Radical Investing for Kids…

Some of us fathers get sweaty and nauseated just thinking about how we are EVER going to afford for our kids college, a daughter’s wedding or our own “some day” retirement. With $4.00 a gallon gas, and noticeable inflation at Kroger, its common sense for families to be cutting back on spending, saving and doing.  My family is no exception. But I want to encourage parents to consider an unconventional “Radical Investment” for their families.

How about a vacation, How about a Road Trip ?

Yes, a serious and amazing vacation with your family that would cost some money and time and energy for sure… but the payoff could be epic. It’s a radical investment in their well-being and yours. I know you have little if any extra money right now… but consider this; HOW MUCH LONGER WILL YOUR KIDS BE WITH YOU ?

Sobering thought… is it four more years ? (for clarification, that means they would be finishing up eighth grade this spring) Is it five or two or ten ? No matter what the answer is… it’s not long enough. How can the time you have left as family be wisely invested ?

If your like me, you can fritter it away doing nightly duties of dishes, trash, homework, emails and whatever isn’t too vile on prime time television. Occasionally a family movie night or dinner out at Logan’s or an Asian bistro ? We talk about school, friends, church, local events or current fave’s on their iPod’s. But in the end it’s all very superficial and very safe. It’s Normal. Which in our society can be a huge accomplishment for sure.

But I want more.

I want EPIC. I want to “suck the marrow out of life” (Quote from the movie “Dead Poet’s Society”) and as Jesus says… “Life more abundant and free”. I want to live with my kids, not survive. I want to teach them to reach for the beauty that is ours for the sharing. I want to introduce them to our American History and endless western plains, to show them the indescribable beauty of sunrise at 10,000 feet and snow in July in the Rockies. I want to explore the undiscovered and forgotten places of our land and share the thrill of finding a diner that makes perfect pancakes.

I want to make a RADICAL INVESTMENT in my kids before they are surrounded by life, overwhelmed by the obligations of adulthood and the saturation of their hearts with worry and fear and frustration. I want to show them the “relief valve” that God showed me.

I want to model for them the amazing power of creation to restore our hearts and renew our minds. I want to show them how to sacrifice their time for their some-day kids and families. To emphasize the importance of being together in a sweaty mini-van and of sharing the last can of Red Bull of the need for each other and of non-electrical communication with other human beings. I want to prove to them they are more important to me than my work, my ministry or my own sleep. I want to show them the incredible gift of Life that God has for us and what it feels like to be ALIVE.

So if you feel like I do… prayerfully consider what you can do this summer to make some “Radical Investments” in your kids. Maybe its as simple as a un-expected trip to the beach, or a weekend in the mountains. Maybe it’s as complex as driving West for ten days or East for five with no reservations and no plans. Just  grab some clean undies, junk food and flip-flops, a map and some carefully saved cash. Just go… and go looking for real adventure and new life and shared discovery. GO. Time is a wasting.

Whatever it is… DO IT.

I promise, your family will never forget it and your kids will cherish the time YOU TAKE to INVEST IN THEM.

Blessings… as you like me… seek to help your families “keep it on the road and in-between the lines of life“. Oh and I have to confess… I LOVE ROADTRIPPING… 🙂

Brad.

Is Christian Music dead ?

A good question… especially for those of us in the Nashville music scene. IS Christian Music Dead?… Parents and fans alike often ask us… has Christian music become just a secularized shadow of its previous self ?

Not even close. Christian Music is alive and well and maybe stronger than it has been in three decades…. read on to find out why or IF, it even matters !

For parents, understanding that media is “THE” language of our youth is critical. Our kids, eat, drink, sleep and play with ear buds glued to their ears. On average, kids are consuming over 60 hours a week of media in our homes. It is their primary form of relating to the world around them. Not books, not conversation, not sunday school…music.

If we miss the media reality, we may miss entirely the ability to connect with our kids as parents and ultimately as generational Christians.

Living and working in Christian media now for almost two decades, I can tell you the radical shift in technology and economics has emptied hundreds of office buildings and studio’s in Nashville. It’s been hard, incredibly difficult to predict, prepare or survive the financial realities of the past decade if you’re an independent or niche’ label group, media company or studio. There just isn’t much business around and what there is, can only work on a severely reduced budget.

But is that all bad ?

I don’t think so… It seems a major change has slowly occurred in the industry from the inside out. Labels and Media Groups who have made the sacrifices to survive are not here any longer for the cash, or the fame or the influence of success. They are by in large not working with artists bent on making a name for themselves or launching into mainstream fame from a Christian music stepping stone. They are around because they feel called to be here and they genuinely care.

They care about the mission and vision that God gave them to perform. They care about the next generation of kids and Christians and they are willing to do whatever it takes to reach them with a message of hope, and faith and creativity. It’s as if God allowed the storms of our business environment to weed out many of the secular influences of the past which reduced the quantity but not the quality of the music and media now being recorded and produced. What a great reminder. God always is redeeming, always restoring and always has a plan…no matter what it looks or feels like.

It reminds me of a guy in the bible named Gideon. Who started out with reluctant passion and faith, and an army. When God finished preparing him for greatness… he had 300 men left. Feels like what I’m seeing in Nashville and Colorado Springs and Dallas Texas. Small but fervent bands of like-minded and servant hearted musicians, label executives and producers all focused on the “message’ and the ministry behind the performances.

Reading the histories of the very first Christian musicians from California in the sixties, I am reminded of their simple and heart-felt desire to spread the hope of Jesus with their un-polished music. They drove in VW Buses and beat up cars all over the United States with trunk loads of vinyl and eight tracks / Cassette’s and new testament bibles. They were relentless, and inspired and pure and powerful. They were “Jesus People” and they changed the world and launched the industry we know now as Christian Contemporary Music (CCM).

Seems God is helping us return to our roots… to re-connect with our creator and His plans for our music and media and creativity. And I for one am grateful and excited to see how it all turns out. But know for certain, the pulse of authentic Christian music and media is beating strong and true today, more so than in thirty years.

Peace out, and may God richly bless you as you ” seek to keep your kids on the road and in-between the lines of life! ”

brad.

9 Teen Myths… you should know about

 

 9 Teen Myths You Thought Were True (today’s blog is a repost from the Girl Talk blog with link at end of this article)

By David Trahan

A teen, a Millennial and a Mom walk into a restaurant for dinner. The Mom has a coupon for 10% off that she got for “liking” the bar’s Facebook page, the Millennial checked in on Foursquare to get a free drink, and the teen has nothing and is too busy texting her friends to care.

Teens are a unique audience. They have their own needs and social drivers that are unique to their stage in life. Many marketers assume that, because teens are young, their needs are the same as Millennials and that they will interact with brands in the same way.

New research is showing that teens have their own needs and behaviors that are different from other generations. If you’re a marketer (or even a mom) looking to reach teens, it’s vitally important that you always have your finger on the pulse of the teen audience. As technology evolves, teens are finding their own uses for it that are unique to their personal and social needs.

Myth #1: All teens want smartphones. While it is true that teens want phones, smartphone adoption has only reached 31% as of 2010. If 90% of teens own a cell phone, why aren’t they buying smartphones? The answer is actually pretty simple: texting. Teens send an average of 3,339 texts per month, and typing that many messages on a touch screen is a lot more difficult than typing on even the most basic phone keyboard. That’s why BlackBerry is one of the most popular phones for teens.

Myth #2: Texting is the way in. We already know that teens love to text. What some marketers fail to realize is that teens only love to text with their friends. Only 10% say they want companies to contact them via text message. There are some instances where a brand can use a texting campaign to engage this audience, but most teens see texting as “too personal,” and aren’t inviting brands into their personal space.

Myth #3: Teens use Facebook the way we use Facebook. Don’t count on just your Facebook page to reach teens. Teens interact with brands on Facebook if they feel there is a real benefit to them for doing so. They’re not “liking” every brand on Facebook that they purchase, and even if they do, they’re not likely to come back to your page after the first visit.

Myth #4: Teens are going to join Twitter. Recent findings from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project show that only 8% of teens have embraced Twitter. Other studies also show that most teens don’t have any interest in joining Twitter in the future (76%). By the time they decide to use Twitter, they probably won’t be teens anymore.

Myth #5: If you build it, teens will come. Great ideas go to waste when no one knows about them. Many marketers believe that creating a social experience for teens will spread itself through word-of-mouth and online sharing. A good social media activation can always benefit from a mass-media driver.

Myth #6: Teens are online all the time. Teens spend roughly two hours per day on the Internet, and almost half of that time is spent on entertainment. Teens don’t need the Internet to interact with their friends — they see them all the time, and if they’re not with them, they’re texting them. If you want to reach teens online, you have to find a way to bridge their online and offline experiences.

Myth #7: Teens don’t watch TV. Teens watch over 100 hours of television per month — most of which is not viewed on TiVo, Hulu or Netflix. They may be texting or playing games while they watch TV, but they’re definitely still watching it.

Myth #8: Teen word-of-mouth happens online. Teens do not spend most of their online time communicating with their friends. In fact, over 80% of teen word-of-mouth happens offline. If you want to tap into teen word-of-mouth, find a reason for them to talk about your brand offline.

Myth #9: Teens love online video. Teens use the Internet for entertainment, and online video is an important component of that. Branded video can be a great way to engage with teens as long as it doesn’t come off as one long commercial. Teens aren’t going to be tricked into thinking that your “viral video” is anything more than an advertisement.

This blog is a repost of a great blog site, “Girl Talk musings on marketing and motherhood” find out about more great articles on this site at: http://blog.girlpowermarketing.com/?p=478#more-478

Here’s to helping us all “keep it on the road and in-between the lines of life”…

Peace Out,

brad.

Parenting blues

I’m going to be honest….sometimes I get really weary with the whole being a parent thing. Kids, especially tweens and teens can be some of the most erratic and irritating personalities a person endures in their entire day. Between hormones, history tests and their hair …  they can be beasts. Angry, starving and completely irrational beasts, disguised as children. Our children. Which means we’re to blame since they are in fact our children. Right ?

The answer…. not entirely. Our children are in such a physiological upheaval of maturation they are literally loosing their minds from day-to-day, hour to hour. If you are raising a 13 yoa you know exactly what I’m saying. For those days, I have all kinds of grace and all kinds of patience… if they are once a month or every few weeks. But if they start to become a day-to-day walking on “egg shells” existence. Its time to shift gears.

No matter how frustrating their lives are, no matter what just happened to their BFF and how lame or unfair their teachers are. They need us to be their parents. That means carving out their boundaries (rules) at home and holding the line on those no matter what. We don’t need to respond to their adolescent outbursts in kind either, I mean who can respect us if we “blow up” as angry, dis-respectful and self-absorbed, over the edge parents.

With a significant amount of perspective and faith, we must decide for our kids when their behavior has crossed over from a genuinely bad day to a tantrum. When we sense they are using their life circumstances to “explode” and without any restraint they let out all of their childlike emotions on anyone and everyone in their vicinity, its our job as parents to “stop” them.

Maturity in many ways is learning to control ones emotions and move through life as an “influencers” rather than always being influenced by our circumstances. As Christian parents, we have the added understanding of our need to instruct our kids in the ways of life and truth and hope. Sometimes, that means we have to say “no” and mean it. In the end, our children need and want us to re-direct them from being out of control.

So when your teen or tween is spiraling into another out of control emotional hurricane of life… nip the temper – tantrum before it goes to far. Stop them! Do it with love and patience and hope, but do it. They are counting on us.  This is definitely one of the less exciting and unpopular aspects of being a parent, but it may well be the most critical resolve we make as fathers and mothers.

For those who feel like things are “never going to change“. Be encouraged, it will and it must. When you feel like your blowing it as a parent (which at times can be a daily experience for me) it’s a perfect time to admit that to God and your kids and then resolve to start new. Ask Him for the wisdom and ask Him for the strength. He is not going to leave you hanging, His heart is for our kids more than we are… His grace and strength are sufficient and His mercies are new every morning.

When we respond to those shortcoming’s as parents; openly with our kids and with genuine humility, I guarantee it will blow their minds.  It’s so cool… watch as your tween suddenly realizes they are actually “more” to blame then you and step up and ask for your “forgiveness” too. POWERFUL stuff. For those of us who gave our kids WWJD bracelets a few years back….Congratulations, you just did ! 

Single parent or traditional family, were essentially all in the same boat. Our kids need us to be their parents. No matter what they say, they NEED us to be there to say “NO”. Many of us have success stories of how God was changing your teens heart on the inside, while all the time you would have sworn they were completely sealed off on the outside. In the end, our consistency is the proof of our love. Deep deep down, they know that and are comforted by that. (As a case in point, this post blog edit – from Feb 17th, 2011 is powerful proof of this principle) Miley Cyrus article ran on MSN’s Mom and Pop Culture blog. http://tv.msn.com/mom-pop-culture/miley-cyrus-saw-it-coming/story/feature/?GT1=28103&ptid=6edb00f7-08db-46dd-a2a1-90f7f9279e52&mpc=1 )

Be sure and keep close relationships with your local community of faith knowing as parents we must have help, encouragement and support in this critical role of raising our kids… as we all seek to keep our families “in-between the lines and on the road of life”.  For more helpful information on parenting tweens and teens, prayer or simply a chance to vent… check out www.ishineministries.com

Peace out.

brad.

Tweens And Faith

Tweens and Faith, a battle we cannot afford to lose

“In matters related to style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson –

Why Tweens and Why Now?

Current Christian and social research has confirmed that 90% of American kids will form their lifelong values and beliefs before the end of their thirteenth year. That means if you’re pre-teen or tween (ages 7-13) has not made a faith commitment to Christ before the end of their eighth grade year… there is a 1 in 10 chance they ever will. Multiple recent Christian and Secular social studies have shown the devastating impact of this reality… 88-90% of college bound students leave the Church never to return.

From Fox News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Times, experts are noting the tremendous changes occurring in our current tween populations. Identity crisis common in adolescents is raging into grades 4,5 and 6 much earlier than previous generations. Secular companies (Viacom, GE, Toyota, Apple, Disney, Revlon etc..) are targeting tweens as “decision makers” in their homes. Mainstream marketing has directly focused on pre-teens for marketing campaigns designed to make “consumers for life”. Mainstream corporate America has responded much faster than the church as a whole.

They have a much stronger conviction to reach this age group with their truth, than most Christians do. The principles of belief formation are clearly believed by secular companies as they regularly invests billions in their ad campaigns used to engage and convince tweens their products will change their lives for the better.

It’s clear the body of Christ is in need of a “wake up” call. Parents, pastors and teachers are all beginning to notice the lower attendance rates of their younger members. College age ministries are dropping off due to lack of interest and children’s ministries are still focusing on VBS and basic bible stories while the mainstream media is engaging our kids with “Hannah Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and” i-Carly”. Online Facebook and U-Tube are visited by 90% of pre-teens daily. Current media studies show an average of 48 hours per week for tween kids to consumer media in one form or another. On average, the families of faith based kids spend an hour a week engaged in faith based activities like church or youth group.

When kids do get to church, the pre-teen ministries of most denominations are limited to volunteers who try to entertain or feed the kids into compliance. For serious leaders who are trying to engage this age, finding effective pre-teen middle school Christian teaching resources is hard as very few options are available at all.

Parents are privately struggling with the chaos of the early adolescent in their homes, something we’re seeing in almost every social or economic group today. Children are being bombarded with a variety of media and instant communication technologies that by in large are accelerating the life values and beliefs decision making process before their emotional & physical maturation occurs fully. Kids are simply being “aged” earlier than ever before in our history. Texting is now considered a clinically “addictive” condition, with the average thirteen year old texting 3,000 times a month. Many admit to texting 300 or more times a day!

We believe the time is now to adjust our focus and philosophy for tomorrow. To make a dent in these trends we must intentionally and strategically reach this pre-teen generation with the truth of the Word of God.

Media and entertainment have replaced families, faith and the voice of the Church with false promises of fulfillment and moral relativism… together we can and must make an immediate impact on our pre-teen and teen cultures with a dynamic and relevant message of Hope and Faith in Jesus Christ.

Reference Resources for Concerned Parents and Pastors… http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/403-how-teenagers-faith-practices-are-changing and www.ishineministries.com both sites have great practical links to other faith based parenting blogs and websites ! (Check them out)

Road Trip Parenting… Practical Life Action Steps:

1) Educate yourself on the situation;

– Lifeway Christian Resources has done an extensive study on the beliefs and trends of today’s teen and college students.

– Barna Research Group has repeatedly studied this growing trend of pre-teen and tween faith

– National news groups have run hundreds of articles in the recent ten months reviewing and documenting the media and pre-teen / teen cultural changes in our society.

– Google it – you’ll be surprised by how much is out there.

2) consider your own statistics;

-What has you’re experience been in recent youth and children’s ministry impact?

-Are you seeing the same basic trends as others for loss of active members after 18 yoa?

-Have you noted the changes in tween activities and overall interest in faith based services and events?

-How are you’re families, parents doing with this sudden increase in technology at home?

3) Embrace the problem, rather than isolate;

– Many faith based families will “over-react” to the modern changes of technology – “Don’t”

– Learn to use technology with your events and activities, visual learning is KEY to tweens.

– Music is a critical component of their culture, using modern Christian music is helpful and engaging to tweens who may not be aware such an option even exists.

– Use age appropriate “Sampling” of popular movies, television and u-tube videos to make a values statement in your ministry times.

– Talk about the common “myths” of popular television and film as they relate to tween culture and identity issues.

4) Sponsor a live event or concert to engage the parents and kids with an alternative for their entertainment and your weekly youth ministry.

Several Options exist:

– J12 ministries does a weekend event for the whole church (Jesus at 12)

– CiY – (Christ in Youth) does a national tour in the spring for churches

– Deliberate Kids works with 8 yoa and younger audiences

– Go Fish – work with 3-8 yoa kids with basic bible truths

-iShine Live – engages tweens and teens ages 7-14 with a Disney style concert and ministry event.

5) create content if you can’t find it.

– Instead of ignoring the problem, find interesting information and create simple studies from media content you have personally reviewed –

– Engage your kids with facebook, u-tube and Myspace by adding your children’s ministry or youth group to the social online world. BLOG!

– Go missional – active participation in faith building activities is a “key” component to transfer of faith from one generation to another. Living it vs. studying it!

This is a lengthy post, first given as a lecture presentation in Washington DC in January 2011 to the Salvation Army Youth Leadership forum. Its meant to only serve as a “starting off” point for youth leaders, pastors and concerned parents who need ideas and information to engage this generation for Christ. Blessings to you in your own sphere of influence. For more information or support, contact www.ishinelive.com