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)

 

 

The Politics of Parenting

Politics. (imagine a sneer and snort of disgust as I type these letters out…)

Not my favorite topic. I watch the flurry of Facebook and Twitter posts bang around the web as the most recent dirt of 24 hour news hits the proverbial public opinion fan.

As parents, what is an appropriate posture to take on current political events with our kids?

Tweens and Teens are very aware of the social issues of our time. Focused on the ideas of social justice, equality, and financial excess. They may however have no idea who or what Trump or Hillary represent in the way of tangible positions on real issues. Instead… they are digesting the basic stereotypes around those candidates, with social media as their exclusive source of information… teens-social-media

Given these emerging adults will one day be voters… it’s probably a wise idea to discuss the real issues and realities behind all the political banter and smear campaigns. 

Many of us have strong (right vs. left) political leanings, based on family histories… labor environments, denominational backgrounds etc… I have many friends and fellow pastors (who I respect) who take polar opposite positions on major issues.  The concept of ‘right vs. wrong’ can quickly break relationships in the world of personal politics and social media posting. (just check your FB threads today and see for yourself)

There is always someone with an axe to grind. An issue to elevate above the others and a ‘for us or against us’ attitude. This can be confused with being a good Christian or bad. 

Note the way Christ responds to the political pressures of his time in Jerusalem. He sidesteps the manipulations of the leaders and sticks with the core issues of the heart and soul. Not taking the bait to argue the points. ft-trump-clinton-1024x576

Not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have strong opinions… just reminding you to keep it all in perspective. God is sovereign. Period. We are products of divine grace and mercy, and as such our postures should reflect patience, perspective, and compassion on those we relate to and with on a regular basis. It’s our validation as a Spirit filled being.

Christ was active to speak to the issues of his time, and he chose to live in the moment without becoming a part of someone else’s agenda. In the end, his refusal to take sides made him very dangerous to the ruling classes, but it set the bar very high for us. 

So… as you ponder, meditate, and prayerfully consider who to vote for this November… do so with respect, gentleness, and kindness. The future of our nation is not going to be won or lost this election cycle. The future will be determined by our children and their faith or lack of it…

Peace out, Pastor B.

Parenting like an “expert”

Parenting is ridiculously hard. From newborn to young adult, we as parents are confronted with EVERY kind of crazy. We think we’re prepared… 🙂 but then it hits and we’re scrambling to find someone…. ANYONE who has the experience, the wisdom… the freaking sanity to walk us through the chaos that is our kid! 47146

From issues with breastfeeding infants to the scourge of pre-adolescent personality disorders, we’re walking the tightrope of parenting life.

Occasionally during those transitions we find moments where we’re comfortable and somewhat confident that we know what we’re about, but so many times we panic inside! Desperately wondering what to do and how to do it!

Parenting experts are all over the web…. from best-selling books to podcasts, there are ‘expert’s everywhere on everything, sharing freely and confidently how to fix the things in your family that are out of ‘whack’.

Each of these experts will have a certain focus or perspective that they believe will carry the day for you. Each expert will have the aura of invincibility that only comes from successfully parenting their kids from diaper to college degree! (Some are excellent resources, others not so much. Kevin Leman is great)

Sometimes… watching, reading, or listening to the ‘experts’ not only doesn’t help us… it makes us feel worse. Guilt, regret, and a sense of inadequacy start to pile up… weighing us down and pushing our parenting shame through the roof.

IF…. that has happened… IF… that IS happening… take HOPE! All is not lost. There is another expert to consider…

The reality is, no one on the planet knows your kids better than YOU. No educated expert can come close to grasping the nuance’s of your child’s personality, character, spirit, and gifting better than you.

Ask yourself… would God appoint you to be a parent of a specific child randomly? Like some kind of cosmic soul lotto, whipping ping-pong balls around heaven to match parents with babies like a crazy game of chance. I don’t think so.

The precision of God’s creation is so intricate and intentional we can KNOW for certain that He has plans and purposes in everything He touches. No detail is too small, no coincidences allowed.

God hand-picked YOU to parent the children in your home. No one else got the assignment or the privilege to raise your kids to adulthood, only YOU were chosen for that Holy duty. 

So… deep breath, and exhale. Now breath again with fresh confidence and hope.

God is in your parenting life. He is with you to counsel and affirm you. The presence of the Holy Spirit as our guide and support in the roughest moments of parenting is assured to all Christians. Your not all alone, isolated, and unprepared for this.

True, we all can use help with keeping perspective or seeing important things that are obvious to others… but when the-push-comes-to-shoveyou’re the EXPERT that knows what your kids need. Guided by the Holy Spirit and secured by a community of faith to help you ‘stick-with-it’, there is great hope for your situation.

May God give you the wisdom and grace to discern His will for your family and the strength and patience to hang in there until the fruit of those choices comes into sight.

Blessings from Pastor B.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in 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. (ESV) – BibleGateway.com 

 

1 Critical Thing to know as parents…

Parenting pre-teens and teens is beyond exhausting… all consuming at times. It’s a maze of challenging and chaotic days, sprinkled with those rare moments of peace and tranquility. In the day to day… we run and run to keep up.

It’s in the center of that storm that we can get distracted and derailed as a parent. We start to over-focus on maintaining the structure of our lives, the need for order in our homes and subtly drift from watching carefully for the condition of our kids hearts. sad-teenage-girl-behavioral-consulting-675x278

How do you know if your drifting a bit from the important stuff? Take a second and answer these 3 thought provoking questions… 

1 – Do you find yourself ‘looking’ for problems or issues to correct/discipline in your kids ? 

2- Do you find less and less time for family conversation over a meal? (is your smartphone with you at dinner?) 

3- Are you skipping time alone with God for a chance to get one more item off ‘the to-do” list ? 

These aren’t meant to create shame or guilt but they do give a quick reflection of where your focus is as a parent. The drift is normal, we all have this struggle. What we do when we see the problem will define us a a parent.

My strong encouragement; reconnect with God. Carve out time as a family that is sacred and inviolate in your weekly schedule and protect your kids hearts from an overly critical spirit.

The 1 thing I forget over and over, is the 1 thing that’s most critical to my kids. It’s a detail that can easily get lost in the hustle and shuffle of surviving and it’s vital for us as parents to stay alert, aware, and compassionately sensitive to our pre-teen/teens! Here it is…

“Despair looks and feels just like Defiance”

Cruising through life at redline speed, we can miss this nuance. My caution is to slow down and stay alert to the shifting nature of your kids hearts. The no-nonsense parenting push is commendable and important to maintain order and structure in the home, but it leaves large gaps in its approach. Giving-My-Grief-to-God-FI-700x250

Be careful here… as I look back on my parenting experiences, this is where I messed up the worst.

I missed the signs and cues of despair in my children’s responses. Mistaking their avoidance, clipped answers, and isolation as a ‘rejection’ of me, instead of the subtle symptoms of depression, self-hate, and shame. It’s essential that we listen and look each day. Taking the time to ‘see’ our kids as they really are, and avoid the mistake of ‘assuming’ that today will be just like yesterday.

Grace to you and may God’s spirit of Wisdom and Revelation provide you with all you need to parent your family safely through these turbulent times.

Pastor B.

For more info on how to reach your tween or teen’s heart, click here!

Road Trip Revival #3 – Kýrie, eléison

We drove hard to get across South Dakota. Summer skies above and green hills rippling with grass waves of wind, stretching out as far as the eye could strain to see. For the six of us… our hunger to explore and discover grew steadily by the hour. Behind the scenes - roadtripping

We crashed at Wall SD, and quickly found the entire town was built as a throwback western nick-nack haven bulging with tourists off a two block main street drag. Neon cowboy signs dominated by the mother of all trinket stores called “Wall Drug”.  Inside, everything from curiosities and leather goods to candy, antiques, Elvis blankets, and native american pottery from China, yikes!

The food was worse than my college cafeteria, the trinkets for sale were Velveeta cheesy… but after twelve hours of straight driving, we were thrilled to be out and about. The gang hit the hotel pool as evening temps hovered in the low 90’s, it was only another 70 miles to Mt. Rushmore and they were ‘stoked”!

Morning dawned crimson and we hit the highway bright and early, phones charged and every eye looking across the Dakota plains… focused further west, ready for adventure! These guys had all heard about Mt. Rushmore, seen it on TV and lots of movies, but this would be our first National Park to visit and we were ready.Brad with Rubyz

It did not disappoint.

For those traveling westward, it’s worth the effort to re-direct your route to see the sight. An American symbol of leadership and a tangible testament to ingenuity.  They loved it… and so did I.

Pictures, video… selfies and gift shops filled almost two hours in a flash. Trinkets, keep-sakes and treasures stowed away, we climbed back in our SUV and set our GPS to Grand Teton National Park. With some luck and decent weather, we would be checking into our Dubois WY hotel at sunset.

Time to keep moving, time to dig deeper into the adventure of our American west.

The kids were starting to sense the enormous size and distances of our vast county, we drove until the cities stopped and  sky grew to fill the view. We were no longer in familiar lands, the world was changing and we were enjoying the ride. Climbing the sign 6

The adventure of living in the unknown was starting to sink in. Nervous laughter and silliness broke the tension as we six left everything behind to risk discovery. A metaphor for the tween-teen years if there ever was one 🙂 

So we sang, and laughed our way across high mountain plains, snow capped peaks and rolling valleys… always looking for more, no one wanting to miss a thing. Edge of the seat road-trippin, and all of us were becoming more aware…this would be an epic pilgrimage, a coming of age moment we would always share.

 Kýrie, eléison

Mt. Rushmore Here we Come… RoadTrip Revival #2

Too much fun to share with just words…. so here is what it all looked and sounded like this summer!

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Road Trip Revival – First stage… LAUNCH!

So… packing up for six, rounding up maps and distance projections, budgets for food and gas, lodging, and other stuff… it’s a chore to think a road-trip like this all the way through. Going almost seven thousand miles round trip is a journey, more pilgrimage than impulse… so it’s especially important to plan ahead.

Summer travel means tourists.

Tourists and the American west are synonymous.

This makes booking rooms in hotels along your route most strategic 🙂

We learned quickly that we would have to look ahead, plan our destination each morning and call ahead to confirm rooms as soon as we could each morning for us to have a chance at a decent (clean, non-bed bug infested, WI-FI enabled etc..) room that evening.

After confirming the vitals… we could focus on specific road routes, plan excursions and other touristy stuff after we knew for ‘sure’ where we would be sleeping. For parents and families, room arrangements are not as ‘critical’, modesty and privacy are much less important considerations… but for us, it was! Four girls, two boys and we would have to be careful to get two rooms with sleeping space for each of us.

Road Trip Revival

Road Trip Revival

That said… if you plan your travel and confirm the essentials, everyone can relax and enjoy the journey without the added stress of ‘finding’ hotel rooms at midnight… especially in the American North West as towns and options become very limited and VERY far apart! By saying ‘very’ I mean hundreds of miles sometimes in-between 🙂

A note on long haul vehicles … recommend highly a large SUV or Van. We rented an eight passenger, extended length Ford Expedition that worked fantastic! Unlimited mileage, brand new and state of the art features were wonderful, and all for about $700/week! It was a good option for us. (Courtesy of AVIS). If you already have such a grand ride, then use it for sure! Space is at a premium for a large group, so we limited luggage to 2 suitcases and it worked great. Everyone brought an additional personal backpack along with a pillow/blanket combo for travel comfort and entertainment.

Clothing... knowing we would be travelling from one extreme to another, we asked our road-trippers to bring a couple of layers of clothes, including a light jacket and sweatshirt/hoodie. Leaving in late July we had 100+F temps and high humidity, but heading for the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington… we knew things would get dry and cool before we got back. (Little did we know “how cool” it would get, but that’s for a later post 🙂

Food… okay, food is always a bit dicey. EVERYONE has their favorite, and EVERYONE has their most -unliked. My solution was to give each tween-teen a travel stipend for buying their own snacks along the way. That way we could all have what we liked and the pressure to find the ‘perfect’ snacks evaporated like dew in the desert 🙂 Woo-HOO! Problem solved and suddenly… we were just about ready to roll!

The gang... day one! Road Trip Revival

The gang… day one! Road Trip Revival

One more thing… as you prepare to launch any Epic Road Trip, be aware that God is in the mix. Prepare your road-trippers to experience God as you go. Simply put… give them a chance to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ God in the sights and sounds ahead. The way I did that ? I got everyone a simple notepad / journal to write down and or collect their thoughts. Even if no one takes the time to write stuff down… you’re creating the ‘context’ for each one to expect to hear from God.

That expectation is a crucial part of any road-trip. It allows the Holy Spirit to move and breathe, to instruct and encourage, to change our kids hearts from the extraordinary experiences they are sure to have.

So… NOW we’re ready to LAUNCH!

Load in 1pm. Missouri here we come…