Breaking The Mental Rut

I’ve heard people say to be the student of just one book. The idea is to find an author or a few authors who you feel challenged by and try to master the message they teach, rather than chasing after every train of thought that becomes popular. There’s a lot to be said for that. However, that can also create a mental rut. Sometimes we need to purposefully take a stroll and see what others are putting out there. It keeps us fresh and challenged.

Today I came across this video called, Learn How To Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century with Ravi Zacharias. I recommend giving it a watch. The reason I like it is students are looking for meaning in life. Ravi’s teaching will help us think through this from a Christian perspective and churn up some questions we may not have considered since we were the age of our students. In this video he is speaking at Saddleback Church, where I serve in youth ministry.

Using Our Rights As Youth Workers

Doug Fields tells youth workers that as youth workers we have earned a place in students’ lives to hold them accountable and live up to expectations. That’s not a direct quote, but expresses the idea of what he shares. I not only agree with that sentiment, I’ve actually put that to good use.

A few years back I was with one of my students and I felt led to ask about his purity. I told him I needed to ask him a personal question. He said okay. I asked, “Do you struggle with porn and masturbation?”

He wasn’t shocked or scared by this question. Instead, a look of relief came across his face as he admitted he had been struggling with it for quite some time. He had been holding this secret in afraid of being found out and looked down on, or letting me down.

Asking this question opened a line of communication he could not bring himself to open himself, but desperately wanted help dealing with. As his respected youth leader, I have earned a place in his life to ask him difficult questions. If I didn’t get into his life and ask tough questions, our relationship would have stayed shallow and ineffective. As it stands a decade later, while we are not in each other’s lives on a daily basis, there is a level of respect, knowing each other and a close bond because I took Doug Fields’ challenge to ask tough questions of my students.

Since that day, I’ve never shied away from asking difficult questions in appropriate ways at the right time. If we are to impact students from their core, we must get to know them at the core… especially their hidden core. It gets easier once we do this once or twice because of the relief they get from finally being known… and they all want to be known. They just are scared or unequipped to do the sharing without us asking the tough questions.

What Is God’s Will For My Life?

Got asked a twist on an age-old question today. A student asked, “Since we are supposed to follow God and surrender our lives to God why do Christian men tell people to follow there dreams and to have the job they want?”

That’s just another way of asking, “What is God’s will for my life?”

I chose to answer this using wisdom from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven model of ministry. Here’s my response:

About following your dreams… that can be fully in line with God’s plans for us, but not necessarily always. God put us on earth to fulfill 5 purposes:

  • Fellowship (building relationships)
  • Discipleship (knowing God better)
  • Ministry (serving God by serving others)
  • Missions (reaching out to others beyond our immediate sphere of influence)
  • Worship (honoring God)

We fulfill those purposes through our S.H.A.P.E.

  • S – Spiritual gifts that we get when God’s Spirit fills us
  • H – Heart – what we’re passionate about
  • A – Abilities (what we’re naturally good at or choose to develop)
  • P – Personality (being an introvert or an extrovert)
  • E – Experiences we have (educational, work, circumstantial, painful, etc)

God uses all of our S.H.A.P.E. to serve him and others. Because he uses what we already love to do and are passionate about, when somebody says, “follow your dreams”, they can be telling you to do what God wants you to do. Those dreams you follow, though, need to also fulfill the 5 purposes he put you on earth to fulfill.

Family Counseling: Start From a Good Place and Control the Meeting

Here are a few tips I’ve learned by counseling students with their parents:

– Don’t be available at a moment’s notice. If you can delay the appointment for at least a few hours after the explosive argument, they’ll have a chance to cool down and the session will be more productive

– Start the appointment with prayer. Prayer brings God into the conversation and reminds the counselees that they are Christians. That’s a little tongue in cheek. But, really, sometimes this will help the gloves not come off so much during your meeting.

– Begin with stories of what they like or appreciate about each other or a fond memory. Everybody has to share something. This accomplishes 3 things: 1. It softens everybody in the room, 2. It shows you are going to lead the meeting, 3. It sets a positive mood.

– Stay on point until you reach an agreement. Tackle one issue at a time. THIS IS ESSENTIAL!!! The tendency will be for the conversation to go down secondary paths not related to the current topic. You are in control of the meeting. When somebody (parent or child) takes the conversation down an unrelated bunny trail, it’s important that you pause and redirect the person back on track until a common understanding is reached. You’re not looking for buy in or agreement, you’re looking to help them understand each other. Good questions during this time are often, “How would you have handled that if you were the parent?” and “How would that have made you feel if you were the child?”

– Keep the conversation moving. The tendency will be for families to harp on a subject much longer than they need to. They’re pouring out their pain and it feels good. You’re leading the conversation so it’s your job to come to an understanding and move on to the next topic. Once understanding is met, announce, “Now that we have an understanding there, we’re going to put that on the shelf for now and not revisit it again in this session. What’s the next issue?”

– Summarize and suggest action steps. Repeat every issue discussed in the meeting as well as the understanding everybody came to on each topic. Give some ideas that could help them communicate better or be more considerate of each other.

– Close in prayer.