found that term “marketing” particularly captivating as it rang hauntingly true.  In the adolescent world, it does seem like there is fierce competition for another’s attention.  Students in their quest for identity send themselves down a path to doing/wearing/trying almost anything just to get noticed.  Some parents shared stories of photo after photo they have seen on Facebook of scantily clad girls that are up there for all the world to see.  Others commiserated over the different wardrobe battles they have to endure in order to get out of the mall without needing stitches.

On the other end of the gender aisle, Dads worry about the ease at which pornography is accessible for their sons and what that kind of marketing is doing to their boys perception of reality, personhood, and truth.  We aren’t even going near the age at which so many of the guys I talk to have seen performance enhancing drugs and steroids in the locker room in an attempt to get noticed on the field.

It seems like every where a teen turns there are so many gimmicks that students resort to in order to try to “market” themselves and stand out in a crowd.

So what is a parent, coach, youth worker, teacher, to do?

Than answer is almost too simple . . . notice them NOW.

SEE the teens around you and say “Hi.” Trust me, they are there, you jsut maight not have seen them.

Don’t just notice kids who ACHIEVE (QBs, STraight A Students, Cheerleader, Soloists, Starting Forward, etc.) . . . notice the introvert in the corner and sit with them.

Don’t just hang out with the “pretty kids” . . . didn’t we get our fill of that kind of behavior in high school?

Find those kids who ARE trying to hide because they just do not know how to market themselves or got too tired trying to play that marketing game . . . and give them the time of day.

Talk WITH teens, not just TO them.  Learn who they are, What makes them tick? What did they do last weekend? What’s their favorite band on their iPod? Ask them what movie you should get off Netflix and Why?

Tell them some stories from your life because, believe it or not, they want to know you too!  (more on that in future blogs)

Praise a kid just for EXISTING not for performance . . . Jesus did that kind of thing all the time, didn’t he?

WARNING:  This WILL be awkward at moments!  You will blow it from time to time.  But I guarantee that it WILL make a difference.  The results most certainly will not be immediate, but they will be eternal.

This is how we begin to be the hands and feet of Jesus and start to bring down the Madison Ave lie factory that have told our young people they aren’t good enough to the point they have felt the need to start these mini-marketing campaigns of their own.


.::What is Technology Doing to Our Souls?: Tech Sabbath

Posted in adolescence, disciplines, Life, Tech, Technology, Theology, What is Technology Doing to Our Souls? with tags , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by Walter

I have been fortunate to present a body of work I have called, “What is Technology Doing to Our Souls?” to all sorts of parents around the nation this past year and a half.  It has been a rich and rewarding experience to partner with parents and help them navigate through this vast sea of choices, boundaries, and wisdom that is required to know what is the best course for my son or daughter?  Over the next few posts, I want to share a few of those nuggets that we talk about during these events to give you a taste of what this is about.   If you think you’d like to have me speak to your church, school, parents, teens, elders, scout troop, coffee clutch, ladies class, mime troupe, etc.  I’d love to partner with you.  E-mail me for more info:


If there is one thing that I would say to parents regarding technology and your family, it would be, “Do you practice any kind of tech Sabbath?”  Here is what I mean,  “Do you have a time each day when you aren’t accessible via cell phone, text message, e-mail, etc.?”  I believe that if we find ourselves constantly connected 24 hours a day 7 days a week, we run the risk of developing a God-complex that fools us into thinking that the world can’t run without us.  Do you intentionally power down these devices so that the temptation to check your e-mail is gone.  Do you power off so that you won’t get distracted by the buzz of a text message while trying to have dinner together as a family?

How about looking at this not as a form of denial, but as a chance at freedom?  What if you had an hour each day where you didn’t have to worry about these things?  What if in that hour you were able to be fully present with your son or daughter?  What if EVERYONE in your family powered down so that when you were together, you were really TOGETHER!  Can you imagine that kind of freedom?

CONFESSION:  I know that when I am with my kids and I feel that buzz of a text message in my pocket, I instantly become 50% LESS available to them mentally.  In my mind I am wondering, “Who texted me?  What do they need?  I am important!” and I am instantly transported mentally away from my daughters and to a nether region of text-a-topia where the world is allegedly more interesting.

But that is a lie.  A false story that I have bought into.

So do this today…don’t start with an hour…just try 15 minutes or 30 minutes and ease into this discipline.  Because that is what it is…a discipline.  We have immersed ourselves into technology so much that it is going to take initiative, discipline, courage, willpower, and wisdom just to find the power button on those shiny little devices that hold so much power over us.

Baby steps . . . one at a time . . . you can do this . . .

.:Dirt Community

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by Walter

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

Confession time: I have far too often in my ministry leant too far on the side of truth. What I mean is that I have really wanted to get to the depth of ministry, faith, study and worship and felt little inclination to focus too much on the community side. I have a fear that I have far too little time with students that I want to cram all the important things in in the few hours I get with them a week. I think that if we spent 15 minutes just, “hanging out” that we are wasting time. But that isn’t true.

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

If there is no community, then our students don’t feel that safe haven. . . That refuge. . .That sanctuary. . . Where they can be themselves. A place where they feel like they don’t have to put on a façade to impress or fit in with others. Without this culture of community and safety, then the message of the gospel falls on deaf ears. Belonging precedes grace.

Look at Jesus. Jesus offered belonging far before he expected them to behave in certain ways. I believe this is to fertilize the soil of community and belonging so that those He encounters can truly experience the grace and love and mercy He offers.

We have to remember that one of the main tasks of adolescence is to find a place of belonging. To know where they fit in. This is one of the markers of adulthood. In other words, as an adult I know I don’t have to act a certain way in order for people to get to like me.

So I look to the ten to fifteen minutes we spend before youth group “hanging out” and “wasting time” as an integral part of our programming.

But there is a warning we have to heed, for the opposite is also true. Bad community is toxic soil that that can kill a student’s opportunity to experience grace.

I imagine a junior high girl trying to find a peer to just give her the time of day before a youth group class. Ten minutes of getting ignored feels like an hour to her. By the time her class starts, she will spend the remainder of class doubting herself, wondering what is wrong with her, questioning her worth instead of experiencing God’s grace that is being proclaimed. Furthermore, she may also actually DOUBT that God’s grace with worth ANYTHING if she hasn’t experienced community in those ten minutes before class.  Therefore, we must have a corps of volunteers who are vigilant to look out and make sure EVERY student is being draw into community.  If we simply rely on her peers, chance are, they will fail her.  Therefore we MUST have an army of other adults who have the sensitivity to reach out as well as be available to students.  These adults must be drawn from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, genders, socio-economic demographics, skin colors, etc. in order for every student to have a few options to go to.  In other words, lets not just draw from the twenty something hipsters in our churches.  We need spiritual moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents as well as big brothers and big sisters who will till the soil of community and create a fertile garden for grace to grow.

.::Catch Phrases & Worldviews

Posted in Ministry, Teaching, Theology with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2009 by Walter

Rick Acthley says that you can tell a generation from their catchphrases.  For example, in the 1960’s you had “Groovy,” in the 1970-80s you had “Cool,” and in the 90s we had “Awesome.”

But recently, we have seen “Whatever” come in to vogue.  What Achtley notices and concludes is that “Whatever” is not just a catch phrase, but a WORLDVIEW.  You see “Groovy” reflected the easy-going nature of the adolescents of the 50s&60s.  “Cool” showed the laid back spirit of the 70s&80s.  “Awesome” reflects some of the promise and prosperity of the 80s&90s.

So it begs the question:  Does “whatever” show a cynicism and state of entitlement of up and coming generations?  Have we failed the next generation with boomer mentality and moral bankruptcy?  Do today’s teens really NOT care because we haven’t given them anything to really care for?

Perhaps theologian and sociologist, Tony Campolo, has it right when he makes the observation that the American family has gotten smaller (2.5 kids to 1.9 kids per American family, but the American home per square footage has gotten larger and larger.  What Campolo suggests is that our incessant quest for stuff, materialsim and more space for our junk has perhaps left us morally bankrupt, apathetic to real social needs, lost and lonely without community.  And in the background of the tragedy stand our adolescents who have keenly observed this sadness and have rightly concluded that our quest has been empty.  Their response has been an resounding, “whatever.”

I hope and pray that upcoming generations can get something to get excited about.  Perhaps that will be the resurgence of Social Justice issues like Rwanda or Uganda, ir dive in to Civil Rights issues like stopping the sex slave trade in southeast Asia through organizations like Internaional Justice Mission.  Those are the kinds of things that really feed one’s souls and gives one’s life not only purpose and mission, but when one is involved in such things, they can “feel the pleasure of God.”*

And perhaps, that “Whatever” of this generation can turn into a “Wow”!

*Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire