Tag Archives: parent ministry

free webinar with some bearded dude talking about teenage brains

my friend jeremy lee has been a busy little beaver recently, creating all sorts of cool resources and opportunities for support and connection for youth workers and parents. seriously, i can hardly keep up with him.

one of his brilliant children is parentministry.net, a cool resource for youth workers who want to step it up in terms of the resourcing and training they provide for parents of teenagers.

parentminisry.net is hosting a series of free webinars. the key word in that last sentence? FREE, of course. or “of”, maybe. jim burns was the guest on the last one.

and i’m sure jim was amazing, because the dude is brilliant. but, well, i think jeremy must have rightly felt that this series of FREE webinars needed to great increase its beard quotient. so — obvious choice, right?


yup, i’ll be bringin’ a little training based on my book, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains (but geared to youth workers). let’s talk gray matter, baby!

here’s the deets:

a free 1 hour webinar sponsored by www.ParentMinistry.net
February 26 at 2 pm (central)
Use this link to register

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains

i had a new book release last week, and i’m pretty stoked about it. it’s the third in a series of five pocket-sized books for parents. i co-authored the first two books in the series (A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Girls was co-authored with brooklyn lindsey, and A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Guys was co-authored with brock morgan). adam mclane and i co-authored the fourth book in the series: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, and we signed off on the interior a week ago (it should release about december 1). the final book, co-authored with joel mayward, is A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating. our deadline for hat manuscript is in a few weeks, and we’re almost done.

but this one — A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains — i wrote all by my little self. i’ve been so fascinated by the implications of brain development on faith development for years. but with new findings about teenage brains in the last decade, there’s SO MUCH that’s worth learning about.

this book is great for parents of teenagers, to be sure (that’s the core audience). but i really think youth workers of any sort would greatly benefit from reading it. it’s super inexpensive, and very quick to read (it’s only about 12,000 words or so). you can get it on The Youth Cartel store (or wherever you buy books!). you can even download a sample on The Youth Cartel store.

here’s the back cover copy:

It’s often tough to understand why teenagers do what they do. One moment they’re calm and rational, but the next they’re agitated and emotional. One day they’re making incredibly wise choices, but the next they’re making disastrous mistakes. Yesterday they earned your trust, but today it seems they’ve lost it once again.

Why such inconsistency? Credit their brains.

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenage Brains is filled with helpful, practical insights from veteran youth worker Mark Oestreicher.

Without an understanding of teenage brain development, we might miss life’s teachable moments or shut down our child’s curiosity with easy answers that don’t satisfy the search for truth happening below the surface.

That’s why Marko has written this book: to guide you through the world of the teenage brain, to help you understand and appreciate the amazing transformations it undergoes in adolescence to prepare children for adulthood and its many responsibilities.

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.

the future of youth ministry, episode 4

i led a late night discussion at the national youth workers convention this past fall on “the future of youth ministry”. in preparation for that discussion, i emailed a few dozen friends with better youth ministry minds than my own, and asked them to complete the sentence, “the future of youth ministry….” about 15 of them responded (often with more than a sentence!). i’m posting them here as a series, sometimes with a bit of commentary from myself, and sometimes merely as a reflection-prod. would love to hear your responses.
episode 1
episode 2
episode 3

while the last episode, with kara powell and brad griffin’s comments, focused on intergenerational ministry, andy root and lars rood (hmm, last name similarity?) narrow that focus a bit more to parents. i have noticed that discussion about youth ministry often makes these two subjects (intergenerational ministry and parent ministry) one and the same; but they’re not. there’s some overlap, to be sure; but the intergenerational question is more focused on helping teenagers rub shoulders with the whole community of faith, while the parent question is more focused on the role of parents in the faith formation of teenagers, and understanding the family systems teenagers live in.

mini bios:
andy root (andrew, if you’re looking for his books and such) is the associate professor of youth and family ministry at luther seminary. andy’s first book is on the top 10 youth ministry books list of lots of thoughtful youth ministry peeps: revisiting relational youth ministry. after that, andy cranked out 3 books in the time it takes many to read 3 books (relationships unfiltered, the promise of despair, and children of divorce). in short: dude is wicked smart.

lars rood is, in my opinion, one of the next wave of youth ministry voices. the lead youth minister at highland park presbyterian church in dallas, lars is one of the very, very few practicing youth workers with a doctorate. he’s got a book coming out soon, and i expect will have much more to say to us in the years to come.

here’s what andy and lars had to say (andy mentions more than parents, but i’m grouping these two together since they both touch on that question):

Andy Root
In the next few decades youth ministry will need to face the following: a way to actually work with families in a very complicated familial cultural locale, a way of dealing with pluralism–being able to claim the particularity of Jesus without it sliding into rigidity, and to find a robust theological position that connects revelation (the way we understand God’s revealing presence) with our practices and strategies of day to day ministry.

Lars Rood
I’m scared of one thing. How much we are going to have to shift things to draw parents into their faith for the first time. I think parent ministry is going to be a huge new reality of youth pastors.

here’s my 2 cents: i think there has been a LOT of talk about engaging parents and working with parents and parent ministry (and “family ministry”) in the last 10 or more years. but, other than youth workers trying to increase communication, and offering a parent event once in a while, i’ve seen very little rubber hitting the road. mostly what i see are middle aged youth workers changing their titles to “pastor of family ministries”, or something similar, as a way of sounding like they’re doing more, so they can warrant a salary on which they can survive. yeah, that’s snarky and pessimistic; but it’s what i’ve seen. i’m sure there are myriad exceptions; but they’re in the minority.

all the research out there (like christian smith’s stuff) shows us what we know, but often don’t want to admit: parents have a WAY bigger impact on their teenagers’ faith than we do. when we DO admit that, it’s usually our rationale for a student who didn’t respond to our amazing ministry efforts.

so what to do? i think lars brings up a good point: we have to engage the faith formation of parents. “but that’s not my job!” some would say. well, maybe it needs to be…

open letter to parents of teens

a youth ministry friend pointed out this amazing blog post, by scott linscott (didn’t his parents realize he already had a “scott” in his last name?). he writes as a parent of young adults. this is what so many of us youth workers have wanted to say to (some) parents over the years; and scott says it so well. with his permission, i’ll post it in its entirety here:

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.