Archives For leadership

Facebook, the social network that was created as a collegiate exclusive site, has become widely used by teens and preteens.  The site requires users to be 13 years of age or older, but the policy is difficult to uphold and enforce.  Research by Consumer Reports Magazine shows that as of 2011, 7.5 million U.S. users were under the age of 13.  Slightly more than 5 million of those were under the age of 10.  The stats raise the questions, should preteens be using Facebook?

The answers to that question will be different for every parent.  I’m not trying to answer that question for parents, but my fear is that we are not giving it as much thought, as it deserves.  Open communication is always the key to dealing with these issues.  Here are some thoughts that we can encourage parents to consider…some good and some bad:

1. Rules are Rules
The Facebook user agreement states “You will not use Facebook if you are under the age of 13.”  If preteens are allowed to register a profile on the site, then a message is sent that says breaking the rules is ok when it’s something you really want.  While this may seem innocent, it does make future conversations about “required ages” difficult.  If it is ok to lie about age at 13, then why wouldn’t it be ok at 16, 18, or 21?

2. Controlled Environment
Many parents will allow their preteen to create a Facebook profile because the site is a semi-controllable environment.  They can limit the visibility of their child’s profile, as well as reject unknown friend requests.  This feature is a better option than allowing children to freely surf the Internet unsupervised.  There are still risks involved, but if properly managed, Facebook may be a safe alternative to other Internet usage.

3. Increased Risk
Preteens on Facebook are at an increased risk for harmful behaviors.  First, there is a risk of privacy when a profile is created.  Their pictures, daily schedules, school locations, and friends are posted and seen by others.  To avoid this risk, it is important for profiles to be set to visibility by friends only.  Even with the additional security, digital relationships show signs of increased aggressiveness, such as bullying, harassment, and stalking.  The research by Consumer Reports found that 1 million children were subjected to harassment, threats, and other forms of cyber-bullying in the past year.  Preteens may find it difficult to deal with these types of behaviors, especially if they are cannot talk to parents about the issues because they are on Facebook without permission.

4. Increased influence
While most of the stats show an increase of negative influence on preteens through Facebook, the opposite might also be plausible.  Many ministries are finding ways to use social networking to better connect with their congregation, student ministries included.  The 1 to 2 hours per week of influence that the church once had can be expanded to a much greater impact through social networking.  It can promote relationships with other believers, connect students to Scripture on a daily basis, and give students a platform to talk about life issues with ministry leaders or peers.  We have found that this is especially helpful when students attend church together but do not attend the same schools.  It is a way for those students on different campuses to connect with their church friends throughout the week.  The key for parents is to check on their preteen’s use of Facebook to make sure that the influences and interactions are positive for the child.  Sadly, according to Consumer Reports, only 18% made their child a Facebook friend or checked their Facebook use regularly. 

Should a preteen be on Facebook?  This is a tough question.  We know that they’re asking, and parents are under a lot of pressure to respond.  They need help processing the decision and they need tools to help with the communication with their child.  As a preteen leader, I don’t see it as my job to make the decision for the parents.  My role is to equip them and partner with them in making the best out of whatever decision they make.

How are you equipping parents to make the touch decisions?

How do you help parents feel prepared to make the decision about Facebook or other social networks?

 

We hosted a parent meeting this past Sunday for all our 5th grade parents and we talked about what was in store for their child in 6th grade.  We discussed the various units and lessons that we will cover, and then it happened.  I said “Pornography.”  Just the mention of the word puts everyone on high alert.  I don’t think parents were shocked as much as they were desperate for some assistance in how to address the issue with their preteen. 

Here are the cold hard facts…

The fourth most-searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under in 2009 was “porn.”
For all kids up to age 18, sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.

A recent survey found that 30% of girls ages 9 to 15 years old had sent or received sexual messages or photos of themselves.

1 of every 3 that reported to receive “sext” messages said that they accidentally received the message that was intended for someone else.

(Data from OnlineFamily.Norton.com and research from AK Tweens)

These stats mean that many preteens are falling prey to pornography, intentionally and even unintentionally.  As the church, we need to be thinking through a strategy for equipping parents to have a conversation with their children.  I am reminded of the damage and consequences that came from just one look in the life of King David.  His eyes caught Bathsheba naked, and his mind could not escape the image.  The result was a downward spiral of sinful decisions.  The danger is real, the stats are real, and we need a strategy.

I feel like the best way to address the topic is on the family level.  Therefore, we have chosen to equip the parents with resources to carry-out a discussion with their child that points to God’s call to pure actions and thoughts. 

What’s your strategy for equipping parents to deal with the danger of pornography?

I’d love to share some of the info that we’ve given to parents to help that conversation.  We also give information for protection services that will help them to create boundaries on their computers and mobile devices.  If interested in that material, you can contact me via comment, twitter, or email.

 

Sunday hasn’t even started but I’m already excited and thankful for what’s ahead. There are 4 things that I’m celebrating today:

1) Baptisms
Our campus baptized around 12 last night and will celebrate with many more this morning. Baptisms always give me a spark of energy. It’s God’s reminder to us that his mission is succeeding!

2) Parent Meetings
We are hosting two parent meetings today for 5th grade and for 6th grade. I look forward to casting vision for the summer and next fall. It’s awesome to partner with parents and equip them to lead.

3) Graduation
I am speaking tonight at a graduation ceremony for two of my former students. They were my first group of 6th graders, so this is a special time. They have definitely grown up to make their parents and me very proud.

4) Vacation
After tonight, my vacation begins. It starts Monday with a house inspection on the home we’re in the process of buying, and then Tuesday starts the roadtrip! Looking forward to having that time if rest with my wife and daughter.

Sunday just started and it’s already a great day! God is so good to me!

What us God doing that you want to celebrate today?

My wife and I attended a family wedding last weekend at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR.  After the wedding, we toured the Presidential Library with family and friends.  There were some interesting exhibits from the Clinton administration, but what I found most interesting where the daily logs of the President’s activity.  For each year of office, there are 12 binders worth of 365 itineraries.  As I looked through the logs, it became clear to me that I do not want to be President.  The days were mostly 18-20 hours long, and personal time was virtually non-existent.  No wonder they all get grey hair!

As one who works in ministry, I got to thinking about my own lack of relaxation and personal time.  I love my job.  I love my church.  And I love my co-workers.  But even in doing what I love, I reach points when I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  This exhaustion steals my motivation, which greatly hinders my availability to be used by God.  In those times, I need to step out and get re-energized.  Some of the wisest advice given to me regarding ministry was to always incorporate a time of personal renewal, a time of family vacation, and a time of spiritual retreat.  These three times are essential to staying in the game for the long haul.

Here are some interesting stats on ministry: 

  •  90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and most ministers do not exercise nor take regularly scheduled vacations
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and his/her family to live by a higher moral standard than they do
  •  80% of ministry families believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 94% report feeling pressures of being in the pastor’s family.
  •  70% of ministers report not having a close friend to confide in.   

There are seasons when we just need rest.  These statistics show how Satan plots against us.  Without a time of renewal with God, we will fall into the traps set for us.  God has set an example of rest throughout Scripture.  He desires for us to have a time of rest in Him. It’s a hard discipline to take time off and get away.  I struggle with it, as I’m sure you do as well.  I love reading and listening to Carey Nieuwhof.  I especially like what he said on this subject,

“I get terrified by the idea of a real Sabbath – a day where I produce nothing…absolutely nothing and simply let God be enough for me.  I’ve had very few days in my life where I completely did nothing…produced nothing, got distracted by nothing (no sports, no movies, no biking, no reading) and just let me be in the presence of God.  Wonder what that would be like?”

I am taking next week off for family vacation, but the time away is already getting crowded out by other things.  It’s going to be hard to “shut it down” for a whole week, but I think doing so will be a rewarding experience for my family and me.

Do you have a plan for rest?

How are you held accountable to take that time of rest in the Lord?