Being Seen

Jill1Hi. I’m Jill, a writer, speaker, editor, pastor, and all-around person in need of grace. Particularly now, since currently, I’m working on moving my blog and website information over to this lovely and venerable site. But for now, if you’d like to read current or past blogs, please visit me here.

I talk about a lot of things on my blog and in my books and articles. But usually, they focus on a few main topics. Fear, faith, empowerment (particularly of women and the next generation), caring for those less powerful, and trying to live freely the abundant life God has given us.

To let you know I know what I’m talking about with this fear and empowerment thing, let me give you some background.

warriors-together4I’m the kids who refused to step too far into the back yard after dark. The woman who slept with a nightlight when I was twenty. The person who would still rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a really close acquaintance of mine. For too long.

Yet there is God, telling me to live “adventurously expectant.” To look at each day and ask, “What’s next?” And that enthusiasm isn’t supposed to lessen when today’s “next” wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. Or when we’re terribly certain tomorrow’s will be worse. “Fear not” may be the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. What’s happening here?

I don’t want to live life as a grave-tender, so wrapped in fear of what might be that I lose the time in between. I want to live an adventure for God’s kingdom, and I want to do it with you. I want to know who I am, and I want you to know who you are, because of who He is.

I want us both to know the identity God put in us when he created the imago dei in the garden. He hasn’t rescinded that deal. I want to see you and hear you and know you–and I want you to know He already sees and hears and knows you.

To prove I’m serious, here’s your first story.

I’m terrified of spiders. If you don’t believe this, you’ve never seen me run out of the shower shrieking because there was an eight-legged creation of God on the tile wall. Which is a good thing. No one should see me run out of the shower. Ever.

I hyperventilated if I saw a picture of a spider. But before leading my fist mission trip, I decided, no more. Time to face it. It can’t be as bad in reality as in imagination. Sure it can’t. Totally believed that, except not.

Spider (1)I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.

Seriously, God gave me such a calm that the whole thing was kind of surreal and interesting. Plus, I made sure to get it on video. Because, you, know, this is not going to be repeated on an annual basis or anything.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.

The Lord knows I’d lived through way worse than spiders by that time, anyway.

So, let’s join one another. I can’t wait to see what happens here.


PS– I’d love it if you want to hit the button to subscribe or shoot me an email to be put on my mailing list!

Why We Should Stop Praising Pretty

As (probably) the last installation the the lies we tell girls series, I have a fantastic guest post from my friend Lauren. I love her perspective on what she wants her two young girls to learn about true beauty.

Here’s Lauren . . .


“What does ‘pretty’ mean?” I ask my just turned 4-year-old.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you pretty?”


“Well, how do you know you’re pretty if you don’t know what it means?”

“I look in the mirror and see I’m pretty.”

She’s right.

Pretty is in the mirror. Pretty is surface and fleeting.

Have you ever looked up the meaning of the word “pretty” in the dictionary?

Pret-ty — attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful or handsome.

The truth is, the words we choose matter, especially when we’re talking to children, and “pretty” is an inadequate compliment.

Sure, I’ve said it. We all say it: “Oh, what a pretty baby!” “You look so pretty!” “She is just too pretty.”

But let’s be honest, folks.

People aren’t “pretty.”

Stuff is pretty. Dresses and headbands and Disney princesses and flowers and makeup are pretty. Living, breathing people with hearts and minds and talents are not pretty.

Praising little girls for being pretty prioritizes their appearance over their heart. Praising little girls for being pretty teaches them to seek approval and self worth in the wrong things–in having the right jewelry, the right clothing, the right hairstyle, the right body–and, inevitably, sets them up for failure.

Praising little girls for being ‘pretty’ ignores their true value as daughters of the King.

You are worth far more than rubies. — Proverbs 31.30

R1-06007-020AThere are two primary definitions for “beautiful” in the dictionary.

beau-ti-ful — 1)pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically.

2) of a very high standard; excellent.

Let’s get one thing straight.

God didn’t create “pretty” things in His own image. He doesn’t create a people who are “attractive with being truly beautiful.” His work is perfect and beautiful, and “of  a very high standard; excellent.” Always.

You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. — Psalm 139.14

When we think of princesses, we think of pretty-frilly dresses and tiaras and flowing locks.

Strong is beautiful

My 4-year-old isn’t into pretty princesses. She wants to be Batman when she grows up.

The Dark Knight is, by no stretch of the imagination, pretty. Batman is strong and courageous and philanthropic and just–not a terrible role model, if you ask me. As I told reporters regarding last summer’s #texasstrong flood relief fundraiser, I want both of my daughters to know that strong is beautiful.

We get so worried about being pretty. Let’s be pretty kind. Pretty funny. Pretty smart. Pretty strong. — Britt Nicole


Let’s stop using “pretty” as an adjective for people. Let’s stop limiting little girls to pretty.

I love photographer Kate T. Parker’s “Strong is the New Pretty” project (and upcoming book), which challenges stereotypes with stunning and empowering images of her daughters, ages 5 and 8, in their element.  Kate wants little girls to know, “You don’t need to be pretty, perfect or compliant to be loved.”

“Pretty” won’t get them too far

Let’s stop elevating pretty and, instead, elevate strength and courage and kindness. Let’s teach our daughters that God didn’t create them to be “pretty.” Let’s make sure they know where their true value lies.

Because when they’re 15 and their face is covered in acne, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 30 and their hips and belly are covered in stretchmarks, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

When they’re 50 and their hair is gray and they’re drenched in sweat from hot flashes, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

And when they’re 80 and their hair is white and their face is wrinkled, “pretty” won’t get them too far.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

Let’s stop praising little girls for being pretty. Let’s teach them to praise the One who made them beautiful instead.

A version of this post originally appeared at loveofdixie.com.

img_5004-2Lauren Flake is an artist, author and advocate near her native Austin, Texas, at LaurenFlake.com. You can follow her adventures as a wife, mom, Alzheimer’s daughter and #TexasStrong blogger at For the Love of Dixie on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

One of Those Women (Who Didn’t Want It)


I am one of the women who knows it wasn’t just locker room talk.

Ask me how I know?

I’ve never told—not anyone but a very few who have suffered similarly. We have a solidarity, we women who know what are and are not “just words.” I’ve told family members who deserve to know, like my husband and girls. Oh, I want those girls to know.

I have written some difficult blog posts, but this is definitely the hardest. I don’t want to hurt people I love. I don’t want to talk about what happened. I want to leave it in the past buried. But unfortunately, these things never stay buried. They resurrect at the worst times, tainting your marriage and your trust in people (men) and your memories of good days just when you thought they were dead.

They are never dead.

A family member sexually molested me from the ages of 8-14. I don’t want to name that family member. I love my other family members too much, and they do not deserve the hurt. I was not raped, but I was touched in ways a grown man should never even think of with a little girl, ways a man should never talk about or think of with a grown woman either who has not clearly assented. Ways no one should have touched me until the day I married this wonderful man who has to carry that baggage along with him, too, which is so not fair.

He has been nothing but honorable his entire life. He is a man who has never, once, engaged in or deemed acceptable what we are being told “all men do.” Yet he carries the baggage from another man who considered it his right to take whatever he wanted. Not fair. Not fair. Not fair.

And it isn’t just me.

I personally know four women who have been raped. Not four Facebook friends out of hundreds—four flesh-and-blood people I know and interact with. They are normal women from all walks of life. And those are only the ones I know about. There are more. I see others every day, and I don’t know it. They don’t make it public information, because the shame is so locked down, unwarranted as it may be.

They are Christian women who did not engage in any behavior that “asked for it.” As if there is any such behavior.

One I saw and don’t know may have been you.

Pulling Weeds: Being Thankful for Real Community

The hurt itself, the memories that come unbidden, the nightmares we cannot forget, are enough. To compound them by finding that people we have believed in as brothers (and some sisters) in Christ are prepared to dismiss that hurt? Beyond nightmare.

Jesus had some words for how we are to treat one another in this community of believers. Quite a few words, in fact. Here are just some:

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13.35

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12.10

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15.12-13

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6.31

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12.9

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Romans 13.10

Brothers, we feel harmed when you dismiss those who have hurt us as “no big deal.”

We do not feel you laying down your lives for us when we hear that “what’s in the past is in the past.”

We do not feel honored when you call sexual threats “macho.”

We feel betrayed. We feel left along the roadside like the man who was robbed and left for dead. We feel angry.


–It’s the sin we brush aside because Christians don’t talk about that sort of thing.

–It’s the horror we accept because some of our own have been guilty, and we don’t dare admit our weakness.

–It’s the evil we don’t want to define because we would have to call so many to account for their careless words, and we don’t want to lose all those people. Confront the words, the jokes, the innuendos, and we risk being told we’re overreacting, it was only a joke. Only locker room talk. All men do it. So in order to keep our people, we don’t judge the talk. It’s just easier.

–Worst of all, it’s the sin we refuse to acknowledge because women are supposed to be submissive, and listening to their stories might empower them to realize that’s a lie forced upon them like so many other things have been.

But — we feel angry.

Don’t forget that last one. We who have a difficult time forgetting what happened to us? We will not forget this, either. We will be stronger than you have any idea, because we know what it is to rise from ashes and live again, stronger than before. We have discovered the reality of Jesus’ promise that evil doesn’t stand a chance against his people.

8f556-img_1295There are many, many good people standing with us, too. We will keep standing so long as anyone chooses to denigrate the image of God in women into less than He meant for it to be. It’s a turning point we cannot afford to ignore or miss.

Readers, if this is part of your past as well, know you are listened to and heard here. You will not be told to be silent. You will be heard and seen. I know this is a hard thing to have talked about. I didn’t want to. But if there is one of you who feels stronger because I did? That’s a win for me.

I saw these hashtags on Facebook this week from another women with a story to tell:



I love it.

Let’s not be silent. Let’s be strong.

Four Ways to Stop Bullying


I think the real teasing started for me in third grade. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the blue cat’s eye glasses I got that year. OK, so I loved blue. (Still do.) But my parents definitely should have steered me away from that particular fashion choice.

The painfully shy awkward girl who got straight A’s and could always be found in a corner reading a book? That was me. Years later, I discovered with our daughter’s diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome that I likely exhibited some of those characteristics as well. It made me a target for cruelty I didn’t know how to manage until much, much later.

So many kids know the feeling—the whispered rumors in the hallway, the subtle exclusion from certain groups of girls, the guys who laugh when you walk by. The targeted don’t really know why, but they know it’s not good.  Unfortunately, the “why” could be anything. Something different about a girl’s looks.

This week, I had the opportunity to post at All Mom Does with Four Ways to Stop Bullying.

Please continue to read here.



Right Raging


Four months ago I watched my sister dance at my daughter’s wedding. I didn’t know it was the last time I would ever see her. Which of us ever does know these things?

In two days, before you read this, I will be performing her funeral. This comes in a week when I already had the gargantuan task of delivering two sermons and four seminar talks. Add this. This that no one expected and never comes at a good time, no matter what else is happening in life.

Sara Groves sang,

“Death can be so inconvenient.

You try to live and love. It comes and interrupts.”

I get angry at death now, now that I’m older and realizing I may have to watch so many people I love go before me. Actually angry, like, “Hey, death, I know you don’t belong here. You are not part of the original plan. Stop coming and messing with good lives. You are not natural—you are alien. Go back where you came from.”  Except I’m not quite that polite.

I feel a little like Dylan Thomas, exhorting not to go gentle into that good night. But then, I often feel like Thomas—I have rarely gone gentle into anything I didn’t want. I make it a habit to rage against the dying of any light, so this may just be my nature.

But this is what I know from growing older. There are things I raged against when I was young. Things I thought were life and death and things that seemed so vital to get right.

And now I know they were things—and that is all they ever were.

IMG_9266I believed I could get parenting right, and I could get writing right, and I could get pastoring right, and I could get life right.

Now I know that “good enough” is a blessedly freeing two words, and God is the only one in the business of getting it right all the time. I’m not even sure anymore what right is on some of those points.

Now I know you do not win at life. You maybe summit it, or sail it. Whatever metaphor you choose, it’s not a contract or a contest, and you don’t know where the finish line is going to be. Sometimes, you can’t even see the next ten feet.

I spent too many of those young years trying to protect what I thought was mine. Attempting to control life so that it could not hurt me or mine. Thinking that the right laws or the right people or the right verses memorized in a row would be the difference between a perfect world and a lost one.

And now I know that the world is always hovering somewhere in between, and we don’t control one millimeter of its sway.

“All we have is to decide what to do with the time we are given.” I’ve loved that quote from the moment I heard it. What time are we given? We didn’t know my sister would only be given sixty-four short years. We didn’t know my other sister would only be given nearly twenty-six. Although, in fact, she beat all prognostics to get that far.

We don’t ever know.

IMG_0057What I do know, because I don’t know, is that I want to get the raging right. I want to rage against the light-killers and the hope-killers and the soul-killers that rage against God’s flesh creation. I don’t want to waste my time on fights that don’t matter.

What I know now is that keeping what I erroneously think mine is not my battle. The actual war is with my own heart, convincing it to give away everything.

While I’m at it, I’ll work on giving away hope and giving away love. They’re both in shorter supply than usual. I’ll strive to give away justice and to keep humility. 

I won’t go gentle into anything that sucks them away. I’m choosing my raging much more carefully now. In an oxymoronic way, it’s peaceful. It’s my best use of the time I’m give.

Dear car emissions lady, I am sorry


I wanted to hug the woman doing my vehicle emissions test today.

I recognized this as a potentially awkward action, so I refrained. Hugging a total stranger unexpectedly has too many options for interpretation.

Yesterday came the news of another black man killed for what appears to be little reason. Grieving over that, I watched the attendant, a thirty-ish black woman, doing her job, blank-faced. And suddenly all I wanted to do was hug her and tell her I was so, so sorry.

She would probably have thought that was odd at best, a misguided attempt at avoiding white guilt at worst. I could be wrong though. Perhaps she would have embraced me in return, and two people might have had one moment of surpassing barriers that should not exist. I don’t know. Maybe it would  be the only apology she ever heard, and that would be something, at least.

I’m sad, and frustrated, and angry, and most of all, so, so sorry.

  • I’m sorry for the fact that she has to worry about her children all the time. Will they be given a fair chance at life? At staying alive? Will they have to watch their backs and take precautions my children never had to?
  • I’m sorry she has to be afraid as a default because her skin has more pigment than mine. As a woman, I know what it is to be afraid as an undercurrent in our lives. The stronger and more powerful can hurt us, and we never know who carries that intent. I know it for me; I know it for my three daughters. I know she has a double layer I don’t experience.
  • I’m sorry for the looks of suspicion when she enters a nice store. The side eyes from other mothers at the playground when her children join the crowd. I’m sorry that I don’t even know what other kinds of embarrassment she suffers because I cannot imagine it. It’s never come near me.
  • I’m sorry her husband or brother or father or son is not as safe as mine.

And I can say that without taking away from others’ pain at protests gone violent or other senseless killings. They are also evil and wrong. Unlike people, evil does not discriminate.


I can apologize and be terribly, mournfully sorry even if I’ve never done a racist thing in my life.

How is that?

If I saw a stranger hit by a car in need of help and I walked past, would I be at fault? I didn’t drive the car. I don’t know the person. I would never hit-and-run myself. But if I walk past and do nothing—am I not contributing to that person’s harm? If I lean over his bleeding body and say, “Hope you do OK. I think hitting people with cars is dreadful,” and then hasten on to my Starbucks date, have I done all I should?


It’s time to stop refusing to apologize for the ills around us just because we didn’t drive the car. I know a lot of people are offended by that idea. I probably was, too, not so long ago. But I’ve learned that apology is freeing, not debilitating. Like mercy, it is twice blessed–it blesses she who gives and she who receives. (My high school teacher who made me memorize that Shakespeare speech would be proud.)

I don’t detract from myself if I am sorry for another’s experience and I admit I have never helped. I don’t lessen myself or anyone else. I open myself up to becoming more than I have been.

It doesn’t hurt me to say I’m sorry. But it hurts her immeasurably that no one does.

Not seeing and not hearing our brothers and sisters is refusing to be the image of God, as well as refusing to see the image of God in them. God sees. El Roi. God hears. El Shama. It’s so part of his character that it’s part of his name. He especially hears the oppressed—exactly what He is doing when He takes these names (Genesis 16).

Being sorry is not weak. Being sorry is brave. It’s the strongest stance a person can take, directly against all out tendencies to hide in the garden away from God’s all-seeingness. It’s a step into the light. Being sorry is being willing to go first. It’s looking vulnerability in the eye and accepting its mantle as a prize, not a punishment.

When we were children, we used to think that when we grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But you grow up to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L’Engle


I’m tired of the lie that “sorry” is weak. Sorry is strong enough to open doors heavy with the weight of the ages. It’s a start. 

An Unexpected Party!


This is a bit of a departure from my usual blog posts. But — this is a special week! I am having a party over on Facebook, and I would love it if you could join me. Come to the party, enter contests, win prizes, have fun, see weird photos, get recipes for hobbit food. What else could anyone want? #hobbitdevo. 

Three years ago, I wrote a book about hobbits. And elves. And dwarves. And some pretty kick-butt women as well. Mostly, about God. It was designed as a devotional for teens, but a lot of adults have loved it, too. Here’s the back cover copy:

Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!

A lot has happened in three years, and the most exciting part is that teens have been coming back to the Bible through this book. Parents have emailed me with their excitement over kids who seemed to be drifting away from faith who kindled a new interest in studying their Bibles when they discovered that some of their favorite characters could be related to it. Also, they discovered they didn’t have to leave their sense of humor or their brains behind to believe the Scriptures. Amen! I have been humbled and grateful for these messages.

I’ve had the opportunity to go into schools to teach kids about literature, heroes, faith, and their place in the big story. I have met some incredibly smart, thoughtful, kind kids. They are the best. 


I love Tolkien, and I love teens/young adults, and I LOVE connecting the next generation to faith. It’s been a journey — an adventure, one might say! — that I can’t wait to continue.

People have had questions over these three years, so I’m taking some time to answer them here.

1. Why The Hobbit? What sparked your interest in Tolkien?

Hah. Years ago,my brother tried to get me to read the books. He said they were the greatest things ever. I tried first with The Silmarillion and said, “Yeah, right. Don’t think so.” Can you think of a better way to bore a fifteenish-year-old girl? Fast forward to years later when my husband started to read them to our girls when they were elementary school aged. I listened, saw the first movie, then picked the books up myself and devoured them. There is something magic about Tolkien’s skill mixed with real, unforgettable, and deep characters, and a story of epic good and evil fought by everyday heroes. Who else would get away with such unlikely heroes? He manages to show both the greatness and depth of evil in humankind in this small world of his.

2. Why would teenagers want to read this book?

It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it?

3. How is this book different from all the other ones out there on this topic?

Well, I have a professor who endorsed my book who said in his reply email, “When I first received your request, I thought, ‘No, not another one of those books! Then I read it and loved it.’” So—it’s not another one of those books? Another reviewer called it “delightfully sarcastic and irreverent while deeply spiritual.” I rather like being called that.

4. What’s here they won’t get in the book or the movie?

What is the unique Christian perspective Tolkien wrote with that may not have translated into film? Also, teens can see themselves in these characters when they study them individually. They have take home value.

5. Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?

screen-shot-2016-07-29-at-4-42-40-pmSooo hard to answer. I have to say I love Eowyn. I didn’t at first; I thought she was too cold and discontent. But her loyalty and fierce need to do something important—I can so relate to that. Plus, she’s a princess who isn’t afraid to pick up a sword and fight for what matters to her. How cool is that? I love strong female models, since I have three girls.

6. Describe the process of writing each chapter.

Fun? A lot of fun. But other than that . . . I figured out what really stood out as far as a character trait or lesson for each person. Some were easy—some difficult. Then, where do you see that in the book? It was tough using only one quote! Where do you see that in Scripture? How can a person apply that Scripture to daily life? I tried to be very, very practical and fun while working with serious stuff. I think it worked.

7. What was the best moment in working on this book?

It had to be when I got the endorsement from said professor. He’s a giant in the field, and I knew sending the request it was such a reach. No way I’d even make it past the gatekeepers. But I did. It felt like I’d applied to Harvard and got a scholarship. I learned a great lesson in just going for it.

8. So, the movies. Pro, con–are you a purist or an action-adventure junkie?

screen-shot-2014-10-30-at-12-00-58-pmHmm. Leaning more toward the former. But not completely. The thing for me is character development. What makes a story great is what choices the character has to make and how his or her journey is followed. The first Hobbit movie did OK in that regard, but I really think the second one failed. It lost track of its focus. I don’t mind additions and changes that help move things along—I LOVED the LOTR movies, changes and all. But in this last installment the main character is all but forgotten. It seems he’s just sold out to a lot of video game crap I’d expect from lesser directors.

9. Why do you think Tolkien is of such enduring interest to people?

The reasons I mention in question one. People can completely relate to his characters. They are not larger than life—they are us. (Except maybe a wizard or two. They’re a bit larger than we are.) They don’t start out amazing—they grow into it with hard work and love. That’s who we are, or who we should be. And we know that. We feel it. It’s very real. Also, everyone feels intrinsically called to something important. We are constantly seeking that. Some find it—some don”t. But we’re pulled toward stories that speak to that.

10. Do you really own Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit and can you really beat anyone at it?

Short answer—yes. Thought I am a bit rusty. OK, my middle daughter and I are a pretty matched pair. But put the two of us together on a team—yeah, bring it on.

11. Tell me something more about you.

I used to teach high schoolers, and I loved it. Odd enough for you? I truly think they are a great age. I’ve spent ten years working in community theater, performing and directing. I have pictures of me doing so that will never see the light of Facebook. Pink hair, purple tights, giant false eyelashes? Yep, I’ve done it on stage. But—I’m a flaming introvert. Hugely so. I am also a pastor, which is a fun bit of mold breaking as well as serious stuff. I love my three daughters and one husband, manage our three cats, garden on an acre in the western suburbs of Chicago, and plan our next vacation as soon as we get home from the last one.

Thank you for the chance to share the story of Hobbits, You, and Spiritual World of Middle-earth. I hope you know a young person who could draw closer to Christ through it.


Five Ways to Develop a Heart for Service


33422_445689050125_6454112_nNo generation, it seems, has been as enthusiastic about hands-on service than the present young one. Yet it often seems that, with all the time our kids spend in front of screens, getting them face-to-face with others, serving them, feels more like pulling a throw rug from your vacuum cleaner than a great adventure.

Do teens and tweens even want to volunteer with their parents? Can they get out of their own little world long enough to deeply care about those in need? Yes. And Double Yes. But there are definitely ways to start right.

Discover Their Passions

If your daughter doesn’t seem interested in serving tacos at the homeless shelter, maybe it isn’t lack of compassion but lack of connection. Sure, Christians should be willing to serve anyone, but in fact, God gives us all things that light a fire inside. Starting there is the easiest way to give your child a spirit of selflessness. Does she show concern over shelter animals, or abused kids? Does her heart hurt over women who can’t find clean water or girls who want an education but are not allowed?

Engage her in talking about what news or issues bother her. Listen. Look for opportunities to serve others in an area that already has her heart.

Offer Control

11dc5-387823_10150509337570126_697430125_11201480_183523353_nYour tween or teen is more than capable of researching volunteer possibilities on her own. Give her rein to come to you with suggestions she’s found or ideas she’s come up with. Suggest she do the phone calling, emailing, and scheduling. Let her own the process. Choose what the family does together and give her the credit for doing the work.

Consider Her Temperament

The thought of making small talk with strangers at a nursing home will terrify an introverted daughter. But she might thrive in a one-on-one with a lonely child. Similarly, your exuberant child could happily volunteer at a special Olympics field day. Think about it—is she intellectually gifted, socially bent, musically inclined? Also, consider her attention span. Seek out options that she will find natural and non intimidating. Sure, there is a place for stretching and doing scary things. But later, not at first.

Model a Lifestyle

Let your daughter see that helping others isn’t something you schedule but something you live. If another’s need interrupts your plans, show her how a Christian cares for someone even if it means adjusting schedules or finances. My grown daughter explained the difference to me recently. “If there was a need, we just saw you do it. Not like “something church people must do” but as something natural, a part of daily life.”

Be a Family on Mission

b287c-img_3071Don’t get sucked into the mindset that children wait to serve others until they’re older, teens go off and volunteer with youth group, and parents do their own thing. Kids can minister at any age, and they need and want to do it with their family, not separate. Find a cause that you can all get exited about and pursue that mission together. Make it part of your family DNA.

Sites to check out:

Pennies of Time




Books to Read:

When More Is not Enough, http://amylsullivan.com/my-book/

Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-Term Missions for Your Whole Family