Spirituality

spirituality 

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 78:18

 This post will be in two parts. This first one will explore trends of spirituality of the next generation. The second one will dive into how, why and where to connect with them by examining new patterns of communication.

Most research on the millennials show that they have a high degree of spirituality and that they are seeking answers. But in a post-Christian era where they have not been exposed to the Bible, many are seeking answers in dark places.

By and large, millennials distrust all institutions – education, government, corporations, and even organized religion.  In many cases, they have been dealt a bad hand with a bad economy.  This is one of the factors leading to perceived changes in spirituality.

In the U.S., a high percentage of them have crushing college debt.  They were lured into the belief that any college degree is a ticket for prosperity and a job, and they were willing to sign on to easy credit of college loans to graduate.

Their bubble burst in 2008, and college degrees in Drama or the Arts or some “soft” degree program had little or no value when seeking a job. No one told them of the dangers of debt, and they didn’t think to ask a mentor or parent “Is this a good idea?”.

Some now are even being punished for their college debt. Some 20 states have laws on the books which permits them to suspend driver’s licenses. Another 19 can suspend professional licenses to delinquent student debt borrowers.

The result is that the few jobs that they might have to earn the money to pay back the loan are out of reach: they either can’t get to work, or don’t have the license to work. No wonder they are angry, and a high number of them now see socialism, not capitalism, as a desirable alternative.

Which brings us to the spiritual side.  Millennials are leaving the organized church in droves. Often, they can see that organized religion has its own problems, but they don’t see a Christian faith as being separate from getting tangled up in the organized church.

Many are turning to paganism: An article in Turning Point says this: “Today, pagan and witchcraft clubs have found a place in several major colleges across the country, most of which are officially recognized by their school’s religious student activities departments.”

More than half of American young adults believe that astrology is a science, compared to only 8% of Chinese.

A quote by the President of the Pagan Student Union at the University of Baltimore explains the new popularity: “I think one of the things that really helped solidify for me that Paganism was the path for me was the almost complete freedom I had.”

There is no one holy text we all must read, there is no organized church service which is mandatory to attend, there is no concept of original sin or any pressure to be perfect people. Paganism is exactly what you want it to be.”

According to ABS and Barna Group in 2016, 27% of millennials believe that the bible is a dangerous book of religious dogma used for centuries to oppress people. That’s over one in every 4. In essence, they are not connecting scripture to life and are skeptical of the bible.

Research by Pew shows that although the millennials may not appear “religious”, most have a spiritual curiosity.  Over half of them, for example, think about their purpose and the meaning of life at least once a week. Attendance at religious functions is much lower – only 27%, but that is consistent with their distrust of organizations of any kind.

But, when it comes to a more standard yardstick of spirituality – an afterlife – the millennials are not very different from their predecessors, and two-thirds of millennials say they believe in heaven, and slightly less (56%) believe in the existence of hell.

Almost one in four is now labeled a “None” meaning that they don’t identify with any religion.  That doesn’t mean they are unspiritual, just that they are not connected.  My friend, Jolene Erlacher, explored this in her book Millennials in Ministry.

Dr. Erlacher notes that millennials perceive Christianity with skepticism, seeing that doctrines are impersonal, intolerant and inflexible. They also are critical of the structure. One millennial put it this way: “Church to me is religion, a set of rules, a structure, a tradition.”

 The millennials place high value on transparency and authenticity, and most would welcome a mentor in their life.  Considering that the millennial population is 1/3rd larger than Gen X, that puts a premium on older generations to step up and fill the need for mentors.

 Generation Z is different from the millennials. Just ask them. This is the generation that is now entering as freshmen in college. They will be quick to point out they are different.

It is the first generation in the post-Christian era that have a spiritual blank slate. They are, for all intents and purposes, biblical illiterates, which may be both a positive and negative thing.

That being said, they are very interested in living a life that makes a difference. They play this out in high involvement in movements surrounding politics, environment and civil rights. They want to make a difference and find meaning and purpose to life.

Reaching Generation Z will be different from reaching the millennials.  A lot of the discussion to date has centered around a recent book by James Emory White,  Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World.

White characterizes Gen Z by five factors:

  • impacted by the recession and live in a post 9/11 world;
  • Wi-Fi enabled;
  • Multi-racial – it’s the most culturally diverse generation ever;
  • Sexually fluid, and
  • Post-Christian.

White’s research shows that 78% of Generation Z believe in the existence of God. That’s the good news.

White’s suggestions of action steps for the Church have been more controversial, particularly from those who are from that Generation.  Not that what he suggests is wrong, but that his suggestions fail to take into account how Gen Z communicates and what they absorb.

One millennial commentator on Meet Generation Z, Jake Gosslin, suggests some additional approaches which bear repeating. His first point: We must assume our audience (Gen Z) has zero knowledge of who Jesus was.

From that, Gosslin suggests that the church starts creating environments for Gen Z to ask questions about spirituality, and let those answers dictate the content the church will provide to engage non-believers.

His third point may be the most important, given what I have learned about how and what the next generation absorbs through media. He suggests providing “snackable” videos, similar to what Casey Neistat has done. Neistat does a 5-minute daily “vlog” on YouTube that documents his life as a creative entrepreneur in New York.  It’s done in an entertaining way, and some 7 million people watch it daily.

Gosslin’s ends his article by saying that innovation will be needed by the Christian community to reach Gen Z with “effective content to spiritual questions with a voice of conviction.”

My  takeaways on spirituality:

  • Spirituality in millennials and Gen Z is not dead, just dormant
  • They crave authenticity and transparency
  • Millennials and Gen Z both welcome mentors in their lives
  • The new frontier is for churches to tap into how and where the next generation communicates and gets input – it will take innovation and creativity

The bottom line is that the next generations are both attuned to spiritual things, but not necessarily Christian spirituality which gets compromised by their disdain for organized religion and structure of the church.

While organized religion may be an impediment, the role of a mentor in the next generation’s life can be a path towards helping them find their own purpose and even their spirituatlity. My sessions with the several men I meet with has one thing in common: I never hesitate to provide a biblical answer to any question posed.

Mentoring has never gone out of style. It doesn’t require creating snappy videos to be shown on YouTube. All it takes is a little encouragement for the older generation to realize the opportunity to mentor is greater than ever before.  The next generation is clamoring for someone authentic to speak into their lives. It’s time for the older generation to step up.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You are one resource that hasn’t gone out of favor. You don’t need snappy videos or images to connect with the younger generation on a one-on-one basis and be authentic with them. Look around for members of the next generation that you see have promise and invest in them.

FURTHER STUDY:     Millennials turning to Paganism: https://www.turningpoint.news/witchcraft-millennials-paganism/

Why millennials are fleeing the church and turning to witchcraft who is profiting from this change:https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-millennials-are-ditching-religion-for-witchcraft-and-astrology-2017-10-20

A post on the rise of paganism in college: https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/38436/

Article on 20 states suspending drivers licenses of students who are delinquent in their college loans. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/business/student-loans-licenses.html

Spirituality research from Pew Research:  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/23/millennials-are-less-religious-than-older-americans-but-just-as-spiritual/

James Emory White’s book Meet Generation Z is available at Amazon and Christian Books: https://www.christianbook.com/generation-understanding-reaching-post-christian-world/james-white/9780801017018/pd/017018?event=ESRCG

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker sing I Have a Hope:Tommy Walker – I Have A Hope – YouTube

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.comSUBSCRIBE:  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Podfasters

podcast

Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. Joel 1:3

I must admit up front that I have not been a frequent listener to podcasts. Maybe I’m old fashioned (at my age, I suppose that’s obvious). I have been encouraged to make podcasts out of these posts by both my son (a Gen X) and a Jessica Choy (a millennial). They both see the possibility of using podcasts as a means of reaching the next generation.

For me, it is a step into the unknown, so I thought I would do a little research to see what impact podcasts have in today’s culture, and also how they are being used by the next generations.  The results surprised me.  Podcasts are a growing segment of a source of information for the millennials.

Research actually shows that podcasts in the 18-35 age group exceeds their listening to AM-FM radio. While a large part of the podcasts is listened to at home, most are listened to in the car or elsewhere.

Edison Research puts out an annual “Share of Ear” report which quantifies the scope of how Americans consume audio of all kinds. It includes statistics on the reach and amount of time spent listening. Of all audio listening, podcasts are growing rapidly in audience share, going from 21% of audio to 24% year over year in the latest research.

According to Lauren Vetrano on Share of Ear, research shows that heavy podcast listeners are media junkies who are early adopters of the latest technology and listen to at least 10 podcasts a week. I recently asked a couple of millennials if they listened to them, and all but one said yes.

The primary podcast audience is in the 18-54 age group, but it is very concentrated in the next generation. It’s estimated that 118 million listened to podcasts in 2017. With stats of an audience like that, I might have to reconsider doing a podcast.

Another relatively new trend is occurring, mostly with millennials. A “podfaster” is a dedicated listener of podcasts at a higher than normal speed. These are people who listen up to 50 podcasts a week.

How do they do that? Well, they increase the speed so that it is 2x, 3x or even faster. Some do it because they have such a backlog of podcasts that they don’t have the time, patience or attention span to listen to all of them at normal speeds.

In fairness, one neuroscientist, Stephen Porges, said that increasing the speed of a podcast actually aids listening because the slightly higher pitch is easier to hear and therefore understand.

I was fascinated about the people who are podfasters, and their stories are interesting.  On average, people who are devoted listeners of podcasts consume an average of 5 podcasts a week. Some 20% consume more than 6, and podfasters listen to a great many more.

The podfaster currently represents only about 1% of those listening to podcasts, but their numbers are growing due to technological changes and apps that make listening to podcasts at higher speeds easier. An app called Rightspeed allows you to listen at up to 10x normal, not that you would want to.

When I first read about this, I was really curious and intrigued.  What are they listening to? Well, that’s not an easy answer because they listen to podcasts about everything you can think of: politics, music, literature, history, philosophy. They listen to TV shows or dramas. Pretty much everything.

Doree Shafir authored an article entitled “Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super Fast Speeds.” In the article, Shafir notes: “You could read these tendencies as a symptom of our sped-up culture, of a listening population too impatient or distracted to listen to anything for longer than, say, half an hour.”

That conclusion meshes with the research that shows the attention span of the millennial is 8 seconds which is less than a gold-fish whose attention span weighs in at 9 seconds.  This is a generation who thinks that a movie scene that goes longer than 2 minutes is too long and they lose interest.

Several takeaways on this topic:

  • It is a technology that is gaining acceptance by all ages, and particularly millennials
  • While a podcast doesn’t replace reading, it is a way to reach an audience with real content
  • Podfasters tend to be people who will listen to an entire series of podcasts, even if that number is 100 or more
  • Church’s need to adapt to this trend to be relevant to the next generation

Our challenge here is to reach the next generation where they are.  If they aren’t sitting in pews on Sunday, they are listening to podcasts. They are also seeking something spiritual that they can connect to. That’s the opportunity, and leaders need to be thinking of how to use podcasts to reach the next generation.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As mentors, you need to realize that new technology like podcasts may play an important role in your mentee’s life. Take time to learn about how and where to use them so you can be prepared to offer suggestions.

FURTHER STUDY:  Research on Podcast use: http://westwoodone.com/BLOG/ArtMID/8027/ArticleID/158/The-Podcast-Download-Fall-2017-Report-Video

The annual report by Edison Research on Podcasts: http://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-2017/

The Podfaster trend: https://www.buzzfeed.com/doree/meet-the-people-who-listen-to-podcasts-at-super-fast-speeds?utm_term=.taA6Pkexe#.jqvQ7mn3n

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker sing “Taste and See”:

Taste And See – YouTube

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.

 

Grace

 leadership-913043_1920

 “…each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”  Matthew 20:1-15

The concept of grace is an important one in Christianity because it allows everyone to be accepted into God’s kingdom regardless of their situation. Sinners and saints alike are welcome. Grace is unmerited favor. No one earns it.

Grace trumps a works theology – the idea that you can earn your way to heaven through good works. That’s not what grace is about.  Most understand the theology of grace where we are accepted into the kingdom by faith.

What is more difficult is how we adopt grace into our own lives. Becoming a disciple of Christ means that you strive to be more like Him. Jesus said to his disciples “Follow Me!” It is not a linear path, and there are lots of places where you can stumble.

So, the question becomes: How do you exhibit grace in your life to those in the world or your workplace?  If you are a leader, the question is: How do you create a grace environment?

At MentorLink, we hold the value of grace as one of the five transformational values of leading like Jesus. In my post on Leadership a couple of weeks ago, I suggested that I might unpack kingdom leadership values that are important to leaders in any venue.  One of them is grace – specifically, building a grace environment.

Timothy O. Olonade in his book Nuggets of Life puts it this way: “A gifted but graceless life will become a disgrace in spite of its giftedness. To avoid becoming a spent force in your calling, arm yourself with the gift to function and the grace to serve.”

When you ask people what type of leader Jesus was, you get a pretty consistent answer: “He was a “servant leader”. But if you ask what that looks like in action, most are unable to give specifics.

This post will explore the critical differences between leaders creating a grace environment versus one lacking grace.

To begin, I start with the biblical story of the rich landowner in Matthew 22 who hires people to work in his fields. He successively hires workers throughout the day. The landowner pays all of them the same amount which brought grumbling from those that worked the longest.

To one accustomed to a performance-based economy, the landowner’s generosity seems out-of-place. In the business world, one gets paid a days’ wages for a days’ work. Had I been the worker who toiled all day, I might have complained, too.

The landowner replies that the day-worker agreed to work for the wages he received. Nothing unfair about that.  Yet, grace is often perceived as unfair, and can lead to hostility and misunderstanding. Note, that all the workers had his daily needs met and the landowner treated all of them graciously.

This passage is one picture of grace in the workplace. The landowner was a leader – bestowing grace on all who worked for him, paying them fair wages regardless of how long they actually worked.

This is one example of grace versus a performance-based environment. But grace extends beyond generosity.  It extends to the very attitude of the employer.  Is he or she a person that wears a mask, keeping his own failures and feelings inside? Moses wore a veil in Exodus which hid the fading glory of the Lord from others.

In the business world, the leader who wears a mask is perceived as not being authentic, honest or real, and it leads others to do likewise. Instead of being able to collaborate freely and with transparency, it retards open discussion. The result is obvious: none of the collective wisdom gets shared or discussed.

Paul nailed this concept when he wrote 2 Corinthians 3:7-18: “we are not like Moses.” Paul urges us to boldly lead with unveiled faces. Leading with an unveiled face means being accountable for ones’ own shortcomings or mistakes. A leader’s “unveiled face” starts with a leader recognizing his own inadequacies.

Unfortunately, we see the world’s leadership model leaning toward wearing a mask – one modeled by Moses. An environment without masks is one where free and open discourse can exist with transparency. One can share their true thoughts and feelings without fear of whether or not they are accepted.

Van VanAntwerp, formerly the head of the US Army Corps of Engineers, continues to do leadership consulting to Boards of Directors and companies today. He did a leadership seminar at our church which introduced me to different levels of leadership espoused by Jim Collins.

Collins developed the concept of five levels of leadership in any organization. Level 5 is at the top. Collins notes that it is difficult to become a great leader without the characteristics of a Level 5 leader. Very few leaders make it to this level. It is rarefied air at the top.

Ironically, what makes a leader a Level 5 leader is humility. No, that’s not a misprint. A Level 5 leader has humility and a fierce resolve. I find it interesting that the biblical value of humility tops the chart of what it takes to be a great leader.

Having a strong will and being humble might seem a paradox, and perhaps they are. It’s described as the Stockdale Paradox, named after Admiral James Stockdale, who survived 7 years of POW camp in Vietnam by adhering to what would seem to be contradictory beliefs.

Good-to-great leaders confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, yet simultaneously maintain [..] absolute faith that they will prevail in the end.”

A Level 5 Leader holds “both disciplines – faith and facts – at the same time, all the time.” So, what does this humility look like in practice?  Well, the Level 5 leader tends to be modest and they don’t talk about their own accomplishments. They would rather talk about the accomplishments of others.

They empower others to become better as opposed to hogging the spotlight. They recognize their own shortcomings and realize that their success was based on the contributions of others. They surround themselves with a team that compliments them and often provides expertise in areas that are not their strength.

They know that those that surround them have shortcomings, too. But they also recognize that success is a team sport, and that they are not able to do it all on their own.  They need a team that believes in them because they are authentic and humble.

Why are grace and humility important leadership values in today’s culture?  According to Tim Elmore: “…more people want to be a servant-leaders among the two youngest generations than among the older generations. Generations Y and Z clearly perceive leadership as a legitimate place to make a difference and to improve the community in which they lead.”

The difficulty is that there are few models out there in the corporate world for them to see what a servant leader looks like, how one acts and what one actually does. One of the highest values of the millennials is authenticity. That means a level of transparency by others, and if they find it in a leader, they are willing to follow.

Unfortunately, most current leadership training employs the corporate model which is a power based model.   With few exceptions, most leadership models espouse a “CEO” or model where transparency may be perceived as a weakness.

That line of leadership does not connect with the next generation.  They seek authenticity and transparency. They want their voice to count and be heard and validated. They will thrive in an environment of grace where their input is solicited and welcomed.

I feel like I have just touched the surface with this topic – there is more to say, but I plan to cover other aspects of kingdom values at work in leaders in later posts.

Our challenge here is to guide the next generation to biblical leadership values. It starts with us. We must exhibit grace, authenticity and transparency.  While we may not be a Level 5 leader at the top of an organization, we can learn from the best as to what it takes. These are best practices.  Living a life full of grace and humility pays dividends to all around us.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your mentees who seek servant leadership are looking for models to follow. You can help them start by being authentic and exhibiting grace and humility in your own life.

FURTHER STUDY: A PDF of a presentation of a Level 5 leader: http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/unssc/unpan021788.pdf

An article on Can you grow into a Level 5 Leader? by Jim Collins: http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/can-you-grow-into-level-5.html

Nuggets for Life – Insights for Daily Living by Timothy Olonade is published in Nigeria by God’s Global Glory Publishers (email: eglf.info@gmail.com). It has a Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Elrehoboth/posts/?ref=page_internal

WORSHIP:  Listen to Matt Redman sing “Help from Heaven” where the lyrics  describe that you can get help when the world is on your shoulders:

https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=Y7PKLGNX

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends

 

friends

Do not be misled; Bad company corrupts good character. 1 Corinthians 15:33

I’ve always believed that you are what your friends are. Not sure where or why it was instilled in me.  When I became a believer at age 38, I learned that this was also biblical.

I have posted frequently about the value of friends in your life. All of them point to the benefits of having friends that you can count on. Sadly, in this day and time, the concept of friendship in the age of social media has gotten watered down.

The millennials and Generation Z have a lot of mobile “friends” who they interact with, sometimes almost constantly. Yet, in many cases, their interaction is digital, leading them to become isolated. Isolation leads to depression, and worse. The research on this is quite consistent.

I recently was meeting with Daniel,  one of my mentees and a member of Gen Z. He is always challenging me with questions. I think he spends the time in between our meetings to dream up interesting questions. No matter.

His latest question was one that has caused me to reflect on it in-depth after we met. He told me that he had a lot of friends, many of whom he has had from childhood, but that he felt they may not be good for him at this point in his life. He wondered what, if anything he should do.

My answer, after consideration, was to suggest that he pick his friends carefully. I cited an old proverb that if one lays down with the dogs, he will get their fleas. I then gave him the biblical version of that which comes from 1 Corinthians 15:33, above.

Friends can be a good influence, or a negative one. I suggested that if he was interested in “upgrading” his friends to those who might have a positive impact on his life, he should consider striking up friendships with people that he admired, or who had skills that he desired.

Now I have found that neuroscience has confirmed the value of having the right friends. Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist, has “made a living studying how people make choices.” has now determined that choosing the rights friends may lead to a happier life.

The studies done by Moran suggests that we should focus on who we spend our time with. This science behind this suggests that our brainwaves “synch” with those we spend time with so that the brainwaves start to resemble each other.

I must pause here to note that science is now confirming biblical truth. The writers of scripture didn’t need a neuroscientist to tell them what is observable data of life: Having the right friends is important to maturity.

With this science as a backdrop, Phoebe Weston, in an article about Dr. Cerf’s research  in The Dailymail,  said this: “If people want to make life improvements, such as reading more or getting better at cooking, they should spend their time with someone who has those desirable traits.

For example, choosing which restaurant to go to is less important than choosing who you go with. This was essentially, the advice I gave to my mentee.

Dr. Moran Cerf  also suggested that we are better off not worrying about small decisions like what to wear or what we want to do. Instead, he suggests the important decision is deciding who we want to spend time with.

If we are on the same wavelength as another person, we can often anticipate what they are going to say, which helps us understand them better. Having been married for 51 years, this insight was helpful for me. There are lots of times that my wife finishes my sentences. Now I know how she does it.

The upshot is that people on the same wavelength work better as a team. Researchers have previously suggested that this “neural-coupling” is a key to improved communication. 

Being on the same wavelength doesn’t mean that you think alike at everything. What I think it does do for one is that you will be able to understand more quickly your friend’s position or opinions. I think the old-fashioned word for this is “bonding”, but now we have a more scientific explanation on how that works.

Another study done by researchers at New York University and Ultrecht University found people’s brainwaves sync up with colleagues at work. They used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the brain activity of a class of students and their teacher over a semester.

The results showed that the more a student’s brainwaves were in sync with those in the classroom, as a whole, the higher the likelihood for the student to give the course a favorable rating. But, the study showed that pairs of students were more in sync in class, but only if they interacted face-to-face before class.

The last finding only puts more emphasis on face-to-face interaction (not through texts or media) in our lives and our friendships. These studies were done in the context of finding out what affects our health and happiness in life. Their conclusion is basically that it is wise to invest in friendships that make you happiest, but that investment must be in person and not through social media.

Dr. Cerf had one additional suggestion:  do good for others. His conclusion that you will be happiest when you are doing something for others.  It can be in the form of donating money or donating your time for others. The payoff is that this leads to reduced stress and a reduction in physical illness. Good stuff from an academic.

The studies also give credence to the expression of “being on the same wavelength” with a friend or colleague.

As I have unpacked these studies, I cannot help but think about the traits of the next generation whose friends are mostly digital.  Face-to-face interactions are declining. The next generation is isolating themselves to their detriment, and often are not investing in face-to-face relationships.

The takeaways are multiple:

  • Pick your friends carefully. Not all friends are beneficial to your maturity or growth as an individual. Choose friends that will help you advance in life. You can influence them in return. It can be mutual.
  • Spend time in face-to-face dialogue. Texting is inadequate.
  • Skip small decisions like which restaurant to go to and focus on who you go with.
  • Get involved in serving others by volunteering.
  • Seek out an older mentor that you admire. They are all around you waiting to be asked.

The challenge here is to encourage the next generation to invest in the right friends and go beyond a digital connection. Mentors should challenge their mentees as to who are their friends. The litmus test is whether their friends are a positive influence to help making them the best they can be with the gifts and talents that God has given them.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a great influence as a friend to your mentee. You can also encourage him to evaluate his friends to see if he or she might want to seek new relationships with those whom they admire or have traits or skills they desire.

 FURTHER STUDY: The article on Choosing Friends by Phoebe Weston: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5061965/Friends-key-happiness-says-neuroscientist.html

Another article in Inc. magazine by Chris Weller on the six important things you can do to have a stress-free and happy life:  https://www.inc.com/business-insider/important-choices-happy-stress-free-successful-life-neuroscientist-moran-cerf.html

WORSHIP:  Listen to Travis Cottrell sing “Friend of God” showing us that we always have one friend in our corner:

FRIEND OF GOD – Travis Cottrell.m4v – YouTube

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie-Esteem

 

selfie 

 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3

 No, that’s not a misprint or misspelling.  Selfie-esteem is a new term coined to describe the effect of taking selfies on self-esteem. A recent study said that 65% of teenage girls said seeing their selfie had a positive effect on their self-esteem.  Another 40% said that social media helps them present their “best face possible to the world.”

The issues I talked about in prior posts (Identity and Image) were aimed  at the millennials. They also apply to Generation Z – those who are just now getting out of high school and entering college.

The iPhone didn’t appear until 2007, but by 2012, over half of the American population had a smartphone. At that point, something remarkable happened, and it was not all good. According to Jean Twenge, a PhD from California, she began to see a dramatic rise in depression, suicide and isolation.

Twenge wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation.”   For those who are overusing their smartphones, you should consider downloading Moment, an App that measures your smartphone use and even rewards you for not overusing. My 15 year-old granddaughter introduced me to it last week.

Fast forward to this topic – where just the existence of selfies brings good vibes to teenage girls. That, of course, is superficial.  It only shows the mask that they portray to the rest of the world.

It am reminded of the book for men entitled “The Man in the Mirror”.  The author, Patrick Morley, talks about men’s issues that they face. It is written in the context that, when you look at yourself in a mirror, you see more than just your outward appearance. Only you, while looking at your image in the mirror, know the real you inside.

Underneath this “feel good” approach is an insecurity that is masked by the feigned smile on the selfie. As Tim Elmore puts it, the next generation has been hiding behind a mask of social media for a decade. They are hiding behind what they are comfortable with – social media. But, beyond that, the mask that it provides hides their real insecurities.

According to research, Generation Z is more private than the millennials. It may be because they are “digital natives” – they have grown up in a world that has always had a smartphone technology.  To my generation, which didn’t even have mobile phones, it is a little mind-boggling.

They appear confident, but their confidence is limited to the known: they know and understand how to use technology, but that’s the limit of their comfort zone. Once they wander outside, the truth is that this Generation Z is very uncomfortable and often lack self-confidence.  In fact, a 2016 study by Growing Leaders shows just the opposite. They were generally frightened about:

  • Their grades
  • Their future
  • The impact of terrorism
  • Getting a job they like
  • Getting into college
  • The future of the world

Their confident selfies covers up their real inner discomfort.  Their picture becomes a “mask” as described by Tim Elmore.  The confident picture obscures what is really going on inside. Additionally, depression and suicide have greatly increased over the past decade.

For mentors and parents, there is an opportunity to build confidence in Generation Z, but it takes a little encouragement. Elmore suggests five ways to help:

* Encourage them to do public speaking. Most (like me) are afraid of public speaking. Suggest that they get into drama (that was something that helped my own son years ago).

* Help them find personal strengths – use various tools that can help evaluate their strengths.  Find out what they are good at and encourage it.

*  Teach them social etiquette.

*  Help them narrow their focus to concentrate on what they are good at. They often feel overwhelmed at trying to be good at everything.

* Empower them to serve others. Serving others can transform how they see the world and take their focus off themselves.

To those, I would add two more:

  • Help them discover their purpose in life
  • Encourage them to be involved in organizations that provide good role models such as Young Life (YL) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)

I attended a Young Life banquet last night in the Research Triangle, and am currently mentoring the area director of the Sandhills YL.  I have financially supported YL and FCA for over 30 years. I believe they are ministries that have lasted well over the decades.

They are both successful at providing an opportunity for those in middle school and high school an opportunity to have an encounter with Jesus. That encounter can be life changing. One benefit they offer: Generation Z spends more time with their peers than their parents at this stage of their life.  Encouraging them to find a faith life on their own can be instrumental in their emotional and spiritual well-being.

In addition to youth ministries is the opportunity for mentors to impact young lives. The first step in the mentoring is to help identify what the mentee’s strengths, interests, talents and gifts are.  You can do that using various tools that readily available, including some old ones like Myers-Briggs. This works with Generation Z, too.

Most people want to know what their purpose is in the world.  Rick Warren’s book “Finding Your Purpose” has sold over 30 million copies world-wide. This is a quest of every generation, not just Generation Z.   Christianity Today had a recent article entitled Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian want a Purpose-Driven Life. All of them had read Warren’s book and were impacted by it.

Just a footnote here.  Warren’s book, which is one of the best-selling books ever, has never been reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times. I find that a remarkable fact, and one which confirms that we are living in a post-Christian era.

People who are comfortable in their purpose, their gifting and talents have more self-confidence as to who they are and what they are about.  As mentors, you can play an instrumental role in helping a mentee gain insights into his identity and purpose in God’s kingdom. With a developed sense of their identity in hand, relying on a selfie to boost their self-esteem and confidence will not be an issue.

I am currently meeting with one member Generation Z – in fact, I will meet with him later today. He’s the youngest of my mentees, and it’s been invigorating for me to meet with him. He comes to our meetings with all kinds of questions. One of them was “Can you perform at a Picasso level at more than one thing?”  That resulted in a fascinating discussion.

The challenge here is that too many of the Generation Z are overtly confident, but inwardly insecure. I have always considered adolescence to be a period in life where one seeks to find an identity – answers to who they are, why they are here, and where they should be going. Having a mentor walk alongside them in their journey may be an invaluable investment in their life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Every generation needs mentors – those who will take the time to walk along side and help them become the best they can be. Generation Z is no exception so think about meeting with members of this younger generation, not just millennials.

FURTHER STUDY: Tim Elmore in Growing Leaders: https://growingleaders.com/blog/masked-generation-five-ways-to-build-confidence/

Article on the impact of the book Purpose Driven Life in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2016/august/celebs-from-michael-phelps-to-kim-kardashian-want-purpose-d.html

Jean M. Twenge’s Article in The Atlantic on Smartphones and the next generation: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

RESOURCES:

To find out more about “selfie-esteem”: Selfie-esteem: Teens say selfies give a confidence boost – TODAY.com

Patrick Morley’s website for The Man in the Mirror, which has recently been revised: http://www.maninthemirror.org

Jean Twenge’s book iGEN can be obtained from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/iGen-Super-Connected-Rebellious-Happy-Adulthood/dp/1501151983/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509549784&sr=8-1&keywords=igen+jean+twenge

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tech-Wise-Family-Everyday-Putting-Technology/dp/0801018668/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509550463&sr=1-1&keywords=tech+wise+family

Want to find out how much you or your family is addicted to smartphones?  Download the App Moment and it will track how much you use our smartphone every day. It keeps track of your history, and can even track usage on individual Apps.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Follow” encouraging us to follow God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ODe4sGCKxc

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News

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 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
  Psalms 55:2,3

A topic of discussion in America recently has been the concept of “Fake News”. The concept came front and center during the last Presidential election because of slanted news stories by the media.  The stories were either factually wrong, or misleading, at best. They were not objective.

Fake news is not new in America. Yellow journalism occurred in the late 1800’s.  At the time, there was only print media – newspapers. Two owners of newspapers in New York – William Randolph Hearst and Joseph P. Pulitzer II – changed the content of papers by adding sensationalized stories, which eventually was called yellow journalism.

At one point, Hearst sent two reporters to Cuba to report on the Spanish-American war. When one of the reporters, William Remington, reported that there was not much going on in Cuba, Hearst sent this famous reply by telegram: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”  Many credit Hearst’s publicity which he used to sell his newspapers as one of the reasons for America entering the war.

Pulitzer would later become known for establishing the Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for 21 categories of journalism and the arts.

Today, journalism has expanded to television and other media beyond just the newspaper. Traditional journalism reported facts and the news objectively and without bias.

Another version of “news” is what is called the tabloids which grew popular in the last 50 years. Tabloids never were held up to the standards of journalism where stories were to be legitimate and well-researched. The covers of tabloids were highly sensationalized (they still are), but at least consumers knew that they should read stories with a high level of skepticism.

Today, I am seeing the traditional press gravitate more to the tabloid press mode, where media has blurred the distinction between objectively reporting the facts with being biased or even promoting false narratives.

In Russia, it’s called propaganda, which is basically news that carries some kernel of truth, but not the whole truth, leading you to assumptions and conclusions that are not valid.

Traditionally, newspapers reserved pages called the Opinion pages where the editorial staff provides their opinions about various topics. If you read the opinion pages, you know that you are getting someone’s opinion, complete with the writer’s own set of biases. Now, however, the opinion page has shifted to the front page, only they aren’t labeling it “Opinion” and are passing it as objective reporting.

Telling intentional false stories has been around since time began.  There are even stories in the bible where stories were made up to gain an advantage over an adversary. Providing disinformation to the enemy is a long-used wartime strategy.

A recent example might be helpful. A story about Russian collusion of one of the presidential candidates was one built around a memo (called the “Trump Dossier”) which was passed off as authentic. It gave spurious accounts of false contacts that one of the presidential candidates had with Russia. It purported to have detailed information on Russian influence in the elections.

The problem? It was all made up, even though it was supposed to have been prepared by a former British Intelligence officer, Christopher Steele. The dossier was supposed to contain damaging information on one candidate, and was leapt upon by the mainstream media who favors candidates from the opposition party.

When I did the first draft of this post, I didn’t realize what a twist would occur with my dossier illustration. It has just been discovered that the dossier was paid for by the opposing presidential candidate and her party. It was then passed to newspapers as factual. Even one of the leading newspapers, the New York Times, is now crying “foul” and saying that they were lied to by the attorney for the opposition party.

In addition to the shift by media to biased reporting, we all get our share of fake news in our email inbox, often with outlandish assertions and not all of which are accurate or true. Fortunately, you can go to www.snopes.com and determine whether an email is true, false, or somewhere in between.

How does one protect themselves against fake news?  One answer is critical thinkingthe ability to objectively evaluate and analyze an issue and come to an independent conclusion or judgment.

Put another way, one now should keep a healthy dose of skepticism today. We have passed the time when you could rely on the press and journalists to be fair, objective and unbiased.

Will Rogers was one of the great humorists in the early 20th century. His homespun humor often came from newspapers.  He said: “All I know is just what I read in the papers and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”  On another occasion, he said something similar, but then he said  “I only believe half of what I read.”

I’ve always loved Will Rogers’ humor, including this: “Common sense ain’t common.” Will Rogers was skeptical of what he got from the media. Skepticism and critical thinking is needed now by everyone, particularly the next generation who increasingly rely on social media for their news.

Trust in the mainstream media is now at an all-time low according to a 2016 poll. In addition, a recent Harvard-Harris reports that two-thirds of people of all ideologies believe mainstream media publishes “fake news” as reported in The Hill.

Part of the reason for this media distrust is that there is some acceptance that complicated issues can be truncated down to a sound or video bite. Political messaging has gone from a sound bite of an average of 42.3 seconds in 1968 to seven seconds today according to Ray Williams in Psychology Today.

He continues: “This reinforces the belief that there are brief simple answers to complex questions that don’t require more intensive dialogue or reflection.”

Oxford Dictionary called “post-truth”the word of the year for 2016. Ray Williams goes on to note: “The post-truth doesn’t discount the truth, supported by facts, but rather, the post-truth is supported and justified by opinions or false claims where feelings and emotions are more important than facts.”

Skepticism and discernment requires critical thinking, and the next generation is lacking in this skill,  which is worrisome. Employers are begging for critical thinking from the next generation. Often, they are disappointed.

As I have said before, social media platforms are “dumbing down” the next generation (See my post Dumb and Dumber, September 17, 2017). It’s impossible to form a reasoned opinion when your input is limited to 140 characters such as on Twitter.

The founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, admitted that social media is now a threat to “undermine our sense of truth.” He basically says that the low quality of information that is being consumed is limiting peoples’ “open-mindedness and respect for truth.”

If those quotes came from anyone else, I might not have paid much attention, but coming from the founder of Twitter, I find them scary and concerning.

Tim Elmore recently wrote a post on his blog entitled Five Steps to Fight Fake News. In his article, he notes that critical thinking will be the second most required skill in the workplace by 2020, according to The Future of Jobs prepared by the World Economic Forum in 2016.

Tim suggests some practical tips for developing habits to cultivate critical thinking that I found practical and useful.

  • Always confirm the information from more than one source.
  • Always seek to see the other side of an issue – avoid “group” think.
  • Take time to evaluate the logic and the details.
  • Try to detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning.
  • Ask hard questions: who, what, where and why?

To the above list, I would add two:

  • consider the source of the news, and
  • encourage reading.

Be aware that the news source may have a previous bias one way or another. Then ask this question: Who stands to gain from this information?  If you are comfortable with a news source that has been consistently objective in the past, then you have a better basis to rely on it.

As for reading, millennials are deficit in this area. Some 33% of millennials have never read a book. One cannot understand an issue in-depth without more reading, and headlines and slogans provided by social media are insufficient to convey issues in depth.

My youngest son is and example of the benefits of reading. In high school, he rarely, if at all,  read books. After a ski accident that sidelined him for a year between his high schools and college, he spent six months in Australia with his sister, doing odd jobs to earn their way. They stayed in hostels that rarely had TV and it was there he learned to enjoy reading.  I attribute his success in college to having learned this valuable skill.

In countries like Cameroon, China, and elsewhere, the government controls the content of media.  Resulting stories are therefore suspect as to their accuracy. Alternatively, events that are news are not being reported at all.

An example of government interference with media is the oppression by the government of English-speaking people in a region of Cameroon that was previously under British rule. When several journalists recently attempted to report this story, they were arrested.  Many still are in jail in Yaoundé, the capital. I am aware of this example because I have friends in Limbe, Cameroon, who keep me informed with what is going on via the internet.

As mentors, we can help our mentees develop an ability to think critically.  It might be the first time someone has challenged them to think deeply about an issue, so be prepared for some discussion. Still, the challenge is to help them develop their own critical thinking about issues. A mentor’s job is not to tell them what to think, but encourage them how to think.

This is an important step for the next generation, particularly at a time when their future jobs require an ability to think critically to have the skills to succeed.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be an asset to the next generation by challenging your mentee to do critical thinking of issues and topics in which they are interested.

FURTHER STUDY:  A brief commentary on Yellow Journalism: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring04/Vance/yellowjournalism.html

Information on the Pulitzer Prize: The Pulitzer Prizes

The Future of Jobs can be found at:  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf

Ray Williams in Psychology Todayhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201702/the-truth-about-fake-news

Some quotes by Will Rogers: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/132444.Will_Rogers

The Hill’s poll on Fake News: http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/334897-poll-majority-says-mainstream-media-publishes-fake-news

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker sing Earnestly (We Want to Know): Earnestly (This is Eternal Life) by Tommy Walker – YouTube

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.

 

 

No Where

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 Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal.  Psalm 69:4

I always chuckle when a person says that “everyone has to be somewhere.”  Sometimes that “somewhere” is a good place; sometimes not. In my lifetime, I’ve been in a couple of spots that I would rather not have been, yet in hindsight, wouldn’t trade the experience nor the lessons learned for anything.

I’m sure you have too.  Perhaps it was the illness or death of a family member or friend. It could be financial setbacks or bankruptcy.  It could even be broken limbs from an accident.  When stuff like that happens, it’s life.  Often,  we search for the meaning of it and we can’t see God’s hand.

That’s when we think he is NO WHERE to be found, or at least we despair and feel abandoned.  As the Psalmist notes, we feel like victims of our circumstances through no fault of our own. We ask questions like “how could you let this happen” or “why me?”

While I can’t answer the latter questions, I have learned that the perspective of time provides an answer that we can’t see when we feel like we are in a valley.  Then there often is an “Aha” moment when we realize God was there all the time.  God can turn our NO WHERE into NOW HERE.  The difference is only one letter being moved, but it makes a big difference.

Of the many tough times in my life, one stands out.  I was a relatively new Christian, and in addition to my real estate law practice, I embarked on investing as a partner in 27 real estate ventures in the 1980’s. I was flying high, and my net worth looked pretty good on paper.

And then, the unexpected happened in 1986.  Congress changed the rules of the game by enacting a major tax reform, and the real estate industry was rocked. I was rocked. All those great projects I was involved in became financial death traps over-night. There was no escape.

I was facing bankruptcy – I was liable on over $55 million of debt.  It was complex, and it was staggering.  My new fledged faith floundered, I was searching for answers and asking God why was this happening to me? Along the way, a friend of mine sent me the above verse from Psalm 69:4.  It spoke to me.  I didn’t steal anything, yet I was obligated to “restore it”.

It took me almost 8 years to work through the problems.  What didn’t help was that I kept it all inside, and rarely discussed the problems with my wife.  I quickly learned that was a big mistake.

We sold off projects that we could; others were foreclosed or turned back to the lender.  It took time and a lot of stress. At probably the lowest point when things were looking very bleak, I finally had a heart to heart with my wife.

It was a game changer. She brought in a perspective I had lost sight of.  It was the importance of my faith in God, and what was important in life. She asked me what could happen if all goes badly, and I said: “We could lose everything.”

She quickly countered and said that’s not true.  We can’t lose our faith in God, we can’t lose each other, we can’t lose our family, and we won’t lose our friends. Then she asked: “What else  matters?”

Wow. Hit me like a ton of bricks. As I said, I wish we could have had that conversation a lot earlier.. I was in a fog about the importance of “stuff” – material things, that, at the end of the day, don’t matter.

I realized that I was on a desert in a canyon, and that someday I would be on the canyon wall looking back over my life and see God’s hand in it.  In fact, from that point on, I often prayed for God to hurry up and put me on the canyon wall so I could see what He was about with me. He hadn’t taught me much about patience at that point in my life.

Our conversation changed God from being NO WHERE to NOW HERE.  My faith deepened as we started seeing His hand in our circumstances. When things got tough, I would even laugh and say things like “Well, God, I can’t fix this, so I can’t wait to see how you are going to handle this for me.”  And He came through. Not just once, but many times.

I learned a lot from my financial distress of those years. First and foremost, I learned to lean on God when times were tough.  Secondly, I learned to both communicate and listen to my wife.

Equally important was that I possibly saved my children from being over-indulged financially.  Instead of providing them things like cars when they could drive as many of my friends did, they grew up learning to do without and it helped shaped who they are today.

So, what’s your circumstances that causes you to think God is NO WHERE to be found?  My life experiences tell me that God hasn’t moved, but perhaps you have.  You are in a season of doubt. Your faith might be a little shaken. We’ve all been there.

This post was inspired by a song we sang yesterday entitled “You Never Let Go”. The chorus reminds us that God is NOW HERE: “You never let go, Lord; You never let go of me.”  He is with us through “the calm and through the storm”.

When I meet with men who have life issues in front of them, I can see it in their eyes that they are shaken and might be on that canyon floor like I was, searching for a way out. I can encourage them by reminding them that their worst fears are not bad. They have things to be grateful for that have been eclipsed by their circumstances. Most would rather that God took away their bad times, but He is in the business of building character by leading one through circumstances.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor with wisdom coming from years of life experiences and hard knocks, you can be instrumental in helping a mentee gain a new perspective. You may not be able to solve their problem, but you can help them see that God is NOW HERE to help.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Matt Redman sing “You Never Let Go”:

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.