My Daughter Spoke Her First Words!

Okay… So, not really. But it sure got your attention, right?

I needed to get your attention to make an important announcement about the guest-bloggers for the upcoming week.

Tomorrow, 73 of us get on a bus for the Franklinton Center at Bricks tomorrow to begin a Mission Trip that has been in the making for some time.

Beginning tomorrow (Monday) night, a new high school student will be blogging and sharing their reflections from the day, it will be WELL worth your reading time.

As I was reminded today (Graduation Sunday), there is nothing more beautiful than when a young person is willing to share their honest thoughts and sincere feelings.

As for me, well, all the preparation has been done, which is a good thing because there is no more time to prepare. There comes a point where you work hard to prepare so that there is nothing left to do but pray.

I am praying fervently that my hopes and visions for this time together will not overpower or mislead me from the miracles that lie in store for us that are not of my (or human) doing. (see Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren)

I am praying for those students who are excited, that they might find purpose and fulfillment.

And I am praying for those who are anxious and afraid tonight, that they may find community and friendship, assurance and belonging.

And of course I am praying for safety… I always forget that.

By the way…

for what it’s worth, when I went to kiss my baby girl goodnight/goodbye for the week, she erupted in tears…

… but after a diaper change, she was just fine.

Stay tuned, friends. Wheels up at 5:15.

Thank God (and Google and Apple and Facebook) for Job Security!

Study shows multitasking with various digital devices hinders social development

 

A recent survey, published in a scientific journal (Developmental Psychology) by Stanford University, concluded that girls (8 to 12) who are most actively multitasking between different digital devices (texting, TV, Facebook, etc) are less likely to develop normal social tendencies.

One of the study’s lead professors, Clifford Nass, was quite disturbed by the findings.

“No one had ever looked at this, which really shocked us,” Nass said. “Kids have to learn about emotion, and the way they do that, really, is by paying attention to other people. They have to really look them in the eye…If you eschew face-to-face communication, you don’t learn critical things that you have to learn,” Nass said. “You have to learn social skills. You have to learn about emotion.”

 

What This Means For Youth Ministers

For a long time, I assumed my job was to provide a safe and lasting environment to explore, know, and seek God in a way that holds up well after they go to college and their world gets turned upside down. Further, I assumed it my responsibility to provide opportunities to explore, articulate, and live their lives (and futures) because of God’s love for them and others.

However with a theology that asserts that God is among and within everything everywhere, it becomes hard to prove or promote the need of the institutional “Youth Group” or even “Church”.

But alas, while the opportunities to experience God are all around us, the opportunities to experience the beauty of God in one another seem to becoming fewer and fewer.

Sad part is, our students may never realize their isolation.

Between the Pinterest, Google Plus, Facebook, Tumblr, iTunes, YouTube, FaceTime, Skype, iPhones, Twitter, Tablet, Fast-Food, T1-Speed options youth are given to feel “connected”, are plenty of band-aids to cover bullet-wounds for years to come.

It might be years until our teens understand the effects of the double-edge sword of constant saturation of less-than-human interaction.

Gone are the days when a student could come home from the gossip and pressure of their social environment to debrief, decompress, and recharge to be able to freshly start the new day.

And gone are the days when students were readily available to their own emotions through intimate interactions with their friends and peers.

Unless we continue to force the issue.

What to Do, What to Do

It’s clear that our teens have a desire to connect with others, otherwise, there would be no social media.

In many ways this quasi-connection has become a safety net. In the same way that many teens will operate the handheld devices as a buffer while in a conversation, these luke-warm connections keep them safe from their fears of being lonely on one extreme, and vulnerable on the other.

What used to be the luxury of organized play before or after youth group has now become a necessity. What used to be the expected conversation in a circle has now become endangered. The laughing, crying, sharing, and even being amongst teenagers in a safe space is becoming more and more rare, if not sacred.

We can no longer take for granted that our students (the generation that begins, sustains, and ends relationships through the screen of a cell phone) know and are comfortable with the norms of relating to one another in the flesh.

Youth groups have always been really good at creating safe environments for face-to-face contact. The trick for this day, I think, is realizing that our teens are less prepared and may require more patience, instruction, and build-up to these moments.

We must continue to assert that God is present “whenever two or more are gathered”; we must continue to assert that God’s embrace can often be found in the interaction with one another.

We must be willing to coach them, challenge them, and lead them so that they are willing to claim it!

Have you noticed differences, challenges, or successes in how your teens connect with one another? How do you create these valuable connections?

 

Lucky Shorts (A Guest Blog by a High School Retreat Counselor)

Leave it to adults to stand in a room and talk (or write a blog) about what teenagers think. Sometimes it’s easier just to ask them.

When I first started blogging, Sean told me blogging was stupid.

Sean is on his first confirmation retreat as a leader/counselor.

Sean agreed to do a guest blog for me.

“Blogging? You’re a sick man.” I told Neal when he first started his blogging obsession, promising myself that I would never stoop to his sad, sad level. 

Well, here we are, and now my fingers are doing the same rhythmic path on the keyboard that his do every weekday.

Not only am I kept up to one in the morning to the pitter-patter of Neal’s fingers, but I’m currently being kept up by a constant hum of whispers of nine thirteen year olds with too much coke products and raw adrenaline to go to sleep.

I’m currently embarking on my first middle school confirmation retreat as a leader. In what is only two days, this short journey has taught me several things, never underestimate the abilities of young minds, and don’t bring your lucky jogging shorts to an area where the low is 48 degrees.

From the small groups to the free time, this weekend has been more than just an escape from the low key city of Vero Beach. It is an opportunity of a life time. Seeing their exhausted frowns turned to exhausted smiles just by the littlest things, it’s the spark to the fire, it’s what keeps me from quitting. 

It’s interesting to observe the teens as they struggle with their inhibitions. They try hiding their emotions the best they can, but the strange and unfamiliar environment Lake Aurora offers shows their true colors clearer then looking through a glass window.

At the beginning of the trip it was like looking at different species of animals coexisting on the vast african plain, coming to the end of our journey together though, we learned to drop the boundaries, eliminate the clics and the tightly woven groups, and extend a hand out to a friend they never knew they would make. Even as I type this, the kids in the background are exchanging phone numbers. 

I am as proud as a seventeen year old can be, and than some. In just a short time I watched the fourteen teenagers take one of the many steps to becoming young adults. In just a short time I watched fourteen teenagers mature in ways both they and I didn’t think were possible, and I along with the other eight high school leaders that gave up a weekend to what thought was going to be a drag, we quickly changed our opinions.

Before this growing point in my life, I never thought I’d be in a cabin full of smelly but yet an amazing group of individuals, running at six in the morning in my lucky short shorts, and blogging, yes blogging. I have fallen onto the level of Neal I very well made fun of for quite some time. 

I love watching these kids grow and find their own paths. Sometimes coming to a dead end, and having to back track to get back on that path. In the end I wouldn’t trade in an experience like that for anything. I have truly learned the meaning of teamwork and so have the kids. 

I love retreats.

But I still think blogging is stupid.