Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Insanity break


"Adult in Training Youth Ministry Program" v0.1

I previously posted an idea I had for a Youth Ministry "Position Book".  One of the people that I had talked to about this remembered it, and he wants to help me take this project to the next stage.  So we're going to talk it through some more, refine it, and then present it to Dr. Wilgus when he is back in Austin in September.

Dr. Ken Wilgus is a believer from the metroplex who works as a youth and family counselor.  From his counseling experience he has put together a parenting action plan.  His big idea is that the whole point of parenting a teenager is that the parents need to actively prepare the youth for adulthood by granting the youth more and more autonomy and responsibility.  Dr. Wilgus calls these youth "adults in training" (AiT).

Dr. Wilgus has a great presentation on this.  He likens a teenager to an island nation that is being ruled from afar by the parents.  His vision is for the parents to begin granting the teenager limited autonomy in several areas of their lives:
  • The clothes they wear.
  • The music they listen to.
  • Their hair style.
  • Their friends.
  • Their homework.
  • and others.....
The idea is to give the AiT more and more freedom, and the responsibility that comes with it.  Parents are responsible for deciding the time table upon which an AiT gains their freedom and responsibility over each area of their lives.  The teenager learns how to make decisions, and grows up into adulthood before they leave the house.

Youth Ministry:
If that is the new model of parenting, then youth ministry needs to be adjusted to match it.  To a large degree, youth ministry is an extension of parenting.  And just as parents have to adapt and learn new skills in order to carry out this planned withdrawal, youth ministries will need to adapt in order to better fulfill their roles in this new plan.

The New Program:
I am calling this new youth ministry program the "Adult in Training Youth Ministry Program" (AiTYMP).  (If you come up with a better name, please share.....)  All of this is subject to change, but this is what I think the AiTYMP consist of:
  • Focus on teaching the AiT decision-making skills.
  • A published set of roles and responsibilities for the youth ministers, parents, and teenagers.
  • A published schedule of when to cover the various social topics.
  • A published outline of what will be presented on each topic:
  • - The clear 'sin' boundaries found in Scripture.
  • - The range of options that godly people could choose.
  • - The youth ministry's recommendation(s).
  • A presentation and workbook for parents whose kids enter the program.
  • A course for youth ministry volunteers who will be teaching in the program.

When teenagers enter the program they need to be told on the first day that they will be learning decision-making skills in order to learn how to be an adult.  That is the point and focus of the program.

There needs to be an outline for how to make godly decisions.  Off the top of my head the outline looks something like this:
  • Study Scripture
  • Pray
  • Seek godly counsel
  • Flee temptations
  • Defer decisions whenever possible (in order to keep your options open.)
There is a lot of meat in there.  Bible stories take on new meaning as lessons in decision-making and finding God's will.  Much of what the world tells us to pursue can be covered under the heading of 'flee temptations'. So we're not making a sea change in what is taught in the youth ministry, we're just re-organizing it and providing a larger context for making it meaningful to the teenagers' lives.

Roles and Responsibilities:
It is always important for everyone to understand their roles and what everyone else is expecting of them.  Here we have a beautiful opportunity to clarify this for everyone.  This should provide everyone with peace-of-mind and common vocabulary for the journey.  The roles and responsibilities need to be communicated to the parents, especially.  This is the first key way in which parents can be brought into the whole Adult in Training program.

Like everything else here, this is all subject to change.  But I think that the roles and responsibilities break down like this:
- Youth ministry volunteers:
  • Teach the material.
  • Offer godly counsel.

- Parents:
  • Decide when an AiT is ready for a certain freedom/responsibility.
  • Communicate this schedule to their AiT.
  • Enforce consequences when an AiT fails to live up to their responsibility.
  • Make the final decision on lifestyle options that may be practiced while the AiT is living in the parents' house.

- Teens:
  • Communicate their desires for freedom/responsibility to their parents.
  • Learn the material.

The Schedule:
If we wait and talk about an issue after the AiT has already faced the temptation then probably they will fail the test and succumb to the temptation.  That's why we have to teach and prepare the AiT before they face the various temptations.  This will be hard for most parents to accept.

But the youth ministry needs to present each topic before the AiT run into it out in the world.  That may mean that almost every topic needs to be covered very very early, in a very high level--because the world is throwing smoking, drugs, sex, rock & roll, pornography, and violence at the kids at a very young age.

This will cause a constant problem that may be the Achilles' heel of the program.  AiTs will be taught about every topic before the parents are ready to give them freedom and responsibility in that area.  There might be a few early bloomers and liberal parents, but for the great majority of cases the youth program will be the first place that the AiT hear about topics such as:
  • pornography
  • family violence
  • drugs
  • suicide
  • etc.
The parents need to be brought up to speed on this before their AiTs enter the program.  The youth workers need to constantly remind the AiTs that they are teaching ahead of the temptations, and ahead of the time that their parents grant them the freedom/responsibility.

The Topics:
(You know the list.  I'll fill that in later.)

For every social topic that is covered, there are several key questions that must be discussed:
  • What are God's boundaries (at what points are you sinning)?
  • If there is room for interpretation on that boundary, then why do we interpret the way we do?
  • What does temptation in this area look like?
  • How do you know if you are being tempted to sin?
  • If you have fallen to temptation in this area, how should you change your behavior to guard against continuing to sin?
  • If someone you know has fallen to temptation in this area, how should you treat them?
  • What are the types of options that you could choose, without sinning?
  • What factors should you consider when making this decision for yourself?
The sin question is the other potential Achilles' heel of this program.  Every church is going to need to customize this program to suit their own beliefs.  Some families will bounce from church to church looking for a ministry program that agrees with them on every sin definition.

I think that a youth minister is going to have to take this program idea to the leaders of his/her church, and have the leaders of the church discuss and decide on those sin definitions.  A youth minister who is left defending definitions that he/she wrote will be out of a job quickly.

This is probably the part of the program that you are most skeptical about.  I agree.  Before we can say that we have a program at all, we are going to have to write up one or two of these.  I think this is the outline:
  • Topic
  • Relevant Scriptures
  • Clear sin situations (we would doubt the salvation of anyone who argued these)
  • Debatable sin situations (might be sin or could lead to sin very easily, but we would not exclude anyone from full fellowship over these.)
  • Our congregation's suggested boundaries / lifestyle / practice for a sin-free life.
  • Recommendations for someone caught in this sin.

The Presentation:
Parents should be urged to attend the program entry presentation.  Where I said 'published', above, I meant that the parents would be handed these items at the entry presentation.  This is what I was referring to as the 'youth ministry position book' in my previous article.

The presentation should be a short form of Dr. Wilgus's presentation.  The parents should be invited to participate in an adult learning community like the Parenting Adolsecents class, as a follow-up to the presentation.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Light posting for the last week

I have been focused on Pray with Friends, lately.  I should be making a big announcement on that front this week.  I'm over the first big hump.  I believe in the project more now than when I started.  I think you'll like it when you see it.

I've had a job interview, and have a second interview with the same company tomorrow afternoon.  Interesting company with technically complex products.  I've spent a good deal of time studying their products in preparation for the interviews.

Georgia's birthday party was this past weekend, with tons of prep work to get the house and family ready.

I've started about 6 posts that got interrupted before I could finish them.  One of those is a really big Future Shock Applied post about the "digital economy".  After I started it I realized that I was completely wrong, and I had to re-think the whole situation.  That post will be a new high-water mark, once I get it done.

I don't know if you remember my idea for a Youth Ministry position book.  Someone does.  I got an email about it this morning.  It was a cryptic invitation to talk about the idea.  That really piqued my curiosity.  I've had trouble not thinking about that today.  I'm about to write up (and post, if I don't get interrupted again) my new thoughts on that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cognitive bias

Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has shared a really nice presentation covering cognitive biases.  I really want a large wall poster of this to hang next to my desk and reference whenever I am making a decision.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Government cannot execute citizens

The NYTimes is reporting that the CIA has executed an American citizen, with no trial or due process.
"The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy."
This man has spoken out for attacks against the US.  He is not accused of ever committing an act of violence against us himself.  There is an accusation that he might have been planning an attack.

Uneasy is not the word for it.  This is completely and totally unacceptable.  The government cannot kill a citizen based upon what that citizen says.

I have been trying to live my life independent of direct involvement in politics.  I have tried to stay on the sidelines.   Now I know that the government can and will kill me if I say something that they don't like.  Now O have to get involved.

How do I get involved without getting killed?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The heart of marketing

If you are interested in marketing then you have to watch this video.

How does Apple generate such a dedicated following?  This guy has the best answer I have seen,  Market from the inside out.

Brain training

I ran across a memory game that appears to be scientifically proven to make you smarter--at least in one specific way.  I've felt for a long time that chess has made me smarter.  Really, any problem-solving challenge that makes you think deeply should improve your overall intelligence.

This game, Dual N-Back, promises to increase your memory and your ability to reason in new situations.

This game was developed as an extended version of a game that was developed in psychological tests that accomplished the goals of improving memory and reasoning skills.  The game page includes several links to studies and articles.  I would suggest starting with the Wired article.

I have not downloaded and installed it yet.  I think I'm going to finish the Pray with Friends coming soon page and get that posted before I take on any new challenges.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pray with Friends status update II

Learning several new languages to the point of productivity is harder than I thought.  I keep backing down my goals and changing my expectations.  I'm still plugging away at it, slowly but surely.  Here's the current plan and status.

I am writing a small "coming soon" page.  This page contains a whole lot of the functional code that the application will be using, like the javascript and CSS layout code and the Ajax and database code.  This lets me conduct a functional test of my code before the whole application is ready.  If I have a bug (like it doesn't work on Macs) then I need to find that out sooner rather than later.

That page will have a pretty complete description of the application, including a short intro video and a sample prayer.  It will also have a small form that people can fill out to sign up for updates about the application.

I will start alerting you good people to check it out and send your prayer-inclined friends over once this page is posted.

Once the page is posted I will get back to work on the core application itself.  I have the framework.  I have many of the foundational functional pieces done.  And I am learning a lot about the rest of it by pushing this "coming soon" page through to completion.  There is still a lot left to do, but I have just about cleaned out all of the unknown-unknowns and gotten all of the work onto my known work list.  That is actually huge progress.

Right now it looks like the application is going to launch as a stand-alone web page.  You sign up there.  You get a prayer journal.  You invite friends.  When they sign up you get notified.  You can choose a friend (or friends) to share each prayer request with.  And after you pray you get a page with advice and suggestions for ministering to those friends that you prayed for.

I will also have a questionnaire or discussion board of some sort within the application where I can post questions about new features and ask questions.  Once I get some people in the site I will start working on new features based upon their feedback.

Version one will have a 'donate' button.  Version two or three will probably get links to buy flowers for your friends, or buy gifts for them.  That is my revenue stream--reseller/affiliate commissions on whatever people buy through the site.  It won't be much, but it should be something.

The more I look at Facebook the more I lean towards just making the application "connected to Facebook" instead of embedded within Facebook.  Facebook is opening their kimono more and letting people link in to their database more directly.  And doing that avoids the hassle of having to re-write the majority of my application in order to get it to fit within the Facebook page-frame (even though I have architected it to allow for that.)  We'll see.  Facebook is bound to change before I get ready to make that decision.....

I'd love to hear your feedback and ideas.

New theHiringSurvey video

I made some small updates on the page and added a new video I shot today.

Please click over there and take a look.  I need some honest feedback on whether or not the video is ok.  There was some small parts that I wanted to edit better, but I just couldn't get my editing software to do what I think it should do.  I still have the script.  I can re-shoot it, if you folks think it needs to be re-shot.

If you haven't taken the survey then the video appears at the top of the page.  If you have taken the survey then it appears at the bottom of the (shorter) page, below the sharing options.

I have almost 300 surveys now.  But I need some extra kick to get to the next level.

What do you think about the video?  Please be honest.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The problem of debt

Early in our marriage Christy and I racked up a lot of debt.  We had a rough patch where our credit cards were maxed out and charging us 18% interest.  We had to live with Troy and Christy (thanks again, Bollingers!) for 10 months because we couldn't afford to pay rent and our credit cards at the same time.  It was a humbling and difficult experience.

Greece is going through that right now.  The Greek debt is threatening to break up the European Union.

America's debt is about to do the same thing.  We are about to have to cut deeply on public spending and divert a tremendous amount of our tax dollars to paying off our debt.  This will be virtually impossible to accomplish through the normal political process--no congress-person will want to take the blame for cutting some constituent's programs.

Employment will dominate the 2012 election cycle.  Debt and spending cuts will dominate the 2016 and 2020 elections.