What I Learned From the ALS Challenge


A weekly teen devotional that you can use with your students as a small group curriculum, Bible study, Sunday School lesson, or to help them in their personal quiet time. Topically driven, these devotions help your students keep the gospel central in their lives and provide practical ways to bring their faith up with their friends.

What I Learned From the ALS Challenge

Millions of people, with probably billions of ice cubes, are chilling out and ponying up to help find a cure for a horrible and fatal disease.  ALS was first diagnosed over 75 years ago, and yet it remained in the shadows of obscurity until a courageous young man named Peter Frates decided to champion awareness and expedite a cure for it.

Peter Frates is a man who could have (and justifiably so) given into the diagnosis and lived out his remaining years in a slow progression to its end.  Instead, he lives every day to the fullest, pouring all the heart and soul he can muster into finding a remedy for the enemy that has stricken him at such a young age.

“You can overcome obstacles and make your life count.”

While a level of controversy swirls around the ethics of stem cell use that ALS research is funding, Frates’ determination to pursue a greater purpose as he lives each challenging day has definitely grabbed our attention.

But I know someone even more remarkable when it came to facing the pain and trails of His life on this earth. Listen to this description of Jesus Christ our Savior:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up(Hebrews 12:1-3, NLT).

Jesus knew that His days were numbered, and that the end was going to be shameful and agonizing.  But rather than resign Himself to self-pity and sullenness, He set His gaze on the life that His death would provide for all the world and the joy of saving humanity.  The Bible says that He even “disregarded” the shame of the cross, which author John Piper brilliantly pictures Jesus expressing this way:

Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing…You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you. I have a joy set before me…You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross —these tools of yours—they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.

Farewell, Shame. It is finished.

—From John Piper, DesiringGod.org

“Remember how much of an impact you can make for eternity by simply sharing your faith.”

So what about you?  Are you trapped by shame, or still wallowing in sullenness because of your circumstances?  You can overcome obstacles and make your life count.  Just remember to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ, who endured more than anyone had or ever will—all for the sake (and the likes) of you and me.

What are you willing to sacrifice for the ultimate cause—THE Cause Jesus has called all of His followers to—sharing His message of grace and making disciples who make disciples. What if passionate, committed Christian teens initiating conversations with their unreached friends went as viral as the Ice Bucket Challenge? We’d see millions find the cure for their fatal spiritual disease—life apart from a relationship with Jesus

You know the cure! It’s time to spread the word!


Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action

When you think about all the good that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is accomplishing on an earthly level, remember how much of an impact you can make for eternity by simply sharing your faith and praying for your friends who don’t know Jesus!


Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause

Pray: Father, we pray also for all those who suffer from the disease of sin, and we thank You that the cure has been accomplished through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Read: Romans 5:3-4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

Get:  Reverse…Live Differently. This 21 day student devotional is a great way to head into your new school year with your focus on making your life count for God! Because Reverse is all about living with a God-focus in a me-focused world.  The way God designed us to live—in relationship with Him. Knowing Him and making Him known.

Discussion Guide for Leaders

Big Idea: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has rallied millions to a cause, and is a great reminder that as Christ followers, we’re call to an even greater Cause—THE Cause of Christ. We know the cure for an even greater spiritual disease that is fatal to everyone.

Key Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-4

Discussion Questions:

  • Which is harder – dumping an ice bucket over your head, or sharing your faith?
  • In what ways can you “fix your eyes on Jesus”?
  • Who could you share your faith with this week?
  • How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?

All Access Wednesday, Aug 27 @ SWC 6-8pm

All Access TITLE

Q What is All Access? All Access is a foyer event geared for students to invest and invite a friend.   The Oakwood Student Ministry, grades 6-12, meet in the SWC for a night of high energy worship and a relevant message, challenging students to follow Christ.  6:00pm begins with food and hang time,  then high energy music, a relevant speaker, and response time.  8pm is dismissal time.

Boundaries and Decisions – Thoughts for Parents of Young Teens


see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition
and part 3: bored with church and god

Boundaries and Decisions

This research-proven truth may surprise you: Parents are still the number one influence in the lives of their teenagers. Many parents assume that with adolescence, the peer group takes the top influencer slot; or media; or something or someone else.teenage turtle

Here’s another fact that may surprise you even more: Young teens still want and need boundaries. Maybe you’re not surprised by the thought that they need boundaries; but the fact that they want them seems counter-intuitive to their regular spoken and unspoken demands for independence. Of course, unless uttered in sarcasm, you’ll never actually hear your student say, “Please, Mom, I want less freedom!”

You live this issue every day. Because the primary task of parenting a teenager is to foster healthy independence, the rub of boundary setting is in your face on a constant basis.

And it’s not that kids want (or need) a huge set of restrictions: instead, they want to know–with clarity–where the fences of their decision-making playground are placed.

Two extremes to avoid

The Cage. It’s very common (in fact, it’s increasingly common) for parents to be concerned about the world in which their young teen is growing up. It’s common–and good–for parents to be concerned about the fact that our culture is expecting kids to act older (and be exposed to “older things”) at a younger and younger age.

The good and appropriate motivation to protect your new teen, however, can easily result in an unhealthy restriction on growing up. Parents at this extreme keep the boundaries on decision-making and independence so close that teens never (or rarely) have the opportunity to make any real choices.

This extreme can stunt the emotional and spiritual growth of teens, keeping them from the essential learning that comes with good and bad decision-making. In other words: setting the boundaries too tight works counter-productively, keeping your teen from growing in maturity.

Free-Range. The opposing extreme is also common (though increasingly less so), and is possibly even more destructive. This comes from the often-exasperated parent who says: “I don’t know how much freedom to give my teen. He seems to want complete independence, and his friends seem to have that already. Since I don’t know where to draw the line, I’ll give him what he’s asking for: almost complete independence.”

I’m saddened and occasionally shocked by how many 12 year-olds have complete freedom in every decision other than the basics of life (shelter, food, car rides). These young teens are allowed, or even encouraged, to make every choice when it comes to things like: curfew, bedtime, music and movie intake, friendships, money-spending, clothing and appearance. I’m not suggesting a prudish approach to this list (anyone who knows me can vouch for that!). But remember what I said at the outset of this article: teens want and need boundaries!

The Goal

The challenging goal of parenting teens, then, becomes to provide ever-increasing boundaries, with freedom inside those boundaries to run wild and make decisions.

This is not just about maturation and growing up and becoming healthy whole independent adults (although that’s a pretty good list!). This is a spiritual task! For parents, this is a fulfillment of the spiritual task given to you by God: to raise whole and healthy independent adults (failure as a parent looks like a 28 year-old who is still dependent on his mommy).

It also has spiritual implications for your young teen: as she learns to make healthy decisions, in the semi-protected environment of the boundaries you set, she will gain courage and skill for the task of embracing a faith-system that needs to evolve and grow into her own.

Bored with Church and God: Thoughts for PARENTS with YOUNG TEENS

see part 1: doubts
and part 2: transition

bored in churchBored with Church and God

When your kid was 9, he loved going to church, loved his Sunday school class, and seemed to have a real relationship with God.

But now, as a young teen, he seems bored. Maybe he’s even expressed this: “Church is boring; I don’t want to go.”

This is a natural occurrence in the lives of young teens. But the reasoning behind this boredom isn’t the same for every child. Here are a few possibilities:

Not Connected
Children (prior to the teen years) need fewer reasons to find church or Christianity engaging. A few fun moments in Sunday school or the reality of Christ in their parents’ lives can be enough. But young teens start to perceive a disconnect (if one exists) between real life and “church-world.” If they don’t sense a relational connection with people in the church (youth group leaders, other kids, adults in the church), it’s easy for them to make the small leap to boredom.

Young teens have a passionate need to be valued and noticed. Any place that doesn’t validate who they are as individuals, any place where they don’t feel known, can quickly feel awkward or boring to them.

Unless your family happens to attend a church with worship and sermons that connect with your young teen (this isn’t common, and isn’t normally the aim of most churches), attending church can begin to feel like a monumental waste of time to young teens – even if they still have an active faith in God.

The forms most churches use (in song, spoken word and format) are pretty foreign to the world of a teenager. Frankly, they’re often pretty foreign to the world of adults too! But the variance from “church-world” to the world of adults is almost always less than to the world of teens.

Faith System Disconnect
Probably the most common, and most healthy reason for young teens to feel boredom is their developmental need to grow up in faith. Pre-teens and children approach faith issues, obviously, with the mind of a child. But a young teen’s new ability to grasp (or at least entertain) abstract ideas begs all their concrete spiritual conclusions and understandings into question.

This shift in thinking ability has enormous spiritual implications for young teens, because pretty much everything we talk about at church, or in relation to faith in God, is abstract. Its like kids have a backpack of faith system “bits.” And during their young teen years, situations arise that call these bits to the forefront. When it becomes obvious to a teen that their childhood spiritual answer to a given situation or question doesn’t offer a strong enough answer anymore, they are forced to ignore this issue or struggle to allow their beliefs to evolve into a more adult form.

Don’t be freaked out by this process. Don’t be thrown by your teen’s expression of boredom. Instead, find constructive ways to come alongside her during this transition time of life.

Processing Boredom with Your Young Teen
Here are some ideas for coming alongside your young teen and her spiritual boredom:

  • Live it out. If your teen sees a vibrant and real faith being lived out day-to-day in your life (and being verbally expressed also), it will go a long ways toward helping him consider what an adult faith system should look like.
  • Talk about it. Our natural tendency is to lecture our kids about why they’re bored (“you need to do this”). Instead, work to create open lines of communication about faith and church. Process your child’s questions and reservations without jumping to easy answers.
  • Look for relational connections. Help your teen be (or stay) connected to the people of the church, not just the program. Look for creative ways to foster these relationships – with their peers and with other adults who will care about them.
  • Debrief. After a church service or youth group meeting, talk about what went on. Be careful that this doesn’t come across as a test. Helping your teen see the life-connection between what’s talked about at church and their world is a wonderful way to encourage the growth of their faith.