On Teens and Social Media…. What I’ve Learned

MBA

When you read an article about teenagers, phones, and social media… the above picture is probably similar to what has accompanied the articles. This is what we see from an adult perspective.  Kids who have their noses deep in their phones, ignoring each other, even when in a group of the peers.

This is what the media tells us is wrong with society today.  But, I wonder… who are these experts and where did they come up with their findings or opinions?  Are we just adults who don’t understand the technology?  We don’t get it, so it is wrong?  Have any of these people spent time talking to teens about WHY their phones are so important?

Somehow, even people in my generation, have this nostalgic idea of what family was like or should be like.  We envision the days of past, where everyone was gathered around the television or radio.  Doing family together.

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The reality is that even back then, people had their noses buried in things.  The people and their tendencies haven’t changed, just the vessels that have their attention.

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Our faces were buried in newspapers and books, jump further in time and we were listening to the news on portable radios with headphones.  Then we were listening to music and reading magazines.  Kids began to have toys that were kept in the car to entertain them while driving on long trips, this eventually evolved in to DVD players built into our vehicles.

Is it really anything new?

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Even the idea that families were totally engaged at home, is a bit of a stretch.  It was common for dad to sit in his chair and read the paper or take a nap on the couch.  Mother would be sitting in her chair knitting or working on cross stitch, repairing buttons and socks, reading magazines that interested her, etc. Kids would play games with each other, play with the dog, color with crayons, build with blocks, or even were sent out side until the street lights came on.

Many of us live the idea of a nostalgia that really didn’t exist.

If you spend a few minutes talking to a teen you learn quite a bit about WHY social media and their phones are so important to their lives.

  1. They are BORED or UNCOMFORTABLE, it’s the thing they do with free time or in situations where they are uncertain how to engage.
  2. This is how they CONNECT.   Even when they can’t be with their friends, they can bond over the experiences of shared photos and excitement.
  3.  This is PARALLEL to the things we did as a kid.  Texts = Passing Notes, Selfies = Exchanging School Photos.  Apps allow them to doodle, write or read stories, or be just as silly as we were when we used 8008 on our calculators to spell out the word BOOB.

You will also learn some other interesting things like…

They grow out of it.   My teen was big into her phone in middle and early years of high school.  Now?  She barely uses it, can leave it behind in her room and not think twice about it.  Why?

She has a boyfriend.  Her school work is harder.  She has a job.  She has money to spend = places to go.   She just doesn’t have time for the nonsense.

We spoke about this last night and my daughter said that she hasn’t used Twitter in well over a year.  She only texts about 3 people (outside of her parents).  She only uses instagram for her hobby (she collects disney pins, and there is a LOT of that happening on instagram).  She only goes on facebook to keep in touch with 2 friends who are long distance, and our long distance family members.

I asked her if this was just a change for her, or if it was common among the kids in her grade, and she emphatically said it was most of the upperclassmen.

So, that posed a few questions.

Q:  When kids are at the table, nose in the phone, what’s the deal?

A:  They are bored.  You are talking about things we either shouldn’t be listening to, or we don’t know anything about.  It’s not interesting or we just don’t know how to participate in the conversation.  So, we read.

Q:  Then how do parents get their kids to engage in the conversation?

A:  Parents need to engage their kids, don’t just demand they put the phone down and talk.  Instead parents need to talk about the things that their kids are interested in.  Talk with them, not at them.

Q:  What about all of these apps and things that kids are using?

A:  Totally be aware of what your kids are doing, keep up on it.  And be apart of that life, text your kids, sit down and share videos and pictures with each other.  Try to understand the appeal for yourself.

Q:  Kids are spending a LOT of time on their phones, parents don’t like this.  What do we do about it?

A:  Most of it is boredom, so don’t freak out about it.  Instead do stuff with them, giving them something to do other than the phone… and that doesn’t mean “clean your room”.    Go places that interest them, encourage hobbies that are off the phone, give them money to go hang out with their friends, be willing to drive them, etc. 

My daughter really believes that as our kids begin to have a more active life, the phones will minimize.  However, that doesn’t mean we let our kids forget how to be present.  We can’t expect it, but we model it and teach it.  When my kids see that when I am with them that I ignore phone calls, texts and notifications… they are learning presence.  When they see me give their father that same attention, they learn how to be present with their future spouse too.

We just can’t forget that social media also allows our kids to have presence in the lives in their friends as they celebrate exciting things with them, or console them when they are down.    Just like anything, social media is just a tool.  We must shape the heart of the user.

 

 

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Unused Gifts

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1 Corinthians 12:4-11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It was about 11 years ago, when a man went with his church to a Promise Keepers conference.  The truth was that this man had grown up in the church, he had gone through discipleship training, and at one time had a spirit that was thirsty for the Lord.  He had read his bible cover to cover, many times.  He had wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures.  Life, however, would distract him.  His fervor for service would diminish.  He toiled and labored to provide for his family, so much so that it was hard to give up that one day during the week that he didn’t have to get up for work.  Most days, he would… the family would head over to church and he and his wife would discuss the message on the way home.

He was too tired at the end of a long shift to sit through family devotions, or read the scriptures with his wife.  He trusted her with the spiritual leadership of his children, the managing of the home, etc.  This trip to Promise Keepers was just what he needed to open his eyes.  The message directed at the men convicted his heart, he recognized that he had become a lukewarm Christian.  An ember began to burn that called him to service in his church.  He was renewed in spirit.

On the bus ride home, the Pastor asked some questions of the men from the church.  The man stood up and announced “I was a lukewarm Christian, I was wrong, I don’t want to do it anymore… where can I serve????”

A few men shouted, “AMEN!”… there were some high fives as he moved toward the Pastor.  The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “No brother, how can we serve you?”

The Pastor’s intentions were good, but because he didn’t take the time to get to know the man and what he had to offer, he dismissed the man’s offer.  The man was crushed, he wanted to serve, use his talents, but he was denied.  He returned to his seat, but the high fives on the return trip suddenly felt empty. 

When he returned home, it would take him several days before he could even bring himself to share what happened with his wife.  She could see how hurt he was.  He had a lot to offer, but he wasn’t going to be given the chance.  He wanted to serve, but he was turned down.  In the days following the trip, and the weeks even further out, not a Pastor or Elder would reach out to him.    They were not even going to follow up on their offer to serve him!  Time passed, and the ember went out. 

It’s been 11 years, and to this date … the man has never offered his gifts again.  The church missed out on an amazing opportunity, and frankly so did the man. 

I understand how he feels.  There have been plenty of times in my life where I felt like I was being over looked for the gifts and talents I had to offer.   In some cases, I was overlooked completely for a task that I was more than qualified for.  In other cases, I was given something totally outside my of my gifts because it was just naturally assumed I would be good at is… simply because I am a woman.  When a person is overlooked or rejected enough times, they will stop offering.  If you only offer them the tasks that you assume they are good at (without ever talking to them about it), resentment and frustration can build.

This happens in the church quite a bit, the man’s story is not unique.  God has given us all gifts to be used for His glory, but that’s the key… we need to use them.  We want to use them in the church, but if the church isn’t willing to recognize them or utilize them, one of two things will happen:

  1.  We stop offering our gifts.
  2. We take our gifts elsewhere.

I took an informal poll of some ministry leaders, the question was:  Do you have your volunteers (or church) take a spiritual gifts test, regularly?

I was surprised by the few who answered, YES.

If we look back to the story I shared (which is true, by the way)…. it could have gone a lot different.

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that’s great! Call me this week and we’ll talk about where you could serve.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, we’d be happy to have you serving with us.  Stop by my office this week, I’ll have spiritual gifts test waiting for you.  Fill it out, and let’s set a date to have lunch.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that is so exciting.  Do you know where you’d like to serve?”

In all three examples, it would have given the man the opportunity to meet with the Pastor, to share his background and experience, and provided the groundwork for identifying his spiritual gifts in order to determine the best place for him to serve within the church.  It acknowledged him, without rejecting him.  It created a plan of action that was immediate.

This is something that we must be careful of, with the members of our church.  We can’t make assumptions about what they are good at, or their knowledge, the time they have available, or what we think their gifts are.  We also can’t ignore the fact that every person in the church has a gift.  We need to make the effort to get to know the people, find out what their gifts are, and plug them into the places they can use them.

Our gifts are more than the choir, parking team, nursery, greeter, and info desk volunteers.

Women by nature are not all gifted for VBS and Sunday School, because they are women.

Men are not by nature all gifted for landscaping and construction, because they are men.

I wonder, when we talk about women leaving the church, as well as the younger generations, how much of it comes from a lack of not feeling utilized by the church?  If you don’t feel wanted or needed, why stay?

What if…….

  • all new members classes included a spiritual gifts test?
  • fall small groups started off with group leaders handing out spiritual gifts tests?
  • instead of saying to the whole church we need these few volunteer spots filled… we looked at their tests and placed everyone … somewhere.

I think we know that realistically, not everyone will turn in their test.  Nor, can we expect that everyone is going to be available to volunteer.  People do have jobs, kids, and even other volunteer commitments.  However, by starting the process of identifying their gift we can engage their minds.  They will begin thinking about if, when, and how they could be used in the church.  We can guide them toward ministries that are seeking volunteers, or even come up with something for people to do in their gift range while they wait for something to become available.

If we engage people’s gifts into the service of the church, on a regular basis, they become invested & connected members of the body.  They will feel wanted, valued, connected, important, and feel they have a purpose for being in this body of believers.

An unopened gift can never be fully appreciated.