10 Years of Thankfulness

10 Years of Thankfulness

Hopefully you aren’t tired of celebrating 10 years of Teen Life, because we would not be celebrating if it wasn’t for YOU.

This year, we are thankful for many things, but as we reflect on Thanksgiving Day, we can’t help but show our appreciation to those who have been part of Teen Life for the last 10 years, and especially to those who have impacted the life of a teenager.

So here we go.

Thank you to our staff and board who have poured time, dreams, and vision into Teen Life. Thank you for having a passion and love for teenagers – life lived better started with you. Each idea and encouragement has had a direct impact on the lives of teenagers!

Thank you to our incredible volunteers. You are the ones who make our Support Groups come to life each and every week. You take time out of your busy day to play with play doh, color with crayons, and talk about meaningful topics like relationships, stress, and courage. You are empowering teens, whether you ever get thanked by the students themselves or not.

Thank you to the donors and supporters of Teen Life. Your belief in Teen Life and the future of teenagers cannot be overlooked! You have donated money, resources, expertise, food, baby items, time and so much more. You may not always get to see the faces of the teenagers who are part of Teen Life Support Groups, but you are the reason schools can have free groups on their campus.

Thank you to the counselors and school staff who advocate for students each week. We are honored that we get to partner with you to provide resources to teenagers. You are the voices they trust and the people they look to long after the Teen Life groups end. Thank you for opening your campus and trusting us with your students. Your role and commitment to teens in invaluable!

Thank you to all of the students who choose to be a part of Teen Life Support Groups. You challenge us, make us laugh, make us think, and always keep us on our toes. Thank you for your honesty, candidness, and trust. You are the reason we do this – the reason we recruit, volunteer, create curriculum, and show up every week.

I could go on and on – but I am sure it would turn into one of those Oscar speeches that is way too long and still forgets someone important! We could never express our thankfulness for the last 10 years adequately, but Teen Life’s mission, vision, and growth is because of you.

You are our reason for the season. So humbly, we thank you.

We also encourage you to reach out to who you are thankful for today! Maybe it is a teen in your life or a family member. Maybe you want to reach out to a teacher, youth minister, counselor, or adult who was instrumental in your teen years. Thank those you love, those you just met, or the person who encourages you to keep going. Let’s not let this holiday or season pass without thanking those around us.

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Repost: Promoting Thankfulness

Repost: Promoting Thankfulness

I originally wrote this post two years ago. A lot can change in two years…but the importance of promoting thankfulness, especially among teenagers, has not changed! I hope this post still holds ideas and inspiration for this holiday season.

 

November is one of the only times of year that is set aside for everyone to be thankful.

We are thankful for food, family, and football.

But especially right now, many people seem to be struggling with thankfulness. Maybe they aren’t thankful for our recent election, their job situation, the fact that Texas doesn’t have a real Fall…the list could go on and on. But teenagers and our kids are watching us! If we aren’t thankful, why should they be?

This holiday season, let’s be intentional about our thankfulness. Maybe this year, we need to step up our game and make it more than a just a Thanksgiving Day deal. Being thankful can be an everyday thing! In fact, there are several ways that thankfulness and gratitude can positively affect your quality of life!

Here are a few ideas to promote thankfulness in your family and make it special for teenagers this holiday season:

 

Include them in the Thanksgiving preparations.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that takes a lot of hard work, cooking and preparation. When you’re a little kid, it’s awesome because you get to sleep in, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and be served food followed by pie. However, it is time for us to get our children, and especially teenagers, involved in the day.

If you’re like me, I am even more thankful for things when I know how much work and effort went into making it happen. Plus, this is a family holiday! Take advantage of that family time by passing on family recipes and traditions in the kitchen!

  • Have them help with the turkey
  • Teach them how to make grandma’s famous pie
  • Ask them to set the table and encourage them to get creative with the decorations
  • Have them make their favorite side dish

There are easy ways to get teenagers involved in making Thanksgiving dinner a success!

 

Create a thankfulness activity.

Be intentional about the way your family talks about thankfulness. A great way to do that is to create a family activity that everyone can participate in.

Maybe you get a paper or cheap fabric tablecloth that your family can use for the month of November. Every time your family sits down to eat together, have everyone write something that they are thankful for on the tablecloth. This is fun to see what you have been thankful for over a short period of time, and you can even keep the tablecloth for the next year!

Another idea is to create a thankfulness tree. This is a great excuse to put up your Christmas tree a few weeks early, or you could have a separate, smaller tree just for thankful words. Each day, have your family (or each member of the family if you are really thankful) decide on something you are thankful for and write it on an ornament. Decorate your tree with things you are thankful for before you fill it with presents!

Perhaps your thankfulness activity is something as simple as asking each family member to pick something they are thankful for and share it every night before bed. It does not have to be elaborate for it to be meaningful!

 

Give back to others in need. 

Sometimes it is easier to be thankful for what we do have when we serve people who have less than us. Growing up, service was a big part of what my family did together. We went on mission trips, adopted families at Christmas time and served the homeless on different occasions. These are opportunities for you to not only talk about your own blessings, but to also create family memories that will have a lasting impact.

If you are looking for a way to serve this holiday season, here are some ideas:

  • Go shopping for canned goods and help your local food pantry stock their shelves. Ask if they need any help!
  • Serve a meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Request a M.A.G.I. box and fill it with goodies for a child in need.
  • Go through your closet and donate your old coats and sweaters.
  • Surprise a family by paying their grocery bill or pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru of your favorite restaurant.

Whatever you decide to do, serve as a family and take advantage of the conversations that can come out of this experience!

Are you willing to try any of these things to promote thankfulness? What other ideas have you used to make the holiday season extra special?

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
How to Create an Inviting Environment

How to Create an Inviting Environment

It’s Thanksgiving Day! Many of us are rejoicing, thankful for the break from school and work and excited for time with family. Some of us are exhausted from the travel it took to get where the family is gathering or are emotionally drained because the Holidays remind us of the loss of a loved one. Still others are dreading the time spent with extended family. The stress and tension of years of unresolved issues makes it so hard to endure the time together, anxiously waiting for the moment when we are back sleeping in our own beds.

If you can relate to that last one, this post is especially for you. If it is not you, hopefully it will help you process through how you are creating an environment that your kids long to be a part of.

Even though I am not to the point of having adult children yet, I can tell you this is something my wife and I are thinking about often. It is also something I can speak to from the experience of feeling welcome at my in-laws home while I don’t at my parents’ home.

The core conversation here is about what environment you are creating that is so inviting that your teenager doesn’t want to go somewhere else during the Holidays. Isn’t that what we want to create for our kids so they will love being around when they are adults?

This question came to mind the other day when I was being interviewed on a Dallas radio station and someone called in and asked what you can do when a teen chooses to rebel and gets pulled away by gangs or a negative community that we know will lead them to a place they do not want to go (such as drug users). What a tough question to address! But I believe there is an answer and it begins with us as the adults.

So here are some ideas on how you can create the most engaging, exciting and safe place for your kids to be.

 

  • Stop talking negatively about your family in front of your kids. For some of us this is hard. There is so much emotion attached to our parents or siblings that it is hard to filter, and it just comes out. Think about it this way. Since our kids are highly influenced by the behavior we model, are we teaching them to talk badly about us by doing that with other family members? I want to be very aware of the way I, instead, model respect for my family so they learn that, even when it is hard, it is still right to have respect and love for family. It’s exactly what I want them to do for me.

 

  • It’s not the tradition that matters, it’s the consistency at each gathering that makes it meaningful. My wife is amazing, and one reason is because she leads our family in writing down something we are thankful for each day during the month of November. But the key is the flexibility she allows to make it possible. Some years we have taken the time to create a whole tree with “thankful leaves” on it, and other years we simply write them in her journal (even though we sometimes have to catch up after 3 or 4 days of not writing them down). The best part is our kids now remind us when we didn’t write them down and even get excited that November is coming so we will get to write our “thankfuls” down every day.

 

  • Try not to make them do it. If you are forcing your kids participate, it may be the wrong activity for your family, or maybe they just need you to help them see why it is important. The important thing here is to remember it is a long-term effect you are wanting. So changing the activity to find the right one will be worth it once they are bought into it being a part of what it means to be in your family.

 

  • Remember, they will talk about it the way you do. If you complain that the years they were growing up were crazy and hard and no one liked being around each other, that is how they will remember it, too. If, instead, we strive to point out the good things we remember and what we learned from the hard times, those will be the memories that rise to the top for all of us. I am reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Holocaust survivor. Re-reading her story reminds me of the horrific experiences she had to endure, and yet she was ultimately able to see the good that could come from it. In a similar way, we can teach our teenagers to do the same.

 

I hope this Thanksgiving you will look for the ways you can begin to create an environment in your family, at home and around special events that your kids don’t want to miss out on.

 

How have you seen this happen? What can you share with the rest of us about how to create these spaces? I look forward to hearing from you!

Ricky Lewis is our CEO and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 7, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.
Repost: Promoting Thankfulness

Promoting Thankfulness

November is one of the only times of year that is set aside for everyone to be thankful.

We are thankful for food, family, and football.

But especially right now, many people seem to be struggling with thankfulness. Maybe they aren’t thankful for our President Elect, their job situation, the fact that Texas doesn’t have a real Fall…the list could go on and on. But teenagers and our kids are watching us! If we aren’t thankful, why should they be?

This holiday season, let’s be intentional about our thankfulness. Maybe this year, we need to step up our game and make it more than a just a Thanksgiving Day deal. Being thankful can be an everyday thing! In fact, there are several ways that thankfulness and gratitude can positively affect your quality of life!

Here are a few ideas to promote thankfulness in your family and make it special for teenagers this holiday season:

 

Include them in the Thanksgiving preparations.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that takes a lot of hard work, cooking and preparation. When you’re a little kid, it’s awesome because you get to sleep in, watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and be served food followed by pie. However, it is time for us to get our children, and especially teenagers, involved in the day.

If you’re like me, I am even more thankful for things when I know how much work and effort went into making it happen. Plus, this is a family holiday! Take advantage of that family time by passing on family recipes and traditions in the kitchen!

  • Have them help with the turkey
  • Teach them how to make grandma’s famous pie
  • Ask them to set the table and encourage them to get creative with the decorations
  • Have them make their favorite side dish

There are easy ways to get teenagers involved in making Thanksgiving dinner a success!

 

Create a thankfulness activity.

Be intentional about the way your family talks about thankfulness. A great way to do that is to create a family activity that everyone can participate in.

Maybe you get a paper or cheap fabric tablecloth that your family can use for the month of November. Every time your family sits down to eat together, have everyone write something that they are thankful for on the tablecloth. This is fun to see what you have been thankful for over a short period of time, and you can even keep the tablecloth for the next year!

Another idea is to create a thankfulness tree. This is a great excuse to put up your Christmas tree a few weeks early, or you could have a separate, smaller tree just for thankful words. Each day, have your family (or each member of the family if you are really thankful) decide on something you are thankful for and write it on an ornament. Decorate your tree with things you are thankful for before you fill it with presents!

Perhaps your thankfulness activity is something as simple as asking each family member to pick something they are thankful for and share it every night before bed. It does not have to be elaborate for it to be meaningful!

 

Give back to others in need. 

Sometimes it is easier to be thankful for what we do have when we serve people who have less than us. Growing up, service was a big part of what my family did together. We went on mission trips, adopted families at Christmas time and served the homeless on different occasions. These are opportunities for you to not only talk about your own blessings, but to also create family memories that will have a lasting impact.

If you are looking for a way to serve this holiday season, here are some ideas:

  • Go shopping for canned goods and help your local food pantry stock their shelves. Ask if they need any help!
  • Serve a meal at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  • Request a M.A.G.I. box and fill it with goodies for a child in need.
  • Go through your closet and donate your old coats and sweaters.
  • Surprise a family by paying their grocery bill or pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru of your favorite restaurant.

Whatever you decide to do, serve as a family and take advantage of the conversations that can come out of this experience!

Are you willing to try any of these things to promote thankfulness? What other ideas have you used to make the holiday season extra special?

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.
Motivation Monday: Get Out of the Boat

Motivation Monday: Get Out of the Boat

We are only 5 weeks away from the 7th annual #TL5K, and our Kick Off Event is tomorrow, March 1st!

Please join us for dinner to hear about the great plans we have for this year’s 5K! RSVP here today.

Teen Lifeline’s vision statement is to “encourage, equip and empower teenagers to live life better.” This is done through Support Groups that take place during school hours, but sometimes in order to fully equip, encourage and empower the students we work with, our facilitators decide to go above and beyond their expected duties.

We love it when our facilitators become invested in the lives of the students they serve, and no one does it better than Jason Herman. Jason is the Lead Student Minister at The Hills Church’s North Richland Hills Campus. He has lead groups with Teen Lifeline since 2013 and has a particular passion for working with teenaged dads. He is able to form meaningful relationships with these teen dads because of the conversations had and resources that are exchanged. We are so glad that he has chosen to “get out of the boat!”


 

When I was a kid, I loved bumper boats (you know, bumper cars on water). I got a kick out of smashing into other unsuspecting bumper boat enthusiasts. The thing about bumper boats, however, is that you rarely react with the people in the other boats. You simply float from one person to the next and are never truly in control of what happens on the water. Sometimes, I think we approach life the same way. We wake up, get ready, coast through the day bumping into others only to get home, go to sleep, and repeat. It’s a chain reaction of events that simply lead to the next day, and we completely miss opportunities to fully engage people. So the question becomes, how do we break routine?

Perhaps the obvious first move is to get out of the boat. This looks different for everyone but for me, and many of us who work in the church, it means getting out of the office and engaging the community. That is why I love Teen Lifeline. Over the past three years I have worked with teen dads and been able to develop relationships with school administrators, staff, teachers, counselors, and students. As those relationships have developed, opportunities to engage people became a reality. Which leads me to the next crucial piece in breaking routine.

We have to keep our eyes open for opportunities to take the relationship deeper. I have found that such opportunities present themselves when a need is stated during group, which leads to a chance to engage outside of group. For example, during one session, my dads discussed several resources that were unavailable to them. Their needs ranged from being able to provide a turkey for Thanksgiving, buying Christmas presents for their children, to needing an attorney for various legal problems. In this situation, needs became opportunity to break routine. Coordinating with The Hills Church, each dad was given access to resources they desperately needed. Coincidently, none of this took place in our typical group meeting. It all happened outside group. We have to look beyond the group if we really want to engage lives.

When we engage people, understand their needs, and do more than simply bump into them, the routine of everyday life is shattered. Trust is earned and life moves from individuals bumping into one another to an adventure that is lived together. I love working with teen dads, and there is nothing like when one of them invites you into their life. Sometimes this even looks like a baby shower, a birthday party, or a wedding ceremony. This is life lived better, and there’s no telling what adventure tomorrow may bring.

 

Jason Herman is the Lead Student Minister at The Hills Church, North Richland Hills. He facilitates a Teen Lifeline Support Group for teenaged dads in Birdville ISD.