Family Friday Links 3.16.18

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Here's what we've being learning from on the old inter webs this week:

Mark Merrill had a link to a podcast that reminds parents of things they should do everyday. Parents, your kids need these things from you, so give it to them.

Josh Lofthus had a great post on forgiveness. He wrote, "When we do not seek forgiveness we are short-changing ourselves. We are missing out on the best part of reconciliation." As either parents or pastors, we need to be modeling this regularly if we expect others to do it as well.

The Gospel Centered Parenting site had a post on the confidence. It reads, "And here’s the counter-intuitive effect of being humble - with that humility will come a deep confidence and assurance." This is kind of confidence our kids need, not the kind of confidence that comes from comparison.

What have been reading online lately and benefiting from? Leave us a link in the comment section and we will check it out.

Longing for likes: How to capture the hearts of Gen Z with a greater love.

The message appears on the big screen: “Please silence your electronic devices.” And amazingly the people obey. Moments before, they were texting, tweeting, and posting pictures on Instagram. But now they’re putting their phones in airplane mode. Ironically, the middle school girl, an iconic representative of the most tech-savvy, hyper-connected generation in history, is elbowing her dad: “Put it away. The show’s about to start.” When they go to the theater, even Generation Z, the iGeneration, stops to sit still. They’re transfixed by a story.

Tech-savvy, hyper-connected Generation Z

This largest segment of the population is longing to be affirmed, to be loved. The trouble is that they’re seeking love where it cannot be found.

Generation Z is everywhere. According to Lifeway’s Facts and Trends, those born between 1996 and 2014, ages 4 to 22 at the time of writing, now make up 24.3 percent of the U.S. population. That’s more than millennials (22.1 percent), Gen X (19 percent), and baby boomers (22.9 percent). This largest segment of the population is longing to be affirmed, to be loved. The trouble is that they’re seeking love where it cannot be found.

Just log in, and you’ll see.

Born at least a decade after the advent of the Macintosh, kids today have never known a world without the internet or cell phones. Pew Research reports that 92 percent of teens go online daily. And it’s no wonder. Technology training starts early these days. boasts that it has engaged 10 percent of all students in the world through its Hour of Code campaign. This means that a growing number of the middle school kids in church youth ministries are already skilled with Java; they’ve been learning to code since elementary school. Most kids have to go online each day to get their homework done. It doesn’t matter if she’s part of a homeschool co-op or attends a public school, the average Gen Z kid is familiar with applications like Google Classroom or Canvas. She uses them to take quizzes, submit and access assignments, and participate in class discussions.

Looking for acceptance online

Online is the place kids go to perform. And nowhere is that more true than in the world of social media. My grandfather’s generation sat at the breakfast table reading the morning newspaper. This generation gets up to check Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. It’s a new reality that requires an evolving social skill set. Danah Boyd, sociotechnical researcher for Microsoft Research, Data, and Society writes about the complicated social lives of networked teens. She explains how teenagers form a social identity online by managing their friends’ impressions. Boyd writes:

While what they present may or may not resemble their offline identity, their primary audience consists of peers that they know primarily offline—people from school, church, work, sports teams, etc. Because of this . . . teens are inclined to present the side of themselves that they believe will be well received by these peers.

In other words, today’s teens, through their use of social media, are doing what kids have done for generations before them; they’re trying to fit in. The number of comments, likes, and follows a teenager has—like the clothes he wears or where he sits in the high school cafeteria—communicates something about his social standing. What’s different for Gen Z kids is that smartphones have made this social pressure portable. As a result, the work of managing friends’ impressions online can become a full-time job.

A generation longing for justice and love

Many Gen Z kids embrace managing their platform with a passion. You can see it in the perfectly angled selfie sticks that capture faces aglow in the sun. The likes and love from friends bring confidence and pleasure. But the joy isn’t all self-indulgent. Being so connected socially has had the added advantage of helping many Gen Z kids develop empathy, realism, and a sense of purpose. The growth of the online world has exposed them to more diverse friendships, connecting them with others from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and cultural experiences.

They are also more aware of suffering and the world’s brokenness. Most Gen Z kids have grown up since 9/11, and they lived through the Great Recession at the end of the last decade. As a result, they’ve experienced the realities of war and financial loss in ways that touch them personally—family members who are disabled veterans or parents who lost their jobs. In light of these diverse experiences, Gen Z kids are largely tuned into social concerns, such as climate change, sexual abuse, human trafficking, the refugee crisis, and racism. Hashtags like #metoo and #blacklivesmatter tell the story. Generation Z is “woke,” and they’re looking for an opportunity to make an impact.

But for every Gen Z kid online happily posting selfies or crusading for social justice, there’s another who has been a victim of cyber-bullying or who has grown disillusioned. “Likes” come to be superficial. And if voices of justice remain online and unheard in day-to-day life, they seem superficial too. Many young people just feel overwhelmed—unable to process their emotions in the face of a world of hurt. Rising self-harm and suicide trends testify to the fact that it’s just too much for many Gen Z kids to handle. The world is not the way it’s supposed to be. And for kids who are sensitive to this truth, every news cycle can be experienced as a new wave of grief.

Generation Z’s passion for affirmation, acceptance, and justice reveals something that’s true about every generation. We’re all made for more. Both the joys we experience in this life as well as our unfulfilled desires reveal deep longing for the consummation of God’s kingdom. C.S. Lewis wrote about it decades ago in Mere Christianity:

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Gen Z is longing for covenant love and kingdom justice that transcends their daily experience. They’re looking for commitment that’s more lasting than a social network can offer. They’re looking for a place where the work of justice is done and not merely talked about. How do we help this generation see that there is a Love that’s better than life (Ps. 63:3)? How do we help them see that true justice will one day roll across the world like ocean waves (Amos 5:24)? How can the church help Gen Z see that what they are longing for really exists?

Capture their hearts by living the story

It’s tempting to think that the only way to reach a hyper-connected generation is by making our youth ministry environments look more like a theater—more wired, gamified, and image-rich. Some might say, “If we want the kids to put away their phones and tune in, we should take them to the movies.” There’s an element of truth in this, of course. Youth pastors should be mindful about using effective communication methods. If you want the announcements to be heard, it’s helpful these days to post them on Instagram with a slick banner or photo. And video clip sermon intros can be more engaging for the YouTube generation.

But if our goal is to make disciples of the next generation, we’ve got to do more than capture their eyes; we must capture their hearts. Doing so will involve more than grabbing their attention then lecturing them about biblical truth—more than merely preaching the propositions and principals of Christian theology with engaging images. Gen Z needs to see a church that has been captured by Jesus’ more compelling story. We must show them that Star Wars and Marvel have nothing on Jesus:

  • Jesus’s story shows kids that their worth is not tied to comments or likes. They are valued as image bearers of the Creator King. If we truly believe this as a community, then we’ll honor the younger generation by inviting them to participate in the life of our community as equals. This begins with the children. Give them jobs to do at church outside of youth and children’s ministry events. Let the children pass out bulletins. Invite a middle schooler to sit beside a seasoned saint in the nursery holding babies. Invite young men to help set up chairs before meetings begin.
  • Jesus isn’t unaware of the world’s brokenness or our own. The Bible invites us to engage with a world that’s more contemporary than we sometimes care to admit. Invite Gen Z teenagers to open their Bibles to narratives from the Judges and Kings. Help them see that political egomaniacs, religious pluralism, and the kind of sexual confusion they encounter in their friend groups doesn’t take God by surprise. They see it all on social media. Don’t be afraid to show it to them in the Word. And don’t be afraid to confess your personal and corporate sins as well. Gen Z kids need to see a church that is actively repenting from racial discrimination, maltreatment of immigrants, and a lack of concern for the poor.
  • Jesus shows us a redemptive love that transcends superficial experiences. Gen Z kids need to hear the story of a brown-skinned Middle Eastern man who bears the wrath our misplaced love and social injustice deserves. This man, our Jesus, stood starkly against a superficial culture. A bold church that loves and knows him, will stand out today as well. It will be socially awkward at times. Calling out cultural sins, talking about hell from the pulpit, and practicing church discipline are nearly always socially awkward. But that’s exactly the kind of transcendent community Gen Z kids need to see.
  • Finally, Jesus promises a life that fulfills this generation’s deepest longings. Jesus promises us that true love can be found; one day, justice will be done. Gen Z kids need a maturing church that actively pursues these kingdom realities. Empowered by the Spirit, we must increasingly reflect the kind of multi-cultural, justice-loving community we’ll encounter when the kingdom comes (Rev. 7:9). So, invite the next generation to walk beside you as you do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Bring the teens along for a housing renovation project. Invite them to serve with you at a homeless shelter or crisis pregnancy center. And encourage college students to take advantage of opportunities to go on mission overseas or apply for a justice internship with a group like Love Thy Neighborhood.

This hyper-connected, hyper-concerned generation in on a quest for transcendent love. With bold love and kind invitations, let’s show them their value and invite them into a better story. Let’s help them put down their devices and find deeper satisfaction in Jesus.

This post first appeared at

Family Friday Links 3.9.18


Our very own Jared Kennedy wrote for Sojourn Network's Blog this week. He wrote a blog entitled, "Helpful TIps for Grace-Based Classroom Management"   Jared writes, "Here’s the truth: The effective formation of our children requires a stable environment. For this reason, it’s important for a children’s ministry to supplement parental training by upholding high standards for behavior, respect, and discipline. I hope these four goals and nine strategies are helpful for you to that end." 

Jill Nelson at Children's Desiring God wrote a post on, " Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God." Jill writes, "One way we can help our children grasp this important attribute of God is to be careful with the language we use. For example, it would be in error to teach children: “God created people because He was lonely.” The implication being that God needed our fellowship. Or, “Jesus chose Peter to be His helper.” The implication being that God needs man’s help in accomplishing His purposes. Instead, use language in keeping with God’s self-sufficiency. For example, “God created people for His glory—to show His greatness and worth. He created us to be receivers of His goodness and love.” 

Kasey Fagan at Doorposts Songs website wrote a needed post about, 5 Things Parents Look For When They Visit Your Children's Ministry. Kasey writes, "I’ve been on staff at my church in preschool ministry for 13 years. When you’ve been in the same place doing much of the same thing for so long, it’s easy to get in a rut, stay in your bubble, and forget what it feels like to walk into your building and experience your children’s ministry for the first time. It’s eye opening to step back and think about what it must be like for that first time guest to walk in your doors, not knowing where to go or who to ask for help."

What have you been reading this week? Leave a link in our comment section! 

Thanks for reading.

Legos and Theology: The Joy of Knowing and Experiencing God

One of my favorite things is when my kids are interested in something so much they seek to learn about it for themselves. The more they learn about it the more they grow to love it, and the more they love it the more they want to know. A main way they do this is by looking up their topic of interest at the library. 

High on the list of great loves for my kids are Legos. A book often checked out is the Lego Idea Book. They’ll spend hours looking through it to gather more ideas. They love legos, so they want to learn more about how they can build great new creations. Their love for Legos leads them to learning, and then they put into action what they have learned.  

I want to cultivate that same kind of excitement for my kids when they are learning about God. But when we hear the word theology, many of us fall asleep. The word is almost a hypnotic trigger. What do you think of when you hear the word? Does it conjure up images of a stack of big, dusty books or is there something more?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 ESV

Theology is simply the study of God. It’s a good practice for us all, young and old, to continually be learning more about him. More about who he is, what he has done, what he desires, and who he says we are. Studying theology invites us not only to gain more knowledge, but to align our hearts and minds to God’s way of thinking and living. What an incredible inheritance we leave the next generation when we help them to love and treasure Christ! This is why our families and churches should strive to aid kids in learning about God in ways that are deep, engaging, and captivating. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says:

“We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian Fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything art or science can devise.”

Knowing Him leads to loving Him. The hope in developing a love of God through the study of theology goes deeper than kids purely gaining knowledge for its own sake. We want our kids to study theology because we want them to meet the One they are studying about. Jen Wilkin explains the connection between theology and loving God in her book Women of the Word, “If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see Him more clearly for who He is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God…...The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Loving God will be caught. We must continue to grow in our own understanding of God if we expect to be able to challenge our children to do the same. The temptation for many parents and teachers is to introduce their kids to a list of information about God rather than modeling for them what a loving relationship with God looks like. But theology becomes a joy when it's an experience--like building with Legos. A friend of mine once told me teaching is more than seeing a child as bucket waiting to be filled with information. Kids need to know and experience what they are learning about. We must help them love God with their minds and hearts, guiding them to form a relationship with their Creator beyond knowing only facts and details. If kids know a ton about God but haven't experienced Him personally then all we have accomplished is growing Pharisees.

If our kids have a relationship with God he will change their hearts and they will want to know him more. They will want to start building. They will want to study about Him. And they will want to tell others about the God they know and have experienced.

What practices help your kids know and experience God?