Thoughts that inspire, challenge, and increase influence

Sending Kids to Summer Camp? Here’s How to Debrief

Who doesn’t love summer camp?!?

Camp was a staple of my summer as a youth and I always looked forward to a spending a week at camp.  It was a place God showed up in significant ways and it always provided growth in my social/physical/spiritual life as a teen. There was one part of summer camp I always dreaded though…

It wasn’t the fear of going alone without a friend…

or being away from home…

or communal bathrooms…

It was the car ride home and the 20 questions I knew my mom was dying to pepper me with.

As soon as we started driving home, they would come flying at me…”How was this?  Who was that?  What was your favorite?  Did you remember this?  What did you learn?  Did I see you talking to that girl?”  I would answer one, maybe two and then shut down.  I didn’t have it in me and I didn’t know what to say in some cases.  It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about camp or share my experiences, I just wasn’t ready yet.

If you read this blog, you know that I love the folks over at Orange ( and they have put together a camp conversation guide that I want to share with you.  It’s broken down into what to say NOW, what to say LATER, and what NOT to say.

What to say NOW:

The truth is your student may not be ready to talk a lot their first day back.  Do you best to keep it simple.  If they offer more and want to share, go for it, but don’t be offended if they don’t.  Ask a question or two and then let them be!

  1. What was one fun thing you did?
  2. What was the best part of your week?
  3. Who is one person you got to know better?

What to say LATER:

They may be more ready to chat after a day or two, but they still may not be able to put their experience into words.  They’re still processing – trying to figure out how to bring what they learned there back to their normal, everyday life.  Specific questions may help get better answers.

  1. What is one thing that surprised you about the week?
  2. What is one thing you learned about God, yourself, or others this week?
  3. Is there anything you decided to do differently because of what you experienced at camp?

What NOT to say:

Camp often feels sacred to a student.  It may be because they felt closer to God or maybe they became closer to friends and felt accepted.  Either way, your student will feel far less likely to talk if they feel you don’t understand or don’t approve.  Do you best to keep your tone positive.   Avoid these phrases:

  1. Did you learn anything this week?
  2. It sounds like all you guys did is goof off.
  3. You’re sure not acting like you learned anything.

Did I dread my mom’s 20 questions?  Yep.  That being said, I’m incredibly thankful she was engaged and willing to enter into my world.  I am thankful she cared enough to ask.  I’m thankful she wasn’t silent about the spiritual life and wanted to encourage my growth and development there.

So, don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be offended if they don’t share much.  They may not be ready yet, but you can always revisit a day or two later or even a few days later.  Hope this helps!


Stories, Movies and Real Life

It must be summer, because I’ve actually seen a movie recently.  As a parent of young kids, that doesn’t happen that often.  There’s been a lot written on the power of story and more to come.  But I want to focus on how you might leverage going to the movies this summer into a time to learn more about your son or daughter.

We’ve all noticed how a good movie or book can draw and offer you something unique.

Something big.

Something more.

A good story has the ability to make you feel connected to something bigger than yourself and the routine of your everyday life.  A good story allows us to both escape reality and capture it at the same time.

This is true for adults and for our students.  I can recall watching Lord of the Rings and thinking I just stumbled upon the meaning of life – friendship, struggle, perseverance, good vs. evil, adventure…as I sat in the theater, I knew there was more to life than what my daily experience tells me.  I also knew in that moment, I was wired to live a great story, I just needed to get busy doing it!

In stories we find a piece of ourselves—we find something to identify with that makes us feel like we can know ourselves a little bit better.

An excerpt from a 2012 Psychology Today article pinpoints exactly what this looks like for teenagers (to read the full article, go to

Psychologists such as Dan McAdams (The Stories We Live By) argue that identity is inherently narrative. Fundamental questions such as “Who am I?” are answered through the stories we [speak] out about ourselves. Stories about our struggles, our triumphs, our loves, and our hates combine into the sum total of our sense of self. For most people, these identity stories really emerge in adolescence. Certainly younger children tell stories, but their stories tend to be loose and episodic. In adolescence, people start trying to tell stories that put all the pieces of what they do and think together into a more or less coherent whole.

One of the things I was doing in early adolescence was reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It immersed me in a strange world that only vaguely mirrored my own, yet the archetypal motifs of the quest, wisdom, heroism, and evil were instantly familiar. Tolkien transformed these motifs into a series of tales that idealized friendship, loyalty, endurance, sacrifice and compassion, and these themes were woven into my identity.

Books, movies, music, television shows—the things of culture—matter to students, because they identify a piece of themselves in the stories being told. They feel connected to something bigger while simultaneously discovering something more about themselves. And we, as parents, have the potential to tap into that—not only to learn about our students, but teach them a bit about ourselves as well. When we learn about the stories that matter to them and share our own stories, we grow in understanding and this gives us amazing relational leverage.

So, here’s two opportunities for you to connect with your student around this idea of story and identity. You can choose whichever one feels the most comfortable for you, or find time to do both.

Option A: Find out from your student what their favorite movie is and then sit down and watch it together. Before or after the movie, take some time to talk about some of the themes that were present (good versus evil, brokenness and redemption, good choices versus bad choices, etc.) and then ask your student why they like that particular movie. What connects with them the most? What do they feel when they watch it?  The goal is to simply have a dialogue with your student to discover more about who they are and give them a chance to share their favorite story with you.

Option B: Just as learning about oneself through stories is an important process of adolescence, so is learning about the story of your parents. Take some time to share your own story with your son or daughter. When did you first discover how much God loved you? When did you make a decision to follow Jesus? Who or what played a role in that decision? Share about your faith journey so that your student can begin to understand your story as an important part of their own.

Consider this your excuse to enjoy a movie this summer!


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©2013 The reThink Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Some Encouragement for Married Folks!

When I heard him say it, I immediately knew this was a different perspective than what many people hold and if I’m honest, different than the current perspective I had on the subject.  Parenting can be an all consuming task and therefore put significant strain on the all-important relationship with our spouse.  There are many days and nights where my wife and I have plans to spend time together or share a significant conversation when the kids go down, only to get to that point and throw in the towel.

“You want to talk about something significant or just watch The Voice?”  “I’ve got nothing left in the tank, let’s see what Blake Shelton’s up to.”

It’s not hard to see how we can drift apart or forget what it takes to make a relationship work.  That’s why I really appreciated what this guy had to say.  He was sharing how he and his wife were at the point where divorce was feeling like a very possible outcome.  They decided that wasn’t the route they were going to go and then he said this…

“We decided divorce wasn’t an option and we needed to walk in obedience.  Eventually our love caught up to our obedience.”

Our love caught up to our obedience.

I didn’t hear anything else he said that morning.  I just kept thinking about the implications of that kind of perspective.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

In, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller shares that the perspective around the purpose of marriage has significantly shifted in our culture.  There is a growing pessimism around marriage and a quick survey of culture shows that not many feel like “walking in obedience” is worth it.

Keller shares that,  “Marriage  used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals.  Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me.

If it’s about my satisfaction, then why would I make the sacrifices it takes to walk in obedience and give time to allow my love to catch up to my obedient actions?  The current, and again, often pessimistic, perspective around marriage doesn’t make much of the institution.

However, longitudinal studies show that our current mood around marriage is not empirically supported.

“Most striking of all, longitudinal studies demonstrate that two-thirds of those unhappy marriages out there will become happy within five years if people stay married and do not get divorced.  This led University of Chicago sociologist Linda J. Waite to say, ‘the benefits of divorce have been oversold.'”

During the last two decades, the great preponderance of research evidence shows that people who are married consistently show much higher degrees of satisfaction with their lives…it also reveals that most people are happy in their marriages, and most of those who are not and who don’t get divorced will eventually become happy.  Also, children who grow up in married, two-parent families have two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not.”  The overwhelming verdict, then, is that being married and growing up with parents who are married are enormous boosts to our well-being.”

If you are struggling with your marriage, don’t throw in the towel.  Don’t listen to the many voices out there who would encourage you to seek your own personal satisfaction – we all know that is not lasting happiness.

Walk in obedience, seek professional help, or do what you need to do because it’s worth it.  Eventually, your love will catch up to your obedience.  I’m incredibly thankful for the perspective changing statement.



Get Off Your Phone! A Few Tips for Restricting the Use of Technology.

With summer looming and idle time high for many students, we are re-posting this popular series, Raising Kids in the Digital Age.  This is part 3 of 3.  Feel free to check out part 1 here and part 2 here.  

Just to recap, we started this series inviting you to “imagine the end”.  Your child is now out from your house and on their way to adulthood.  You have been raising them all these years for this moment; to help launch them into adulthood.  But before we get into restrictions related to technology we have to go back and remember why we are doing this.  Here’s a great quote to remind us:

“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

The goal is that as our children sit in their college dorm room or venture out into to life on their own, they are ready for the moment.  This isn’t about control, this is about preparation and wisdom.  If we wait to give kids the power to decide and learn from their mistakes until they leave our home, then we have waited way too long.

Of course, life might be easier if we make sure they only make the choices we want them to make, but that is not what we are interested in here.  We want to give them the opportunity to try and fail under our guidance.  If we wait to give them the power to choose when they are 18 and on their own, then the stakes are much higher.
(However – and this is just one man’s opinion – You may choose to stick with the “until your 18 and out of the house, you have to do what I say” approach, but we all know what happens when they turn 18.)

So, now we are on the same page – regulation is about building wisdom and guiding them towards adulthood – so, let’s get into some practical ideas.

Here’s a few words of warning to consider as we begin:

1.  Be careful about confrontation.  As much as possible try to make this a mutual experience.  If they perceive this is about control, most likely they will shut down and continue doing what they are doing in secret.

2.  Secondly, I’m not discussing internet safety here and it would be worth your time to look into that as well.

3.  Finally, know that no perfect parents are needed for this process.  All you need is to be willing to enter into the mix.   It may not be easy, but it’s worth it to be engaged.


  • Make Access to Social Media a Rite of Passage.  Set an age for when they can access certain social media and celebrate it.  Work with them to set up their profiles and accounts and use your conversations surrounding it to teach them what you think is important.  If you start this process together, it will be easier to stay engaged.
  • Create a Family Agreement.  Work together on this document and make decisions with your child.  The more this can be mutually shared, the better the results will be.  Remember our survey from part 1 – (how kids thought their parents were just as addicted…) – there might be some rules you create for yourself as a part of this process.  Ultimately, this document should reflect you protecting them as a child and fostering their movement toward adulthood.
  • Require Them to Give You Their Passwords and Periodically Check on Them.  Typically, “the more secretive the practice, the more dangerous the situation.”  This goes for you as well!  Don’t make your checking on them a secret.  You may do this often when they are just getting started and not at all when they are 17/18.
  • Check In Devices at Bedtime.  Kids need sleep and temptation is often worse at night.  I realized in preparing for this that I often spend time on my phone right when I wake up and right before I go to bed.  Since then, I have purchased an alarm clock to get my phone off my nightstand.
  • Consider Regulating Screen Time Alone in Their Rooms.  This falls in line with the other suggestions above, but worth considering on it’s own.  Determine what is allowed and what isn’t and stick to it!
  • BONUS SUGGESTION:  Have a No Tech Hour or Day!  Take a sabbatical together.  Make it a day where you do something out of the ordinary and everyone leaves technology at home.  You too, parents!

Will this be easy…not necessarily, especially if your kids are already immersed in it.  However, it is worth it to be engaged.  Take some time and figure out what you would like this to look like in your home and then get in the game!


If you have any great suggestions on this topic, feel free to post them in the comments section.

Raising Kids in the Digital Age part 3 (a)

Raising Kids in the Digital Age part 3 (b)

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)

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