We give our materials away freely for another reason, as well. We don’t want money to inhibit those who are impoverished from having them. We hold out the expectation to those who are not impoverished that they will contribute financially to support our efforts. And so far, so good. We’ve produced thousands of CDs and mailed them – multiple thousands of MP3s have been downloaded. And just now getting started with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, I run a full-time counseling practice and Elaine is our business manager.
Why did we start LifeResource Ministries? What’s our intent? And what is our target audience? We, for years, have watched our church and the majority of other Christian churches, large and small, make great efforts to evangelize and bring in more people, while suffering incredible, debilitating hemorrhage of life’s blood – their young people. We’ve always noticed this issue in our own church and have tried many strategies to fix it over the years.
I was at a Grand Rounds presentation at the University of New Mexico in 2002, I believe, listening to Bruce Perry, a noted brain researcher and child advocate. He made a shocking statement. He said that Western culture is the first culture in the history of the planet that has lost the ability to transmit its values to the next generation. Oh, it’s not just a problem with churches. It’s a problem with our culture – the way we treat and relate to our children. It’s a systemic issue. In any group of Christian people, it’s not just the church that causes their problems. It’s the entire environment – the culture – that they’re in. How churches approach the issue, parents’ political agendas, media, etc. – they all affect young people.
Dr. Perry then went on to explain in specific terms what we do wrong and what we need to begin doing to reverse the present deleterious course. I learned all over again, listening to him, that the solution to the issue is known, but changing a culture is incredibly difficult – especially when there is no will – social, religious or political – to change it. Even if we have the resources, we will focus them ineffectively, because we don’t see the problem.
What are we doing to help? Well, it’s interesting to me that the things Dr. Perry put forth as solutions would have been accepted by all Christians. No Christian would argue with any of them. So we could say that Christianity, practiced culture-wide, would have a positive effect on the cultural issues we face in losing our kids. But that’s where the rub comes in. Christians are incredibly bad at living a Christian life. Most of us are blinded by cultural norms, for one thing. We also know that children and teenagers have no power in society or in the church. And that means that anything good, anything encouraging, anything that builds faith has to come from God through adults. So our focus, then, at LifeResource Ministries, is to provide resources for adults so they can be equipped to help children.
I want you to think about an example with me. If a mother of a nine-month-old is a meth addict, do you think she’s going to provide solid emotional support for her infant child? Well, of course not. And anyone would know that. But what if the situation is not so extreme? Think of a mother who is not addicted. Instead, she’s working, not because the family is starving, but because she wants to have a better life style. Do you think she can be as emotionally supportive of her child working as if she were staying with her child at home? We might not like to face it, but there’s a vast amount of scientific evidence to show that children need their mothers at home when they’re young. I know it’s not politically correct to say that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still true. And at LifeResource Ministries, we get to tell the truth, because we’re not dependent on any organization or the federal government.
So, working when you don’t have to – when you have young children – is an example of a cultural norm, isn’t it? It’s what we do. We’re Americans. We work. So how do you take on a culture? Well, you have to be willing, as the prophet Isaiah said, “to cry in the wilderness” a lot. All the people I know, who see the problem – like Bruce Perry, Robert Coles, the people at the Institute for American Values, and many others – cry out contrary to our culture, showing the way and offering resources.
Here are four things that we do: We engage children and teens one to one. We see from scripture that faith is transmitted from person to person. Consequently, we try to engage as many children, teens and young adults as we can. We believe it’s not only good for them, but also good for us. If we’re going to encourage people to do likewise, we feel compelled to set an example. As part of the faith community, we want to make a difference – one at a time – with them, as God permits. In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one adult comment on it.
I was a guest speaker at a regional church youth activity. Everyone was gathering Friday night at a local ski resort for a long weekend of church, social activities and skiing. The event coordinator asked if I wanted to get together with everyone and speak to them – “making contact,” he said. I told him that I didn’t think so. They were all having so much fun and it was for them. So I just told him I would talk to them at church. Toward the end of the event, the coordinator came to me and said, “I learned something watching you. I saw how you deferred on the program part and then spent that evening engaging the young people one on one. I get it,” he said. “It’s all about the relationships.”
So culture is very hard to overcome. Adults don’t talk to teenagers that much. In our culture, adults observe teens with their own music, their own friends, their own clothing styles, their own activities, their own values, and we think that’s natural. We think it’s a part of them maturing. In reality, our exclusion of them is what causes all of that. I really wish all of you could be a fly on the wall in my counseling office when I talk to teens about their feelings. It’s a sad thing.
We also support parents. All the research shows that until a person is in college, parents have the greatest influence on them. So we try to provide parenting materials based on solid research and contextualized for Christian parents. We also know that it’s not just parenting that passes faith, but mostly the lived Christian life – the example that parents set. We provide bi-weekly presentations to raise awareness of parenting skills and modeling among Christian parents. As an example, we produced a series called, Parenting for Faith. In it, we get right down to the tiny parental behaviors that create faith in children. We listed and provided hundreds of them in that series. Culturally, however, mostly what parents want is a bag of strategies that they can use to control their kids. They don’t realize that the reason their kids are out of control is because of a relational weakness between them and their parents. In our left-brain culture, control carries more weight than relationship.
We also support congregations. While we all know that we’re to put our faith in God and not in men, we also know that God has given us the church to be the mother of us all, as Paul said. The church, then, is the place where Christians are to go for support and help. As the greater community moves further away from Christian values, the congregation must step up to the challenge. Adults need to stop playing at church and become sincere practitioners of the lived Christian life at home and at church. Arguing over doctrine, vying for power, playing politics, creating a caste system, judging other people, these all have to depart from us in favor of becoming sincere, honest, humble – all the things Jesus told us to do and be. To help with these spiritual necessities, we provide an ongoing stream of materials and workshops, delivered in congregational settings to educate, train and encourage congregations to engage the children in their midst more inclusively.
We also support individuals. Each congregation is made up of individuals who are all challenged by God to care for their spiritual brothers and sisters. Each one of them is part of the presentation of faith made to every child and teenager. We’ve produced many presentations on individual issues that inhibit faith development in children. For example, when a person is depressed or anxious, their ability to transmit faith is inhibited. So we use our professional counseling skills to help people and families who ask for help. We provide support, insight and help people find help locally, if necessary, through our profession. It’s our hope that each person we help will be able to help others, multiplying God’s efforts through us.
To aid in all these efforts, every two weeks, we publish a new presentation on our Website, liferesource.org. There, each presentation can be accessed in a number of ways. There’s a link to the presentation, a video on our YouTube channel, LifeResource Videos. There’s a link to download and audio file of the presentation, in MP3 format. You can listen to it on your iPod while you’re going to work. There’s a link to order a free CD, mailed directly first class to you. And there’s a link to the presentation as a PDF document for later reading. And the presentation is in text form on the page, as well – for reading without having to download it. We also help people find good counseling and psychotherapy in their own communities. And occasionally, we help people over Skype or the phone.
Lastly, we do speak at church-sponsored activities upon request. We charge nothing for it, except for travel expenses. I was on a plane talking to the dean of students of a major university and he asked me how much I charge for a speaking engagement. When I told him I did it for free, he exclaimed, “You’re a saint! I charge $10,000!” Well, I hope I’m a saint, but God gets the credit. He has made it possible for us to perform the LifeResource outreach for these last eight years because of the generous financial donations of all our dedicated contributors. We hope, if you find our materials helpful, that you are of the “pay-it-forward” mentality rather than a member of the “something-for-nothing” crowd.