Mar 23, 2018

Gen Z's Technology Addiction

Gen Z is growing up immersed in technology.  It's an integral part of their lives.  How integral?  Consider these stats.
  • 96% own a smartphone.
  • 68% own a tablet.
  • 85% use social media to learn about new products.
  • 50% will be connected online for 10 hours a day.
  • They interact with up to 5 screens a day. 
  • 1/3 watch at least one hour of online video a day.
You could go as far as to say Gen Z is addicted to technology because it impacts them emotionally.  80% feel distressed when kept away from their personal electronic devices.  Try asking Gen Z to pull away from their smartphone for an extended time and they will become anxious and upset.

Paradigm Malibu is a treatment facility on the Pacific Coast.  It started out treating people with classic drug and alcohol addictions.  Now it has developed a program specifically for Gen Z kids who have device-use disorders.  Kids are brought to the center because extreme use of technology has led to serious behavioral disorders.  In some cases, kids have even threatened to kill themselves when told their internet may be cut off.

Several of these type rehabs have been opened across the country to treat Gen Z kids whose lives have become unmanageable because of technology.

If you are a parent whose child has a smartphone, you understand the pull that technology has.  Gen Z feels the pressure to constantly be connected, fearing they will miss out on the latest post, like, comment, picture or video.  They check their smartphones hundreds of times a day.  This can lead to little time for anything else.

Technology has definitely changed the way kids grow up.  For many of Gen Z, they communicate more digitally than they do in person.  Their smartphone is an extension of their hand and their social media life is more important than their real life.

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School said,  "You can go by any playground at recess and the kids are all staring at their smartphones."

Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says it’s very clear that overuse of digital media is linked to mental health issues and unhappiness.  Her research has found that Gen Z kids who spend three hours a day or more using electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than an hour with them — while those who spend five or more hours are 71% more likely to have a suicide risk factor.

Gen Z's bent toward technology addiction is not something to take lightly.  

As children's and family ministry leaders, it's important that we provide parents with tools they can use to guide their Gen Z children in the digital world they are growing up in.

One tool that has just been released is a documentary produced by Kirk Cameron, entitled "Connect."  Kirk has 6 Gen Z kids of his own, so he fully understands the challenges of parenting in a digital world.  He created the film to help parents find hope, wisdom and strength in this area.

Kirk says, “God-fearing parents can find confidence and guidance when it comes to the challenges of parenting in our technology-driven world, knowing that God has fully equipped us for the sacred calling as a parent.  We have resources to prepare our children as they learn their purpose and identity, and responsibly use technology to understand family, friends, God and the world around them.”  

The film was recently in theaters and should be available for home viewing very soon.  Here is the trailer.

While technology, smartphones and social media can be great tools to share the Gospel, invite people to church, advance the Kingdom of God and connect with families, like anything else, when it begins to overtake and dominate our lives, it can be detrimental.  Especially in the lives of children and students who don't have the maturity yet to navigate this on their own. 

It is vital that we keep the conversation going and look for ways to help Gen Z find balance in their use of technology.  

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What trends are you seeing with Gen Z and their use of technology?  What other tools can we make available for the parents of Gen Z kids to help them navigate this challenge?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, insights and comments below. 

Mar 22, 2018

I'm Positive This Makes a Difference in the Outcome of a Child's Life

Do you want to make a difference in the outcome of a child's life?

I'm positive you can make a difference in a child's life when you do this.

Speak positive words to the child.

Positive words make a difference.

Think back to your own childhood.  Who was the person that believed in you?  Who was the person who spoke words of encouragement, hope and praise to you?  You know, the person who made you feel like you could do it, whatever the "it" was you were pursuing.

That's the person you can be for a child today.

Children have a lot of voices speaking into their life.  Many of those voices direct doubt, fear and negativity their way.  Bullies speak into their life.  Social media speaks into their life.  Kids on their sport's team speak into their life.  And their own negative thoughts even speak into their life.

But you have the opportunity to speak words of hope into their life.  You have the opportunity to speak words of encouragement into their life.  You have the opportunity to speak words of confidence into their life.   

And the words you speak have the potential to influence their inner voice.  God can use your words to transform a sad, hurting, doubting child into a confident, happy, hopeful child.

Mother Teresa said it this way.
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
Your encouraging words can have a truly lasting effect in a child's life.  Here are some words you can speak into a child's life this week.
  1. You are important.
  2. You matter to me.
  3. I believe in you.
  4. Being around you is fun.
  5. Being your parent, small group leader, etc. is an honor.
  6. I'm so glad you are here.  I've been waiting all week to see you.
  7. You're a great kid.
  8. You're an awesome person.
  9. You did that all by yourself?  That's amazing!
  10. How did I get the best kid in the world in my group?
  11. You can achieve anything with God.
  12. God has given you some great gifts.
  13. God created you for a special purpose.
  14. Being proud of you is so easy.
  15. You've got what it takes.
  16. I know you will achieve your dreams.
  17. You are going places!
  18. I can see your inner strength.
  19. Awesome - that's what you are.
  20. I can see your future - it's so bright, I'm going to need sunglasses.
Be intentional with your words.  It can change the trajectory of the child's life who hears them.

Mar 21, 2018

The Importance of Taking Kids to Church Camp

I spent last week with several hundred camp leaders at a retreat in Wisconsin.  These amazing people serve full-time as directors and leaders of camps across Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.  They are committed to reaching the next generation. 

It was a great reminder for me about how important taking kids to camp is. 

Because of the rapid, dominant advancement of techonology, today's kids are bombarded with information.  Every day, they are wired in, spending over 7 1/2 hours with technology and interacting with at least five screens.  Hundreds of messages, ads, notifications, etc. come their way every day.

This creates a noise that is often difficult to break through.  How are kids going to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit's working if their minds are constantly occupied by the noise?  Even at church, the time is very short and it is not easy to break through.

This is a big reason why I believe it's important to take kids away to camp.  You can place them in an environment for an extended period of time where they are away from the noise.

And in the quietness, they can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving in their hearts In the quietness, they can make life-changing, course-altering decisions.  

At camp, deeper relationships can also be formed.  We know that kids who grow up to love Jesus normally have a caring adult who has invested in them.  Camp is a great opportunity for leaders to invest in kids at a deeper level. 

Camp is also a great opportunity to partner with parents.  This can be done by having a family camp where kids and parents attend camp together and engage in activities, teaching, etc.  And if you take children to camp without their parents,  you can follow-up by providing them with discussion questions to talk with their kids afterwards. 

As I think back, camp played an important part in my spiritual formation when I was growing up.  I made life-changing decisions and commitments there.  I made lifetime friendships.  Many of you can echo this same sentiment as well.

If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to take the kids in your ministry to camp.  It could be the very thing that God uses to break through the noise and change their life.

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  Does your ministry take kids to camp?  Why or why not?  How has camp impacted your life?  Share your thoughts and insights with us in the comment section below. 

Mar 20, 2018

4 Keys to Seeing God Do More in Your Ministry

Do you want to see God do more in your ministry?  Do you want your best days of ministry to be ahead of you rather than behind you?  Do you long to see God do something fresh and new in your life and ministry?

I'm believing that for you.  And I've got some good news.  God wants to do more in your life and ministry.

The apostle Paul was writing to the church of Ephesus.  They had seen God do amazing things in the ministry there.  People had come to Christ.  People had been healed.  People had turned from the many false gods that were ingrained in their culture.  But there was so much more that God was ready to do in them and through them.

Paul writes to tell them this.
"Now glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think."   Ephesians 3:20
In this verse, are 4 keys to seeing God do more in your ministry.  Let's look at the first one.
"Now glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work WITHIN US, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."   Ephesians 3:20
Key #1 -  If we are going to see God do more through our ministry, we first have to ask God to do more WITHIN US.  Elisha is a great example of this.  God had done amazing things through his predecessor, Elijah.  And now He was preparing Elisha to do even more.  But first, Elisha had to let God do more within him.

God asked Elisha to surrender to His will.  Look what happened as recorded in 1 Kings.

"Elijah went over to him (Elisha) and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away.  Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, 'First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!'"

God was preparing Elisha to do more.  But first He wanted to see if Elisha was willing to surrender everything to Him.  Would He be willing to walk away from his current life?  Would He be willing to let go of his plans and follow God's plans?
If we are going to see God do more through our ministry, we must be willing to say more than "I surrender some."  We must be willing to say "I surrender all."
God also wanted to see if Elisha would be willing to sacrifice everything to see more.  Here's what happened.

"Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them.  He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh.  He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate.  Then he went with Elijah."

Elisha was willing to go all in.  He surrendered his oxen and plow.  This was his livelihood.  He was sacrificing everything.  No turning back.

If we are going to see God do more within us, we must be willing to hold everything with open hands and sacrifice it all for the sake of the cross.

Finally, Elisha had to be willing to serve.  Look what happened.

"Then he (Elisha) set out to follow Elijah and become his servant."

Notice that before Elisha was entrusted with more, he had to first be willing to serve.  We must be willing to serve others.  Put others before ourselves.  Let go of our ego and replace it with "we go."

Jesus modeled this by washing the disciples' feet.  This act of service was reserved for the lowest servants in the kingdom.  Jesus was showing us that we must be willing to have the heart of a servant, if we want to see God do great things.  The way up is down.  Servant leadership.  It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  But it's the way to see God do more within you.

Because Elisha was willing to surrender, sacrifice and serve, He saw God do more.  Elijah saw God do 14 miracles through his ministry.  Elisha saw God do 28 miracles through his ministry.

Key #2 -  If we are going to see God do more through our ministry, we must have more POWER.
"Now glory to God, who is able, through His mighty POWER at work, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."   Ephesians 3:20
The bad news is you and I can't change anyone's life.  The bad news is we cannot do more in our own strength and power.

The good news?  The Holy Spirit can do more through us.

His power is able to change people's lives.  His power is able to save marriages.  His power is able to heal.

And this power is available to you.  Check out Acts 1:8.

"But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere - in Jerusalem, through Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth."

And Luke 24:49.

"Behold, I send you the promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with POWER from on high."

God loves to fill ordinary people with His power and do extraordinary things through them.  How do you see more of His power working through you?

Acknowledge that nothing of eternal value happens without the Holy Spirit.  Zechariah 4:6-7 says, "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the Lord. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to anoint you.  Luke 11:13 says, "If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."

Accept by faith that the Holy Spirit is at work.  I Thessalonians 1:5 says, "For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true."

When you take these steps, you will see the Holy Spirit power more at work in your ministry.

Key #3 - If we are going to see God do more in our ministry, then we must have more PRAYER.
"Now glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work , to accomplish infinitely more than we might ASK or think."
Ephesians 3:20
Prayer is the door that opens us to more.

In Mark 9, the disciples tried to cast out a demonic spirit who was tormenting a young boy.  But they were not able to cast the demon out.  Jesus had to step in and overcome the demon.  Afterwards they asked Him why they couldn't cast out the demon. 

Jesus said, "This kind doesn't come out without prayer and fasting."

If you want to see big miracles, then you've got to pray more.

If you want to see God use you more, then you've got to pray more.

If you want to see your ministry go the next level, then you've got to prayer more.

This kind...this "more" kind...only happens with more prayer.

Key #4 - If we are going to see God do more in our ministry, then we must have more VISION.
"Now glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work , to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or THINK."   Ephesians 3:20 
Have you grown complacent?

Have you stopped dreaming about more?

Has your vision waned?

Have you given up on your vision because others said it was impossible?

Joseph is a great example of having a vision for more.  He had a vision from God as a young man.

Now when you have a big vision for more, you will be misunderstood.  Joseph's brothers and parents questioned his motives. 

When you have a big vision for more, realize that you will also face opposition.  Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, put in a well, sold as a slave, lied about by his boss's wife and was thrown into prison.  But none of that stopped him.  He didn't give up on the vision in the face of opposition.

Have you given up on your vision for more?  Have you faced setbacks and detours?  Don't quit.  Keep pursuing your vision for more.


Because when you pursue a vision for more, God is with you.  In the well, in the chain gang, in the prison, God was with Joseph. 

Remember the vision you have tucked away?  Get it back out.  God hasn't forgotten you or your vision.  He is with you. 

Stop listening to the voices in your head that say you can't do it.  Stop listening to the voices around you that say you can't see your vision fulfilled.  If the vision is from God, it can happen.

Not satisfied where your ministry is now?  Longing to see God do more?  Ready to move forward?

Let God do more within you.
Ask God for more power.
Spend more time in prayer.
Enlarge your vision.

God is ready to do more than you could ever imagine!