Today, we have a guest writer on the Teen Life blog! Seth Nichols is married to our Program Director, Beth. Seth has taught public school for 10 years and prior to that worked as a full-time youth minister. Take a look at what he had to say this week!
Emotionally speaking, our kids today have one of the most challenging paths to adulthood of any generation in history.
My wife, Beth, finished the Cowtown Marathon in 2010. It took every ounce of willpower and determination she had to eek out a glorious 5-hour finish time in a puddle of sweat and tears.
Today, as we were cleaning out drawers, our 5-year-old found her participant’s medal.
“Mommy–did you get first place?!”
After a snarky laugh, the response came– “Sometimes, buddy, you get a medal just for not quitting.”
Some people say our kids today are entitled. That they’re too soft. That they need a trophy for everything.
Maybe they do.
The race they are running isn’t the same one many of us coasted through 30 or 50 years ago.
up mountains of expectations,
against the winds of financial hardship and class separation,
through rains of data-driven critique,
far from home,
alone from adult interaction,
lost in a cyber-world that threatens YouTube clips any time they trip or #fail.
Their race is not for the faint of Spirit.
Every distance runner knows that the worst part of any race is the head-game. Of course they’re sensitive. But the fact that they are still running means they’re also courageous. They may not be making record time. But just by their not quitting, we are witnessing cause for celebration.
It isn’t easy. Disconnection and isolation can make even a comfy Suburban life seem impossibly difficult.
So cheer your kids on today. They need you. Resist those grumpy voices in your head from past generations that say you’re being too soft, that you’re encouraging entitlement, that you’re making them too thin-skinned.
Trust me when I say– life in the 21st century will make them calloused enough without your help.
After 15 years of youth work, I have come to this conclusion: our kids are entitled. They are entitled to every drop of our scant praise, our scarce love and our meager encouragement to keep on running. They are entitled because they are our kids.
The course set for them is long and hard. And we may just be witnessing the miracle of the human spirit with every graduation, every new class, and every next step.
So give your kids a trophy. Let love flow freely, and critique run dry. And with your little morsel of praise to nudge them on, who knows what mountains they may conquer next?
If you would like to donate or help by becoming a fundraiser, visit our #TL5K site!
The #TL5K is this Saturday, April 2nd, and in the midst of planning and fundraising, I have also been doing some thinking…(dangerous, I know!)
Because we decided to move the Teen Lifeline 5K to the Spring, we did not actually have a #TL5K in the year 2015. That means that we have not held this run since October 2014, a whole year and a half ago, and a lot can change in a year and a half! It is easy to forget how far we have come in that short amount of time, but as we gear up for this year’s race, I want to take a step back and reflect on how far Teen Lifeline has come since 2014.
Here are a few things that have happened since the last #TL5K:
We have held support groups in 9 different school districts throughout Tarrant and Wise Counties. And since last spring, we have been facilitating support groups in Fort Worth ISD!
Teen Lifeline has held 2 volunteer facilitator trainings at the National Conference on Youth Ministries (NCYM), training 16 individuals.
We hosted Leadercast for the first time in May 2015!
Chris Robey wrote and developed a 10-session support group curriculum specifically for teen-aged parents. That curriculum is now being used with Birdville ISD teen parents and at our Keller Teen Parent Meetings.
We are able to help with Teen Parent Meetings in Keller and North Richland Hills because of our new supply trailer. This trailer is fully mobile and holds essential supplies that are given to teen parents like diapers, clothes, bottles, wipes, and much more!
Teen Lifeline held it’s first Dinner and Auction at Joe T. Garcia’s raising almost $30,000 in one night!
We have now trained a total of 100 individuals to take our Life Lived Better Curriculum into their local school district.
Teen Lifeline has started a new podcast called Stay Calm, Don’t Panic to help equip, encourage and empower those who live, work and interact with teens.
In 2015, we worked with 837 teenagers through support groups – our biggest year yet! In the 2015-2016 School Year, we have already seen over 747 students. During Fall 2015, we reached 435 teenagers – more than Teen Lifeline’s first 3 semesters combined!
As you can see, Teen Lifeline is growing. More teenagers are being reached. More teen parents are getting the help that they need. More youth ministers, social workers and volunteers are helping their local school with our curriculum.
I say all of this not to toot our own horn – just the opposite! I am telling you about the last year and a half to thank you! None of the great goals mentioned above would have happened without the 2014 #TL5K, or End-of-Year giving, or the Dinner and Auction, or Renew Weekend. If you think that giving your time or finances doesn’t matter, I am begging you to take another look at Teen Lifeline!
We are able to meet with teen moms and provide them and their babies with cute clothes and quality diapers. On a weekly basis, we get to share hope and a new perspective with teenagers who feel stuck and alone. Teenagers get to discuss stress management, relationships, school life and more on their school campus during the school day.
There are countless stories I could tell you that would make you laugh, cry and might even make you want to hang out with teenagers! Hopefully you have gotten a glimpse into some of these stories over the past several months. Hopefully you see the value in your gift. We cannot thank you enough for the last year and a half!
If you haven’t already given, please consider helping us reach our #TL5K goal of $70,000! Every single donation (no matter how big or small) helps teenagers and gives us the opportunity to step into the life of a teenager to equip, encourage and empower them to live life better.
We are only 7 weeks away from our 7th annual TL5K!
As we continue to share stories from our Teen Lifeline Support Groups, we hope that you are seeing the benefits that these groups bring to the students, school districts, campus counselors and the facilitators that lead these groups.
We are so passionate about our #TL5K is because the funds raised by this one event help make these groups possible! We have the opportunity to continue to grow and reach teenagers with 100 volunteer facilitators trained to use our Life Lived Better Curriculum to lead support groups in their local school or church.
One of my favorite things about working for Teen Lifeline is sharing group stories with these other facilitators, and this has been especially fun since my mother-in-law, Julee Duke, started leading groups this semester! I may be a little biased, but she is providing support and encouragement to students who need a listening ear and a chance to be heard and accepted. Her job, and the goal of all of our facilitators, is to equip, encourage and empower the students in their groups to live life better – to choose to live a better and different story.
My name is Julee Duke, and I am leading my first Teen Lifeline group at a Middle School in Fort Worth ISD. I have nine 8th grade girls in my group, and although we are only halfway through the 8-week Support Group Curriculum, I have learned so much about these girls and their need for hope in their lives.
The first week proved to be challenging with one girl not making eye contact with me or speaking a word, but slowly scooting her chair closer and closer until she was right beside me by the end of our time together. Since that first day, she is the first one in the room and the last one out, in hopes of having a one-on-one moment with me outside of the group. She is now looking at me, smiling and sharing difficult memories and joyous victories – HOPE!
With this particular girl and the rest of the group, as the weeks have passed, hearts have softened. The girls are now fully engaged and look forward to our time together. It isn’t me or the snacks that I provide at the end that makes them want to come back – it’s that their deep desire to be heard and acknowledged is being met, some for the first time in their young lives.
There have been tears shed, confessions made, and difficult stories shared. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity and am blessed to be a small part of encouraging young people that there is hope for a better life.
We are less than 9 weeks away from our 7th annual #TL5K! In order to celebrate our biggest fundraiser of the year and bring awareness to what actually happens through Teen Lifeline Support Groups, we are going to release a bonus blog once a week until our 5K on April 2nd! These blogs will be a small glimpse into the stories of teenagers we work with and some of the facilitators who make these groups possible.
We are passionate about these groups because we get to see the faces, hear the stories and speak truth every single week. If you are just now getting introduced to Teen Lifeline or are wanting to know more about how we are helping teenagers live life better, these stories over the next 9 weeks are going to be a great way to take a behind-the-scenes peek at our non-profit.
I often get asked about our support groups and what a successful group looks like. You have no idea how tricky that question is…what does the perfect family look like? What are the characteristics of a perfect classroom? These questions are impossible to answer because…it depends.
It depends on the situation, the group of students, the needs of the group and the end-goal. Every single one of my groups is different, but one is not necessarily more successful than the others; however, there is one group in particular that comes to mind when I think of facilitating these support groups.
Last year, I was able to lead a middle school support group at an alternative campus (these are students who have been moved from there campus for one disciplinary reason or another). This being the first group I had ever led, I was nervous and a little (or a lot) anxious. I wondered how I would relate to these young trouble makers, if they would actually talk to me and how I would get them to connect with each other when they were more worried about video games and which boy liked them that week. Through the course of a school year, I saw over 36 middle schoolers in group, some that stayed with me for several months and some who were only there a couple of weeks.
In one particular group, we were talking about stress (by playing with play-doh, of course!), and one of the girls brought up her situation living in foster care. She talked about the stress of moving through different foster homes and new “siblings” that she was trying to get along with.
In this same group, I had a boy who sweet, brilliant, and very shy. He rarely spoke up in group, but as his peer talked about her fears and anxiety about home life, he stopped her and asked, “Are you okay? Do they ever hurt you?” He cut right to he chase (which made me a little nervous), but showed empathy in a way that was surprising for a middle schooler. Without me saying a word, these two started a conversation about getting help if she didn’t feel safe and how to deal with difficult family members. Even though I was the group facilitator, these two guided our group through discussion around dealing with stress and how to positively react when you are put in negative situations.
If I had to pick one thing, that would be my favorite characteristic of a successful group – when they reach out and encourage one another. Finding a connecting point with peers is huge, especially if you feel like you are on an island all by yourself. Our groups empower teenagers to seek out these relationships and let them know that they are not the only ones dealing with junk.
I am so thankful that I work for a ministry that allows these types of conversations to happen. A ministry that equips students to deal with stressful situations, encourages teens to open up and seek relationships, and empowers them to live their best life possible.
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She has lead support groups on two different campuses over the past two years.
About the same time I was feeling good about the hill I had overcome. I started noticing that there was a new hill that was giving me problems. This hill was at the end of our run when I was the most tired and ready to be done.
This gives me two thoughts. One, know when you are good at facing challenges and when you aren’t. When I was facing the other hill at mile 2 or 3 I was able to conquer it. But when I was facing this hill at the end of the run I was struggeling. This applies in life when you are just tired. We are all so busy and just keep going and going. We need to be able to recognize when we need a break. This is what vacation should be about. Not always just going to do something we don’t usually get to do. Sometimes it should be just taking time to relax. Using this time wisely will help reduce the stress that everyday tends to bring.
Second sometimes you have to know when to go another direction. We have decided the last few weeks to avoid this hill and instead go around another way. This is proving to be a good break from something I was beginning to dread. I hope that when we start going that way again I will appreciate the time away and start looking for the good it does me to take on this challenge again.
Take a moment to share a challenge you have overcome or maybe just how you avoid challenges at difficult times. All with the purpose of living life better.