Tassel Time and Transition

Graduation ! Tassel Time and Transition has come again. It’s that time of the year when we parents scramble to find our boys that one lost pair of dress shoes (that you know must be in the laundry room), or some khaki’s that are still wearable as we check to see if the one button down shirt he has to still have from Christmas, might be in a pile under his bed… and for those of us with daughters we fathers endure as they preen about if the dress they picked out for graduation works for them? Their anxiety growing until the very last second as they consider over and over with whoever will listen to them… if it’s o.k. to wear or if it’s TOO dressy or NOT enough for the occasion. Arrgh! If your a parent of a soon to be graduate, this is your blog for today.

Digital camera’s at the ready, hundreds of mom’s, dad’s, grandparents and siblings will be rushing off to sweat in a gym while wondering if their backs can really hold them erect on wooden bleachers long enough to capture the moment on the platform. It can be a crazy time, marked by mad dashes and minivan races to get everyone there on time to share.

Life comes at us FAST, it feels like its moving at an ever-increasing pace and if we’re not careful it may blow right by without us having the time to mark this cherished moment forever and ever… I mean how often do they graduate from pre-school, RIGHT ?

EASY, JUST KIDDING..!

My youngest child finished up eighth grade yesterday, my oldest is a junior…sorry, now Senior in High School. I’ve attended probably nearly a dozen graduation events over the last seventeen years with my three children and my twin nieces,nephew etc.. sat uncomfortably as they all navigated their educational courses of life to the elevated platform of paper and pride (Diploma). Along the way I’ve watched as they matured and learned and gained valuable and sometimes painful lessons from both their teachers and their peers. Graduations it seems are mostly uncomfortable, hot-humid affairs in the mid-south, with bustling and tussling and excited nervous masses of “not-going- to-miss- this- moment” mom’s rushing at you from every corner with a camera and a set smile. They will be crowded, loud and an agonizing mix of excitement and boredom followed by too much food. So Enjoy !

Confession, this year we skipped a junior high graduation in our family for the first time. Gasp! I know. I thought my wife would get really upset, but last night with my son we did, and the world didn’t stop. His older sisters were excited for him so they made a fun ceremony of it  in our basement. They put on their own graduation party for their little brother (who is actually taller than both of them now) complete with balloons, streamers and his favorite take out chinese food, cards, gifts and mountain dew!

When the dust cleared my son and I went up to our bonus room and played a shooter game on the Playstation 3 for two hours (Yes, fellow dads…he waxed me every time) and we had a blast. As we enjoyed our laid back graduation evening, I WAS AWARE. I noticed that my boy was becoming a man, and I saw the changes in him already gained and the ones yet to come. I marked that moment in my mind as significant and IT DID NOT PASS ME BY. I spent an evening focused on him.

Last night was really about grabbing that moment in whatever way would connect with my son, in a way that he would appreciate and remember. Of taking the time to note that he had completed well what he had begun four years earlier and that he had survived the trauma of junior high intact. His leaving the equivalent of an adolescent hades and preparing to enter high school was a moment of triumph in a far different way than academics. He had learned to endure and grow and contend for things that were new, difficult or uncomfortable, but he had and he had done so with courage and strength.

It was for that accomplishment I sensed the need to celebrate. To congratulate my son for being the guy God created him to be, for not caving in to his peers and surrendering his identity for popularity like so many do in junior high. My son is not a fan of parties, he hates large gatherings and public ceremonies, He loves Coldplay and his keyboard, and take out food. He avoids crowds and loves to stay close to home. Our celebration of HIM needed to reflect that. Not my or his mother’s idea of how it should be. Not like we did the previous two eighth grade graduations in our house ahead of him…but in a way that says we cherish him for being him. My son is awesome, and despite his honors studies and amazing intellect, he is not keen on graduations, at least not yet. (authors note; your High school graduation will be a much different situation Caleb …if your reading this🙂

To wrap this up… We all know that a graduation is a season of transition that is full of bittersweet memories and future hopes and fears. It’s a moment of reflection for all of us who have a child finishing up one period of their lives only to begin again. My encouragement,  mark the season well, engage fully during these milestone moments with your kids and dis-engage from your work, your distractions and your urgency to be somewhere. Live intentionally. Skip the sermons, avoid life lesson talks in the moment, just enjoy your childs graduation transition and celebrate them and remember it well.

If this is happening now in your world, get the card, get the flowers, buy the watch…but PLEASE DON’T MISS THE MOMENT.

God, help us as parents to slow down and see our kids this graduation season. Help us to be aware and sensitive to who they are, and where they are emotionally and spiritually and to sense what they still need to learn about real life. God, give us the courage to speak into their lives with words of hope, and healing and comfort and encouragement. Help us to lead in the moments they are following and enable us to communicate the painful truths of our lives to them in a way that will not burden them with our own regrets. Lord, reveal your ways and your heart to our kids through us as we seek to keep them on the road and in between the lines of life! Amen.”

Peace out.

brad.

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Sweet Sixteen…Really ?

My youngest daughter just turned sixteen…we’re going to get her driver’s license tonight after school. I’m nervous. She is about to become mobile…not in the “technological” sense, or the “I’m no longer crawling but walking” sense… but in the “I’m going to be able to drive my car at any speed she can conceive” sense.

Sweet sixteen… Really ?

Who coined that phrase “sweet sixteen”…, what knucklehead made that little pronouncement for all of teen-ager-dom ?

Someone crazy, or someone who doesn’t pay an Allstate drivers insurance rate for high school girls. Someone who has no idea how insane it is for a “yet to be eligible voter” to be given the legal right to operate a $30,000 vehicle without adult supervision.

I mean seriously, what is wrong with just raising the drivers age a wee bit…? Maybe to like 21 or something just more adultish than being a sophomore in High School ?

I’ve heard other freaked out parents cope with this issue my whole life, but I was silly enough to think that when a parent of a sixteen year old said … “Oh…it’s not a big deal, really so convenient to have someone who can do errands for you or drive themselves to the school club events…” they actually believed it.

I now know that is sooo not true. It’s a coping mechanism that they repeat as often as possible to as many other parents they can find to help them believe it for themselves, and they are simply deceiving us all that it’s really totally o.k. that their child is behind the wheel. Because any sane adult parent would absolutely freak out thinking that their hormonal almost adult child is out there, trying to keep up with their instant messages, texting, and updating their Twitter, Facebook status and shuffling through their iPods and listening to the radio while they check out all of the “hot” guys they can find in other vehicles as they drive from their local Sonic to Taco Bell to McDonalds and on to Starbucks and occasionally, sometimes…they even watch the road

Ohhhhh my. I am rambling... So as you have no doubt discerned by now. My middle child, Bethany Rose Mathias my little “munchkinaroo” is now a 16-year-old barbie doll, dude magnet with wheels. OH MAN, OH MAN, OH MAN !!!

So, while I’m digging frantically through the medicine cabinet this morning for some Valium… it dawns on me. My parents had to deal with this, as all parents must and God has to deal with our immaturity each and every day.

Freewill is the deal. God gave us the terrible gift of being able to “choose” our way through life. He watches us as we hop in our life-cars and motor our way through one near miss after another and waits patiently for us to finally understand and trust and believe enough in Him, for us to scoot over and let someone else take the wheel.

I love my daughter, I’m very proud of her and I know in all seriousness that she will be a great driver and someday she will teach her kids to drive and the cycle of sweet sixteen will continue. My prayer today is for my daughter to grow enough as a young woman to see it’s really not soooo important to have the license to drive…, its much much more important to see clearly enough to know you don’t need to.

Peace out and God bless… as you “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life”… literally this time 🙂

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.

The Charlie Sheen Horrorshow…

I watched in Horror last night as I caught a portion of Charlie Sheen’s interview on ABC’s 20/20   as millions watched in fascination and repulsion with his erratic and indisputable display of insanity. If Charlie were a young, naive, Hollywood A-Lister… I think I could find a bit of patience with his tantric outbursts and delusional narcissism, but not when the guy is pushing fifty years old. Seriously un-healthy is the most politically correct language I can use for that.

                               Pretty Sad… Pretty Scary!

As a Christian parent, I’m not going to waste time blasting Charlie for his morality or his lack of foundational values. I’m not blogging here to judge his sinful lifestyle or his self-absorbed personality. I am here to remind myself and all of us of the real dangers posed by glorifying this guy in any way.

His life choices reveal an overtly foolish and painfully obscene man who has traded his soul for the brevity of fame. What really concerns me is the amount of media attention and fascination our society has for gorging on the sordid life details of the Charlie Sheen’s, Lindsey Lohan’s  and Paris Hilton’s of  our world.  These horror-shows of distorted reality have become american icons and are worshiped by our tween and teenagers every day.

I believe we as parents must step back from the influence of an un-filtered prime time media diet in our homes. Instead we must proactively review what our families are consuming and use these insane moments to illustrate to our kids why we believe what we believe.  www.familymediadiet.com  is a great place to visit for moms and dads who are starting to wonder how much is enough ?

Its time to ask our kids… which is better ? To live for only self, or to live for others ? On one side of that equation is the pop-culture frenzy of television and media and on the other… parents like us.

I believe the path forward for today’s family is not to ignore or avoid media, but to use it appropriately to discuss real life issues together. Nothing is as helpful for an impressionable young mind than to compare and contrast the lives of real life hero’s (like a Ronald Reagan, Madame Curie or Mother Theresa) men and women who sacrificed their lives for others… with the foolish and insignificant contributions of someone like Charlie Sheen.

Last night I saw what was truly the Charlie Sheen Horror Show, and on reflection…its not fit viewing for any age.

Forget about just staying in the lines and on the road of life for this one, its time to get our families on another road altogether… its time to put ourselves on a family media diet !

Peace out.

brad.

Snow Days, Sledding and Scattegories !

Snow Day today! My tweens went crazy AGAIN..its like the ninth snow day in two months and for south Nashville that’s an epic winter. My son immediately grabbed his coat and went straight to the garage for our neon orange plastic sleds.  We hit the back yard for some rare Central Tennessee sledding time. As is often the case with my kids, sledding can become a very competitive sport, complete with intense racing, longest distance travelled contests and best rider titles being won and lost over and over. When it was finally done,… we all had won.  

That’s the stuff that life is made of. If we’re not careful we miss them. Been kinda stuck on this theme lately as I have a growing awareness that our lives are made up of beautiful moments that we either take the time to enjoy or brush by them in a hurry to get somewhere else. As the parent of three, I’m learning these events are often the most critical for our families to embrace. I sometimes think that church, or devotions or correction are more necessary than sledding, but in the end if my kids don’t understand that I genuinely value them more than the work I do, then I’m in real danger as a dad.  

After sledding, we dumped our still damp jeans, boots and hats at the back door and cozyed up in the living room… it was immediately suggested that we have some “board game” time. Not a movie, not “american idol season whatever”, but “Scattegories” was chosen. So to my surprise we quickly dusted off ours from the hall closet and had tons of fun eating butter popcorn, cookies and whatever junk food we could get our hands on. For the next two hours we talked, played, burped, joked and generally goofed off until we had all had enough. The snow continued to fall outside and as the day-light faded to night, we never turned on the television again (except to check if school was out for tomorrow :). It was awesome and it was real, and I almost missed it.

This morning we hit the road to do our traditional “Cracker Barrell” breakfast on snow day mornings. We ate way too much, laughed too hard and I missed getting all but two of the pegs on the triangle game once again… but man oh man, we connected as a family.

Parents; we must push “PAUSE” sometimes. For somewhere in our crazy over scheduled lives…its vital we slow down the pace a bit and remember our  kids will only be with us for a very short period. It’s already flying by so fast… 

I needed to remember the big picture of parenthood. My greatest privilege, responsibility and joy in life should be to share the precious time I have been given with my three unbelievably beautiful kids… wisely.

I was/am so grateful for being able to take a time “out” for a snow day and to share the happiness of life with them one more time. Our days on earth here are so short, “as only a vapor”  King David says in the Psalms. I forget that far to often.

So, I’m hopeful my “Snow Day” story can serve as a simple reminder for all of us for anytime of the year…, before we rush out to make our next planned business meeting, community event or obligatory school function. Let’s be sure to reconsider our commitments from this parenting perspective of time, and make sure that when the next opportunity comes… we are able to jump into the world of our kids and leave our grown-up distractions behind for just a moment. My chance came as a snow day, what will yours be?

 It doesn’t matter what it is, only that it is. Lets all agree, its important enough to our homes that we intentionally make the sacrifices of our time to invest in the lives of those who matter the most. Our families.

For those who can’t sled or find a board game, no worries… just discover your tradition for your family and be ready to guard it and keep it alive with your kids. It helps us all on the journey of life as we seek to keep our kids in between the lines and on the road of life.

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