What I didn’t learn in youth group

I was sent an email by a pastor that included an article from CNN. Here are the story highlights:

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • More teenagers embracing watered-down Christianity
  • Teenagers see God as “divine therapist”
  • Teenager: “They don’t want to make sacrifices”
  • Who’s responsible for inspiring teens? Parents and pastors are

These are my thoughts:

I can relate to this article when interacting with young people (teens and early twenties), seeing so many that are unable to really talk about who and where GOD is. I blame parent’s ignorance mostly, in that they were lulled to sleep by their parents. I blame the American Church as well for remaining a “safe place” for everyone to be. It’s a tough challenge to weigh grace against the call to “go and make disciples”.

As for youth groups, they grossly fail to resemble anything close to living by faith (as they follow closely behind the church model). Is the youth group a safe place for teens to talk freely about their faith and lay hard-to-handle issues on the table? Or is it rather that “fun” thing you do one evening each week? My own children push to go when they are going to serve in the community, yet  hem and haw when asked about attending a youth group function where they play games and have a “quick lesson”.

The other hilarity about youth groups is that a young person (usually a male) “leads” the group. Why? Is this man capable of truly understanding the inner workings of a teenager? Yes, he is probably not far from a teenager himself, but doesn’t that just help him relate to the problem better than understanding how to talk about it from the perspective of an adult who is raising/has raised Godly teens?

And then we can address the issues of relationships (dating, “how far can I go?”), which I personally believe that most leaders adopt from their ideas from public school because most youth groups are “public school” in church form anyway. How is it that we expect a near stranger to address issues of sexual tension, building healthy friendships, and other such relational matters when so little is openly discussed in the home?
NOTE: This isn’t a home school vs. public school point. I have been through the public school system and home schooled my children, as well as attended youth group my entire teenage life, even into adulthood as a counselor/leader; therefore, I know quite well what the “system” looks like as opposed to a “family-centered” function.

The young people today are disconnected by virtue of our society – it’s demands and subtle teachings. The idea that another person (i.e. youth leader) will provide our children true Biblical guidance apart from the family is absurd. Christian education and faith-building starts in the home – period. I believe that when parents fail, the church youth group will probably not succeed – at least not in the state the American Church is in today. Rather it offers a listening ear, much like a school counselor. How is this a help when the rest of the youth group functions focus on petty issues and fun? It only leaves an empty and shallow feeling.

Yes, yes – there are a number of testimonies from young people who have “had their lives changed” by attending a youth group. Where are those young people today? What about every other young person who hates God and the church because of washed up religion? Hiding behind a testimony or two isn’t ground enough to build an American Church Youth Group on today.

What I suggest instead is a gathering of parents and teens, a home group of sort, where teens can get honest answers in front of their parents, from their parents , even if the parent simply says, “I don’t know.” Facilitating true and wholesome, life-changing dialogue is the essential if teens today are going to discover Christ for themselves.

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The cost of getting along

Over the last couple weeks I have been transferring my old home video VHS tapes to DVDs – all 25 of them. At 2 hours per tape, there is over 50 hours of video from 1992 through 2004. What does all this history show us? Well, lots of shaky video for one, and lots of birthdays, Christmases and holidays, lots of smiles and waves, even some tears, but more than anything, I see memories.

Having the privilege to get married young and start a family in my early to mid-20’s, I am now steadily moving from a parent of babes to a parent of adults. It’s surreal, no doubt, especially in the face of so many late 20’s and early 30’s friends that have yet to tie the knot, yet speak of having a family one day. Those friends put a great deal of energy into personal goals and ambitions pertaining to work, missions, or other. I don’t judge or condemn their choice, merely remind them of the ticking clock, as they begin to rattle off the ‘one day’ notion of parenting children.

There is a great cost when investing in children – and, shall I make it clear, a cost worth each minute. Yet with that choice we give up other opportunities, be it personal goals or acts of service. Choosing to give of ourselves to children means choosing not to be that other person. And I’m OK with that. For I know that my God-centered ambitions are not lost in the mayhem of bringing up the family unit, but rather will suffer a wait as my priorities are directed toward something better – better for me, anyway, because I was created to parent my little knot-heads. And I will embrace that beautiful place each day, even beyond the last one to fly the coop.

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Learning to temper

I am perspicacious. Few people care – especially those that wish only to see a certain set of skills. Others celebrate a portion of my keen judgment. No matter, it is me that must learn to change.

I have done others wrong by imposing my judgments upon their projects. Not out of meanness, mind you, simply from an ignorant state. I thought others wanted something which I simply presumed upon them, not clearly defining my personal goals and ambitions. Indeed, my mistake. And one which will not be so easily repeated. And yet, I feel hurt, as if my aptitude toward production was unappreciated. Does the idea of “collaboration” mean nothing? Where is the benefit in producing labor for another’s glory?

It’s a tough balance. One the one hand, I understand the need for “community” in indie film; yet on the other, I understand the importance of self-promotion. I try to walk that beautiful balance between giving and taking, but often short-sheeting my intentions, which leads to kicking and screaming as the night gets colder. I want to “give”, but I grow restless in the making, sorry that I gave. It would have been better to charge the premium and play the part. Instead, I charge little to nothing and still play the part. In the end, the “what’s in this for me?” comes creeping to the service and frustration grows from impatience. I need to be “that guy on crew” for a rate, or self-promote at no charge.

Be it true, there are those that will do and give with no expectations – but they have nothing to offer in return. For those of us that have much to offer, we must get something in return if we are to continue to grow. Balance, balance, it all weighs on personal ambition. There is just not enough time in my week to be everything.

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Paying the piper

What does this mean? Is this from the rhyme of the piper who plays the instrument and gets the mice out of town (is that even right – I hardly remember my nursery rhymes)? If so, then I assume the Piper wanted some compensation for his services – who wouldn’t, especially being chased by a bunch of mice? I know I’d pay him – royally.

These principles works for much of what we do each day, yet I’m surprised time and again to discover that few folks are willing to pay the price for opportunity. Oh, they want it – opportunity, that is – but ask them if they applied themselves to earn it…well, that is another story.

Many a folk simply believe they are naturals, born with a “gift”, but few truly are. Rather, they bestow knowledge on themselves, anointing themselves with wisdom, and believe they can make it on what they currently posses. They write their own way.

So why not make the investment in self-education? Why not delve into a book or something? A Youtube video? Ask a friend – the educated one? When did seeking knowledge become overkill? I’d like to witness a little more homework and a lot less birthright.

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When a man is an island

If I understand this expression correctly, the reference is to being alone for something – anything. You can be alone in an idea, a project, a mission – maybe all of the aforementioned – but the principle is that you are alone. Welcome to filmmaking.

I should regress. Being an island does not make production easier, better, or right; on the contrary, productions push excellence only when the “I” is removed from “iteam”. Yet, time and again, I witness efforts to produce content in isolation. Not that the “island” is truly alone, but that that “island” chooses not to elicit the baseline support necessary to produce the best possible product. It is fear, control issues, or simply not being able to find the support. Honestly, I think the last one is the key.

There are not enough properly trained producers in my area – and I’m only speaking of MY area. In my neck of thick crowded woodlands there are many production challenges, to include poorly trained (if at all) producers. There are those anxious to learn, obtain and grow, but challenged by the lack of opportunity and support; they are willing, so it seems possible to reach my goal of working on a peninsula or something. And although willing, even if they are trained, how do we achieve bringing so many islands together to form a land mass?

A commitment to merging proficient resources is paradigm if we are to accomplish ANYTHING of value. Lasting products, sustainable income, and community growth depends on the MANY working together as ONE.

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Spring cleaning

Won’t happen – no time. Seriously, I am behind the curve with little to no hope that I’ll make the grade to top the curve before summer is upon us. And for 2 reasons (one of which I haven’t figured out yet): clutter.

Clutter has been a big part of my life for 30 years plus. It all started off when I would hold on to most everything I came across that was unique or different – as in, everything – because as we all know, no 2 things are alike. I would clutter my desktop, dresser top, TV top, table top, bed, floor, closet, drawers (not the ones I was wearing), and pockets with cool stuff. “Pockets? How sad,” you say, and rightfully so. As a sixth grader I remember carrying around about 6-8 different items per front jean pocket: toys, nail clippers, game tokens, folded paper, whatever. My pockets would bulge, and the items would stab my legs.

Clutter only got worse over the years as I felt the need to own things – stuff – lots of it. And I felt the need to give my kids things – stuff – lots of it. Ridiculous, but habitual all the same. Had it not been for my wife, the “thinner”, I would have been overrun. My wife has been my lifesaver, calling me out. She has pampered me back to a sane state, where my clutter didn’t push me out of the house all together. She has protected our children from the habit of clutter. And I thank her.

Today, however, I still struggle to let go of stuff I am desperate to keep, but inexcusably so. I want so bad to spring clean, to eliminate my distractions. I want freedom from things that hold me in order to lay hold of the thing I truly long for – freedom.

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Finding a lover

So, you want a new lover? Ready for a bit of fun? Looking for that excuse to forsake all that once meant something for something that will soon mean nothing? Well, have I got a plan for you!

I call it the Facebook Fling. That’s right, it’s probably something you already have instant access to. Just open up your FB account, scroll through your list of friends, and pick an old flame, high school sweetheart, office buddy, parent of your 4-year old’s friend, or person you never met but friended because that person was a friend of a friend and you needed more friends.

Now, don’t rush it – starting with a private message will be a killjoy; rather, drop a comment about a photo, or reply to a post. If they reply, reply back. If they reply again, reply back with a subtle flirt – nothing much, just enough to make them smile – and wonder.

Next, wait a couple days and then drop a comment on their profile page. Bring up an “old story”, “remember when”, or “just thought of you”. Make it innocent, because everybody will see it, which will create a feeling of ease with your friend, like you’ve got nothing to hide. Your friend will reply, most likely, as will others, so the ever-so-flirty teasing will feel safe. Don’t stop dropping more comments on photos and posts through this process, but just make sure you’re not overdoing it.

Depending on your friend, this next step may take a few more days, or even a couple weeks, but you’re ready to move toward the “can I ask you something” private message. This message is usually about trouble with your spouse, or current attachment. It makes no suggestions, only elicits the help of a “caring, concerned” friend. Word it to see where your friend stands in their own relationship. And remember, this message should drag on for several replys; don’t try to lay it all out at the start.

Once you have bled the message, and reached a hopeless point, start with pondering “what might have been”. If your friend shares your interest, “what might have been” quickly becomes “what could be”. Don’t worry about the details of when and where, because in your lust-driven state, any place and any time will do.

Final thought, through this process, you may discover that your friend stops replying, comes clean with another friend, gets roped by a “mutual friend” first, or the friend’s current “in a relationship with” is dangerous. If any of these unfortunate situations happen to you, don’t fret it, chances are you have 1,276 more friends to choose from. Their loss, right?

Warning: don’t use chat to connect with your friend. Statistics show that many FB users leave their page online and visible for siblings, spouses, and other friends to access. Unwanted results may occur.

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Parental rights

It’s not what you’re thinking. The parental right I’m referring to is the right to be alone with my spouse. Freedom from the demands of pressingly needy children, freedom from the weight of conflict management, and freedom from moody, oppressive behavior – all passion killers. Don’t misunderstand – I love my children, all eight of them, but time alone with my wife, focusing solely on the joy of spending time with her – well, that is my parental right.

I know couples, with kids, who never part from their offspring; they will never be away for even a single night alone. Kids dominate their schedules, their family time, and their personal space. They give all to the children, with little (if any) left for each other. They grow apart as they grow closer to the kids. What are they thinking?!

Honestly, my kids will leave me one day; abandon me for a spouse, or career – probably both. They will have a life. If I don’t maintain a sane, healthy balance between being Dad and being a Lover, where will that leave me? Who will be there for me once the children are gone? It’s a sad truth that many a couples are estranged finding themselves in an empty nest. It’s no surprise that infidelity finds common practice in child-centered homes, often leading to divorce. Yet I know that my parental rights protect the beauty of my marriage to the woman that preceded my children, and will be there when they are gone.

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