When There Aren't Any Words

Talking to young people about life and legends and leaving a legacy.

Yesterday the world lost a legend. Kobe Bryant was a legend on the basketball court as well as in his daily life. We are shocked. I was on the phone with my son when he said I think Kobe died in a helicopter accident. I said, “Are you sure? It’s probably a hoax.” But unfortunately, a quick Google search confirmed the tragedy. Shocked.

I’m sure we are all asking the questions. Why? Why would God take him when he was so young? Take his daughter? Take the other parents and children in the helicopter as well? Good people gone so quickly. It doesn’t seem fair. So what do you say?

The honest answer…I…don’t…know. There is just no answer. It’s a question we ask every time we lose someone. And, we are not God. However, we know that God is good, and that there is more to our lives than this world. We must find the positive in everything that happens. When we are focused on finding good, we begin to heal. Somehow we need to cling to the idea that our lives have a purpose. We must celebrate the lives of those around us, taking advantage of every moment and being present with the people we care about the most.

When talking about losing a legend, like Kobe, it’s helpful to talk about legacy with young people. What is the legacy that Kobe will leave behind? What are his accomplishments that the world will always remember? What kind of things can we do on a regular basis in our own lives that help us to leave our own legacy? When we experience loss, it is often a time for us to readjust our own priorities.

No matter if you live or work with young people, make sure you are having the conversation. It is through discourse that we are able to process our emotions. Give teens and young adults the opportunity to express what they are feeling. Allow them safe places to ask the hard questions. And be OK with not having all the answers. Sometimes we just don’t understand, and don’t have the words to make it better.

Praying for Bryant family and for the families of those who were with him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding,” ~Proverbs 3:5

We are all welcoming…but not affirming

We are Christians, of course we are nice to everyone! There are few members of our congregations who would say that they are not welcoming and nice to ALL people who want to come to “our” church. The kids in our youth groups would say the exact same thing because that’s how we raised them. That is…until someone who isn’t like us walks through our doors. That “someone” could be of another ethnicity, another race, another socioeconomic background, another sexual orientation, then we may be welcoming, but only to an extent. Let’s be honest. Anyone different than us is welcome to come to “our” church, and we will even allow them to become a member(after all, it could mean more money in the plate each week to help us pay the electricity bill), but when they start wanting to join committees or lead our children,  or join our Sunday school, that is where we draw the line. You see, it is time that we realize that just being nice sometimes isn’t enough. After all, Jesus went above and beyond just being nice. He had conversations, He sat down and ate with those who others dismissed. Even some of His inner circle of disciples could be seen as “less than.” So, let’s dig deep and really evaluate the difference between being welcoming and affirming. This podcast is an honest conversation on just that and what it means in our churches/youth groups. For more information on the Trevor Project 

Info about United Methodist Church’s advocacy for justice is here.

A Parent’s Perspective

Youth Pastors say the most difficult part of the job is managing ministry with the lives of busy families.  But we want nothing more than to support parents during the teen years.  On today’s podcast we talk with a mom of 4 young adults that grew up in church and youth group.  She shares why church was important to her family.  What are you doing to connect to parents and/or to help parents connect with one another?

Kavanaugh Hearing Sparks Critical Teaching Points for Teens

Decency~Respect~Dignity: Talking Points around the Supreme Juridical Confirmation Hearing

Introduction: This confirmation hearing has been just one more thing that separates our country.  In an effort to show our young people that even if we disagree on issues, we can find common ground somewhere and walk away from discussions agreeing to disagree, still respecting and speaking to one another.  This particular discussion is not political. No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself, the testimonies hit on topics that were relevant in 1982 and are still relevant for our teens today.  I implore you as parents, educators and spiritual leaders not to shy away from such topics as sex, under age alcohol consumption, and poor decisions.  Research shows that the teen brain is not fully developed and therefore, teens lack cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory, emotional expression, judgement and sexual behaviors.  It is our job as adults to help them work through cause and effect situations PRIOR to them having to make decisions.  So, it is important, no matter the subject, to present facts (this also means both sides of an argument) and allow teens to work through their own thought process to claim their own opinions, conclusions and convictions.  The more you force your beliefs on them, the more push back you will get.

Also keep in mind, no matter how well you know a teen, they may be hiding something, so precede with caution, assuming that there is someone in your youth group, or your teen’s friend group that has been a part of an unwanted advance or have made a mistake and is feeling shame.

Resources: Here is some information on sexual assault and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is also a good resource for information or to report an incident.  Please share this information with your students. Stats shared in Podcast can be found here.

Audience: We recommend this discussion for high school students.  If you are a parent, you may wish to discuss the topics with your mature middle school children.  For our youth leaders, be sure parents are aware that you are discussing sensitive subject matter ahead of time.

Biblical Context: John 4:1-26“The Woman at the Well.”  Click here  or here for background information and commentary on these verses.

Matthew 7:12  “The Golden Rule”

Title: Decency, Respect and Dignity

Begin with the following questions:

Are you paying attention to what is going one right now in current events?  How do you get your information? Do you talk to parents at home about current events?

We are going to talk about three specific words today: DECENCY  RESPECT DIGNITY

Who would like to look up the definitions of these words?

Let’s think of some examples, it could be someone famous, or a situation with a friend or family where actions show decency, respect or dignity.  (This could be as simple as helping someone pick up books they’ve dropped in the hall.)

Where or what are the areas of your life, where you perceived that decency, respect, and dignity is lacking?

What are areas in the larger culture where you notice a lack of decency, respect and dignity?

Let’s take a look at John 4.  Have students read aloud, and if there are different versions of the Bible, have students read the verses more than once. Help them understand the context and culture of the time.

Why is she an outcast? (Her multiple marriages) Do you think the community treats her ex-husbands the same way? Why or why not?

So, why would Jesus interact with her?

Have you ever been made fun of for interacting with an “outcast”?  Do you put yourself in the shoes of that person?

Is there a situation where we should excuse lack of decency or respect?

What behaviors do you excuse?

What are ways that you respect yourself? Respect your friends?

What is the Golden Rule?

How can you show “love” to your neighbor?  What if they have wronged you?  What if they don’t agree with you?  (Be sure that you help them understand that our love for one another comes from God’s love for us, we love because He loves us.)

What is a scenario at school where you have seen OR could be the example of The Golden Rule?

In the story of The Woman at the Well, how did Jesus’ actions support The Golden Rule?  

How does Decency, Respect and Dignity play into The Golden Rule?

Is there a difference in the way boys interact with one another?  What about girls? (When the other gender is not around.)

The incident that is under investigation with the Confirmation Hearing for Judge Kavanaugh happened in the early 1980’s when he was 17 and Dr. Ford was 15.  For her, the assault she is claiming has affected her all of her life.  In his case, the claim could ruin his career.  What situations do you see teens in, or what decisions that teens make, could affect them the rest of their lives? Be sure they see one big difference in teens today compared to 1980’s being social media, and the fact that posts do not go away.

Lying is another big topic in this situation.  Some people say she is lying others think he isn’t telling the truth.  Have you ever been accused of not telling the truth?  What did that feel like?  How does decency, respect and dignity play into truthfulness?

Do you have a trusted adult, someone you could turn to if you get into a situation where you need help?

Do you have “safe words” with this person if you have to call them in the middle of a situation? (i.e. I have a headache, can you pick me up?)

End with some like: No matter how this Confirmation Hearing ends, it has brought up some important topics for us.  It is important for all of us to treat one another and ourselves with the decency, respect and dignity that we, as children of God, deserve.  And when/if someone defies you, tell someone.  Never forget, that actions speak louder than words, and our actions, for good or ill, can have lifelong impact.