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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.

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

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:

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