November Middle School Series – ALL IN

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We’re Teaching This:

Have you ever taken a big risk? I’m not talking about eating your mom’s broccoli casserole after too many days in the fridge.  I’m talking about something that could have only ended with a big win or a big disaster. Asking a girl to prom that has never talked to you. Pep-rally dance-off. Stealing second base in the last inning of the playoffs. If you’ve ever gone all in—taken a big risk— there’s only one reason you did it. The payoff. For every risk, there’s the promise of a reward. And if the reward is worth it, if it’s enticing enough, you just might be willing to do things you might otherwise never consider. Did you know that serving the people around you can be risky? Not only is there no guarantee of being successful, of actually helping someone, but serving also means putting our comfort, our convenience, and our reputation on the line.  On the other hand, choosing not to serve others has risks as well. Not only could we miss out, but those around us may go without something that they really need. Either way, there’s a lot on the line. So the question you have to ask is: Am I going to play it safe or am I going to go all in?

A Parent’s Survival Guide to Middle School – Orange Parent Cue

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by | Oct 3, 2014 | Blog, Students

Last week we talked about the ways your middle schooler is changing. As a first time middle-school parent, with all of the changes and not-so-stellar characteristics, I started thinking to myself, “How will we ever get through this?”

During our parent orientation at our kid’s school a couple of weeks ago, the counselor assured us that it is possible to survive the middle school years if you will do 3 things:

1. Remember that YOU are the parent. Act like it.

Many parents want to be their kids’ BFF—doing whatever it takes not to disrupt the magic that happens when everyone is happy. But at this stage in the game, our role is more like that of coach than friend. You’re not done parenting yet, this child is not ready to be launched into the world as an adult, so you have to continue to work at parenting during this stage knowing that the goal of friendship lies just ahead.

They need a parent, and that’s a function only you can fulfill. And yes, while they won’t always be happy with you—or happy in general during their tween/teen years—it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Parents are the most important thing in a child’s life.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

Because of their hormones, they can and will showcase the full range of emotions in a matter of hours—sometimes minutes! During those moments of insanity, they will say things that might hurt you. They will roll their eyes, huff, sigh, or completely blow you off. WARNING: that’s not the time to pick a fight. You can’t argue with unbalanced people, your children included.

The chances are that they don’t really mean it. Pushing boundaries is now one of the primary activities on the middle school child job description. And it’s not that we shouldn’t enforce those boundaries, it’s just that we need to do so with grace and truth. Grace. Lots and lots of grace.

3. Get and STAY Connected.

Be intentional about getting your middle schooler connected to the right people. They can’t navigate this time on their own. They need people in their lives who are not you. They love you, but they will not tell you everything. In their eyes, you’re no longer objective. Connect your kid to a trusted adult such as a coach, play director, dance teacher, or church small group leader. Because they won’t ask you every question that pops into their head, widen the circle and find other adults who would say what you say.

Most of all, we can simply offer our kids safe places to land. Sometimes they just need space to clear their heads. They need us constantly reminding them they have value and that we love them in spite of the crazy.

Middle school isn’t easy, but with a little planning, preparation, and parenting you will help your children thrive throughout these important years.

If you’re a parent of a child in middle school or are past this stage of life, we could use some wisdom. How have you survived the middle school years?

 

Dan Scott works at Orange in New Product Development and is the Art Director and Large Group Director for 252 Basics. Dan and his wife Jenna have four amazing kids: Liam, Ellison, Addison, and Taye. You can read more from Dan on his blog, DanScottBlog.com, or on Twitter, @DanScott77.

YOUNG TEENS AND BIBLE READING

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YOUNG TEENS AND BIBLE READING

some time ago, i did a blog interview with josh griffin on thedownload youth ministry blog about young teens and bible reading. thought i’d share it here:

Research shows that a large percentage of churched teens rarely read the Bible outside of church. Why do you think that’s so?
A secondary reason is the busyness of the lives of teenagers these days; but the primary reason is that the Bible feels inaccessible to teens. They would say–if they’re being honest–that it’s “boring.” But what they really mean, if they had the words, would be, “I don’t know how to read it.”

Why do young teens have a hard time reading and relating to the Bible?
Of course, there’s a language issue. But I think the main hurdle for young teens is that reading the Bible feels more academic. They try it once or twice, but feel like failures when they don’t connect with what they’re reading.

young teen and bible.1How have changes in youth culture affected the ability of Christian teens to understand, relate to, and engage with Scripture?
One of the primary shifts in youth culture over the past couple decades is a major shift in how teenager understand truth. Mostly gone are the days when rational arguments trumped. Today’s teenagers and young adults have grown up in a world where their experience informs their understanding of what’s true. This shouldn’t unnerve us as Christ-followers; instead, we trust that the God who wants to reveal himself will meet teenagers in the living Word of God.

What are some of the spiritual challenges a young teen faces in today’s culture?
While I could answer this question in dozens of ways, I’ll go with this: today’s teenagers have an extremely heightened need for belonging. A desire for belonging is a good thing, and part of our being made in the image of God. But the challenge for today’s teenagers is that they usually learn their identity through their places of belonging. And, clearly, this can be problematic when their places of belonging tell them lies about themselves.

You’ve been involved in youth ministry for a few decades now. Is nurturing the faith of young teens more difficult today?
In many ways, yes (though not in every way). Certainly, our pluralistic culture has mostly eliminated the “base line” of basic assumptions we used to be able to make about teenagers’ knowledge of the Bible and basic beliefs. In many ways, the biggest issue I see is the extreme isolation of teenagers in our culture today: they spend all their waking hours in homogeneous groupings, and rarely spend time with adults. That brings all sorts of challenges with it that are difficult for youth workers who want to help teenagers grow into adults with a vibrant faith.

What are some of the challenges faced by parents, youth workers, and pastors?
As a parent of teenagers myself, I am constantly encouraged by our culture to treat my teenagers as if they are little children. This has a counter-intuitive negative impact on teenagers, extending adolescence (now understood to be a 20 year life stage!), and damaging their growth, including their spiritual development.

What are some ways that parents can help their teens understand the Bible?
This isn’t rocket science. A parent who wants to help their teens understand the Bible has to first model a life of being formed by God’s Word. Then, we have to be intentional about regular and ongoing spiritual conversations. Research has shown us the importance of teenagers verbalizing what they believe. Parents can have an amazing ministry with their teens by providing safe and supportive opportunities for that verbalization.

Middle School Changes – Orange Parent Cue

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by | Sep 25, 2014 | Blog, Students

I can’t say I feel old enough, but it’s true: we have a child in middle school.
A new school. A new chapter. A whole new world.

And as much as we sometimes feel like a deer in the headlights, thankfully, we’re not on our own during this transition to middle school. We have experts—parents, teachers, friends—around us who are already giving us insight into the middle school mind. They are people who’ve been there, know what we’re going through, and can help us along the way. Here’s some of what we’ve been learning.

The Middle School Changes

There are four major areas where middle school kids are changing.

Physical Changes: 

In general boys and girls develop at different rates. Most of the girls seem like giants compared to many of the boys who still look like they could be in fourth grade. This will change over the course of middle school. Kids will grow up. Yet as they grow, the body doesn’t grow at a standard ratio. The upper body may grow faster than their legs, or their feet might grow faster than the rest of their body, or kids might even start looking like bobble-heads again. They don’t call these the “Awkward Years” for nothing.

Intellectual Maturity: 

Our middle schoolers are more “worldly” than any previous middle school generation. They have access to the world at an unprecedented level, finding all sorts of information within seconds from a device that sits in the palm of their hands. Our kids are digital natives and know how to discover anything they want whenever they want. Yet, developmentally, so much of what they find is beyond what they can understand. They are still quite shallow in their thinking and act more like children than adults.

Emotional State:

Have you ever wanted to ask your kids, “Who are you and what did you do with our son?” Sometimes it seems like our kids are three different people trapped in the same body. Sometimes they can help this, but most times they can’t. They are hormonal, moody, and often irritable at a moment’s notice. On top of the hormones, they have a fragile self-concept. Because it’s still all about them, they take everything personally, while wondering if they’re good enough.

Social Development: 

Middle schoolers are experiencing a growing dependence on peers to find self-worth. They want to make friends and hang out with them without parents around. They will start to detach from family and begin to develop their independence.

Yet because these kids are unsure of who they are and who they really want hang around with, their friend groups will change. Kids who were best friends in elementary school might become casual acquaintances. Don’t be alarmed if your kids shuffle through different friend groups throughout the year. It’s just part of the process of growing up.

Throughout all of those changes, it’s important to remember this: Parents are still the most important people in a child life.

We can help our kids through this process.

We were promised won’t be easy. So, stay tuned next week for some practical tips to help you, as parents, survive the middle school years.

Do you have a kid starting out middle school? What changes have you noticed already?

 

Dan Scott works at Orange in New Product Development and is the Art Director and Large Group Director for 252 Basics. Dan and his wife Jenna have four amazing kids: Liam, Ellison, Addison, and Taye. You can read more from Dan on his blog, DanScottBlog.com, or on Twitter, @DanScott77.

Your Best Worst Day Ever?

Your Best Worst Day Ever?

What’s not to like about a 42-page book with a 10 word title?  And since 1972, over 4 million people have way more than liked—they’ve adored—Judith Viorst’s classic work, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of reading this story, the title obviously gives it away.  A normal kid named Alexander had what seems like an abnormally awful day.  But what I appreciated about Viorst’s original tale is that it focused on the fact that everyone has a bad day now and then, and mood shifts actually are as normal as the sunrise and sunset of each day.

“It’s during those “Very Bad Days” that we wrestle with the question of “why does God allow this?””

But when Alexander’s story goes through Disneyfication and onto the big screen, you get all the bells and whistles of slapstick comedy topped off with a dash of Freaky Friday supernaturalism and schadenfreude.  All in all, a clean and fun-filled family affair, but it may leave you with the longing for every terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day to wrap up as neatly as an 88 minute film.

Alas, most of the time, they don’t.  The stinging pain and aching memories of unfortunate events linger, and weigh our hearts down as though they were attached to a ball and chain.  And for followers of Jesus Christ, bad days seem even worse, given the fact that God is supposedly on our side—right?

And it is during those “Very Bad Days” that we wrestle with the question of “why does God allow these things to happen?”  Or more specifically…

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO ME???

The car breaks down, the relationship breaks up.  The depression reappears as my joy disappears.  Old habits and addictions become new problems again.  The news is bad, and the future looks worse.

In short, for some reason the God who made us and loves us allowed the terrible, the horrible, the no good, and the very bad into our day.

Now theologians and philosophers have wrestled mightily and waxed eloquently for centuries regarding this question, and unless you have private access to the eternal and unsearchable mind of God, you will struggle to find the answers as well.

The movie attempts to offer a response in the form of  “hard times are mitigated when we have family to support us,” but I believe there is a an often missed principle offered up from God’s Word that addresses this issue on a much deeper level:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

“When we go through difficulties, there is a definite purpose awaiting us down the road.”

We may never know the ultimate reason that God allows suffering on this side of heaven, but one thing is certain, when we go through difficulties, there is a definite purpose awaiting us down the road.  From this verse, we know that when we have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, it equips us to help someone down the road who is going through the same stuff!

Think about it…when you have been down about life, how amazing is it to meet and connect with someone who cannot only sympathize, but empathize as well.  No two trials are exactly the same, but what a blessing it has been to me to hear from someone who has walked the same road of trial, and come through it.  And when they share their story with me, it helps heal the painful memories in their lives, as well.

I know we all want easy answers and quick solutions to life’s problems, but until Disney completes its world domination, that just ain’t gonna happen folks.  However, the next time you feel like Alexander, don’t wish hard times on the people who seem to have it all together, rather remember that God is preparing you to help someone in need in the future.  And consider also that the suffering you endure can also be a testimony for THE Cause, because when the world sees you handle difficulties with patience and faith in Christ, it will open the door for you to talk to them about the Man who endured the greatest agony of all.

And that could be your best worst day ever!

Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action

Bad days come and go, and when they do, rather than question what God is doing, think about the ways He will use you in the future to help those in need of encouragement.

Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause

Pray: Jesus, give us the perspective from Your Word that teaches us to patiently endure difficult times so we can help those in need in the future.  Give us also the eyes to see whose who are suffering so we can share our journey with them.

Read: 1 Peter 5:10. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Get:  Reverse…Live Differently. In the Old Testament, Daniel is a clear example of someone who experienced a whole string of no good, horrible, very bad days. But he didn’t let it stop him from living a life that brought incredible glory to God. Pick up a copy of Reverse today! This 21 day student devotional based on the life of Daniel will help you see for yourself how God can redeem the tough stuff in life and use us to impact our world for Him!

Oakwood is a Collection Center this year for Operation Christmas Child – National Collection Week is November 17-24

 

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OCC What Comes Out of the Box
 
The Eternal Impact of a Simple Gift – Oakwood is now a Collection Center for our area!
 If you are interested in volunteering to help us with Operation Christmas Child in November, contact Pastor Jody in the office: 830-625-0267
National Collection Week is November 17–24!
Visit our website to find everything you need to share good news and great joy with children around the world, including how to pack a shoebox, and where to find your nearest drop-off location. You can discover the destination of your gift by making your shipping donation online, download free resources from our resource hub, and learn more about The Greatest Journey, Operation Christmas Child’s follow-up discipleship program.
What goes into the box is fun. But did you know that what comes out can change lives forever?
Flourishing Churches
When churches use shoebox gifts to reach out to their communities, God often blesses them with dramatic growth and a great harvest of souls. Nothing energizes a church like a generation of children who love Jesus.
Opening Doors for the Gospel
Through Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan’s Purse has established church networks in over 100 countries to empower pastors, train teachers, supply Bibles, and prepare the way for those who preach the Gospel.
Redeeming Families
Children often invite their parents to attend the churches where they received their shoeboxes. Many struggling families and broken marriages have been restored as mothers and fathers discover how deeply Jesus loves them.
Making Disciples
Samaritan’s Purse developed The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson Bible study, especially for children who receive shoebox gifts. We teach them how to live for Jesus and share their faith, multiplying the Gospel among their family and friends.