The WHO in the HOW Middle School Parent Cue


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October Series – WE’RE TEACHING THIS

Science is fascinating. Even if it isn’t your favorite subject in school, you have to admit it’s pretty interesting stuff. Believe it or not, some of the things you’re learning right now in middle school science class are things people have been debating for decades. And, if you’re a Christian, sometimes those debates can make it seem as though what you learn about science and what you believe about God are completely different things. It’s almost as if they’re on totally different teams! Kind of like there’s a God Team and a Science Team and eventually you’re just going to have to pick a side. That’s a pretty scary thought, right? But what if you didn’t have to actually choose between faith and science? What if the two actually go hand in hand? The truth is, believing something we learn in science class doesn’t mean we have to question our faith in God. In fact, science can actually point us back to God. And that’s exactly what this series is all about! We’ll take a look at some of the big questions about God and science and see just how well the two actually go together. When we remember to include the Who—God—behind the how—science—we’ll see that not only is science not the opposite of faith, it can actually be a catalyst to strengthen it.

By Carey Nieuwhof

So your kid comes up to you and asks, “Dad, how do we know there’s a God?” And you…freeze. You say something like, “Because I believe there’s a God,” or “We just know,” or “Because there is,” or “Because the Bible says God exists.”
Then your kid does what every kid does: he asks you another question. A tough one. Like Why? The little-kid routine of asking why seventeen times in a row can really expose how little you know as an adult.
Then, in your mind, you fast-forward a few years into middle school when your kid is suddenly asking about dinosaurs, the Big Bang, and Confucius, and you start to have a nervous breakdown. So, how do you respond?
Here are five principles that have helped me navigate faith and questions not only from my kids but also from my experience as a pastor of a local church:

One of the impulses every Christian parent feels is that questions automatically lead to disbelief. No, they don’t. Not automatically. Actually, great questions can lead to deeper belief. But it’s just way too easy to assume that curiosity is skepticism. Curiosity is not skepticism. It’s curiosity.

One of the worst things you can do is answer any faith question with a simplistic answer like, “Well, we just have to believe,” or “Because it’s true.” I’ve done that before. Not helpful. Your twelve-year-old suspects two things when you answer that way:
•Christianity doesn’t stand up to questions or advanced thinking.
•There are actually no answers to his question.
Both are mistakes.

An equally bad response is to show up the next day with a dozen theology textbooks and a scheduled Skype interview with one of the world’s foremost Old Testament professors. That’s a bit of overkill for your middle schooler. So, what should you do? Answer the question at the level the questioner is asking it.
Your daughter may just want to know that you believe, and an honest, “You know honey, there are a lot of reasons to believe in God—I’ve experienced Him myself, personally…and that’s one of the reasons I believe,” might be a great response.
Your daughter might just say, “Thanks.” Or she might ask another question, which you could then answer. In the teen years, you might do a Bible or book study together.
Don’t under-answer a question, or over-answer it.

I have a seminary degree. And a law degree. I can research things half-decently. And I’m an okay preacher.
I’ve done sermons where I have researched my head off and preached my heart out on the subject of why a good God allows bad things to happen, only to have someone ask me a few days later “So . . . why do you think God allows bad things to happen?”
In those moments, I want to scream. But those moments teach me something. Often, people aren’t actually looking for an intellectual answer. Instead, their question is coming out of their personal story. So, flip the conversation. Question the questioner, as Ravi Zacharias says. Ask them why they ask.
The person asking the question might tell you his wife is sick and they can’t find a cure. Or your third-grader son might say, “I want to know why that one kid in our class gets picked on all the time.” Then go have a conversation about that.

Remember that your kids will eventually have doubts. Why? Because you do. Because I do. Because we all do. Faith is not the absence of doubts. It’s the presence of belief in the midst of doubt.
In her research, Dr. Kara Powell has discovered that the biggest reason kids who grew up in the church lose their faith as adults is not doubt. It’s unexpressed doubt.
If you make your home a place where questions aren’t welcome, your kids are going to take their questions elsewhere. And where will they take them? Probably to a place that won’t give them the answers you’re hoping for.
So, decide ahead of time as a parent that you won’t freak out when your kid questions you and questions God. Or your teenager tells you that Christianity isn’t different than any other religion. Thank them for the question. Explore it with them. Ask them questions. And reach out to a wider circle of influence that can help them process what they’re going through.
Make your home a safe place where doubts can be expressed. You just might foster belief as a result.

Connect to a wider community of parents at

It’s okay if you’re not in the habit of having conversations with your middle schooler about their faith questions. You don’t need to deep-dive into the waters of doubt on your first attempt. Instead, start small.
1.  ASK.     Start, maybe, by asking what they talked about at church this week…without asking, “So what did you talk about at church today?” Here are a few other ways to start that conversation.
•“I heard you’re talking about science in church! Can you tell me about it?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                             •“What’s one thing you heard taught at church this week that you’d never heard before?”
•“Tell me one thing you talked about during small group this week.”

If you think you’re ready to dig a little deeper, here are a few more questions you can try.
•“On a scale of 1-10, how important is your faith to you?”
•“If you could ask God one question and know you’d get an answer, what would you ask?”
•“I’ve been thinking. What do you think is the hardest part about following Jesus?”
2.  LISTEN.     Practice active listening to let your middle schooler know you value what they have to say. Put down your phone and make eye contact. Resist the urge to plan your next response (or your shopping list). Be present.
3.  RESPOND.     No matter how your middle schooler has answered your question, keep the conversation going. Share your own experiences, questions, and doubts. And if what they say surprises you, freak out on the inside but stay calm on the outside.
Remember, your middle schooler doesn’t need a parent who has all the answers, but they do need a safe place to ask their questions. The way you invite conversation, respond to their questions, and react to their doubts today may determine whether or not they’ll share with you their even bigger questions tomorrow, or next month, or next year. So this week, ask one more question, listen just a little more closely, and try having a conversation instead of an answer.

See You at the Pole Wednesday, Sept 28


Wednesday, September 28

<h1 “=””>WE CRY OUT

A generation seeking Him!
—Psalm 24:3–6

Global Week of Student Prayer
Sunday, September 25 through Saturday, October 1, 2016

For the last 25 years, See You at the Pole has been about one simple act—prayer. SYATP is still about students uniting themselves in prayer before God interceding for their generation.

There are two opportunities to unite in prayer with your friends:

  • DAY: SEE YOU AT THE POLE day is on Wednesday, September 28, at 7:00 a.m. local time ( OR 30 minutes before the bell rings). All around the globe, in every time zone, students will be gathering at their flagpoles, praying for their school, friends, families, churches, and communities. SEE YOU AT THE POLE is a day committed to global unity in Christ and prayer for your generation.
  • WEEK: The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER (Sunday, September 25 through Saturday, October 1) encourages students to find new and unique ways, places, and times to pray throughout the week. Whether you attend PUBLIC SCHOOL, PRIVATE SCHOOL, or HOME SCHOOL, gather your friends wherever and whenever and pray! The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER is dedicated to prayer and launching your on-campus Bible clubs, prayer strategies, and student ministries.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Leading Teens

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Leading Teens

This past month, I was encouraged and entertained by teenagers who symbolized two completely different perspectives on life. I thought you’d enjoy them too, and perhaps learn what they teach us about adolescents today. I offer these two case studies below. Fasten your seatbelt.

Case Study One: Can You Post a Better Photo?


photo credit: 16.01.09 :: Haaaaaaa via photopin (license)

An 18-year-old girl who had escaped from an Australian correctional center responded to police after her mug shot was posted on Facebook. Did she turn herself in? Did she confess to what she’d done? Was she ready to come clean?

Nope. She simply wanted them to use a better photo of her on-line.

Yep, she did. She asked them to please use a prettier picture of her and even provided one for them to use. When Amy Sharp had escaped from Surry Hills Corrective Services Cell Complex on August 19th, police immediately posted mug shots of her, so people in the community could be on the lookout for her. That’s when Amy saw the photos and felt she didn’t look good enough. It wasn’t the kind of representation she was hoping for. So . . . she sent them a better picture. Perhaps it was a selfie, who knows?

Amy Priorities?

Too often, Amy represents a population of teens who’ve bought into society’s values: style over substance. I’m sorry, Amy, but isn’t the mug shot the least of your worries? When did image become more important than integrity? Our culture unwittingly tells us: looking good is more important than doing good.

Case Study Two: Can We Have a Job?

Four young teens approached Zsa Zsa Heard, who works at the La Grange Housing Authority (in Georgia), and asked if she knew of any jobs they could do this summer. When Ms. Heard asked them why they wanted to work, she assumed they wanted to make a few extra bucks. They told her, however, that gang members were approaching them all the time, wanting them to join. They knew that would lead to trouble. So, they wanted to find work—to keep them out of trouble.

She hired all four of them on the spot.

The four teens, Dennis, Dylik, Jalen and Deion began working in construction, helping in the community garden, passing out mail and tending the chicken coup. And it’s paid off. Not only have they done what they’ve been asked to do, they’re now catching a vision for their future careers, after learning about construction and livestock.

The Young Men’s Priorities? 

They want to do something that matters. They need opportunities and guidance, but they actually want to serve our community. What they need are adults (like Ms. Heard) who immediately spot their craving for meaning and productivity and satisfy it. She didn’t “give them something for nothing,” but she offered an opportunity to earn money as they used their gifts, time and energy.

Where do they get these perspectives?

Our Report Card: Five Test Questions

Where do our young adults pick up their attitudes and paradigms? You already know, don’t you? It’s from the world around them. Amy Sharp was conditioned to be consumed with improving her social media presence, instead of correcting her behavior. Dennis, Dylik, Jalen and Deion somehow understood that gang membership is a dead end street, but job experience is a path that leads to a goal. At their fork in the road, they talked each other into stepping into the Housing Authority and seeking out jobs.

Let me suggest five questions we should ask ourselves as educators and parents:

After Observing Your Students:

  1. What societal message do you see they’ve bought into?
  1. What opportunities could satisfy their need for growth and maturity?
  1. What incentives can you offer them to help them move in a healthy direction?
  1. What direction and wisdom will you provide for them?
  1. What one small step could send them in the right trajectory?

I love the story of the vacationers who visited an old village in Austria years ago. Upon meeting a local, the guests asked if any famous people had been born there. The local resident smiled and replied, “Nope, only babies.”

He was right. Every kid begins as a clean slate. They are soft clay with which to be molded by artists. What they become has a lot to do with the perspective we have offered them growing up. Let’s get this right.

Click the here for more articles from Tim Elmore

Fusion Wednesdays 6:30 to 8pm


September is our Lifebook Series!

We will be tracking through the book of John and challenging your Middle School Student to shine the TRUE LIGHT wherever they go… School, Home, on the team. 

Q What is Fusion?  Fusion offers a loving and accepting environment geared for Middle School Students Grades 6-8.  We have events, weekly meetings, and exist to Intentionally Engage Middle School Students by leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Q What happens on Fusion Wednesdays? 6:30 Begins in the  Middle School Kickstart Room 100 with a mixer and giveaways. After Worship and Talk Time, Students move to break out rooms for prayer and discussion. 8pm is dismissal time

What can my Middle Schooler do for dinner? We suggest sending your student to the Oakwood Wednesday Night Dinner for a nice hot meal.  Students are welcome to hang out in the Middle School Room early between 5:30 and 6:30pm.

Can my Middle Schooler play on the playground?  Parents, please let your Middle Schooler know that the playground is for CHILDREN and that they will be asked to leave the playground.

5 New Rules for Digital Parenting


by John Acuff

I’m not a huge fan of exaggeration, so let me say as clearly as I can, “The entire world changes when your kid gets a smart phone.”

You think you know, oh you’ve read some articles or heard chit chat at dinner parties, but you have no idea what happens when your parenting goes digital. Up is down. Right is wrong. Cats befriend dogs. It’s a scene, man, it’s a real scene.

Alright, now that we’ve got the panic every parent feels out of the way, let’s talk practically for a minute.

In this phase, you have a critical role as a parent in developing technological responsibility in your kids. You can collaborate a plan to help your kids learn to respect limits and strengthen social abilities. You can’t expect your kids to intuitively know how to be responsible with technology, that’s why you set a few ground rules.

When your kids gets a smart phone, a lot of the rules you’ve always parented with are still in play. But, the amount of new situations you’ll face demand some creativity. That said, here are the 5 new rules we’re teaching our kids at the Acuff house:

1. Never unplug an adult’s phone

This one will seem silly right up until the moment you wake up and find that your phone didn’t charge over night. “That’s weird,” you’ll think, as you realize that a dead phone means you can’t take a quick look at today’s schedule, “I swear I plugged it in last night.” You did, but teens have a curious habit of unplugging whatever phone is in the way of recharging their own. They don’t see it as “battery life,” they see it as simply “life.” Implement this rule before you miss a morning meeting because your dead phone meant a dead alarm clock, too.

2 Answer the phone

Have you ever called your kid on the phone and been sent to voicemail? Have you ever waited hours for a text message response? Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion they turned on the “Do Not Disturb” feature? They did. They turned the ringer off too. Eventually we had to talk with our daughter to clarify why she had a phone in the first place. The purpose of her phone was so that we could communicate. Sure, it has games and a camera and a million functions, but first and foremost, your phone is a phone. (How crazy is it that we have to remind each other that phones can still make and receive calls.) If you want better communication with your kids, use this rule.

3. Don’t mess with water

Going to the neighborhood pool with your friends? Leave your phone at home. Going to a water park with girls from your Bible study? Leave your phone at home. Rafting down a small river at a birthday party? Leave your phone at home. Will you miss a few photos? Sure, but you’ll have a phone that works for years as opposed to all the teens (and adults) who have been forced to hope a bowl of rice would fix a computer that’s been dropped in a creek.

4. You’re in charge of your battery life

“I would have called you, but my phone was dead.” First, brilliant move on the kid front. Hard to argue and certainly this is an excuse I couldn’t make when I was a kid. In 1984, I couldn’t have told my dad, “I would have called you, but the Johnsons have this weird home phone that they have to charge every night.” Now, though, juice maintenance is a chore each phone owner in our house has to take responsibility for. My wife Jenny got so frustrated that everyone kept stealing and losing power cords that she bought a 12-pack. Let me repeat that sentence because I don’t think you heard me. My wife bought a dozen power cords. Teach your kids battery responsibility.

5. Don’t play Pokemon in the street

This one is really simple and yet, you’d be surprised how often a rare Pokemon appears in a busy intersection.

The world of parenting is changing quickly. Tomorrow, some new technology is going to demand that we come up with some brand new rules. Until then, guard your power cord, make sure the ringers are on, and watch out for Pikachu.

It’s a jungle out here

Check out More Parent Cue Articles

What Makes You Happy Parent Cue



We’re Teaching This Sept 11, 18, 25

What makes you happy? Or what would make you happy? That’s probably an easy question. Everyone’s got something. We all daydream about a trouble-free life made possible by something: a car, a house, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spring break trip, or just a pile of money. We all have something that could fill in the blank, I’d be happy if ________. And, we all spend time going after those things. Thinking about them. Planning for them. Hoping for them. Maybe even praying for them because, on some level or another, we all want to be happy. But isn’t it true that even when we get what we want, we aren’t happy for long? Pretty soon, we start daydreaming about something new. If happiness is the goal, why is it so hard to hang on to? And what do we do when the very things we think will make us happy end up making us miserable? In this series, we begin to ask the question, what makes you happy? And, one thing we’ll find is that Jesus cares a lot about our happiness. Not only that, through His words, we’ll discover that where we find happiness may be different than we thought—having to do less with a what, and more with a Who and, maybe even a who or two.

Think About This:

by Sandra Stanley

“Who in the world told my kids they could have a life of their own?” I remember regularly thinking this while our kids were teenagers. Just when we hit an awesome parenting stride (and by awesome I mean I was pretty much in control of their schedules and daily details, and made sure none of it actually conflicted with MY important plans), they started individuating and making plans of their own.
As parents, this is the season in our teenagers’ lives where we begin to battle two conflicting emotions: the urge to take back control and the desire to become buddies. Both usually originate from legitimate motives. For the former, we don’t want them to fail and we believe we hold the keys to preventing that. For the latter, we want them to like us during a chunk of years when they possibly won’t. Both are tempting. But ultimately, both are a disservice to them.
Since our kids are entering a new season of life, a new parenting approach has to be considered. For their sake, we need to loosen the tight reigns of the training years and move to the sidelines for coaching. Coaches don’t the leave the field. They don’t get distracted with other stuff. They watch carefully, call some plays, and pull their players off of the field from time to time. They have no immediate goals of keeping their players happy. Mostly, they encourage their players to run the plays and respond to situations according to the training they’ve received.

Transitioning to the coaching role wasn’t intuitive for me. Disciplining and training had become ingrained. For me, the switch was easier when I began to think about it, and my kids, in terms of being for them. I wanted them to know, “I’m for your physical safety, I’m for your emotional health, I’m for your relational success, I’m for your mental and spiritual development, I’m for you making it to the end of these middle school years, or high school years, with as few regrets as possible. You’re the player, but I’m not afraid to pull you aside for tweaks, corrections, and sometimes sitting out a game. I’m for you. I know you can do this, and I’m here to help when you need it.”
Resisting the urge to control and not caving to the desire to prematurely make friendship a priority brings health to a family. Coaching our kids through those middle and high school years, in spite of a few regrets here and there, is the stuff rich relationships are made of later. In hindsight, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. My kids gaining “a life of their own” has truly broadened and enriched mine!

From Parenting Teenagers Part 3: A Life of Their Own. For more from Sandra, check out
To connect to a wider community of parents,
check out

Try This:

What would it look like in your family for you to move to a coaching role with your kids? Think about it. Maybe coaching your family right now means you step back to the sideline and let them make some decisions on their own. Or maybe the opposite is true. Maybe it’s time for you to move back onto the field and coach them actively at this phase where they need you the most.
This week, choose one area where you kid is ready to grow and make a game plan for them to step into independence in that area. It could be with cell phones or chores or curfews or dating or money or just about anything else. But take the time to decide with them what steps they need to make in order to gain more freedom in an area where they want it most.
If they want more freedom with money, help them make a budget. More freedom with cell phones? Have them show you they can handle the responsibility that comes with it. You get the idea. Then let them know…
1. I am for you in this area. I want you to win with money, with your cell phone, with your dating life. The goal for me, as your parent, is that you gain more freedom and more happiness over time.
2. There are steps you must take. Because I’m for you, you won’t be given total freedom over night. But here are the specific steps you can take today to get to the next level of freedom tomorrow.
3. There will be course corrections. Each time you make wise choices, you’ll get more of what you want, but we know you’re learning and you may make mistakes. When you do, we’ll have to change the plan a bit, meaning each time you make dangerous or unwise choices, you will lose some freedom for a while.

Why We Can’t Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History

Why We Can’t Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History

Do you know the current birth rate in America today? The U.S. fertility rate fell to the lowest point since record keeping started more than a century ago, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s almost unbelievable.

In 1909, the government began keeping track of what’s called the fertility rate. The general fertility rate is the number of births out of 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44. The U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded, led by a plunge in births to immigrant women since the onset of the Great Recession. According to CNN, the first three months of 2016 saw fertility rate in the U.S. fall to its lowest level; 59.8 births per 1,000 women.

While this trend is intriguing, I just read the latest statistic, which stopped me in my tracks.

As of last month, August 2016, America had the lowest birth rate of any point in recorded history. Lower than the Seniors, the Builder Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X or the Millennials. Women are choosing something other than raising children as a path to the life they want.

What Does This Mean?


There has been a real shift in our view of children and parenting over the last decade. The Millennial Generation is the largest generation in U.S. history, at 80 million strong. (They’re young adults today). Right in the middle of their generation, more children were born in America in 1991 than any other year in recorded history. Today, however, we’ve swung to our lowest fertility and birth rates—just as the largest generation in history steps into the typical age of parenting.

So, why are we not having kids?

1. Women are choosing careers over kids.

Millions of families now believe they cannot enjoy the standard of living they want without two incomes in the home. Additionally, many women would say they enjoy a career more than they’d enjoy raising a child—and it’s tough to do both.

2. The economy often restricts couples from having children.

Sometimes the choice not to have children (or to have less children) is not just about the desire for an affluent standard of living. Some couples would say they simply cannot afford to bring another person into their family and provide for them.

3. Many are choosing a single life, instead of a family.

I’ve written before on the growing number of people living and dining alone. While this may lead to lots of new realities, one certain reality is the difficulty of having a child in the home with no caring adult to raise it. Hence, fewer kids.

4. Parenting children is, perhaps, the most taxing task an adult can do.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience and resilience, strength and emotional intelligence—at least if you want to do it well. In today’s world, that’s a trade off many don’t want to make. It’s just hard work.

Can we ponder the various outcomes of this reality?

What This Means to Us . . .

Study the nations around the world that are not replacing the adult population, and you can see trouble ahead. For years, many of us have watched Japan’s birth rate drop—and lead to fears over whether they’ll be enough young people to fund the millions who are retiring, much less the economy’s need to produce. Japan sells more adult diapers than baby diapers. Last year, Germany passed up Japan as the nation with the lowest birth rate. A study, reported by the BBC, says Germany’s birth rate has slumped to the lowest in the world, prompting fears that labor market shortages will damage the economy. Not far behind are Portugal and Italy.

Is America heading in this direction, with a sagging economy already?

In our nation, we are experiencing “two hills and two valleys.” In other words, two generations are very large, while two generations are much smaller. The retiring generation (Boomers) are 76 million strong. They are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day. Generation X is smaller in size. (This generation started with the birth control pill). Next, the Millennials number 80 million in size, currently the largest generation in American history. But today, Generation Z is much smaller again, numbering about 59 million, depending on what year you believe their generation began.

Globally, the nations that have the highest birth rates are developing nations. Most of them can be found in Africa, with Niger at the top of the list. So, countries that are economically developed are not having as many babies. But the poorest seem to be having the most babies—89.7% of people under 30 live in developing economies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. This could be trouble for our world economy as well as our ability to educate and prepare them to compete in the marketplace.

Our “To Do” List

  1. Let’s be intentional about parenting and educating the children we currently have.
  1. Let’s find ways to help educate and mentor children and families in poor nations.
  1. Let’s find ways (if possible) to live on less and raise larger families very well.
  1. Let’s explore adopting children who need good homes and families.
  1. Let’s see the big picture and make the most of every young person around us.

To be clear, just because the fertility rate is decreasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the US population is going to shrink. The rate of growth may be slower, but the population is still expected to increase, according to CNN. I am certain, however, that our future depends on how well we parent and educate our children today.