Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thinking about Social Media Parents

My boys are on Twitter and Instagram. They are aware that we regularly look at their phone and that we have information that will show us the texts they receive and send (even if any are deleted), and information as to where they go on the internet. We do this first because they need accountability, and then also because they need direction as they learn to navigate social media in a world that we all know will change, but not go away. We also do it because they are our children and they are "borrowing" our phones. The phones and plans that we pay for, the electricity that charges those smart phones and everything else. In short, this was explained before they were ever given smart phones and has never caused a single argument or even frustration in our home. Recently, I came across this blog that I pasted below. I think it is important we spend time talking, teaching and learning about social media. There are some great uses for it, but as with anything it can also be used for evil. This blog was written almost two years ago, and while that is "dated" when you talk about social media, it is not when you talk about the human heart. And this blog is more about “heart issues” than social media issues.     

Parents: A Word about Instagram

To the parents of middle-schoolers on Instagram:
There is so much information out there about internet safety and you should definitely read up on that, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
Over the past several months, I’ve been noticing some interesting stuff on Instagram from your kids that I want to share with you.
“Hey, weirdo, why are you following my kids?” Good question, and I’ll get to that.
I am 25 years old, which is not just a fun fact, but important in the history of social media. MySpace started during my high school years, and Facebook started the year I went to college (when it was still just a site just for college students). So while my generation didn’t grow up with it, we were the first to use it. We’re bilingual, in a sense.
Your kids, on the other hand, don’t know a life without it and you’re doing your best to learn and keep up with it. So would you mind too terribly much if I acted as a bridge for a second? Give you some thinking material?
Let me back up.
My husband and I, along with our friends Kylie and Trenton, help in the youth ministry at our church. (Shoutout to the GREATEST 6TH GRADERS EVER!)
Several months ago, Kylie and I were asked to talk to the 8th graders at the middle school girls’ sleepover.
The topic was “Finding your identity in Christ“.
I would have much rather talked to them about sex or drugs or something, because those are pretty concrete topics. We’d stand up and say, “Don’t do it.” End of talk. It would be so moving we’d be asked back to speak at every event, naturally.
Instead, we were tasked with talking about something that a lot of adults I know don’t even know how to apply in their own lives.
What even is identity? And how do you talk to a group of middle school girls about finding their identity in an invisible God? And if they aren’t finding their identity in Him, where are they finding it?
After much thought and prayer, we decided to talk about something we know: social media. We talked about Instagram specifically, since a lot of these girls aren’t on Facebook yet and think Twitter is stupid.
I’m sure you’re aware of Instagram if your kids are on it, but if not, here’s a rundown of the app:
1. Your child gets an account and starts following other users.
2. In return, other users follow your child.
3. Your child posts a picture to his or her account.
4. Other users comment or “like” the picture.
5. Repeat. 87 times a day.
an example: left is my Instagram profile; right is the photo feed of all posted pictures
I love the app. It’s a lot of fun, but there are some components to it that I’m not sure we’ve thought all the way through.
Think back to when you were in junior high. How did you know you were “cool”? A popular girl probably wrote you a note and put it in your locker or asked you to sit with her at lunch, right? There were a few eyewitnesses and it was pure joy.
Do you remember back-to-school shopping? You bought the trendiest new shirts and shoes. But how did you know if your new shirt was cute? Someone told you, probably. How did you know if your new shirt was hideous? Again, someone probably told you. Or made fun of you, but luckily it was just between you and that person. Or – worst case scenario – between you and that person and their posse. Still, not life altering.
That was then.
This is now:
Your middle schooler buys a new shirt and what’s the first thing she does? Takes a selfie (self-portrait, for those out of the loop) and posts it on Instagram.
Think I’m joking?
A quick search of Instagram shows us… oh, look! – this was posted 18 minutes ago:
Ok, so not a big deal, this is how the world is. Your kids feel the need to share every single decision they ever make with the world at large. It’s just “kids these days”.
It’s true. It is “kids these days”. But does the feedback they receive on Instagram impact them? Do you think they base their identity in it?
What happens when your daughter’s new shirt picture didn’t get as many “likes” or comments as the picture her friend posted of her new shirt?
Do you think she even cares about that stuff?
Yea, I’d say so. Your sons do, too:
This guy specifically asks for comments AND a certain number of likes. 40, to be exact.
[Side note: don't forget to read what your kids post in the hashtags of their photos. (That's the # sign with a bunch of words crammed after it, like #40likesplease.) They use it as an aside comment, which, parents, is just as important to pay attention to as the photo caption.] 
We’re no longer in world of handwritten “circle yes or no” notes between two people; your kids are living social lives on a completely public forum.
This is not new information.
But, taking it a step further: have you considered that your child is given numerical values on which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their “worth” using actual numbers provided by their peers!
Let me explain…
Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son’s photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis’ photo, but 22 more than Spencer’s.
See what I mean? There’s a number attached to them. A ranking.
And if you think they don’t actually pay attention to this stuff, read the hashtags on these photos:
sorry for the ghetto circlage, but you get the point.
Do you see what’s happening? #3newfollowers, #77likes #i#am#so#popular, #morefollowersplease
They’re definitely paying attention. And it’s definitely affecting them.
It’s not just about assumed popularity anymore. It’s explicit. It’s quantifiable.
At arguably the most awkward time in their lives, a crucial time of development when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, this is what they’re up against. A quantifiable popularity ranking.
So, back to the lesson we were supposed to teach. I started thinking about everything I’ve mentioned above and thought, “Maybe our girls are different. Maybe their faith buffers them from being caught up as deeply in this as their friends.”
In talking to our girls, I was blown away by their responses:
They know exactly – to the digit – how many followers they have (and who they follow that isn’t following them back). They get their feelings hurt when the popular kids “like” the pictures above and below theirs on the Instagram newsfeed, but not their picture. They delete pictures of themselves when they don’t get as many likes as they were hoping for. They don’t get invited to parties, but see all the fun they missed out on in every photo posted from it. They post ugly pictures of their friends to get revenge for some heinous act they committed (like saying Louis is their favorite One Direction member).
Before we all freak out and delete Instagram and all other social apps, may I just say (with approximately zero authority or expertise on the subject):
This is no cause for mass hysteria. My intent is not to scare you away from these sites, because I don’t think the solution is to write them off entirely. This is a part of your kids’ communication that is here to stay. (I don’t just mean Instagram – it could die tomorrow. But social media? It’s here for good, in some form or fashion.)
Remember: social media can be SO FUN. (I know you love you some Pinterest, girl.)
Plus, not all kids are the same. Some place an unhealthy amount of self worth in their social media accounts, some could care less about it. Regardless, it’s important to think about no matter where your children fall on the spectrum.
My intent is to dig a little deeper into the impact these sites can have on your kids. To start thinking about how to safeguard childrens’ hearts and minds against what appears to a 12 year old to be concrete numerical evidence about their value and popularity.
How do you regulate activity on these sites while keeping it fun for your kids? How do you talk to them about the numbers (likes, comments, followers) provided by their peers not being an accurate representation of their value and worth? How do you teach them to base their identity solely in Christ – to be confident daughters and sons of the King?
I have no idea.
I can tell you what we talked about with our 8th grade friends:
We talked about posting photos of things other than themselves, to avoid setting themselves up for insecurity about their appearance. We talked about guarding their hearts with scriptures from God’s Word and reminding themselves whose they were. We talked about inner beauty and encouraging their friends’ strengths and…a whole host of other stuff.
What we said isn’t really important. What’s important is where you come in, parents. You know your kids and you know the insecurities they face.
I hope this information is helpful for you, or at least gets you thinking. Or, if all else fails, got you to smile at my own Instagram picture of my son in his Little Tikes truck at Sonic. You know that’s cute.
I love your kids so, so much and I want them to know just how special and wonderful and unique they are. I don’t want a stupid thing like followers and likes to tell them any differently.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Great Resource to Use

Several of you have written me telling me how much RIGHT NOW MEDIA has already helped you. I want to encourage you to sign up for this media resource our church has for you. There are so many ways this can be used to help equip you personally as well as grow your family.  Our family is using it right now as we go through a book together in family worship,  When Helping Hurts.  As we read a chapter and discuss it, we then watch the video specific to this study.  We have found that it enhances it significantly. There are marriage videos, children’s videos and so much more. 

Our desire at Trinity is that we equip you not only by teaching the Word of God when we gather, we want every member to take responsibility for the discipleship of those in their home. However, we don’t want to simply encourage you to that, we want to offer some tools that will enable you to do that more easily. All of our schedules are hectic, but we make time for what is a real priority - my prayer is that we make discipleship in our church and home a top priority. 

If you have any questions about Right Now media feel free to email or go to our church website and register for it if you have not done so already. Under the "Media" drop down menu, there is a label for "Equipping Center."  This page is where you will find the link to Right Now Media and, in the days ahead, other resources that you and your family can use.  We want to keep content updated and helpful things available to you.  Once you are in Right Now Media, check out the different sections available to you - from Bible Study Videos, to Training Library to Conferences that were streamed, to the Kids Section.  Let us know your thoughts.  There is even an app you can download on your mobile devices and here are a few of the videos you stream.

When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Life On Mission (Youth Edition) by David Platt
You And Me Forever by Fancis and Lisa Chan
Apologetics by Matt Chandler
Raising Kids With A Faith That Lasts by Tim Kimmel
God Is The Gospel by John Piper
Eleminating Debt by Crown Financial Ministries
Stepping Up by Dennis Rainey
A Woman’s Passionate Pursuit of God by Karol Ladd
The Holiness Of God by R.C Sproul
Why We Believe The Bible by John Piper
The Reason For God by Timothy Keller
Trapped: Finding Freedom From Pornography by Mart DeHaan

These are just a few of your choices, but as you can see these cover a variety of topics and it is not including children’s videos and other specific studies. I hope you take advantage of these tools and use them in your  home to bring glory to God and spiritual growth to your family.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Keeping Up with Technology

I mentioned this Sunday, but is the link to our new website we launched on Friday.  We are hoping that you like the look of the site, but also all the new features of the site as well.  You will be able to access my blog, and in the days ahead, blogs for all of our other ministry areas, directly on the site.  There is also a member's area for you to create an account and sign in.  In here, you will be able to access your family's profile, upload a picture (think online church directory), check out your giving history, see calendars for ministries that you participate in, check attendance or email your small group.  It is our hope that you will get your account set up and start looking around!  The median age of our church is very young and very tech-savvy, but our church leadership has not consistently led very well in turning you to all that we now have at our disposal.   This site should be a great launching pad to all that we are doing.  The site is where you can register for Wednesday night suppers (either for a month at a time or each week), sign up for Bible Studies, etc.  In the days ahead it will become a real "hub" for information.   

To highlight a few things we are doing:

 - Right now around 50% of our church giving is done online but, once our building is completed we will also have kiosks in the foyer and even the ability to simply text your giving amount to our system. 

 - We will have several kiosk where you can check in your grade school children at our entrances.  While we will still have our main "children's check in" area, we will also have stations set up in the foyer, the gym lobby, etc. so that our members will not ALL have to go through the main children's lobby. 

 - When you are on the website, you can also choose to follow us on Facebook and Twitter - there are links to each of the ministries' pages. 

Having each of these resources, as well as the information we give when our church family gathers will keep you up to date on the many ways we can serve our Lord together. These are exciting days for our Church family, I look forward to seeing you Wednesday at our new dinner and Mid-week service!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Just Trying to Keep Up!

One year ago we had no clue what building we would be worshipping in, who our Student Pastor would be, or what direction God would take our church. In fact there were far more questions than there were answers. To give a major understatement, as your Pastor I faced 2014 with more than a little apprehension. What a difference a year makes!!! We are in a new building, serving with some of the greatest men I have ever been around, with a church in a place that feels like home, being Pastor of a church that I could not imagine not being a part of. As "change" has become a way of life for us, and there is so much facing us in the coming days, I just want to give you some dates to take special note of:

This Sunday we will have our first BFGs in our new building with our new Master Teacher format.  We will have my class and John Miller's class in the worship center and Jon Rushing and Bubba Crowder's classes in the Gym.  Students will also be in the gym area, in the "checkerboard room."  Classes begin at 9:00 am and your small group leaders should be contacting you this week with more information.   By mid February we should be able to meet in our separate rooms in our new educational wings, downstairs for preschool and elementary school and upstairs for all adults and students.  I keep reminding myself that this construction is only for a season.  Thank you for your patience during all of this as well. 

Service will begin this Sunday at 10:30 am and we will kick off this new schedule by recognizing those who joined Trinity during this last round of New Member's Classes and having Baby Dedications. What a blessing it is to watch how God is working in our Trinity family.   (Parents, please remember to pick up children ages 5 and up after BFG and take them to worship services with you as we have not yet started back to children's church)

Don't forget we are also kicking off our Wednesday night services tomorrow night, Jan 7th with Wednesday night supper at 4:30 and services beginning at 6:15.  We will be in the Worship Center for BOTH tomorrow night as the gym is under renovation this week.  
If you haven't made your reservations yet, please call the church office at 662-349-3333 or email to make reservations as soon as possible.  

By Friday, you will be able to make those reservations online on our new Trinity Website.  Our website goes "live" Friday morning and it looks great.  One of the new features to the website is a "members area" for you.  You can create a log in and once accessed, you will be able to see and update your family profile, see a virtual "online directory" of our membership, see classes and activities for our church and all the different calendars for the different ministries in the church.  The website is where you can register for those Ladies' Bible Studies beginning this week on our property (in the building we will eventually use as office space), find more information and links to the RightNow Media resource we have available to all members. and keep up to date with when your ministry area is meeting.  Not only that, but we are also registering for the second round of Way of the Master Classes and Conversational Spanish classes online.   If you have problems logging in to the system, email for assistance. 

Wow...I know it is a lot.  And this is really just the beginning.  Over the next few weeks we will see lots of changes in the building.  For a little while, it will look worse before it looks better.  Next week we can look forward to the foyer and bathrooms being demolished or "gutted" and renovated - again, more mess before it becomes beautiful.  But, we are on a journey and we are making progress!  Only a few more weeks of stacking chairs, meeting on Saturdays to put them back out and going home with construction dust on our clothes, and then we will settle into our new home and be able to tell the stories of "when we first moved here we had to..." for generations to come.    We are assured from our contractors that we will be able to use classrooms and be "in" the educational areas by our Grand Opening Celebration Day of February 22nd.  We pushed this day back some so that we would actually be celebrating IN the full building.  There will still be renovation to be done on areas like the kitchen and offices, but we will have use of the entire facility by that date.  Can't wait to see it all!  

So, put these dates on your calendar and be in prayer for our construction crews, our staff and those working behind the scenes on all these different projects and ministry areas, and that the inspections and approvals are all timely so that construction dates can be met easily.  Just think, not long and this building will be a great tool for us to be able to reach our community for Christ!