Category Archives: family

liesl’s new record in cherry stem tying

a few years ago, i showed my daughter liesl my ability to tie a knot in a maraschino cherry stem with my tongue (while in my mouth). i could do this in 15 or 20 seconds. she quickly upstaged me by tying knots in 5 or 6 seconds. her record was 3.6 seconds.

the other night, our family was out for dinner, celebrating max’s 14th birthday. it was a dark restaurant, so the video is weak. but it proves her setting a new record — 2.6 seconds!

youth ministry, parents, and logic

i’m writing a short book for barefoot ministries on parents (not for parents, but about parents). it’s one of three short books geared for volunteer youth workers that will be released as ebooks. the other two are on understanding teenagers and leading small groups.

while i don’t agree with the “abolish youth ministry” viewpoint of divided: the movie, i totally think there’s some undergirding truth to the need for ongoing reshaping of our perspectives on parents. to that end, i just wrote these three sentences in the manuscript of the book:

There’s some big picture logic we have to embrace:

If we care about the spiritual formation of teenagers, and know that parents have a bigger impact on their spiritual lives than anything else, we would be foolish not to invest time and energy into parents of teenagers.

If we, ultimately, care about the whole lives of teenagers, and know that their parents have a bigger influence on their whole lives than any other influence (including their peers, and certainly including us), it would be arrogant or myopic to ignore parents in our youth ministry strategies.

If we see in scripture that parents have the primary responsibility for the spiritual shaping of their children, we would be biblical revisionists or showing our ignorance to attempt any youth ministry approach that circumvents parents.

what’s your response?

(as an aside, what’s it say that when i looked at google images with “parent” and “teenager” in the search, the majority of images are of parents and teens in conflict?)

middle school culture, part 1

i have a new book releasing in december for parents, called Understanding Your Young Teen: Practical Wisdom for Parents. the book is a significant rewrite of some of my chapters from the book scott rubin and i co-authored a couple years ago, called Middle School Ministry. In this series, i’m excerpting portions of one of the chapters, called “White-Hot Temporary (Early Adolescent Culture)”.


A Culture of Information
We all live in a culture of information. So, in a sense, this isn’t unique to young teens. What is unique is that this reality is shaping them significantly during their early adolescent development and in ways that weren’t true prior to the last decade. What’s also unique is that today’s young teens have always lived in a culture of information.

Almost every bit of information needed (as well as excessive quantities of information that are not wanted or needed) is available with the click of a mouse and in ways that shape our worldviews. This is both about access to information and the onslaught of information. The access of information shapes middle schoolers’ culture of immediacy, their sense of entitlement, and their work ethic. On the other hand, the onslaught of information has a numbing effect. Since everything middle schoolers need to know is readily available and since they’re constantly bombarded with suggestions and data of every sort, they’re less attentive to the stuff that passes by.

A Culture of Immediacy
Think for a minute about the things you had to wait for as a middle schooler that today’s middle schoolers don’t. They can take a picture on their cameras or cell phones and see the results instantly. They hear a song on the radio, and they can instantly download it to their computers or cell phones. Want to buy something? They can jump online in seconds, browse a customized and instantly generated list of sites, get others’ input about an item via user comments, and then, if they want the item, make an instant purchase and wait a day or two at most for the item to arrive. If you’ve ever been “stuck” somewhere without your cell phone and tried to find a pay phone to make a call, then you’ve been reminded of this shift.

Sure, you and I also have access to all this immediacy. But most of us didn’t grow up with this being normative. Today’s young teens have never known a world without instant everything. Doesn’t it strike you as funny that their idea of “old time hominess” includes making bread in a computer-enabled machine that does all the work?

Here’s a great example of this shift: For us adults, email communication changed everything. We were able to send and receive written communication without writing it by hand and going through the “hassle” of using the postal system. Written communication became almost instantaneous. But no one predicted that teenagers would dispose of email as being too slow and clunky and then opt for the intensely more immediate communication pathway of text messaging. We adults saw text messaging as a utilitarian means of quick planning. Teenagers turned it into a social phenomenon.

Middle schoolers don’t have a willingness (or perhaps even the capacity) to wait for anything. Our culture has trained them to expect everything instantly. Patience is a rough one; “delayed gratification” is a foreign concept; and slowness can have a deeply profound impact on them, since it’s something they simply don’t experience in their everyday lives.


still to come: A Disposable Culture, A Culture of Consumerism, An Intense but Temporary Culture, A Networked Culture, and A Driven yet Sedentary Culture

liesl’s secret pal video

my 17 year-old daughter liesl has been a camp counselor for much of the summer. the staff and counselors of the camp have “secret pals” (like secret santas), and give each other little gifts of encouragement. after giving her secret pal a couple physical gifts, she was out of ideas for the third gift. then, thinking about the fact that her pal is the guy who makes the camp videos, decided to make this video for him. it totally cracked me up.

seriously, i have the most awesome kids.

an open letter from a father of teenagers, part 2 (requests)

youth worker, yesterday, i wrote you to say thanks. i meant every word. and that letter was not just a set up, building you up so i could rip into you. in fact, i’d only planned on writing that letter. but after i finished it (and was — seriously, i’m not exaggerating — wiping tears from the corners of my eyes), i thought, “i could probably share a few requests also.”

so, in the context of my deep, deep well of appreciation and valuing of who you are and what you do, i’d like to also share a handful of requests:

stop trying to entertain my kids. they don’t want it, and you can’t really pull it off.

well, i’ll add a little caveat to that, a small qualification: my middle school son still likes to be entertained a bit. he likes the fun stuff, still. it’s not what keeps him there, or what he values the most, but it still has its place with 13 year-olds. but my daughter could give a rip if you have entertaining programs or neatoriffic trips. she wants to hang out with people who know her and care about her. she wants to experience something, and worship can provide that. she wants conversation. she wants to be a part of something that impacts the world. please, shut off the frickin’ lasers, scrap the goofy games that worked ok in 1982.

don’t be a poser, please.

i know my kids, and i know that they really do not care if you are into, or even aware of, whatever music d’jour is in their ears. they do not care about your wicked guitar chops (real or of the ‘guitar hero’ variety). your backward baseball cap only works if it’s genuinely you, and not something you do because you think it’s hip. look, i want my kids to connect with you at a meaningful level. i want — need — for you to have a voice into their lives. and you’re not going to have that if you’re a wannabe. please be yourself, for my kids, for me. this isn’t a ‘youth ministry tactic’ — this is a dad who needs this for his kids.

would you please take care of yourself?

look, i’m asking you this for a couple reasons. first, i want you to be around for a long time. i mean, i like you and all, and i want the best for you. but from a purely selfish place, i want you around for the duration of my kids’ adolescent tenure. i don’t want you to burn out or fall into some stupid moral sin. you know that it would be better if you never even came to our church or met my kids if anything like that happens, right? you wouldn’t just undo the good you’ve done, you’d create an additional pile o’ crap that we’d all have to trek through with our teenagers. and, you know what? i can’t walk through your pile of crap without getting your crap on me. i do not want your crap on me, or on my kids. so… yeah… take care of yourself, please.

also, i want you — need you — to take care of yourself because i know you can’t have an impact on my kids if you’re dry and shallow and stressed and your priorities are all screwed up. you can only minister effectively because you have christ in you. that’s the real issue. i’ve seen sh*tty youth workers have a huge, glorious, beautiful impact on the lives of teenagers because of christ in them, because it’s really not about them. and i’ve been stunningly gifted, talented, hard working youth pastors have the impact of a wet fart — lotsa noise and commotion, quite attention-getting, but no lasting impact — because it was all about their gifts and talents and hard work, and not about christ in them. so… yeah… take care of yourself, please. my kids need christ in you, not superman or wonder woman.

finally: please partner with me.

i know i occasionally seem like your adversary. i know — just keepin’ it real here — that some other parents really seem like your adversary. we’re not. i’m not. what i am is afraid, at times; afraid i’m going to squander the most amazing gift i’ve ever been given (my kids). i’m afraid, at times, that i’m a lousy parent. i’m afraid, at times, that my kids are going to royally screw up, and impact all of our lives forever. don’t mistake my occasional fear for antagonism. don’t misread my insecurity as a lack of trust in you. it’s more of a lack of trust in myself.

not that i don’t think you do some stupid or weird or needlessly risky things from time to time. but, somehow, i also think that’s part of your charm.

but i need you to come alongside me. let’s stop this stupid isolation, this absurd idea that ‘youth group world’ and ‘family world’ are mutually exclusive and have nothing to do with each other. look, i know i’m sending our entire family to your youth group when my kid shows up; because my kid shows up with all the family systems and baggage and good and bad parenting and everything else that she or he has received in our home. so, whether you like it or not, you’re getting all of us. and my kids are bringing you home also. so we might as well work together, huh? please, even if i don’t give you the impression that i want you to partner with me, i do. you’re just gonna have to trust me on that one.

and, now, i return you to my words of thanks:

thank you.

thank you.

thank you.

and may god richly bless you, as you have blessed me.

a handful of my favorite pics from kauai

jeannie and i celebrated our 25th anniversary in early january. but we really celebrated it a few weeks ago with a wonderful trip to kauai. i used airline miles for free airfare; we traded in a time share week for half of our stay, and a friend called in a favor for a (free) nice room for the 2nd half of our stay. pretty amazing way to spend 11 days without costing a ton.

hawaiian shave ice. nothing quite like it. this one is lime, coconut and honey dew flavored, with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top.

we went on a bunch of awesome hikes. this is my tarzan impersonation.

awesome hike to a waterfall.

this is the view from our free hotel room in poipu. i took it about a minute after we walked into the room, while we were still gasping and high-fiving each other.

on the lawn in front of our hotel room, we watched the sunset many evenings.

kauai has an insane quantity of free-roaming chickens and roosters, everywhere, as a result of a storm about 10 years ago that blew apart a bunch of chicken coops.

the trail on this particular hike got a bit challenging to follow!

“wave at the bus” (this dad is my hero)

it’s in the dad rulebook that a certain level of embarrassing your teenager, when done in a way that doesn’t belittle them, is golden. when it’s self-mocking, it’s even better. (my teenage daughter has, many times, said something to the tune of, “dad, your such a dork,” when she really means, “i love you.” or, at least, that’s how i hear it.)

so dale price, a dad in american fork, utah, is my hero.

here’s the story:

dale has a 16 year-old son who just finished his sophomore year of high school. on the first day of school, when rain (the son) was still 15, he walked to the school bus stop. his parents realized that the bus route had changed, and was going to bring rain — now on the bus — right back past their house. so they stood outside and waived to him as the bus passed. classed and awesome dorky parent move.

of course, rain was embarrassed. that was like catnip to dale.

so the next day, as the bus passed, dale was outside waving, dressed like this:

on day 3, he waved while dressed like this:

and, by then, he knew he was going to keep this up for the entire school year.

his wife, rochelle, recorded every day of it on a blog, logically called wave at the bus. yup, 170 costumes. 170 waves. 170 chances to subtly (as dale says in an article linked on the blog) say “i love you” to his teenage son.

check out the blog for all 170 photos, and some pretty funny explanations. but here are a few more choice days:

liesl’s superpower: tongue-tied

a few years ago, i was showing my daughter, liesl, my amazing ability to tie a knot in a maraschino cherry stem using only my tongue. i was pretty proud of my ability to complete this feat of strength and intelligence in about 20 or 30 seconds, on most attempts.

then liesl tried it, and my prowess was quickly lame.

she can consistently tie the knot in under 10 seconds. her record is 3 seconds. the other night, when my family surprised me with a birthday dinner at buca de beppo, liesl asked me to film her making an attempt. alas, she didn’t beat 3 seconds. but this video shows her doing it in 4.5 seconds.

max’s poem

yesterday, max’s 7th grade class had to write poems using a form that was similar to a haiku, but without the rigid structure. max wrote the following, choosing to reveal his early morning oversight that no one was aware of yet:

I’m wearing no shirt
I’m wearing a jacket though
Don’t make fun, I forgot.