The new Mentor

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It really isn't a buzz word anymore. It came on the scene a decade ago replacing the classic language of 'discipleship' for a more accountable term. What some called coaching or consulting or apprenticing or shadowing has now been termed MENTORING. I don't want to appoint a new term. But, I want to take this term to a new place.

Whatever term we use, we may be living in the greatest mentoring void in history. How do we know this? Because the greatest success in mentoring takes place in the home. With family. And this is the place where it should be happening more. The New Mentor? Parenting!

Pioneers In Mentoring

Many of the pioneers in mentoring (from Leonard Ravenhill, Leonard Sweet, Dan Reiland, and The Coaching Network) intended a more direct and relational approach to development. In the corporate setting and the church. But, what we must remember, is that the family setting must be the beginning of mentoring. Nothing beats the early stage development of a parent and child relationship.

I have been saying for a decade that we are not only raising a 'Fatherless Generation' anymore. As a matter of fact, we cannot only say that we are raising a 'Motherless Generation' anymore. Things have changed. We are now raising a 'Siblingless Generation'. Because young people today are growing up without a father, mother, and sibling to help shape their person. And this creates the greatest mentoring void we have ever seen in our world.

We need another set of pioneers in mentoring today. And that begins with the family. We need more fathers, mothers, and siblings in the development stages of children.

Youth in America today are growing up in a different world from the one their older siblings grew up in only 10 years ago. Whether we are talking about the terror war, the killing of Christians, the marriage amendment, the rewriting of moral codes in culture, the redefinition of rape, the legalizing of marijuana, or even the freedom of religion in the classroom, we are seeing a shift in the American constitution and the direction of our nation. By constitution I mean not only our own make-up or moral fiber, but, also, the Constitution of the United States.

This world teens are living in needs mentors in a big way. Because a mentoring void has ruined the family and ultimately the moral fiber of our nation. If mentoring is the ultimate culture shaper, then we must see a renewed emphasis on the family.

The New Mentor

The key to mentoring is relationship. PROXIMITY. There is no replacement for nearness. One study touts that fathers and children spend merely 18 minutes a week in communication. And the negative behaviors of teens is tied to not having a father in their life ( http://fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf ). No doubt our country is in a better place when the family is stronger. Because the family is the greatest culture shaper of a nation. So we must begin there. We cannot see a continued mentoring void in the family.

The new mentor must be parenting! It is the kind of relationship that could bring about an American renewal in the neighborhood, the economic, religious, corporate, educational, and governmental systems. Moving forward, our mentoring should focus more upon family systems. If we forego the conservative values that have been at the foundation of our nation in the face of secular humanism, it will be detrimental to the family and our society at this moment in American history.

Practical Culture-shaping

Here are 4 ways to create a family mentoring process and assure that the family continues as a culture-shaper in America today:

1. Early Family Principles. Any society that replaces absolutes with tolerance will lose its moral compass. Decide when dating, when marrying, when raising children, and when retiring what your absolutes are going to be. And never get away from them. If we lose our non-negotiables in family discussion, we lose them in the public square of discussion. That will only produce more confusion. This includes respect for authority, honoring elders, sexual guidelines, and moral values to live by. Additionally, when we place the bible at the center of family education and development, we will see a renewed America. 

2. Restoration of Parental Leadership. Why is parenting being attacked today with such undermining force? I believe it is partly because we have lost the value of marriage roles in the church and culture. And this has caused a loss of development and values in our young people. Fathering and mothering are equally important to raising children. As our personal constitution was coming under attack and secular humanism was rewriting codes, we missed our opportunity to correct this. Television shows, movies, pop music, and even school scheduling have all led to the degradation of parenting at the cost of destroying family leadership. Parental leadership in the family should be the first voice in developing the children who will develop our country. 

3. Loss of respect for authority. If our children are not being raised with healthy mentors they are stunted in their maturation. Reading this PDF from the Father Involvement Research Alliance is proof of the negative affects of a loss of parenting in the home ( http://fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf ). We have become averse to correction in our personal lives publicly because we do not receive it in the home privately. I'm convinced that most of the reason young people do not respect authority is because it has not been taught in the home. I can remember my parents using grounding, spanking, and taking away privileges because I disrespected them or broke the rules or lied. Today, we cannot spank, threaten, or ground our children without the fear of being under suspicion of child endangerment.

The blatant disrespect toward authority (police, teachers, etc.) is obvious in this generation. And this must be corrected at the family level. Contrary to public opinion, it is alright to have a parent, a coach, a teacher or mentor in your life who is allowed to correct you.

4. Family Practicality. Let's get practical: family dinner, family vacation, family games, family night outs, and family devotions are almost a thing of the past. A past that was much more healthy than the one we have today. When is the last time a father played catch with his son, a mother went shopping with her daughter, or the family went to the movies together? Watching the mother of the teenager in Baltimore pull him from the rioting was refreshing to me. And a practical modeling of the kind of parental involvement we are missing. Recreation, amusement, relationship, and entertainment can be a regenerating thing to the family. Try it and see the results.

Restoring Family Mentoring

These leadership vacuums must be dealt with before we see our society completely fall apart. And if we are going to see an American renewal, we must bring mentoring to the family. The Millennials have lost the Christian principles that should have been demonstrated to them by parents. Now they will have to discover these by themselves.

The redefining of America in the next 10 years will only happen as this generation values family above all and brings a revision for the ages. Mentoring at the family level is vital to a healthy society. Of course we need pastors, coaches, teachers, managers, neighbors, and friends who will fill the role of mentor in teens lives. But, elementary to a healthy society is parenting in family as the new mentor.

Youth Leaders: helping teens Unlearn elitism

Practice must be valued as much as the championship run

Practice must be valued as much as the championship run

Sometimes unlearning is as important to us as learning. Like the athlete who must become as comfortable with practice as he or she is with the game.

Along the way, we gather information about life. And much of that information becomes part of our thinking and behavior. The gathered information may be personal experiences, truths and untruths, peer thought, education, or media influences about everything in life. All of this data shapes how we think about politics, athletics, entertainment, theology, and even ourselves. And we form our opinions and attitudes of what is right or wrong with all of this information. Think about that. Where are you getting your information from? What is shaping your thought? All of that information is shaping your life.

Now, apply that to the teenage years. How can we as Youth Leaders shape the thinking of this generation? I realize that we only get 90 minutes or 2 hours weekly with our teenagers. And the school gets about 7 hours daily with them. And then, depending on the source, their social media use runs about 4-7 hours daily. And with the loss of the family structure in our society, we are in danger of losing the fight for the education of our children. We must help teens to understand the value of pain. To value the practice as much as the championship game.

But, that kind of mentality change isn't easy. 

Elitism

For instance, let’s say you live in America. And for this, you feel entitled or special. We have a certain way that we think in the Western world. And if we live in America, never does hardship seem right or even welcomed in our life. We act like it shouldn’t touch us. It shouldn’t be us, not in the U.S. and not in my Palace. And because of this, we can become entitled to freedoms and blessings or rights that we think we deserve. However, a thorough look at culture will prove that the presence of hardship is necessary, if not useful.

Many teenagers think that they are immune to difficulty because they are young or because they are American. But, we are going to have to understand that hardship is not a bad thing. That suffering and loss can be a teacher. That hardship and discipline can yield maturity and growth. That injustice in many cases is really created by a bad set of expectations, or, behaviors. We need to unlearn the negative reputation of hardship that has been promoted to this younger teenage generation. And help them to see the value of pain.

Teenagers could learn from the following examples in our society of the positive effects of hardship, suffering, and loss:

SOLDIERS - Maybe the most respected of all occupations in America. The reverence for our serviceman and women is unparalleled in our country. And there is nothing soft, elite, or spoiled about the soldier. Just the opposite is true. Sometimes a battle brings loss and sometimes a battle brings gain. But, from Basic Training to field infantry there is an inherent hardship that forges the character and the skillset of a soldier.

ATHLETES - The term 'no pain-no gain' is associated with the athlete. Without practice there is no championship. Athletes spend more time in preparation and anonymity in practice. It may look like game-day in front of the crowd. Lights, cameras, crowds, concessions, and cheerleaders do not bring wins. The athlete creates wins in the pain of practice and the sweat of the weight room.

FARMERS - One of the foundations of our society is farming. The elementary principle of farming is death. Let me explain. It takes the death of a seed being buried in the ground for it to yield a harvest. When the farmer plants the spring seed, he hopes and trusts that the process of death will yield the fall harvest. It is the loss of the seed hidden into the ground that brings the joy of farming.

Many authors and researchers, including Kinnaman, Lyons, Barna, Burns, LiveScience, and Howe and Strauss, to name a few, have written about the traits or characteristics of this generation. Most of the traits are negative and tend toward an elitism or specialness that has crippled the younger generation to accepting the value of hardship or difficulty. They just don’t have time or thought for crisis or suffering. And because of feeling this way as Americans or Christians, we can become entitled to freedoms and blessings or rights we think we deserve.

I remember talking to some teens in Ohio this past Summer. They were talking about hardship and how unfair it is. And then I told them that people are actually calling them the 'Snowflake' generation. Before I could explain what that meant, one of the teens said, 'That's cool.' And then I explained to them that it wasn't a compliment. That it actually meant they were soft and fleeting and fragile.

As Youth Leaders we must help this generation unlearn the elitism and specialness teenagers are prone to live with. To unlearn the 'Snowflake' label they have been tagged with. You will see that Christianity in many ways promotes the productive role of hardship in soldiers, athletes, and farmers (2 Timothy 2.4–6). And we are probably okay with that. As long as it is not personal.

Why I Wrote #IfJobHadTwitter

With the release of our new book this month, I've been asked many times why I wrote the book. 

There are many reasons why. To begin with, just look at what is going on in our society today in America. We must address the obvious hardship, suffering, loss, and injustice in our world. And help the younger generation to level what is going on in their lives. So, here are a few reasons why I wrote the book.

1. Because God prompted me to do this - Just two weeks before Jane was diagnosed with cancer, God prompted me to read the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Contrary to popular opinion, the story of Job is really a beautiful narrative of gain, loss, and gain. Out of this reading came the idea of writing a book about what Job would say to millennials today about hardship, suffering, and pain. Because he lived it and won. When God gave back to Job double what was taken.

The lesson here: Remember, there is both good and bad in every story. While reading the story of Job, did you miss the recovery? Have you always gotten stuck on the problem and missed the answer? There is always grace in every story. When God is writing the verse and the lines, you have to read the story all the way to the end.

2. For all of the young people who have told me, ‘it isn’t fair’ - We all have to understand that life isn't 'fair'. I really wanted to model to young people that stuff happens; so how can we level all of the bad things that happen to us? In the book, I address many stories of teens across the country who had their own stories of hardship. By introducing these stories to the reader, I wanted to give more inspiration and resource on how to navigate hardship, suffering, and pain. Not how to avoid it.

The lesson here: Remember this very important point - that life isn't fair. In fact, you don't want fair (or what you deserve). That you are not the only person who is going through hardship. And because others have gone through it successfully, then you can. As the Chinese proverb says, 'Don't be the person that complains about suffering as though it only belongs to them.'

3. To prove that hardship, suffering, and loss are not always your enemy - We are okay with hardship in athletics, farming, and soldiers. Why would we not allow it in our lives? In so many settings of culture it is normal. Athletes embrace the idea of 'No pain-No gain' in the weight room. Farmers live in the reality that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit. And soldiers understand that if they do not go through the rigors of 'basic training', it might cost them their life in service.

The lesson here: Hardship can be a great trainer and shaper of character and integrity. Hardship is not always an enemy to fight against. Instead, we should embrace the resistance or the difficulty and learn to use it for a purpose. If we do not use hardship for a purpose then we may have to go through it again!

4. So that you will grow up to become a king or a queen and slay dragons of your own - There are some things that can only take place through the process of difficulty. Professional sporting Championships, becoming a Fortune 500 Company, or having a great test on a final exam. Maturity is the result of discipline. Spiritual formation is a result of discipline. And watching people grow into stature is a beautiful thing.

The lesson here: Princes and Princesses are born into royalty. But they are made into authority. And that process takes place through a lot of adversity. As Youth Leaders, it is not our responsibility to raise Princes and Princesses, it is our responsibility to raise Kings and Queens. 

A Magnum Opus 

It is important that one generation takes the responsibility to raise the next generation. That has always been my passion. Why? Because the PRINCIPLES of one generation become the PRACTICES of the next. So we must look adversity in the face and level the playing field.

I speak with young people every day and hear so many stories of tragedy and loss, of chaos and drama. One thing I have always tried to get teenagers to see is that God always has a purpose in everything under the sun as it relates to us. He can turn our mess into His message and He can take our chaos and throw it on His canvass and create a masterpiece. 

The Magnus Opus is just that. An artist's greatest work. Since hardship and trial are part of Christianity and scripture, why are we so upset about hardship and trial in Christians and culture? Do we not think that God can create a message out of our mess? Maybe you have lost a friend, family member, you are sick, or maybe you have lost your integrity. Whatever it is, don’t forget that as long as the story is still being written, there will be a gain in the end. A Magnus Opus is the perfect work of an artist. The pinnacle. And God always works in addition and not subtraction.

Are Things Worse Today Than 50 Years Ago?

#IfJobHadTwitter

With my book on suffering and hardship coming out shortly, I want to spend some time on the blog dealing with this topic.People often say that things are far worse today than they were 50 years ago. Really? Is there empirical proof for this? Or are we just caught in the moment? One of the things that I have learned in my life, especially in the past year, is that ranking or rating hardship or suffering can be a difficult thing to do. 

We Don't Live In A Panacea

Are things really worse than they were 50 years ago? Do we experience a greater evil or a more darker society than 50 years ago? Some look at our nation and say that we are falling apart and spiraling downhill in every way. Others say that we are the greatest country on the planet and we are blessed to live here.

I know we live in America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Right? But, that doesn't make us immune from evil or difficulty. We all face hardship. And that's ok. Change your perspective on hardship. Because without difficulty you will never become as strong as you can be. I was thinking this week about all of the people who complain about how bad our culture is today. We know the stats and have seen the degradation of our society. There is always a large part of the country thinking negatively and critically about the condition of society. The spiraling changes are significant. Just look at these issues:

-moral vacuum (The growth in addictions and loss of principles has created a huge faulty moral compass in our society)
-media bias (Television, radio, print, digital, and internet revolution has become an opinion network and not a news source. Where we once had OP-EDS on page 9, we have an entire newspaper filled with opinion.)
-music and entertainment industry (What was once banned in music and entertainment is now common place. The lessening values in programming and loss of control by the industry is fueled by our sensual society.)
-athletic and sports industry (We have created icons of materialism and impossible role models that have given a false identity that most of us could never become.)
-modernist to post-modern worldview shift (America has moved from an enlightenment mind that had a humanist and moral template ready to solve human and world issues, to no universal code of right and wrong ways of guiding our society.)

But, is there really a difference between today's culture and 50 years ago? Here are headlines from the 1920’s to the 1960’s newspapers:

“Bank Manager Found Guilty of Embezzlement”
“Mass Killer Charged”
“20 Dead in Theatre Collapse”
“President Appoints First Jewish Justice to Court”
“Marijuana Crazed Youth Kills Fellow Students”
“New Housing Problems on Horizon”
“Crowd Vents Anger by Destroying property”
“Racial Riots Break Out in White Neighborhood”
“Teens Growing up too Quickly” 

Society Or Mankind Better Or Worse?

It seems that we have just read these articles and seen these stories in the local newspaper in your town and on national news nightly! Are things really any different or worse? I don't think so. Evil may be more prevalent. But, certainly not more severe. Listen, human nature in the 1st century or the 21st century is still human nature. And our propensity for evil is as strong as ever. Sin will not let up. And the scriptures say it will increase. But, what is more important is that we see our desire for holiness increase.

The one common factor in every generation is the heart of mankind. Unless that changes, things will always be much the same. Maybe the question is not about the increase of hardship or evil in society. But, how I deal with the evil in society and how we approach the presence of evil in society. The one thing that should be more important to us is our spiritual formation. Spiritual maturity should be the focus of our lives and not trying to solve the question of whether there is more hardship in the world.

Principles And Practices

Every generation has dealt with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual perversion, self-harm and suicide, image identity, and growing racial tension. As Youth Leaders, it only defines the reason for the role we play in society. Never under-estimate the importance of Youth Leadership in the shaping and forming of the character of a society. Remember this very important lesson:

The principles of one generation will become the practices of the next!

#IfJobHadTwitter: When Hardship Hits The Palace (Book Release)

Coming Soon on Kindle and Amazon.com

Coming Soon on Kindle and Amazon.com

With my book dropping this week, I wanted to blog on the reasons for the book. This, arguably, may be the single most transformational principle that we can address in this generation. You know, until hardship happens to you at a serious level, you never really know how you are going to respond in suffering. I often think of that quote we've all heard, 'Hardship doesn't build character. it reveals it.'

Ha. When I first heard that it sounded so right. But, you know what, as much of that may be true, I certainly saw what I went through not only reveal my character. I saw Jane's death forge great character in me also! Man, sometimes I wish she could see the man that I am today.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on hardship, suffering, and loss. Here's what Job would say if we could follow him on Twitter today:

#ifjobhadtwitter Every palace has jesters and dragons, and princes and princesses, who grow up to be kings and queens, who slay dragons

*What Job is really saying...The process of hardship is really a blessing. It forges us into a mature adult who can deal with any dragon in our palace. Any struggle can be used to turn us into a king or queen.

#ifjobhadtwitter If you are going thru hardship, you are a son or daughter. If you are not going thru it, you are a bastard without a parent.

*What Job is really saying...When you go through trials, if you join the right family, you are assured that you are going to be part of the healing process. Everyone who goes through hardship is a son with a parent who is teaching them something significant. 

#ifjobhadtwitter If we are going to overcome hardship, suffering, & pain, we must understand that God plays chess while we play checkers

*What Job is really saying...There is purpose beyond what we can see on the board. If life is foggy, just wait. The fog will rise and you will be able to see clearly in the end. 

#ifjobhadtwitter Most people will choose to focus upon the pain in their life. But I have chosen to focus upon His presence in my life.

*What Job is really saying...Grace is stronger than loss.

#ifjobhadtwitter I had great friends until they opened their mouth. The presence of friends is sometimes more important than their words.

*What Job is really saying...Don't do hardship alone. When Job's friends first came to him, they sat with him for 7 days. and didn't say a word. remarkable. I don't think I could ever do that to someone in need.

#ifjobhadtwitter The University of Suffering is where we all can receive a degree in spiritual maturity if we are willing to graduate

*What Job is really saying...Stay in school.

#ifjobhadtwitter Sometimes I do not control my situation or the outcome. But always I control my attitude in the midst of it.

*What Job is really saying...If we can create a shift in our thinking, we create a shift in our actions. And the result of that is life-changing. We can handle anything in life if we are thinking right. The power of your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is more valuable than your Intelligent Quotient (IQ)!

#ifjobhadtwitter When it comes to hardship, it is not time that heals. When it comes to hardship, it is what we do with our time that heals.

*What Job is really saying...There are some things about God that you will only learn through hardship, suffering, and loss. Things that take time. Give time bitterness and anger, and you get sick and explosive. Give time patience and trust, and you get process and faith.

#ifjobhadtwitter Since hardship & trial are seen in Christianity & scripture, why are we upset that they are seen in Christians & culture?

*What Job is really saying...Most of us are like the proverbial 'ant in front of the train', trying to stop the inevitable. Hardship is part of life. For all of us. And nothing in life, including human suffering, comes without a purpose.