Backlash

cellphone 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

 In previous posts, I have described the FOMO effect (Fear of Missing Out) and the harsh reality of what living in a digital culture has done to the minds (and hearts) of the next generation.  Recently, I because aware that my description of the insidious attraction of social media has expanded to the parents, too.

Digital obsession has lots of downsides, not the least of which it hampers face to face conversations.  When you walk into a restaurant and see everyone at the table not talking to each other, but instead, looking at their phones, you realize that this is something that has gone terribly wrong, and it’s not just some phenomena of the next generation.

A recent survey of 2,000 secondary school students responded that they thought their parents were overusing their mobile devices. I could say that is the pot calling the kettle black, but as I look around these days, it’s not just the next generation that are glued to their cellphones.

The kids are now asking their parents to park their urge to be connected at meal time, instead of the other way around. A report by the BBC confirmed that a third of 11 to 18-year-olds students had asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices. About 12.5% of young respondents reported that their parents were on their mobile phones at meal time.

What’s disconcerting is that the parents haven’t faced this reality yet. Only 10 per cent of parents think that their use of mobile phones is a problem. (They were polled separately.) What a reversal.  The parents have caught up. My earlier discussion was by parents complaining that social media obsession of their children was harming family life.

Solutions from the younger generation are not surprising.  Some 80% want to have meal times mobile device free. Over a third had asked their parents to put down their phones, and 20% said that their parents (mis-)use was encroaching on family time.  Of those that asked their parents to put down their phones, less than half of the parents complied.

The study also showed that 37% of parents were on-line at least 3-5 hours a day during the week, and it could be almost 15 hours a day on a weekend.  Wow. Something is tilted here.

There is now a trend reported by the New York Times recently in an article entitled “Coffee Shops Skip Wi-Fi To Encourage Customers to Actually Talk” where HotBlack Coffee shops decided they didn’t want to be an office. The owner, Mr. Bienenstock, said ““People have socially taken for granted that the coffee shop is a workplace. We don’t want to be an office. We wanted to do it old school and be a social hub.”

On a recent cross-country trip with my wife, we stopped in to a restaurant in Morgantown, WV for lunch. I inquired what the password was for the Wi-Fi which popped up on my smart phone.  One of the staff said the password was “talktoyourwife.” I loved it. Point taken.

So, the lessons here is that there is a disconnect between what parents think their social media habits are, and what their children see.  Sadly, like other things, until one sees it as a problem, behavior won’t change, as is shown by the 44% of the parents who ignored their children’s plea to not be online during mealtime.

If you are a parent, I would ask you to inventory your cellphone use when you are around your children. Does it distract you?  Nothing speaks louder to a child than for you not to be attentive to them.  If you are scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram messages during family time, it sends a message to them that they are not important.

As mentors, we have an opportunity here with the next generation. We can model appropriate boundaries of cell phone usage, particularly at mealtimes. What the next generation really wants is quality time on a face-to-face basis.  They crave this, but unfortunately for some, they are not getting it.  Put it another way, there is no social media message that you can read that is more valuable than spending time with young adults in vesting in their lives without the distraction of being on-line.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Ask your mentee if mobile phones are getting in the way of valuable family time. If so, encourage them to be vocal about it with their parents.  Life moves so quickly that it is almost criminal for relationships to be derailed by a distracted parent or adult searching social media at the wrong times.

FURTHER STUDY:  The BBC report:

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39666863?utm_source=Master+List+%28Monthly%2C+Weekly%2C+Daily%2C+Events+%26+Offers%29&utm_campaign=ce0d52136e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b8af65516c-ce0d52136e-304494973&mc_cid=ce0d52136e&mc_eid=d1eec73a7d

New York Times Article on Coffee Shops without Wi-Fi: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/technology/coffee-shop-wifi-access.html

WORSHIP: If parents aren’t listening, consider the lyrics of this Mat Redman song:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Just Dive In

 diving-2167584_1920

 “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25,27

One attribute of the millennials and next generation is indecisiveness.  They have a hard time making decisions, particularly about life choices:  What school should I attend?  What should I major in?  Should I ask a girl out for a date? What do I do if she says no?  Should I live with my parents?  Should I strike out on my own? What career should I pursue?

A person makes an average 35,000 decisions every day. That’s a lot of decisions, although most of them are very small and inconsequential.

While the phenomena of indecisiveness are not new, by any means, it is particularly acute in the next generation who seem to be paralyzed when it comes to making life decisions.  To some, particularly Christians, the added complexity is whether a decision will be the “will of God”.  This is a red herring.

One of my friends is a golf professional at our club.  A millennial himself, he has observed this trait first hand.  He says that he finds that too many millennials are afraid to make a decision.  They are afraid it may be the wrong decision, and that fear keeps them from making any decision, which, by default, is a decision to do nothing.

My wife was an aquatics instructor, and she ran the swimming program at St. Mary’s, a private boarding school in Raleigh. In her youth, she was a junior Olympic swimmer and diver and taught swimming lessons through college.  I’ve watched her over the years work with our children first, and now with our grandchildren, teaching them to swim and dive.

When it comes to diving, there is often a reluctance that comes from not having done something before. Kind of the fear of the unknown. She gently coaxed them and assured them that going into the water head first will be fine.

Ultimately, they overcome their fears and try diving headfirst. The second dive is easier, and they don’t need much, if any, coaxing. The solution to resolve their fears is to just dive in.

I don’t think I have the magic answer to this dilemma, other than to encourage millennials to do what the Nike ad slogan which says: “Just Do It.”  That might not be too helpful for a millennial, so perhaps I should unpack some of the reasons that the next generation has difficulty in making decisions.

One of the reasons the next generation is indecisive is that they have so many options presented to them.  In rural life, back in the 20th Century, options for jobs, friends, marriage and careers were often limited by geography.  Many grew up in small towns and never left.  People living on a small income don’t have that many choices to make.

Today, we are more urbanized, and social media has dominated the dating scene.  This next generation has grown up in a world where the pace of change is dramatically faster than at any time before. Before 1985, very few people had cell phones. Now, there are 7 billion cell phones in the world, and it is hard to imagine what life was like without them.

To illustrate how life has become difficult in making choices, just go into your local grocery store and count the number of choices of cereal that they have. Look at the number of sports drinks.  When you count 150 types of lipstick, 360 types of shampoo, 64 types of barbecue sauce, or even 230 different kinds of soups, you get the idea. This illustration comes from a book by Barry Schwartz titled The Paradox of Choice.

In many countries, there aren’t that many choices, but in the western world, we have too many. One has even suggested that we would be better off with fewer choices.

Technology has changed the landscape, especially the parental controls (or lack of them) over the internet and cellphones. I was on a father-son ski trip with my two sons some years ago, along with a former law partner from San Francisco who had teenagers. At dinner one night, the discussion by my sons and this man centered on finding the right solution on how to control your child’s use of a mobile phone in the digital environment.

I must say that I didn’t have a lot to offer, and found the conversation illuminating.  These were not issues I faced when my children were growing up, so I was fascinated at listening to the next generation dealing with an unfamiliar issue.

Another reason is that many in the next generation are inwardly focused. Some call them the “me” generation.  That inward focus has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to a career. Many have seen their parents work in occupations that are perceived as not fulfilling, and they want to have a job or career that is fulfilling.

That’s all well and good, but they want a career that is “perfect” fulfillment, and are willing to sit on the sidelines until they find it. I think the quest for the Holy Grail might be easier.  In prior generations, the young adult moved quickly into the workplace, gaining experience and, in many ways, a resume for future endeavors.  They might have switched jobs, or even occupations.  There’s not a lot of risk when you are young.

For the millennial Christian, another consideration becomes front and center:  doing the will of God in your life. In a short book by Kevin DeYoung titled “Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will”, the author takes on this topic with humor.

His subtitle is “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.”  I can’t do justice to the contents of the book, but he makes several points which bear repeating.

The first is that the Bible gives a lot of instruction on morality and character.  Yet, the next generation often is looking for God’s will for “non-moral” decisions.  As DeYoung notes, “Scripture does not tell us what to do this summer, what job to take or where to go to grad school.”

His point was that while God cares about every detail of our lives, what we consider to be the most important decisions of our life are not the most important to God. “Too often God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives.” His advice? Give up on hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will and “just do something.”

One thing I have noticed and which I fight against, is the view that getting a secular “job” is often not perceived as rewarding or fulfilling as working for a non-profit. Books have now been written on this topic, including ones by Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Tom Nelson (Work Matters), which debunks the impression that your work doesn’t matter to God.

I had to fight this tendency myself when I became a believer at the ripe old age of 38. It turned my world upside down and I felt a call to ministry and possibly seminary as a means of advancing my ministry. Then, someone wisely noted that sometimes God wants you to grow where you have been planted.  That was profound, and it caused me to retool my thinking into developing ways that I could serve God as a Christian lawyer.

The challenge here is to come alongside the next generation and help them weed through the many life choices that they face. They need someone to help them get off the edge of the pool and into the water headfirst.  A mentor can help provide the mentee make better decisions in their lives by providing wisdom that comes from experience.

That’s what a mentor does – he or she can be a sounding board for someone who is struggling to make life or career choices. Procrastination results in no choice, possibly to the detriment of missing out on what God wants for them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The mentor may be the first line of offense for a millennial stuck on making life decisions or finding fulfillment in their careers. They need your counsel.

FURTHER STUDY: John Maxwell, a wonderful communicator, has a new audio series entitled “The Mentor’s Guide to Decision Making”, which includes topics such as “missing an opportunity because of procrastination.”

https://www.johnmaxwellacademy.com/p/mentors-guide-to-decision-making?utm_campaign=E-Commerce%20Promotions%202017&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52956096&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-88Nfbzr7ofUkyCyhyU3jni-BMcKBgjHPKRCj6ADtPzg6Tuz6KMY-hlc8FmmDoFCLD_BXNPgtXfC5YJdnOrL8K07tMp6w&_hsmi=52956096

A good read in this area is a short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Just Do Something” which gives an enlightening look at how to use scripture in making decisions. Available at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Do-Something-Liberating-Approach/dp/0802411592/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497447893&sr=8-1&keywords=just+do+something+by+kevin+deyoung

WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Back to the Future

future

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19,20

I feel like I’ve had an epiphany.  To me, an epiphany is one of those breakthrough moments when you have this intuitive realization of the reality of something.  I’ve had one of those, and it resulted from my recent trip to Togo.

After studying the millennials and the topic of mentoring for several years, as well as writing over 100 posts on the subject, I learned something that, to me, was so profound, that it was a verbal “Aha” moment.

One of the leaders guiding one of our sessions made the following statement: “Christ didn’t start His church with members.  He started it with disciples who made disciples, who made disciples.”

That, my friends, is profound.  Many churches in the world have it backwards.  Their focus is on members.  It is a laser focus, which excludes all else.  The incentives are all there, too. Pastors get paid more when they have more members.  Their status as a pastor is tied to the size of their church.  Voila!  I rest my case.

Most churches and denominations keep track of statistics on members, and other things like conversions, marriages, baptisms, etc. These are the standard metrics for measuring the success of a church, and indirectly, the success of the senior pastor.

Put another way, churches are good at creating programs and maintaining an institution, but not so good at creating a transforming relational community.  The latter only occurs through relationships.

For fear of offending nearly everyone, I have to say that this priority is all backwards.  I’ve come to realize that the modern church is stuck in a rut trying to appease the desires of the members by adding program after program to appease the interests of the members.

Jesus could care less. He didn’t ask us to go make “members of all nations”. He asked us to make disciples of all nations.  I don’t think there are many churches in the world that keep track of the number of disciples they have made.  They only track members.  Members don’t make disciples.  Disciples make disciples.

How did Jesus make disciples?  He didn’t send them to seminary or a bible study, that’s for sure, although there is nothing inherently wrong with a bible study.  Nor did he sit them down and lecture them daily.  He mentored them by walking besides the disciples for 3 years. He did very little preaching to them.  His advice as recorded was giving them kingdom principles which came out of teachable moments.

We have an opportunity. A golden opportunity.  In a “Back to the Future” kind of moment, the next generation of leaders are begging for someone to walk alongside them.  As Sam Eaton recently said, “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck.”

They don’t want to be preached to and they shun the institutional church.  But they are reachable through a relationship – one with someone older who is willing to invest in them and someone they have learned to trust.

Our challenge is to get it right and reverse the trend of trying to grow the church through members.  Jesus told us to make disciples, and he showed us how by investing in twelve men by walking beside them for three years.

It’s not rocket science, but somehow, the seminaries that crank out our church leaders haven’t figured it out. As I have said before, no seminary (either protestant or Catholic) has any courses on leadership – the leadership exemplified by Jesus. Sad, but unfortunately, so true.

This is a back to the future moment is for church leaders and mentors. The question becomes how do we stop the exodus of millennials from the church? Tim Keller is someone I have a high regard for put it this way. In context, he was talking about the millennial that won’t darken the door of a church.

Keller suggests that we stop trying to get them into the church (at least initially).  He said: “We have enough churches in America.  What we need are more Starbucks.”  That’s where they are, and that’s where we need to be to interact with them.

As a believer, we don’t have to wait for guidance or direction from your pastor or minister to reach the next generation of leaders. You can take up the slack by being open to mentoring. It doesn’t have to be sponsored by the church.  It just needs to be done, and the millennials are begging for it.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  For the older generation wanting to make an impact for Christ today, the opportunity is at your doorstep by mentoring someone in the next generation.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on why milennials are leaving the church: http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/

For another provocative take on Evangelical’s in the Church:

https://stephenmcalpine.com/2017/05/12/millennial-evangelicals-and-church/

Finally, my friend Jolene Erlacher has written a book that is worth a read entitled “Milennials in Ministry” which is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Michael Smith sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wutmEjdbedE

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Relational Mentoring

 

ben:johnmark

I know that my title is somewhat redundant. By definition, mentoring involves joining someone else’s life in a relationship. Jesus did it with his disciples. We should take note.

A recent article entitled “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Whyis a challenging read to anyone in the older generation trying to connect with the next generation.

The author, Sam Eaton, is a millennial, and he gives 12 reasons why millennials are having a hard time connecting to the church. Three of them bear mentioning here.  One is that church feels exclusive and “cliquey” to outsiders, where well intentioned people do not make the effort to be compassionate and welcoming to the next generation.

The second reason is that millennials are “sick and tired” of hearing about values and mission statements. They want the church to stop using Christian mumbo jumbo. Jesus’ imperatives to us can be condensed into four words: “Love God. Love others.”  With those four words, the task is complete. Mission accomplished.

Thirdly, they want to be mentored, not “preached at.”  “Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents.”

Eaton continues: “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.”

Eaton’s conclusion is to “ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.”  I concur, but it must be relational, not something that you can make a “program” out of.

I just returned from a trip to Africa – Togo to be exact. I brought a young man with me.   I have been meeting with him for about 6 months in Pinehurst.   He was, as a friend of mine described, my “Timothy”, only his actual name is John Mark. So, that makes me his Barnabas. He is in the picture above with his friend, Ben, who was our translator.

Our role at the gathering was to provide worship for leaders from ten West African countries.  The other mission was to spend time together and to learn from others as well as each other.

The worship was important, but the results of our trip were unexpected.  Due to a series of missed and cancelled flights, we were stranded in Morocco for 3 days until we could get a flight to Togo.

We spent three days hanging out in Casablanca.  John Mark was watching me every moment.  Most lessons of life are caught, not taught.  He saw me handle the adversity of messed up travel plans and having to improvise our plans based on our situation.

We made the best of it.  We survived. He learned that not all travel goes smoothly. He said this was the first time he had ever had an experience like this.  I told him that I’ve travelled over 4 million miles and this was my first experience, too.

John Mark didn’t have a father for the last 11 years.  In a way, he got a picture of a mentor/father that he had not seen nor experienced before.  He saw the good, the bad, and (hopefully) not the ugly. My imperfections surfaced for him to see – including trying to hold my temper at the incompetence of the airline in rescheduling our flights.

At the end of our trip, John Mark was grateful for all that he had learned, not just from me, but from the other leaders during our training sessions.  He was permitted to interact and participate, and I think it may have transformed him in a way that content transfer cannot.

In Togo, John Mark found two other young men at the gathering who quickly bonded and became friends. One was the translator in the picture above, and the other was an Anglican minister from Nigeria.

It was fun to observe them kidding each other.  John Mark said he was surprised at how quickly he had made friends, particularly in a foreign country with people he had never met before.

The takeaway from our experience was similar for both of us. While it was aggravating to get stuck in Morocco for three days and miss the first day in Togo, I am convinced that it was God’s plan for us to spend time together, taking our relationship deeper.

Had we made it to Togo on time, the meetings would have eclipsed our time together.  The meetings in Togo went from 8:30 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon with only time outs for lunch and two coffee/tea breaks. During the breaks, we spent most of our time meeting with the other 30 participants from West African countries.

The challenge here is to realize that relationships take time and effort. To build a relationship with the next generation, you may have to extend yourself into doing something together.  Going to Sub-Saharan Africa may not be possible for you, but there’s lots of things that you can do with a mentee in your own backyard to enhance your relationship.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Spend time “outside the lines” with your mentee doing something together.  It’s a way to build a relationship.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on Millennials and the church can be found at:  http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/

WORSHIP:  Listen to a popular African song by Odegwu  song that we sang in Togo suggested by my African friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ7LhVcWNDQ

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.