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Back to School Fears

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As another school year begins, I’m aware of how much of my child’s life is outside of my control.  Will they have a good teacher?  How are we going to survive this crazy schedule?  Will they make friends this year?  Will they have a bully or make good choices or… the list can go on and on.

I wanted to share this article below that include 5 simple steps to face your back to school fears.

How I Hope my Back-to-School Faith is Different This Year  
by Kara Powell

A few days ago, I was struck by how Jesus praises the faith of the centurion: “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:10). That affirmation stands in stark contrast to the condemnatory greeting Jesus gives His disciples when they wake him in the middle of a furious storm: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26).

Why did Jesus praise the centurion and condemn the disciples?

After all, the disciples respected Jesus’ power enough to beg him to save them.

And the disciples were experienced fishermen, so this must have been a major storm.

So what did the disciples do wrong?

They were afraid. They panicked. Like the centurion, they knew that Jesus could deliver them, but they weren’t sure he would. So they were still full of fear.

My kids’ back-to-school season kindles new fears in me as a parent.

After the more relaxing pace of summer, I worry about the influx of school stress—ranging from trying to get out the door in the morning to navigating hours of evening homework.

I worry that my kids won’t get the teachers they want. Or that I want for them.

I am afraid that my more introverted child will withdraw into books.

I am afraid that my more extroverted child won’t hit the books enough.

I so want to have the type of faith that Jesus applauds. And I think a gospel-infused response to fear is more than repeatedly telling (or more accurately, berating) myself, “Don’t be afraid, Kara. Trust Jesus.” There has to be a healthy middle ground between denial and despair.

What can we do when we face back-to-school anxieties and fears?

1. Pay attention to them.

Don’t deny them or dwell on them, but acknowledge the fears you have as your family plunges back into the world of school lunches and rushed carpools.

2. See if you can figure out what’s underneath that fear.

What is behind the fear you have about your child, or your family’s schedule? Is it your own feelings of inadequacy, or your own struggles with loneliness?

3. Talk to others about what you’re fearing.

I often forget that I’m not alone in these fears. Most of my friends have their own fears, and even if they aren’t identical to mine, they generally stem from the same roots of shame or inadequacy. Knowing that brings me comfort.

4. Talk with Jesus about them.

Talking with a friend helps. Talking with Jesus helps more. Fears get smaller when I talk with Jesus about them.

5. Talk with Jesus with your kids.

When any of my kids share their concerns about their teacher, homework, or friendships, I try to talk to Jesus aloud right then and there. We pray that God would guide them to the right friends at lunch. We ask God to put them in the classes where they can best be salt and light.

https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/back-to-school-faith

Speak Life. They need it.

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I had no idea that was going on behind the surface.

Most of us are too afraid to actually be vulnerable with one another, but on this night over 60 high school students decided to let their guard down and be real.

We know developmentally that high school students are right in the middle of searching for identity and figuring out who they are.  We know that their brains are not fully developed in the area of decision making.  So, of course, we expect the teenage years to bring moments of trouble, hurt, mistakes, high highs and low lows.

It’s part of adolescence.  It’s part of growing up.

That night we asked the high school students to trace their hand on a sheet of paper and write one thing they needed help (anonymously)  with on the open palm of their hand.  We then taped these hands to the wall and they went around and prayed for each other.

As I moved around the room, I realized that there is more going on than you think.

These are put together, physically fit, intelligent, social — the type of kids you’d expect to be on top of the world.  But beneath the surface they are all hurting in very real ways.

Parents, my encouragement to you today is to take a moment in the coming week and look your son or daughter in the eyes and speak life into them.  Speak over them words of identity.  Speak over them words of what you see in them.  Speak over them the joy it is to know them.

I encourage you to give them space to share what’s going on.  Look them in the eyes, with your full attention, and ask them how they are doing.  Don’t dismiss what they share as trivial (even if it is!), because your attention and reaction on the small things will open the door for more vulnerability in the future.

You have more influence than you think!

This part of growing up  — so don’t be surprised by it, but don’t let it pass by.  There is an opportunity to shape the heart, mind, soul, and future of your child.

If you were to stop right now and write down some words of identity or significance for your child, what would they be?

Now make a plan to share it!  Speak life.  As I learned that night, they are desperate for it even if they hide it really well.

 

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Here’s a related post for further reflectionSpeak Up! You Might Change Their Life.

Hard Questions, Doubt, and Faith

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This past week has been difficult to process for many.  As a father of young kids, I’m struggling to know how to explain the world we live in to a young mind.

For those of you with older students, you may be fielding tough questions – questions you may not know how to answer.   “How is it possible that the police would kill an innocent man?”  “How is it possible a man would kill innocent police officers?”  “Why do people kill at all?”  “Where is God in all of this?”  “Why does God let this evil happen?”

I’m hoping this post, that appeared last May, will be helpful as you navigate these next few weeks with your son or daughter.  Don’t sweep it under the rug…Engage, knowing you don’t have to have all the answers and asking, begging the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Don’t try to come up with perfect answer.  At times a simple, “I honestly don’t know” or “It doesn’t make sense to me, but here’s what I hope…” or “I don’t have many answers, but I’m willing to pray with you” will go much further than trying to say what you think you’re supposed to say.

Praying for you, your family, and our country.

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

WHAT TO DO WITH DOUBT AND TOUGH QUESTIONS

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?  Does God endorse violence?  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 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?

SURE, LET’S TALK MORE TOMORROW

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.

DOUBT IS OK

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:

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