- How can you best use social media to connect with Generation Z?
- What can this statistic tell you about what your Generation Z students value in an online experience?
As we end our Middle School Series talking about Social Media and how it impacts our real lives, I came across one of the most RECKLESS and FOOLISH Social Media stunts I have ever seen that happened this past week!
We have been talking about how God created us in His Image and referenced Ephesians 2:10 in the NLT:
“10For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.:”
We focused on how being God’s Masterpiece is a greater place to find self-worth, than from the likes we get on Instagram or Snap Chat.
We also looked at the fact that it is so much easier to tear down, rather than build up, especially when we are thumbing through pictures and reacting in the moment. The challenge is to make an impact by being confident in Christ and turning the tide from negativity online to positive encouragement.
This last week in our series, we are looking at a Proverb from chapter 14:
Bring your gift-filled shoebox to a Drop-Off Location near you, open during National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21.
Joanna’s family in Paraguay was going in separate directions, all pointed away from God. A shoebox gift introduced her to Jesus. Then, she began leading family members to Him.
Joanna’s family was about to break apart.
The Paraguayan family hadn’t lived under one roof for some time. Joanna’s mother, Martha, was working in Uruguay, located south of Paraguay in South America.
Estranged from her husband, Martha was considering making her move permanent because she didn’t see any reconciliation to her marriage in sight. That meant the children were going to have to choose where and with whom they would live.
That’s when Joanna received a shoebox at age 13. That day, the girl who felt so much uncertainty decided to place her faith in Jesus Christ and the direction of her family in His hands.
“I wanted to follow Jesus, so I decided to become a Christian right then,” said Joanna, the youngest of four children.
Finding Her Heart in San Francisco
“Receiving a shoebox was the way Joanna received the Gospel,” said Maria Vera, who along with her husband, Victor, formed a church called Centro Christian Fuente de Vida (Foundation of Life Christian Center). The church meets on a plot of land in an area of Paraguay called San Francisco.
After receiving Christ at the church’s Operation Christmas Child outreach event, Joanna began taking The Greatest Journey classes and attending Sunday school, which the Veras taught underneath a tree.
When Joanna told her mother the news of her salvation during a telephone conversation, Martha decided to come home and began attending church services with Joanna. Martha now teaches The Greatest Journey discipleship classes and plays the tambourine in the church’s praise team.
“God has used Joanna to work in our family, starting with me,” Martha said.
Joanna’s influence spread to her older sister, Jessica.
“At home, she was always singing all the songs she had learned in Sunday school,” Jessica said. “‘Sing it again,’ I would ask her. I started coming to church and learning all the songs myself.”
Their brother, Adam, was withdrawn. Joanna repeatedly encouraged Adam to come to church. Adam finally gave in to see why she was so persistent.
“She wants all of us children to come to God,” Adam realized.
More Blessed to Give Than to Receive
During the church’s Operation Christmas Child outreach event this past June, Joanna, now 16, helped hand out boxes like the one she received three years ago.
Observing Adam at the event, Pastor Victor Vera said, “It’s a miracle to see him here, talking and laughing openly with the people here, because back then, he wouldn’t say anything.”
Joanna, Martha, Jessica, and Adam now attend church together.
“I am very happy that my family is almost whole,” Martha said about her husband and other son being closer to accepting the Gospel.
“I’ve learned to never say no when Joanna’s telling me things about God,” said Joanna’s father, Gilberto, a recovering alcoholic.
“I’m very grateful and very touched that God has used me in this way,” Joanna said.
- For Joanna to continue to grow in her faith in Christ as she approaches young adulthood.
- For wisdom for Joanna, Martha, Jessica, and Adam as they invite other family members to church and talk with them about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus.
- For Victor and Maria Vera as they lead the Foundation of Life congregation in purchasing a plot of land to expand the church’s outreach in the San Francisco community of Paraguay.
Prayer Devotional from Know God – A 28 Day Devotional for Students
Did you know that octothorpe is the name of the # symbol on a phone? It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “hashtag.” Ladies, did you have a Barbie growing up? Did you know her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts? So regal. Did you know there’s a town in Georgia named Santa Claus? A Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky? And a No Name, Colorado?
Names are a big deal. Branding companies make millions of dollars every year helping businesses come up with the right name. Expectant parents spend countless hours debating potential names for their kids. Imagine a world where no one had a name. Boring, right? And confusing. It’s almost as if our names carry the weight of who we are.
When Jesus talked about prayer during His famous Sermon on the Mount, He gave us an example of how our prayers should look. We creatively call this “The Lord’s Prayer.” In this prayer, Jesus began with God’s name:
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed
be your name’” (Matthew 6:9).
This introduction to The Lord’s Prayer tells us two things:
- Start by calling God, “Father.”
Just as a child can freely approach a good father, we can approach our perfect Father in heaven. The way we think about God affects how we approach Him. And the way we approach God is so important that Jesus began His prayer by mentioning it—approach God as your loving Father. It doesn’t mean you have to literally call him Father every time you pray. It means you simply acknowledge that God loves you and will respond to you like a loving father would respond to his children.
- Continue by honoring His name.
Prayer should start with God—not with us. God’s name carries a lot of weight. He deserves to be recognized and admired. Spend some time thinking about who God is before you starting telling Him everything you need. Prayer shouldn’t just be about us and our wish lists. Prayer reminds us who God is.
Let’s take a few minutes and turn our attention to God.
READ PSALM 96 OUT LOUD TO HELP YOU FOCUS ON GOD. WRITE DOWN THREE THINGS THAT ARE TRUE ABOUT GOD:
Today, when you spend some time in prayer, thank God for how awesome He is and for all the great things He has done. You might want to talk to Him about the things you wrote down, or read Psalm 96 back to Him.
I used to think only parents of high school students had to focus on social media. I assumed that until my kids hit high school, it wasn’t a topic I’d have to think about often as a parent. I didn’t think I’d get a free pass until 9th grade, but there was some naïve, optimistic belief inside me that assumed I wouldn’t have to deal with it in 6th grade.
I was wrong.
My daughter started middle school a few weeks ago and I’ve had to let go of a lot of the misconceptions I had about technology and students. Case in point, the other day my daughter told me that students at her middle school started “couple accounts on Instagram.” For a few minutes I pretended I understood what that meant, but as she explained it, what she said caught me off guard.
Apparently, a couple account is when someone anonymously opens an Instagram account designed to propose couples who could date. The owners of the account grab photos from other students’ profiles and then slap them together on Instagram. People who follow the account then vote in the comments on whether the two people shown would make a good couple.
Can you guess what happens?
When you create something like this, it’s only a matter of time until someone says, “She’s too ugly for him” or “He’s a loser and she’s too popular for him. They’d make a bad couple.”
I’m 39 and sometimes when complete strangers on the Internet say mean things about me, it hurts my feelings. Now imagine you’re a 6th grade girl, and a group of 8th graders who go to your school say you’re ugly on Instagram.
Whenever you criticize social media, a segment of culture is quick to point out all the amazing things it offers. And I agree with that. I’m a huge fan of the many opportunities social media makes possible for all of us. I genuinely believe it can positively impact most aspects of our lives.
As a parent though, I’m starting to pay better attention. As a parent, I’m starting to realize a 6th grader’s heart wasn’t built to be criticized publicly and instantly on social media platforms. As a parent, I’m starting to see both the good and the bad sides of technology.
If you’ve got kids, social media is coming for you. Meet it head on, with hope and caution, because you’re going to need both.
Middle School Students help on the Kids Club Bus at Trunk or Treat.
We have kids enter the bus and slide out the back with lots of candy!
Students help in the blacked out bus with lights and passing out candy.
This is a great way to add to community serve hours!
- 5 to 6pm – Setup
- 6 to 7pm – Shift 1
- 7 to 8pm – Shift 2
- 8 to 8;30 – Clean Up
WE’RE TEACHING THIS
Social Media is awesome. It’s brought us some of the best inventions in modern times. Like the selfie, or even better, the selfie stick. Maybe you’re a fan of the hashtag or the GIF or weekly holidays like Throwback Thursday. All of those were all made popular by one social network or another. And, maybe one of the best things these apps have given us is the filter. Filters are amazing. They basically change the way you see something in a picture. A quick swipe and you can instantly make your photo look brighter, dimmer, older, or newer. You can change the shape of your eyes, change the color of your hair, or even swap faces with another human being! You know what we called that in the old days? Magic. Now, it’s just normal. You take a pic and you automatically start swiping to the left or right to find filters that will make the scene better or funnier or more interesting. But in the process of posting our lives online, other things can get filtered too. Maybe even things that shouldn’t—like how we see ourselves, our words, and other people. When we can’t see a situation clearly, it’s easy to forget how powerful our posts and pics really are. Even though the Bible doesn’t say much about which Instagram filter to use or whether screenshotting Snapchat is actually a sin, it does offer a lot of advice that’s really helpful as we navigate our social lives online. As we explore what an ancient book can teach us about modern social life, we may just find God’s plan for us isn’t to use social media less, but instead enjoy it more as we learn to apply the right kinds of filters to what we do and say online.
THINK ABOUT THIS
by Dr. Kara Powell
Often parents feel like kids are tethered to their phones, constantly glancing or full-on staring into a screen. It’s unnerving. But before we judge kids or insist they “put that thing down,” we need to understand what motivates them to check social media so frequently. At the Fuller Youth Institute, we’re fans of the adage, “There’s a belief behind every behavior.” By identifying our kids’ motivations, we can empathize before we seek solutions. Without this empathy, our conversations about boundaries, rules, and good decisions get lost in translation.
Teenagers often seem hypersocial to adults because they are in a stage of life when they begin to form their own identities. The question, “Who am I?” plays like background music on a continuous loop throughout adolescence. Teenagers largely work on the answer to this question through relationships. And with lots of experimentation.
So why do teenagers constantly check social media? Why do they care so much about the likes, shares, and posts from their friends? We’ve found it helpful to think about social media as today’s version of the school lunchroom.
School cafeterias have always been a kind of petri dish within which young people experiment—a social laboratory. To parents and educators, the noon break is about eating lunch. But for teens it can be the defining moment of the entire day. Every lunch is a kid’s opportunity to try out an identity, observe, tweak the formula a bit, and get ready to test out a new version of themselves tomorrow.
Parents often underappreciate how a quick scroll through social media can be a lot like scanning the lunchroom. Young people have very sophisticated ways of conveying social cues with digital media that we may struggle to see. Many of these cues are non-verbal, the equivalent of a thousand words in one image. That’s why phenomena like emoji and photo sharing catch on like wildfire (and keep evolving). It’s also why monitoring all the likes, shares, votes, and views is so important for our kids. And the irony of the lunchroom analogy is that often today’s teenagers are also using social media in their actual lunchrooms, navigating all these layers at once.
It turns out teenagers’ drive to connect today is motivated by the same social drive that helped us to form our identities decades ago, with new technologies layered in. And just like you used to talk to your friends on a home phone—probably one attached to a wall, maybe with a long curly cord—the basic need to connect remains.
In other words, our kids are a lot like us after all. The more we understand that reality, the more we can help our kids discover their identity through relationships—whether or not those bonds are forged digitally. They’re just navigating the journey in the only world they’ve ever known, and it’s a digitally-connected one.
Adapted with permission from the book, Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World, by Kara Powell, Art Bamford, and Brad M. Griffin.
As parents, it’s tempting to wonder if our role in social media is on the sideline, but there’s no reason to sit this one out. This week, try downloading the same social media apps that your kids use and get an account. The goal is to get to know the app and the specific vocabulary (tweet, swipe, DM, filter) that your kid is using.
Of course, as with everything, there are a few ground rules that can make your experience more pleasant.
1.Let your kid know you’re getting an account and ask for their help.
2.Decide as a parent whether you will participate, post, send messages, or simply observe. Remember, the goal is not to embarrass your kid, but to better understand their world.
3.Just like being at a new job or in a new community, some things won’t make sense. Try not to get frustrated, but be patient as you get to know the unique culture of this social network and how things work.
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.
THINK ABOUT THIS
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:
1. DON’T ASSUME CURIOSITY IS SKEPTICISM.
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.
2. DON’T DISMISS THE QUESTION WITH TRITE ANSWERS.
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.
3. DON’T OVER-ANSWER THE QUESTION.
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.
4. DON’T ASSUME ANSWERS WILL SATISFY THE QUESTIONER.
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.
5. MAKE YOUR HOME A GREAT PLACE TO RAISE DOUBTS.
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.