What Worked With Me – From a Girl’s Perspective

By Kendell Richmond • San Diego, California

Looking back, I understand that at first my reason for attending church had very little, if anything, to do with God. Instead, I believe my eldest sister puts it best; it was my own form of rebellion. In a time when I felt that my family had fallen apart, I found something that was my own, something I am sorry to say my family was unable to understand, something that I decided they would be unable to mess up. I found an activity, something that kept me busy, but soon that activity gave way to great friends, and from friends a family that at the time I believed was more stable than my own.

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Regardless of the turmoil that my family faced, they had raised me to be strong and independent. Upon finding comfort in a church, I was hit by the need to truly understand, to question, to come to my own conclusions and develop a personal faith. Luckily for me the church I had found was more than willing to answer my questions; I have to say that more important than the actual youth group were the small groups within it. Based on grade and gender, we met once a week for Bible study. My group became more than a book club—I made my very best friends within this group. Each of us came from different experiences, we bounced ideas off the others, we discussed, we pried, we laughed, we cried, we confided. Together we found answers and stumbled upon more questions. We grew together and independently, finally becoming the young women we are today—able to take what we have learned and face the world.

I believe that there is more to a church than a building, more to a pastor than a man who is able to read aloud from the Bible. A church, when successful, becomes a family. For instance, I participated in a “big sister/little sister” program, but my “little sisters” went their own ways and at some point I “adopted” a younger “brother.” Even though he was two years younger than me, we got along wonderfully. The need to have someone hold
you accountable for your actions is never more prominent when trying to follow the example of Christ; yet with friends it is often far easier to justify your mistakes. I found out that with this family (and with a boy two years my younger watching my example!) there was no room for mistakes. While I might be able to justify teenage foolishness within my small group of girls facing the same issues, I cared too much for my younger brother to slip up.

I am unable to tell you what is effective for a teenage girl. I can only tell you what worked for me. Accountability, friendship, family—to make mistakes and learn from them instead of pretending they never happened at the risk of becoming a hypocrite—to realize that we are not perfect, and are not expected to be. That’s what worked for me.

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How to Reach the Male Student Athlete

By Clay Elliott • Fellowship of Christian Athletes • San Jose, California

“We must go on to other towns as well…” Mark 1:38

Every year I begin my chaplain duties for the San Jose State Baseball team with the same basic talk that goes something like this—“Hey guys, God is creative and smart. He designed all of us with three major parts—the physical (body), the intellectual (mind) and the spiritual (soul). You work hard on the first two parts, but what about the third? Leaving out this third part sells you short in reaching your God-intended potential. And God, your creative Designer, never wants that to happen. He wants you to achieve excellence, even perfection.” These guys want to be better, so they listen. I want them to be perfect, so I go and teach them.

So, how do you become a chaplain? Volunteer. Most coaches will willingly allow you to do this as long as you don’t interfere. But don’t show up only at “talk” time—be sure to go to practices, attend games and take them out to lunch when you can. The idea then is to go to them and become a part of the team.

But what if you don’t want to be a chaplain? Go and try these:

  • Coaching—do the same things as stated above.
  • Leading—start an FCA club (huddle) on a campus and help lead it. See www.fca.org to get the details.
  • Team Parent—get creative in serving & ministering.

Get all of our “Challenge of the Sexes” articles in the latest Youth Leaders Only.

The Pecking Order
Athletes respect athletes. A junior high male athlete is going to admire the high school athlete. The high school athlete wants to compete at the college level and the collegiate student athlete dreams of playing professionally. This pecking order is a great tool to help present the Gospel by using the “older” to reach the “younger.” So go and create pecking order opportunities!

Some “Go” Tips
The Male Student Athlete loves:

  • Food: GatoradeTM, pizza, JambaTM Juice, crackers.
  • Girls: Don’t exploit your girls but if you want to reach the Male Student Athlete, invite the girls!
  • Attention: Make a video and pictures presentation, show it to the youth group, have all the athletes stand and pray for them— especially the injured athlete (and go visit him).
  • Fun: Videogames, paintball, scavenger hunts, etc.
  • Filth: He will swear and make messes.
  • Fans: Go cheer him on!
  • Officials: Just kidding, don’t even think about becoming one of these if you want to reach the Male Student Athlete!

Now, go to the Male Student Athlete’s world and minister—scatter seed, spread salt and be light! But mostly—GO!

Clay is a former Youth Pastor of 17 years and the current Bay Area Director (CA) for FCA, played five years of pro baseball in the Atlanta Braves Farm system, is married to Kelly and together they have four incredible kids.

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3 Ways to Reach the Heart of the Female Athlete

By Megan Dickerson • Fellowship of Christian Athletes • Portland, Oregon

Image from the upcoming THE MIRACLE SEASON film, opening April 6th #LiveLikeLine


NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Challenge of the Sexes – Ministry to Guys and Girls” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO!

For fifteen years I competed in sports of all kinds— I was an athlete. I was also a Christian. Yet those two aspects of my life seemed far apart from each other. Sports were my life six days a week, and church was where I went on Sundays to rest my muscles. It took me years, and ultimately God calling me to a sports ministry to figure out how faith and sports can and should be integrated.

Female athletes are faced with many challenges and difficult situations. Because of such, they have a great need to be acknowledged and valued. They want to be reached out to through an understanding that you care about who they are and what they do. Here’s how:

1. Value Her as an ATHLETE
Her sport is not just a game to her; it has great significance in her life. She needs you to understand her sport, to find out what she loves about playing, and what her goals are in the arena of sport. Be her cheering section—on and off the field!

Understand that she experiences criticism daily and is judged constantly on her performance. She needs to know that you, and God, do not judge her based on her wins, losses, or accolades—but that you love her in the midst of those things. Be a great teammate. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) God has given her athletic talents, and she needs to be encouraged to know that she is honoring God through the platform of sports.

2. Value her as a FEMALE
Communication is the key. Females can be very emotional and may not always hear exactly what you say, but they need you to say it. Share openly and honestly about your faith and what the Word of God says. Help her to understand that she is going to feel struggles and hurts through her sport experiences, and that is okay. Give her a place to share her struggles, and ask her questions about such experiences—girls love to talk! Build a trust relationship through communication.

Get all of our “Challenge of the Sexes” articles in the latest Youth Leaders Only.

3. She is a CHILD OF GOD
Because the female athlete is constantly critiqued and criticized, she often begins to desire that which she doesn’t have—a more athletic or attractive body, better skills, more playing time, etc. She begins to envy others. She needs to be reminded that she is God’s beautiful creation—exactly the girl He intended her to be.

While I was growing up, I needed someone in my life to value me as an athlete, and at the same time show me the importance of my faith and how it could be played out through my sports. I needed someone to share in my successes and failures while pointing me to God. You can be that person to a female athlete you know.

Note: As in most ministries, reaching the heart of the female athlete is relational. Dealing with her struggles can go very deep. Let me suggest that if you are a male youth worker and need to reach out to a struggling female athlete, find a female co-worker or volunteer to be present and involved in this relationship.

Megan is the FCA Area Representative in Portland, Oregon. She is a graduate of Montana State University-Billings, and was an NCAA Division II Basketball All-American.


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3 Keys To Meaningful Conversations with Students

By Dr. Greg Joiner • Fellowship Bible Church • Brentwood, TN • gjoiner@fbctn.org

Out of all the camps, messages, Bible studies, and small groups I’ve been a part of, the one-on-one conversations with students that that stand out.  I’m continually learning what it means to make each conversation count.  This doesn’t always come naturally.  Much like a fifteen-year-old learning to drive a standard transmission for the first time, conversations with young people begin awkwardly, and usually they end unexpectedly. One-word answers may easily become the norm.

Here are 3 keys I have discovered…

1. Stay Curious
Many of the volunteers and parents I work with approach conversations with teenagers like opening a bag of Jolly Ranchers in a library. Some just rip the wrapper off as fast as possible to get it over with, and others unwrap it so slowly that the sound of the wrapper annoys everyone in the room. They alternate between emotionally unavailable and intrusive. We have to be aware of when it is time to engage teenagers in conversations. We sometimes fail to realize that opening up a conversation with a teenager depends on their timetable, not ours. Just because we ask great questions doesn’t mean we are free from one-word answers. We can’t force interaction, which is why it is so critical we maintain a posture of curiosity with our kids. Curiosity makes us aware of when they want to enter a conversation, not when we want to. Curiosity is patient in relationship with teenagers. It doesn’t annoy everyone in the room. Curiosity communicates care; it says, “You matter more than my agenda.” Conversations with teenagers are not often on a schedule, which is why we must be ready to engage when it happens.

We all know our kids have things they want to talk about, sometimes complex and embarrassing things that make it hard for them to come to us as parents or youth workers. Therefore, when the door is opened to their hearts, we have to be curious with them. That means putting the book down, getting off the phone, and being aware that they are trying to tell us something. It is up to us to be alert and pay attention when that moment comes. When it does, the question is whether or not we are paying attention. My friend Lloyd Shadrach once shared with me how that moment comes for him when he picks his sixteen-year-old daughter up from her work. She is often ready to engage at that time—when the door to her heart is open—and Lloyd loves being curious with her about her day at work.

How curious are we about our teenagers? Do we even know what is going on in their world? Think about it for a moment. How did we feel the last time someone was curious about some part of our day or some aspect of our life? Did we feel affirmed in those moments? In the same way, we have to be curious with our teens because curiosity really does communicate care.

The most practical way to stay curious with young people is to use the simple phrase: “tell me more.” Curiosity relieves one of the pressure to ask redundant questions like “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Familiarity can stifle curiosity and lead to dead-end, superfluous questions that require only one-word answers—the kind teenagers dodge like a bullet. The next time students open up to us, that is our cue to stay curious and ask questions of discovery. It only takes three words to enter their world: “Tell me more.”

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2. Focus on the Person not the Problem
There is a “fixer” deep inside all of us. The moment young open up to us we feel this need to “fix” things by focusing on the problem and not the person. An empathic response comes naturally when we focus on the person.   Empathy is what both fuels and drives connection with young people.  Here’s a great example of a mother I met recently who put this 2nd key to effective communication into practice:

I recently did some work with a group of parents and youth workers just outside of New Orleans. We were talking about empathy and practicing active listening skills. I noticed one particular mother who had teared up about halfway through the session. The dots were connecting for her as we talked about the nature of empathy and what it does for our kids. As we spent some time talking outside of the group, she shared her daughter’s struggle with migraines. Migraines are of course quite debilitating, and in her daughter’s case they occur often.

The woman was a physician in the small town where she lived, and every day people come into her office looking for her to “fix” things. Her natural response with her daughter was to try and fix the migraines. She had learned how to be present as a physician, but not as an empathetic mother. Her requires her to focus on the problem.  This left her exhausted and feeling helpless. After a little conversation she decided the next time her daughter experienced a migraine she would move towards her not as a doctor but as an empathetic mother. The next morning I ran into her before our final session. She had a totally different countenance about her as she told me her daughter had come home from a weekend retreat with a migraine the previous night. She said she just held her daughter and told her she was so sorry her head was hurting. After about ten minutes her daughter said she was feeling so much better and even went back to the retreat to re-engage.

What happened was that this mother was feeling with her daughter. She fueled a connection and created a safe place for her to deal with her own physical pain. Instead of focusing on her daughter’s migraine (which is what a physician does), she focused on her daughter, thereby taking a step towards a healthy mother-daughter relationship. As you reflect back on the last conversation you had with a young person, did you focus on the person or the problem? Did you listen to all the details of the relational chaos or stress in their life, or did you listen beyond the words to what is going on inside?

3. Ask Powerful Questions
Beginning conversation with questions communicates that we do not assume to understand all the answers. With questions, we demonstrate we are not stereotyping the young people with whom we speak, and we are not lumping them in with all the other kids from their generation. It is precisely at this point in the conversation that we must be keenly aware of the tendency to give more information to young people than typically they require. They need great questions to help them formulate answers on their own. Great questions tend to promote reflection more effectively than merely providing additional knowledge and expertise. We need to sharpen our ability to ask great questions of young people.

The best way to make your questions more powerful is to open them up. In other words, ask OPEN questions not closed questions.

There is a pattern that develops in our interaction with young people over time where we continually ask closed questions. A closed question is one that can simply be answered with a yes or no. The actual skill we need to develop is asking more open questions in conversation with young people. Why do I refer to this as a skill? It is because asking does not come naturally in conversation. Here are a few examples of closed questions:

  1. Should you quit the football team?
  2. Do you think you made the right decision?
  3. Does your friend think the same way?

On the surface, these kinds of questions are not all that bad. In fact, they may lead to some good conversation and demonstrate genuine interest in young people’s lives. If we were to observe these three questions a little closer, however, we would notice that the “idea” behind the question is contained within the question itself. In other words, what normally happens when we ask a young person a question is that our idea, assumption, feeling, or opinion is embedded in the question. For example, in a conversation about money with a teenager, asking the question “Do you plan on borrowing money to do that?” clearly exposes the opinion that they should borrow money to do that. The answer is already embedded in the question. The first question, for example, carries the assumption that the young person should probably quit the football team, or at least quitting the team is a strong option. If we take one step back, however, we realize we are in a conversation about what to do with football in a young person’s busy life and schedule. The main idea, then, is what to do with football. How would we ask a more open question on this topic? Something like, What options do you see with football at this point? would offer more open options and possibilities. This changes the overall conversation by promoting reflection in the young person as opposed to a question that is designed to give more information.

This is also what makes a question closed and shuts down communication. Therefore, effective communication with young people is not so much the art of giving good answers as the art of asking good questions.

Editor Note:  This is an excerpt from RISER: A PRACTICAL TOOLKIT FOR STRENGTHENING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUNG PEOPLE – Dr. Greg Joiner a crash course on effective communication with students.    Our long-time interlinc youth ministry friend Dr. Chap Clark wrote the foreword to Greg’s book.

RISER is the way that author Greg Joiner invites adults to take the first steps in the direction of a young person.  Dr. Greg Joiner has written RISER to transform the way we communicate with our children and other young people. It all comes down to one thing. Communication. Some argue it is the bedrock of everything there is. It has been described as “the art of being understood.” The most sacred gift we offer another is the willingness and ability to gently step next to them in honest, respectful and authentic conversation. To talk. To listen. To know and be known. To engage, not as in a swordfight but in the way one would help a small child to cross a street. To be aware of entering into sacred space, where we take off our shoes approaching the holy ground of their most intimate treasure – their thoughts, their heart, their vulnerabilities and their insecurities.”


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2018 Music-Media Manifesto

Fact #1 – Kids love music & entertainment media. They are engaged in it a whopping 9 hours everyday. 19,500 hours between 7th and 12th grade. Get the data here.


Fact #2 
– To be effective in ministering to them, a youthworker must be aware of and know how to use Christian Music, Worship Music, Mainstream Music, Movies, and other forms of media.


Fact #3 – Youthworkers don’t have time or finances to stay on top of the fast-moving music & media world kids live in.


Fact #4 
interlínc/Youth Leaders Only is youth ministry’s most trusted low-cost resource used by over 30,000 youthworkers over the past 30 years.

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Tether Yourself

Many of the students in your youth ministry got a smartphone for Christmas. This article by Rachel Macy Stafford could be a huge benefit to the parents of the teenagers in your church – and make you look good in the process! Read this article, and then copy its URL (http://interlinc-online.com/blog/?p=3346) and send it to all of the parents of teenagers in your church or ministry.

“I’ll take your hand when thunder roars
And I’ll hold you close, I’ll stay the course
I promise you from up above
That we’ll take what comes, take what comes, l
-Imagine Dragons, Walking the Wire

We bought my daughter a smartphone when we moved to a large metropolitan area three years ago. She was participating in a massive year-round swimming program where we knew no one. Her dad and I decided it would be best for her to have a phone to communicate with us.

Over the years, we’ve implemented all the recommended parental restrictions, safe-search settings, and online safety guidelines. We’ve had on-going talks about cyber dangers like online bullying, predators, pornography, sexting, and what to do in each situation. But despite these protections, I’ve felt an unexplainable uneasiness about teens and smartphone consumption. I’ve continued to read extensively on the subject, finding an increasing number of articles on teen suicide as they relate to online bullying and social media use.

But recently, the uneasiness I’ve been feeling came to an all-time high and spurred me into action – a preventative action I’d not taken before.

In one heartbreaking week, I was contacted by two friends from previous places our family has lived. Each family has a daughter in the same grade as mine. These vibrant young ladies with whom my daughter played Legos and shared towels during swim meets are now harming themselves, hating themselves, the light dimming from their spirits right in front of their parents’ eyes.

Right after learning of their struggles, I read a sobering article on Time.com about an outgoing young lady named Nina who shocked everyone with an attempted suicide. The particular details of her story gave me great pause:

“After her attempted suicide and during her stay at a rehabilitation facility, Nina and her therapist identified body image insecurity as the foundation of her woe. ‘I was spending a lot of time stalking models on Instagram, and I worried a lot about how I looked,’ says Nina, who is now 17. She’d stay up late in her bedroom, looking at social media on her phone, and poor sleep—coupled with an eating disorder—gradually snowballed until suicide felt like her only option. ‘I didn’t totally want to be gone,’ she says. ‘I just wanted help and didn’t know how else to get it.’

Nina’s mom, Christine Langton, has a degree in public health and works at a children’s hospital. Despite her professional background, she says she was ‘completely caught off guard’ by her daughter’s suicide attempt. ‘Nina was funny, athletic, smart, personable . . . depression was just not on my radar,’ she says.

In hindsight, Langton says she wishes she had done more to moderate her daughter’s smartphone use. ‘It didn’t occur to me not to let her have the phone in her room at night,’ she says. ‘I just wasn’t thinking about the impact of the phone on her self-esteem or self-image until after everything happened.’”

Nina sounded a lot like my highly driven, very lovable, athletically-gifted brown-eyed girl.

And for the first time in three years, I knew exactly what I needed to do about the uneasiness I’d been feeling about her smartphone consumption.

I walked straight out of my bedroom and into my fourteen-year-old daughter’s room. I felt my heart racing at the importance of the conversation we were about to have. I found her stretched out on her bed, homework splayed across the bed. She was scrolling Instagram, as teens often do.

I sat down and told her about the two mothers who’d reached out to me for help. My daughter’s face fell as I told her about her former playmate who discovered her looks had been rated on Instagram. The painful comments she read about herself caused her to harm herself until she bled. She expressed hating herself so much that she no longer wanted to live.

I then read aloud the eye-opening statistics from a study by Jean Twenge, author of iGen, found in the same article as Nina’s story:

“Using data collected between 2010 and 2015 from more than 500,000 adolescents nationwide, study found kids who spent three hours or more a day on smartphones or other electronic devices were 34% more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome—including feeling hopeless or seriously considering suicide—than kids who used devices two hours a day or less. Among kids who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48% had at least one suicide-related outcome.”

“I am worried,” I told my daughter truthfully. “And it my job to protect you,” I added.

My daughter assured me she had good friends, a sensible head on her shoulders, and would come to me if anything was wrong.

Your kids are involved in entertainment media 9 hours everyday. Let us keep you up on all the new Christian Music, Worship Music, and Mainstream Music.

At that point, it would have been easy and convenient to end the conversation, have faith everything would be ok, and walk out of the room. At that point, I could have decided to take back the phone her father and I let her borrow so she wouldn’t be exposed to damaging influences. Instead, I chose to enlighten her with information that will benefit her for the rest of her life, especially a prosperous, happy life.

This is what I said to my daughter in letter form. It is my hope that others will say these words to those they love. If our teens can learn to tether themselves, there is hope. Their lives are too valuable to let drift … their lives are too valuable to let fade away.

Tether Yourself: An Awareness Strategy to Keep You from Drifting from Your Best Life  

Dear one, it is natural to go through difficult periods where you don’t feel like yourself … when you question your worth … when your purpose is not clear. During those times, I want to use this information to give yourself an unfiltered view of your beautiful worth and your extraordinary potential.

First, you need to know what is happening to your brain while on your device. Social media is known for creating algorithms to capture and manipulate our consumption. The goal is to achieve the highest amount of engagement possible. (source) There is even a term for this in Silicon Valley: Brain Hacking. It is having a negative impact on our mental health – especially susceptible are teenagers. Here’s why:

The teen brain isn’t done forming and the part of the brain that manages impulse control, empathy, judgment, and the ability to plan ahead are not fully developed. This means you’re more likely to see disturbing online content or have troubling encounters; it means you’re more likely to become distracted from the important tasks at hand; it means you’re more likely to become addicted to your device than adults. When you are addicted, you will experience distraction, fatigue, or irritability when you’re not on your phone. Teens who excessively use their phone are more prone to disrupted sleep, restlessness, stress and fatigue.(source)

So let’s think about this in terms of your life:

Each time the phone notifies you, you stop what you are doing—whether it’s homework or a job you have to do. What might take you one hour to do, will take you several, and it won’t be completed as well. The inability to focus will reflect in your grades and impact the job opportunities you have as you grow. Spending quality time with friends and family will be impacted by the need to check the phone, making you believe what is most important is on your phone when it is really the person in front of you.

Each time you scroll, you are being influenced by what you see on the screen. Your thoughts and beliefs about what your body should look like or what your life should look like are being shaped. The hidden influence of the internet can create a poor self-image, unrealistic comparisons, and harmful judgements – and you won’t even know it is happening.

But here’s how you take back control:

Awareness … you see, awareness changes everything. Awareness is your weapon against the hidden influences and damaging behaviors. While you are online, your mind, your thoughts, your core values are drifting to wherever tech companies want you to go. The remedy is to limit the time you spend drifting in the online world and tether yourself to real life. 

Tether yourself
To real people, real conversations, and real scenery.

Tether yourself
To furry animals, interesting books, good music, the great outdoors.

Tether yourself
To spatulas, hammers, cameras, paintbrushes, and yoga mats.

When your worth is in question … when you feel lost and alone … when you feel sad and can’t explain why, tether yourself to real life. Tether yourself to real people. Tether yourself to real love. And I will help you set limits because I know teens feel pressure to be available 24/7. But you need and deserve time to be alone with your thoughts, doing things you enjoy, without constant pressure and interruptions from the outside world. 

As you practice these self-regulation skills that will benefit you for life, I vow to do the same. I am here to set an example of a well-rounded life and to help you navigate this challenging territory. You can always hold on to me.

I love you,


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Abraham Lincoln and the Meaning of Thanksgiving

NOTE: This is such a powerful Thanksgiving message, we are reposting it again in 2017.

A note from interlinc President Allen Weed: My long time friend and co-laborer in youth ministry Ron Boehme sent me his Thanksgiving post this morning. His insights on President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation blew me away! With Ron’s permission and our editor’s kind readjustment, Ron’s thoughts are here as a Guest Blog Post.

These thoughts and application points will be foundational for our family discussions over the next couple of days. I hope you will find them equally as helpful. Jesus Christ is the same – 1863, today and forever! Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and the kids in your youth ministry.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely biblical holiday (should we go back in time and rightly rename it a “holy day?”).

It is not simply a day off, with turkey and trimmings, time with family members or a good football game. Yes, it can involve all these elements, but it is much more than that.

Thanksgiving is a “reality reminder” day: There is a God. He is awesome, loving, and just. And everything we have and hope for comes directly or indirectly from him.

At least once a year we should “re-center” our lives and spend a day giving thanks to Him.

Abraham Lincoln, our most respected president, understood that truth. Here is his reminder, during a grim time in American history that can help us navigate our own.

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Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln has been out for over a year and is currently ranked at number two on the New York Times best-seller list (amazingly his new book Killing Kennedy is number one–and both are excellent reads).

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring David Day-Lewis, is also out in theaters this week and is getting excellent reviews. I am looking forward to seeing it as my “movie of the year.”

What made Lincoln a great president was his clear, uncompromising faith in God and his view that history is being guided by a Being who is worthy of our prayers, devotion, and thanks.

Here is his text for an 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. I would encourage you to read it slowly to get the depth of his thinking. In between paragraphs, I will comment on his wisdom.

Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln reminds us that we tend to “forget” about God. Do you forget him in your daily life and struggles? Lincoln rightly reminds us that God is our “source” of everything good in our lives. He says that our gratefulness to God should “soften our hearts” and make us aware of God’s watchful providence in our lives. Is your heart soft toward God and his blessings? Do you realize that a Loving God is watching over your life as well as guiding the affairs of nations?

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”

Lincoln is grateful that even during our nation’s darkest war, there was a peace and harmony in the world that only God could create and maintain. If left to ourselves, everything would explode or fall apart. But God keeps the world together with his ever-wise and loving care.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

Despite the war and national travail, Lincoln is grateful that America is a fruitful, growing nation in which he expects a “large increase of freedom.” Do you expect same? Does your faith go beyond the horizon of your personal circumstances and national problems to thank God for his abundance?

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Abraham Lincoln understood sin–and God’s anger against it. If you love people and truth then you must hate evil and its destructive forms. But he also knew that God was gracious–and that ALL the great things in America have come via his grace and mercy. Do you consciously realize that truth? Do you give God credit for all the good things in your life?

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

I love Lincoln’s word choices here. Solemnly–don’t joke away Thanksgiving or fail to give God serious thought. Reverently–with respect, prayer, and admiration. Gratefully–it only has meaning when it is directed toward someone. Gratefulness in general is just pleasant feelings. Gratefulness to God grows a loving relationship with your Lord and Savior.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Lincoln asks all Americans to observe Thankgiving day–whether they are atheists, pantheists, or believers in God. It will benefit all because, whether they believe it or not, God is there. You may not see the sun for the clouds, but it is there and you couldn’t live without it. Even more so with God in whom you live, breathe and have your being (Acts 17:28). He exhorts all Americans to the double barrels of joy–thanksgiving and praise. One recognizes what God does and the other, who he is. He is our Father whose home is in the Heavens (the ultimate destination of his children).

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Lincoln finishes his Proclamation with three distinct admonitions:

1. That we have repentant hearts over our “national perverseness and disobedience.” What would Abraham Lincoln think of the evolution of those sins today? Do you care? Do you grieve over America’s perversion and turning away from God? In 1863, the president of the United States encouraged our citizens to repent.

2. That we reach out to the needy, hurting, and unfortunate in our society. God cares–so should we.

3. That we pray that God would heal and restore us to Him. Have you personally prayed today beyond bowing your head before the turkey is served? Were your prayers passionate for your family and nation?

“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.”

“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.”

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”

There’s no mention here of the phony definition of separation of Church and State. Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, calls all Americans to repent, thank God, praise Him, and serve others.

Will you act upon his timeless words?

Happy Thanksgiving–in the year of our Lord 2012 and of the Independence of the United States the Two-Hundred and Thirty-Sixth.

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Parent Roundtable

We were talking about the “Parents” theme of this issue of Youth Leaders Only, and the thought that youth leaders and musicians share some of the same, umm, “unique conditions” in which we ourselves are trying to be good parents. We wondered if we could get a conversation rolling between several of our Team interlínc youthworkers and Team interlínc artist-musicians about this subject. What you’re about to read is that virtual conversation. There are some deep insights here, and some smirks that are too good to miss. Read on!

L = Lecrae Artist Atlanta, GA
ST = Steve Taylor Artist Nashville, TN
RB = Rick Bundschuh Youthworker/Pastor Kauai Christian Fellowship, Poipu, HI
JW = Jeremy White Youthworker/Pastor Valley Church, Vacaville, CA
TP = Todd Pearage Youthworker New Hanover UMC, Gilbertsville, PA
DR = Doug Ranck Youthworker Free Methodist Church, Santa Barbara, CA

Youth leaders and musicians don’t have normal “9-to-5” schedules. How do you work around your schedule in order to be a good dad to your kids?

L      It’s all about prioritizing and reverse-engineering. I treat my family as a priority over work and outside obligations, which then governs how my weeks and months are laid out on the calendar. I tour a lot less
than I could simply because I value the health of my family over whatever I might gain from doing more concerts. Some practical things I do in planning my weeks include consistently giving my wife a day off every week. My wife and my team know that the kids are my responsibility for that entire day, no matter what. I also commit to doing breakfast with my kids every morning, and devotionals with them every night when I’m home.

RB   I found that my weird schedule actually worked as an advantage when the kids were young. I was around a lot in the morning. And since my wife also worked, we juggled our schedule so that we seldom had daycare. When the kids got older, I would yank them out of school from time to time to go with me to a conference or speaking commitment. Oh, and I insisted that I would work from home rather than a church office.

Get the complete insightful and rollicking “Parent Roundtable” when you are a member of Youth Leaders Only. Our Access Membership costs less than a pizza each month!

ST   Early in the morning isn’t always my favorite time of day, but it’s the one time I know nothing else is going on. So I’ve always been the one to drive our now teenage daughter to school; for some reason it’s easier to talk when we’re both looking through the windshield than when we’re sitting across from each other having a “talk.” We also try to schedule weekly daddy/daughter nights that typically involve going out to eat—she’s more talkative when there’s food involved—and although I often work nights, there’s usually one or two free nights a week.

DR  When the kids were still at home my short answer was to “bend and flex.” If I had an evening away from home, then I had “down” time scheduled in the late afternoon or morning and tried my best to choose time when they were around too. Taking at least one day off a week is important too. Although the kids are out are of the home now, I still want to take care of my marriage in the same way.

What advice would you give to a youth leader or musician who’s about to become a parent?

ST       Having been both, I’d advise you to kiss life-as-you-know-it goodbye.
L          Parenting is a priority. God gives specific directions to parents and it’s a…

Get the complete insightful and rollicking “Parent Roundtable” when you are a member of Youth Leaders Only. Our Access Membership costs less than a pizza each month!

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5 Ways to Pray for Las Vegas

Jeff Chaves is a YLO Member, a pastor who still works with students, and who “wrote YLO Bible studies back when YLO had cassettes!” He is the pastor of Northpointe Community Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. This article first appeared on OutreachMagazine.com.

Over the past few weeks, I was honored to talk with pastors in Houston and South Florida, and bring their stories to you. I was encouraged to hear about how the church has been coming together and being the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I have used their examples in my own preaching and teaching.

I never imagined that my city would be the next to experience a tragedy.

I’m a pastor in Las Vegas. In fact, I graduated high school, got married, raised a family, was ordained and have served in a variety of ministries here. I woke up this morning to find text messages asking if I was awake and if I’d seen the news. I opened a news website on my phone and was devastated to find out what had taken place last night: hundreds injured and dozens killed. I was devastated. I’m still in shock and disbelief.

My first texts were to my grown sons who had been following the events. I praised God that they were not close to the tragedy. I then went on social media to see who else had been affected. Were there church family members present during the shooting? Other friends? What is the local media saying? The stream was so full, I was overwhelmed. I had to pray. With tears welling up, I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what to pray, but help the people of my city!”

As the dust has settled this afternoon and I have heard many stories, I thought it would be helpful to put together some thoughts about how the church at large can help. This is nothing like the aftermath of the hurricanes. We are not going to need building supplies, but there are homes that are devastated today. The greatest way the church can be of service to Las Vegas is to pray.

1. Pray for those directly affected.
You can be certain that there are families out there who are going to hear that a loved one has been lost or injured. They will need the most support. They will need the Comforter to show up in their lives in ways that we may not understand.

I know that God is in control, and he alone can bring beauty from these ashes. For the families who are mourning, they may not be ready to hear that. Pray that God can turn hearts who may be asking “Why?” toward him. In the midst of tragedy, people have the tendency to either draw closer to him or push him away. Pray that this tragedy draws people to Jesus. Our city needs that!

2. Pray for our first responders.
Las Vegas has a top-tier group of police, fire and emergency responders. One of my best friends just retired from the police force and has become a pastor. In him, I see the face of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Like many of his peers, he was always professional and always vigilant. They have a tough job.

There is nothing that could ever prepare an officer for a scene like this. We have friends whose daughter is a rookie officer and got called to the scene just a few months out of the academy. Pray that God will help her process what she’s seen. Pray the same for every officer, firefighter and paramedic. Pray for everyone who was there at the scene during the long night.

Pray for the hospital staff of Sunrise Hospital, University Medical Center and other medical centers in the Vegas Valley. No matter what they have been through on past nights, they have never had this many wounded. I am certain that they were and are overwhelmed. I picture all of the kind faces that I have encountered over the years in hospital emergency rooms.

3. Pray for others who were present.
We have church family members who stayed up late watching the news, wondering if their adult kids were safe. I know of two families who are holding each other a little closer today because they were able to escape the area unharmed. I am certain that those young people have seen way too much, as well.

Pray for all those who will never be able to erase the images of last night from their minds. We know someone who is a professional photographer. He went to the concert that night to capture some images of the country singers. He was there until daybreak and brought images of the tragedy to the world. Pray that this tragedy will draw him closer to God.

4. Pray for the Las Vegas community.
Las Vegas has a reputation around the world for what takes place in that relatively small section of the city. Most people do not think of the desert town that is home to more than a million people. My mother is a retired schoolteacher and heard many times, “There are schools in Las Vegas?” Yes, lots of them. Please pray for those kids who don’t feel safe today. Pray for the teachers, school counselors and staff who need to comfort those kids.

Very early this morning, I heard from our blood bank that the supplies were running low. It warmed my heart, later in the day, to see images of lines down the block for people to give blood. Pray that our city would come together to supply this and other great heart needs in this community.

5. Pray for our churches.
Another little-known fact: Las Vegas has a vibrant community of faith. I became a Christian while I was away in the army, and I returned to Vegas to find healthy, growing and outreaching churches. I am pleased to see my fellow pastors opening doors and arms to those in need. Pray that this horrible event brings people to a point of seeking God. Pray for churches who are opening their doors and arms to the hurting.

It was my pleasure to serve as the pastor of the Las Vegas Rescue Mission for more than 12 years. In that time, I got to know many pastors. I am seeing them gather their flocks tonight for prayer vigils. I am seeing encouragement coming from others who have left Las Vegas but still have a heart for the ministry here. Pray for our city’s pastors, myself included, to stand strong.

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By Mike Calhoun, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Culture is more than a grocery list of distinctives or a demographic study. People groups can have the power to change a society – and ultimately history – by virtue of their choices or preferences. I am referring to the sheer force that a group of people can have as a unit.

The power of culture demands that a youth leader be a “student of students.” Music genres, clothing styles, political agendas as well as movements are influenced by young people. It is imperative that we understand each generation and their distinctive cultural nuances. Being a student of the culture will provide insight into the generation, its influence and open strategic ministry opportunities.

Three Ways to Understand the Youth Culture Diagnostic:

  1. Realize some cultural nuances are causes rather than symptoms. We must restrain ourselves from too quickly making judgments based on behavior which is often purely symptomatic. Dr. David Ferguson, often reminds people to “look for the need behind the deed.”
  2.  Maximize the opportunity for communicating truth. Make no mistake – the foundation of our message is the Word of God for communicating the Gospel. However, the platform for communication grows exponentially when we understand the culture of our audience.
  3. Refuse to accept the social constructs imposed upon an unsuspecting generation. Did you ever wonder who determines what is “Hot” and what is not in “Youth Culture?” We think it is students but most of the time it is marketers. Often even the characteristics assigned to the generations are more conceived than perceived by those very same marketers.

Members of Youth Leaders Only get all kinds of music and media resources that help them stay on top of what’s cool in the youth culture. Join today!

Marketers do not wait around to discover what teens want…they just tell them. Focus groups determine what the next trend will be and then carefully crafted marketing campaigns are created. Marketers even name the generations and those names are often defining.

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