In your opinion….

We all have opinions. We all have experiences… and we need your help!

Would you be so kind as to take time to share yours. I’m posting a TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) survey today for parents. We need about 90 seconds?

Colour of Life Photography

For your trouble… we want to reward you! Two lucky folks will win $50 from Chik-Fil-A / or Hobby Lobby.

This blog is affiliated with the TGA, and we value your opinions and ideas, this information will be used to help create new resources for ministry and parenting. Your helping us…. help you 🙂

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JZQYYFG

Thank YOU!

Blessings,

Pastor B.

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Silent and Still

Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our lives.

Does it feel like you cram a week worth of life into just 24 hours? Our pace of life can be cruel, exhausting, and increasingly stressful.

Stressing out is more common than you think. (See 2017 study of American Workers Stressed Out Most of the Time – CNBC) Consider these facts… see if you identify with them.

“Participants were asked to rank their stress on a scale of one to five. One in four, 25.7 percent to be precise, said their stress was at a level four. And, 4.9 percent said it was at a five out of five. Altogether, more than 70 percent of respondents ranked their stress at a level three or higher. Over 60 percent said that they felt stressed three or more workdays per week, on average. This means that, on any given day, more workers are feeling stressed than not. This state really is the norm.” (2017 Study

 We are over-committed, over-scheduled, over-whelmed by our world and its relentless pace of life. As technology advances we get more efficient, more productive, and way less rest. 

thejesuschick.com

When was the last time you felt like you could actually ‘rest’?

It seems for most of us, we’re not feeling like we can really ever catch up. Our stress is bullying us into working harder, faster, longer. Work isn’t all bad, in fact I believe it’s a great and wonderful part of our existence, President Roosevelt said it this way… ”

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

BUT, when our lives get overburdened and out of balance, we quickly burn ourselves out. If your like me at all, you live in the extremes of life. Seasons of life push us to do more than we thought humanly possible, followed by sudden lulls in the storm, and free time to binge watch Netflix and let our world fade into sheer entertainment and a lazy haze. Both extremes should cause concern. Finding balance is as much a discipline as jogging or daily prayer.

What I recently discovered on a four-day sabbatical to the mountains of New Mexico involved going a step further than speeding up or slowing down. It meant learning to ‘be still’. 

Have you ever done that? I had never actually gotten so quiet and detached from media, the world… work… kids… ministry that I could experience the utter calm and serenity of not moving, inside or out. So unhurried and undistracted within that I was able to live in the ‘moment’ without. I was unaffected by either my past or future, only ‘in’ the present. I was able to be ‘still’ inside my heart and my mind. Totally silent.

For four days.

I would have never believed it. I would have never chosen it. But God through the subtle touch of His Holy Spirit, led me to a place and time where I could be quiet enough and still enough to experience Him in a brand new way. 

Interested?

I’ll blog about the trip I took, where I went, what I saw, and how God showed up in totally different ways than ever before. Time to open a new door on our pilgrimage of Faith.

Pastor B.

 

Adolescent Sexuality

“Insights into Adolescent Sexuality’ (adapted from a recent interview with Dannah Gresh on Brilliantly Brave Parenting Podcast)

Sexual development, identity, and behaviors are forming in the pre-teen and teen years. It’s clear that the role of parents in this process is crucial and irreplaceable. Without an active and intentional effort by both mom and dad to help ‘shape’ a child’s beliefs, the culture will speak unchecked into their lives.

According to experts, the prefrontal cortex continues to develop into our early twenties, making early experimentation with sexual behaviors and or visual exposure to nudity, sexual acts, and behaviors ill advised. Our brains are literally unable to process and absorb the information it receives until much later than our society is exposing these ideas and attitudes to our kids.

The boundaries of monogamy in marriage and abstinence until monogamy are biblical and scientifically supported by modern research. As Dannah Gresh says… “Science eventually catches up with God’s word”. When it comes to sexuality we’re learning that you can’t experience sex without releasing significant doses of pleasurable and addictive hormones, neurotransmitters, and other factors that literally ‘bind’ us to our sexual partner. We experience a powerful stimulus from our own body chemistry that forms a “cocktail of chemicals” (oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine among others; source – Medical Institute of Sexual Health) which form a kind of glue between one brain and the other, a powerful ‘bond’ between men and women who share the act and intimacy of sex. 

So… if  a pre-teen or teen is exposed to pornography or sexual behaviors before being old enough to understand and or process… they will begin to crave the feeling and the chemicals that get released during a sexual encounter, needing to do it over and over without understanding what or why.

They become ‘addicted’ to whatever it is that creates the feeling.

If the pleasure is found in the act of sex within a marriage it cements the relationship and creates a ongoing and wonderful desire to share intimacy and physical pleasure with your spouse.

If the pleasure is found with pornography or other ‘friends with benefits’ type relationships, we can become trapped into a series of frustrating relationships that never become what God intended. Sex becomes something destructive rather than life bringing.

Parents who neglect the responsibility of talking with their kids about sex are in danger of allowing the hottest celebrity or artist teach them instead. We must have and hold an ongoing relationship with our kids through their pre-teen and teen years. Have regular points of connecting, eat together, go to movies, date your kids – take them out for dad or mom dates. STAY CONNECTED. Be the voice they respect and respond to despite what the culture is feeding them.

 “Quality time parenting is a myth… it takes quantity to make a difference – Dannah Gresh.

As our kids grow, it’s important as parents to model what romantic love looks like in a healthy home. Showing affection for each other as spouses is essential, we must demonstrate what marriage can be for our kids. Taking care of each other as husband and wife is a big part of the parenting role for helping our kids develop a healthy sexuality and respect for the institution of marriage. If we’re not celebrating our marriages – our kids won’t either.

“We’ve really undersold the value of marriage to our kids and culture” – Dannah Gresh

We have to start with the affirmation of marriage early in our kids’ lives, instead of telling our kids ‘no – no – no – we can show them what ‘yes – yes – yes’ looks like. We can clearly demonstrate the benefits of a healthy sexual relationship without saying a word. 

For more resources or information check out Dannah’s many books and resources that deal directly with sexuality and purity for our kids and homes. Here’s a quick recap of our time with Dannah on BB Parenting;

Key Points from Dannah’s Interview on BB Parenting: 

  • Learning to play, to creatively engage helps our frontal lobe to develop and in doing so, increases self-control
  • 65% of high school kids are sexually active
  • 80%+ of College students are sexually active
  • We live in a ‘friends with benefits” culture today – a “hook up” society – where sex is a itch to scratch – with a friend, rather than a life-long commitment that’s sacred.
  • Adult men have an average of 9 sexual partners in their lifetime and adult women have an average of 7.
  • Steps parents can take to help their adolescent kids with sexual development.
  1. Have Dinner 3 – 5 x each week as a family
  2. Regular time with each child – dinner or breakfast dates – consistently
  3. Role model romance as a parent – dads and moms honoring and loving each other in front of their kids.

Pastor Brad Mathias / Brilliantly Brave Parenting

Links:

Dannah Gresh and “Pure Freedom”  http://purefreedom.org/

Podcast Interview http://brilliantlybraveparenting.com/dannah-gresh/

Medical Institute for Sexual Health https://www.medinstitute.org/

Why Thirteen?

Kids do eventually become young adults, they grow and change… and ‘mature’ over time.

The most significant transition of life occurs during adolescence. An individual’s personal identity (or view of ‘self’) forms between 10-14 years of age,  a critical factor in forming a personal belief and value system. 

For the church and families of faith, this stage of life lies smack – dab-  ‘in-between’ childhood and youth ministry programing. (thus the term… ‘tween’)

Parents are stuck with kids who are either too old for ‘kids’ church… or not quite grown up enough for ‘youth’ group. This non-critical issue may lay distantly in a parent’s mind, but fades to the background as ‘other’ more pressing concerns take center stage, like sports, scholastic pressure, or dating!

The challenge for the church is this, if over 80% of our youth are actually walking away from the Christian faith community in their late teen years, what has changed?                                  (Barna Research) 

The mass migration of young adults ‘out’ of the faith must have some ’cause’ and ‘effect’ to it. What is different? Why are so many of our college age kids discarding their Christian beliefs? Studies suggest that our kids made their decision before the age of…

Thirteen.

The age of Thirteen is the approximate year most form their core beliefs, values, and identities. The stage of adolescence when we try out our growing ideas and opinions beyond the safety of  home or church.

image – courtesy of armadamusic.com

It’s real life experience a growing mind needs… peer stuff begins to crowd out the voices of authority figures. Parents, pastors… teachers all lose their influence while friends, social media, and pop culture gain ground.

Adolescents are growing into independent adults, in the process they evolve and adapt to their environments, forming initial beliefs that haven’t been tested or fully embraced as an adult. This process of ‘discovery’ is natural and normal, and helps them establish an ‘identity’.

It’s somewhere between fifth and seventh grade that social pressure starts to sway kids more than they ‘fear’ their parents wishes. It’s a part of the normal maturing process of kids to pass through various ‘crisis’ points in the development of identity – as they literally ‘try on’ new ideas and beliefs like we would a new hairstyle or clothes outfit. They just want to ‘see’ if things ‘fit’… if a parent knows this is ‘normal’ and expects it, the process can be stressful but not a ‘crisis’.

If parents are already stressed out, distracted, and overwhelmed by life… this adolescent ‘stuff’ can drive them over the proverbial ‘edge’. It’s here that faith and culture collide.

Thirteen.

What our kids decide is ‘real’ and of value, what they perceive to be ‘true’ of themselves and the world begins to slowly solidify. 

Their identities are being shaped in this ‘in-between’ time of the late grade school and early junior high years. We all learned this in biology or sex ed when we were teenagers, but as parents and pastors this presents new dangers and opportunities.

 The formation of identity is effectively reinforced by the stability of their social environment (according to studies) and the actions of parents in the home. What we say, and more importantly what we ‘do’… impacts our kids as much or more than anything else… before the age of ‘Thirteen’.

We have a short time with our children. a fixed period during which we can teach, prepare, and then ‘model’ our faith. They are going to struggle with the truth, they will make erratic and unpredictable choices…but in the end,  studies and experience (and the promise of God) predict their identities and beliefs are seriously affected by the health of their home life and the respect kids have for a parents faith. 

Not a spiritual perspective, this entire blog post is based on secular educational studies (see references below). The need for ministry to pre-teens and tweens has never been greater as media and access to digital platforms is now a normal part of childhood. Our kids need to know and ‘see’ the faith of their family and church. They need to know that we’re serious about Jesus Christ being the ‘center’ of our lives… they don’t need us to be perfect or polished, but they do need to know we’re sincere and dedicated to following the principles of the bible.

B413 the ‘No-Filter’ tour is all about equipping families of faith with the inspiration and biblical truth they need to help navigate this critical stage of parenting and life!

Let’s make EVERY effort!

Pastor Brad.

Links to references: http://www.rcgates.com/psyc/c16_pv.html  http://www3.uakron.edu/witt/adol/selfidentity.htm

 

 

Politics and Parenting

Seems every week I write on this blog we have a different ‘crisis’ in the news.  From the threat of Nuclear War in Asia, to Ukrainian incursions by Russia, to the threat of ISIS in the public square… media is selling us ‘fear’. I’m not suggesting their reports are only ‘fake’ news, but I am saying they emphasis the ‘fear’ more than hope. On purpose.

As parents we’ve got a choice to make. We can buy what their selling… or not.

I choose to ‘not’.

Here’s why.

Politics is a murky world of hidden agendas, manipulation, half truth, and outright deception. Our worlds issues  are complex. Most issues are way past making simple ‘right/wrong’ judgements within a few minutes. Broad determinations on a person’s character or the wisdom of an action probably need more than a soundbyte. Judgements made  from a 5 minute news flash are not a good way to inform ourselves or determine our ‘positions’ on the latest politics of our day.  

Stepping back even further it’s clear that your source of information affects the ‘tone’ and perspective dramatically. Fox News or CNN…? Flip back and forth one day… listen to identical events being portrayed in polar opposite ways. One dissects the actions of the day from a ‘conservative’ or ‘Republican ‘perspective, the other in a ‘progressive’ or Democratic posture. Both are stridently ‘right’. Reading the news or hearing the radio talking heads go further into the weeds doesn’t help… each side props up their positions with selected facts and opinions to bolster their audience’s already decided positions on the latest drama.

How are we as parents going to help our kids navigate the mess that is our modern political culture?

Couple of thoughts. 

  1. Prejudice is well understood in the context of racism… but what about political parties? Conservatives and Progressive thinkers… Republicans and Democrats. Are we being pushed into yes/no answers based simply on  past stereotypes?
  2. Is the media messing with us? Are we being ‘played’ by a savvy business model that intentionally creates panic and fear to sell airtime and news? Hmmmmmnnn… I think so.
  3. As a Families of Faith, we should be careful to assign blame or pre-judge people, events, or news items simply based on what news cast we caught says. What about searching the scriptures… or praying. Or even saying nothing about the latest political foofaw to our kids.
  4. How much of what we’re hearing today… is going to even matter in a month? What about next year….? Can you remember what was happening last year this week on the world stage of news? I didn’t think so. (Freddie Gray – Baltimore police controversy – US News & World Report – May ’16)

In my opinion, when we allow politics to push into the sanctity of our homes… we are risking more than high blood pressure. Is it worth allowing the hype and fear and anger invade our lives? Is it wise to let a media driven culture subtly steal our peace and unity as a family of faith.  

Good questions. Lots of folks like to debate, discuss, and dialogue about the latest events and news. Great. Awesome. Me too… but as parents we’re faced with the dilemma of creating a space that is safe for our kids. A place that we can focus on the most important issues of life. 

I love that some parents use politics as a way to engage their older teens with an education narrative to teach values and truth from the exaggerations and deceptive reporting, but in the whole… let’s avoid being manipulated by media. Let’s agree it wouldn’t be wise to take sides prematurely on issues that may never matter. I’m talking to everyone here… Republican, Democrat… Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Independent, Constitutionalist… etc… let’s pull back from the hype machine we call media and re-focus ourselves on the truly important things!

Peace…

Pastor B.

PS – I know there will be lots of opinions against my blog today. That’s cool… no problem. My views come from a “Via Media” approach to life. (The Middle Way – in Latin) Scripture reference for this blog… Psalm 2

 

 

RoadTrip Europe… an Epic Adventure and Epiphany

We long to leave our ‘mark’ on our kids. To transfer some of the essential threads of wisdom and knowledge acquired from our travels… a communication of our heart to theirs.

For my wife Paige and I… this was the trip to do it.

The sobriety of seeing our lives racing into middle age and the growing, stark, shadows of mortality… led us to take the plunge as parents. To invest in one last-epic-roadtrip, an adventure to share as a family before everyone scattered.We could see our lives forever changing with marriages and in-laws, grandbabies and graduations. All of what has been would end… and what will be was about to begin.

A rite of passage from following our lead… to blazing their own path. A time to expand their lives from what they knew to what ‘could – be’. As the saying goes, “it was time to make old ceilings into new floors!” 

After a careful scrutiny of our schedules… it was quickly determined we only had one week to make a European roadtrip a reality. Christmas day to New Year’s day. Seven days to hit the road and rails, to fly over the big pond and back. Literally, we had only one week out of a year when all five of us could travel freely and still satisfy our work, education, and ministry commitments.

So… Christmas being our ‘favorite’ time of year… we determined to surprise them by planning the entire trip without telling them where or when we would be… just letting them know they would need a passport, 1 backpack for clothes and a pair of good walking shoes.

Three days into the planning we were exhausted. Coordinating flights, train schedules, hotels in foreign countries and sightseeing tours was intensely complicated and very difficult to sort out the ‘good’ from the ‘hype’.

As an experienced domestic and Canadian traveller, I used Southwest Airlines, my mobile Marriot app and the popular Trip Advisor website for 90% of my own booking. For a European trip… this was a whole different ball-game.

Try booking rail tickets 2 months in advance for five from Zurich to Rome and see how complicated things get with Google? 

Long story short… we discovered a very simple, and very helpful social media site known as “Thumbtack“. A professional services finder, this app / site is an amazing and simple way to get Travel agencies to bid on your trip. You can give them a basic budget, dates, preferred countries to visit and personal preferences for hotels and travel and zing-zap, they get you up to five bids from different agencies to compare. It saved us thousands of dollars and took the hassle out of planning such a major trip. Highly recommended.

In a few days we had chosen our agency, locked in a budget, purchased airfare, rail tickets, hotels, sightseeing tours and had an itinerary to follow from day one to seven. A wonderful experience for us, the agency we settled on was out of San Francisco, and did a tremendous and economical job of getting us the best hotel locations, train seats, and tours we could afford. Their familiarity with the european world and specific cities we wanted to visit was so helpful and so much better than trying to figure it all out piece by piece from various websites, reviews, and articles. (Terra Travel Group link)

So how did this ‘Epic” trip go?

Tune in later to find out… let’s just say it didn’t disappoint. ( this is one of 3 blog posts to detail out our European adventure)

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St. Peter’s Square – Dec ’16

Our next seven days would become a reference point from which all of our family history could be considered. The passion and excitement of new discoveries would be forever shared between us… an epic treasure of sight and sound, flavors and feelings… an awesome and unforgettable gift for the senses and spirit to touch and absorb.

An “Epiphany” of sorts…

It reminded me of the “fullness” of God’s love for us… His desire in wanting us to experience His world with all of it’s richness and beauty, to explore and expand on our knowledge of what is good, and true, and right in life.

St. Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus says it like this… “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every familyin heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV) Biblegateway source. 

The Digital Umbilical…

Just off my latest Road Trip adventure… over 8200 miles in 22 days. We visited 14 states and two Canadian Provinces. Six people crammed into a Ford Expedition, it was tight… and it was tough.  shock and awe banner art

The Shock and Awe tour (The Rubyz, Alexis Slifer)  with the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA) was what brought the six (later seven) of us together along with a world-class Illusionist (Tom Coverly), Christian pop group (1GN), a film star (Abigail Duhon – Gods not Dead) and even an emerging Christian hip-hop artist. (TJ Prodigy of Baltimore.)

Quite the crew.

Over the past summer we logged 12K plus miles, performing at each of the Creation Festivals for 2016.  On stage and in front of thousands of fans, we did our best to share the truth of Christ to a new generation. The shows were plagued by a variety of technical challenges, weather, and last-minute scheduling issues. Relationships were strained and tempers flared, but we persevered.

In between the 3 day festivals we drove and captured new video for our new Shock and Awe curriculum. (due in early 17′) The moments in-between were the most intense of any tour I’ve ever participated with.

Several major issues needed to be addressed on our little adventure. Relationships, attitudes, respect, honesty, and personal faith. All were put to the test. But one overshadowing concern captured my parental attention…

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

malaysianpsychology.wordpress

The pull of Social Media!

My charges (mostly girls) were consumed by an addiction to social media beyond any scale or scope I had imagined. Having raised three children of my own (college age now) and President of the largest Tween focused Media Group in the Christian marketplace, I thought I knew what was up…

I was wrong.

The current media studies & stats are wrong…the study #’s are way lower than what I witnessed firsthand. Our kids are being CONSUMED by a NEED to be on and respond to their social media. Like some unholy umbilical, our tweens are literally attaching their personal identities and self-worth to the success or failures of their social media feeds.

It’s disturbing how intense their need to be on Social Media is and it should gain our fullest attention as parents, pastors, and role models.

In the six or seven years between my kids adolescence and this tour… it’s clear the digital revolution has not slowed or lost momentum. It’s in fuller force than ever and it’s affecting our kids emotional, physical, and spiritual development.

Without going into details, I can say from what I observed , the level of connectivity for tweens to social media is directly forming their self-esteem, attitudes, and opinions about EVERYTHING else in their lives. They plan and arrange their entire day ‘around’ their access to Social Media. (a true sign of any unhealthy addiction or co-dependency)

Social Media has gained ‘1st place” in their priorities. Ahead of school work, pleasing their parents, friendship, sports, even their faith.

Don’t believe me? Try taking your kids smart phone away from them for an hour or two 🙂

After close-quarter living with our tour tweens I came away with new concerns and fresh observations for parents and pastors.

Social Media and it’s first-place presence in our kids lives is going to impact them in major ways if not slowed or reduced. (I’m sure in more ways than we can know) girls on social media

1- Anxiety and Depression; It’s clear in the next decade society will face significant challenges with maintaining healthy relationship boundaries and self-worth due in part to the huge influence of Social Media. It’s propensity for abuse and criticism can’t help but increase the frequency and severity of emotional turmoil… anxiety, depression, and self-image issues.

2- Communication: Unchecked use of social media robs us of our social development! Our kids dependence on Social Media instead of actual personal interaction is likely to show up later as a basic lapse in social skills and reduced ability to function within a group or ‘team’.

3 Adolescence likely won’t  end at high school (something already noted by psychologists) … instead an entire generation may enter the world unprepared for adulthood. Our social media influenced teens may soon be thrust into society with an entirely different perspective on life and their role as being at the center of it all.

4- Faith as a guiding principle may be lost in the sure to emerge, surge of adolescent narcissism and personal preferences. Faith will have to be customized to fit an individuals comfort level and not allowed to interfere with their personalized’ world view.

5- Relationships (martial & friendship) will risk being serious casualties of distracted social media junkies, wooed to the digital promise of fame and celebrity and under the pressure to be attractive all – the – time….Who can compete with the perfect social media post, a line of never-ending beautiful images… Who can withstand the instant regret of the real-time flashes of digital anger, jealousy, and shame? Relationships will be under intense pressure – unlike any generation before.

6- Reality will fade and digital fantasy will invade. Our kids believe what they read, see, and hear on Social Media. The ‘other’ voices in their lives are fading…. FAST. Their reality isn’t our reality anymore.

quotesgram.com

quotesgram.com

Parents, sorry for the ‘downer’ of a blog today… but this stuff is heavy on my heart. I’m sure your already aware…. my encouragement to you is to seriously consider limiting our kids social media consumption.

It’s worth risking the rejection sure to come… be courageous and endure their anger, ire, resentment, and even hatred to slow this social media buzz and it’s hypnotizing affect on our kids.

I believe we as parents need to provide a buffer of screen-free space and time every day. A reprieve to allow our tweens to develop their own values, identity, and purpose in our families and communities of faith. 

I’m not an advocate of extreme or rigid Christian parenting at all, what I’m suggesting today isn’t a total boycott of social media. Not at all….

Instead I’m asking you to prayerfully consider what level of consumption is appropriate for your tween and young teen. Once you and your spouse have a sense of what’s healthy for your kids… set the digital boundaries in your home and determine to maintain them.

I believe no other single issue will affect your kids development, faith, and character more than cutting the social media umbilical in their tween years. 

Pastor B.

For tween ministry resources and help, check out the TGA website. (Tween Gospel Alliance)