Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

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!)



Half Story

“Well…they’re probably going to need therapy for that later in life!”  This half-joking statement is made in our house from time to time.  I’m sure you’ve uttered something similar in your home.  But joking aside, there is a question of what we are passing on to our children.  What are they learning from us?  What are they picking up as they grow up in this family?

Particularly, as a follower of Jesus, I hope my kids catch on to the incredible joy it is to know and follow Jesus.  I imagine you do as well!

Good news for parents of faith - There is currently a great amount of research on this very thing!  The folks over at Fuller Youth Institute have been conducting research on what makes faith “stick” in young people.  You may surprised to find that most research suggests that out of those who grow up in church only 50% have a faith that “sticks” into adulthood.  (Many others report even lower numbers.)

Fuller has taken their research on “sticky” faith and created some great resources for families.  (Check out resources, articles, and more info here

I want to focus today on one of their findings.  Basically, that students who grow up in families of faith and around the church don’t have a clear picture of the gospel or what it means to be a Christian.  I’m wondering if that’s because many parents (and the church!) don’t have a clear understanding of this either.


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.

I moved to Houston shortly after the whole Enron incident.  I became very intrigued by the whole situation and read many books and articles on what happened.  I will never forget reading a statement from the top executive who said something to the effect of this — “I’m a born-again Christian and live my personal life accordingly.  This is just business.”

Those are not his exact words, but as I read the article, that was the sentiment.  My personal life is one thing and business is another.  There is no overlap.  I couldn’t believe it!


Gabe Lyons in his book, The Next Christians  – Seven Ways to Live the Gospel and Restore the World, lays out where this thinking comes from.  Gabe says we’ve believed and bought into a half-story.  It’s a true story and is pivotal in understanding the Christian gospel, but we’ve missed the whole story.

The half-story is made up of 2 parts – The Fall and Redemption.

The Fall- You and are born sinners and therefore we have a problem.  Sin separates us from God.  If left in this state, we have no hope.

Redemption – God sends Jesus to die on our behalf.  Through His death and resurrection we are redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God.

This is oversimplified, no doubt, but captures the basic idea.  Is this true?  Absolutely.  Is this central to understanding Christianity – without a doubt!  Is it the whole story – no.


If the gospel is simply something that saves us from our sin problem and allows us to punch a ticket to heaven one day, then it’s possible to see how we could be so dualistic in our thinking. For the Enron executive, what happened in the world and how he conducted business had very little to do with his personal faith that allows him to escape this world one day.

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.

Statistics tell you that 50% of more eventually take faith off one day and just never put it back on.

Dallas Willard calls this the “gospel of sin management”.  It’s about what we can and can’t do.  It’s about managing our sin.  In an increasingly post-christian world this only gets harder.  There has to be a better way.

The next post will invite us into the whole story and how we can better share a gospel with our sons and daughters that “sticks” and guides their entire lives!  (School, friends, media, business, dating, etc.)

Until then, what gospel do you believe in?  Does your faith interact with the whole of your life or is it compartmentalized or regulated to the sidelines?

What about your son or daughter?  What is the gospel you are sharing with them by the way you live and operate in the world?


P.S. – I can’t recommend Gabe’s work enough.  He was recently to our group and there has been a lot of great conversation in the wake of our time together.  Check out his work here:

Also check out either one of these books.  You can’t go wrong:



Now What?

There’s a lot of talk about helicopter (or insert your other favorite adjective lawnmower/hovering/bulldozer) parents these days.  But it is tempting to want to play that role in our kid’s lives.  Especially when it comes to protecting our kids from pain.

Few moments are harder for a parent than watching your son or daughter experience a disappointment. Whether it’s being cut from the team, failing the test, or not getting the part in the school play, teenage disappointments can feel devastating. Even if the situation doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it can cause a teen to nosedive!


A Lack of Perspective

I remember when I was being interviewed for a high school newspaper as a new youth pastor in town.  I was asked,

“What is one thing you want teens to know?”

My answer was simple.

“So many things in a teen’s life feel like they carry the weight of the world.  If it doesn’t happen now, don’t worry, you have a lot of life left to live.”

I’m not sure they found this answer very profound.  In fact I’m not sure they even gave it much thought.  For a teen, there’s a lot of pressure to have the right friends, get the right grades, date the right person, make your name in sports, and the list goes on.  In the middle all of this, students don’t always have a lot of perspective.  They can’t always see past the here and now.

No one wants to see their kid crumble under this pressure.  That’s why it’s so tempting to help students avoid disappointment instead of learning to deal with it. In our minds we know that let-downs are a part of life and teaching our students to manage them is healthy, but there is a difference between “preparing the path for the child and preparing the child for the path”. 

Does that mean we have to be completely hands-off when our son or daughter is going through a tough time? Not necessarily.

In his blog post, Helping Students Handle Disappointment and Pain, Dr. Tim Elmore gives parents four tips for helping their students walk through a disappointing time without bailing them out of it.

  1. Talk to students about disappointment and pain. Let them know it is a part of life and a big part of growing up into healthy adults.
  2. Share some of your own stories of past hurt or disappointments, and how you learned to deal with them.
  3. Give your students perspective — big picture perspective — one that really matters. Help them separate the eternal issues from the temporal ones.
  4. Do something together that may introduce sacrifice or hurt, and reflect on the experience along the way.

 See more at:

These seem like simple conversations or suggestions, but I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to sit, be present, and talk it through.  Even if it drives you crazy how irrational it seems!  You attention and presence is much more impactful than you know!

Try This

One of the greatest things we can do for our children is give them the tools to navigate disappointment. Sharing stories is a great way to model both the how-to and the how-not-to when it comes to handling tough circumstances.

Choose one of the options below as a conversation starter sometime this week.

 Option 1: Talk about one person who has inspired you in the way they have handled disappointment.

Option 2: Share a story of a time you were disappointed (by a situation that does not involve your family) and how you could have handled that disappointment in a healthier way.



Now What? is also a series we are teaching students this month developed by our good friends at Orange.  Get connected to a wider community of parents at


Joy and Forgiveness

Here’s a quick practical thought that will apply to every relationship in your life.  Mainly because every relationship has conflict.

This thought is currently being put into practice daily, if not hourly, in my house.  Our strong-willed child has turned parenting into a battle of wills and each day the battle rages on (a little exaggeration there, but not much).  Right now, parenting feels more like breaking a wild horse than anything else.

This thought has been providing perspective and bringing clarity to what is truly important.  It’s helping me not only “train a child in the way they should go” (read into that – constant, tiresome discipline), but also fight for my child’s heart.  It reminds me this isn’t a battle of wills to win, but a fight for relationship.

So, here it is:

“Fun validates forgiveness because you can’t play with someone you haven’t forgiven.”

–Reggie Joiner

Some of you are underwhelmed.  I get that.  But I think this has profound implications.  Reggie goes on to say, “Parents should go do something fun as a way to show forgiveness.”  Many of you get this intuitively.  In fact, kids do this everyday with their friends – “I’m sorry.  It’s ok.  Let’s go play” and off they run.

As parents and adults, we sometimes don’t turn that corner as quickly as our kids do, but they have something to teach us here.

In the heat of the moment, after a showdown with my daughter, I gather myself and go to her to offer forgiveness.  That alone is powerful and often neglected.  But to follow that up with joy and play, does several things –

1.  Speaks to identity (you are loved and I still enjoy you)
2.  Pursues relationship over other options (compliance, authority, etc…)
3.  Validates the discipline.  (The discipline was necessary and done in love.  Forgiveness followed by fun/Joy proves that.)

The list could go on.

I’m talking about a child here, but you can apply this principle to any relationship.

How do you see this principle affecting your relationships? 

Is this just a helpful reminder?  Or do you have some habits in conflict that need to change and this is a great starting point? 

What would this look like to practice with your spouse or a family member?

Let’s make joy and forgiveness staples in our home.  So go ahead, make something fun happen today!


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