Open Letter to Moms of Boys

17 12 2014

Last summer I came across a Facebook post where a Mom was asking her friends for help in finding books and other materials to give to her young sons. She wanted resources to help them gain a better understanding of what it means to live a Christ centered life in a world that is increasingly not Christ centered.  There were lots of comments attached to the post.  Lots of other Moms listed some blogs and a few of books. But by-in-large there weren’t very many that I would have been excited about giving my boys.

For those who don’t know, I’m the Dad of two boys.  Each is very different than the other.  I’m also a full time Minister.  Because I have a fair amount of insight into the area my Facebook friends were talking about, I added my thoughts to the stream of comments. Over the years I have spent a ton of time looking for and researching the best tools to raise Christian boys. I’ve learned a lot along the way.  Now I’ll never say my boys are without error.  And I pray everyday that if they ever do anything that is not worthy of God’s character that I will find out about it before it’s too late. (Thankfully that prayer works most of the time!)  I’m not an expert, but I believe I do have a good word on the topic. So… I have decided to repost my comments here so that maybe others might see it and apply it.  Maybe it might even spark a conversation for like minded folks to develop better options for helping boys understand the ways of Christ.  Lord knows we all need it!

From a recent Facebook comment I wrote on a friend’s post: 

These comments break my heart. As the son of a Minister and as a Minister myself, (as well as the Dad of 2 boys ages 10 and 15) [my boys are now 16 and 11] I know for a fact that there are very few resources written for specifically for boys. Now there are hundreds for Moms (and a few for Dads) that will provide great examples of how to raise Godly boys, with plenty of exercises to try. There are personality and gifts assessments that you can use to try and figure out how they might receive the lessons you are teaching in a more absorbent way. However… there is hardly anything (bible study, devotional, etc) available that you can put in a boys hand that he will devour on his own. And here’s why… Boys don’t work that way. They don’t think that way. Unlike a girl’s natural desire for relationships to be deep and their willingness to be quiet and take the time to get close to their Heavenly Father, boys naturally don’t have it on their radar and see it as an unpleasant chore when they are told they need to dig in.

Now I know… these are generalizations. So where does that lead us? Should we write our own Bible Studies and devotionals? Here’s the inside track on the publishing world of Christian content… Products are developed based on market research. No publisher will produce a product they know won’t sell. Because the Market Research shows that boys don’t latch on to the kind of products we are wanting for our boys, they are much less likely to fund the product into production. Believe me, there have been some valiant attempts over the last 30 years.

This may all sound disheartening, but hear this… there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we are looking for resources to specifically put in the hands of our boys. It’s not going to be in a book or even an iPhone app! (okay maybe it is an app…). It’s going to be in the form of two critical paths. The first is in stories. Truly engaging stories that provide humor, danger, ritual, compassion, good and even evil. But these stories can’t just be in a book (remember that boys rarely read just because they can). The stories have to be told out loud… so that boys will HEAR them and SEE them. They have to be done in a way that makes the boy want to tell his friends the story. It has to be the kind of story that they fall asleep at night dreaming about.

The second path is through life experiences. Many of you are already paving the way for that. You are putting your boys into situations where they are SEEING and HEARING the ways of Christ put into practice. Plan for that. Fund that. Do that. Involve them in what you are doing to follow Christ. Be careful in this point though. Remember that most of you are women. The steps YOU are taking to follow Christ may not engage your sons in the same way it’s engaging you. When you plan, consider what will speak to their hearts. When you fund that plan be generous in the line item called “surprise and delight”. When you do the plan do with energy and excitement (and maybe add in some silliness, but in a macho kind of way).

Bottom line is this:
– Shift your sights on the kind of resources you are looking for by beginning to look for Godly stories that can be told out loud. Granted there are very few out there. Pray about creating more.
– Stop thinking that your boy will “get it” if only there were resources out there like there are for girls.
– Put your family into situations where your boys will SEE and HEAR God at work. Plan it, fund it, do it.

Lastly, by all means keep doing what you are doing! Pray together, read the Bible together, Worship together, go on mission together! Remember that no two boys are exactly alike. Use the resources everyone has listed to learn as much as you can about how you can better lead your boys. Use the personally and gifts assessments to get a better grip on why they are the way the are. Understand that there will be seasons in a boys life when you feel like you are getting hit in the face with a shovel. It will hurt and it will shock you. Also understand that his heart will be broken once he realizes what he has done.

Most of all, hug them and be sure to tell them you love them with all your heart. Especially in front of their friends. Boys love that stuff!

Oh yeah… And pray. Pray like your life depends on it. No… Pray like your son’s life depends on it. Because it does.

Collaborative Consumerism

11 01 2013


Rachel Botsman is on to something. According to her website, she’s “a social innovator who writes, consults and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through network technologies.” Last June she did a TED talk that centers on the fact that our personal online presence can create a measurable trust coefficient and that “trust” will be, and is becoming, the new currency. Like how our credit score defines who we are in ways we might have ever imagined, our online reputation will become the filter that will be used to determine what jobs we will have, or how much money we can make; who we will marry and what town we will live in. Have you ever considered that your credit score had so much to do with those things? Our current economic structure is such a part of our DNA that it’s often dismissed as playing a role in our life choices at all.

What Botsman so clearly communicates is that in the new world where network technologies drives consumerism, those who can navigate to a point where their reputations are always trending up will always have the upper hand. In the very near future and in many marketplaces today, knowing and understanding how to manage your online reputation will become as important as knowing how to improve your credit score is to us today.

Those of you who have purchased products on Ebay or Etsy know that checking the sellers reviews is “Step 1” before you buy anything from them. I personally have been bitten by the shopping cart bug and upon reading the reviews AFTER the product I ordered didn’t show up for weeks, kicked myself for rushing past Step 1.

The advance of Social Media has so much to do with our online presence. There are even barometers like Klout that can tell us the depth of our influence within specific platforms. And while these “platforms” have been seen in the past as not much more that messaging centers or virtual chat rooms. The reality is that these systems are now already how people connect deeply with each other.

I’ve written before on how we all have a Trust Bank. I talk to my boys about it all the time. We deposit trust into our bank when we do things that are expected of us… When we tell the truth in a difficult peer pressure moment… When we go beyond what was expected. Trust is also withdrawn from our bank when we are caught in a lie, or when we don’t complete the task we were assigned or when we break a promise. Trust goes in and trust goes out. The more trust that sits in our bank, the more trust we are given. Interest is even earned on trust that stays in the bank.

Botsman’s point is no different than this. Though her’s goes beyond the simple analogy. As the world moves towards a more collaborative, Social Media enhanced, network technology fueled culture, our reputations will matter even more and be viewed by pretty much everyone that wants access to it.

Collaborative Consumerism is real. Trust is the currency. Your reputation is what will determine how well you are doing. Big businesses, organizations and even non-profits like churches should take heed because even though Botsman’s discussion involves mainly peer to peer markets, the implications are far reaching. As 2013 kicks off, learning how to manage your online presence should be high on the to do list… for each of us personally AND the organizations of which we are a part.

Watch Rachel Botsman’s TED Talk video here:

Additional resource: Unique by Phil Cooke

A Gift That’s Not Wanted

15 11 2010

I love playing 7 degrees of separation.  It’s how I came to find a point for this post.  It took less than 7 steps, but things are going my way today, so there!

I get the Daily Heller which is an email from Steve Heller (the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts). It’s a message of consequence about art things. Today’s email was about a piece of modern art by Roy Lichtenstein that recently sold for $38 Million. The painting is called Ohhhh…Alright….and it’s basically a snapshot from the frame of an old comic book. The painting was owned by Steve Wynn (as in the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, and The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi). He had it listed at an art dealer for $50 Million, so I’m sure he was pretty sad that he only got $38 Million for it.  The comic book sold for $0.10 in 1963 and the illustrators and colorist probably got pennies per frame for their work.

In the same article, Heller talks about another painting owned by Barney Ebsworth that sold for $23.8 Million. It was Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable). It had been estimated to bring between $30 and $50 million.  This economy is hurting everyone isn’t it? It turns out that Ebsworth was selling this Warhol to raise money to build a church!  That statement sent me on a path to learn more about this Ebsworth guy and this church.

Well it turns out that it’s not a church.  It a public meditative chapel, designed by a famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  It’s going to be built on Capital Hill in Seattle, WA. It will only seat 140 and have 75 parking spaces.  It will have a pipe organ and a 7 voice choir available… yes 7 voices.  Mr. Ebsworth is a very wealthy man.  According to Danny Westneat, Seattle Times staff columnist, “His dream, friends say, is to leave an artistic legacy in the form of a chapel to honor his family and be used by the public.” Image that. Image that you could sell a 48 year old painting of a can of soup and BAM!… an artistic legacy can be had.

Westnest goes on to report that Ebsworth (who doesn’t trust the press) has a friend who is a retired reverend named Gerry Porter. Porter says that the chapel is to be “an artistic gift to his adopted city.” A gift. Interesting.

The problem is that Ebsworth already tried to build the chapel in Bellevue, WA, but got turned away by the neighbors. It seems there is a storm brewing in the new neighborhood selection as well.

I feel for the guy.  I really do.  Have you ever tried to give someone a gift and had the Ohhhh…Alright…. reaction? It’s an okay idea, but it’s not really something that was on the wish list. Like when you were little and got socks for Christmas from your grandparents or crazy aunt (no Aunt Pasty, I’m not talking about you!).

I have to think that the gift to the city might have been packaged a bit wrong.  Oh… Did I tell you that the chapel design would include 6 burial sites and a memorial garden for Ebworth’s family? Oooohhh… now you understand why it’s not really something for the city.

How often do we do that? How often do we portray something as a gift or a favor in order to make it palatable for the public (or singular recipient)? I’m raising my hand here… because I’m selfish. I want to give my sons whatever I can for them to become rock stars and famous baseball players… So I can live vicariously through them and they can buy me a new house and a cool car. Or here’s a better one:  I want to give my wife a trip to the day spa and a quiet night out with just the two of us… so I can (use your imagination here).

You do it too. And so does the church at large.  This time of year it gets bad.  We’ll see signs saying “The 100th Annual Singing Christmas Tree, Our gift to the Metrocosium” Heck! I’ve written and designed ads like that! What it really means is that we want everyone to come see this show we’ve been working on since July that somehow will end with equating our work with the gift God has given us through His Son, Jesus.

That’s not the goal or the desire, but it’s how the neighbors see it.

The Bottom Line:  I think Mr. Ebsworth should have just bought the property and said it would be his family plot. Period.  After it was built, polished and shined up, he should search the obituaries and engagement announcements and quietly, anonymously and freely offer other families the use of the chapel in their time of sorrow and time of joy. Now THAT would be a gift to the neighbors!

Great churches put it in writing

26 10 2010

I’m blessed to be a part of a great organization made up of people that work for churches (specifically Southern Baptist Churches, but don’t let that turn you off) that have progressive media and communications outlets.  Most of these churches broadcast their services either by television or web streaming. Some even have national broadcast coverage.  Being a part of the Metro Media Ministers Association has afforded me a ton of resources, not to mention a wonderful, lifelong connection with guys who do what I do and understand what it’s like.

Recently I’ve seen a shift, or at the very least an increase, in the tasking of our members towards the true area of “Communications”.  While the group was founded 25 years ago by folks doing mainly “Broadcast Ministry,” today the group discussions are broad and cover all areas communications.

This morning one of the members asked the association, via it’s Google Group, to talk about Branding Guidelines.  I love the give and take of these online discussions, as many end up chasing rabbits of all kinds.  Today though, 3 files were shared that show just how serious churches are when it comes to protecting the brand. See the .pdf files here:

Champion Forest
Touching Lives

As detailed as these are, church people (be it staff, volunteers and even lay leaders)  will do whatever they want when given access to brand components. Putting concepts, structure and guidelines in writing makes it MUCH easier to protect the identity and, more importantly shows just how important the brand is to an organization.  I’d love to see your style guides, handbooks and general brand policies! I know I will borrow a ton of ideas from these 3 to use in ours.