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It’s Good to Be Known

known

“Sometimes you want to go…

where everybody knows your name

and they’re always glad you came.”

We all want to be known.  It’s just wired in us.

When it comes to parenting, how do you get to know your kids?

I’ll never forget the AHA moment where I realized I needed to get to know my kids better.  I have two kids close in age and for weeks they were both a little clingy/needy, they were both melting down way to often, and I was doing my best disciplining and redirecting.  My efforts weren’t working, so I had to try to figure this out.

As I begin to pay attention, I noticed that one was desperately needing attention and the other was needing reassurance.  It’s as if the older one was asking, “Can I please have some attention?” and the younger was needing comfort, in a sense, asking “Am I going to be ok?” but all I was hearing or seeing were behavior problems.  There was a new baby in the house and life was busy, and if I hadn’t slowed down to get to know them, I might have missed this and grown in my frustration.

When it comes to faith, being and feeling known matters.

If you’ve been around middle school kids, this is very evident.  As they enter a room full of other middle school kids, they scan the room – looking – asking – “Where do I belong?  Where am I known?  Where am I safe?”   If they find it, they rush towards it.  If they don’t they are (noticeably) uncomfortable.

It makes sense that before a young person can really start to grappling with big ideas and concepts like faith, identity, meaning, hope…they need the sense of stability being known brings.  If they have the security and confidence of being known, they are much more willing to engage on a deeper level.  I watch a lot of kids spend their time chasing being known and rarely get the opportunity to be comfortable enough to consider issues around faith and life.

Here’s some help.

There’s a great project called, It’s Just a Phase (justaphase.com) and I want to share with you one element of their work in hopes that it will help you know your son or daughter just a little better!

In each phase, there’s a question that is central in a developmental sense.  As my example above indicated, these questions can be hiding under a lot of other behaviors and attitudes.  Once you know the question, you have a better shot of knowing and understanding your child.

In each phase, this is what each child wants to know:

Zero to One:  Am I safe?
One to Two:  Am I able?
Three to Four:  Am I okay?
Kinder to 1st grade:  Do I have your attention?
2nd to 3rd grade:  Do I have what it takes?
4th to 5th grade:  Do I have friends?
6th grade:  Who do I like?
7th and 8th grade:  Who am I?
9th grade:  Where do I belong?
10th grade:  Why should I believe?
11th grade:  How can I matter?
12th grade:  What will I do?

Next week I will share the One word that the project discovered that helps us engage these questions with our kids.  This week, take a moment and see if you can recognize this question in behavior or other areas of life.  Take a moment and answer this question, even if they aren’t verbally asking it, and see if it leads to some results.

Hard Questions, Doubt, and Faith

forest-trees-fog-foggy

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:

It Takes A Village

sand-summer-outside-playing

 

Are parents the main one’s responsible for their children’s faith and spiritual life?  Absolutely!
Do parents need someone else speaking into their kids life as well?  Absolutely!

As a youth pastor, I’ve often felt like parents want to delegate their child’s spiritual formation to us “experts” at the church (at the very least, they want to outsource the sex talk!).  However, the longer I’ve been in ministry to teens, the more I’ve realized how limited my influence is compared to a parents influence.  At the same time, you can’t underestimate the value of someone outside of the home coming alongside a teenager and letting them know they matter and pointing them towards a life of faith.

Consider this article:

WHY KIDS NEED MORE THAN JUST THEIR PARENTS
By:  Kristen Ivy

If no volunteer can ever know what a parent knows, when why recruit anyone to help with kids and teenagers?

It would definitely make things easier if you could just tell parents, “Since you know more than we can ever know, and you have more time than we will ever have, and you care about this more than we ever will, this is really up to you as the parent.

You could also misquote Deuteronomy 6 to convince parents it’s their job alone, not the church’s to raise their kids. Just skip the part of the text where Moses speaks to every leader in the crowd(not just parents).

Moses was actually the first guy with the idea, “It takes a village.”

Sure, parents should be the primary influence in their kid’s lives.

But research, experts, and statistics suggest that kids who have other adults in their lives have better odds at winning.

Maybe more churches should take Moses seriously when he implied, “We are all responsible for the faith and future of the kids in our community.”

The more you learn about life stages, the more you will be convinced that kids need a consistent adult, besides their parents.

  • Preschoolers need a consistent adult because they can be terrified by unfamiliar faces.
  • Elementary kids need a consistent adult because they will tell anything to a stranger.
  • Middle schoolers need a consistent adult because nothing else in their life is consistent.
  • High schoolers need a consistent adult because they only trust people who will show up consistently.

Some phases will cry more, talk more, doubt more, do more.

That’s why some leaders. . .

  • Embrace preschoolers so they feel safe.
  • Engage children so they can believe.
  • Affirm middle schoolers so they will keep believing.
  • Mobilize teenagers to participate in something significant.

Don’t be afraid to challenge leaders to make different commitments at different phases.

The leader who shows up once a week for second graders will make an easy connection within a few minutes because children will believe in anyone.

The leader who shows up for sixth graders will have to hang out for a while. Sixth graders are skeptics. They need proof over time.

This is one of the great gifts the church can give to families (and to each other!).  In many churches this part of our baptismal or baby dedication vows.

If you’re a parent, how can you widen the circle and help connect your child to someone who can make a difference in their lives?

 

I love the “It’s Just a Phase Project” that Orange has been working on and you can see some of their efforts above.  As parents of any age students, there is something to learn from this project.   What do the top experts, educators, developmental psychologists, youth pastors, etc say that kids need at each stage?  Orange has been researching this and has made it incredibly easy to understand.  Check out more at itsjustaphase.com – it will not be a waste of your time.

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