Surprising and Encouraging Research

We all assume young people are taking the sexual revolution to new levels.  We are not wrong to assume this, as people like Miley Cyrus and every other young pop singer have given us a window into the Millenial ethos…. but Relevant Magazine recently published an article responding to research in New York Magazine that shows 40% of college students have never had sex before.  This is up from 13% of college students just a few years before hand.

Here’s the article:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/why-arent-millennials-having-sex-anymore

Though this change may not be the result of theological or personal conviction regarding God’s purpose for sex, it is encouraging to see that the power of sex, and the effect of sin, are being felt and responded to on some level.  It is a step in the right direction – but we cannot be satisfied thinking that less young people are hooking up or sleeping around.  We must encounter them with the life-changing power of the gospel.  Behavior does not save, only faith in the atoning work of Christ on the cross… “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

Sports over Christ

Is it more important than your relationship with Jesus?  This is the diagnostic question we should constantly be asking ourselves about all our earthly endeavors.  In my experience in youth ministry at 3 different churches – when it comes to playing and watching sports, sports takes precedent over “church stuff” about 75% of the time.  Sports are important.  It teaches work ethic, team dynamics, winning and losing with respect, and it’s fun!  However, we have to stop look at ourselves and our kids and ask, “Are sports more important than our relationship with Jesus?”  If the answer is yes, maybe it’s time to pause and examine our heart and what it means to follow Jesus.

I stumbled across this article today, it is worth a read:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-diagnostic-questions-to-detect-sports-idolatry

Encouragement in the faith is key.  Strong family time, faithful friends, and quiet times with the Lord are key for the busy student athlete.  Every now and then pause and ask yourself the 3 questions from the article – see how the answers change over time, and always point your kids to the cross.

As a reminder – If Jesus doesn’t come first for us He’s not going to come first for our kids.  If Jesus doesn’t come first for our kids NOW, He might never come first.  Sports are good…but Jesus is better!

Matt

Generational Forgetting and the New Normal

Early this morning, while I was still laying in bed, I read this tweet from the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding – “What our kids are losing, very quickly, is an inheritance of history, legacy, and wisdom from prior generations.”

I didn’t think much of it in the moment, other than saying to myself, “this is probably true.”  However, when I read the below article, the reality of the tweet sunk in – not in a theoretical way, but in a real, urgent way.

http://college.usatoday.com/2015/09/01/study-daily-marijuana-use-among-college-students-at-highest-rate-in-35-years/

Generational Forgetting is the ignorance of the younger generation to the history, good and bad, of those who came before them.  Perhaps this ignorance is the result of youthful rebellion, or the falsely celebrated need to “make my own way” in the world…or perhaps it is the older generation’s neglect to show and teach the reality and truth of what happened in the years before these young folks were born.  Whatever it is, we now have a problem.

Yes, the moral boundaries of today’s pop-culture don’t really exist.  If you watched the recently held MTV Video Music Awards, this new normal played out in a spectacularly depressing way.  Miley Cyrus, the poster child for sexual fluidity and boundary breaking behavior, paraded around the stage basically nude, and at one point even lead the crowd to repeatedly chant the word, “marijuana.”  It’s no wonder the research in the above article shows that pot use among college students is at it’s highest rate in 35 years!

We cannot blur boundaries any longer.  We cannot protect our kids from the harm we and others did to ourselves in the past.  We must be real about the cause, effect, and above all, the grace of God alone to deliver us from the sin and death we once found ourselves living in.

As Jesus told the crowds in Luke 13, “make every effort to enter through the narrow door…”  By definition, the narrow door is difficult to enter and only able to let in a few at a time…and our effort should be to show the next generation that though the door is narrow and difficult to enter, what is on the other side is far better than the wide road fo sin and self-destruction.

In all things, balance love, patience, and truth.  The gospel is amazing!  Don’t be afraid to speak it and live it.

Matt

A Warning Against Coddling

Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding is a wise man.  Listen to this 60 second sound bite in which he gives a warning against coddling our kids and the possible long-term effects it is causing:

http://www.cpyu.org/resource/college-students-and-anxiety/

Be wise, patient, and loving.  Try to communicate love and encouragement while pointing your kids to Christ, not to themselves.  Discipline them when they need it, stand up for them when they need it, and provide conversation about the good and bad in life.  We want to see you kids grow up into life-long disciples of Christ, and that takes long-term vision.  What causes grief now might instill confidence later.

Matt

Liar, Liar…Pants on Fire

I remember being exceptionally adept at lying when I was young.  I think my peak performances were in my younger teenage years…maybe around ages 12-16.  Whether I lied about being sick to get out of school, the homework assignment I “did,” or the leftover pizza that went missing over night, I lied a lot and my parents didn’t seem to be catching on.

Looking back, most of my lies were out of self-interest – in order to get what i wanted or to get out of trouble.  I don’t remember lying for fun or mischief.  It seems innocent enough – sure, what kid doesn’t lie to keep from getting grounded?  However, when my son was born, the effects of my lying days rippled through time and struck me when I wasn’t expecting it.  Yes, I was self-interested as a teen…but I was never really cured of that habit and mindset.  Caring for Jack was a punch in the gut – my selfishness was highlighted in bright, bold color for me and the whole world to see.  My selfish endeavors as a kid created a pattern of selfishness that I never really broke, or even realized I had, until it was time to put someone else first (my wife may have noticed long before I did).

Here’s an article with some research about teens and lying:

http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/people/teens-tell-the-most-lies-study-1.1894584#.VdMu6SxVikp

Lying is never cute.  It is never acceptable.  We can expect it from young people, but we should encourage open environments, integrity, and love for one another.  Lying is selfish.  The gospel is self-sacrificing.  I challenge all of us, especially myself, to model and teach this to our kids.

Matt

Friendship Turnover

I want to say this is a newer rhythm in adolescent life.  Of course, I am still close with many of the friends i made in middle and high school.  However, as I think about it, I only have one close friendship still maintained from 5th grade, a couple from 6th-8th, and a few from high school.  So, am I an outlier, am I misrembering my teenage years, or is this new social media world contributing to friendship turnover?

This article speaks about research concerning teenage friendships:

http://scienceblog.com/79357/adolescent-friendship-study-confirms-birds-feather-flock-stay-together/#yYFFptxmOXZymkmy.97

Stability is important.  With the ever changing social landscape of the teenager – in friendships, media, sports – we must find places for stable expectation and experience.  Make your home a place of love and comfort, to provide respite from the crazy world of your teenager.  But most importantly, speak and live the gospel to your teenager.  Show them there is an unchanging God who loves them enough to have come and die for them.  This truth is truly everlasting, stable, and comforting.

Matt

Be a Mean Parent

OK, the title of this post is a little misleading.  Don’t take me the wrong way.  I’m not advocating being an ACTUAL mean or bad parent.  However, I know all parents have been accused of being “mean” by their kids.  Example:  Parent – “no, you can’t have ice cream for dinner.”  Child – “you’re so mean!”

It’s time to END the entitlement culture of the upcoming generation.  Parents, it starts with you.  Read the article below.  Yes, it focuses on the practical steps to helping kids become grateful instead of entitled…but it isn’t just our actions towards our kids, but our own attitudes and words.

numbers 4 and 5 are particularly poignant.

http://www.howdoesshe.com/how-mean-parents-raise-grateful-kids-5-things-to-stop-doing/

For Christians, we have been given every good gift in Jesus.  He is enough.   I don’t mean that when we follow Christ we get abundance.  I mean that when we follow Christ WE GET CHRIST!  And that is all we need.

Matt

Heroine is Here

During my second week on the Cape, my wife and I went down to Harwichport to walk around in the cold of late winter.  We stopped in a store that sold decorative nick-nacks.  We were the only customers, so we got to chat with the owner for about 15 minutes.  I told him I was a youth pastor in Brewster.  The first thing he said to me was, “Good for you.  You know, these kids are dealing with a lot of drug problems.  It starts with the pills but then they can’t afford the pills so they move to heroine.”  I can’t over emphasize it…This was the first thing he said to me when he found out i work with teenagers.  Addiction, specifically to pills and heroine.

Parents, please don’t be naive.  Please don’t think, “My kid would never…”  Maybe they aren’t using.  Maybe they never will.  But be attentive, and be careful about what prescriptions you have around the house.

This article from The Cape Cod Times speaks about the local problem, but comments on data from a nation-wide study conducted by the CDC from 2002-2013.  It’s more than worth a read:

http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20150708/NEWS/150709409

Please talk with your kids.  Your attitudes, behaviors, and concerns will do more to help your kids then I will ever be able to do.  Be rooted in love, grounded in God’s word, and full of compassion.

Matt

A Word of Encouragement and a Word of Challenge

Parents, if you are rooted in God’s word you will have a leg-up on the rest of our culture.  Listen to this short clip of CPYU’s Walt Mueller talking about the importance of parenting rooted in scripture:

http://www.cpyu.org/resource/parenting-and-gods-word/

Now a challenge.  Are your kids taking the place of God in your hear?  Specifically, are your kid’s sports become an idol for you AND your family?  Listen again to Walt Mueller in this 1 minute audio clip:

http://www.cpyu.org/resource/sports-parenting/

Are sports taking away from your child’s spiritual development?  Is soccer taking the place of church or youth group?  Is youth group a less important activity than baseball?  Maybe i’m biased, but the real heart of my question is – are you prioritizing sports over faith?

Think about it.

Matt

On SCOTUS

Though I hold a Masters degree in theology and ministry, I will not take the time to pen my own thoughts concerning the SCOTUS decision to legalize homosexual unions across the nation.  So much is wrapped into this issue other than theology, including the constitution, democracy in general, personal narratives, and the culture wars.  Instead, I will point you to two trusted sources for information and what to do going forward.

First, the CM Alliance’s official statement on the matter (which is quite masterful):

http://www.cmalliance.org/news/2015/06/26/the-alliance-responds-to-scotus-ruling/

Second, a few thoughts from Walt Mueller of CPYU:

http://www.cpyu.org/2015/06/27/post-scotus-chatter-and-trying-to-get-it-right/

I am struck by the stance Pastor Myron laid out in the Sunday morning worship service yesterday – the need for the balance of holiness and love.  Do not retreat to the ends of the spectrum, for by doing so you alienate others and render your stance useless.  Always speak the truth and point people to the cross out of genuine concern and desire for wholeness.

Matt

Talking About “Inside Out”

The new Pixar movie “Inside Out” is now in theaters, and portrays both the value and harm emotions can play in our lives.  So how do we talk to our kids about it?  How do we let them know it’s OK to feel angry or hurt, as long as it is in balance and doesn’t lead to irrational, reactive actions?

Read this:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/talking-about-inside-out

I see a danger in this movie.  By personifying emotions, I fear it could lead to younger kids thinking that their emotions are beyond their control.  They see an independent, determining force controlling how they think and feel and this might be how they frame their reality.  The entertaining portrayal could become a framework perception, thus leading to blaming outside forces rather than ownership of emotion and reaction.

Talk to your kids about emotions.  Allow them to feel, but check and balance those feelings and always point them toward Jesus, thankfulness, and reconciliation.

Matt

Fathers – You’re Call is to Your Family

While the biblical scholar in me thinks the author of this article is reading a bit too much into the scripture, i do believe he is right on in terms of the necessity of father’s to lead in your homes.

Read this:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/fathers-exercise-the-leadership-god-has-trusted-to-you

Our model of fatherhood is that of our Heavenly Father.  Our model of husbandry is that of Christ to His church.  Lead well and be lead well.

Matt

Disagree to Disagree

A 10-year study has found that disagreeable teens tend to turn into disagreeable adults.

Read this:

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/16/414831873/disagreeable-teens-fail-to-understand-their-blind-spots-research-reveals

Yes, it’s true.  Teens have trouble empathizing in general.  Given the rise in technology as a barrier for face-to-face communication, empathy is a skill that now needs to be intentionally taught.  I find the study in the article interesting, but not hopeless.  Yes, many teens who are selfish or disagreeable grow up to stay that way.  However, there are many vehicles for changing this sort of behavior.  Team sports is a great one – it teaches teamwork, social dynamics, and the all-too-forgotten skills of winning and losing with grace.  Scouts teaches team dynamics and respect.  Other programs or social activities can be useful, but they are all about instilling value and behavior modification.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about modifying behavior or even changing priorities.  The Gospel is about the transformational work of Christ’s death on the cross, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the love and acceptance of the Father despite our brokenness.  Talk to your kids about the Gospel and how it affects their social dynamics.  Respect, empathy, and even listening skills will come as a result of the work of God in their hearts as they follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Everything else is just behavior modification.

Teens Lean on Technology for Health Advice

Apparently teens use the internet for more than wasting time.  The below CNN article speak on research which finds that many teens turn to the internet for health advice.  Using search engines and other websites, teenagers look to find tips, how-to’s, and information regarding health related issues.

Read this:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/02/health/teens-health-technology/

One thing the article mentions that i think is worth more than a pass-by is that, “teenagers still say they get the majority of such advice from their parents.”  Your kids may have their noses buried in devices, but their ears are still functional and are tuned to YOUR frequency.  Parents, you are the most influential presence in your kids’ lives…don’t forget it.

Matt

What’s the Balance with Bruce Jenner?

This blog post by The Gospel Coalition (i recommend you subscribe or follow them on Facebook) does a wonderful job of outlining what it means to love Bruce despite his confusion and open rebellion against God’s design.  It’s a hard balance, and it’s especially hard to communicate to our kids the “why’s” of our true and loving response to the situation.

I believe reading this will bless you:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/caitlyn-jenner-love-future-tense

Matt

Inferiority Inspired by Social Media

Social Media has some merit, but unfortunately it is the last ingredient in a rather bitter cocktail.  The human condition of sin bears the burdens of jealousy, comparison, inferiority, and pride.  We take on all that weight, and the world, using the lens of social media, is like a 10 year old boy on a bright summer’s day with a magnifying glass and an ant hill.  It’s simply destructive.

read this:

http://www.examiner.com/article/what-to-do-about-feelings-of-inferiority-inspired-by-social-media-images

Your worth, comes from the Lord!  Romans 8:28-29 tell us of the good that God works for us…that we are being made into the image of Christ!  That is your worth.  That is your identity.  It is the worth of Christ.

The Link of Anxiety

Parents, it appears we can pass down our own traits to our kids!  What ground-breaking news!  A recent study on anxiety in parents and their children, done through Kings College in London, shows that a parent’s anxiety issues can be passed down through both genetics and learned behavior or environment,

Read this:

http://qz.com/403299/study-kids-who-grow-up-with-anxious-parents-take-on-their-anxiety/

Sometimes sheltering our kids is helpful, and sometimes it isn’t.  Challenge your kids to explore and discover, but always provide a safe place at home to discuss, digest, and find comfort and identity in Christ.

Matt

The Teenage Brain

Yes, it’s true.  Your teenager’s brain is an idiot.  But it’s supposed to be!  According to research, the brain is only about 80% developed by adolescence, and it isn’t until age 25-30 that our brains are fully developed.

Read this:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/theres-a-reason-why-teenagers-act-the-way-they-do/2229651

We can’t stop our kids from doing all the things their idiot brains tell them to do, but we can mitigate destructiveness or rebellion.  Spend time with your kids.  Help them.  Love them.  Try to understand them.  Don’t be reactive.  Most importantly, share the gospel with them and live the gospel alongside of them.

Matt

College Isn’t for Everyone…at Least Not Right Away

Looking back, I wasn’t really ready for college until I was 20 years old.  I had a poor work ethic, I was arrogant, and I was lazy.  My freshman year, I remember sleeping through a final and not caring.  Many students are ready right away, but for some of us it takes time…but once it clicks there is no going back to your old self.

Read This:

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/college-admission-and-college-readiness-two-very-different-things/?_r=1

Talk to your kids about school.  It may not be right for them, or at least not right away.  Given the relative cost-benefit, and the reality of delayed adolescence, going to college right after high school is not necessarily the path to success.  It may be the path to confusion.

Matt

Merit-Based Love

How do we balance discipline with love?  It isn’t easy.  Unfortunately, many parents show love when their kids achieve or behave and withhold love when their kids fail or misbehave.  If we are trying to live and communicate the gospel of grace to our kids, what sort of God are we emulating when we love only when our kids are “good?”  This leads to a Santa-Claus gospel of merit-based love and grace, which is poison not only for individuals, but in the church as well.

Read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/opinion/david-brooks-love-and-merit.html?fb_ref=Default&_r=1

I know we all love our kids.  It’s hard to find the balance, but it does exist.  Love always, and let your discipline come from love not anger.

-Matt

How to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Teenager

There are lots of ways we push our kids away.  No parent is perfect.  In the article below, you will find helpful information on some easy ways parents often push their kids away, and how we might be more conscious of our interactions with them.  Teenagers are hard to deal with some times, but they are passionate, fun, sensitive, and generous.  Nurture those good qualities, share with them the gospel, live the gospel, and they will thank you later!

Read this:

http://www.themid.com/family/how-to-ruin-your-relationship-with-your-teenager?u=vQjs3im0tH

Matt

Work, Work, Work

Parents, work is important!  At 16 I started working at Blockbuster Video.  Sure, I was an idiot, but the importance of working outside the home, especially in a retail environment, is crucial for teens.  It teaches work ethic, respect for the customer as well as other retail workers, and the value of the earned dollar.  But employment is becoming increasingly difficult for teens to find, and often they are ill-prepared for interviews, applications, and assessments.

Coach them up, encourage them, and don’t be afraid when they push back.  Read this:

http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2015/04/16/why-cant-teens-find-jobs-pre-hire-personality-tests-are-a-stumbling-block/

Matt

The Reality of Sexting – It’s NOT GOOD

Sexting among teenagers is real.  Once we face the facts we can address them.  Sexting is not good – it leads to reduced physical boundaries, shame, and lustful hearts.  We should seek to stop this behavior, but even more so we should seek to address the root of the problem – a broken sense of identity and love that can only come from the Lord, through His Son Jesus.  Communicate this love, demonstrate this love, and be gently resolute in the home.

Read this:

http://sexualintegrityinitiative.com/2015/04/14/these-facts-about-sexting-might-make-you-rethink-pressing-send/

Teens and Empathy – Don’t stunt it’s development!

Adolescents are still developing their ability to empathize with others, research shows:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/teen-years-are-a-window-of-opportunity-to-learn-empathy-1429051107

Despite what you might think about stand-up comedian Louis C.K., the first minute of this interview with Conan OBrien should remind us that technology is no substitute for face-to-face contact:

Technology isn’t evil.  However, families need to find ways to encourage face-to-face human interaction.  Ask question, be persistent, and be affectionate!

Thoughtful Words on Smartphones from a Teenager

Gillian quickly reflects on the damage smart phones are doing to her ability to interact with her peers.

While smart phones aren’t inherently bad, the effect of constant social media acting as a face-to-face social barrier is real.  Gillian writes, “my conversations consist of dehumanized, emotionless messages used for necessity that are conducted without essential facial expressions or body language.”

Click here to read Gillian’s thoughts:
http://www.theintell.com/life-style/reality/why-my-iphone-is-ruining-my-adolescence/article_bddc52f2-1b22-5eb4-93b9-0d88c597fb66.html

Matt

Kids Running The Show

read this blog post by Walt Mueller of CPYU.org.  His comments from Dr. Leonard Sax’s new book are quite challenging and indicative of the culture and a whole.

 

Messed-Up Parenting. . . and What Might Be My “Book of the Year”. . .

The Bad side of Cyber, and how to help

Here is a helpful info-graphic on the bad side of the cyber world.  As you look it over, ask God to give you insight into how your child uses the internet as well as what you can do to help them be good stewards of that privilege.

 

Teen Cyber-Security. . . A Helpful Infographic To Share With Parents