Question Time….

How do we go about making church, a family ordeal? More family oriented?
It has been my experience that teenagers stay at church when their families (their parents) are committed, involved with, or at least encouraging their teens to go regularly.
The past two years, several teenager have left our ministry. Many of them did not have too much agianst us or our ministry, they simply did not have the encouragement from parents and other family to continue going.
When their parents quite going or started slacking off, slowly they began to follow suit.

So I am asking my blog audience for some ideas, suggestions, on how wto connect with parents and keep the entire family churched…

Narcissism -pics, article, video






Great CPYU article on Narcissism and today’s youth culture by Walt Mulluer

Narcissism. It’s a cultural reality we must seriously consider if we hope to effectively understand and reach our kids.

Narcissus is the youthful Greek mythological character who couldn’t take his eyes off his own reflection. Self-absorbed, his world revolved around nobody or nothing but himself. It wasn’t until I was a college senior that I remember hearing about Narcissus, even though I had already embraced him a bit—probably a lot more than I ever realized—as a part of my life. Cultural analyst Christopher Lasch had just released a new book on self-centeredness in American culture, The Culture of Narcissism, and it was assigned reading in a sociology class. Lasch believed that as a result of the political turmoil of the 1960s, Americans had retreated into themselves and were focusing solely on personal preoccupations. This type of living in the moment cut all ties to the traditions, rules, conventions and cultures of the past. “I” became the center of the universe and source of reality and morals. The narcissist thought of himself in the here and now, became his own audience, but also loved an audience of others who were equally enamored with who he was.

Lasch’s “culture” of narcissism has snowballed to the point where it’s even more deeply embedded and entrenched in the fabric of today’s students, a generation that’s inherited the legacy of their self-absorbed ancestors to become second- and third-generation narcissists. Researchers at San Diego State University recently reported that their ongoing studies show that narcissism continues to rise among college students. Our kids are mastering the lifestyle and are “spending” their “inheritance” with great gusto. If you don’t believe it just spend some time with pop culture, listening and watching as music and music video promotes the self-absorbed lifestyle of me, myself and I entitlement. Think about narcissism as you watch the auditions of thousands of youthful “American Idol” wannabes who believe the lies that “I’m a star” and “I can sing,” even though Simon realistically tells them otherwise. Consider how readily kids expose their thoughts, photos and lives for all to see on social networking sites like MySpace (note My). Narcissism moves to a deeper level on Facebook, where members no longer refer to themselves as “I,” but become part of their own audience by referring to themselves in the third person, much like “Jimmy” and “George” in the classic “Seinfeld” episode. Toby Keith captures the reality in his recent hit song “I Wanna Talk About Me,” where one narcissist who can’t seem to get a word in edgewise butts heads with another: “I wanna talk about me/Wanna talk about I/Wanna talk about number one/Oh my me my.”

If we desire to see our children and teens fulfill their calling as the church in the world, we must reckon with how the world might actually be in them as they function as the church. In other words, if we want to see our kids live out and communicate the selfless Kingdom of God as it confronts their narcissistic culture, then we must first recognize and confront the narcissism in them. This task will be difficult, because if we are honest, we will find ourselves admitting our own narcissism. All of us have been swimming and marinating in the soup of narcissism for so long that it’s become so much a part of who we are that we don’t even recognize its presence.

A look at our contemporary church and youth ministry culture offers plenty of discouraging evidence that the culture of narcissism has indeed, shaped who we are.

First, there’s our love affair with money and wealth. The great unaddressed sin of the church is materialism, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as, “the doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being” and “a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things.” When we place ourselves and our interests at the center of the universe, there’s nothing wrong with selfishly pursuing and accumulating as much as we can. Hammered by a marketing machine that exploits their youthful anxieties and aspirations, today’s teenagers are being socialized into narcissism, and they are eagerly embracing materialism as a lifestyle.

Second, there’s our theology … a theology that has demoted almighty God from his rightful place at the center of the universe, and replaced God with a god made in our image who comes running when we snap our fingers to serve us and cater to our needs. Christian Smith’s not-quoted-enough research on the shape of teenage faith offers convincing proof that narcissism has led to a self-defined faith that is also very self-serving. In his book Soul Searching, Smith notes that just like their adult counterparts, American kids are “profoundly individualistic, instinctively presuming autonomous, individual self-direction to be a universal human norm and life goal.” This individualism is “an invisible and pervasive doxa that is unrecognized and unquestioned,” and it informs the shape of their faith (p. 143). The resulting faith is what Smith has labeled “moralistic, therapeutic, deism.” Stated simply, this lethal distortion of orthodoxy has kids believing that I must be a good person, be happy, feel good, and that I can call on the God who exists for me whenever I need something. This type of faith not only multiplies and thrives when fed by a narcissistic culture, but it feeds and encourages the spread of narcissism. Could it be that our faith has been shaped less by God’s story, and more by our culture of narcissism?

Third, there’s our increasingly human-centered corporate worship, particularly the songs we sing as we gather together. In a narcissistic world, the criteria for “good worship” is that worship leaves me “feeling good.” Rather than centering on God and God’s character, worship’s content and focus is centered on me. When it does mention God, God exists because of what he can do for me. Yes, God has done and continues to do great things for us, and for that reason we should bow down and worship. But in today’s culture of corporate worship, are we really bowing down to God? If you want to put what I’m saying to the test, ask your kids this question: “What makes worship good?” Many of them will answer in ways that reveal their narcissism.

Fourth, there’s the disturbing shape of our faith in practice. In his book The Culturally-Savvy Christian, Dick Staub describes our narcissistic faith as “Christianity-lite”—it tastes great, it’s less filling and it’s the source of spiritual impoverishment. Dick says it’s a faith that produces conversions rather than disciples. In practice, what results is an army of people who take the name “Christian,” but instead of living a life marked by self-denial and sacrifice, the army embraces the wonderful promise of heaven for their future, while pursuing the American dream. The result, Staub says, is “that Jesus would not recognize the message and practices of Christianity-lite” (p. 47).

Fifth, there’s our emphasis on spiritual consumerism over spiritual conviction. There’s no denying the fact that narcissism and materialism have combined in a mix that shapes our message and methodologies: we treat people as consumers who need to be won over by marketing efforts that convince them to choose our church, rather than calling them to the self-sacrificing life of carrying one’s cross. We are spending more time becoming what people want, rather than focusing on frankly telling people what it is that they need. Church and faith have become commodities to market and sell. The sad reality is that in a narcissistic world, there’s not much of a market for a faith that’s not all about me. The temptation is to water down “the product” so that it will sell. Perhaps we should take some of the blame for socializing kids into shopping for faith in the same way they shop for a pair of jeans.

The culture of narcissism takes adherents—especially easily influenced kids—down the wide road that leads to destruction. How can we counteract this focus on self, and lead kids into a lifetime spent on the narrow God-centered road that leads to life? I don’t think there are any easy answers. I do, however, believe we need to look in the mirror to evaluate what we say and do. Here are some initial steps we can and must take to counteract narcissism’s powerful and pervasive influence.

First, understand the importance of studying and teaching theology. All of us teach theology, whether we do so consciously or unconsciously. If we aren’t consciously pursuing a deeper knowledge of God, we might be unconsciously promoting all types of heresy—including narcissism—without even knowing it. If our mission is to serve as signposts pointing to God, making an effort to consciously know and teach the God we point to will go a long way in exposing narcissism’s lies while promoting God’s truth.

Second, deliberately promote a theistic world and life view. Sure, we’re doing that already, but the culture of narcissism dictates that we can’t do it enough. Kids need to be reminded over and over that all of life is to be God-centered, not me-centered. Some of the most timely and foundational words in Rick Warren’s best-selling Purpose Driven Life are the first four words of the book: “It’s not about you.” Narcissism’s incompatibility with the Christian faith was addressed several hundred years ago when the framers of the Shorter Catechism—a tool employed to teach children the basics of the Christian faith—wrote that the chief end of all humans is “to glorify God”—not self—and “to enjoy him forever.” Jesus turns narcissism on its head when he tells his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Take every opportunity to point out the centrality of God—not self—in all of life.

Third, shape your worship to focus on the audience of One. Times of corporate worship shouldn’t be about entertaining kids. While I’m sure none of us do this intentionally, it’s something that still happens too often. God is not the performer when we gather to worship. The gauge of “good” worship isn’t how our kids score their experience on personal fulfillment and pleasure while walking out of the room. God is the audience and we perform for Him. Carefully examine, evaluate and choose worship elements that focus on the character, acts and will of God, along with what constitutes an obedient response to God’s initiative on the part of your kids. Even more importantly, don’t allow your kids to fall into the trap of believing that worship is nothing more than singing popular praise choruses. The reality is that worship is what we’re called to be about 24/7 through our constant devotion to God in all the activities of life. Narcissistic devotion to self is simply idolatry.

Fourth, lead your students into a God-centered lifestyle. Our kids are raised in a culture that tells them “it’s all about you.” The result is a lifestyle of selfish indulgence marked by greed and entitlement. As people charged with the task of leading them to spiritual maturity, our goal should be to see their eyes and energies focus less and less on self, and more and more on God while embracing his will. The prophet Amos delivered a message that rocked the world of those who thought they were following God. Through Amos, God said “I hate,” “despise,” “cannot stand” and “will not accept” your offerings and worship. Instead, what God wanted was justice that rolled on like a never-ending river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5). Likewise, the prophet Micah made it clear that God requires that his followers “act justly,” “love mercy” and “walk humbly before God” … actions and postures contrary to a narcissistic lifestyle. Youth ministries and families must be more intentional about offering students opportunities to learn how to faithfully live a life marked by selfless devotion to God through selfless devotion to missions, service and justice.

Finally, pray for crisis to enter the lives of your kids. Narcissism plays and advances well in a culture that feeds the beast of self-absorption from a deep well of luxury and wealth. Sometimes it’s not until the well runs dry through poverty, want or crisis that our students understand their thirst for what it really is—a longing not after self, but after God. While students might not see it as such, it’s a blessing when the clay feet on which a narcissistic lifestyle is built crumble to dust. Sadly, that’s oftentimes what it takes for them to reach out to their heavenly Father. As John Stott reminds us about the prodigal son, “he had to ‘come to himself’ (acknowledge his self-centeredness) before he could ‘come to his father.’” While we hate to see our kids hurt, sometimes their idolatrous obsession with self must be broken down before they can be built back up in Christ.

When I was a teenager, my dad was known around our house for his ever-ready arsenal of clichés—many of which were directed at me and all of which, at the time, I would have rather not heard and just as soon forgotten. There was one little sentence that he’d shoot my way whenever my narcissistic tendencies reared their ugly head: “Walt, the world does not revolve around you.” What often followed was a theology lesson that put me—literally—in my place. My behavior occasioned the utterance of this cliché so often that it’s seared into my being. Dad’s words were more true than I knew, and they’ve wound up being some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever heard. To be honest, I’m glad I haven’t forgotten. We must be obsessed with God, not self. Let’s look for ways to pass that same message on to our kids. In today’s world, it’s a message seldom heard and more rarely lived.


Crazy, informative, some times funny video I found on youtube:

Technology and teenagers (part 3)


Something really gross and concerning is that teenagers are taking nude pictures of themselves on cell phones and exchanging them with other teenagers’.

It is called “Sexting” it is gross, nasty, undignified, and just sinful. “I think the girls, they just want to get their attention and usually it works,” said an eighth grader. Another student in the same grade said, “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘Send me a picture of your boobs’ or ‘Send me a picture of your butt.'”

It may seem wrong and inappropriate to us, – heed this warning- students today are saying it “is just a part of dating”

It is not just cell phones but also websites.

“A lot more girls are aggressive,” said Ray, 18. “Some girls are crazy and they are putting themselves out there.”

Candice Kelsey, a teacher from California, said some teenage girls think they have to be provocative to get boys’ attention. As a result, they will send photos they hope their parents never see.

Parents Should Talk To Teens About Dangers of Sending Pictures of Themselves.

There is no limit to where those pictures could go next…you send a text message and it goes off to world wide web. This is dangerous.

http://youthculturewatch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/05/teen-to-face-tr.html
http://www.zapafly.com/sending+nude+pics+over+cellphone.html
http://www.wiredsafety.org/safety/chat_safety/phone_safety/sms7.html

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Getting online as a parent and letting your kids online


I am not a parent but I have collected some tips and resources that I think would be helpful if I were a parent. I am a youth minister and I want to help parents connect with their teenagers and grow them closer to the Lord.

Stats on how many teenagers are using laptops and spending a lot of wasted time online.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/20laptopsct.html?_r=1&ref=nyregionspecial2&oref=slogin

http://www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/ – Internet Safety Guide for Parents:
“Check site histories, set appropriate age filters, and check out the parental controls on your browser. Teach your kids the basics of safe searching (Google has a safe-search setting), and give them a digital code of conduct. Don’t let them figure it all out by themselves. ” Another helpful page: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/parent_tips/commonsense_view/index.php?id=270

According to CPYU.org – Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, we should:

First, we need to find out why our kids are visiting these sites.
Second, we should make sure we are equipping them properly to deal with the types of information they are confronted with both on these sites and in the world. Third, we must foster an environment of trust.
Fourth, we need to model for them what healthy relationships look like
Fifth, our kids must learn the difference between information and advertising.
Sixth, we need to make sure our kids are safe on the Internet.
(I cut the main principles, go to CPYU.org and read the details under the articles section).

http://www.cnet.com/4520-13384_1-6721000-1.html – CNet shows in this article some physical tools you can actually use and place on or around your computer to monitor and block certain activities.

http://protectkids.com/parentsafety/socialnetworking.htm
– “Rules N Tools” is the page title. I really love this website. It has a lot of good ideas for rules and more tools to help you and your kids figure out social networks and the internet.

Internet-Related Safety Tips for Teens from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

1. Don’t give out personal information about yourself, your family situation, your school, your telephone number, or your address.

2. If you become aware of the sharing, use, or viewing of child pornography online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.

3. When in chatrooms remember that not everyone may be who they say they are. For example a person who says “she” is a 14-year-old girl from New York may really be a 42-year-old man from California.1

4. If someone harasses you online, says anything inappropriate, or does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, contact your Internet service provider.

5. Know that there are rules many Internet Service Providers (ISP) have about online behavior. If you disobey an ISP’s rules, your ISP may penalize you by disabling your account, and sometimes every account in a household, either temporarily or permanently.

6. Consider volunteering at your local library, school, or Boys & Girls Club to help younger children online. Many schools and nonprofit organizations are in need of people to help set up their computers and Internet capabilities.

7. A friend you meet online may not be the best person to talk to if you are having problems at home, with your friends, or at school – remember the teenage “girl” from New York in Tip number three? If you can’t find an adult in your school, church, club, or neighborhood to talk to, Covenant House is a good place to call at 1-800-999-9999. The people there provide counseling to kids, refer them to local shelters, help them with law enforcement, and can serve as mediators by calling their parents.

8. If you are thinking about running away, a friend from online (remember the 14-year-old girl) may not be the best person to talk to. If there is no adult in your community you can find to talk to, call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000. Although some of your online friends may seem to really listen to you, the Switchboard will be able to give you honest, useful answers to some of your questions about what to do when you are depressed, abused, or thinking about running away.”

Freebie Friday: Article (Deciding on a Major)


This is not mine, but it is a great free article for High school seniors and parents with older High School/ young college-age students from CPYU Ministries. I recommend it to High Schoolers and Parents. Here is the trackback link. The full article is posted below:

The beginnings of vocation: Deciding on a major
By Derek Melleby
I recently heard a missionary in Africa tell what it was like to buy toothpaste in the United Sates. He stared at 30 options and eventually left the store—with no purchase. He was overwhelmed. All he wanted was clean teeth. What he got was an anxiety attack. Many of us felt like that missionary when we began college facing the academic array of programs and majors.
There’s a small liberal arts college near my house that has about 1,800 students and offers 53 majors and 80 minors/concentrations. Fifty-three majors? Keep in mind: this is a small school! This could be an anxiety attack waiting to happen. No wonder students are often overwhelmed, and many end up switching majors several times until necessity forces the choice. That’s the point of sociologist Barry Schwartz’s insightful book The Paradox of Choice. Schwartz maintains that choice does, in fact, improve the quality of our lives. No question. The problem, he suggests, is that “as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.” It’s a paradox. More choice can sometimes lead to less freedom. The amount of choices we have can be paralyzing.
The major problem
There are different kinds of choices, of course. Choosing a toothpaste isn’t that big a deal. Some grocery stores may even allow you to return it if you are dissatisfied. Schwartz quips, “I think that in modern America, we have far too many options for breakfast cereal and not enough options for president.” Clearly, some choices are more important than others. For instance, choosing a major. Having 53 majors to choose from sounds good on paper, but then you have to actually choose. You have to say “no” to 52 options. How will you make that decision? What
will you decide to study for the next four years? What role will your faith play in this choice? How important is your major compared to the even bigger question of your future career and calling? Deciding on a major can be difficult. I wish I had a magic formula. But, unfortunately, “magic formulas” wasn’t one of the majors offered at the university I attended. (That was a joke.) This isn’t: the first thing you must consider when deciding on a major is why you are going to college in the first place. Most people go to college to get a degree to get a job. Deciding on a major, for them, is directly related to the kind of job they want to get when they
graduate. This puts a lot of pressure on the decision. Let me ease some of that pressure.
First, studies have shown that most graduates are working in career fields that are not directly related to their program of study. I have a degree in political science and work for two faith based non-profit organizations that have little to do with government. I never had a single class on my daily activities, but I think I “use” my major everyday. (More on that later.) Second, for Christians, while career preparation is one aspect of college, it isn’t the
most critical. More importantly, attending college is a gift from God, given to some of His children as a means to increase their serviceability for Him and their neighbors. That’s a mouthful. Cornelius Plantinga Jr. provides a nice summary in his Engaging God’s World: “Your college education is meant to prepare you for prime citizenship in the Kingdom of God … Your calling is to prepare for further calling, and to do so in a Christian community that cares as
much about the kind of person you are becoming as what kind of job you will eventually get, and as much about how you will do your job as about which job you do.”
The major landscape
But you do need to choose. You can’t remain “undecided” forever. College is already expensive enough! To make an informed decision, you should know the spectrum of majors offered at most colleges and universities. On one end of the spectrum, there are highly specialized, job specific majors. Most of what you learn is directly related to the job you will do once you graduate, with very little wiggle room. These majors often come with certifications that need to be completed. Nursing, engineering, accounting and even teaching fall into this category. On the other
end of the spectrum, there are “liberal arts” degrees. History, English, philosophy and political science are a few examples of the liberal arts. The major consists of a broad-based education, which, at its best, is more concerned with critical thinking skills than job-specific skills. I like to call it: “the little bit of everything major.” Finally, there are majors that fall somewhere in the middle on the continuum. A business degree is a good example. While there is some job-specific knowledge acquired, there is still some room to take other courses (electives) to broaden your
horizons.
This is helpful to know before selecting a major. Here’s the simple question: what kind of education do you want to have? If you are pretty sure you would like to be a nurse, don’t expect too many opportunities to study literature or art history. If you enjoy studying philosophy or religion, majoring in accounting may not be a good fit. You only have so many credits (and years!) to work with and knowing the kinds of classes you can take is an important
question to ask your advisor.
The major decision
I can’t stress this enough: Christians really do need to envision college differently. It’s not enough to simply go through the motions, taking tests, getting grades and receiving degrees like everyone else. Through prayer and conversation with people who know you well, you must always remain open to God’s call and leading. Picking a major may be one of the first times that you truly put your faith in action. Here are some questions to ask when deciding on a major:
First, what interests you? Spiritual growth requires discipline and sacrifice, to be sure (the Bible does speak of denying ourselves), but I don’t think we need to give up or distrust our natural interests. Trust that your passions and interests were given to you by God. The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to suggest that there is something good about “following your heart when you are young.” This idea is also taught in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the
Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Be intentional about nurturing your relationship with God, begin to see the world as He sees it, and be attentive to the Spirit as He directs your interests. Maybe you will discover that you are interested in big ideas and how they shape people and society. Philosophy or sociology would make a good major. We need Christians who are able to discern the times and know what God’s people should do
(1 Chronicles 12:32). Perhaps you realize that you have the gift of teaching, and nothing excites you more than helping students learn new things and grow as people. We need good teachers. The good news is that the creator God is interested in all of His creation, including every field of study, and He’s invited us to share His interests! Is there a possible major or future career area that God doesn’t care about? Math? Geology? Physical therapy? Criminal Justice? Sports management? Computer science? Art history? Jesus loves it all, and we may serve happily
in any of these arenas. Second, how will this major increase your serviceability for God and others? This question is much better than the typical response: “What can you do with that major?” Let’s face it, we live in a “me-centered” world and
college is full of “me-centered” majors. Once again, college should be more about the kind of person you are becoming and less about the kind of skills you are gaining. Be sure to continually ask yourself whether or not this field of study is helping you to grow as a person and serve your neighbors more fully.
Third, who have you talked to about choosing a major? You can never have too many conversation partners. Talk with people who know you well. Ask them what they think should be your major. Talk to people who have a degree in the major you are most interested in. Ask them good questions: How did you choose that major? What were some of the most important things you learned? If you could do it over again, what would you have done differently? Community is essential to making important decisions. The more important the decision, the more
people you need to be in conversation with.
Earlier I mentioned that I majored in political science, but don’t currently work in a career directly related to that field. I chose to study political science because I thought I wanted to be a journalist or a lawyer. As a freshman, I never imagined that I would be doing anything like my current vocation. But I’ve come to really appreciate how my major informs my work today. Critical thinking, a love of reading and the value of civic engagement were all
instilled in me by studying political science. Looking back, political science was a good major for me after all. Although the college chapter of my life story took many twists and turns, one thing remained constant: God was the Author. Choosing a major is an important, but sometimes stressful decision. But it isn’t final. You can certainly change or refine your major along the way. Some things in life—including a proper discernment about our deepest callings and vocations—unfold even as we enter the process of clarifying our call. Through it all, just remember that trusting the Author of your story is more important still.
Derek Melleby serves as director of the College Transition Initiative for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
If you want to know more about CPYU’s College Transition Initiative, or to book a CTI Seminar at your church, visit CPYU on the Web at http://www.cpyu.org. If you’d like to learn more about the college experience, order Derek’s book, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students, from the resource center on our Web site. Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Comment magazine, the opinion journal of the Work Research
Foundation (www.wrf.ca/comment).