Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

September 27, 2006

It’s not what’s on the table, but who’s at the table that matters

We understand from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University that families who regularly have dinner together…with their kids…have teens who are half as likely to try drugs, according to a new report — and the frequency of family dinners is on the rise!

In the spring of 2005, 1,000 teens and 829 parents were polled on their habits and attitudes about family dinner. The study found that 58 percent of teens said they have at least five family dinners a week — up from 47 percent in 1998. CASA reports that teens that have five or more dinners a week with their families are at almost half the risk of substance abuse as those teens that have two or fewer family dinners a week. The more meals are shared, the less likely teens are to try cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, and the less likely they are to know other teens who abuse substances.

LOGOS says, “Amen” to these findings since we have always known that children and teens receive powerful nurturing benefits from consistent inter-generational relationships…particularly, but not exclusively, with their parents. Most LOGOS weekly ministries include dinner, served family style, with both kids and adults engaging in eating, talking and sharing. We firmly believe that kids cannot raise themselves to make good choices and to lead healthy lives – parents and other loving adults must take the lead.

For more on this topic, check out the posting that discusses Rev. Dave Eversdyke’s sermon series on

Contemplative Ministry with Youth

September 18, 2006

In his newest book, Contemplative Youth Ministry, author and youth leader, Mark Yaconelli makes it clear that youth ministry today needs many fewer words and much more connection with teens at a personal level. He points out that, “Youth are not blank slates, and Christianity is not words.” Yaconelli believes that we must resist the urge to engage in a schedule of activities, teach Scripture and a curriculum, or preach key messages to our young people…in the earnest belief that this is the basis for a productive youth ministry. Instead, he encourages that we slow down and merely “be with” teens – consistently, through the good and the bad and everything in between.

Mark acknowledges that this is a very difficult task for most Christian adults today because:

• We don’t know how to be with kids.
• We don’t know how to be with ourselves.
• We don’t know how to be with God.

As a result, our approaches to our personal and spiritual lives are characterized by activity and action…many times lacking real meaning and connectedness. The author observes that many of us “…no longer live from the center of our lives.” He encourages us to “live in the presence of Jesus” as a way to rediscover that center and to make it the starting point for our ministry with teens.

At LOGOS, we have always believed that relationships are at the heart of successful ministry with children and youth…inter-generational relationships between adults and young people, between the youth themselves, and ultimately a lasting relationship with God through Jesus Christ. From the earliest days of our ministry, training on the genuine nature of Christian relationships has been a central part of the LOGOS message. We have always seen the four parts of our weekly ministry as the framework for supporting the nurturing relationships that adults form and sustain with kids in LOGOS ministries.

Mark Yaconelli’s strong message to us about a contemplative approach to ministry shifts the focus from programs, activities, and resources and places it firmly in the laps of those involved in working with teens. We pray that God will grant us the presence of Jesus and insight of the Holy Spirit to empower us in a ministry of “being” as opposed to one of merely “doing.”

A Revival in Youth Ministry

September 18, 2006

It’s a new day for an important ministry area.

Today’s youth ministry has certainly evolved in the last 10 to 15 years. Churches are no longer looking only for the young, fresh-faced, charismatic youth leader whose boundless enthusiasm and energy represented the ministry’s primary assets. Instead, many congregations now realize that developing young disciples is a critical aspect of building up the church and strengthening church memberships. Investing in youth today is the first step in building a stronger body of Christ for tomorrow…keeping young people in the church is a better strategy than attempting to reclaim them once they are young adults and planning to have their own children.

In fact, that young and inexperienced youth worker who was formerly relegated to space in the church basement and paid accordingly is on the move up the church hierarchy. Many seminaries are now preparing youth ministers, and increased training and professional development opportunities are enhancing the skills and capabilities of many youth leaders today. As a result, average salaries for youth leaders have increased about 40% in the last 16 years. Similarly, new and exciting curriculum and resources are increasingly being developed for the multi-million dollar youth market. The investments are being made in youth ministry…and needed returns are being sought by churches everywhere.

At LOGOS, we see this trend playing out for many churches as congregations choose to commit to a ministry with children and youth. Our emphasis on the involvement of a large number of called adults to working with young people also reflects the trend toward “relational” ministry…meaningful, inter-generational relationships as the foundation for the process of building disciples. For more than 43 years, LOGOS ministry leaders have understood that the structure of a ministry is really only a framework for facilitating personal interactions between children and adult leaders. And so today, even as skilled youth ministry professionals are increasing their own capabilities and drawing upon an abundance of specialized resources, successful ministries are being based on strong partnerships with committed Christian adults.

It is certainly a new day for youth ministry…to the benefit of young people and their congregations.

Youth Need Adult Relationships

September 18, 2006

“…relationships are as critical to growing a healthy adolescent as water and oxygen…”

Dr. Peter Benson, President and CEO of Search Institute, recently made some provocative statements about the importance of adult involvement in the life and development of America’s children and youth at a White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth conference. The event was hosted by First Lady Laura Bush and was held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in June.

In his remarks, Dr. Benson said that, “From a developmental perspective, relationships are as critical to growing a healthy adolescent as water and oxygen are for growing vibrant crops here in the heartland.” He stressed that caring relationships with adults are experiences that every young person needs in order to thrive. Benson also said that the “most abundant and renewable energy source in our nation is the energy of adults choosing to know, name, move toward, care about, and connect with young people in their midst.” Under Dr. Benson’s leadership, the Search Institute conducts research and publishes studies on the development of our nation’s youth.

LOGOS has long supported the work of Search Institute and subscribed to their developmental assets model of understanding how children grow and develop. Many of these assets are, in fact, fulfilled within the scope of a weekly LOGOS ministry. We vigorously agree with Dr. Benson’s assertions regarding the importance of adult relationships to the development of youth and echo the sentiment that working with children and youth is critically important and significantly valuable. The LOGOS model of ministry is based upon sustained inter-generational relationships in the church between young people and Christian adults. We have seen this approach work extremely well to the benefit of all.

At LOGOS, a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the goal and ongoing Child of God relationships among those involved in the ministry are the method for effective disciple-making. It’s been that way for more than 43 years.

Blogs are a Part of our Culture!

September 18, 2006

Weblogs, or “blogs”, are currently read by about 25-30% of Americans…and by a much greater percentage of American teens.

Blogs are increasingly becoming a central element in the social fabric of our culture, and are certainly an important part of the lives of many teenagers. Current estimates indicate that MySpace.com has 20 million young subscribers, Xanga has about 8 million and LiveJournal has 7 million. Technorati.com, the blog monitoring service, is currently tracking nearly 2,400 Christian-themed blog sites. These numbers are growing monthly and young people are flocking to them as places to share openly their feelings and ideas…voices seeking an audience and to be part of a community. In some cases, the messages are painful and uncomfortably candid, mirroring the reality of the teenage experience.

LOGOS sees this trend as providing another channel for kids to establish relationships with others that they can “…relate to and communicate with.” This is a fundamental need in many of us, and particularly with teens. The LOGOS Ministry has always been based upon solid, Christian relationships between teens and with adults…and ultimately with God through Jesus Christ. We understand that kids want relationships and need to communicate and share. At LOGOS, we say, “…let’s plug into that need with a responsive ministry that delivers genuine relationships the old-fashioned way – in person.” Blogs are fine and may be effective reflections of our times, but they shouldn’t replace the warmth of human interaction that has been, and will always be, needed by all of us. In recognition of our “both/and” society, LOGOS sees that there is a valid need for both blogs and personal relationships in today’s youth culture.

Raising Children…Still a Priority?

September 18, 2006

Raising children is apparently not as prevalent in the life of American adults as it used to be.

A study just released by Rutgers University includes an essay titled Life Without Children. In the study, the authors, who are co-directors of the National Marriage Project, observe an important trend in American life: “…due to later age of marriage, lower fertility, and expanded life expectancy, a larger share of the adult lives of Americans consist of the years spent without minor children in the household.” As a result, American adults are seemingly becoming more concerned about matters having to do with their own welfare than they are about sustaining an extended focus on child rearing. Raising kids is no longer a primary purpose of adulthood and marriage…it is merely one of the aspects of this stage of life, and may not even be a part of it for some.

LOGOS wonders if this may explain a finding by Barna Research in 2005 that documented the ranking of children and youth among the stated ministry priorities of church pastors and leaders. Of the top 12 priorities commonly identified by survey participants in the Barna study, ministry to teens was sixth, ministry to children was ninth, and family ministry was 11th. An adult congregation that is less concerned with matters having to do with raising a family will likely not identify children and youth as a key focal point for the life of the church itself. It make us wonder if children are becoming disenfranchised by the church?

At LOGOS, we are committed to a ministry with children and teens. We have seen that a vibrant, engaged LOGOS ministry can energize entire congregations and provide an exciting focal point for the life of the church. In doing so, LOGOS ministries can benefit both the young people who are its focal point and the adults who get involved.

Religion and Youth Suicide

September 18, 2006

Teen suicide is a uniquely painful reminder of how difficult being a teenager can be. LOGOS has just come across a 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that identified Wisconsin, Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Nevada as states with inordinately high rates of teen suicides. These findings remind us why we are committed to working with our youth…being a teenager is tough…in fact, it can be deadly for some.

At the same time, we are reinforced in our efforts as a Christian ministry by a story in the American Journal of Psychiatry (December 2004) that summarizes a very interesting study. Researchers discovered that religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior and may even provide a protective effect by creating increased moral objection to suicide and a lower aggression level in affected individuals. At LOGOS, we are obviously convinced that a life that includes religion has many benefits and is consistent with God’s intentions for us…now we see that religion has effects that can even be assessed in secular terms. We have always known that, “God is good.” Now we even have a way to measure it.