5 Tools Needed to Reach Teenagers

toolI read today an article by Cameron Cole of the Rooted blog. He posted this article on the Gospel Coalition site, 5 Tools Needed to Reach Today’s Teens.  I must say that I fully agree with these points, but I believe there is an even bigger more essential point that Cameron assumes on the outset. One that cannot be understated or glossed over.

Before I reveal my additional point to his 5 tools needed, let me summarize his article and recommend you read it in full to get a much deeper appreciation for each point.

  1. Knowledge about the canonization of scripture: More often than ever we face questions concerning authority. How can we be sure God’s Word is authoritative for 2013? If teenagers do not trust the bible, they will not have the foundation essential for Christian doctrine or practice. 
  2. Developed Theology of sexuality, especially homosexuality: Teens today are bombarded with competing truth claims. We need a balanced and biblical answer for these questions. If we do not speak boldly with truth and compassion on these topics, the biblical message will be drowned out in a rising tide of unbiblical messages. While homosexuality is a hot topic, we need a balanced view of all aspects of sexuality. Teens need instruction on what a proper biblical heterosexual relationship looks like, as much or more than warnings of improper relationships.
  3. The ability to teach the Bible in the greater context of redemptive history: While telling your own story is important, teens today want to be connected to a bigger story as well. They want to know there is meaning and purpose behind how we got to where we are today. Explaining the grand narrative of redemptive history and then describing our chapter in that story is very powerful.
  4. A Theological, not only moral, understanding of Sin: This is very important. Teens need to understand the eternal weight of actions not just focused on consequences in relativistic society, but in a view of an eternal, unchanging, completely perfect God. Teens today recognize the futility of just slapping sin on the wrist, but need to understand why.
  5. Understand Adoption as an Element of Salvation: In a culture of divorce and superficial relationships the opportunity to be a part of a true community can be life changing. Teens place a huge value on relationships. Since this is true, the biblical concept of “Koinonia” (greek for doing life together, i.e. fellowship) when righty applied in a church should be a significant factor in discipleship and life change. Teens long for meaningful relationships, this need is met first in Christ and then His bride.

Read the full article by Cameron Cole. It reminds us of the inside life that teenagers really are living day to day. To best reach this generation we need to understand how to connect.

Which brings me to my addition. In my 6+ years of full time youth ministry I believe a colossal step is being assumed by Cole, that needs to be clearly articulated constantly to all adults who work with teenagers. This is so important that all the above points completely lose thier meaning when this is absent.

  1. Personal Holiness and Passion Cannot be Faked: If you want to work with teens, prepare for your life to be examined and imitated. Teenagers can detect a fake in a heartbeat and once this is sensed they will turn off. Why do teens leave the church? In many cases it is because they see conflicting examples in their parents on whether or not church is important. As a leader, it doesn’t matter if you can wax on the details of the Canon, refute homosexual marriage, and recite the history of the church. If you are dead spiritually, do you really want mold teenagers in that same pattern? To be open and honest with a growing relationship with Christ is what teens need to see first. Before any other questions come up they have got see something real in your life. This cannot be assumed, it must be intentionally cultivated in the life of any christian, leader or not.

I am so thankful for guys like Cameron Cole who are striving to make youth ministry better. We all benefit from reminders like this. And it is my prayer that I can add to the conversation and push us all one more step toward Jesus.


There’s Not an App for That – Mark Moore

app for thatCheck out this fun and informative blog comparing some insane apps, some practical christian apps, and something important that no app can ever accomplish. My friend Mark Moore has a wonderful approach to the gospel and how we use our technology! Check it out and read through to the end! There’s Not an App for That – by Mark Moore

Bible Says: Teenagers need to SLOW DOWN!


The idea of rest is maybe the last thing on a teenagers mind, but there is a biblical command for all of us to slow down and recharge. This can be wholly lost in the demands of a teen life filled with academics, sports practice, dating, family, not to mention church life. Here is a great article that all parents of teens need to read. Its provides some practical suggestions for raising a teen that understand the importance of slowing down. Read the original article HERE by Jen Wilkin, writing for The Gospel Coalition. I took the liberty of bolding a few things that jumped out to me. Read it!         -Adam

How to Guard Sabbath for Your Children

My oldest son started high school this fall. At his orientation the counselors spoke to parents about the greatest challenge they see students face in school. I expected to hear about poor study habits or substance abuse, but to my initial surprise, these were not at the top of the list. Apparently, the greatest challenge presenting itself in the office of the high school guidance counselor is a growing number of kids struggling with anxiety and depression. Can you guess why? A combination of over-scheduling and sleep deprivation, linked to two main contributors: electronics use and extracurricular activities. We were encouraged as parents to go home and talk to our teenagers about setting boundaries in these areas. Parents across the auditorium scribbled notes furiously as the counselors outlined some suggestions: limit texting, monitor bedtimes, cut back on team practices. I couldn’t help but think to myself: tonight there will be many demonstrations of teenage angst when mom shows up with her new list of suggestions.

What is unfolding at my son’s high school is a clear illustration of spiritual truth: the need for regular periods of rest in our lives. From the earliest pages of the Bible we find God instituting patterns of activity and rest—not just any kind of rest, but rest with the intent to engage in worship and community. The concept of Sabbath weaves its way through the Old Testament and the New, occupying a prominent place among the Ten Commandments and informing our understanding of heaven.

Despite biblical precedent, few Christians understand or practice Sabbath as a regular part of life, and consequently, neither do their children. Christian parents bear the responsibility of teaching our children the value of rest, through our words and through our actions. Children don’t set the calendar in our homes—if they are overscheduled or sleep-deprived, the fault lies with us. How can we better discharge our duty of raising children to seek Sabbath? To value down-time to reconnect with God and family?

While I admire the high school guidance counselors’ optimism, age 14 is probably too late to start imposing boundaries on our child’s rest habits and schedule. We need a plan, and we need it early. How will we safeguard for our families the key Sabbath concepts of rest, worship, and community? Here are a few suggestions that have helped our family to honor God in our rest.


Late-night texting and TV watching, online chatting, surfing the internet—all can rob a child of rest. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 require a whopping 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. This is the very age range during which most acquire the electronics to rob them of needed sleep. Parents can guard their children’s rest simply by keeping electronics in sight. We made a rule in our home that no electronics are allowed upstairs: no TVs, computers, phones, or games in bedrooms or rooms where their use cannot be monitored.

Each night, those of us who have phones leave them in a spot on the kitchen counter. These measures give us accountability to each other, keep electronics as a shared rather than an individual privilege, and force our electronics to obey our family’s Sabbath priorities of rest, worship, community. Well-rested kids bypass many of the unsavory habits of their tired counterparts: fits, backtalk, forgetfulness, drama, isolation, and yes—anxiety and depression. Guarding your child’s rest actually gives them a running start at Christlike behavior, even during adolescence.


So many to pursue, so little time. Don’t be fooled: the proliferation of activity options for children reflects our cultural affluence, not our child’s need to be well-rounded or socialized. Gobs of money are being made off of our misplaced desire to expose our kids to every possible talent path. How can we choose activities for our family in a way that doesn’t compromise Sabbath principles?

Because the four Wilkin kids are close in age, our schedule and finances forced us to limit activities to “one or none” for each child. Not all families need to impose a limit this low, but we have re-learned something our grandparents probably knew: children who participate in no organized activities at all still lead lives full of activity and joy. To many parents the idea of a child on no sports team, in no music lessons, at no club meetings is completely foreign and a little frightening. Won’t they get bored? Won’t they drive me crazy lurking around the house? Won’t they miss out on an NFL career and blame me? Or, my personal favorite: Won’t other parents think I’m a bad parent? I would answer all of these questions, “Maybe, but who cares?”

As is often lamented, parenting is not a popularity contest. With that in mind, here are some good (and highly unpopular) questions to ask when evaluating which activity to pursue:

  1. Does it sabotage weekend downtime or worship?
  2. Does it sabotage family dinners?
  3. Does it sabotage bedtime?
  4. Does it pull our family apart or push us together?
  5. Is it an activity my child can enjoy/benefit from into adulthood?
  6. Can we afford it?

Notice that “Does my child enjoy it?” is not on the list. So often I hear parents justify keeping a child in a time-sucking activity because “He loves it so much.” Kids love Skittles and Mario Kart so much, but they don’t get to decide if, when, and how much to consume. Because children possess a limited range of life experience, it is difficult for them to conceive of happiness outside their current circumstance. It is our job to help them learn.

Less-than-Admirable Motives

Why do we have such a hard time as parents placing limits on electronics and activities? Both can appeal to parents for less-than-admirable reasons. Both can serve as a babysitter or a diversion. But the appeal of activities extends even further, to our very identity as parents. We actually want to be labeled “soccer mom” on rhinestone-studded tee shirts and coffee mugs. We carefully arrange our car decals so that every identity-marker is announced. The thought of removing or withholding our child from an activity threatens the very way we view ourselves.

Maybe our view needs to adjust to something a bit higher. Families that prioritize Sabbath fix their eyes on and find their identity in Christ, recognizing that their greatest potential for missed opportunity lies not in neglecting activities but in neglecting time—lots of it—spent together as a family in worship, rest, and community with each other.

God forbid we value the discipline of a sport more than the discipline of Christian living. Both require great application of time and effort, but one is worth far more than the other. Because time is our most limited resource, how we allocate it reveals much about our hearts. Our time usage should look radically different than that of the unbelieving family. We must leave time for slow afternoons, for evening meals where we pray together and share our faith and struggles, for Sunday mornings of shared worship.

God ordains Sabbath for our good and for his glory. May our homes be places where Sabbath rest is jealously guarded, that in all things God might have preeminence—even our schedules.

Ephesians 5:15-17: See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

10 Answers Every Creationist Should Know

Here are 10 key areas of creation every Christian must know to be well informed and able to speak clearly about hot issues related to the beginnings of life. These links provide support for a biblical understanding of the most current scientific research to the more popular questions in society. So take a look and be informed!

  1. Six Literal Days
    1. For more in-depth:
      Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?
  2. Radiometric Dating
    1. For more in-depth:
      What Is Radiometric Dating?
  3. Variety Within Created Kinds
    1. For more in-depth:
      Creation’s Hidden Potential
      Do Species Change?
  4. Uniqueness of Man
    1. For more in-depth:
      Chapter 8: Did Humans Really Evolve from Apelike Creatures?
  5. Distant Starlight
    1. For more in-depth:
      Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?
  6. Global Flood
    1. For more in-depth:
      Was There Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?
  7. Dinosaurs on the Ark
    1. For more in-depth:
      Dinosaurs Q & A
  8. One Race
    1. For more in-depth:
      Racism Q & A
  9. Suffering & Death
    1. For more in-depth:
      Death and Suffering Q & A
  10. The Gospel: For more in-depth: What Is the Gospel

Thank you AiG for great stuff all the time! You are helping christians around the world understand that believing the bible not not mean you have to check your brain out at the door!


Saturdays with C.S. Lewis: Letters to a Child

In his life, C.S. Lewis received thousands of letters from young fans who were eager for more knowledge of his bestselling Narnia books and their author. Here we get a glimpse of his fatherly words. Lewis writes to the children – as in the books he wrote for them – with understanding and respect, proving why he remains one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time.

One aspect of this particular letter that jumps out at me is the way in which Lewis guides the girl in her understanding of Jesus but allows room for her own spiritual discovery. Lewis is not feeding a prepackaged idea to this girl, but cultivating the soil for the Gospel to grow. He wants her to see the glories of Jesus with her own eyes! How great is that. Also, I love that fact that she sent him a bunch of drawings of the Narnian characters. This reminds me of my own 5 year old girl who draws pictures of all the things she loves.

Read these words of C.S. Lewis as he addresses a fan letter from a girl named Hila.


Dear Hila:

Thank you so much for your lovely letter and pictures. I realized at once that the coloured one was not a particular scene but a sort of line-up like what you would have at the very end if it was a play instead of stories. The [Voyage of] “Dawn Treader” is not to be the last: There are to be 4 more, 7 in all. Didn’t you notice that Aslan said nothing about Eustace not going back? I thought the best of your pictures was the one of Mr. Tumnus at the bottom of the letter. As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who

  1. Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas.
  2. Said he was the son of the Great Emperor.
  3. Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people.
  4. Came to life again.
  5. Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb (see the end of the Dawn Treader).

Don’t you really know His name in this world. Think it over and let me know your answer!

Reepicheep in your coloured picture has just the right perky, cheeky expression. I love real mice. There are lots in my rooms in college but I have never set a trap. When I sit up late working they poke their heads out from behind the curtains just as if they were saying, “Hi! Time for you to go to bed. We want to come out and play.”

All good wishes,

Yours ever

C.S. Lewis

Letters to Children, June 3, 1953

Saturdays with C.S. Lewis: Are the Gospels Legend?

“Another point is that on that view you would have to regard the accounts of the Man as being legends. Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there are no conversations that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence. In the story of the woman taken in adultery we are told Christ bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger. Nothing comes of this. No one has ever based any doctrine on it. And the art of inventing little irrelevant details to make an imaginary scene more convincing is a purely modern art. Surely the only explanation of this passage is that the thing really happened? The author put it in simply because he had seen it.”
-C.S. Lewis, “What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?” (1950)

The Bible’s Grand Narrative in 3 Minutes – MUST WATCH!

Thank you Trevin Wax for your leadership in developing this curriculum. My prayer is that lives will be changed by the power of the Gospel and Jesus will be lifted high!

I am looking forward to teaching through this in the fall!

Check out Trevin’s other writings posted through The Gospel Coalition, linked in the tab Be Informed! and the Gospel Project website linked in the tab Ministry Resources.

Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam

Less “god”, More Jesus

The Rooted Blog has a whole series on the effects of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism on teenagers in particular and the Church in general. Check it out. As youth workers and leaders, we need to be ready to address the major spiritual issues that impact this generation. Read this insightful article by Andy Cornett which connects with so many teenagers I’ve talked with in my years of ministry. We need to adopt some changes like he did so we can get real with the Gospel for this generation.

Your fellow worker in the field,  Adam


You know this feeling. You love teenagers, you hang out with them, you’ve studied and prepped for a talk, worked hard on a program, taught about Jesus and following him, and … at the end of the day, you find your beloved teens kind of unable to talk much about what they believe. Everybody wants to be “closer to God.” But when pressed, nobody has much in particular to say. You wonder … what is going on here? Are we that ineffective?

Your teens might be suffering from a case of MTD. According to “Soul Searching,” Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD) has become the “de facto dominant religion among teens.” Though it’s without creed or organizers, MTD functions like as a parasite to its host, the church. Its chief tenets are that God wants us to be good (and get along) and go to heaven when we die, God wants us to be happy, and God is there for us if/when we need him.

Why do your teens have it? Turns out, they probably caught it from the adults at your church. In her absolutely devastating and wonderful book “Almost Christian: What the Fatih of our Teenagers is tellin the American Church,” Kenda Creasy Dean takes the argument further into the Christian territory of local church youth ministry. Dean (who was one of the researchers/interviewers on the NSYR that formed the basis of “Soul Searching”) offers both diagnosis and prescription for treatment. (Confession: this book is brilliant. I have read and reread it and have heard her speak; if anything good comes out of what follows, it’s properly her thoughts, not mine). I just want to focus on one tantalizing prescription:

Less “god,” more Jesus.

Dean notes that most of the teenagers in the study seem paralyzed when asked about Jesus himself (yes, of course, some did better than others). But here are a few observations that ought to both comfort and encourage us:

  • MTD banks on a default, ahistoric deistic concept of “G/god;” Jesus is vastly different, particular, personal.
  • MTD has some basic beliefs/practices, but it can’t tell a compelling story or capture your heart; Jesus is the best Story and captures hearts (and thus minds and bodies as well).
  • You can’t love MTD – but you can love a Jesus who has first loved you. (And as Dean says, “you learn best what you love most”).

Since reading the book, here are a few practices I’m learning to adopt in talking with students.

  • Start asking students about their relationship with Jesus – not “God.” In English, God is the default word for a deity, so those three letters become a box in which just park our own conceptions/feelings/thoughts/beliefs on the divine. We could talk about “God” all day and not being talking about the same “god.” As Christians we believe in One God- in the three persons of Father/Son/Spirit, and it’s time for us start using those names and asking students about Jesus. Who is Jesus for you? Do you sense that Jesus is with you? For you? What is one thing Jesus is doing in your life right now? And when you are done, pray with them and for them – to Jesus.
  • Use “Jesus” (and God, and Father/Spirit/Son) as subject, not as object. Talk less “about” God: talk more about what he has done, is doing, and will do. When God is the subject, it’s clear he is doing the action. We all know the red letters in the Bible of what Jesus says – but do you talk about what he does? I haven’t done this, but I want to go through a gospel and list out all the verbs where Jesus is the subject. With God (and particularly Jesus) as the subject of our sentences (past/present/future), we emphasize his ongoing, active presence in our midst.
  • Get personal: talk about your own faith story and what Jesus has done/is doing in your own life.  Let teens see the personal difference that Jesus Christ has made in you. Where possible, be explicit about the links between what you do and why. If you are taking some steps in following Jesus, be clear about his love that motivates you. If you are taking some risks in faith, be clear about your trust in him and his leadership. Model this yourself. Ask your leaders to do this. Ask parents to do this with their own kids (it has a huge impact).

It seems like the more personal God gets, the bigger difference he makes. But wait– isn’t that the whole story revealed to us in the story of Scripture? A Father who graciously sends his only Son and gives his Spirit freely that we might be united to him? Thought so.

Fake Love, Fake War – Dealing with Porn and Gaming Additions for Young Men.

This article, written by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, touches a topic all student pastors and volunteers need to be addressing with their young men. None are unaffected and we cannot be silent. Read these words and allow God to challenge us as we reach the next generation. I highlighted the last paragraph, so read to the very end. Dr. Moore does not leave us hanging but pushes us to the only answer that provides any real hope.


You know the guy I’m talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he’s a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don’t recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn’t about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community.

If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.

There’s a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition. But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

When these drives are directed toward the illusion of ever-expanding novelty, they kill joy. The search for a mate is good, but blessedness isn’t in the parade of novelty before Adam. It is in finding the one who is fitted for him, and living with her in the mission of cultivating the next generation. When necessary, it is right to fight. But God’s warfare isn’t forever novel. It ends in a supper, and in a perpetual peace.

Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression. The porn addict becomes a lecherous loser, with one-flesh union supplanted by masturbatory isolation. The video game addict becomes a pugilistic coward, with other-protecting courage supplanted by aggression with no chance of losing one’s life. In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but venting one’s reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.

Zimbardo and Duncan are right, this is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let’s train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.