The World's First Global Generation is Now

Take a walk through your local mall and watch as people pass you by. What do you see? Most likely you'll have seen over 92% of them looking at their phones as they text/tweet/post/snap/comment on one of over a hundred social media platforms available today. Roughly 1/3 of the world's population, that's around 2.307 billion people, are connected via social media right at this moment. What's more is that number is projected to grow by 10-14% every year for the next 10 years. You see, when a person looks at their phone and they access everything from the Internet to social media, they are being influenced by a voice that's louder than their peers at school, their boss at work, and yes, even their family at home.

That voice is the voice of the world's first "global generation."

No longer are young people being influenced by who they sit next to in class, or flip burgers with at their place of employment, but they are being influenced by the exact same videos, blogs, and trends as other teenagers are in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. They all laugh at the same things, take social cues from the same people, and dress like the latest sensation on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. People all over the world are becoming part of one tribe and one culture based on what they can access through the window of their smart phones. Teens are not only finding community with their peers in school, but with their peers that live halfway around the world. Think about it, the last time everyone in the world acted like one another was at the Tower of Babel...and we all know how that ended.

Now before we light our torches and grab our pitchforks and storm the gates of Facebook, let's take moment and look at what this means for us, because it's not about how "evil" the Internet is, it's about who is instilling values into the hearts of young people today. It's about your family. What this generation sees coming, the next generation (which begins with those who currently in 6-8 grade) will fully take hold of and realize. Our role, as mentors, is not to battle what the next generation will experience, but to recognize that the walls and boundaries that kept us from the rest of the world are crumbling through avenues such as the Internet and social media and our kids will have an unprecedented opportunity to reach the world and proclaim the name of Christ. One Instagram post from a teen in America with a caption that shares what Jesus did for that person can be seen and "liked" by another teen in a religiously oppressed country. Our role, then, is to instill three things that will be crucial to seeing your teen stand strong for Christ as they are a part of the emerging global generation.

Communicate value.
It's important to understand that teens aren't accessing value on their smartphones, they are accessing information, and then forming their personal values from that information. The reason many teens find their values online is because value is largely absent from the home. Unless value is communicated by the parent it is never embodied by the teen. Communicating value is communicating the "why" behind what you believe as a family. You do that and no social media platform will ever be able to speak louder than your voice.

Invest time.
While it's impossible to dominate a teenager's time, it is possible to capitalize on the time you do have with them. Know this, that whatever a teen spends the most time with, smartphones included, will also have their greatest loyalty. Their values are not only formed by what you communicate, but also by the time you spend with them.

Encourage engagement.
With a greater global community at the fingertips of nearly every teen, you can guarantee that engaging content is being created everyday to grab at their attention. While many suggest it wise to completely discourage engagement with thecontent that's out there, know that not all content is bad; in fact the majority of it is positive. What makes it negative is how an individual approaches it. Content like social media can either be the greatest shrine to our ego or it can be the greatest ministry tool the world has ever seen, but it can never be both. By encouraging positive engagement, you can ensure that a teen uses it as the latter.

Now while all this may be a little scary and may even make you want to build a bunker in your backyard and keep your family in it until Jesus comes back, rest assured in the fact that God knows what's happening and that he saw it fit for your family to be brought into this world for such a time as this. With this in mind, be confident that both you and your teen have what it takes to define what it means to be a Believer in a Global generation.

God "Hearts" Your Hustle

We've all been there.

We've all stood on a mountaintop in our lives at one time or another; whether it was after winning your 7th grade basketball championships, to buying your first home, to landing that job position you've been working so hard to get. It feels great! Nothing on earth can compare to the feeling that you get as you look out from the collective top-side of your talents, abilities, and passions. It's the feeling of success, accomplishment, self-worth, and satisfaction all rolled into one moment of epic victory. In my life, I find that it's usually in moments like these when two thoughts enter my mind simultaneously:

"This feels amazing!" and "I'm kind of freaking out because I have no idea where to go from here!"

Yup, nothing like feeling both adequate and inadequate all in the same moment. Awesome.
If you're like me, you immediately start praying to God for direction, for a greater capacity to do more, and for your next steps as you begin the hustle towards your next mountaintop again. Now I understand that there has been some "shade thrown" ("negative sentiment" for all you non-millennials) at the thought of "hustling" for your calling. How no amount of effort can ever make us good enough to earn God's favor blah, blah, blah. And while those sentiments are right in a cosmic sense, it doesn't merit laziness or working less either. Scripture has just as much to say about laziness and work as much as it does about God's unmerited favor. So, in my mountaintop moments, I find myself going back to the "Parable of the Talents" that Jesus spoke on in Matthew 25.14-30 and every time I do I gain new perspective concerning how God balances faithfulness and hustle.

  1. Faithfulness and obedience got you here and nothing less will get you to the next place.
    While you may have the talents and the skills to pay the bills, know that no amount of talent can ever trump obedience in your life. When you're obedient to Christ you sacrifice for the call, and when you sacrifice for the call you empty yourself and make room for the Spirit's enablement to fill you. It's in the mountaintop moments of your life where you'll tell yourself that you have to change up how you're hustling to get to the next level. You will look at yourself instead of looking at your Master and will inevitably realize that you don't have what it takes to get there. The good news? God knows, and your continued and increased faithfulness and obedience will ensure that you make room for what God has to give.
  2. God rewards your faithfulness with responsibility.
    Notice in the parable that the reward of the faithful servants weren't an all-expense paid vacation to a resort on the Red Sea or lifetime supply of spa days at the Dead Sea. Nope. Their reward was responsibility. Notice how Luke 19.11-27 says that as they were faithful with money God rewarded them with running CITIES! Now while it would feel pretty amazing to be the boss of 5-10 cities, that also comes with a greater need for stewardship, strategic thinking, and tons of humility. The stakes are higher and you are simply trusted by God at a higher level. Suddenly, the top has a lot more pressure to perform. Word of advice? Don't allow success to scare you from moving into God's best. Keep in mind that if God takes you there, He'll sustain you there, and your proper response is eager anticipation to be trusted and celebration that God thinks enough of you to trust you with greater responsibility. This is your mountaintop legacy: faithfulness, stewardship, humility.
  3. Double is ALWAYS within your personal capacity.
    I love this. I love how in Matthew 25, faithfulness leads to a return of double. The servant who was faithful with 5 talents earned 5 back, and was suddenly responsible for 10 talents. God doubled his responsibility and as a result increased his capacity. How do I know? Because God will never set you up to fail if you trust Him and show it through your obedience. Know that as you stand right now, you are capable of double, and even though you feel like you can't take on more your ability to steward what you have will increase your capacity to make it happen. How does this happen? When you steward yourself well you find excess time and energy and you repurpose it for the Kingdom's advancement. Yes you may sacrifice hobbies, your daily 1.5 hour coffee break, and 2 hour social media scroll session, but when you repurpose that time, it shows God your ability to steward and gives you a greater perspective concerning what you're capable of doing.

So enjoy that mountaintop, breathe in the fresh air that few people get to breathe at that level, and then look up at the next imposing mountain that stands in front of you and take heart, because that mountain exists for the sole purpose of being conquered by you.

Preachers Come Cheap: Just Say What You're Trying to Say

Confession: I used to want to preach like T.D. Jakes.

It’s true. I remember watching him in his pre-purple suit days and thinking to myself, “This guy can preach!” I still think there’s nothing like 90’s preaching: dynamic, powerful, and full of deep content. It was here that I fell in love with not only preaching, but also communicating. A mentor of mine once told me, “Preachers are a dime a dozen, but great communicators are a gift.” Since then, it’s been my goal to not only preach the Word, but to also do my best to communicate it.

What I mean by “communicate” is getting the point across and stewarding the Word properly. We all have heard preachers preach without really saying anything. They ramble on and on hoping that the Holy Spirit will honor their rambling by making something they say stick to the hearts of the people. If you’re like me, then there have been times in your ministry where you have preached your guts out, used cute alliterations for your points, and gave a passionate invitation to respond only to see people walk out unmoved. While this has caused many of us to cast blame on our crowds for not being “spiritual” enough to catch what we’re throwing at them, the reality is probably closer to the fact that there have been times where we haven’t been faithful in the way we have delivered our content.

 As a result, when I construct messages for my team to preach in their respective ministries, I keep a few things in mind as I flesh it out and I ask them to do the same:

  1. Start with why.
    This isn’t a novel idea, books have even been written on it, but it is entirely underused. Many of our messages are “how” driven messages. They focus on how to get out of sin, how to turn your life around, how to follow Jesus, but in doing so we only assume that the students already know why. Know that the “why” brings value to your message and creates buy-in for the “how.” Case in point, you can tell me how a computer will make my life more efficient and convenient, but I won’t buy it if I don’t know why I need it. I may think my life is just fine and I may in fact value my life as is. If you’re going to sell me that computer, you must give me a greater value than my existing values. If you don’t start with that, you’ve lost me. Same goes for communicating the Word to students.
  2. Does this message answer a question that our listeners SHOULD be asking?
    Many times our messages are constructed around questions our listeners are wrestling with, but many times those people are asking the wrong question on any given topic. If we structure our messages around “wrong questions” then we fail to communicate to our listeners with what they need to hear and instead give them what they want to hear.
  3. Be Christ-centered.
    Seriously. It’s weird that I have to say this but many times our messages become glorified self-help talks because the Gospel is absent from our rhetoric. As Christians, EVERYTHING ties back to Jesus. He is the “true and better” version of the Old Testament stories and is the hope and fulfillment of all that God promises. My friend David Hertweck states, “Jesus is the perfect substitute, not just a perfect example.” Let’s not give our listeners a better brand of eternal misery by leaving Jesus out of the equation. Christ-center everything.
  4. Front load the message.
    One of the biggest assumptions preachers make is that everyone in the audience knows the background of the story or principle you’re talking about. Remember that we’re preaching to the back-row newbies and not the front row saints. Take the time to give the appropriate Biblical context so that your listeners can tie their story in with your message. 
  5. What's the shared experience?
    The beauty of response times (altar calls) isn’t just that your listeners have the chance to make big life decisions, but that they get to do it together. The Body of Christ is only a body when community happens through a shared experience. One of the best changes I made was to not only invite my listeners into a time of response after communicating, but to do it together by making it a community decision as well as an individual decision. This will do wonders for the unity and momentum in your ministry.

While this list is by no means exclusive, it has become a standard by which I compose and edit my messages as well as a measure by which my team fleshes out theirs. I would invite you to not only adopt some of this list, but to also set a list of standards for yourself that will make you a great communicator of the Word.

Guest Post: "Lead like a Mother" by Christina Parkman

It’s 3 am and I am wide awake after getting up to tend to my daughter and I can't fall back to sleep.  Maybe it’s the snoring handsome hunk next to me or the Chinese food I ate tonight, either way for some reason I’m laying here thinking about leadership and motherhood together.  It hits me that they really go hand in hand, so these are my thoughts (and bear in mind this is my husband’s blog so this is more about leadership than a Mother’s Day post.).

Leadership is big these days, it’s like “the thing,” and everyone wants in on being a leader and doing it with strength.  Honestly, I think it’s a little over done. Now don’t get me wrong, I think leadership is important, very important, but it’s more about who you are leading than it is about yourself. In my opinion, I think it should emphasize both.  So here I am, way too early in the morning to be awake and my great leader of a husband (this is not sarcasm) is sound asleep next to me.  I’m hearing our child wake up coughing and I’m tending to her while thinking about why, biologically, I am the one who hears her in the middle of the night. She’s not crying, or even trying to notify us that she’s awake, she’s just awake and my body, brain, heart, whatever it is inside of me, wakes me up to tend to her because, well, I am her Mom.  Immediately two things hit me: “Motherhood and leadership go hand in hand,” and “Why aren’t more leaders taking the time to research the largest group of collective leaders our world has ever seen in mothers?”

There are an estimated 2 billion Mothers in the world, that’s 28% of the population and 100% of the 7 billion people walking around on the earth today are here because of a mother. Mother’s lead the way in so many different areas: they lead in giving birth, they lead in butt wiping, owie care, and breast feeding. OK, now I realize these are blatantly obvious, but not so obvious could include: morals, self-worth, kindness, and love.

That said, there are three things that come to mind when I think of how mothers lead:

  1. Leadership doesn’t stop.
    From the time a woman is pregnant, she is leading. A lot of people don’t realize it, but a fetus is being nurtured by a mother not only because she is supplying nutrients for it to grow but also nurturing its emotional state.  While we were in the process of adopting our daughter, I read a book by a neuro-physiologist who stated that, even in utero a baby knows that it’s being abandoned because of how the mother neglects to talk to it, rub her belly, etc.  So essentially, for 18 years, a mother is leading her child through life.  After 18, leading turns more into guiding as the child may need, however, the mother is still there and most likely jumping at the chance to give her guidance. 
    Leaders, in general, have the choice to continue to lead an individual, but good mothers don’t have that choice, they can’t give up.  If more leaders would think that way it could change things.  Leadership and relationships in general would be better and more invested.
  2. Don’t keep trying something that doesn’t work.
    Can we all just agree to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, and that’s just fine? Most moms know what works for one child might not work for the other and she has to adjust her leadership accordingly.  In my case, I only have one child and sometimes what works for her in one season will fail in the next; she likes to keep me on my toes.  That said, I am constantly changing the way I show her love, the way I attach, and the way I discipline. 
    Leaders, if you’re trying a style of leadership and people aren’t getting it, you may need to adjust what you’re doing and try something new.
  3. You might have to teach something that you thought was obvious.
    Do you ever meet people and wonder, “Why don’t they know_______” because all along you thought that knowledge was inherent?  Well, most likely they were never informed or taught about that thing that you thought was so obvious.  Moms teach all sorts of things: how to crawl, how to eat with your fingers, how to play, dress, brush your teeth, do your hair, the importance of changing your underwear on a daily basis, cook, what not to eat under the sink so you don’t die, how to act in public, how to not be rude, how to be a good friend, how to be patient, the list goes on and on.  In leadership you might be surprised at the things that people don’t know, and even though they may be important to you, those are the things that you are responsible to teach.  I will not be a good at teaching my daughter math, or physics, or how to repair a car, or what kind of tool she’ll need for a project, or how to keep succulents alive (is there anyone that can do that?).  For now I am going to teach her and lead her in every thing I can think of. Eventually, the day will come when she’s 18 and she will be looking for a mentor to lead her in ways that I cannot (cue flood of tears) and I hope that they will lead her and help guide her into becoming the person that God has created her to be.

So if you are in leadership (and let’s be honest, we all are in some way or another) the next time you need advice, take a good look at a good mother and ask yourself, “What would she do?”

Changing Lanes

Here it is—the inevitable blog about change.

You know, the one that's supposed to make you feel that change is the most spiritual thing you can do even though we all know that change is the last thing you want to do. Even now, a massive change is taking place among youth and young adults across this nation. It affects our schedules, priorities, and even our ministries. That change is wrapped up neatly in three little words:

School is starting.

And while parents everywhere are celebrating, many youth pastors are dreading. Why? Because our primary influencers are leaving, via mass exodus, to colleges and universities nationwide, thereby leaving us with an entirely new crop of students and an entirely new culture to shape. Think about it. You’ve spent the entire year (or two) shaping your youth culture to reflect the vision God gave you, and now the bearers of that vision are heading out your door. You may be asking yourself, How am I supposed to do this again? The answer is, you don’t. Your ministry doesn’t need a do-over. Your ministry needs a shift in balance.

Let me explain it this way, have you ever had everything go so perfectly in your life that you didn’t know how it could go any better? Your life was balanced, your relationships were balanced, and even your ministry was balanced. Then out of nowhere, it all begins to fall apart leaving you wondering where it all went wrong. In any area of our lives, and especially in our ministries, the answer to this is the same.

Your season changed, but balance stayed the same.

You see, with every new season there comes a demand for a new balance. The problems begin when we neglect to shift our balance from season to season, thus leading our ministries into a place of decline. Again, every new season demands a new balance, not a new culture. So as you go into this school year and as your ministry begins to feel the affects of that new season, simply identify the balance that won for you yesterday, make the necessary adjustments, and apply that new balance to today.

Know that the vision God gave you for your ministry finds it’s greatest realization as the years roll on, and this upcoming year’s culture will reflect that vision in ways greater than last year ever could. So, what’s your job? Trust the Holy Spirit with that culture, and steward the balance. The vision is current and God’s plan starts with you. You can’t live off of last year’s experiences, promises, anointing, and callings. A new season awaits and making that season successful is entirely in your hands. You got this.