Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Making of a King

We’re Teaching This:

Every good story has a hero. Think about it. Superman. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. They aren’t just random characters. They’re larger than life. Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re exciting and they’re brave. And that’s what keeps us interested. That’s why we cheer for them. Believe it or not, the Bible is full of heroes like that. They don’t have capes and light sabers, but they are heroes who fought giants, built arks, became spies, defeated armies, and saved the day over and over. One of the most famous ones is named David—or maybe you know him as King David. Like many others, David’s life was exciting, epic even. And at first glance it can feel like we have zero common with him. Even on our most exciting days our lives don’t exactly feel heroic. But as we take a closer look at the journey of this shepherd boy turned king, we see it wasn’t always a royal fairytale. In fact, as we discover the twists and turns of his road to the throne, his life begins to look more like ours than we ever imagined. 

Think About This:

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait to grow up? There were probably a lot of reasons, but many of them boiled down to one idea: When I grown up, I’ll be in charge. No one can tell me what to do. It was a nice idea, but that’s not exactly our adult reality, is it? In fact, sometimes feels like growing up has left us answering to more people, not less. And what’s worse is when not all these authority figures are exactly ideal for the job. Maybe you’ve experienced…

The police officer who is out of line. 
The governor you totally disagree with. 
The boss who seems clueless. 
The homeowners’ association president/tyrant. 
The in-laws who think they’re in charge

Nothing is more frustrating. And in moments like that it can be tempting to employ our go-to response. Maybe you tend to lash out, argue, or respond with harsh sarcasm. Or maybe for you it’s more tempting to ignore them or sneak around their rules. Either way, when it comes to a clash with authority, there is often more on the line than we realize.  Overwhelmingly, research suggests that our teenagers’ behavior is more influenced by what they see us do than what they hear us say is best. 

In his article, I Spy Daddy Giving Someone The Finger: Your kids will imitate you. Use it as a force for good, Dr. Allen Kazdin, former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “Brain research has demonstrated that there are special cells called mirror neurons. When we watch someone do something, our mirror neurons become active in the brain as if we ourselves were engaging in the same behavior we are observing.” (

In other words, when watching our behavior, our students’ brains react and grow new connections that tell them to do the same. That’s why, even with the most difficult and undeserving authority figures, it may still serve us well to treat them with respect. In doing so, our students’ brains will form connections that remind them to do the same.

This week, pay attention to your interactions with your boss, coworkers, government workers, and even your own parents or in-laws. Now, imagine what you would say if you overheard your teenager responding to people in charge the same way you do. Because, if the research is true, there’s a good chance that one day they will. 

Try This:

There will always be people in charge who frustrate us. That’s true for our students as well. In fact, sometimes we are the ones who frustrate them. So, modeling respect for authority is a huge deal. But that doesn’t mean we have to be stoic. This week try mentioning to your student one situation where you are frustrated by authority and how you’re dealing with it. Say something like…
Sometimes it’s hard not to give my boss piece of my mind. He can be really offensive, but I won’t let his rude tone force me to act the same way. 
I really disagree with the politicians who are in charge right now. Some of their policies make no sense to me. I’ll respect their office, but I’ll vote differently next time. 
It’s really hard for me to be nice to grandma when she acts like she’s in charge. I know I’m grown and I don’t have to listen to her, but I’m still doing my best to treat her well because she is my mother.  
When we acknowledge our own struggles, it gives us credibility with our students. They see that we are still fighting for relationships even when it isn’t easy. And that may just be what gives them the courage to do the same. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015


We're Teaching This:
 How many hours are you connected to some kind of technology on a normal day? If you were to add up your hours online, your glances at text messages, your streaming music, your perusing social media, your Netflix addiction, how many hours could you count? It’s probably a lot. Our culture is obsessed with technology—and with good reason. Technology keeps us connected to each other and to the world around us. Nearly every device we own transmits signals to something else, somewhere else. Why? Because that’s how they’re wired to function. Our phones, tablets, smart watches, gaming systems—they all are wired to connect to something outside them. And the same is true for us. We are wired for connection. It’s in our design. As we take a closer look at what Jesus called “the greatest commandment”, we discover that we were wired to have three vital relationships: with God, with ourselves, and with others. And when those connections are made, everything else begins to function as it was designed.

Think About This:
 Your student is changing fast. Chances are this isn’t a surprise. Their classes are changing. Their friends are changing. Their bodies are definitely changing. But one change you may not see as quickly are the changes that are happening in your student’s brain. As our students approach puberty, their brains are being physically rewired to function less like a child and more like an adult. New connections are forming. Old ones are collapsing. Parts of the brain are being reorganized. And with all of that activity, it’s no surprise that they may experience occasional “outages” or glitches in their judgment, their memory, and their emotional control. That means…… your straight-A scholar may suddenly forget their
homework.… your sweet, quiet child may now have teenage emotional outbursts.… your reasonable, responsible student may have a few mindboggling lapses in judgment.When that happens, our first reaction may be to panic and wonder, what went wrong here? But, most of the time, nothing is really wrong. Our students’ brains are simply under construction.

Try This:

 Sometimes the scariest thing about our students’ wiring is that it comes from us. It’s tempting to focus all our attention on the traits in our students that make us cringe—especially when we know they learned it from us. But those aren’t the only traits we’ve passed down. If you think about it, there are also some pretty great things in your students’ wiring that came from you. This week, take notice of one positive trait in your student that they inherited from you. (This can be something you can do as a stepparent, adoptive parent or foster parent as well. Genetics may be responsible for some traits, but observation and learned behavior play an important role, too!) Maybe you’re both good at math. Maybe your son is starting to show some of your great conversational skills. Or maybe your daughter is wired to be competitive, just like you. No matter what it is, pay attention to the positive traits passed on to your student. Then, tear off the section below. Fill it out and leave it somewhere for your student this week.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Real Talk


Talking to some people is easy. You can hang out with your friends for hours and never run out of anything to say. You feel like you can talk to them about anything. But you probably also know people who just seem to make you a little nervous when you have to talk to them. Maybe it’s a teacher, coach or your boss at work, but you always feel you say something wrong or they are never impressed. No matter who it is, you choose your words carefully when you talk to that person because you don’t want to mess things up. And if we’re honest, prayer can feel a lot like that. The whole idea of it makes us a little nervous. We wonder if we sound silly. We try to use just the right words but we aren’t sure we’re
doing it right. And often, we are tempted to back away from prayer because it just feels awkward. But what if talking to God was never meant to be that way? What if talking to God was supposed to feel more like chatting with a good Friend than making an impressive speech? During this series, we’re going to take a look at what Jesus said prayer is and isn’t. And as we do, you may just find yourself wanting to lay down the formalities, relax and have some real talk.


Parenting is not for wimps—especially when it comes to parenting teenagers. There’s a lot of pressure for parents to get it right all the time. And, everyone has areas where they wish they handled things better. So, what is that area for you? Is it that you tend to lose your temper with your teenager? (Who doesn’t?) Or maybe you just wish you could just let things go a little more easily. Maybe you keep your cool, but obsessive worrying is an issue. You’re constantly thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Or maybe between all of the sports, the homework, the relational drama, and the financial commitments of raising a teenager you find yourself always stressed out. Or maybe it’s all of those. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to alleviate all of the pressures of parenting, but there is one thing that science tells us could be really helpful. And when you read what it is, you may be surprised.


Recent studies indicate there are a number of psychological benefits to prayer. And, prayer isn’t a practice limited to clergy and the super spiritual. In fact, a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center found that over half of Americans pray every day and 21% of those who aren’t affiliated with
any religious group still pray.

So, how could prayer help with parenting pressure? In his post on, Dr. Clay Routledge, an associate professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University, outlines five ways that prayer has scientifically supported benefits that may help parents in areas where they need it the most. He says…

1. Prayer improves self control. Research participants who said a prayer prior to a mentally exhausting task were better
able to exercise self-control following that task… Findings such as these suggest that prayer has an energizing effect.

2. Prayer makes you nicer. Researchers found that having people pray for those in need reduced the amount of
aggression they expressed following an anger-inducing experience. In other words, prayer helps you not lose your cool.

3. Prayer makes you more forgiving. Researchers found that having people pray for a romantic partner or friend made
them more willing to forgive those individuals.

4. Prayer increases trust. Recent studies found that having people pray together with a close friend increased feelings
of unity and trust. This finding is interesting because it suggests that praying with others can be an experience that
brings people closer together.

5. Prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress. Researchers found that people who prayed for others were
less vulnerable to the negative physical health effects associated with financial stress. Also, it was the focus on others
that seemed to be contributing to the stress-buffering effects of prayer. Praying for material gain did not counter the
effects of stress. So thinking about the welfare of others may be a crucial component of receiving personal benefits from


Maybe you already pray regularly for your student and your family. Maybe the whole idea of prayer seems a little awkward to you (and that’s okay!) No matter what your starting place, everyone can take one step forward when it comes to prayer. This week, try taking your prayers for your student to the next level by choosing one of the options below.

1. Pray for your student. You think about them all the
time. This week, try turning those thoughts into prayers.
Even if you aren’t sure about God or church or religious
things, just give it a try. It can’t hurt.

2. Tell them you prayed for them. Maybe you pray
for your student all the time, but they have no idea. This
week, encourage your student by praying for them and
then shooting them a text message letting them know
you did.

Friday, May 15, 2015


We’re Teaching This:

When you were a kid, what did you look forward to most? Was it taking off the training wheels? Being tall enough to ride whatever you wanted at the fair? Getting to wear makeup? Or driving a car? It seems there’s something in every little kid that loves the idea of growing up. That doesn’t really go away as we get older. Middle school makes us wish for high school. High school makes us wish for college. And most of the time, we know what it takes to get from one level to the next, but what about spiritually? How do we know we're moving forward in our faith? And what are the things that help us get there? The good news is that, like any good Father, God wants us to grow. He wants to see us move forward. So, He doesn’t make it complicated. In fact, as we look at four things God uses to propel our faith, we may find that growing up spiritually can be simpler than we ever imagined.

Think About This:

When was your last growth spurt? No, not your teenager. You! Chances are it’s been a while since you hit a growth spurt and your height changed, but we all go through spurts or periods of time where we grow, and learn, and change. Maybe you’ve experienced a time when you were stretched and challenged to learn new things at work. Or maybe in your marriage. Or maybe with friends. And, that’s a good thing. We all need growth spurts in our lives, or time where we focus on propelling an area of our lives to a new level. That’s why so many companies provide professional development classes. It’s why gyms have fitness training programs. And, parenting is no different. Just like the rest of life, there will times when we need to stretch and grow our parenting. During this series, your students are learning about four ideas that can propel their faith forward, and the same four things they’re hearing about—but with a slight twist—have the power to propel your parenting.

Four Ways to Propel Your Parenting.

  1. Do what you say. We are constantly advising our students, giving them insight so they’ll make good choices. We say, “Eat healthy food.” “Get enough sleep.” “Don’t gossip.” “Keep good boundaries in relationships.” And if our teenagers would just listen to us, that would be great. The problem is they watch us too! They pay more attention to what we do than what we say. That’s why, even in the exhausting and complicated world of careers and adult responsibilities, it’s important that our students don’t just hear our advice but see us acting it out in our daily lives. Words are important, but actions make our words believable for students. In other words, they’re more likely to believe what you say when you do what you say.

  2. Widen the circle. The truth is, there will be times when your student doesn’t want to talk to you and won’t seek your advice.  That’s why it’s so important to have other adults in their lives that you (and they) trust. Maybe that’s a church small group leader, a school coach, or a friend’s parent.  Make a list of a few other adults who you both like and trust. Then decide together who your student will go to when they don’t feel they can come to you.

  3. Serve together. There’s no question that serving benefits teenagers. The Minneapolis based Search Institute has reported that children and teens who volunteer just 1 hour a week are 50% less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or engage in harmful behaviors (from But the benefits aren’t just limited to the student. When families serve together they create situations where they will have to depend on each other, work together, and have real conversations. 

  1. Be present in pivotal moments. Teenage years are full of big moments. Dances. Big games. Hard tests. Award Ceremonies. Breakups. Drivers licenses. But every once in a while, our student experiences a different king of big moment, one that can cause their entire life to pivot or go in a new direction. Maybe its when the family moves to a new state, or dad loses his job, or there’s a divorce or the death of a friend.  When those moments come, as parents, it’s more important than ever that we lean in and let our students know that we’re going to walk through the tough stuff with them. It’s never easy, and there’s no manual for what to say or how to respond. But just knowing you’re there, you’re present with them, through the biggest life-changes may give your student the anchor they need to weather whatever storm may come.

Try This
Sometimes the best way to propel an area of our life forward is to figure out where we are now. Take a look at each of the four areas above and…

  1. Give yourself a score. On a scale of one to ten, how are you doing when it comes to serving? How about modeling behaviors? Don’t worry about being a perfect 10. (Who is, really?), but be honest.
  2. Celebrate the wins. Did you give yourself an 8 on something? Then give yourself a pat on the back! Parenting isn’t easy, and it’s great to celebrate the areas where you’re doing well.

  1. Take one step. Take a look at the area with your lowest score. What’s one step you could take to move up one point? Maybe it’s signing up to bring meals to the homeless one time. Or perhaps it’s time to brainstorm the names of a few other adults that your student could go to with questions.

Friday, April 10, 2015


We’re Teaching This:
When was the last time you felt totally out of control? Maybe it was when your car hydroplaned, just for a second. Or maybe your plans got changed at the last minute leaving you with nothing to do. Or maybe a friend or family member’s behavior left you shaking your head. We all have moments like that—moments that leave us feeling tense, anxious, and wondering how we’re supposed to handle it all. The problem is, sometimes those out-of-control moments end up becoming a regular part of our lives. Whether it is with the stress and uncertainty of our future, the pressure that comes with our relationships with others or even the anxiety of where we are with God, chaos can start to feel like it’s everywhere. It’s no surprise that God never intended for our lives to be defined by stress. Thankfully He doesn’t tell us to handle it on our own, either. He invites us to bring our worries and anxiety to Him. And when do, we find that He doesn’t just remove the chaos from our lives. He replaces it with something better—peace.

Think About This:
Do you think your teen is more stressed than you were at his or her age? According to CNN’s Kelly Wallace, most parents would say, “Absolutely”. In her article, SOS for Stressed Out Teens on (, Wallace suggests that, along with heightened academic stakes and overscheduled lifestyles, social media may add to the expectations that leave teens feeling stressed.
Today's teens, unlike when I was growing up, can now compare their academic performance and everything else about their existence to other teens 24 hours a day through updates on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, you name the social network, and that only increases the stress.

"Back in the day, we got a break from our peers after school and on the weekends, but now kids are on social media all day long," said Linda Esposito, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Los Angeles and host of a blog on psychotherapy called Talk Therapy Biz.

Social media and the constant connectedness of technology has no doubt changed the game for our students and added to the stress they experience. And, there’s no reason to believe that the constant “ping” of notifications is going to slow down anytime soon. So, as parents, it’s more important than ever that we help our students learn to cope when they feel anxiety. A few ways to make sure this happens?
Model healthy behavior. As parents become more proficient with technology, more of our own anxiety come from being connected to work 24/7. If you catch yourself being “mentally elsewhere” while spending time with the family, intentionally turn your device off and let your student know why you’re doing it.
Take breaks from technology. There’s something about the buzz of a new notification that feels urgent even when it isn’t. As a family, try taking breaks from technology. It doesn’t have to be for long periods of time, but just an hour of real “connectedness” to each other can help manage stress levels and reset students’ anxiety.  
Try This:
Sometimes the best tool for managing stress is to take a time out. 

Try having a disconnected dinner with your family.

Once a week, at the beginning of dinner, have everyone drop their mobile devices in a basket, including the parents. It’s a symbolic way of saying to your student, “This time is important. And I’m all here”.

Get connected to a wider community of parents at

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Catching Fire

We’re Teaching This:

When you were a little kid, did you ever try to light something on fire using a magnifying glass? Did you love sitting around a campfire? Or dream about the day when you’d be old enough to light the fireworks yourself? It seems there’s something in all of us that is fascinated by the power of fire. But along with that power comes a lot of responsibility. Depending on how it is used, fire has the power to make our lives better or to destroy everything we care about. But flames aren’t the only things with that kind of power. The Bible teaches that our words, our comments, and our conversations, can have a lot in common with fire. We’ve all seen how words used recklessly can quickly get out of control and leave everything a charred mess. But imagine what would be possible if we began using the power in our words for something good and beautiful instead? What if instead of using our words to destroy, we used them to build something amazing?


Think About This:

Have you ever noticed how sometimes one little thing going wrong can ruin your entire day? Or maybe you’ve noticed the opposite. One small gesture, one kind word, one solid compliment can turn a rotten day into a good one.

In their book, How Full Is Your Bucket, Donald Clifton and Tom Rath talk about how our daily interactions with people have the power to shape our lives—for better or for worse.  They say that we all have a bucket and everything negative done to us, and everything negative we do to others works to empty our bucket—poisoning our outlook. At the same time, every positive interaction that we give or receive fills our buckets and improves the way we view the world.

These two authors believe that the daily effort made to fill our buckets (by choosing positive words and actions) could potentially determine a direction for our lives and the lives of those around us.

Whether you buy into this idea completely or not, it’s hard to argue with the power of positivity when you see it in action. And what if they are on to something? What if becoming more intentional about making optimistic choices does intensely impact the relationships we have with those closest to us? Or what if it actually does impact our productivity at work and at home?

Would you be willing to try filling your bucket (and consequently your student’s bucket) with positive words and actions this week? Make it an experiment. Maybe, it will impact the quality of your day. Maybe it will improve the emotional climate of your home.

Maybe it won’t.

But why not try? What’s the worst that could happen?
Try This
For whatever reason, the people that mean the most to us are often the ones we have the hardest time encouraging. This week, try working to change that.
This week, try telling your student just how proud of them you really are.
  • Choose the time of day: Maybe it’s best to talk to them in the morning. Maybe after school. Maybe in the car. Maybe before bed.
  • Choose the method: You can send a text, write a note they’ll find in their backpack, or say it to their face.
Whatever you decide to do, simply make the effort this week to fill your student’s bucket—and when you do, you just may be surprised at how full your own gets in return.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One Day

Over the next 3 weeks we are going to look at how one day can change our lives.

Some of our one days end in exclamation, some end in question, some end in a period.  One days normally begin as usual days.

Do you believe God is alive? If God is alive, then he is active. If God is active, then He is seeking you. If God is seeking you, then you can have an encounter with Him!

Our lives are a series of one days and one days can change your life!

Your youth will be asked to reflect on one days they have had with Jesus that proves His goodness and faithfulness, they will be asked to think about how they can play a part in someone else's one day, and they will be encouraged to define one days that they hope for.

Please take a moment during the next 3 weeks to encounter Jesus, to recognize your own "one days" and to share them with your youth.