Parent Support: Marijuana

What to do with students and marijuana can be extremely tough. Take a moment to hear a students prospective on how parents can talk to their kids.

A Students Prospective written by Evan Wang 

Parent Support: It’s harder to be a parent these days than ever before and they have more and more questions than ever before. This series will strive to answer some of the biggest parent questions from he prospective of pastors, leaders and students. 

Author Info: Evan is a Grade 11 students from Vancouver Canada. He attends a local Christian school and has had some experience in this world. Evan is an amazing young leader who loves God and has a heart for his peers.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Parent Support Marijuana


PREPARATION

Kids nowadays are curious, searching for an identity, and above all, mischievous. Parents like to believe that through past environments, and the teachings of their parents, that the stigma of marijuana usage is true. Homelessness, laziness and the failure of getting accepted to university all derives from the decision of taking a puff of a joint. Of course, involuntary anxiety will begin once your kids get exposed to high school, which is the pinnacle of where marijuana is used. However, these feelings interrupt the trust that parents have with their kids. Teenagers aren’t dumb, they can easily sense uneasiness in their parent’s behaviour. They can easily alter their own persona to adapt to their parent’s satisfaction, and when you FEEL that they aren’t showing any more signs, some unusual behaviours manifest unconsciously. Snooping around your children’s room for anything that may lead to trouble is very common, and often nothing is found. How is that trying or even conspiring about the possibility of your children partaking in marijuana help your relationship with them, or with God? Being open-minded to the exploration of your children is necessary for more comfortability in your household. Of course, being careless with your children is detrimental. However, just having closure about the THOUGHT of your kids smoking weed will be beneficial to yourself and the child. 

COMMUNICATION

 Of course, having a talk with your kid about drug use is dreadful. However, ASKING your kid about drug use is different. Learn about their circumstances, feel the emotions of which they might be feeling about the use of drugs. Understanding their point of view is crucial, even if they say they are open to the idea, try not to get hot-headed. Getting frustrated is the usual result, but this often leads to a higher probability of them going behind your back and using it for the sake of disobedience. Think about the wives tale of candy being hidden from children, they are still going to secretly take some candy. NOTHING you physically do can actually prevent you kids from drug use. Talking it out, and praying alongside with them, however, can allow yourself and the child to express personal opinions about the topic. Simply asking “how do YOU think marijuana can affect you” or “what good do you think can come out of smoking weed” will plant a thought process into your child’s brain and actually think about the ramifications of smoking. 

YOUR CHILD 

Do not assume that just because you sent your children to Sunday school and force them to attend services that they are automatically in a meaningful relationship with Christ. Let them figure out their OWN path and only assist them when they want you to. A large portion of Christian raised teens who endeavour in drug use, are the ones who are numbed to the concept of Gods love and overlook their possible deep and personal relationship with Christ. A big problem with teens is that they really don’t want to talk to you. This is not all their fault, subjecting them into uncomfortable conversations will result with dry and shallow dialogue. Make time with your kids. They might not want to talk to you, but don’t be mad about that. However, make your conversations available, direct all talks in the car, before bed and in the morning about their faith, and how God has worked in yours and their life. These kinds of talks will allow growth in your relationship and a better understanding of how you think and options on subjects. 

CONCLUSION 

Everything you think about marijuana is most likely true. All the things you hear about marijuana being a gateway, a mind-numbing substance and a catalyst for laziness. However, you thinking these things don’t mean your kid does. You must understand that YOUR opinion does not reflect your CHILDS knowledge. Establishing that you thinking that weed is bad does not translate to FACT will allow your child to think for themselves and see real consequences of putting a stop to experiencing Gods love and His works in their live 

Critical Questions: 10 Tips for Leading a Small Group

Leading a small group is not always as easy as it may seem, and often comes with little to no practical training. These tips will hopefully save you from learning some of them the hard way.

Written by Sydney Penner

DOWNLOAD PDF:  HERE 

Leading a small group is not always as easy as it may seem, and often comes with little to no practical training. These are just a few tips that I have picked up along my journey as a youth leader, and will hopefully save you from learning some of them the hard way.

1) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

As a youth leader in a position of authority, it can be tempting to try to look like you have all the answers. Some days it can be hard to get your students to engage with the most elementary concepts, then other days you get bombarded with the most theologically complex questions even your pastor would struggle to answer. While it’s important to encourage curiosity, trying to fake your way through tough questions can often do more harm than good. More than having all the answers, it is important to show your students you are still a human struggling through the same life as everyone else. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers, and that sometimes that is ok.

2) Readjust your standard of success and meet your students where they’re at

Just this year I ended up switching small groups from grade 10/11 girls, to grade 7/8 girls, and I remember feeling totally lost on how to reach these students. I went from having mature conversations to praying that my girls would sit still through the opening announcements. People change a lot between the ages of 12-18, so in order to best interact with your students you must meet them where they’re at and set realistic expectations for your small group. For me that looked like realizing that one thoughtful question or bringing a friend to youth group was progress for my small group. Naturally, we expect everyone to see the world the way we do, but that’s just not how it works. Instead of getting frustrated by where you think your small group should be, revaluate what they need and look for the progress that’s already happening.

3) Be consistent

Looking back on my own experience in youth group, what I remember the most is the people who were committed to walking along side me throughout my years in the program. Some I lost contact with along the way, and others I still consider to be mentors today. Often having the right answers and saying the right things can feel like the best way to reach your students, but experience has shown me time and time again that so much of youth ministry is building relationships. One critical way any youth leader can grow in their connection with their small group is by being a consistent influence in their life. Although you may only get once or twice a week to build those relationships, being a constant in a student’s life is the best way to have a positive influence in their lives.

4) Look for the outsider

As a youth leader, there will naturally be students that you gravitate towards. They will likely be the teens who engage in conversation, who are willing to help out, and who are just fun to be around. While it’s not wrong to enjoy spending time with some more than others, it is super important to acknowledge and invest in ALL the students you are leading. There’s a good chance you won’t have the same depth of relationship with everyone in your small group, but your students will notice if they feel they are being neglected. So much of being a youth leader is about building relationships, so be intentional about making sure everyone in your small group feels seen and valued.

5) Encourage leadership

Another tip for leading a small group is recognizing who has influence in your group, and using them to sway the culture. Anyone who’s lead a small group knows the kind of dysfunction that makes you want to rip your hair out. While these nights will happen and won’t always go your way, identifying who it is in your group that dictates the dynamic and then encouraging them in leadership can drastically change how you lead your small group. Rather than being a dictator shouting commands, come alongside your student and use those who show leadership potential to peer lead with you. There will be times where you need to play your authority card and rally your group, but for the most part engaging with your group rather than standing above them is the best way to earn respect and lead effectively.

6) Be intentional, inside and outside of a youth night

This tip goes beyond a youth night, and is for youth leaders that are interested in intentionally mentoring their students. I found that often during a youth night I am encouraged by the conversations I have with my students, until the next week rolls around and their entire lives have changed. There is only so much depth of relationship that can happen for two hours once a week, which is why checking in outside of a youth night can be critical for your relationships with your small group. Regardless, relationships will build over time, but going out of your way to meet them in their playing field can help show them that you are interested in intentionally investing in their lives and are not just a familiar face once a week. Connecting with a student outside of a youth night will communicate that you are in it for the long hall.

7) Lead by example and recognize your influence

In addition to building relationships with your students, leading by example is another key way to bring about positive change in your small group. Although your students might not show it, you do have an incredible influence on their lives. As humans, we naturally model those we look up to and respect the most, so it is only a matter of time until your small group starts applying what you are teaching them with your actions. The fact is that your students are watching what you’re doing, the choice is up to you what they will see and model. With this understanding it is critical that you take responsibility for the influence you have over these young lives, and try your best to model the lessons you are teaching. So be aware of the influence you have and be intentional about leading by example.

8) Be a confidant, not a parent

When I first stepped into a leadership role in my youth group, I quickly came to realize how overwhelming it can feel to have the lives of teenagers placed in your hands. I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough, because I couldn’t control how they chose to live their lives. Somewhere along the line I came to more clearly understand that my role a youth leader was not to be a parent, but was to be a confidant. Being a youth leader does not mean that you are responsible for the lively hood of these young people, but it means being committed to listening, accepting, supporting, and walking alongside your small group. There will be students that you will see measurable growth in, but there will also be those that fall away from God, or disappear altogether. It is so important to recognize the boundaries of your role, and then trust that God is working in the lives of your students in more ways than you can see.

9) Be present and focused

Students pick up on more than we realize, and they will notice if we are not genuinely engaged on a youth night. Youth group should be crazy fun for both the leaders and the students, but it is important to make sure that we don’t put our enjoyment above being a present leader. Youth leaders exist to intentionally invest in the lives of their students, and walk alongside them in their faith. This might mean sacrificing hanging out with fellow leaders on a youth night in order to spend quality time with your youth kids. Youth leading should be fun, but it also means sometimes sacrificing what you want for the benefit of those you’re leading.

10) Don’t be afraid to have fun

Similar to readjusting your measure of success, don’t underestimate the importance of having fun. As I pound this point to death, youth ministry is about community and nothing brings people together like letting loose and having a good time. As a mentor I catch myself looking for as many avenues as possible to initiate deep conversation with my students, but constantly have to remind myself that relationship must come first. Just having fun together as a group will build trust and closeness and it is from there, with time that those thought-provoking conversations will naturally come. Don’t try to force depth, but invest in your relationships by having fun together.

Critical Questions: Short Term Missions

There is great good and great harm that can come from Short Term Missions work through the church. Striking the balance between these two polar opposites, and ensuring that the missions work you and your church are involved in is having a positive impact is difficult.

Written by Michelle Murray-Schlitt

DOWNLOAD PDF:  HERE 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” -Matthew 5:5

As a student of Global Development, and as a Staff Member serving on missions bases in the summers, I spend a lot of time thinking about, and studying short term missions, as well as serving on the ground. In my experience both in practical missions work and in considering the broad concepts and themes of development and humanitarian work, I have seen both the great good and great harm that can come from Short Term Missions work through the church. Striking the balance between these two polar opposites, and ensuring that the missions work you and your church are involved in is having a positive impact is difficult. However, I believe it can be achieved with one key thing that often is lacking… HUMILITY.

Having witnessed the power of short term missions that work, with organizations that are invested in the long term with indigenous populations, I believe there is a place in the church for short term missions. Well established organizations who are invested in the community in which they work, who see indigenous churches and groups as cultural resources and partners and who understand the context in which they are working can certainly have amazingly positive influence on the community in which they work. It is FUNDAMENTALLY necessary that as a church and as individuals going we examine our motivations and know our own hearts before engaging in cross cultural missions work.

Here are a couple of ways to best prepare ourselves as individual team members, and as groups to serve completely with a heart of humility and to do no harm.

Learn about where you are going (Know the organization) 

This first point is primarily directed towards church leadership as they are the ones making the decisions about where and when to send teams. Some questions need to be asked ahead of planning a trip to ensure the organization your church is partnering with is having a long term positive impact where they are. Some preliminary questions to ask are:

  • How long has the organization been there?
  • Do they involve locals? (Do they have local staff members, can the work you are going to do be done by locals?) If organizations are not involving those whom they are trying to help, the work they are doing is likely not sustainable and will not make long term meaningful impact on the community.

Note:  Be VERY careful about work that involves ORPHANAGES – these trips are almost never truly beneficial to children and have been widely discouraged by organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children. Both structurally, (the increased demand to help from the Global north has led to an increase in orphanages in the Global South to supply that resource for us), and individually (a steady stream of different faces who take care of children for two weeks or a month before leaving exacerbates extreme attachment and abandonment issues in children who are already without parents) “Orphanage Tourism” has been created by our well founded desire to help- however in this case it is far better for us to stay away.

If the organization you are in talks with turns out to display some of these characteristics just WITHDRAW and CANCEL. Even if partway through the process you find out more, it is so much better to not go at all then to bring a team to do something that will cause long term harm to the community.

Once you have selected an organization you trust, try to learn the basics of language before you go. Though realistically your team isn’t going to learn a new language in the eight months leading to your trip, knowing the basics through holding some language classes prior shows respect and an interest in the local culture and people.

Basic phrases like: Hello, goodbye, how can I help, sorry I don’t understand, God bless you, where can I find ___, etc. will serve your team well!

Understand your role realistically 

Both as church leadership and as individuals, we need to be conscious and careful about the way we perceive ourselves in relationship to those who we are serving.

Be careful about the way we present our work:

Try not to perpetrate a single story of poverty. When advertising or fundraising, be very specific and clear about where you are going and why. What people group are you working with? What is their history within the country? Avoid generalizing and homogenizing. (Example: you are not fundraising to go to Africa, you are fundraising to go to Lilongwe, Malawi!)

Understanding the larger structures of Global North to Global South interactions:

When you go on a missions trip, you are not operating in a political void. For example, if you are a church team from the US going to serve in Managua, Nicaragua, understanding your two countries history and the way that US operations impacted the development of the Nicaraguan political and economic system is entirely crucial. Even if you don’t know the history, the people you are serving absolutely will and it’s your responsibility to know and understand what you are representing.

Though we have these responsibilities to be cautious and wise about where we go with teams, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go. There is so much room for partnerships within the body of Christ- and many organizations doing such good work for the church around the world. The key here is that it needs to come as a lateral, equal partnership, not a top down system. We need to go with mindsets of partnering with our brothers and sisters around the world, rather than delivering aid or viewing ourselves as saviors. If we can root our short-term missions in the way that Jesus did mission work, then there’s opportunity for us to have positive impact. Jesus loved the least of these, he continuously shocked religious leaders and people in power with those he chose to spend time with and love. Jesus’s radical humility is what should guide us as we go, as we attempt to find even the smallest reflection of that great love in ourselves.

“what do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” -1 Corinthians 4:7

Go humbly 

At an individual level this mindset should encompass all your preparations before your missions trip, and should guide your steps as you do your work when you go. In my experience, the best teams are the ones who have humility at their core, and who let it influence all their actions throughout their trip. Seeking to serve as Jesus served, without pomp or praise, but simply seeking to give all of yourself to those whom you are serving is paramount.

Final Note 

I believe that there is a place for Short Term Missions that will benefit both the Kingdom of Heaven, and people here on Earth. I believe that the church now needs to rethink the way we do Short Term Missions and simply take more care in how we do them – as we have more information now about effective and sustainable development the church can learn from our history, and from development scholarship and professionals to take positive steps forward. It is imperative that we are humble enough to check and balance ourselves, and we do not allow our pride to stop us from taking steps necessary to do no harm where we go.

The church can beneficially serve its brothers and sisters around the world.  I have seen the fruits of missions work that is done with cultural understanding and grace and it is so beautiful. The   Lord has called us to serve – let us do so in humility and love.

Critical Questions 

Here are some questions to ask yourself, as a team or as individuals, before partnering with an organization or deciding to go on a trip. Some are more practical, and others will require more prayer and discernment, however I pray that these can serve as a jumping off point in pursuing missions work rooted in humility and love.

  1. What is this organizations history in the area I want to work in? How integrated are they in the community? Do they employ development professionals and locals?
  2. What is the economic and political history of this region? Why are they in need of development partnerships today? What has the relationship between our two countries looked like historically and what could it symbolize for me to be there?
  3. What are my views on the relationship between me and the people I will meet there?
  4. In what areas of this trip or experience does pride have a hold on my heart?
  5. What does the Bible say about service and humility? Where can I better integrate those principles in my trip?