Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cultivating Motivated Spirits for Students

Generally, I wrote my own stuff and do research, but this week I stumbled across Tim Elmore's article for The Best Two Questions to Ask as We Develop Students. His article is so good I just had to share it with everyone. I think I will start doing this more and more from various authors.

Anyways, I want to give you a quick overview:

First, Elmore defines the problem with Students being lackadaisical in applying themselves. He argued the idea of gyms. In older times our grandparents all worked on farms or factories. There were hardly any gyms in those days because physical activity was a part of daily life. I know for me when I worked  as a residential carpenter I was in great shape, but when i started into a desk job, my weight increased....substantially! Anyways, gyms began to gain popularity as our culture changed from active to sedentary because of technological advances.

Now, for students this is applying to how they learn because of their access to technology non-stop. They don't have to apply themselves because Siri can answer all their questions for them.

Elmore uses an acronym "SCENE" to show how how these principles are affecting teens:

Each convenience term in the acronym scene represents an assumption that leads to an un-applied student.

Elmore asked that we as adults find ways to help students overcome these problematic assumptions. We need to offer them challenges that will stretch and expand their capabilities. 

I would really encourage you to read his article. I thought it was excellent.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

7 Tips on How to Teach a Teen About Money

I personally believe that a teenage will never fully appreciate responsibility with money until it is their own that they earned. Even then, many adults do not full appreciate being responsible with their money. In 2014 American teens spent $258.7 billion! The average American teen spends almost $5,000 per year. Source Nonetheless, as parents it is possible for us to teach our children how to be responsible with money on a small scale. This way, when they become adults they will not be foolish on a large scale.

Sin is very prevalent in the area of money. Some people believe that money is the root of all evil, but this is not accurate. The Scriptures state that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil in 1 Timothy 6:10. When the end goal of life becomes to gain as much as possible and hoard it, that is greed. Christians are called to be generous. You can be generous and rich, but God is more interested about the generous heart than the resources to be generous with. In Luke 12:28 Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much is expected." I believe that in view of the command of Scripture that part of financial responsibility is being generous.

So what are some practical steps to teach our children to be responsible and generous with money?

1. Got to have it to be generous with it. Some people are struggling right now. I understand your pain. I've been there, and it "aint no fun!" This is still a great way to teach your child to appreciate what they have. Give them something, even if its not money but a simple resource, but teach them that when its gone they can't get any more. We don't do our children any favors when we fill their pockets every time, they empty them out. This principle will teach them to be judicious in their decisions.

2. Give them their own bank account. Now you may choose to for your children to bank with Parents First United Bank, or you may choose to let them use an actual bank. Both are good options, but this will teach them how to balance an account and make investments.

3. Teach your teen to save. I learned a long time ago how to save, because I would by something silly, then when I wanted to buy what I wanted I was broke. I chose then to forgo the meaningless purchase for the one I actually wanted.

4. Let your teen get a job. Now I am not advocating that your child must have a job in a formal sense. I am advocating that there needs to be some means of them to earn their money. Some parents pay their children according to their chores. When a teen earns their income, and has no way to simply ask for more they learn financial independence.

5. Monitor your teens spending. Don't let your teen go buy a new set of duck decoys when they have a cell phone bill due. I know it's not cool to tell your child how to spend their money, but their future loan agents will appreciate you. Teens need to learn to prioritize their spending. Hey I want decoys too! But I have to pay my bills and fulfill my contracts first.

6. Don't always bail them out. Your teens are going to make mistakes. They may burn their money on a new set of clothes from the mall, but neglect to fill up their car with gas. When they run out of gas, it would be really funny to let them ride the bus to school for a week. Let them learn from little mistakes, so they learn the principles of making good financial decisions.

7. Teach your teen to be generous. This only works if you are generous. I personally believe that as Christians our generosity is worship, and this includes our tithes and offerings. If you don't tithe, why would your kids tithe? Second, if you give them an allowance, make them tithe out of it. If they earn their own money, make them tithe. Also, help them to find other opportunities for giving. If they have a friend who is raising money for a mission trip, suggest for your teen to help support their friend.

One day your teen will be an adult...scary! They will drive on the road, and possibly some sidewalks along the way. They will make mistakes as teens and adults, and that's normal. However, we want what's best for our children, and ultimately that is God's best for them. If you teach them now how to follow God's methods, then they at least know what to do when they are adults. They may still decide to depart from God's precepts, but at least we taught them what God expects of them. I want my children to become a people of God, with impeccable character. To help them realize that goal one day, I must start guiding them today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Break and Safety

When I was in high school about a decade ago, Spring Break was a time to relax maybe go to the beach or hang out at the Lake. I grew up in a tiny town in Northwest Florida. I could have gone to Jacksonville Beach or Daytona Beach. I remember in high school that Daytona was the Spring Break destination for many years, but then things began to get out of hand. One year Daytona kicked out the Spring Breakers, and they all migrated to Panama City. Here is an article about the problems in Daytona in 1993 just after Spring Break was removed from Fort Lauderdale.

My concern with Spring Break is that it is an event for high school and college students to attend without any supervision. The importance of this statement is that the students are aware of this. Spring Break is a prime opportunity for a student to experiment with some very deadly sins. For example, Forbes recently posted an article on binge drinking and students' involvement at Spring Break. Other sins include sexual promiscuity, drugs, and other foolish decisions.

This year Fox News has been posting a lot about Spring Break. I like to follow Fox News, so I have kept up with one particular woman who has been reporting. Ainsley Earhardt represented Sean Hannity. Here are some video clips from her reports. I have enjoyed this woman's reporting, because she is embarrassed for these teens, but she is compelled to post footage. Fox has received comments from parents who were so embarrassed to have their kids faces aired.

Let's just take a minute and stop.

First, why are your kids even there?

Second, why are they acting this way?

Third, what else wasn't shown on video?

Fourth, Facebook catches all!

I am afraid for students. I remember Spring Break back in the early 2000's, and it was nothing like this. Yes, all the problems were there, but this is the worst I have ever seen it. I would encourage all parents to not let their teens go to the big locations like Panama City. If your teen wants to go to the beach, send them to quieter places. Also, I would also encourage you to make sure there is some sort of accountability. Don't give your kid cash, just a debit card. This way, you can monitor their purchases. Make sure to call on them regularly. Screen all friends going with them. Lastly, do not be afraid to tell your child "no." It's ok. I know we want our kids to love us, but letting them go to dangerous places is not love on our end. They will love you more for what you withhold sometimes than turning a blind eye.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Teens and Their Friends

Ever had that moment when your teen tells you they are going to hang out with Kyle, and immediately you cringe. It's not that you think Kyle is an evil person, trying to enlist your teen for ISIS or something crazy. Kyle just happens to be one of those teens that you hope yours doesn't pick up any of his bad habits. Sometimes you wish your teen would hang out with someone other than Kyle, but you have compassion for Kyle too. You let your child hang out with Kyle, thinking that perhaps your child will influence him. Maybe he will start coming to church and start making better decisions.

Many parents of teens face this tension. Kyle is a fictitious character I coined for an example, but many of you readers are thinking of actual people right now by whom you do not want your child to be influenced. This struggle comes from the balance of teaching your teen how to be "in the world but not of the world."

This Christian slogan comes from John 17, where Jesus taught that Christians are to be different from this world because we are like Jesus. However, we are also commissioned to the world as his witnesses. I think we all agree that we are certainly in the world, but the slogan has become more of a cry for Christian isolationism.

Teens are experiencing a great deal right now that will shape heir opinions on reality. It is important that they learn to be missionaries to others for the sake of the gospel. Nonetheless, Christian teens need to learn the truth that their model for life is not from Hollywood but is Christ.

I think Jesus modeled the solution to this well for us. Jesus was known for hanging out with two groups of people: his disciples and the sinners. Jesus didn't hang out with the religious snobs of his day, and I would encourage you not to either. Jesus had intimate and close relationships with disciples. A disciple is a learner of Jesus, who is passionate about what Jesus was passionate about. These type of people are good to develop personal and close relationships with. Jesus even spent time with a select few of his disciples at times. It is also good to select your BFF's from this group. These people naturally encourage your to chase after Jesus.

However, Jesus also spent a lot of time with sinners. When Jesus would spend time with sinners, he was always on mission, and he had his disciples with him. Accountability is good, and a team of missional Christians is better than a single person. This mission kept them focused on loving people and showing them the gospel. This is really apparent when Matthew a newly converted disciple held a house party and invited all his sinner friends so they could meet Jesus in Mark 2. The religious snobs judged Jesus, but the sinners loved Jesus.

Here are some lessons that I think may help us parents:

  1. Model this behavior. As a parent our first disciples are our children. If we are not selecting our friends wisely, they do not have a frame of reference to accomplish this. Also, if we are not being missional to sinners on a regular basis, then they also have no reference for properly showing the love of Christ to people who are desperate in need.
  2. Help your teen choose their friends. There is nothing wrong with telling your child who they can hang out with and who they can't. You can even consciously limit their time with a certain friend. By doing this you help them set a reference for good friend selecting.
  3. Talk to your teen. It's alright for them to know why you are making some of your decisions. You don't have to share all the details, but they need to know that you are taking away their friends and social life for nothing. You are making your decisions out of love.
  4. Don't be a friend to your teen. This one is harder, because it seems all parents want to be their child's best friend, but I would encourage you to aspire to the higher calling of being their parent. If you choose to be your teen's friend, then you may rob them of a dad or mom. We are responsible for the hard decisions that our children are not mature enough to handle. By making good decisions for them, you teach them how to make good decisions for themselves in the future.

For Further Reading:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Helping Teens Make Mistakes

There are a lot of different approaches and opinions on parenting. Some parents are very hands-off and like to let their children make their own decisions. Other parents are very hands-on. I'm not referring to parents who spank their children when I say "hands-on." I mean that some parents are very controlling, and will not allow their children to make any decisions on their own.

There are two extremes in parenting: controlling and negligence. Both are harmful to children, especially teens. Teenagers are coming into a phase of life, where they want to make their own decisions. I think it's part of becoming an adult. However, with decisions come consequences. I think we would all agree that every action receives a reaction. Bigger actions receive bigger reactions. It is important for teens to learn this critical lesson. Parents must find the balance of allowing teens to make their own decisions, yet keep them away from harm. We use this balance to help our children make mistakes, and we teach them how to learn from their mistakes.

Scripture has a lot to say about parenting. Let me be honest here; the Bible is not a detail oriented instruction manual for parenting. However, there are some principles that we can use to parent our children. We will not parent exactly as the biblical parents raised their children, because culturally we are very different. Additionally, each child will need to be raised differently. I have two kids, and what worked for one is not working for the other. I think any parent of multiple kids would agree with this sentiment.

Some Scripture on Parenting:

Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord." Here we see the balance of proactive parenting. We don't won't to over shelter our kids, but we must be diligent in correcting them.

Deuteronomy 6:7 "You shall teach [the Scriptures] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Scripture also teaches us that we are to teach our children the Scriptures both directly and indirectly by how we live.

Hebrews 12:10 "For [our fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seems best to them, but [Jesus] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness." When we join in disciplining our children in a godly manner, we act like Jesus does towards our children. We want our children to become good men and women, with great faith. So does Jesus. We are an extension of his character to our children.

Hebrews 12:11 "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Discipline is certainly not fun for either the child or the parent, but we must keep the end goal in mind. Jesus uses discipline in both our lives and the lives of our children that they will become good people. We then join Jesus in the process of nurturing our children to become godly. There may be no immediate results, because discipline is taught over time.

There is much more about parenting that Scripture speaks to. I encourage you to do some more study in this area.


  1. My child needs correction and guidance, and I (the parent) am responsible for him/her.
  2. My child needs to make mistakes and learn from them.
  3. I must teach my child about choices and consequences through discipline.
  4. I cannot keep my child in a bubble forever, nor should I expose them to everything. I will find a balance to disciplining my child.
  5. When (not if) my child makes a mistake, I will correct them in love not anger.
  6. In doing so, I hope to teach my children not to make big mistakes because they learned from the small ones.

For Further Reading:

"What the Bible Says About Discipline" by Focus on the Family

"Biblical parenting in Proactive, Not Reactive" by Shepherd Press

"Mistakes Improve Children's Learning" by Psychology Today

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Most Dangerous App for Teens

Last Week I wrote an article on some of the most dangerous apps for students. That article was in response to a question posed by one of the parents, whose child is in our student ministry. Please follow the link above for that article. This week I would like to extend that discussion with what is the single most dangerous app for teens.

Before, I reveal this information I would like to give a quick disclaimer. I am a strong proponent of proactive parenting. While I do not have a teenager yet, I will one day. I do not claim to know how to parent a teen, I'm still working on raising a two-year-old. Nonetheless, I do believe that the Bible teaches that parents should be very proactive in rearing their children. See Deut. 6:6-9, Eph. 6:1-3, and Prov. 1:8-9 for examples. Therefore, I believe a parent should know what apps are on their child's phone, and how they are using them. Grace and peace be unto you in this endeavor.

After posting last week's article, I discovered another app that is by far deadlier than the other apps. It is called AppLocker. It is available for iPhone and Android. This app creates a harmless looking folder, but hides other apps in the folder. Teens are then using this app to hide the dangerous apps from last weeks article from their parents. This app can also hide dangerous pictures and links to web pages. I find this app to be to most dangerous, because it encourages teens' rebellion against their parents even further.

Furthermore, I discovered that there is a whole category of apps like this. Some of the others are Hide It Pro, Vault Hide, Hide Pictures, Vaulty, and App Drawer. If your teen has any of these apps or a similar app, that I am still unaware of this, you should confront them. 

Last, I believe there is no app that a parent should not be able to access. I understand that you want to give your child their privacy, but you the parent are responsible for guiding their decisions for this season in their life. If the student has a password or access code that you don't know, they should be willing to give it to you. If they refuse to give it to you, this implies they have something to hide from you. This is not good, because this implies the teen is involved in something that you will not approve. Additionally, this breaks trust between you and your child.

I encourage all parents to love their children by showing your attention and guiding their decisions in life. Scripture says, 'Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but he who loves his son is diligent to discipline him.' in Proverbs 13:24. It also states, 'Discipline and guidance gives wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his parents.' in Proverbs 29:15.

For further reading:

(I love the solution in this article. The author argues for removing a smart phone from the child's possession. Some parents consider this as radical, but I find it wise.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dangerous Apps for Teens

Recently, I have let my blog go by the wayside. I have a lot going right now in my life, so to me this was the option that I thought about letting go. This past Sunday, I had two separate parents of students in my youth group ask why I had stopped. This encouraged me that someone was actually reading my blog, and they asked for a few particular topics. If you would like me to address a topic on the blog, then please contact me either through email, Twitter, or Facebook. So, today's topic is from one of those parents.

What are the some of the most dangerous apps for teens?

Before, I go into a list of them, and all the parents begin taking phones and locking them down, I would like to share my opinion on smart phones and teens. Teens need to know how to handle temptation, so totally removing all access only creates a bubble. It is better to hold them accountable. Nonetheless, I also believe that some students do not need phones either. So, you be the parent a decide what is best for your son or daughter.

1. KIK

KIK makes my top list, because it is known for it's lewdness. KIK is a photo sharing app like snapchat, but specifically known for sexting among students. Additionally, the photo is posted based upon that students location. KIK is used heavily by sexual predators. In all honesty, there are much safer ways to communicate with friends.

2. Snapchat

Snapchat works just like KIK, but it is not known to be as lewd. Nonetheless, it still poses a danger, because all pictures are only temporary. This means that a student can take a picture, send it to another, and shortly after, it disappears. However, this is a marketing ploy for Snapchat. Once a photo is on the web, either through Snapchat or whatever, it can be found. So, the pictures never really disappear. Also, students can save the picture just before it disappears. This app is heavily used for sexting and "hooking up" by many students. Because of these reasons, this app is also used by sexual predators.

3. Tindr

Tindr is the worst! It is a dating app, designed to be "discrete." However, it is know for being a site for students to find casual sex. Some media publishers are noting that students are using Tindr to actually find love, more than sex. They say this with a hint of surprise. This app would not be allowed on my child's phone.

4. Vine

Vine is not a dangerous app by itself. The purpose of the app is creating 6 second videos. You can share the short video like Instagram or Facebook. Vine however is known for edgy videos, leaving students with a desire of "1-up" videos. Students always want to have the "best" videos. It's not a bad app, but should be monitored as all media exposure should be.

5. Tumblr

Tumblr is a photo sharing app. It has been heavily used and influenced by the pornography industry. I would simply avoid this app. There are much better means to share photos.

Again, I would really encourage parents to control....yes I said it...the media consumed by your children. Some parents enjoy a "hands off" approach, assuming that ignorance is bliss. I would really encourage parents to consider a proactive role in their children's life.

Here are some other links that I thought might be helpful:


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Too Many Deborah's in the Church

I learned a long time ago from C.S. Lewis that "moderation in all things" is a good philosophy for life. However, something I have noticed in my church and others similar is the heightened role of women in the church. Now, please here me out. I am not accusing women of anything, nor am I a misogynist. I believe that women have a vital role in the church, but I do believe that men have a vital role too.

As a student minister, I have noticed an abundance of women who are eager to work and serve in the church. This is a good thing. I wish that there would be an abundance of workers in my minister no matter gender, ethnicity, or socio-economics. An abundance of servants is such a great problem to have. However, I see a disparity in the level of commitment from the men in the churches.

I have come to see some effects of this disparity in the church. Let me explain:

  1. A lot of women volunteers in student ministry = a lot of teenage girls
  2. A low amount of men volunteers in student ministry = a low number of teenage boys
Like I said, I think this may be a cause and effect relationship. So, how can you the average church going dude change this? I would like to share some suggestions for men.

1. Find a ministry that is low of men servants and consider joining
2. Look for young men who need a mentor, and build a relationship.
3. Ask your church ministers how you can serve?
4. Pray for new opportunities to serve in the community, like little league soccer.
5. Up your game in whatever areas you are already serving.
6. Bring your Christians buds to church and help them get involved.
7. Try a new ministry that seems really challenging to you. God may grow you through adversity.

To the women, I say keep up the good fight. You are the life blood of many churches right now. If you can get your husbands into the church and get them active. A working man takes pride in what he does. It's not that I want women to feel bad about their role in the church. I want them to be excited about what could be their man's role in the church. Share the faith.

Judges 4:9 "She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Can a Baby Be Illegitimate?

What is an illegitimate baby? This phrase was once a regularly used expression in American culture, but its use has fallen out of popularity. The Free Dictionary defines an illegitimate baby as "the condition before the law, of the social status, of a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of his or her birth." Society at one point assigned a stigma to such children. These children were considered dirty or unclean. Many cultures still feel this way. Illegitimate children held no rights as children when it came to claiming the name or inheritance of their fathers.

The frequency of children found in this situation is occurring more and more in our culture, but because of cultural changes the old sentiments of illegitimate children are not the same. Last year CBS News posted an article that reported half of all first babies are born to unwed mothers in America. Furthermore, with the rise of reality television shows about teen pregnancies such as 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Fifteen and Pregnant. The concept of illegitimate children and such is not longer taboo.

Another great insight from the article from CBS is that many young people have changed marriage from a "cornerstone event" in their life to a "capstone event" in their life. In other words marriage is the last thing on their list of accomplishments instead of one of their accomplishments. Young people are holding off such commitment levels until they are secure financially, socially, and relationally. Their line of logic is that if they must constantly shift in their career and education until they are ready to be settled why not be relationally as well. This means they are willing to try out various relationships like jobs, degree majors, and where they want to live. The article further reported that the women who are not getting married are the ones without economic stability. This led to the most revealing statistic of 45% of women will have given birth by age 25 but only 38% of women are married by that age, and by age 30, two thirds of women will have had a child out of wedlock.

When I survey this question, the real question is not about illegitimate children but of illegitimate values and morals. As the father of a daughter, I am worried for the future of my daughter. I want my daughter to experience the greatness of having a great man of a husband. I want her to experience the joy of having a child together that is desired and welcomed into an already existing family unit. However, this is not the trend.

Parents, I strongly urge you to talk with your kids about the value of marriage. Christian parents, we have no excuse but to raise our children according to a pattern that is the antithesis of our culture.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Church Revitalization and Criticism

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I took a break from blogging to spend time with family. I am very blessed to have such godly influences in my family. The holiday season always seems to lift me up and encourage me as I spend time with my family who are all struggling to engage the world with ministry. My father is a music minister, my brother is a worship leader, and my youngest brother and I are attempting to start a new business Florida Fowl Waters as a platform for waterfowl hunting and leading people to Jesus. I am so richly blessed.

Another thing that comes from a family that all struggle with ministry to some extent is understanding each other's struggles when it comes to criticism. Criticism is part of the job description when you work with people. My dad has been in vocational ministry working at churches for about 30 years. He has received his fair share of criticism throughout the years. My middle brother leads worship at a church plant. He receives little criticism about how he leads worship. He predominantly reaches college students and young families at his church, and they all love his style of music.

As I was preparing to write this blog it struck me that this is probably the greatest point of tension for ministers in church revitalization. This blog is a series based on an article from Thom Rainer 9 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Leading a Church Revitalization. Thom Rainer has lately been championing church revitalization, even as recent as 3 days ago with his most recent article. Church revitalization is by nature to work with established churches to rebuild and reconstruct to be healthy once more. Church plants are by nature fresh beginnings. When a person attends a church plant, they understand that everyone is on the learning curve, and change happens almost on a weekly basis.
I personally, feel this is why so many young ministers are interested in church planting and not revitalization. However, I feel called to church revitalization. I feel like it is the business of God to raise the dead, heal the sick, and give joy to the downtrodden. I get to be part of this when I join in a church revitalization project, but I certainly have to deal with the criticisms that come with territory.

Here is a list of criticisms I have faced, and how I find myself handling them.
  1. Tradition: This is perhaps the most obvious of the problems and criticisms I receive. It's the preverbal "We've never done it that way before." I receive this when I tell students we are changing a program or going to a new summer camp. This is hard because people are often emotionally attached, but I know that if I am diligent to do my homework and make a case for why we are changing, I often do not receive as much push back. The people deserve to know the "why's" behind our ministry and decisions.
  2. Too Much Preaching/Teaching: This one is funny to me, because people will actually tell me that I am too focused on Scripture in my ministry....like that is possible! I believe that a healthy church starts at the grassroots level by teaching the Scriptures to teens. An armed and trained Christian is a dangerous Christian. However, there must be moderation in your ministry between discipleship, service projects, and fun events. You may be criticized towards the other end of the spectrum from me.
  3. Lack of Trust From People: I get this the most from either young or impatient youth ministers. This remains a hard lesson for me still. Patience is the name of the game in church revitalization. Sometimes true revitalization in a church can take an entire generation. Trust is slowly gained, so be willing to work with the people over a long amount of time.
  4. Too Much Change: I remember Jerry Vines saying years ago that the bigger the ship, the slower it turns. Similarly, if a youth minister tries to turn the ship to quickly it can capsize. I am a big proponent of strategic phases. Work towards your goals.
  5. Lack of Resources: Sometimes in youth ministry you feel like you are scraping for funding. Foremost, I believe that the best fundraiser for a youth ministry is to get your quality students active in the church. Let the product sell itself. However, sometimes churches have this mentality of poverty, and will shrink away from doing what God has called them because of the test of faith. My solution is get creative. Do not get angry, but use what God gives you. The finances will come with time.
  6. Lack of Vision: The pastor lays out the primary vision for the church, so make sure you are working in that vision. Second, you must also have a vision for the youth group. If the youth minister doesn't have this vision, he will struggle to garner followers and supporters.