Teens, Family and Technology 2011…and the Barna Research Says…. ?

Recent studies by Orange and Barna Research Group have revealed some surprising trends in Teen media use as it relates to families of faith. If you’re struggling with your teen or tween’s addiction to media, technology and instant communicationyou are NOT alone. Most families are struggling with keeping a relationship alive with their teenagers in a time when most of our kids are either out of the house with their friends and extra-curricular activities or plugged in and tuned out when they do stop by…

No one ministry or expert can solve every family communication challenge, but we can point you in the right direction by recommending a great new resource by Orange and Barna Research. Their “The Family and Technology Study” 2011 is up to date with trends, and statistics that will directly impact how you react and guide your families and youth groups. I strongly encourage you to invest in this resource if you have teens or are in youth ministry.

Courtesy of forsistersbysisters.com

This is a proprietary research product, so I’m not going to be able to give you more than a introductory statement/quote about their findings, but it gives us something to consider for sure.  Here is a summary from the first page of introduction…

“So, whats the bottom line? Well, technology is impacting families in a significant way, but not in the way you might think. The state of relationships between parents and teens are not as healthy as we might have hoped, but technology does not appear to be the culprit. Technology is not the enemy, it simply facilitates the way we were already relating to each other...” (Reggie Joiner, Jared Herd and Carey Nieuwhof, of Orange)

Clearly with the extensive and detailed research of the Barna and Orange groups, the technology and families trend is being studied and evaluated for us to benefit. If you purchase and study this report, you will find the challenges to our tweens and teens begin and end with the parenting oversight and behaviors, much MORE than in the energy and effort to control the consumption of our kids.

Translated…our kids are following our lead when it comes to media and technology. mimicking our personal use  down to almost the exact number of minutes of media ingested per day… over 225 minutes per day for parents compared to over 275 minutes for teens. (page 18 of study) The reality comes abruptly at us when you stop to think about it… our kids are simply learning from us.

So, if your kids are blasting away too much of their days online, gaming or instant messaging their seven hundred Facebook friends… it may be time to take a long hard look in the mirror of our lives and see how much we’re using our laptops at the dinner table?  Sobering reality to realize that the erosion of the family and faith cannot simply be blamed at the feet of the awful technological tsunami outside our doors… much scarier to realize it’s from the parenting habits well established within.

I encourage you take the time to find out more with a summary of their report at Barna Research, cost is $29.00 but well worth it for concerned Parents or Pastors. ( this is not an advertisement, I use their research regularly in my work and ministry and have purchased my own copy at a recent Orange conference, which I also HIGHLY recommend attending)

God has a strategy and a way for us as parents to reach our kids with the truth of an authentic faith… what may be the most difficult part of that mission, is the changes He may ask us to make along the way. Technology maybe one of the first places we get challenged to carefully consider…

Gotta go… Sorry, I really need to go now to practice my defensive moves on my “Call of Duty” game.  🙂

Peace out,

b

Belly Button Parenting…

It’s a weird concept I grant you, but “Belly Button Parenting” is a dangerous trap that I and many others have fallen into. What is “Belly Button Parenting”?  Simply this… raising kids from our own perspective and opinions.  When you think about it, our individual opinions are so varied and so common they are like Belly Buttons…EVERYONE HAS ONE.

Is that really a healthy way to raise kids ? No of course not, none of us would consciously seek to raise our families from just our own viewpoints would we ? Shouldn’t we read parenting books and seek the counsel of those older and wiser, parents and pastors and friends for advice ? Wouldn’t it make sense to gather as much information and research and reviews as possible before we take the next step in helping our little ones become adults ?

I know you moms are saying already… I DO THAT. ALL THE TIME, and I READ SO MUCH about this it confuses me to no end. There are SOOO MANY books and SOOO MANY opinions from SOOO MANY experts it’s truly exhausting. So what’s a parent to do ? If you tried to do what every good idea or opinion suggested, you would end up tied in so many knots you literally wouldn’t be able to do a single thing.

In my seventeen years of parenthood, I’ve read many books by some very wise and Godly men and women and from those I’ve gleaned some great nuggets of truth, those tidbits combined with my own history and my families past mistakes have helped me to form my own philosophy of parenting. But that philosophy is very much an extension of my own preferences and opinions and as such is only as helpful as the truth behind it.

What can we truly turn to for sound advice and Godly counsel that is distinctly helpful and unbiased ?

The Word of God. (get it for free on your ipod,phone or email at Daily Audio Bible.com ) I’m sure you already guessed where I was heading with this one, but it’s so simple and yet so profound. Reading in the word on a regular basis is the only sure way to gain the wisdom and discernment so essential to a healthy home and faithful parenting. Go ahead, read and research each issue, but in the end, I believe  it must line up with the Scriptures if we are going to have any chance of seeing our little ones follow Jesus with their whole heart.

I have counseled many families, couples and single parents over the years and the one repeated danger I find repeated in almost every case, is the tendency to over-emphasize the opinions of the well-intentioned and under state the timeless and priceless principles of the word of God.

In today’s world of multi-media saturation and myopic ministries, families can become torn apart by the temptation to figure it out on the fly…to “cross that bridge” when we get there, or to simply read the latest best seller when life circumstances get out of control…Please don’t.

Consider instead, investing in a regular time every day in the word and in prayer. Consider asking openly and unashamed for help from our creator and our perfect “Heavenly Father’. I believe that the Word of God combined with the very active and gentle Holy Spirit will guide us into perfect peace and wisdom for each and every child we care for, with specific and unique insights that are essential to winning their hearts and minds.

Cookie Cutter templates of discipline and devotions are o.k., but in the end, I believe if we are not seeking out God’s perfect plan for our kids we risk creating little monsters who learn to avoid our wrath and fake their responses to get what they want. In doing so, they avoid the real issues of their life and faith and living altogether.So many parents find themselves at a loss for what to do when their little ones grow into teens and face the absolute horror and confusion of finding out that their child has suddenly become disconnected emotionally from their home, their families and their faith.

What then…?

Don’t PANIC, seek out wise counsel, pray with your comrades and spouses for direction and wisdom. Get in the word and find His perfect solution, it’s in there… I guarantee it! God will not leave us alone and lost and confused. But in your anxiety, don’t revert to someone’s opinion for something so critical to your life.

Blessings to you all, as you like me… want to “keep your families in between the lines and on the road of life ! ” And as a reminder, it’s never too early to get your kids interested in God’s word, check out the new i-Shine tween biblesfrom Tyndale House Publishers. They have an unique interactive online and smart phone function that engages kids with the gospel on their wavelength. Super cool.

Peace Out, Brad.

Pausing for Peace

As a father and a husband I’m reminded of my responsibility to cultivate peace in my home. Peace not as the world gives…but Peace that flows from the proper relationship of myself with God and each of us with one another. Easy to understand, much harder to do. I call this, the Pause for Peace, an essential in every Christian home.  

 My kids are most likely just like yours, anxious, over-whelmed, impulsive and emotional to the extreme. Given to their own devices, they will in nano-seconds drift away from the real to the imaginary.

Their world of instant entertainment, technology and psuedo-relationships (via texting) will quickly overwhelm any peace or contentment with an agitated state of growing un-ease. Subtly they begin to notice all of the things they DON’T have. All of the things other prettier, and more talented people have. Their perspective becomes in-ward, selfish and small. They fail to realize the images and sounds that they are observing are not real. Its breaks down their concern for others, the truth that the world in fact does not rotate around them and the fun begins…

Often that’s when we arrive home, and although we can’t exactly figure out whats wrong at home, we can sense something is. The peace of our homes has evaporated while we went to work and our kids appear to have morphed into nasty little gremlins and the fights,insults and irritations explode. Those are the times we get to choose, either step into the situation with grace to uncover its cause or close our bedroom doors and have them microwave their own meal.

As parents, its our job to intentionally seek to break that mood and help everyone re-set. If we avoid it or simply react to our kids frustrations, fears and self-doubt we essential amplify the ill effects. If I arrive from work too tired to recognize my daughters or son have had a really tough day and simply respond to their irrational behaviors… its further charges the negative environment of our home and we all have a bad evening. Why does that seem to happen so often to so many of us…? It’s not a fun way to live and it’s certainly not what we were promised in the scriptures.

I believe its simply an issue of our daily time in reading the scriptures, prayer and contemplation. If I  do that regularly, I essentially live my life with a renewed sense of purpose, strength and patience. When I take the time myself to see beyond the obvious circumstances of my world into the realm of  faith, I am tapping into the power and grace of  my savior. Without it, I’m rushing off to battle without any armor, and without a refreshed heart, I’m going into a world and a day unprepared with only my own meager reserves of peace and joy. A prescription for exhaustion and frustration.

In those daily times of renewal and encouragement, we can simply allow God to speak to us directly and personally.  His word and our humility prepare us supernaturally for the very issues we will soon face in our day. We engage our day with unexplainable understanding and patience for our kids, our spouse and our work. If we skip that time, we are trying to run a marathon on empty and have nothing left to give when we finish our days and come home.

In the end, If  I’m living out the day peacefully myself… then I have a much better chance of ensuring my family will to. Parenting and Faith should be inter-twined daily, hourly in our lives, not segregated from Sunday to Sunday. No new ideas here, just a reminder to myself that I’m sharing today with the genuine hope to see my family and yours “keep it 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

RoadTrip Parenting 101

At 41, I’m just now jumping into the world of blogging… so, please be patient as I’m  learning on the fly. As the current President of Bema Media and “i-Shine Live” in Nashville TN, I work every day with pre-teens & teens and the parents and pastors who care for them. I have a deep love for and profound respect of those kids and I am learning every day. I convinced the evidences continues to show how rapidly they are being forced to grow up. 

This generation unlike any before it, is being forced to decide at a young age (avg 13) what they are going to believe for life about God, values, faith, religion and morality in general. Combine those pressures with our recent gigantic technological shift and its clear this generation is facing a “truth war” far greater than anything my generation had to deal with.

I’m also personally the father of three teenagers, (two girls and a son), married now for over nineteen years I am at least in a position to share openly from my professional and personal viewpoints of past parenting failures and successes.

 As a second generation Christian, who waited until after the age of 30 to embrace Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior… I am also keenly aware of the pressures parents face to get their kids to “the finish line” and the danger of “not” passing the torch to the next generation. We as parents and pastors, will need to prayerfully and humbly seek the Scriptures and the combined wisdom of our peers and those who have gone before us to navigate the dangerous roads ahead.

I’m currently working on my first book, “Asleep at the Wheel” in which I share in great detail of the painful journey my family took from near tragedy to triumph all through the power of grace,forgiveness and the adventures of an epic summer family road trip. From that experience of road tripping with the family, an idea of  blogging was formed…I want to encourage other parents, families and grandparents to engage their children where they live and with intentionality.

I chose to share of my love of wilderness travel and roadtripping adventure with my family and it paid off big time! What is your passion ? How can you include your kids to join with you in that activity? Find a way to connect the dots, find a way to engage your family with your faith and your life before they move along and are gone. 

When we took our road trip, it was a sizeable commitment of time, money and resources..but well worth it. There was no “devotional study” or formal discussions, only genuine conversation and lots of red bull. Somewhere along the way it was simple and natural for me to connect with my kids, my wife and my God and somewhere a thousand miles away…our family was transformed. If you get this… then please jump in with ideas, comments and encouragement as we would love to hear from all of you about your own success stories of faith, family and the open road !

I know it’s becoming normal for kids to plug-in and check out in our homes, cars and churches… but for me, observing the rapid evolution of technology and the ever-increasing presence of personal entertainment options…is new and crazy  and often scary. Technology is confusing to parents, and we all struggle to various degrees in absorbing and understanding the impact of iPod’s, Netflix, red box and 4G on our families and homes.

However dynamic the age we live in… we all must  navigate successfully the generational responsibility of safely overseeing our children’s journey’s from adolescence to adulthood. This blog is meant to help and encourage you to “stay the course”… it’s worth all of the frustration, pain and rejection to win our kids hearts.

For more information on i-Shine, Bema Media and the Ministries that brad and his family are actively engaged with; check out www.ishinelive.com

Peace Out.