Teen Life in Transition

Teen Life in Transition

With mixed feelings of sadness and gratitude, we wanted to let you know that our CEO, Ricky Lewis will be leaving Teen Life at the beginning of May. With his family, Ricky has decided to pursue an exciting ministry opportunity in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as a Chaplain and Bible Teacher. This role will involve helping the school rewrite their program and curriculum that directs the growth of students’ spiritual lives.

“I am excited about this role because of the challenge it will provide in a new culture, the way I will be able to use the skills I have been developing the last 10 years, and the opportunity this will be for our kids to experience life on the other side of the world, literally.”

Ricky Lewis has been with Teen Life from the very beginning, starting as Program Director in 2008, then he transitioned to Executive Director and CEO. He has played a critical role in helping Teen Life grow as an organization and has shaped our curriculum and Support Groups into what they are today. While we are going to miss Ricky and his family, we wish them the best as they transition to Africa and the ministry opportunities they will continue to encounter with teenagers across the world.

In the midst of this transition, we are also excited to announce that the Board of Directors has named Chris Robey as the new CEO of Teen Life. Chris joined us in 2012 as Program Director, and transitioned to COO in 2017. In 2001, he graduated from Midwestern State University with his Bachelors Degree. After this, he served as a youth minister in Vernon and Granbury, TX while earning his Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University in 2010. All of Chris’ experience and education has helped him to better equip Teen Life’s work with teenagers and families.

“I am thrilled to serve as the new CEO of Teen Life! Ever since I began as Program Director almost six years ago, it has always been about our work and mission in the schools we serve. I look forward to more students being served by our amazing facilitators through our Support Groups. Teenagers and schools are being equipped, encouraged and empowered through a program that is getting better and better every year. Our future is bright, and I’m glad you are a part of it!”

In addition to Chris’ new role in Teen Life, Karlie Duke will take on the new role of Marketing and Development Director for Teen Life. She will continue to oversee Teen Life’s communications while also assisting Chris with fundraising events and opportunities. We are also excited that Beth Nichols will be transitioning to a full-time role as Teen Life’s Program Director starting June 1, 2018. She has been instrumental in developing our Support Group program and equipping our volunteer facilitators, especially during this time of transition. We know that our school districts and facilitators are in good hands with Beth in the role of Program Director.

Exciting things are continuing to happen for Teen Life as we are looking to expand our Support Groups to Tennessee through a training in Nashville on April 17. We are thankful for your continued support as we navigate this transition, and encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.

Ricky, thank you again for almost 10 years of serving teenagers through Teen Life! We are praying for your family as you continue to equip, encourage, and empower teenagers.

The Power Of Service

The Power Of Service

This past Friday night, we hosted a packing party at the Birdville High School cafeteria. It was an amazing event that is also a fundraiser for Teen Life to keep offering our programs in the schools. For this event, we asked people to reach out to friends and family to sponsor them to come and serve by packing 10,000 meals for hungry kids in our area. This went over extremely well. It was so exciting to see everyone come together to fill bags with rice and nutrients that families without food can benefit from.

 

We were able to capture a time-lapse video of the event that you can watch below! As I put the clips together, watching the hustle and bustle that was going on and thinking about how much effort and dedication went into making this happen, I was blown away at how it all worked together.

 

I am writing this blog as much for me, and us as an organization, as I am to share with you. I believe there are some valuable principles that can be seen from an event like this.

 

In the past, we have hosted a 5K Run/Walk. The benefits of this have been amazing. People were exercising, accomplishing a goal, being outdoors. All of these benefits helped anyone that came feel better about themselves and doing it with others helped build a stong bond. So I am not arguing that this service focused event is better, but it is different and I would recommend it if you are hoping to help people connected to your organization experience some of these benefits.

 

  1. There is power in numbers. We packed 10,000 meals with around 70 people and that means over 1,600 families will receive a bag of food with 6 servings in it. These numbers are great! I am so glad that we could be a small part of providing something meaningful.
  2. It’s not about the recognition. The people that served and the ones that will receive the meals will likely never meet, and that’s exciting to me. The fact that people would put in 3 hours of work for people they don’t know and probably never will says a lot about the human race. We care for each other even from a distance.
  3. Modeling has huge benefits! We had around 20 elementary age kids show up to help pack meals. They were able to scoop the food, weigh it, carry it to the boxes and even tape the box. This is a big deal because it gave them the opportunity to know that the work they do is valuable. These kids packed over 600 meals with just a little help from parents. It was amazing to watch the joy they had working hard to get the job done.
  4. We had some “firsts” at this event. It was the first time we were at a local school. It was the first time we had a current student join us. It was the first time we had an alumni from one of our groups join us. It was the first time over $50,000 was raised! These partnerships, extended relationships, increased funds, and more exposure all mean that Teen Life has more opportunities to reach teenagers and change lives.
It was a process planning this event and it is hard to believe it is already over. Thinking through all of these things gets me excited about what next year could hold.

What is an event you have attended and noticed details that help you live better? Share them with us, we always love learning from you.

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
Why Empathy Matters

Why Empathy Matters

Tomorrow is our Feed the Need Packing Party, and we are so excited to help more teenagers through the meals packed and funds raised through this fundraiser.

As we prepare for this fundraiser, I can’t help but think of the faces and stories of teenagers that I get to work with on a weekly basis. Their pain is real. Their success changes lives. Their questions are relevant. Their stories change my perspective.

You may be asking yourself, “How deep can you really go with teenagers when you only see them once a week for an hour? Do they actually share? What could they be dealing with that could rival adult problems?”

You would be shocked.

I can learn more about a teen in a one-hour Support Group meeting than many people can find out over months.

How is this possible?

Empathy.

Empathy makes all the difference in the world. In these Support Groups, we are not asking questions because we want to be nosy, tell them what they are doing wrong, or even fix their lives. We ask questions because we want to step into life with them, even when it’s hard and there is no easy fix in sight.

I absolutely love the Brené Brown video below. She expertly describes the difference between empathy and sympathy while revealing the power of showing true empathy in difficult circumstances.

 

 

When you watch the video, you can see that empathy is a powerful tool, especially when dealing with teenagers.

Just this year alone, I have had teenagers tell me about:

  • Broken home lives where they are forced to choose who they want to live with.
  • Families who encourage drug use while they are trying to stay clean.
  • Fathers who bring their mistress into the home while mom tries to keep the family together.
  • 30-hour work weeks to help the family pay medical bills.
  • A fear of graduation because that is when they will be kicked out of their house.
  • Extreme racism and name calling in a work environment.

Do I have the answers to these problems? Can I come up with magic words to make the hurt go away?

Absolutely not!

But I can listen. I can tell them that I am so sorry they are having to deal with such difficult life circumstances. I can sit in a chair beside them and step into their world for an hour a week. I can give them a safe, judgement-free zone to talk about their lives and problems.

I can empathize.

I encourage you to try some of the tactics mentioned in the video and to avoid phrases like “at least.” Step into a teenager’s shoes, crawl down into the pit with them, and show that someone cares and wants to listen.

In order for us to continue to provide these Support Groups and show empathy, we have our annual fundraiser. And so I also encourage you to get involved with our fundraiser! You can donate, pray, volunteer or simply share our fundraising page with friends to raise more awareness and help us reach our goal. It is not too late to make a difference in the lives of teenagers – join us!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Feed the Need

Feed the Need

Last Summer, I wrote a post called Helping When It Hurts about what we can do in the midst of hunger and pain. It was mainly inspired by a trip I took to Haiti where I held the hands and looked into the faces of children who were hungry and in need of help. I think it is easy to think of Haitians or other starving children around the world when we think of hunger. However, hunger does not just exist in third-world countries. Hunger is in your neighborhood, your kid’s school, on the end of your pew in church. Don’t believe me? According to Voly.org:

  • In Texas 1 in 4 children (1.8 million) are hungry or at risk of hunger—the 2nd highest number of food insecure children among all 50 states.
  • Tarrant County is one of 19 counties in the nation with more than 100,000 food-insecure children.
  • Texas ranks as the third highest state in household food insecurity.

I don’t know about you, but those statistics are shocking to me!

That is why Teen Life is changing up its annual #TL5K for a Feed the Need event! Instead of holding a 5K walk/run, our Spring Fundraiser will end with a Packing Party on April 21st where our fundraisers and volunteers will get together to assemble 10,000 meals that will be distributed to hungry students in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

We meet with students every week who have hard home-lives, who work overtime to make extra money to support their families, who need just a little extra help. We are so excited about the opportunity to not only equip, encourage and empower teenagers through Support Groups, but to also provide teens with the physical resources they need.

But how can you help? We would love for you to join us in our efforts to change teenagers’ lives by partnering with us in one (or more!) of the following ways:

 

You can fundraise.

This fundraiser is different from most other fundraisers. People do not pay to be a part of an event; instead, people sign up to be fundraisers and ask friends and family to sponsor them for the Feed the Need Event. It is pretty simple! As a fundraiser, you will have a personal link that you can text, email or post about. We have found that people are eager to give to a cause that you and they believe in.

If you would like to sign up to become a fundraiser and join us at our Packing Party Celebration on April 21st, go to this link and click “Become a Fundraiser.” You can sign up at any point and start making a difference by raising funds to help teenagers!

 

You can sponsor.

We are also looking for corporate sponsors to partner with us and make this event one to remember! We have a Corporate Sponsorship Packet that you can look over and choose the level that works best for you. We love our business partners and especially love the way they invest in our students and community.

If you would like to be a sponsor, you can either give online here or mail a check to our office at 2501 W. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, TX 76092.

 

You can pray.

We need people to be in prayer for this event, the students who will receive the meals they pack, and the future students who will experience Support Groups because of the money raised over the next month. We have a prayer team that receives specific prayer requests and meets to pray over the direction of Teen Life and the lives that are reached because of the generous people who support us.

To join our Feed the Need Prayer Team, you can email me! I will make sure you start getting our Prayer Team Updates.

So, what do you think? How will you join our efforts to equip, encourage and empower teenagers?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
and a Happy New Year!

and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas…and a Happy New Year from Teen Life!

We hope that you had a blessed Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. Once again, thank you for your continued support and encouragement. 2016 was our biggest year yet, and we are excited to continue to encourage, equip and empower teenagers to live life better! In case you have missed our last few updates, this year we presented at a National Conference, trained counselors to lead Teen Parent Support Groups in schools and served more school districts than ever before. We are excited for what 2017 will bring, but we need your help to continue growing and serving teenagers! It is not too late to give before the year is over and impact the lives of even more teens. Simply go to this link, watch our new awesome video and give online. Thank you for making the work we do with teen possible!

The Future of America

The Future of America

It’s that time again…election season.

Election time means many things:

  • The media is full of candidates, debates and campaign ads.
  • Our Facebook feeds only consist of articles about why you should vote for him or her.
  • Adults are stressed and concerned about the future of our nation.
  • TV become extra nasty with debates and “approved messages”.

And where does this leave our teenagers? For many, they are finally old enough to be aware of what is happening, but they don’t have any power if they are under 18. For some, it is their first time to get to vote! They are excited, confused and overwhelmed.

Teen Life exists to provide a safe place for teenagers to have difficult conversations. What is more difficult than politics? As a parent, teacher, counselor or mentor, you have an incredible opportunity to model for teenagers how to have difficult discussions in a safe environment. Take this time to have discussions and allow them to ask questions. They don’t have to agree with you, and you don’t need to lecture, but bring them along on this political journey so that they are prepared when it is their turn to vote.

Voting for the future President of the United States of America is important. Educating and raising up a new generation of Americans is just as important. This election season, let’s take the time to consider teenagers. Talk to them about candidates, why you choose to vote, and who you choose to vote for.

Here are a few steps to involve your teenager in the voting process:

 

Talk about the issues.

What policies are important to you? What beliefs do your family hold?

How do you feel about:

  • Abortion
  • Equal Pay
  • Gun Control
  • Same Sex Marriage
  • Obamacare
  • National Debt
  • Marijuana Legalization
  • Syrian Refugees
  • Nuclear Energy

These are just some of the important policies that could be affected by this election. The first step to educating your teenager should be to make sure they are aware of all sides. Present the facts, have a civil conversation, and allow them to ask questions and draw their own conclusions.

 

Consider the candidates. 

Now that you have talked about the issues and policies, who should you vote for? Are you Republican, Democrat, Libertarian? Will you vote based on a candidate’s beliefs or likability?

If you haven’t already, go to isidewith.com to see how your views line up with the current candidates. Take this quiz with your teenager and then let them take it themselves. It is a great resource and way to talk about the candidates in a format that teenagers will find interesting. Instead of pulling out charts and news articles, let them actively be involved in their choice.

 

Be prepared to vote,

Now you have discussed the issues and looked at all the candidates! But part of the voting process is making sure that you are ready to vote. Since every state has different requirements, look up your state voting information here.

Here are some things to consider before November 8th:

  • Are you registered to vote?
  • Do you need to submit an absentee ballot? (Check the deadline – it’s soon!)
  • Would you like to vote early?
  • Where do you go to vote? You can find that information here with your address.
  • Do you have a valid ID to vote?

Walk teenagers through this process so that they are prepared and informed for their opportunity to vote.

 

Let’s show this next generation of voters that they can have a voice. They can be calm and well-informed. They can have the impact of the future of our nation. Have you talked to your teenager about the election? How else can we involve them in this process? Share with us and share this post with a friend!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.