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.
Helping in Helpful Ways

Helping in Helpful Ways

When tragedy strikes, everyone wants to help. This is admirable and well-intended. But what happens when our help is not helpful? What if helping gives us more peace of mind than it gives the victims relief?

With Hurricane Harvey wrecking the coast of Texas, this idea has hit a little closer to home. It got me thinking about how we can really help in this situation or any other disaster that arises. I believe that everyone truly wants to help. They have the best intensions to make a difference and improve others’ circumstances. Maybe we just don’t know where to start!

Hopefully these three principles will help you help others better:

 

Do your research!

To be helpful, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So many great organizations and groups of people are already working to do good. When a tragedy happens, first look at who is already helping. Maybe you can donate clothes to people who are already collecting items. Or perhaps you can donate to an organization that is equipped to help people in need. Instead of people doing their own thing in small quantities, you can collaborate with others to make the effort more effective.

How can you research? Start with Google! Go to social media. Ask your local school, church or city. Talk to friends and see what those around you are involved in.

I couldn’t even count the number of opportunities to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey that I have seen the past few days. There are tons of great options to help with the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, but here are a few to get your research started:

  • American Red Cross: you can give by phone, text, online or mail to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Salvation Army: you can also donate by any of the ways listed above to help with long-term relief efforts.
  • LiveBeyond: give online to help this nonprofit provide disaster relief.
  • Oliver & Otis: buy their Texas Strong t-shirt & 100% of the proceeds with go to LiveBeyond disaster relief.
  • North Texas Food Bank: donate online to provide food and water to those affected by the hurricane.

 

Help in realistic ways!

Everyone has a different capacity to help and different gifts to use. Help in a way that is realistic and applicable to you! The links above involve financial assistance. This is a great option, but there are other ways that you can help. What is so important here is that you only commit to what you can handle. If you choose to volunteer, finish the time you committed to help. If you want to start a food drive, make sure you have the capacity to collect and distribute the supplies. If you pledge money to an organization, give within your means. It does not help anyone if you start something and don’t follow through.

Here are some ways you can donate your time, home and supplies to help Hurricane Harvey victims:

  • Voly.org: register to volunteer and get notifications when needs in your area arise.
  • Airbnb: offer your home to those in need of emergency accommodations.
  • TangoTab: this app gives a meal to a person in need every time you eat out!

 

Offer help that is needed!

Finally, you want to make sure that whenever you offer help, you are offering something that is needed. I love this article which talks about disaster relief creates its own disaster. It lists several examples of help with was well-intended but necessary from sending winter coats to Honduras in the Summer to tens of thousands of teddy bears sent to the children of Sandy Hook.

Check with organizations to see what is actually useful. Give to locations that provide lists of items or a registry of sorts. Don’t assume that your junk is needed just because they have lost everything.

I would encourage you to put yourself in the shoes of the person affected by disaster. What would you want? What would you need? What would you find overwhelming?

In times of trial, we want to help. We want to give, donate, and send everything we can. The problem is that we should first check our motivation. Are you giving to truly help those affected or are you giving to feel like you made a difference? Sometimes the best thing to do is to donate money to an organization that can provide supplies that are needed. Or maybe people need thinks like water or diapers. It doesn’t have to be fancy or Instagram worthy to make a difference!

What do you think about this? What other ways do you know of to help those in need, especially as it relates to Hurricane Harvey? 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Don’t Panic – Get Involved in Schools!

Don’t Panic – Get Involved in Schools!

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School is a major part of every teenager’s life. It is also the best way to serve and reach students on their turf. In this episode, Chris and Karlie discuss the importance of adult involvement in schools and how you can be a resource to your community. Don’t panic about the current state of our teenagers and their schools, let’s get involved and start making a difference by reaching out to public schools!

[bctt tweet=”If we want to make an impact on the world, we need to make ourselves a resource to public schools. – @teenlife_ngo” via=”no”]

In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • Why it is important to volunteer and get involved in your local school.
  • How school involvement benefits both the school staff and the students.
  • Real-life examples of ways to get involved in schools.
  • 3 different stories of how people in our community our reaching out to schools.
  • A 3-step process to volunteering on a school campus.

Ask yourself…

  • Is there a school close by that I would like to get involved with?
  • What skills or services could I offer to my local school?

Go ask a school campus…

  • Do you have a volunteer coordinator that I can get in touch with?
  • How can I help?
  • What can I do to support your staff and students?

Resources

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Have a question?

If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

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5 Tips to Better Listen to Your Teen

5 Tips to Better Listen to Your Teen

All of us that work with teenagers have a difficult task. How do we sort through the noise of adolescent life and glean the important information students are trying to tell us so that we can be a helpful adult in their life? Of course, there is no perfect answer but as I have worked with teenagers for over a decade, some things have stood out as effective listening strategies. Teen Lifeline even uses more than 10% of the time in our 1-day Facilitator Training to talk about how to listen better.

 

To set this up, you will need to set aside some assumptions. First, as adults we have to believe that we do not have all the answers. This requires a daily reminder for most of us and for some like me, multiple times a day. I tend to think the life experience I have equals relevant information for the kids in my house or the students I work with. The problem here is there are too many details missing for us to make that big of an assumption. This is not to say that there is no value to our experience, that is a big part of what we rely on to learn from. I do believe it is true though that our experience is not the most important factor but instead how we handled that experience. That said, we must be willing and able to hear what a particular student is going through (really hear it) before we can realize the most important lesson we can share from what we have learned and model for them the “how” of handling things rather then the “what to do” in a particular situation.

 

Once we have our mindset in the right place, we can move forward with developing our listening skills.
 

1. Don’t be afraid to admit you missed something. As humans, our brains are constantly processing what is coming our way. This includes engagement in conversation with anyone. The difficulty is that it is hard to stop this process from happening since we are wired that way. Since this is true, it is completely appropriate to admit your brain was thinking about something else and you need the person to repeat what they just said so you can make sure you are catching what they are sharing with you.

2. Intentionally pause 15 seconds once the person stops talking. The key here is to do this intentionally, allowing time for the person to be done with their thought. In addition you can use this time to form a response either to summarize what you heard, ask for clarification or offer advice. If you are intentional about this, you are less likely to fall prey to number 1 above.

3. Limit your comments. This takes a lot of practice because we all want to believe that what we think is valuable. However, it is important to realize that it is only valuable if the people you are sharing it with see it that way. If you decide going into a conversation you are only going to speak things related to the conversation, it will help you listen more intently and offer more helpful, relevant questions and thoughts.

4. Pay attention to what matters, not every word they say. If you have worked with teenagers for longer then 6 weeks, you know that not everything they say is important or helpful to knowing what is really going on. That said, we have to work hard to listen carefully and catch the pieces that are most important to focus on those. Once you practice this a few times, it gets easier and you will find you’re able to listen for words, phrases, inflection or even pace of speech that tips you off to what is important.

5. If you can’t listen now, ask the person to wait. As adolescents, and this applies to younger kids too, there is a tendency to just jump in and start talking whether the person is listening or not. At our house, my wife has started handling this very effectively. She will say “I really want to listen to you because you are important, but I can’t right now. Give me a few minutes, and I will focus on what you want to tell me.” Yea, she is pretty good at this stuff!

So now it’s up to you to decide. Is this helpful? Does it bring up thoughts or questions you want to share? Comment below or reach out to us on social media or by email. We want to keep growing, and we hope you do too. If you did find this helpful, take a minute to forward the email, post it online or tell a friend – you don’t even have to give us credit (though we are okay if you do :). 

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.

Motivation Monday: Open Doors

Motivation Monday: Open Doors

Teen Lifeline was able to reach 837 teenagers in 2015 – our biggest year yet! What is even better about this number is that it happened because of our awesome volunteers who take time out of their week to facilitate support groups with students.

Jacob Baker, Youth and Family Minister at Decatur Church of Christ, is one of these facilitators and our guest blogger for Motivation Monday, part 2. We love hearing stories from our facilitators – about the students they reach, conversations they have and doors that are opened through these groups. As you’ll see from Jacob’s experience, support groups can open doors for relationships both with the school administration and students.

We love that our facilitators go above and beyond the 1 hour a week that a support group typically takes. Many look for any opportunity to serve their local school district, and we are honored to partner with them in this ministry. If you ever doubt the impact that is made through Teen Lifeline support groups, talk to one of our facilitators. Listen to their stories. Take a peek into some of their conversations. Thank them for the work they are doing.

Jacob was able to step into the life of a teenager in a difficult time, walk alongside him, and give him the tools and encouragement he needed to live life better. Sometimes it is one conversation, one small goal set for the future that can make the biggest difference.

 


 

Because of the trust that had been built with the administrators who have knowledge of the Teen Lifeline group that I lead, I was asked to have some one-on-one sessions with a particular individual who was going through some really tough circumstances.

 

To be honest, I did not know what would come of our times together or how to deal with this particularly, but I ended up using variations of some of the Teen Lifeline activities.

 

This kid had never really sat down to consider all of the issues in his life that he had some control over.  We simply prioritized them, and he went to work right away at mending relationships and working hard to make small (sometimes huge) improvements in these areas.  It was awesome to see him blossom and Teen Lifeline opened a door and equipped me to help this kid in a way that I previously could not have.

 

 

Jacob Baker is the Youth and Family Minister at Decatur Church of Christ. He has been leading Teen Lifeline Support Groups in Decatur ISD since 2014.