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

 

 

2014! Year of the Selfie !

Can’t help but laugh every time I see a selfie on social media. Almost without exception there is a slight lip pucker on the face of whoever just shared their own photo-portrait. It’s like a subconscious personality quirk that’s become the national ‘norm’ for teens and tweens, freely shared millions of times a day. National media icon’s like Kim and Bieb’s are training an entire generation of tweens and teens to just ‘put themselves out there”.

Kim K -courtesy of the New Yorker

Kim K -courtesy of the New Yorker

National statistics on social media photo sharing are growing so fast it’s impossible to keep up. 100’s of millions of personal pics are flooding instagram, twitter, pinterest and facebook…not to mention the videos on snap chat, the numbers are enormous and growing. So much so 2014 has been declared the year of the selfie.

For parents in this emerging digital age, the selfie is a rite of passage that pre-teens take to like bees to honey. Kids are naturally impulsive, self focused and all about attention, affirmation and love. The use of an engineering marvel like the smart phone is almost exclusively dedicated to personal pics, posts and of course… ‘selfie’s.

Parents are beginning to notice the affect the selfie may be having on their children as they enter the adolescent years. The need to exhibit themselves, to show what they are wearing, newest hairstyle or latest fashion coup, may be stunting our collective social and emotional maturity…not to mention the erosion of concepts like modesty, self-control and personal sacrifice.

If your wondering if I’m going a bit judgmental on a little photo fun… I understand. So I dare you, just google ‘selfie“. Look under ‘images’. Ok, see what I mean? Notice the absence of proper clothing….YIKES!

Selfies are becoming more than a unique statement of who we are…. they are morphing into a desperate cry for approval, love and affirmation – at almost any cost from almost anyone but us. 

I’m not being a downer here, simply observing what is and making some educated guesses as to the how and what  of it all ! How societal trends are subtly nudging our kids away from the principles of our faith. It’s time for us to consider how we need to adapt our role as parents of tweens, struggling already with the normal –coming of age -drama of adolescence and family. 06e1ec9

These modern, mobile, wonder devices are changing society and the emotional-spiritual development of our kids in new and unique ways. It’s important for us to be aware and interactive with our kids about technology as they make the transition from kid to young adult. 

Bieber, courtesy of Huffington Post

Bieber, courtesy of Huffington Post

So… next time you see a family selfie float into the cloud, remember to check in with your tween. Ask them about their value, identity and purpose… remind them they are more than a great pic in the social media tapestry of life.

They have unique and irreplaceable value to you, their family and to God.

Redirect their adolescent grip on narcissism to expand to the needs and concerns of those living around them… help them see the world is so much bigger than just ‘them.

As Christians, we have counter-cultural values and beliefs. Ideas like, “those who lose their lives will find it and “I’ve come to serve and to give my life away’ – we know the bible, we can quote it… but if our kids don’t learn to use their faith as a real-life filter, we’re allowing society to train them.

Something to think about.

Pastor B.

PS – would love to hear other parents ideas and thoughts on this one… lots of smart families already sorting these things out. Time to share with the rest of us 🙂

 

The gift everyone of us can give

Parents of adolescents… stay cool, don’t panic.Your precious little -sweet- child has not suddenly lost their ever-loving-mind!

It’s just THE epic transition you’ve been dreading since they arrived! You know, the painful process of growing up. A rite of passage that every parent endures, as kids move up from childhood to become young adults! All of it aggravated by nearly permanent ear buds, post-Christian pop culture and the once-in-a-lifetime, hormone fueled…adolescent growth spurt!

I recently talked with a slightly sheepish 11-year-old who was anxious about when he could expect to enter the aforementioned hormone tsunami, and finally get his mustache and muscles. He was openly noticing how much taller his ‘younger’ sister was… and woefully predicting that he could end up being the only one in his family shorter than mom!

I paused for a moment and reminded myself of how it felt to be a pre-adolescent boy – living in an adult world. The shortest kid in your class, with a child’s cherubic, stubble-free chin to defend every hour of the junior high day. I could feel this little guys angst… his uncertainty and his frustration and even open bewilderment.

racheldevine.com

racheldevine.com

It suddenly dawned on me… his dad wasn’t around to reassure him. Raised by a single mom who was working day and night to make ends meet, he didn’t have many role-models in his masculine life. Like many kids today, there just wasn’t anyone to take the time with him to dig into the deeper stuff… to explain this hormone fueled season of life and to convince him it would all turn out OK in the end…

So I did.

I had forgotten just how terrifying the path to adulthood really was.

The issues are still exactly the same as when I grew up… (Identity, acceptance, purpose, girls…) but the intensity and complexity of all the ‘extra’ stuff kids struggle with has dramatically amplified the impact of stress on our kids. The layering of uncontrolled circumstances and the pace of life has increased the stress on pre-adolescents like never before and we adults need to be extra sensitive to our kids needs.

No generation has ever needed to be more affirmed, encouraged and supported. No other generation has ever felt the anxiety of only knowing and growing up in a post-9-11 world. 

Pre-Teens are desperate for adults to take the time with them! They long for someone to show a genuine interest in them…. to believe that they are important enough to warrant a semi-adult conversation about their very grown up fears and frustrations, loves and likes.

Let’s all agree to listen more and pay attention to the 10-11 and 12-year-old kids in our world. To really LOOK AROUND and be aware of these ‘tweens’ ! To remember they are little adults desperate to be affirmed, accepted and included in a grown-up world.

It maybe that our extra attention at just the right moment in a tween’s life will change their world forever. 

That’s a gift every one of us can give.

Pastor B.

 

 

 

 

 

The surprising struggle for maturity

Maturity takes time.

Watching as our kids grow up right in front of our eyes, is one of the most profoundly wonderful and painful experiences a parent can ever have. It’s especially true when your kids step from the dependence of their junior high years into the new and expanding world of High School.

In the early years… our kids still really need us. As pre-teens and young teens, they may be growing an attitude to match their body changes…but after all the bluster, they still can’t drive,  can’t really do stuff or buy things without our permission or the needed cash “donated” for their purchases or activities. In short, they are dependent on our regular interaction and support to pursue their own wants and desires.

As they grow and gain some normal young-adult confidence and experience, they transition rapidly once they get that driver’s license and a sudden expanded menu of social items to pick from… in which we (the parents) are no longer essential for their participation. Often they also get a part – time job and build their own nest eggs. With the accumulation of their own savings and initial financial resources, they further distance us from the equation. We slowly lose our immediate influence on their daily activities and choices as they gain greater independence. As it should be.

Herein lies the challenge

It’s so hard to find the balance between freedom and reasonable accountability for our maturing young-adults. The process it seems is an elusive and ever – shifting endeavor for any parent to endure. There is a surprising struggle that occurs from junior high up until the college years in which we watch our kids morph into adults and the resultant often awkward & painful struggle for maturity is a vital one. We want to really offer them the chance to “choose”, to discover some of the truth’s we’ve taught them for themselves, but we want to protect them in the process.

It’s a nerve rattling experience to watch your sixteen year old drive off for the first time alone to a home football game…all the while anxiously considering sneaking out to “tail” them, just to be sure they come back safe. (not saying I ever did that 🙂

But seriously…I’m learing one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids, is not only the earned trust  and respect of becoming a young adult, but a growing understanding of how they can actually learn from Jesus directly. To re-direct them from just following us or modeling our behaviors to seek out answers on their own. To grow independent spiritually like they are financially and socially and help them begin to value their own times of personal prayer and reading in the pursuit of answering life’s questions.

If we teach them how to lay a firm foundation to launch from on their own spiritual journey, we will have helped them immensely in finding their identity and purpose as being more than just our kids. Watching proudly as they learn to grow beyond just the goal of gaining our “approval” in their life choices…but of “pleasing” their heavenly father as well…then I believe we will have served them well. Of course we can expect to see them have a few life stumbles and even a  fall along the way. But in the end, I believe by the grace of God, they will get up and stay up and become exactly who God created them to be, maybe even despite of us… 🙂

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately, according to the situation and the culture of the society one lives in.

Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept, in which maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality which, contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.” (Source – Wikepedia)