"You're Not Special" - Really?

Maybe you've heard about this recent high school graduation speech gone viral; the one where the teacher says, "You're not special!"

In case you missed it, here are two links:
1) Full speech (almost 13 minutes)
2) CNN short report (about 2 minutes)

Part of me gets it - today's youth have inflated self-egos and that makes some of them really hard to be around.  We all have a little sense that the world revolves around me, but for many students today that attitude is on steroids!

Another part of me is frustrated by his comments - I keep hearing that today, like never before, kids are alone, without adult support, and in need of people to tell them, "You ARE special."

What's the truth?

I read about "helicopter parents" talking on the phone with their college aged children 6 or 7 times a day!  Yet I know kids who have zero parental support and are trying to navigate the waters of life after high school on their own.

What's the truth?

Are kids more pumped up on self-esteem than ever?  Well, yes!  But are kids more alone than they've ever before?  Well, I guess I'd say yes to that too!

The Sticky Faith folks are pushing for churches to get more adults involved in the lives of our kids, and I'm pushing for the same thing - for more adults to be present to tell kids, "God loves you; you are special."

There is a balance to all of this that is found in that tough biblical concept of speaking the truth in love.  Students need to know that when they fail, and there are times they need to fail, it's going to be ok.  We are there for them.  God has not abandoned them.  And they need to know that when they succeed, we are proud of them.  They need to know they are special - but special because God has knit them together, and God has given them gifts to use for His glory and our neighbor's good.

So what do you think?  How would you have reacted as a parent to this speech?  How would you have reacted as a student?


why WILL we worship?

Timely piece written by David Lose that you can read here.  It’s really about the future of the church as it pertains to worship, and whether the so-called next generation will continue showing up every Sunday like their parents and grandparents did if things don’t change.  Just to let you know how relevant this article is, you should know I've had conversations about this very topic about 3 times in the last week alone.  And all 3 have been with people of different ages and church backgrounds.

Two paragraphs in particular caught my attention, though the entire article is worth a read:
We need to rethink how we “do church” in relation to a changed cultural context where fewer and fewer people go to church just because their parents did. Instead, people want church participation to mean something. They want, in other words, to get something out of it
There’s little doubt that this represents a generational sea change. If I were to ask my parents whether “church worked for them,” they would likely not understand the question. They didn’t expect church to work. Or, more accurately, they went to church out of a sense of faithfulness. That’s just what you did on Sunday morning. Sure, sometimes it was more uplifting and inspiring than others, but that wasn’t the point. They didn’t go with the primary expectation that church would “meet their needs,” but rather attended out of a mixture of faith, habit, and duty. 
I have tons of questions regarding this topic, and I think that's where we are and need to be right now; that is, we need to be asking questions.  And we cannot fear the answers.  Are we willing to “rethink” church?  Are we willing to do things differently so that the next generation will choose worship over all the other really cool, fun, important things to do in the world today? (I’m not being sarcastic; there are plenty of really cool things people can do on Sunday mornings that don’t involve church!)  Will the generations that show up faithfully, out of habit, faith, and duty, be willing to give a little in order that the next generation might feel empowered and heard?  Finally - well barely finally, the list of questions could go on and on - what is the change that will make church mean something to those disillusioned with church? 

Here is the area I’m wrestling with – if church matters, and gathering as the body of Christ matters, why is it so hard to compel people to place value on attending church?  I don’t think the issue is that people are walking away from faith per se, but that they are walking away from the church as an institution.  Church programs are still relatively well attended, but the value placed on Sunday morning worship is definitely on the decline.  And the answer, I believe, isn’t going to be found in simply making worship more exciting, dynamic, or stylistically palatable.  It’s somewhere else.  Where?  Well, that’s the million dollar question!

I’m with Lose – I’m excited to see what it will look like to worship and be in community with a group of people who truly want to be there – not out of obligation, guilt, or duty – but because church is like breathing; it’s something we can’t live without.  

There is really only one place to start when it comes to tackling this tough topic – we must begin to LISTEN and try our best to withhold judgment on a group of people who love Jesus, are are at the least interested in spirituality, but just don’t value attending church in its current form.  Are we willing to listen?  Are we willing to process what we hear and do something that makes people want to worship God together?  Or is this just an issue of a generation that is selfish and hard-hearted?  So many questions, and too few answers.  That's why I'm convinced listening is the only way forward.



Watch this short video with Ken Burns explaining the power of story.

What can we learn as those telling The Story of God and the world?  How can we, or do we, use "positive manipulation" in our telling of the Gospel story?  It seems strange to use the word "manipulation," but isn't that what we want?!  We want people to respond; to be captivated; to be so moved and caught up in the Gospel story that they put their trust in God!

Feedback.  What else caught your attention in this video?


Grief - Part II

How do we help kids process grief?

In the Nooma video, “Matthew,” which addresses grief and loss, Rob Bell says,
“I do know that you and I have choices about the kinds of people we are; the kinds of people we’re becoming.  We have a choice whether or not we’re going to become bitter.”
We have a choice.  This is what we see in Job.  Job’s family is dead, and he responds, “The Lord gave and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  A chapter later his wife tells him to “curse God and die,” and Job responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Job mourns.  He wails.  He tears his robe.  He weeps.  He grieves, openly.  Job is angry.  Yet Job joins those in Scripture who choose not to become bitter with God.

We look at the Psalms.  Psalm 13 asks the question, “Where are you Lord?”  Wow!  I remember being shocked reading that for the first time and realizing I was allowed to express my anger at God and not be immediately removed from the earth.  Even the Psalmist, who feels the enemy all around, feels death on his doorstep as the enemy approaches, says,
“But I trust in your unfailing love.
            My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
            for he has been good to me.”
Really?!  My enemy is all around.  Where are you God?  How long will you forget me?  How long will you hide from me?  But I choose to trust in you and worship you, for you have been good to me.

And finally, there’s Jesus.  John 11:35 says, simply and profoundly, “Jesus wept.”  God weeps.  Jesus responds to the news that his friend Lazarus has died; he empathizes with his friend, and Lazarus’ sister, Mary; he openly weeps.  He weeps even though he knows he is going to bring Lazarus back to life.  He weeps with his friends over the death of their brother and friend.  It is appropriate to weep.  It ok to cry.  It is normal to have emotions.  But we have a choice.  Will we become bitter?  Will we “curse God and die?”

Last night was powerful.  I could go on, but I’ve already written enough.  If you stayed with me this long, thank you.  I hope for those reading this you can make yourself available to our youth, and more importantly, you can LISTEN.  Withhold judgment.  Bite your tongue.  Listen.  Respond with compassion.  Respond with love.  Let your presence speak more than 1000 words. 

To any adult reading this:  Our kids are hurting, and they need loving, safe adults who are willing to be “dumped” on and keep coming back for more.  If this is you, if you are willing to step into this area of need, be willing to do a few things:

1) Sit in silence - Listen.  Some say the worst thing Job’s friends did was open their mouths.  They came.  They sat with Job for 7 days and 7 nights.  No one said a word to him.  And then they started talking.  Why?  They felt as thought they needed to set Job straight; to help him move beyond his grief; to help him process his grief.  They talked.  They should have kept quiet.

2) Admit you don’t have the answers.  It speaks volumes to kids when adults can be honest and admit that we too have more questions than answers when it comes to difficult issues like death and dying.   As much as we want to, we cannot fix the situation.  Instead of being paranoid or freaking out about this fact, take comfort, for kids are looking for a quick fix.  They will appreciate your honesty and listening ear more than they will appreciate your attempts to “fix” the situation.

3) Pray, and expect God to answer.  God’s Word promises peace that passes understanding to those who pray (Phil 4:6-7), and comfort for those who mourn (Matt 5:4).  Be ready to be crushed a little yourself, and be ready to feel God’s healing, comforting touch.  Pray boldly.  Pray specifically.  Pray for

4) Help them Hope.  In the end, kids need to know that God is present, God has not left.  Help them hope.  Help them identify the times in their life where they were certain of God’s presence and knew his love.  Help them remember these times.  Help them hold on to these memories – the memories that give them hope.  Remind them of God’s future as described in Revelation 21 – that future where there will be no more tears and no more mourning.  Talk about your hope.  Tell them why you have hope in spite of the craziness of the world.  You do have hope, right?!