4 Views On Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers review

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The Youth Cartel‘s recent release, 4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers, is critical reading for anyone connected to youth ministry. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. When they first announced it as an upcoming book, I assumed it would be like most contrasting views books; a debate on whether or not youth ministry should minister to LGBTQ teens. I was wrong; this book assumes that as people created in the image of God, every church has a divine calling to minister to LGBTQ teens. This book is not a theological debate, rather, it is a presentation of a range of approaches to practical ministry with young people.

Given that premise, I had another assumption. Noticing a pattern? I assumed it would be four liberal/progressive authors presenting their approaches with little to no connection to the culture and context of my church. I was so wrong. Mark Oestreicher did an incredible job of assembling a group of authors from significantly different church contexts, each with drive to minister to LGBTQ teens, but in very different ways, shaped dramatically by their church cultures.

A central theme to the book is this; “if we say we are all made in the image of God – the Imago Dei – then we must affirm that LGBTQ individuals are also made in the image of God” (p.17). Each of the authors are united in the calling to minister to all young people, regardless of labels; what was fascinating to see them each present their approaches, as well as push back on one another  in areas of disagreement. One author comes from a point of view of full inclusion and equality, another writes, “even though we may not agree with their sexual behaviors or what many in the church would call lifestyle choices, we can still offer love and extend grace” (p.76). What would seem such conflicting theologies, and did result in some thought provoking rebuttals in their responses to one another, was still incredibly exciting to see because each of these ministries were being proactive and intentional in their love and ministry to a community typically rejected or ignored by the church at large.

The format was simple; each author (Shelley Donaldson, Gemma Dunning, Nick Elio, Eric Woods) presented a personal story that shaped and challenged them, followed by their theology and ministry framework, and concluded with a description of how they applied that practically in their ministries. Each of the four views are followed by one response from one of the other authors, highlighting areas of agreement, concern, and even outright disagreement. The book concludes with two appendixes on ministry to transgender teens (Mark Oestricher, Audrua Welch Malvaez); the first from the parent of a transgender teen, the second from the perspective of pastoring transgender teens. For me, perhaps one of the most convicting and powerful quotes came from Oestricher in his appendix, “Thoughts from a Parent of a Transgender Teen.” He was answering the question of what he needed as a parent, and it was simple; “to know that you still want my kid here, even if they don’t fit your idea of the ideal youth ministry kid. I want you to celebrate all that is good and beautiful and true about my child and my relationship with my child” (p.122).

So, to sum up; this book is a must read. It’s not huge; at just under 140 pages, it is not overwhelming. For me, as a youth pastor, I felt like it was the first time I was reading something that gave actual direction on possible approaches to ministry instead of just theological arguments. It’s a risky book to write in our American church climate; I wonder if there aren’t more resources out there like this one because of fear? I may have drained the ink in my highlighter as I was reading; there is something marked on just about every page of my copy. It’s well written, from significantly different ministry theological and practical climates, and it is a significant contribution to the youth ministry world.

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Time for Something New

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Yeah, this picture has nothing to do with anything other than to remind the world that my brother and I were a couple of rad go-kart experts in the 80’s.

But on to something new … I’m in the process of overhauling my blog. Deleting some things, adding some other things, rethinking what my goals for it are … all sorts of good stuff.

I also switched hosting providers; I made the switch from a GoDaddy hosted WordPress blog to doing it all through WordPress. It makes things simpler, but it also means that I’m changing up the theme and appearance as well, and still waiting for some of my domain transfer stuff to finish processing.

Ultimately, my blog has served different purposes over the years. I’ve been using doing platforms to blog for close to twenty years now. Sheesh. At first it was my nerdy outlet for video game reviews, thoughts on the latest sci-fi movies and books, and documenting pranks. Later it became less about that and a lot more about my experiences with NBC’s Biggest Loser. Gradually it became a mix of family stuff, Biggest Loser thoughts, and youth ministry reflections. At this point, I find myself documenting family photos and memories more through social media and enjoying writing about ministry; what I’m learning, what I’m reading, and what I’m processing.

Anyway, just a random post to explain why my blog looks different … and might be having some glitches for a few days because of domain transfers and all that good stuff (supposedly should be finished processing in another day or two).

Nonverbal Communication with Adolescents

teenagernotcrazyDid you know that 93% of communication is nonverbal?* A large percentage of that nonverbal communication comes through facial and tone of voice cues. What is surprising, however, is just how different the level of ability is in interpreting these nonverbal cues are when comparing adults and adolescents. Further, it probably explains a significant amount of the misunderstanding that can and does happen between adolescents and their parents.

At this point, it’s probably clear that I am a fan of Dr. Jeremy Clark and Jerusha Clark’s book, “Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent”. I blogged a review about it here, and then a follow up post on some of the neurobiology research they were exploring here. In their chapter entitled, “Why are you looking at me like that?,” they explore this topic of nonverbal cues and what the latest research is showing us about it.

Citing research from Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, they pointed out that while adults have a 90-100% success rate in interpreting the emotions and tone behind facial expressions and other nonverbal cues, adolescents only decipher them correctly about 50% of the time (Kindle location 1389).  Essentially, what the research shows is that adults interpret these cues by using the part of their brain where decision making and executive functions happen (the prefrontal cortex), while adolescents use the region of the brain where emotions are the dominating factor (the limbic system).

Where this is helpful for parents is in thinking through how we communicate with our adolescents. We cannot just assume they recognize the emotions or intent behind our words; 93% of communication is nonverbal, and teens misinterpret those cues half the time, which means they genuinely misunderstand us potentially almost half the time. We can’t change that; it’s biology. Their brains do not finish developing until around age 25. Instead, the Clarks recommend naming our emotions calmly. Let them know when you’re confused, worried, upset, etc., don’t just assume they know what you’re feeling when other adults would understand.

All that to say, if you’re a parent of kids of any age, or someone that works with young people. Get the book. It’s fascinating!

*All percentages and information in this post are drawn from the Clark’s book.

Take Ninety Seconds

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I recently wrote a review of Dr. Jeremy Clark and Jerusha Clark’s book, “Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent”; you can read it here. One of the things they wrote about in the book I found particularly fascinating and find myself continuing to think about.

Essentially, they explored research by neurobiologists regarding brain chemistry, relationships, and a predictable ninety second pattern to emotions. Basically, any emotion that we feel generally will rise and fall in the space of a minute and a half “if proverbial fuel isn’t added to the fire” (Kindle location 1412). What this means is that if we have a surge of joy, it will generally settle within ninety seconds, and if we have a surge of anger, it will generally calm in ninety seconds. However, what often times happens is that we have a surge of anger, fire off a retort of some sort, triggering the same surge of anger in the recipient, who reacts in kind and the cycle continues to escalate with neither side taking the time to let their emotions settle so they can approach the disagreement in a calmer fashion.

As authors of a book for parents, their advice was simple; when parents face a situation where they are angry with their adolescent … step away for two minutes, gather their thoughts, and return to the conversation when their emotions have settled. They further suggested that over time, modeling this approach to conflict would translate to parent’s children learning to adopt it as well.

I’ve always heard advice to “count to ten,” or “take a deep breath.” It’s always made sense, but something about the neurobiology of this really intrigues me. I like that they’ve actually mapped it out, it’s a measurable, predictable cycle. The way I’m wired finds that very appealing; it’s certainly something I want to get better at doing – not just with my children, but in all relationships.

Star Trek Discovery

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I’m four episodes in to the first season of the newest Star Trek show … and I’m really, really enjoying it. I’m going to keep this spoiler-free, so it will probably be somewhat short!

The production value is on par with the recent movies; the special effects, the costumes, the work they put in to making the show look good is incredible. The look and feel of the show is the best any Trek show has ever achieved and definitely equal or better than anything else I’ve seen on TV.

As far as the characters go, they’re growing on me fast. Initially it was a little strange seeing a crew I knew nothing about and had no emotional connection to, but that by the end of the two part premiere, I was hooked and curious to see where they would go with them. Over the course of the first four episodes they have done a great job of planting a lot of seeds and mysteries that I am curious to see play out in the seasons to come.

I will say that I am still getting used to the idea that the lead character is not the captain … but I think it’s a strong idea. The franchise has been around for more than fifty years; they have to play with the format to find new ways to approach Star Trek story telling.

Regarding the Discovery itself, I love the look of the ship more than I expected to. It’s actually a throwback to discarded design ideas developed in the 70’s when they were first thinking of bringing back Star Trek (see the image below for an example). At first I thought that was a weird decision, but the end result does a great job of blending that design style with current ideas.

My one complaint, and perhaps my nerdiest comment … I wish the show was set in the Kelvin Universe, not the Prime Universe. That would easily explain the design similarities to the new movies, the technological advances (in response to Nero’s arrival two decades before). It would also open the door for them to go anywhere with the story telling with no concern about contradicting the more than 700 episodes of Star Trek already out there – their only concern would be staying in line with (currently) three movies. However, I get it; the movie arm and the television arm of Star Trek are separate entities, and those separate companies (Paramount and CBS, respectively) most likely have some sort of legal concerns about overlapping with one another. But it would make continuity a far simpler affair.

That aside, I’m really enjoying the show and am excited to see where it goes!

Jeremy & Jerusha Clark’s “Your Teenager is Not Crazy”

teenagernotcrazyI really, really like this book. It’s  a must read for parents of teens, tweens, and those that work with them. Dr. Jeremy Clark and Jerusha Clark’s book, “Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent” is a strong exploration of the biological, psychological and spiritual changes and developments happening in adolescents. What makes this book stand out from others I have read like it is how the Clark’s have used some of the latest in brain development research help shape and inform their approach to understanding teenagers. Adolescence triggers explosive amounts of neurological development, a process that does not finish until the mid-twenties, and actually explains much of the conflict and misunderstanding between parents and their teens.

Their approach is simple; over the course of 26 chapters, the Clark’s tackle a wide variety of adolescent and parent issues, from emotions, to sex, to blame, selfishness, friends, food and more. With each topic they introduce the issue, then follow a pattern; Bio 101 is where they tackle exactly how adolescent brain development connects to the topic at hand, Psych 101 address the psychological aspects of the issue as well as how to approach it effectively with your teen, and finally, Faith 101 is where they give advice on how to point the teen (and parents) to Christ in this area. At the end of each chapter, they give a practical challenge on how to live out their advice in your home today.

The book is strong. It’s clear they have done their homework in researching the topics, and their years of experience counseling, as well as parenting their own teens, come through loud and clear through the stories and illustrations they share. As a parent of a fifteen and a thirteen year old boy, I found this book incredibly enlightening. As I understand more and more the psychological and physical development going on under the surface, it makes it far more attainable to understand what is going on with my kids and the teens I work with as a youth pastor, as well as help give me the ability to be more patient and confident in how I approach them.

I already said it at the beginning; this is a must read for parents and those interacting with adolescents. It is a strong resource, covering a wide range of adolescent topics – making it something that can be turned to as different issues and situations arise. It’s available as a book, digital book and audio book, so it’s very accessible. Check it out!