The Importance of Asking…Twice.

The Importance of Asking…Twice.

This post was written by one of our facilitators, Sarah Brooks. Sarah is a blogger, mom of 3 boys and social media expert! She has spoken across the country at various groups, churches, and schools about social media (the good, the bad, and the confusing), most of which stemmed from a post she wrote called Parents: A Word About Instagram. Sarah currently facilitates a High School Support Group in Fort Worth ISD.

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I had a mild panic attack the morning I was set to lead my first Teen Life group. When I started looking over lesson one, I was shocked by how personal the discussion questions were. There was no building rapport, no easing in to sensitive topics with these people. No – right out of the gate, they expect me to walk into a group of teenagers I’ve never seen before, teenagers who are presumably hurting and/or experiencing significant life crisis, and ask questions like,

“On a scale from 1-10, how do you feel about yourself?”

and

“How much do you feel others care about you?”

For real??

I’m a wealthy suburban housewife facilitating a group in one of the lowest performing, lowest income high schools in our area. I knew these teens would be skeptical of me before I even said a word, but after reading lesson one I was afraid they’d actually be mad at such a blatant invasion of privacy.

None of it made sense….except that it worked. All the questions. None unanswered.

How? How is that possible?

I think the answer is in something I heard from a different group of teenagers a few weeks ago.

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During a small group discussion at a church student conference last month, a group of high schoolers and I were talking about the topic of friendship. What it looks like, the difference between online connection and in-person community, etc.

I asked them what traits they looked for in a friend.

“Authenticity.” one said. “No judgment.” said another.

Then one girl said, “I want a friend who will ask me how I’m doing….twice. Once for the fake answer, then again for the real answer. I want a friend who will wait and press for the real answer.”

(*pause to slow clap for that answer*)

I knew exactlywhat she was talking about, because over the past several months I’ve been conducting a social experiment I find hysterical that my husband is ever-so-slightly embarrassed by.

It goes like this: we’re eating a restaurant and the waiter comes up and asks one of a few standard questions, either “How are you tonight?” or “How was your food?”

Something along those lines.

My husband answers “Great!” at the same time I answer a loud “MEHHHH” with a noncommittal shrug. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra obnoxious, I say, “Not great!”

I’ve done this countless times in countless restaurants with countless waitstaff and not a single personhas a) heard me or b) asked a follow up question.

Nobody hears me because nobody is actually listening.

I mean, it’s dinner at a restaurant. Who cares, right? I don’t need to be best friends with Olive Garden James.

But I’m beginning to realize we do this a lot in regular life, too.

We ask all the right questions – because we’re interested and polite, of course – but we don’t actually listen for the answers.

How many times have you had an entire conversation with someone in which you didn’t hear a word they said?

You say, “Hey! How are you?” and as soon as the person starts answering your mind bounces to your work inbox and how you need to pick up the dry cleaning before they close and how your kid has that weird science project with the apples and – oh! he’s finished talking I should ask another question…

We live in a culture with really long to do lists and really cheap communication. We get so busy we forget to actually stop and listen.

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And this exactly why my Teen Life groups work. This is why those first students didn’t storm out on day one.

The curriculum we use provides practical, helpful tools for teenagers about how to live life better. It’s incredible.

But more than that, these students know that in a world stuffed so full of “connections” we’ve somehow disconnected ourselves from real conversation, they have a place once a week where they can come and be heard.

Even better, they’re heard by an adult who isn’t paid to talk to them, who didn’t give birth to them, and who apparently has no better hobby than to drive across town every Thursday to listen to what they have to say, simply because she – and the rest of the Teen Life team – believes in them.

We stop and we listen. (Curiously. We listen curiously.)

In today’s society, with today’s teens, that can make all the difference in the world.

Thank You for 10 Years!

Thank You for 10 Years!

One of the best parts of working with a non-profit is the people who support your cause. Obviously, we love working with teenagers – serving them is why we got into this! But there is a whole other side of our organization that makes our jobs all that more enjoyable – our supporters.

One time a year, we all get together for an evening to celebrate what has happened with Teen Life over the past year and to fund what is to come. This last Tuesday we had our fourth annual Teen Life Dinner & Auction in Southlake, TX. Almost 200 of our advocates and new supporters gathered in a room to celebrate 10 years of Teen Life and dream about what is to come.

And, what a night it was – we raised almost $68,000 between sponsorships, auction items, and general donations. We were able to hear from some of our facilitators and counselors – we even had a trained facilitator at each table! We ate great food and enjoyed rich conversations. Really, it was an incredible evening. My head is still kind of spinning from it all!

If you were able to attend and donate to our dinner – Thank You! Your generosity will launch us into our next ten years with confidence that our students will have the support they need at their schools. And if you were new to the dinner – we are thrilled you know us and can talk about what we do to the people in your circles. We believe our organization is worth investing in because we are making a significant impact with such a simple service.

And if you were not able to attend the dinner but still would like to donate – we have an opportunity for you! We have set a stretch goal to get us to $75,000 raised by the end of the week! That’s only a little over $7000 to get us there – can you help? Check out our video and follow the donation button below. It is simple and secure to give – and goes a long way to make an impact.


So again from Teen Life – thank you! We are excited we get to continue this great work in our community – because of you!

Chris Robey, Teen Life’s CEO, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.
Support Group Update 2018

Support Group Update 2018

Summer is officially here, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to share the ways your support, donations, and encouragement have impacted the 1,204 students who participated in Teen Life Support Groups this school year. Each week, I get to see the impact these groups make. These teenagers are more than numbers, campuses and school districts to me. I get to sit in their circles, hear their stories, and talk about their futures. I get this perspective most weeks of the school year, but I know that most of you are not Teen Life Facilitators.

You are in your own trenches – in your homes, classrooms, and churches. You are doing hard work, but you don’t always get to participate in the intentional conversations that a Teen Life Support Group can encourage. Each week, Teen Life Facilitators encourage the group to share their thoughts, experiences, and hopes. We talk about stress, relationships, internal resources, school, the ups and downs of life and more. In a 45 minute group, I can witness a bond and trust between 10 strangers that many people would have to work weeks or months to develop.

How is this possible?

Teenagers crave a safe place to talk and share. And Teen Life is able to step in this gap with the help of our volunteer facilitators and school staff.

Still a little skeptical? Here are some of the things that we heard from our facilitators this school year:

Last week, we challenged the students to work on building relationships with people they would like to be closer to. One of the students was set on picking someone else other than his biological father. He mentioned that the relationship is over and beyond healing. He seemed to have hard feelings regarding his father, but really liked his mom’s boyfriend. This week, he told me that, even though he said he did not want to pursue a relationship with his father, he decided to write a letter to him saying he wanted to build their father-son relationship. His father answered back with the same desire. It looks like the healing process has begun in this young man’s life.

Lots of great sharing from the girls. This was the week I started to really love leading this group. I feel like It’s a highlight of my week and one of the most important places I’m able to serve right now.

As always, you think your efforts are going by the wayside and then the girls open up about how much they feel they have learned and grown. One girl, who shared on paper that there hasn’t been any growth, then shares that it really helps to laugh with the other girls in the group because this makes life not seem so hard.

Though it isn’t fun when the group comes to a close, there is no doubt that [the last lesson] is my favorite. Today, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “None of my peers have ever complimented me like that before.” The students were very moved by all that the other group members had to say about them. We concluded the group by reminding them that you cannot control your circumstances, but you can only control yourself. We also encouraged them to use what they learned to possibly help someone else in the future.

These stories are what make the numbers really mean something. Like I said above, the teenagers in our groups aren’t just numbers to me, our staff, or our facilitators. However, this year, we had our biggest year yet! I am so thankful to be a part of an organization that not only seeks to help as many teenagers and families as possible, but that takes the time to hear and invest in the individual stories.

Now that you’ve heard a few stories, here are some of the numbers from the 2017-2018 School Year:

Number of States

Number of School Districts

Number of School Campuses

Number of Students in Support Groups

Number of Facilitators Who Led a Group

This group update is so exciting for me to write! It shows that not only are we able to reach more teenagers each year because of our supporters and volunteers, but schools see value in equipping students outside of the classroom. The school counselors, teachers, and administrators that we work with want to give their students every opportunity to succeed and get the resources they need.

So I want to say thank you for another great school year. Thank you for supporting, encouraging, and giving to us. Thank you for trusting us with your teenagers. Thank you for inviting us on your school campuses and giving us a space to empower teens. Thank you for being a part of our groups – for sharing and being vulnerable. We could not do it without you!

 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Motivation Monday: The Whole Person

Motivation Monday: The Whole Person

We are only 3 weeks away from the 7th annual #TL5K! 

If you would like to donate or help by becoming a fundraiser, visit our #TL5K site!

In our Teen Lifeline Support Groups, we believe that in order for a student to excel in school, at home and at life in general, we must take care of the whole person. We must nurture their emotional health, discuss their physical health and even offer an opportunity to discuss their spiritual well-being. Even in the public school system, everyone we work with agrees that having a place for spiritual discussions is necessary – it is too important to ignore!

When we have these conversations, we center it around the relationships in their lives, including a relationship with God or a higher power. The great thing is, teenagers feel that they can be honest without receiving judgement from the facilitator or the rest of the group! In some of my high school groups, I have had teenagers share that their “higher power” is music, or love, or Jesus, or Buddha. Not everyone in the group has to be on the same page or at the same stage spiritually, but as you will see from Jason Brown’s story, these discussions open a door for healing and hope.


 

One of my favorite group sessions to facilitate is week number four: The Whole Person. This is a great opportunity to talk about faith because we discuss relationships with people in our lives; the discussion inevitably leads to a discussion about God (or a higher power). It’s about being spiritually connected. I have found that most of the group members during this session share about a relationship with God. Some feel like He is at the center of their life, others like they are not very close. Every so often, someone describes themselves as atheist and not believing in God.

On one occasion during a group session, we were discussing The Whole Person topic and a young man in our group said he didn’t believe in God. As I typically do, I acknowledged his opinion and we continued with the discussion. The discussion progressed and the group had the opportunity to write questions about spirituality on cards and then spend time discussing and answering each other’s questions. Several of the young men asked questions about Jesus and how to know if He existed. Someone asked about God and how He could be so forgiving. There were several other questions about faith. During this discussion, it was evident that the young man who claimed to be atheist was a little uncomfortable with the discussion. He began to ask his peers a few questions and even spoke about demons. It was as if a door suddenly opened; if he believed in demons, then he could no longer deny that there wasn’t another side to the story. His peers actually called him out on this. I was able to have a great follow up discussion as the group came to a close. This young man was wrestling with faith, and he was trying to decide if God was real or if he had no hope. Through our Teen Lifeline group, a seed was planted that day and hope was shared.

 

Jason Brown is the Community Minister at Legacy Church of Christ. He has been leading groups with Teen Lifeline for 3 years in Birdville ISD and at TYRC.
Motivation Monday: Get Out of the Boat

Motivation Monday: Get Out of the Boat

We are only 5 weeks away from the 7th annual #TL5K, and our Kick Off Event is tomorrow, March 1st!

Please join us for dinner to hear about the great plans we have for this year’s 5K! RSVP here today.

Teen Lifeline’s vision statement is to “encourage, equip and empower teenagers to live life better.” This is done through Support Groups that take place during school hours, but sometimes in order to fully equip, encourage and empower the students we work with, our facilitators decide to go above and beyond their expected duties.

We love it when our facilitators become invested in the lives of the students they serve, and no one does it better than Jason Herman. Jason is the Lead Student Minister at The Hills Church’s North Richland Hills Campus. He has lead groups with Teen Lifeline since 2013 and has a particular passion for working with teenaged dads. He is able to form meaningful relationships with these teen dads because of the conversations had and resources that are exchanged. We are so glad that he has chosen to “get out of the boat!”


 

When I was a kid, I loved bumper boats (you know, bumper cars on water). I got a kick out of smashing into other unsuspecting bumper boat enthusiasts. The thing about bumper boats, however, is that you rarely react with the people in the other boats. You simply float from one person to the next and are never truly in control of what happens on the water. Sometimes, I think we approach life the same way. We wake up, get ready, coast through the day bumping into others only to get home, go to sleep, and repeat. It’s a chain reaction of events that simply lead to the next day, and we completely miss opportunities to fully engage people. So the question becomes, how do we break routine?

Perhaps the obvious first move is to get out of the boat. This looks different for everyone but for me, and many of us who work in the church, it means getting out of the office and engaging the community. That is why I love Teen Lifeline. Over the past three years I have worked with teen dads and been able to develop relationships with school administrators, staff, teachers, counselors, and students. As those relationships have developed, opportunities to engage people became a reality. Which leads me to the next crucial piece in breaking routine.

We have to keep our eyes open for opportunities to take the relationship deeper. I have found that such opportunities present themselves when a need is stated during group, which leads to a chance to engage outside of group. For example, during one session, my dads discussed several resources that were unavailable to them. Their needs ranged from being able to provide a turkey for Thanksgiving, buying Christmas presents for their children, to needing an attorney for various legal problems. In this situation, needs became opportunity to break routine. Coordinating with The Hills Church, each dad was given access to resources they desperately needed. Coincidently, none of this took place in our typical group meeting. It all happened outside group. We have to look beyond the group if we really want to engage lives.

When we engage people, understand their needs, and do more than simply bump into them, the routine of everyday life is shattered. Trust is earned and life moves from individuals bumping into one another to an adventure that is lived together. I love working with teen dads, and there is nothing like when one of them invites you into their life. Sometimes this even looks like a baby shower, a birthday party, or a wedding ceremony. This is life lived better, and there’s no telling what adventure tomorrow may bring.

 

Jason Herman is the Lead Student Minister at The Hills Church, North Richland Hills. He facilitates a Teen Lifeline Support Group for teenaged dads in Birdville ISD.