Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

Raising Kids in the Digital Age – Repost

With summer coming and idle time high for many students, I thought it might be a good time to post this series originally posted in April of last year.  Raising Kids in the Digital Age was a parent seminar we did on our student’s relationship with technology!  No one is immune to this topic…so, as you read, I’m going to go break up the fight between my kids (5 & under) who are arguing over who gets to hold the iPad.

Recently, I was part of a parent workshop on “Raising Kids in the Digital Age”.   Here is recap of that seminar in three parts.

Social media, smartphones, and tablets are a part of the fabric of everyday life for a majority of folks. We  conducted a survey of 70 middle and high school students in our community in regards to their usage.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • 90% of students have a smartphone (93% HS, 86% MS)
  • Use of Social Media grows exponentially from MS to HS
  • 71% of our MS students check Social Media less than 5x a day
  • 70% of our HS students check Social Media more than 5x a day, 50% say they more than 10x a day.
  • Instagram and Snapchat are most popular among our students
  • 35% of students say Facebook is “not so cool anymore”

When asked if they were “addicted” (no definition of ‘addicted’ was given)

  • 54% addicted to cell phone
  • 32% addicted to a social media site
  • 34% addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

When asked if their parents were “addicted”

  • 42% said parents addicted to cell phone
  • 21% said parents addicted to social media
  • 40% said parents addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

This is all best illustrated with this ad:


Now, before we go any further, let’s frame the conversation.  Take a moment to look in the future and imagine the end.  Imagine where your child is going to end up.  In the future, your child is now 18/19 and is no longer under your roof.  They are mostly on their own (though not financially most likely).

How have you prepared them for this moment?
What matters most at this point?
In regards to technology, are their elements of their current behavior that could affect their future?

To get our kids to a healthy place by the time they leave the nest we need a goal.  Might I suggest a simple goal that most of us will agree is worthwhile?

Our goal for our kids is that they become mature, Jesus-following adults. 

We want our kids to grow in wisdom and in relationships.  We want them to live lives that honor Christ, not just simply follow a set of rules or behaviors.

Here’s a great quote to help us think about this:

“Don’t forget the end game:  As parents of teenagers, we are trying to raise adults.  We’re more interested in wisdom than compliance, more interested in responsibility than in high walls of protection, and more interested in healthy parent/teen communication than maintaining a veneer of good appearances.”  – Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane

So as we start to think about how to deal with the new realities of the digital age, let’s take a quick look at the process of adolescence.  This is where kids are developmentally and has some significant insight into how we regulate or approach this topic.


This is very simplistic, but I’m going to pull out 3 developmental tasks of adolescence that developmental psychology identifies.  In order to become an adult you must work through these 3 tasks:

Identity – Who am I?
Autonomy – What is my power?  Self-sufficiency/self-governing
Belonging – Where do I fit?
(You may have an idea that this process of adolescence ends around 18, but you may surprised to know that many psychologists and developmental experts say that adolescence now extends into the mid-twenties!) 

Think about this process for a minute.  You are trying to answer these questions, which is an isolating task because it’s up to the individual.  At the same time, you are taking in input constantly from family, friends, and authority figures about who you are and/or who you should be.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Social Media only intensifies this dynamic.  

Again, your child is navigating the teen years trying to answer the above 3 questions.  They are searching Instagram and other forms of social media for validation and answers to these questions.  They are testing the waters of identity by trying on different selves – possibly different selves in different settings.  Many times the online version is different than the real life version as a part of this process.

So, before we move on to pro’s and con’s of technology and how to regulate it’s usage – because I think the above has significant implications on how we consider this whole topic –  think about the following questions:

As you imagine your son or daughter sitting in their college dorm for the first time, what things in regards to the 3 tasks of adolescence do you hope to have communicated?

How do you see usage of technology and social media interacting with these questions?  Is a positive contribution or a negative one?

Consider again the quote by Mark and Adam above, how do we teach wisdom over compliance?  How do we fight the urge to build high walls of protection and instead figure out ways to come alongside our adolescences to give them what they need to become adults?

In the next 2 posts, we will look at the pro’s and con’s of technology and we will also discuss how parents can regulate their kids usage of technology.



Mark and Adam wrote a great book that was a companion for us as we put this presentation together.  You can check it out here:

Here’s a link to the video of part 1 of the session.  It’s broken into 2 parts:
Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (a)

Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (b)

What to do with Doubt?

“It’s not doubt or hard questions that are toxic to faith.  It’s silence.”

Recently, we’ve been hosting discussions with graduating seniors on some really tough questions of the faith – Can I trust the Bible?  Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?  What does the Bible say about being gay?  Is Jesus really the only way to God?   – among others.

It’s been an incredibly rich time together and it made me think about a little more about doubt.

I’ve shared with you several times Fuller’s research where they look at what causes faith to stick in young people.  (In case you aren’t familiar – they reason they studied “sticky faith” is to figure out why over 50% of students who grow up going to youth group, etc. leave the faith after high school.)

In a recent study they found out that many of the leaders of campus-based atheist groups named the church’s failure to engage difficult questions as a key reason they left the church.

Notice what they didn’t say – they didn’t say  it was what the church said about these issues, but the fact that they didn’t address them at all.

What about you?  

Does your family allow for the opportunity to ask difficult questions?  When a difficult question comes up, do you quickly try to address it and move on or do you invite your child into further discussion?

If we look at the results above, I wonder if some of our high school students (and younger ones as well) are wishing they had a place to explore some tough questions they are wrestling with?


Two years ago, I took over 60 middle schoolers to Colorado for a trip.  During one of our nightly debrief sessions a students asked a questions about dinosaurs and evolution.  I responded that didn’t fit our discussion for the night, but if anyone was interested in further exploring that question, I would address it during our “free time” tomorrow.  I anticipated a few students would give up their precious free time – in Colorado – during the summer.

Almost half the trip showed up!

It was an incredible discussion and to be honest, I rarely talked – I just asked questions and they responded to each other and I chimed in occasionally.


Fuller’s research has also observed that “wrestling with doubt – even doubt in God can be a very healthy process.”  I’ve also heard it said “doubt is fertile ground for growth”.

Take a moment and think about a time of serious doubt in your life.  In most cases in my life, doubt has only given me the opportunity to dive deeper into what I believe about God and the world.  In the cases where I haven’t experienced growth – I typically ignored the doubt.

What would it look like to open up a conversation with your teen about their questions and doubts?  What it would it look like to let them know that any doubts or questions they have are welcome and you will make time to process it with them?

I can promise you this – they have doubts and questions.  The question is where and with whom can they process them?  So…

“As eight years of Sticky Faith research has shown, it’s not doubt or hard questions that are toxic to faith.  It’s silence.”

Based on my experience with the high school graduates and their questions and doubt, I’m encouraging you to break the silence.


**We used a resource by Fuller and you may find this resource helpful for yourself in regards to this (no, they don’t pay me for this.  I attended classes there and have followed their research from the beginning as I think it’s critically important info).  Check it out here:

They’ve also released another volume, that I have yet to check out, but it can be found here:


Lately, I’ve been connecting with and hearing stories from parents, who I consider to have incredible relationships with their kids throughout the high school/college years and into adulthood.  There is depth, communication, and joy in these relationships.  On top of that, they actually look like they enjoy being around one another!

We all know there is plenty of unhealthy forms of this, but this isn’t that type of relationship.  I know that many of us desire this type of relationship, but you might be wondering like I did…“How did you guys do that?”

Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Church, said he and his wife had these two goals in regards to their family life together:
1.  We want to enjoy each other when the kids are gone.
2.  When our kids are grown, we want them to want to be together, and with us, when they don’t have to be.

YES!  That’s it.  Simple, yet these take some work to accomplish.

Connecting with your child takes intentionality. There’s a rhythm there, a pace, a consistency that your child can rely on. Maybe it’s at the dinner table. Maybe it’s every Saturday morning. It looks different for different families.

But there has been a common theme in the stories I’ve heard from the parents I mentioned earlier—it’s not just a one-time thing.  It can’t be.  I think this article will help you think about it in a new way.

By Reggie Joiner

It takes a quantity of quality time spent together to create a rhythm of connecting in your family. And the simple reason that it takes quantity of quality time is because significant moments are unpredictable. Most of us want to be there when our baby takes the first step, or our daughter makes her first basketball goal, or our son wins an award, or our child asks an important question. But you just never know when significant moments are going to happen.

If you hope to be present for the significant moments, then you will have to be present for the seemingly insignificant moments.

It’s like when I try to catch a picture of lightning. It’s a tricky thing for a photographer to shoot lightning. You can’t take the shot when you see the light. At that point it’s really too late. By the time you press the shutter release you have already missed it.

The best strategy is to set the camera to continuously shoot, so that it actually stands a better chance of opening the shutter before the lightning strikes. Sure you will get a lot of insignificant photos that way, but it’s probably the only chance you have of catching some incredible moments.

Kids and lightning have a lot in common. If you want to experience some extraordinary moments with your children, then you have to be there for a lot of ordinary moments.

Looking back I am grateful that…

I limited my travel schedule away from home when my kids were young.

I rarely missed attending a school, athletic or church event with them.

I worked to keep my schedule flexible when they were teenagers.

I learned to do those things just in case something came up (and it almost always did).

I’ve never met an older mom or dad, who said, “Yeah if had it to do all over again, I’d spend less time with my kids, and more time doing other things.” They seem to always say just the opposite.

“I wish I had spent more time with my kids …”

Just remember it’s easy to miss a lightning bolt. It happens fast—then it’s gone.

The best way to catch unpredictable moments with your children is to be predictable with how you spend time together.


From Reprinted with permission. © 2010 Orange.


If you have a great story to share or a rhythm that worked for your family to accomplish this, please share it with us in the comments!

Don’t Waste Your Breath

It’s that time of year that brings about reflection, anxiety, hope, and the desire to make the most of the time left.  This applies to any parent whose students are experiencing a transition (preschool to elementary, MS to HS) but any parents of seniors out there???

We’ve been walking our seniors through a College Prep series.  We’ve been looking at tough questions of the faith and throwing in a few life skills as well.  That go me thinking…

Have you ever had a conversation with your teenager that felt like a complete flop? Like your words bounced off a brick wall? You’re probably not alone. Most parents feel incredible pressure to have meaningful conversations with their students, and yet those conversations are met with resistance if not total refusal to engage. This is especially true when it comes to matters of faith.

When parents seem willing enough to talk, why is it that teens often feel so resistant to listening?

It may be all in the approach.


Many teens feel like every parent-initiated conversation has an agenda. And let’s be honest, they may be right. During the teen years, as parents realize their time with their teen is limited, there is a sense of urgency surrounding all of the life lessons and important conversations that they feel they SHOULD have with their child before college. With the pressure mounting to work in all of these lessons, it is easy for parents to resort to talking at their student instead of talking with them.

While the intentions are good, if the majority of conversations center around a lesson, teens can end up feeling like they don’t measure up. Like their parents care more about “fixing them” or “setting them straight” than they do about connecting with them. Who wants to feel that way all the time?

This sort of dynamic can make conversations about faith even more tricky. It can set up students to feel inadequate and then tune out the parents. And tuned out parents feel equally inadequate and want to stop trying.  No thanks, there has to be a better way.


Helping students live out their faith, helping them develop values and habits they will carry into adulthood is one of the most important parts of a parent’s job. So how do you teach those lessons without running the risk of being shut out? How do you have a conversation without having “a talk”? How do you begin to move forward in your relationship and not backwards?

Maybe the answer is actually to talk less.

Don’t you remember when your kids were little and they were often imitating you, maybe a little bit too accurately?  While teens don’t make it as obvious, they still take cues about what is important by watching their parents. What you prioritize, what you organize your schedule and budget around will communicate loudly what you believe is important-without ever having to tell them.

So maybe instead of talking about the importance of spending money wisely, you invite them to help you figure out the family budget this month. Maybe instead of working “church” into the conversation, you simply trust that your example, that your commitment, is sending the message.  (Or at least approach the conversation differently, “Have I ever shared how Jesus became so important in my life…”.  I’d be way more interested in hearing that than why I should make sure and wake up on Sunday morning to fulfill my duty of attendance.  Now back to the main point…)  Maybe instead of talking about the importance of serving others, it’s just something you do together.

When you lead with your actions, it takes a lot of pressure off the conversation. And the more conversations you have, without a lesson attached, the more your teen will trust that you like them, as a person.  It might even open the door to more meaningful conversation—because now you’re talking with them and not at them.


Let’s get practical.

Developing a habit of serving, or moving on behalf of others as a family, can seem daunting when family schedules and budgets are already stretched to the max. But serving doesn’t mean that you have to volunteer at a soup kitchen every week or build a well in Africa on your own. Simply meeting one person’s need is a big step and will go a long way in helping your teenager develop an awareness for the needs around him or her.

Choose one elderly neighbor or single mom in your community and invite your student to help you decide on ONE THING you can do for that person. Something as simple as making them dinner and bringing it over could make their day. And every member of the family can be involved. Invite your student to help you decide on the menu, buy the groceries, prepare and deliver the meal.

Serving somewhere every week or every month may not be a possibility for your family, but simply developing an awareness of the needs around you and moving on behalf of one person can help students develop the habit of caring for the world around them.


Adapted with permission.  ©2013 The reThink Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Get connected to a wider community of parents at

Whole Story

“If you were to do die tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?”

You may have been asked that question before.

It’s the question that the half-story version of the gospel asks.

It’s a question that matters and gives pause for thought, but it’s also a question that can be dangerous and misleading.

As discussed in the last post, Half Story, Fuller’s research has found that somewhere around or above 50% of youth group participants walk away from their faith.  Part of this, according to their research, is that these students do not have a clear understanding of the gospel.  For many, I’m guessing they’ve believed a half story.  (If you haven’t checked out the previous post, I encourage you to take a quick look at it, to help our conversation here.)


Students today are in a world that is increasingly diverse and post-christian.  Students today are flooded with a variety of ideas about what is true and what is the best way to live.  If we only are telling the half-story, I’m afraid it’s not going to hold up.  It’s not going to compel them to live full lives for Jesus.  They may just punch their ticket and put faith on cruise control.  Put it on when they need it.  Take it off when it doesn’t make sense with the world.

As students enter high school and begin looking for autonomy and exploring what life has to offer, the nature of the gospel story we share has significant ramifications.  If we condense the gospel to only the fall and redemption then we might leave them with a story that feels rather boring.  As Gabe Lyon’s points out, “By truncating the full narrative, it reduces the power of God’s redeeming work on the cross to just a proverbial ticket to a good afterlife.”  Students might be left asking:

“Is this all there is to Christianity?  Did Jesus die only so we could get out of this place and go somewhere else?  What if I like it here?”


I’m continuing to borrow from Gabe’s work here, but this is something that I’ve felt in my own life for quite sometime.  It always struck me as odd that so much of the church and message of the church I grew up around had to do with the afterlife and not the here and now.  As a student, I was often confused about why the best answers to the toughest questions I had, seemed more like scare tactics than a substantive answer.

(i.e. – “Sex is to be avoided at all costs and will cause you terrible pain!”  This scare tactic was a half story at best.  In reality, sex was God’s idea and it is good when we understand God’s larger story and how sex fits in.  I needed  a whole story answer and was getting a fear-based plea that showed no understanding of the larger story.)

As I began to study the scriptures, I noticed Jesus spent a lot more time focusing on how we should live in the here and now than he did describing the life to come or inviting us to find a way out of this world.  I think my feelings above echo some of what Fuller found in their research.  If we are not careful, we can easily be passing along a gospel that is like handing someone a novel with the first and last chapters missing.


Gabe reminds us in his work,The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World, that the gospel story consists of 4 parts:

Creation.  Fall.  Redemption.  Restoration.

As we pointed out last time, most presentations center on the middle two.  Again, the middle two are central to the story and more important than I can even portray, but we can’t leave out the beginning and the ending.   We all know the beginning and the ending, but may need to learn them anew.

Creation:  As God created, he looked at his creation and proclaimed, “this is good.”  Creation shows us how God intended the world to be.  Creation shows us the good world God created and designed and the way humanity interacted with this world – as stewards and caretakers of this good gift.  Adam heard God walking and there was no distortion in the relationship between God and the first humans nor between Adam and Eve as they were both “naked and felt no shame.”

Fall happens and distortion enters.  This is not how it was intended to be.  God enters the story through Jesus and brings redemption.  But the story doesn’t end there…

Restoration:  Jesus’ death and resurrection invites us into eternal life- an eternal life that actually begins right now and not just in the future.  The effects of Jesus work in our life brings us back to a taste of what it was in the beginning and foreshadows what is to come in the afterlife.  It invites to not just be saved from something (death or a way to escape this world) but to something – namely, “participation in God’s work of restoration in our lives and in the world.”

“Like a capstone to the story of God, Christians are called to partner in the restorative work so that the torch of hope is carried until Christ returns.”

–Gabe Lyons


Can you see the difference?  Can you feel the weight of your call as a follower of Christ?  This isn’t about an escape!  This is about a rescue mission!

You and I are to lives our lives in such a way that reflects the kingdom of God that was and is to come.  By following Jesus, we can give people a foretaste of what is to come and a reminder of the world that God wired in our hearts when he created us in His image and placed us in the garden.

Many people look around at their lives and don’t think “this is good.  In fact, this is the opposite of good”, but we have the opportunity as followers of Christ to be the hope bearers that step into the the “not good” of this world and change it so that folks get a taste of the “very good” world that God described in the beginning!


As I shared in the previous post,

For many students, faith isn’t relevant out in the “marketplace” of high school or within the social structures (peer groups, media, culture) that they are immersed in.  With this in mind, Christianity or living as a follower of Jesus is something you put on when you need it and take off when you don’t.

The half story understanding allows students to disregard the gospel when it doesn’t make sense with the world.

The whole story doesn’t allow that.  This gospel has weight in the marketplace of high school and the social structures that students swim in.  It invites them to see the world as it ought to be and work towards making that a reality.  It invites them to be known by Jesus and let his love transform them and propel them into loving others.

As a follower of Jesus, our life in this world isn’t something to escape – it’s an adventure, it’s a mission, it’s something to enjoy, it’s something to sacrifice for, and it’s something worth giving our whole lives to.

What do you think?  Does this understanding change how you view the gospel or your life in light of the gospel?

Do you think students and/or your kids can grasp this understanding and it carry weight in the midst of their busy teenage lives?  

How do we get this message through?
(This last question is one that I’m asking myself and don’t have a great answer…if you have one, I’d love to hear it!)



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