It has been almost two decades since my grandfather died. He was elderly, but his death was sudden. I remember getting the call and, somewhat stunned disbelief made the journey back to the family farm for his funeral. Many emotions accompanied that trip, but of all the things that stood out to me, what I remember most was his Bible. I remember wandering through his house, looking at all the things that reminded me of the summers I spent there as a child. I knew that his passing would change our family in ways I would miss.
I remember sitting in his favorite chair, and right next to it was his Bible, whose leather cover looked much like the worn leather of old farmer hands. I picked up his Bible. Inside was his daily devotional that he had read neatly tucked into the book of the Bible that his devotional directed him to read that particular day. As I look back on almost twenty years of missing him, what I remember most was the Bible he read and the way he would fold his hands and belt out “How Great Thou Art.”
The reality is that one day I won’t be here anymore. I will be absent in body but present with Christ. How do I want to be remembered by my grandkids? What do I want them to think of when they think of me? I hope that my life will be small, and He to whom I point will be large. A few years ago, my Grandfather’s Bible inspired me to leave my kids each a Bible of their own filled with notes and thoughts I had based on the passage I read each day. I do this for three years for each of them and will give it to them when they graduate from High School. I usually read in front of them as they eat breakfast. I want them to see me read the Bible and then one day read what I was saying to them all those years ago. I pray it will be a reminder of the supremacy of Scripture above all else.
So far, I have partnered with several publishers, most recently working with PersonalizedBibles.com. They have a large selection of high-quality Bibles that you can add the name of your child or favorite passage of Scripture to the front. These Bibles would be great for graduations, baptisms, or the traditional first Bible.
Personalized Bibles gave me a leather journaling Bible that I will be journaling in for my oldest daughter. The leather is beautiful, and the craftsmanship is excellent. Her name is engraved beautifully on the front. I would highly recommend you take a look at the Bibles they offer.
This year was one of the more challenging years for me and many I know. In twenty-plus years of ministry, I have never had to meet with a therapist. I am not against them; I just have never felt the need. I never feel lonely, rarely get upset, and have never been depressed. I have experienced loss and have walked others through loss, but none of it has ever brought me to a place of anxiety. This year all that changed.
This year I felt like I failed. I felt like I was unable to protect the people God by his providence place in my care. That feeling started as a panic attack and grew into anxiety in a way I have never experienced in my life. I wasn’t prepared for how it made me feel and for how it affected me on an emotional level. It got to the point I had to see a professional counselor. We talked through it. He told me that what I had been through was traumatic. We talked about boundaries relationally and interestingly enough electronically. I took some steps to minimize my exposure to certain groups on social media, and I was surprised by how much it helped.
I didn’t realize why limiting my exposure to social media helped until I picked up a book I had heard a lot about called Digital Minimalism. In his book Cal Newport describes Digital Minimalism this way:
“Digital Minimalism A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”
Studies show that I’m not alone. In the Preventative Medicine Reports, they have done studies that have shown associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents. High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Fourteen to 17-year-olds spending 7+ h/day with screens (vs. 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely ever to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. High users of screens were also more likely to have seen or needed to have been seen by a mental health professional, and more likely to have taken medication for a psychological issue in the last 12 months.
The problem with most young people and many of us not so young people is that we fill every spare moment digesting digital information. The cracks in our lives are filled in, we have lost the art of solitude. We no longer remember how to be alone with ourselves. We fill our lives with the airbrushed curated moments of the lives of our digital friends and wonder why we are filled with anxiety.
It’s now possible to completely banish solitude from your life. Thoreau and Storr worried about people enjoying less solitude. We must now wonder if people might forget this state of being altogether.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,”
Over the years, I have taken some steps towards Digital minimalism. I rarely post pictures of my kids online; if I do, I never use their names. I also frequently delete the iPhone apps for social media sites off of my phone. This year however I plan to try and take more drastic steps to be a lifelong digital minimalist.
I have to regain the ability to be present with myself and those I love. I have to allow my mind to wander to process the truly painful things in my life rather than stuff them by mindlessly scrolling Instagram. When I am off screens, I come up with new ideas new thoughts. When I am on screens, I see what others are doing and say why didn’t I think of that. Envy replaces wonder.
I need to minimize the hold that my phone in general and social media, in particular, has on my life. Am I going to become a digital hermit? No. The ship has sailed on that. I have come up with a plan to minimize the hold that social media has on me. So that I am freer to enjoy the world around me, create more, and have hobbies, I appreciate that I can look at later and say, “I made that.”
Delete all social media apps and games on my phone. Block all access to social media even though the browser on my phone.
No longer click likes or post comments on other people’s posts. I have had several “Facebook fights,” and at the end of the day, they are still wrong (lol), and I’m upset over what they said or how I said something.
I still plan on using social media to post blog posts (which I hope to post more of not being on Instagram so much) and to pass on information and posts I found helpful.
Use my phone to listen to books on my commute, text, call, and write blog posts and start working on a book remotely.
Use my computer exclusively to check social media a few times a week.
I will still use social media for work-related issues just not as an anesthetic for the boredom that makes life….life.
I am going to remove the news app from my phone and all notifications. I will now get my news from Allsides.com free of ads and partisan nonsense.
A foundational theme in digital minimalism is that new technology, when used with care and intention, creates a better life than either Luddism or mindless adoption.
I don’t think everyone should do this. I am telling you all this, so you know why I may not like your pictures or posts. It’s not that I don’t want to connect with you that I want to try and regain the time to really connect with you, not just pretend that I am. Please text me or call me but know that if you send me things through Instagram or Facebook, it may be a while before I get back to you.
I don’t know if this will work, but from what I have seen from the electronic boundaries I have set already, I think it will be okay. This isn’t “goodbye” it’s just “I’ll get back to you just not really quickly.”
One common question I get from parents is around cell phones and screens. Parents want to know how much time is too much. They want to know how to filter content and protect their kids from harm. Their concerns are valid. In fact, parents who are concerned about the onslaught of social media and wired devices are the exception. Most parents today did not grow up as digital natives; they remember what the world was like before it became digitized.
The concerns around screen time are not only valid but are more severe than first realized. The empty streets that used to be filled with kids playing sports and riding bikes to stave off boredom are apparent all around us. The evidence of our kids sitting in front of screens is seen in the rise of childhood obesity. What is a newer revelation for parents is the connection between social media usage, screen time and mental health. A recent study has shown that “High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Fourteen to 17-year-olds spending 7+ h/day with screens (vs. 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely ever to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. High users are also twice as likely to have been seen by a mental health professional and to have taken medication for a psychological issue.”
So what do we do? In this ever-connected age, we feel helpless to fight this wave of connectedness. That, in reality, is producing a generation of kids who are more connected than ever but filled with more anxiety and loneliness than ever.
What do we do? Delay, Filter, and Monitor.
Delay – giving them a phone
You should delay giving your kids a cell phone for a bit longer than you feel comfortable. The benefits of waiting outweigh the convenience of being able to reach your kids whenever you want to reach them. I initially thought we would wait until sixteen when they start to drive. We ended up changing to 13 when they began taking long bus rides to sporting games for school. I didn’t want our kids looking on with other kids watching whatever their neighbor was watching. I wanted to be about to filter and monitor what they were consuming digitally.
Delay – letting them on social media
Kids who have a cell phone have texting and calling at their disposal. In the study I referenced earlier, the majority of the anxiety and depression seem to be linked to the use of social media. Kids need to be kids. Kids don’t need the anxiety of knowing they have been left out. Or be on the receiving end of comments on their Facebook or Insta that are hurtful. They don’t have the maturity to know that what they post is not private, and it survives forever even when they “delete” it from their wall.
Filter using iPhone settings.
Anything that requires a plug to a wall has a backdoor to the internet. Apple has made some excellent improvements to keep your kids safe. From the “Screen Time” section of your child’s phone, you can control who they talk to, set limits for apps, set downtimes when phone access and app access is limited. You can also share their settings to your phone. From your phone, you can then control the restrictions of your child’s phone from anywhere.
Adding restrictions to an iPhone a brief guide
3. Once in screen time, you will see options for each of the ways you can restrict your child’s phone. 1. Downtime – allows you to set bedtimes for your child’s apps and Phone access. 2. App Limits – will enable you to limit a particular app or family of apps like “games” to a set time of use. 3. Communication limits – limits who they can talk or text and when they can do so. 4. Always Allowed this allows certain apps to be accessible at all times. 5. Content & Privacy – This section limits adult sites, language thresholds, and as well as what level of movies you would like your kids to watch on their devices. It also allows you to keep them from making changes to the password of their phones. This means that they can’t remove your thumbprint of face recognition without putting a password you create. For a more in-depth guide to iPhone parental controls click here.
Filter using My Circle
With My Circle, you can choose appropriate (or block inappropriate) content by age. Customize settings to filter for individual family members and then apply to social media, videos, and games for both apps and websites. You can also make the internet stop for every family member (or just one). Tap Pause when it’s time to get going on homework, or if someone hasn’t cleaned their room. Hit unpause when you’re good to go. Lastly, you can check out sites visited and filtered throughout the day. Or go back as far as you like. And even set a Filter directly from the History view.
Monitor – Your Kids’ phone manually. Have access to their phones and check their text messages and other activities on their phones by looking through their phones randomly on a regular basis. This is not an invasion of privacy this is responsible parenting. If your kids object to this or give you any reason not to trust them with the phone you provide. TAKE THE PHONE AWAY.
Monitor – Your Kids’ phone automatically. If you want to monitor your kids’ text messaging automatically you can use Bark.us. Or if you didn’t head my advice and you caved and let your kids get social media you MUST get Bark. Bark connects to 24 platforms to monitor text messages, emails, and social activity for signs of harmful interactions and content. Click here for an overview of what Bark monitors. You get automatic alerts via email and text when Bark’s algorithms detect potential risks, so you don’t have to comb through every post and text.
Bottom line: Parenting isn’t easy don’t give up because the digital problem is so overwhelming. Fight for your kids they need you now more than ever.
I love the way a physical book feels the way a book smells when you have a physical book in their hand. There are few things better than a great book. I agree with Lewis who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” As much as I enjoy a physical book there are some books that are just easier to read and resource on the kindle. Likewise, there are some books that you have to listen to on audio because they are just that good. I would go so far as to say that you really should listen to these audiobooks rather than read the physical copy.
Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi – This book is the powerful recounting of the story of a Muslim looking for Allah and seeking truth and God in his mercy broke into his world and revealed himself to Nabeel in supernatural ways. The narration of the Book was by Nabeel himself it was a powerful story of conversion but why you should listen rather than read is hearing the emotion in Nabeel’s voice as he recounts the cost of following Christ as someone who grew up in a Muslim home. The cost was his family but the price was worth it. Such a powerful book you must listen to rather than read.
The Four Loves – By C.S. Lewis – Why would you not read a physical book by C.S. Lewis and listen to the audio instead? Well, when it’s the only recording of Lewis reading his own book. It’s, s to hear the voice of Lewis. A rare treat that you will thank me for later. Skip the book and go for the audio.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell – There is something about an author reading their own book they do a much better job conveying what they wrote but also the intangible emotions they felt when they wrote what they wrote. David and Goliath was a powerful book about the power of underdogs. In this book, Gladwell is at his best. I rarely cry reading books. The end of this book was one of the exceptions. Powerful. Much more power by audio than by the book.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This is a classic that is a must read. The audio recording was done by Sissy Spacek and was excellent and engaging. People often argue what is better the book or the movie I say neither the audio book was better.
Discipleship is something parents and pastors need to take seriously and engage in together. When I first started in kids ministry over twenty years ago, the primary discipleship of children was the responsibility of the church. Over the past ten years or so the pendulum has swung from the church being primary to the church pushing parents to be primary in the discipleship of their kids and the church cheering them on. The result has been in my opinion less discipleship.
The answer to the discipleship of the next generation is not either or but both and. How can the church be intentional about discipline kids and how can parents make church an important aspect of their kids lives because of that. At the same time, how can parents disciple their kids more intentionally and how can the church resource and encourage that?
Why church discipleship is necessary
If you crush whatever initiative you set up for parents to do at home, you will only get at best 25% to 30% participation leaving 70% without the benefit of your discipleship resource. If we only view discipleship as parent driven and avoid things like VBS and other church driven initiatives many kids will miss out. Another issue we need to address is some kids come to church with grandparents or friends, and their parents will never be the primary disciplers of their kids. As kids grow, their friends will have more influence on them than their parents. As a community of faith, we need to provide a place where kids can grow in their faith even if it isn’t a value at home.
Why home discipleship is necessary
The modern America family is more transient than ever. People move to different states, different churches, different denominations like never before in history. We may never have them long enough to develop their kids and nurture their faith so we need resources they can take with them on the journey. Particularly early in life parents have more influence than anyone else on who their kids are becoming. Parents need encouragement and help.
Here are some things we try to do at our church to disciple kids.
The goal of discipleship is not what we do to be acceptable to God but rather how is our conformity into the image of God affecting our life and practice. How are we intentionally forming the loves of our kid’s hearts? James K. A. Smith says it this way
“Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.”
This happens on purpose, not on accident. Not overnight but over time. May we as pastors and parents be curators of hearts rather than only informers of intellects.