Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category

Open Letter To Parents

Dear Parents,

I understand over the past couple of days some of you have been encouraged by the things that I have been writing to teenage girls and boys.  I am thrilled that you have enjoyed my letters.  Today I want to take a few moments and write directly to you.  My desire in writing this letter is to help support you and maybe even share some insight with you that I have gained from working with teenagers for the past 12 years.  I will begin with a disclaimer however, and let you know that I DO NOT have all the answers.  I am a parent of a 5 & 10 year old.  I’m still working very hard to figure out what I am doing most days…

One source of wisdom that I attempt to draw from daily is the Bible.  As I read the Bible I gain understanding of how we (all of us – children, adults, all of us.) work, live and hopefully thrive in this world.  One verse that I hear many parents  refer to as I speak with them is Proverbs 22:6, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  One of the mistakes that parents make with this verse is that often times I see the training end somewhere around age ten or eleven.

In my role as a Youth Pastor I have had many parents ask me to disciple their teenager.  I hear often that they, the parents, just don’t know what to do with them.  They don’t know how to respond.  They don’t know what to say.  They feel helpless and don’t know where to turn.  I find great hope in this Proverb.  I take it to heart every time that I speak with one of my daughters.  I trust that the seeds that I am planting in their lives will one day flourish and grow.  I am keenly aware that I need to be present in my daughter’s lives.  They need me and their mother to help guide them while they are young.  Your kids need you to help them make good decisions.  That means that you need to be going to the source of true wisdom yourselves.  You can’t lead people where you aren’t going…

mom_yelling_at_daughterGuiding my children is my role.  At some points I would even use the word control.  As they are young I do have the control in the decisions that are made.  As they grow that control becomes less and it transforms more into a shepherding role.  I give a bit more freedom in order to allow them some room for failure while still having the safety of Mom and Dad around to help them when they do choose poorly.  My role as a parent, your role as a parent needs to be a continual process from cradle to grave.  While the role does change, it is critically important that you protect your relationship with your children so that you can maintain influence over them for the rest of their lives.  This is not accomplished by giving them what they want, but by balancing discipline with love.

In dealing with teenagers I see far too many parents who have transformed their role of parent to more of a friendship.  Hear me on this subject, please.  They have enough friends.  They NEED parents.  Strong parents.  Parents that love them enough to say the hard things.  Parents that are less concerned with being told, “I hate you mom.  You never let me have any fun!” and more concerned with seeing their son/daughter grow into a healthy adult.  If you don’t like the clothes they are wearing make them change.  I addressed the subject of modesty with the girls the other day.  You should be helping them understand boundaries in what is appropriate to wear and what is not.  If Sally so and so is wearing it and that is the reason they give you for wanting to wear it as well you can always say what my mother said to me – “If Billy jumped off a bridge would you follow him?”  Sounds cliche but I think it’s time to get back to basic parenting.  Speak up.  Stand up.  Do the right thing even when it gets uncomfortable.

What’s more uncomfortable –

  • Enforcing the rule that they won’t be alone with someone of the opposite sex or sitting in your living room as your 15 year old daughter tells you that she is pregnant?
  • Taking a stand for what your daughter will wear and won’t wear or working through the pain of rape?

If you have a son you aren’t off the hook on this one.

  • Would you rather speak into your son’s life and enforce that they drive responsibly or get the call from the Highway Patrolman informing you that there has been an accident and there was nothing that the paramedics could do?
  • Would you prefer to keep your son from dating the girl that you know is only motivated by one thing or watch your son drop out of school to get a job to provide for the life that he helped create?

Here’s one –

  • Would you rather keep the liquor in the house for those “special occasions” when family comes over or deal with your kid being a closet alcoholic, who drinks themselves to sleep each night?

teenSome things in our lives are not comfortable.  Deal with it.  Be the parent that you kid so desperately needs.  Protect them but don’t baby them.  Your kid won’t always get their way in life.  Help them to understand that.  They won’t always make the varsity team, get the starring role, or make honor role.  Help them understand that life really isn’t fair – but it’s still worth living!  Above all model a life that is lived well.  You cannot expect your kids to learn principles that you are not willing to model for them.  Your kids should not be held to higher standards than you hold for yourself.

Raising kids is not easy.  No one ever said t would be.  You will make mistakes.  I share with the teenagers that I minister to that not one of them were born with an instruction manual.  While it would be great if one would pop out somewhere between their delivery and the placenta; it doesn’t work that way.  With that knowledge they need to cut you, their parents, some slack.  You won’t always get it right as you work to raise them well.  But don’t let your failures overshadow their lives.  Work hard at being the best parent (again, I’ve already said this but hear me again – PARENT, not friend) that you can be.  And know that there are people that are praying for you.  I pray for every parent of every student that is part of my ministry.  I want to do all that I can to partner with you, encourage you and resource you.

Now go and do it.  Do it well…


Open Letter To Teenage Boys (young men)

Dear Teenage Boys, (actually, let me call you young men, I know being a teen you must hate being called a boy…)

The truth is you are becoming men.  That being said, there are some responsibilities that you need to step into.  I know, I said it, that dreaded word – RESPONSIBILITY.  As scary as the word may be, it’s time to face the facts.  You are responsible for some things now.  To make matters worse, your responsibilities will only grow from here on in.  It doesn’t get easier so I hope you really enjoyed the carefree days of your youth.

For the rest of your life you will be faced with choices.  Choices that bring with them consequences,  Choices that effect more people than just yourself.  Choices that can either set you up to have a great future and choices that can make your life far more difficult than it is meant to be.  How do you make your decisions?  Do you just “go with your gut”?  Are your choices made purely by how you feel?  If it makes you happy will that be the choice that you make?  Do you ask others for advice?  Do you seek any guidance at all?

This is something I have always found interesting.  In school you have a guidance counselor.  Their role is simply to help you make choices regarding the classes that you need to take in order to complete a well-rounded education.  At times they are also there to help you when you are having a bad day and need to talk – but mostly it’s just a quick appointment once or twice a year to pick your classes.  If you have someone that helps guide you through the mundane choices of Algebra or Geometry then why in the world would you expect to be able to jump into much larger decisions on your own?

Teen_BoysYesterday I spoke honestly to the ladies.  I spoke to them about the images that they post of themselves on Facebook.  I’m quite sure some of you are hatin’ on me right now because I am trying to take your fun away.  Sorry.  No, actually I’m not sorry.  I’m annoyed.  I’m frustrated.  I’m downright pissed off at times.  I see the way that girls are doing anything and everything possible to be noticed by you guys.  I see the way they are throwing themselves at you in order to feel wanted and cared for.  The sad fact is that many girls are not getting the love that they need from their father’s the way that they are supposed to and because of that they will take any kind of attention they can get – including you all gazing upon their bodies – and giving them the appearance that they are desirable.

I guess that is one of the responsibilities that we can talk about right now.  The responsibility of being a man and not just some punk that will freely take what is not yours to have.  Just because some girls are willing does not mean that you should be.  Man up!  Having sex doesn’t make you a man.  Sex does not equal love nor does it equal care for another person.  And quit using the line, “I love you.” just to get what you want.  Girls so desperately want to hear this and when you manipulate them by telling them what they want to hear you are only continuing the cycle of un-acceptance that these girls are struggling with.  Each of these girls are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, and someday, someone’s wife, mother, grandmother.  Protect them.  Protect them because you will appreciate your future wife that much more if she enters a marriage with you with no baggage.

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I know that seems like such a foreign concept to you right now.  Marriage is something that you are not thinking about.  Actually, if I may make an observation (and I will because it’ my blog and you can’t stop me) the cycle that you are perpetuating is one of divorce.  Your dating habits actually teach you to be great at LEAVING relationships.  Think about it.  You date a girl.  It’s fun.  It gets serious.  You get physical.  It goes as far as it can go.  You get bored.  You have some conversation (hopefully it’s face to face and not via text message!) and you share with her that, “it’s not you , it’s me.  I guess I have changed.  But we can still be friends.”  (Forgive me for a minute, but you’re lame!)  Then you go find another girl and repeat steps one through seven.  And then you do it again, and again, and again.

What did you just teach yourself to do?  When the going gets tough, leave.  Think about how many married couples have done this over the years.  Rather than take the vow, the commitment, the oath that we have made seriously – “to have and to hold till death do us part” we just leave when it begins to get difficult.  Maybe try and just be friends with girls.  See your role, your responsibility, as one of a protector of girls.  If more guys did that these days I believe we could see a radical reformation in relationships that would make a difference for generations to come.

There is so much more I could write to you, and I hope that through the next years we will talk more about this stuff.  Trust me, I’m not coming down on you alone.  I understand that there are plenty of girls that need to understand that they need to protect you guys as well.  I understand how you are wired – I’m wired the same way.  When you see something that looks good you want to look at it more and more and more.  I do understand that girls need to cover themselves up to keep you from desiring to see more of them.  But you’ve got to do all that you can to protect yourself.  Get together with some other guys and talk about this stuff.  Share with them about your struggles.  Allow them to help you.  Find some other guys that may be a bit older than you, or for that matter way older than you, ask them to help you.  Ask them for guidance.

If it worked for that Algebra class who knows how it could help with this kind of stuff…

Open Letter To Teenage Girls

Dear Teenage Girls,

I know many of you.  I spend time with you.  I pray for you.  I know your parents.  I pray for them even more.  Over the past few years many of you have become “friends” with me on Facebook.  I think this is a great thing.  I am always looking for ways to connect with people and I see Facebook as one of those ways that help to build relationship.  That being said, can I be honest and blunt with you for a moment?

You show too much of yourself in the pictures that you post.  I understand that it’s all the rage to take a picture of yourself by extending your arm high up into the arm, above yourself, in a way that aims the camera down.  I’m not so naive to believe that you are not aware of how the camera is angled or what exactly the picture focuses in on.  I’m as Pastor and I take the calling I have very humbly.  But before I am a Pastor I am a Father.  I take that role very seriously.  I love my two daughters.  I don’t think that I am your father.  You have a father, or at least some of you do.  Some of you may be missing that relationship for one reason or another.  I know that you not having a great connection with your father is not part of God’s plan.  With that being said, can you hear the words I write as words from a father – please?

putthemawayStop posting pictures of your breasts on Facebook.  I understand that you are proud of what God has blessed you with.  I am quite sure that is true because you keep giving all of us that are in your friend list access to numerous pictures of them.  Please, hear my heart for you as you read these words.  You may be proud of the “girls,”  but you are not doing yourself any favors by showing them to the rest of us.  The people that are looking at these pictures are not looking at these images and thinking, “what a nice smile she has”  nor are they thinking about how happy you look.

The pictures that you are posting of yourself make you look cheap.  I’m sorry for saying this but you need to understand that you are freely giving away something that costs you dearly.  The boys at school may like you more because of the pictures that you are posting but they aren’t liking you for the reasons that you HOPE they are liking you for.  They are happy that you are posting these pictures.  Some are VERY happy.  These boys will want to spend time with you.  At least, for a little while they will.  But soon enough someone else will come along that will show them more of what they want to see.  At this point you will be faced with a choice.

“Do I give them more?  Do I allow them to touch me?  Do I give myself away?

If I don’t do this they may not like me any more.”

Many of these questions, if you are already struggling with friendships, will be easy to answer.  You will say yes.  You may not want to but the pull to have someone attracted to you will be too strong.  No one wants to be rejected.  I understand that.  I also understand the heartache that comes from being used and then left behind.  Don’t give yourself away – in any form.  Change the angle of the camera.  Aim it at your face.  Put on some clothes that hide some of the front of you.  We love you – all of you – but we don’t need to see ALL of you.

In my attempt to add a bit of humor to this post.  I’ll make this one last statement.

Put away your boobs and step away from the camera.  Please.

What Makes You Scream?

What are the things that you see in the world that make you so mad that you could scream?  What are the issues that come up that you would like to help with?  Human Trafficking, Clean Water, Refugees, Hunger, Poverty?  Each of these issues drive people crazy.  Sometimes crazy enough to actually do something about them…

screamThis is where you come in.  Check out iwillscreamforyou.com and upload your scream picture.  When you upload your picture you will chose which cause you are screaming for.  As needs arise around the cause that you are screaming for you will be connected with ways to help.  Global Benefit are the masterminds behind this movement.

Global Benefit was founded on the idea that there is something that you can do in your town, with your friends, or at your job or campus that will overcome the suffering and hopelessness found in places of extreme poverty or natural disaster. And it’s not hard! Just take what you already know how to do, and do it with a purpose.

So start out now.  Go to iwillscreamforyou.com and upload your scream.  Then share the site with friends, who will share the site with their friends.  As needs are identified you will be contacted with ways to help.  You can make a difference in this world.  You CAN do it.

You + Action = Change

Just Feel

We had the privilege of having Attaboy with us last night at our multi-youth group gathering we call Worship ONE.  They were a great group of guys that did an incredible job in connecting with the teens that were here – over 250 youth!  Here’s one of the songs that they played.  It flowed very well with the ROOTS series that we have been walking thru here at Impact.

Mission Accomplished

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Every Summer for the past 6 years now I have been the director of our denominations Youth Camp for the Northern New England District.  Over the years the numbers have grown in attendance and I have greatly enjoyed leading the team that makes this camp happen.  It has been a true blessing to be a part of the leadership of the district and head up the youth camp.  We have had some phenomenal speakers and worship teams come to join us over the years – and we have had some that were not so phenomenal.  One thing that we have experienced throughout all who have come and gone is the simple fact that God works in spite of us.  In spite of our failures, mistakes, and poor planning – God shows up.

This simple fact has relieved much stress on my behalf during the course of our week of camp.  When a speaker makes  statement that goes against what we agree the Bible says, when a possibly intimate service with great life transformation turns into a Q&A session, when the worship team shows up and ends up being a rock band that sings a couple worship songs (Father Abraham is not a worship song!)  God shows up.  God works and brings about the life change that we pray for, fast for, cry out for.

This year I have been facing the challenge of dealing with the fixed costs of the campground that we rent, covering the costs of a camp program that oozes excellence, and shrinking numbers.  The economy is hitting us hard – directly and indirectly.  Our numbers for registration are half of what they have ever been.  I have found myself getting discouraged by this.  I ask myself the questions: 

  • Was last year that bad?
  • Has camp taken a back seat to other events?
  • Have we not promoted enough?

All of these questions seem to be coming back with similar responses.  Our camp is great.  Camp is a priority.  Promotion has been great.  In speaking with families around the district I am learning that many young people are doing many great things this summer in place of camp. 

I spoke with the mother of a 14 year old girl who will be attending a 20 day YWAM experience where she will be equipped and trained to minister in missions settings – she felt called to be a missionary at a previous years camp. 

I spoke with a pastor who is sending a group of 20 people – young and old – to the Philippines to minister to the poor and needy in that country – many of whom have attended camp in the past and heard the message that they need to get active in their service for the “least of these”. 

We have a church in our district that had been sending about 30 teens each year and they are not joining us this year.  This group will be leaving for Guatemala two weeks after our youth camp ends.  They each had to raise over $2000.00 to go on this trip.  Over the years at camp we have encouraged young people to sacrifice their own selfish desires and go where God is calling them. 

We have a few teens who will not be attending camp this year because they have started a band and are doing shows in some very rough environments.  They are going into these places and rocking out hard, gathering a following, and then pointing every person at the show towards Jesus through spoken words during and after the shows.  

I don’t believe our numbers being very low this year is a sign of a bad camp.  On the contrary, I believe we can and will celebrate an accomplished mission.  The message that has been proclaimed for years has been heard and young people are moving to action.  They are living out their faith.  They are going where they are called.  They are serving Christ and many people groups with passion.  Are our numbers a sign of failure?  No.  They are a sign that what we have been striving for is happening. 

And for that I rejoice!

Long Way To Go

This past Sunday we had the unique opportunity to have the youth that have just returned from a mission trip to Jamaica share with the congregation.  It was a beautiful service where many testimonies of healing and salvation were spoken.  At times I was moved to tears and at others I was wanting to stand and cheer.  To hear of how far some of the youth that I have had the privilege to pastor have come is very heart warming for me.

praying_hands014But I also realize that there is still a long way to go.  We have a great youth culture in our church and they are a real priority to many.  One of our values as a church is intergenerational ministry.  We saw the evidence of this as many adults as well as children were ministered to by the messages and testimonies that were shared.  Towards the end of both services an opportunity was given to come and have the youth pray for people who may have been struggling with some of the same issues that the youth were able to find freedom in.  Depression, fear, anger, unforgiveness, thoughts of suicide – many issues had been brought up.  I truly felt as though the front of the sanctuary would have been flooded with people responding to their need for prayer in these areas.  That wasn’t the case.  Sure, some people came forward and received prayer.  It was great to see.  I am not discouraged by that.  But I know that there are still many who needed to come who did not.  

That is why I feel we still have a long way to go.  Pride keeps us from admitting that we need help.  Pride keeps us from receiving from others who may be younger and less experienced than us.  Pride also keeps us from finding true freedom in our struggles.  My prayer today is that we would become a fully transparent people who would run boldly to receive the help that we need.  Then, and only then, will we be seen as a truly intergenerational ministry where all generations are free to help each other.

Leaving For Jamaica

After man long months of training, preparation and fund raising we are ready to go.  Tomorrow we will board a plane and head to Jamaica to minister to many children and families.  Please pray for our team as we go to minister to people in schools, villages and churches.

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The blog will be quiet this week unless I can find some wifi near our base camp.  If I do find a hotspot I’ll provide updates here and through twitter.

Free Puppies!

That’s right.  Come to Impact tonight and you get a free puppy!  We’ll be giving them out while supplies last so get here early for the best choices.

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Seriously?  Puppies?  Free?  It’s the 1st of April folks!  You can still join us at Impact though…

What Were You Thinking?

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We’ve all asked this question of someone.  Today I found myself asking my five year old daughter this very question as she proceeded to walk out of the house in her bathing suit.  Keep in mind, here in New Hampshire it was 26 degrees today!  Over the past ten plus years in youth ministry I have asked this particular question more than any other. 

When I walked into the bathroom to find two sixth graders, each with a can of air freshener in hand, spraying each other – “What were you guys thinking?”  When the young man who just got his license came tearing into the church parking lot at 40 miles per hour only to slide sideways into a parking spot – “What were you thinking?”  When the three teenage girls decided to draw in permanent marker on another girls face at a winter retreat – “Seriously, what were you girls thinking?”

Well, rest assured, the research is in and the answer is clear.  They were not thinking at all.  Scientists have been studying the human brain using MRI’s to follow the portions of the brain that are used in decision making in adolescents.  The frontal lobe of the brain, which is also known as the reason center of the brain, is still under development in teenagers and doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties.  This explains why teenagers typically will pursue high risk activities -they don’t make the connection between their choices and the potential consequences.  The point is that all youths lack the judgement that can come with age and experience.

That is why an adult presence in the life of every teenager is so vital to helping them develop the discipline needed to make wise choices.

What are you doing to help a teenager learn how to make wise choices?