Category Archives: Youth Ministry

Grandma, Blessing, and My Children

One of my earliest memories of spirituality practiced comes from my Grandma Mary.  Before my family would leave for a trip she would bless my brother and I in Spanish.

When she said the blessing she would first trace a small cross on my forehead, my mouth, and then give me the sign of the cross that Catholics normal do to themselves; forehead, chest and each shoulder. I would then have to kiss the hand that she was blessing me with. I remember my parents blessing me as well as my aunts and uncles.

So, here’s the blessing.

Por la Senal de la Santa Cruz de nuestro enimigos libranos Senor, Dios nuestro. En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y  del Spiritu Santu.

Here it is in English

By the sign of the holy cross deliver us from our enemies Lord, our God. In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessing is a tradition that I have done with my children.

When I put my children to bed I trace the cross on their forehead and say, “Remember that you are beloved child of God.”  I then ask my children to bless me.  My youngest usually traces two crosses on my forehead and says says, “You are a beloved daddy of God.” My old traces one cross and says, “I love you daddy.”  These are blessings I carry with me to bed.

Andy Root writes about prayer, “Prayer forces us to see others as persons; it unleashes the metal claw of individualism to see personhood.” I would say that this goes for blessing as well.

Blessing forces me to see my children not as objects but as subjects. It forces me to recognize their personhood.  During the day when have I sinned against my children, I must apologize to them before I can bless them. I must acknowledge that I acted out of line. I have to acknowledge that the sacred space between us has been violated. I have to acknowledge it and restore it before I bless them.  And, then, we are able to share that sacred space again in a blessing.

Even if you are not spiritual or religious, it might be a good idea to bless your children. Tell them that they matter each night, not only to you, but to the divine, and the universe.





Filed under Ministry Reflections, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized, Youth Ministry

Sticky Faith: Your Default Setting

I read some harsh words today in Sticky FaithThey were both Law and Gospel to me.  It’s something that I know I should do, but have a really hard time with it, especially toward my children.  So, here is the quote:

When our kids go through rough spots, whether it is because of circumstances beyond their control or the choices they make, their greatest need from us is gentle stability and compassion. Regardless of the offense, whether getting a D or getting arrested, underneath the rhetoric and even outright outbursts, your child is not doing this to get at you.  Even the most egregious of situations, remember that they are, at the core, suffering, and they need you to care. As Jesus cares for all of us in all we go through, so we too are dispensers of his grace. -Kara Powell & Chap Clark

Its hard for me to default with compassion because in the moment the anger and frustration that are coursing through my body are very real. It’s hard to default with compassion when I just react instead of trying to understand.

My oldest son will sometimes become so tired at night that he starts to act especially aggressive toward anything moving.  He will yell, scream, and be mean to anyone in his path, especially when his extra ordinary requests are not going to be met.

I have also met his attitude not with compassion, but with frustration and equally, if not more, aggressive tones of voice. Recently, I have been trying to meet his aggressiveness with compassion. I don’t always remember.  Instead of letting him be distant and distraught, I have sought to bring him closer, holding him tightly, letting him know that I love him and that he is tired. I’ve tried to meet his aggressiveness with compassion and found that is actually what he needed. He needed to know that while he was out of control, I had him and would love him, no matter what  I wish I remembered to do that all the time.  If my children will embody the faith I practice, I want one of the fruits to be compassion.

So, what’s your default setting?

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Sticky Faith: Chapter 1


I started reading Sticky Faith today by Kara Powell and Chap Clark.

The first chapter lays out what the contents of the book are and some initial research into why “sticky faith” is important. For instance, 40-50 percent of kids will shelve their faith in college.

What popped out to me in the first chapter is that parents are the number one influence on children in matters of faith. Not youth workers, pastors, or other adults, it’s parents that will influence their child’s faith the most.

So, what do you do with your children to show forth the faith?  What would you like to do but haven’t?

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Dealing with Death

Today is All Hallow’s Eve and with all the skeletons lining the yards of homes I can’t help but think about death.  My mind wanders to how I will experience with my children the death of those that we love, because if there is one thing I know, we all die.

Some have a the sensation of fleeing the scene of a loved ones impending death.  I have seen this a lot over the years.  The usual rationalization is, “I want to remember them the way they were,”  or, “I don’t want to see them that way.”  My problem with this response is the “I” portion.  Someone’s death is not about you, it’s about the dying person. They way you remember someone is up to you, but until they die, they still have personhood, and can probably hear you.  Don’t cut the relationship off prematurely because you are uncomfortable.
I have seen this rational extend to children.  Parents don’t want their children to see the family member in a poor state.  So, they block their children from seeing the loved one, or they don’t them go to the funeral, with the best interest of the child in mind.  The rational is usually that they want their child to remember the loved one as they were, not as they are now.  I don’t really buy this rational. I think it’s more about discomfort then protecting a child’s memory.

I have also seen people skipping the part of loss and pain and going right into hope in Christ’s resurrection and hope for life with God.  We tell children that their loved one is better off in heaven and miss the part where they won’t be coming over to play anymore.

We are a culture that do not know how to deal with death.  I propose that we just confront our own discomfort, name it, and work through it.  Talk to our children openly about it when the time comes.  They won’t have the world shattering existential crises you are imagining. Be honest about missing the person, the pain of loss that you feel, it will hopefully help your own children own their feelings later on in life.  Hopefully they won’t be retreating when your dying, with a lame excuse like, “I want to remember you the way you were.”

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On Sexting

Recently my wife and I had the rare opportunity to spend a night away from our children. One of the great things we did was saw a movie together.  Through some negotiating and compromise we agreed on Crazy, Stupid, Love. We both really liked this movie.  It was an all star cast and the story line probed the depths of human desire to be connected to each other. (This is a spoiler alert!) 

In tying up the story line between Jessica (who is a high school senior) and Robbie (who is in the 8th grade) there is scene at the end of the movie that is the reason for this blog post. Jessica hands Robbie naked photos of herself and says something to the effect of, “This will get you through high school.”

Because it was the end of the move and the way the music was playing it was obvious that the viewer is supposed to be endeared by this act of naked picture sharing. What passes for endearing is great indicator of what society has deemed socially acceptable.

This made me want to reflect and research the common use of sexting between adolescents. For those of you who don’t know sexting is texting naked photos of yourself.

Here is what I have found.  I got this quote from Psychology Today:

One survey suggests, 1 in 5 teens admitted to posting sexually explicit pictures on-line. To help understand teen sexting behaviors,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl .com conducted a survey with 653 teens (ages 13-19) to explore the sexual use of sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or texts.  Some of their findings are listed below:

Teens who say they have sent or posted a sexually revealing photo or video:

  •  20% of all teens
  •  22% of teen girls
  •  18% of teen boys

Teens that have sent sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teens
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
  • 48% admit to receiving suggestive messages
Gone are the days when foolish decisions are relegated to the past.  All one needs to do is break up with their girlfriend/boyfriend and those naked pictures become a site for everyone to see.  Today’s adolescents can be making decisions that could be affecting them for a long time to come.  Here is a great article on what to do The Devastating Aftermath of Sexting.
In wanting our adolescent to develop healthy sexual identities we must talk about the lasting implications sexting may have. Adolescents are not, for the most part, capable of thinking about how their decisions can stay with them. One author writes in Sexting 101:
You see, there’s a special part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (aka the CEO of the brain) that is responsible for problem solving, impulse control, and weighing out options.  Unfortunately for teens, this area of the brain is not fully developed.  In fact, it doesn’t fully mature until the early to mid twenties.  So, while we expect our teens to know better, the fact is there’s some physiological reasons teens think they’re invincible.
There is this whole world of sexual exploration and exploitation that was not  around when parent’s, like me, were in high school. With these new technologies comes new consequences and teens brains are not fully capable of understanding this.
Now, I am not advocating unplugging the internet or confiscating your child’s phone.  I do, however, advocate having a relationship with your child that is open and honest enough to enter into the quagmires of life together and help guide them to a responsible adulthood.

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Hurt: Time With Adults

I’ve been reading Chap Clark’s book Hurt recently and have been deeply disturbed to learn some of his research.

In his chapter, “Abandonment-the defining issue for contemporary adolescents” he quotes a study found in Patricia Hersch’s A Tribe Apart,

“In all societies since the beginning of time, adolescents have learned   to become adults by observing, imitating and interacting with grown-ups around them,” write Mihaly Csikzenmihalyi and Reed Larson in Being Adolescent. “It is therefore startling how little time [modern] teenagers spend in the company of adults.” In their study Csikzentmihalyi and Larson found that adolescents spent only 4.8 percent of their time with their parents and only 2 percent with adults who where not their parents.

This really shocks me.  My initial gut reaction was this information could not be true.  They are around adults all day: teachers, parents, coaches, etc.  But then I realized that this is mostly time of instruction or receiving tips on how to do a particular activity better. This is not beings-in-relationship.  I then start think about the adolescents in the youth group that I serve.  Many have school until 3pm and extra curricular school activities after such as sports, band, theater, etc.  By the time they get home they have 3 hours worth of homework.  They don’t have the time and parents don’t make the time.

Clark wrote a little earlier in the chapter that many parents take exception to this abandonment.  Many would say that they have sacrificed everything for their children by taking them to and from school, practice, competitions, and concerts. He writes,

This statement is in of itself yet another subtle form of abandonment.  We have evolved to the point where we believe driving is support, being active is love, and providing any and ever opportunity is selfless nurture.  We are a culture that has forgotten how to be together.  We have lost the ability to spend unstructured down time.

His findings definitely ring true.  In reflecting on this book I find that I have to be conscious of this in my own parenting and also that youth ministry is really important.  It shouldn’t be one more thing on an adolescents activity list like soccer or band practice. Youth groups should be a place where they are interacting with an adult(s) in a real and personal way.  A place where they know that no matter what there is an adult who is willing to spend some time with them focusing on them and where they are at in life.

Chap Clark, Hurt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005).

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