The National Prayer Breakfast & Shelterwood

My wife, Janice and I, just returned home from an encouraging couple of days at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. This annual event brings together 4,000 men and women from all 50 states and 140 countries. Together we shared in conversations about Christ and the hope that He offers for the problems that we face as individuals and nations today.

We were moved and deeply inspired by a powerful line up of speakers. These individuals shared with us how and why Jesus is the key to peace and purpose in their own individual lives.

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett – Shared their remarkable testimonies about how Jesus is at work in the entertainment industry of Hollywood. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe – Spoke about how Jesus has protected her and provided for her as she faces the cruelest of enemies in Uganda. She prays to God daily that she might “see Jesus in the face of my enemies, and that they would see Jesus in me.”

Dr. Ken Blanchard – Shared with us about his journey as a management and leadership expert. He invited us in to understand the specific ways in which his career led him to renewed faith in Jesus. He now travels the world talking about the leadership principles of Jesus.

President Obama – Shared in humility how the pressure of the office has driven him to his knees. He helped us better understand how faith was the key to helping him deal with fear.

Dayton Moore, the General Manager of the World Champion Kansas City Royals, painted for us a picture of how his faith in Jesus has guided his decisions, and how he has learned to “fight on his knees.”

Throughout the week, there were hundreds of gatherings of people from varied backgrounds, ethnic groups, nations, and religions collectively together meeting around the teachings and person of Jesus.

Shelterwood was well represented at the event.

Our former Board Chairman, Ronnie Cameron, was recognized at the closing dinner as one of the six key leaders in the Prayer Breakfast movement. Ronnie and Nina got involved in Shelterwood nearly twenty years ago. A good friend of Ronnie and Nina had a son who attempted suicide several times. They were luckily able to connect this family with Shelterwood. That same young man is now a seminary graduate, happily married, and the father of three beautiful children. His story is a powerful example of restoration and hope we believe in for every family through the power and healing of Jesus Christ.

Also in attendance was our current Board Chairman, Rodney Moss and his wife, Shelly. Their daughter Hannah was at Shelterwood in 2011 and 12, and Hannah is now a successful student at Texas A&M University. Rodney and Shelly not only put their hope in Christ but they also have put their hope the work of Shelterwood as they have come to see and know other families, just like them, who have been greatly impacted by Shelterwood.

One of the most encouraging parts of the weekend for my wife Janice and I, was connecting with Giovani Scardino. Gio graduated from Shelterwood in 2012. While Gio was at Shelterwood, he decided then and there to take his future seriously and he decided to take ownership of his faith. He attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, and he has been an active participant in the National Student Leadership Forum ( ever since. It was a blessing to visit with Gio and his family and see the personal growth in him. We are so proud of this young man and we are so encouraged to see him pursue an academic degree. It brings us much joy to see young adults like Gio pursuing all that Christ has for them.

We believe this generation needs a vision for their lives and a purpose that is bigger than themselves. We confidently believe Jesus is the real and only hope for this generation. It brings us deep encouragement to know that there will be an event this summer gathering together one million young people who will be descending on the Mall at Washington DC around the person of Jesus to pray for our country. We are not only excited about what God is doing in our country, but we are also grateful to God for allowing us to participate in His wonderful work of restoring hope and purpose in the lives of many teens and their families at Shelterwood today.

Parenting Relationships

thoughtful med 300x200 Parenting RelationshipsMost of our Shelterwood parents are exemplary. They are, by and large, good, kind, compassionate and loving people. They have tried everything they can at home to deal with the behavioral and emotional issues of their teenager, and yet it hasn’t worked. They have most often also placed their child in counseling.   However, by the time they begin considering residential care, they are often exasperated, troubled and even fearful about the trajectory of their teen’s decisions and life, and they find themselves at a complete loss about what to do.

So, you might be asking, “What is happening?” Why are so many “good” families struggling with their teenagers today?” There is much discussion about this issue today.   However, in my personal opinion, I don’t see the answer as being any one thing, but as a combination of many factors.

Perhaps you remember the movie, The Perfect Storm. In this movie, several weather related phenomena converged together at the same time to create a monster storm. In a real sense, I believe this is a picture of what is happening with today’s teens.   There has been a convergence of several “storms” on this generation of teens that has created a monster storm.   These storms include the cultural impact that media, social media, and electronic media have had on our teens.

This storm includes the shift in cultural values to moral relativism over the past few decades.  No matter what the kids have heard at home, the culture has told our kids that there are no moral absolutes.   In fact, study after study reveals that most teens today think sex outside of marriage, cheating in school, lying, etc., are all acceptable under certain circumstances. We shouldn’t really be surprised, because these are the values that the culture has been promoting.

The storm also includes the impact of Freudian thought on parenting which really began to take hold in the 1960’s. This brought real confusion to parents on effective child rearing, and challenged time-honored beliefs concerning child rearing and family development.

And I believe this storm also includes the lowering of expectations we have for kids during their teen years.  The teen years have become, for many teens, an extended period of leisure, which has helped create a sense of misguided entitlement among them and also led many of them into depression and confusion.

These issues, along with others, has created a “perfect storm,” impacting the healthy development of teenagers, and the parents’ ability to help their children navigate the teen years effectively.

I cannot overstate the influence of the media, social media and the Internet on this generation.   The competing voices for the attention of our kids has never been louder and more divisive. As Moms and Dads, we are each selective regarding the folks that we will allow into our home. And we are even more selective regarding the people that we will allow to spend “one-on-one” time with our kids.   We want to protect our kids from those who don’t share our values and whose influence we believe would be damaging to our children.

Yet, through the electronic media, parents by the millions are daily allowing people into their homes to influence their children whom they would otherwise never allow to even darken the door of their homes. These destructive influences are entering our homes through the Internet, the television, and the phone. And even if we monitor the electronic media in our homes well, and keep these people out of our homes, our kids are still often exposed to them on their friends’ phones or computers.

It is not simply the “content” that is a concern (porn for example). It is the values behind the content that is equally insidious and yet often less apparent.

An interesting UCLA study done a number of years ago showed that the top five values emphasized in popular children’s television shows were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. Our kids today have been brought up in a media culture that has told them that “being famous” is the most important value. Morality, godliness, self-respect and service for others have been replaced by the desire to be famous.

So, in this “Social Media Age” when kids want to be “known” more than ever, kids are actually lonelier than ever.   They live in a culture where wearing masks is the norm, and appearance and image is everything.

At Shelterwood, we begin to address this, and teens are disconnected from “the matrix” and electronic media for the first few months they are with us. Their phones, computers, iPads, etc. are all taken from them.   The only access they have to a computer is in their classroom at school.

%name Parenting RelationshipsOur teens then learn one another’s stories at Shelterwood. They learn to take off their masks, and to communicate. Very quickly, our teens learn that everyone at Shelterwood is dealing with something, so our teens learn to get very honest very quickly. They also have to learn to work through conflict with one another. Because they are living together, they can’t just avoid issues.

Kids that have been raised over the past twenty years are the first generation of kids to have been raised under this avalanche of electronic media. Their parents were raised with only a television in the home and a limited number of channels. However, our kids have been raised with a electronic media all around them: in their hands, their pockets, and by their bedsides 24/7. Studies are just now beginning to try to understand the influence of electronic media on brain development, and emotional and relational development.

It has been my observation that most teenagers come to us with relationships that are an inch deep and a mile wide. Most teens have not learned how to really develop deep, healthy, and accountable friendships.   They have become experts at texting and Twitter, at promoting an “image,” but they are often stunted in their ability to really communicate, and build honest relationships of trust and depth. Yet this is one of their greatest desires, to be really known and loved.

Screen Shot 2015 03 19 at 12.57.23 PM 300x227 Parenting RelationshipsAnd at Shelterwood, we believe in the value of neurological development as well.   Clearly many kids today are struggling with neurological and developmental issues. While all the reasons for this are still being debated, including the potential negative influence of “screen time” on neurological development, what cannot be debated is that there is a growing problem. We have seen tremendous results from our neurological therapy, called Brain Balance. About half the teens in our program are also enrolled in this therapy. My own son, diagnosed with autism at the age of five, has made tremendous strides through this therapy.   He is now twenty-two years old, and we have had him in Brain Balance therapy for two years.

Clearly, each teen comes to us with his or her own unique set of behavioral, emotional, educational, relational, spiritual, physical, chemical and neurological challenges. No teens are exactly alike. Therefore our treatment strategy with each teen is unique as well.

%name Parenting RelationshipsNevertheless, perhaps the most important thing we do at Shelterwood is the tremendous emphasis we place on our young adult staff and their roles as mentors for our teen residents.   Teenagers are going to follow someone that they think is “cool.” So, as parents, one of our primary responsibilities is to expose our kids to young adult role models that share our values, who our teens will think are “cool.” You cannot put a price on the value of the positive influence that a healthy young adult can have on the development of a teenager.

When our teens stand up at graduation, they typically thank three groups of people. They thank bigs 300x245 Parenting Relationshipstheir parents for making the tough decision to send them to Shelterwood, and for staying the course. They thank the other residents in the program, for they have often developed some very deep friendships. And they thank the young adult staff for their love, service and sacrifice. There are some deep and lasting bonds that are often built between our young adult staff and our teens.  The counselors and teachers have a huge supportive role in the development of these teens as well; however, the value of the relationships between our young adult staff and these teens seems to be central in their minds. They do such a fantastic job!

Jim Subers
Shelterwood CEO

Let’s all just take a break

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 12.17.20 PM 300x204 Lets all just take a breakWho doesn’t have a busy schedule these days?  There has certainly been an increase in the pace of the American family! If family life used to cruise at 50 mph, it is now traveling at 100 mph. Certainly fueled by the acceleration of electronics, what was fast 20 years ago is not acceptable today. 120 years ago, if someone missed the stagecoach, they unpacked their bags and planned to catch another coach the next month. Today, if the plane is delayed a few minutes, the crowd freaks out.

Certainly, cell phones and computers have increased organization and productivity, but in the family, they have also increased the stress level. Today’s teenagers live at a frantic pace so different from my teenage years of the 70’s. I recall afternoons coming home from school, grabbing a snack from the kitchen and watching Gilligan’s Island on TV. I played sports and during those seasons, we had practices every afternoon, but only during the seasons. Summers were spent at camp and just “hanging out” with my family and friends.

Today, year-round sports mean the domination of athletics 365 days a year. A friend told me the other day that his son’s football coach was reluctantly giving his players a week off in the summer. Crazy. Year-round schooling and academic pressures demand that teens spend more time than ever in the books. The increase in “electronics” means that text messages, email, and phone calls are accessible all the time.

As parents, we need to help dictate the pace of the family. I’m not suggesting we live like the Jews of old who wouldn’t even walk more than 8 steps on the Sabbath. We don’t need to pull our kids out of sports or take away their cell phones. But I am suggesting that parents prayerfully step into the pace of the family. Kids and teenagers (and adults) all need down time. And the “down” is different for all of us. Today, as I was praying with Jeanie, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for a restful day.” Jeanie asked me later “was today really restful? You mowed the yard and cleaned out gutters.” “Yes,” I replied. “It was restful because I chose what I wanted to do.” Stress ensues when our schedules are dictated for us. Sure, ultimately our time is God’s time and we yield to His will, but we make loving choices everyday to make wise choices in setting our schedules.

Parents, step up and in and help your teenager set boundaries. Help them establish “gaps” in their busy schedule and find a little down time. Every hour doesn’t have to be filled with an activity. Don’t dictate to them but teach them. Of course, it’s easier to teach what we practice, so take inventory of your own pace first. We all need down time to just chill and read, exercise, watch TV, mow grass and most importantly, spend time with family and with God.

Make down time a priority for your family. Unplug the electronics and enjoy the time of Sabbath.

Should men support feminism?

How are the women in your life affected by sexism? That can be a fairly typical question in regards to feminism. Women have traditionally been the ones at the center and spotlight of feminism discussions.

This weekend Emma Watson, famed Harry Potter actress, challenged us to ask another question.

How are the men in our lives affected by sexism?

Watson, the United Nation’s Good Will Ambassador, spoke at the UN’s summit to discuss the new initiative, HeForShe. In doing so, she urged men to take a stand for feminism.

You can access her speech here:

Watson speaks against the traditional view of feminism as “man-hating”. She turns the tables and says that men are hurt just as much by sexism. She points to her own father’s role in the family being valued less by society. She points to the extreme pressure for me to be “successful” adds to high suicide rates for men.

Watson says, “It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves”

Our girls are not the only ones affected, but so are our boys. Media can have a huge impact on teens and the pressure they feel to conform to certain standards and have certain roles. There can be a lot of peer pressure to fit a certain image. Opening up conversations with your teen about what sexism means can be an excellent avenue to discuss the specific pressures your teen is dealing with. Pressure to conform to expectations within those roles can add pressure and stress to your teen. Opening up discussions about sexism and gender equality can help them to feel seen and heard as they navigate adolescence and make their way into young adulthood.