Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category


Friday Five: Andrea Palpant Dilley

Andrea Palpant Dilley grew up in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries and spent the rest of her childhood in the Pacific Northwest. She studied English literature and writing at Whitworth University. Her work as a writer has appeared in Rock and SlingGeez, and Utne Reader, as well as the anthology Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical. Her work as a documentary producer has aired nationally on American Public Television. She is the author of Faith and Other Flat TiresShe lives with her husband and daughter in Austin, Texas.

Today I’m excited to interview Andrea for today’s Friday Five:

You describe your upbringing as a missionary kid, on the mission field. Did the hard life of a missionary at all contribute to your running from the Christian faith? 

In the book I poke fun at the fact that, while most kids my age were playing Pac Man and eating pop tarts after school, I was visiting patients at my dad’s hospital. I spent time with sick people who died the next day. I attended funerals. I watched women wail in public, which was part of the mourning ritual of life in rural Kenya. Even the hospital morgue sat only fifty feet from the front door of our house. So yes, growing up as a medical missionary kid exposed me to more death and darkness than most kids my age would ever be exposed to, living in a western country. And those experiences very much informed my view of the world and my view of God. As a child, I don’t think I fully understood what was going on or why it was significant. But I carried those stories with me over the years. Eventually, as a young adult, they came to bear on my faith crisis.

Recent research has found that Christian kids who are allowed to express and wrestle with doubts have a higher percentage of keeping their faith. Do you agree and why? 

I agree wholeheartedly. When I was struggling with my faith as a young adult, my dad spent hours with me sitting on our living room couch, talking. I don’t really remember the specific content our conversations. What I remember clearly—and what matters most—is that he gave me space to express my doubts openly. Although he challenged me, he didn’t judge me for carrying doubts or struggling with faith in the first place. He affirmed that struggle and took it seriously. I would say every Christian kid needs that kind of safe space, that boxing ring where they can climb in and fight out their questions without fear of judgment.

I’m a parent now of a three year old, and as I look down the road to her young adult years, I feel more sympathy for my parents and what they went through in watching me wrestle with faith and then leave the church. I know it wasn’t easy for them. But if they’d overreacted to my doubt, I would have run further away, no question about it.

Was it hard to go back and write about your journey, especially the painful parts? Was there a moment when you felt you weren’t ready to share it? 

Absolutely. When the first box of books arrived in the mail, I hid them in my office closet for a day as a symbolic, last ditch attempt at self-protection. Some of the stories were just tough to see in print. For example, the story about my relationship with Michael was one that I didn’t originally include in the manuscript because it reveals in a very painful, personal way my naivete, my mistakes, my wandering. At some point in the writing process, though, my husband encouraged me to tell the story openly as a way to show the reader what my life looked like when I left the church and passed into a moral, spiritual no-man’s land.

So yes, it was at times very painful to write a personal memoir. It still feels personal now, as I watch people read the book and enter into the dark corners of my past. But I believe in transparency in community. I’ve shared my story not for the sake of therapeutic self-disclosure but for the sake of growth and faith in the church community.

Lot of prodigals come back with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, anger at the church, and deep resentment about their Christian upbringing. You don’t seem to express this. Why?  

First of all, I had the privilege of growing up in a healthy church environment. I grew up surrounded by smart, thoughtful Christians who read Russian literature, volunteered as firefighters, and cared about the poor. They were the kind of people who took my questions seriously when I started into my skeptic phase. This faith community didn’t overreact to my doubt, which made it easier to come back to church without carrying a heavy grudge.

Second, maturity matters. When I left, I expected the church to answer all my questions all of the time in the same way that a five-year-old expects her dad to know everything about astronomy while looking up at the stars. By the time I came back, I carried more realistic expectations about what the church can offer. Don’t get me wrong; I still struggle with the imperfections of the institutional church. But having spent time away from that institution, I’ve realized that I much prefer the flaws of the church to the greater flaws of churchlessness.

If you could speak to a parent of a child whose faith has shipwrecked, what advice would you give them? 

A recent Barna Group study revealed that three out of five young people leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time. That’s a really sobering statistic. I was one of those statistics; I left the church in my early twenties and then eventually came back. How my faith community responded to my departure—with grace and patience—was key to my return. With that in mind, I would offer the following suggestions to parents whose children have left or might leave the faith and/or the church.

a. Let your kids individuate. Listen to their questions, affirm their search, walk with them. But give them space to wrestle out their questions. It’s the only way they’ll come to own their faith.

b. If they have sophisticated theological or philosophical questions, equip them with smart apologetic resources. Give them books or DVDs by Lee Strobel, Nancy Percy, William Lane Craig, Eleanor Stump, Mary Jo Sharp, and others.

c. Raise your kids in community. Look for opportunities where they can spend time with pastors, professors, strong Christian mentors, and other leaders.

d. Help your kids think through faith-life integration. How does Christianity apply to politics, art, culture, etcetera? Encourage your kids to participate in public life. Get them involved in ways that put faith into practice.

e. Think seriously about where you send your children to college. Some kids need a traditional Christian environment while others might do better in a secular setting where they can push against the mainstream.

f. Finally, remember that active doubt (as opposed to passive doubt) can be a very healthy, soul-searching, truth-seeking part of faith. Trust that faith worth keeping can stand up to scrutiny.


Teen Devos for the New Year

If you’d like to get encourage your young person to develop a study of the Scriptures in 2012, you can help them along the way with some resources I’ve developed. I’d like to share about two of them here:

Teen People of the Bible, Celebrity Profiles of Real Faith and Tragic Failure

 This was my first book and it continues to sell well. It’s a unique, 100-day devotional that features the stories of 29 young people in the Scripture. Each day shares a bit about the Biblical teen, offers a contemporary story about a teen and/or a few practical life lessons, then offers journaling space. Each day also comes with a probing question answered from the Bible and some thought-provoking discussion ideas. I wrote this book to help young people get interested in the Bible. Quite often they crack open the Scriptures and might get lost in Leviticus or think that perhaps the Bible only speaks to folks with gray hair. This is a 100-day devotional, so you might, as a parent or youth pastor, give a 100-day challenge and see if they can’t read through one devotional and the corresponding Scriptures once a day for a 100 days. If you’ve had a hard time getting your teens into a Bible-reading discipline, this is a great resource. You’ll also like that I didn’t try to “dumb down” the Scriptures. So often teen devos are so light and fluffy they actually insult kids by insinuating that they can’t actually grasp difficult ideas.

This is what bestselling authors Jim and Elisabeth George said about Teen People of the Bible: 

With creativity and a clear understanding of a teen’s heart and life, Daniel shares biblical truths in this daily devotional that will set a young person on God’s path day by day. His passion for God’s truth and his knowledge of the struggles and temptations young men and women face is heard on page after page as he dispenses life-saving—and life-changing—help. Every teen will benefit from this powerful book, and every parent will want to give this volume to the young adults in their life! What a great way to put the next generation on a sure path of godliness!

It was also nominated for a Gold Medallion award and was endorsed by Focus on the Family’s (now defunct) Brio and Breakaway magazines. You can read more endorsements here.


Crash Course, Forming a Faith Foundation for Life.

This is another 100-day devotional. This is formatted similarly to Teen People, but instead of covering the stories of Biblical young people, it walks through the five most important areas of a young person’s life. The book is divided up into the 5 “d’s.” Doctrine, Direction, Decisions, Devotion, Delight. It begins with the doctrine section to help kids understand why we believe what we believe. We explain pretty deep concepts like the Trinity and the Holy Spirit in a fresh, but faithful way. I also recommend resources for digging deeper if they want to further study out that concept. Each of these sections contains 20 devos.

So this might be a resource you’d give a high-school junior or senior or a college freshman or sophomore. It’s a concise core of the most important truths we want our young people to understand and make their own. And like Teen People, it’s a 100-day devo, so they can knock it out in like three months. I did it in the devotional format so they could meditate on once concept per day.

Susie Shellenberger, former editor of Brio (Focus on the Family) and founder and editor of Susie magazine says this about Crash Course:

Today’s teens want truth, guidance and authenticity, and they quickly see through the opposites. That’s why Crash Course is a must for every teen’s backpack! Filled with faith-building stories, truth about God’s plan and genuine guidance on how to live out their faith in the midst of life’s toughest moments, Crash Course takes teens on an incredible ride to developing solidity in their relationship with Christ. Daniel Darling has definitely proven himself as an excellent communicator to today’s generation, and I’m excited about the message inside these pages!

Free Resources:

You might also encourage your teen to sign up for my weekly teen devo on Crosswalk, which also appears weekly at the teen site: Clash Entertainment.


Friday Five – Drew Dyck

Drew Dyck is the author of Generation Ex-Christian (Moody, 2010). He has served in a variety of ministry roles. He currently works for Christianity Today International as the managing editor of Leadership Journal. Prior to this, Drew was the editor of New Man magazine.

Drew stopped by today to answer questions for today’s Friday Five:

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Maybe It Does Take a Village

Vanessa Van Patten of the popular parenting blog, Radical Parenting, is featuring a guest post of mine, entitled, “Was Hillary Right?” I’m discussing the growing movement in churches to affirm a “village” approach to raising the next generation, where parents assume primary responsibility but lean in on churches and other institutions to fill in the gaps. Here’s an excerpt:

When it comes to parenting, the evangelical pendulum has always swung from one extreme to the other.  On one side is the casual parenting philosophy, where Mom and Dad outsource character development and spiritual training to the church and to the educational establishment. But this approach has largely been proven a failure. Studies show that it is direct parental involvement that most impacts the faith legacy of children. An hour of Sunday school a week, a few weeks at summer camp, and Vacation Bible school are no match for the gusher of questionable worldviews that stream into a child’s life from the media, public education, and peers. With a casual approach, faith can easily be lost a single generation.

The reality of a parent’s importance has led some to swing to another, equally ineffective position, family individualism. Well-meaning parents, wary of the corrosive influences in the culture, seek to isolate their children, protecting them from harm. Not only does this approach leave children unable to answer their own personal doubts, it ill prepares them for the probing questions of an increasingly postmodern generation. Furthermore, when parents withdraw from institutions like the church, they miss out on life-affirming mentors and coaches who may fill in emotional and spiritual gaps.

Today, there is a rising movement that takes a “village” approach to parenting, involving the parents, the church, and other societal institutions as partners. Under this paradigm, parents still accept chief parenting responsibility but they are unafraid to lean in on the church, trusted mentors, and civic institutions.

You can head on over to Radical Parenting and read the rest of the post here.


Friday Five – Jackie Kendall

Today, my good friend, Jackie Kendall stops by to chat. Here is the reason I like Jackie: My wife, Angela, read Jackie’s best-selling book Lady in Waiting, while she was a single girl in Bible college. Angela says that this really prepared her for life. Angela is a super mom and wife, so I have to credit Jackie for some of that!

Since then, I’ve become friends with Jackie. We happen to share the same publishing house, New Hope Publishers. She also endorsed my first book, Teen People of the Bible. Her endorsement helped put my proposal over the top. This past year, she and her daughter, wrote a book Lady in Waiting for Little Girls, which gives good instruction on helping little girls become God-honoring princesses. My daughter, Grace, has kept that book by her bedside.

As President of Power To Grow Ministries, Jackie Kendall is a much sought-after speaker for people of all ages and stages of life (teens, college, singles, married, divorced, and widowed). Besides Lady in Waiting, Jackie has authored several other books, including, A Man Worth Waiting For , The Mentoring Mom, and a devotional titled, Say Goodbye to Shame. Her latest book is Free Yourself To Love (The Liberating Power of Forgiveness).

Friday Five Interview – Dannah Gresh

Dannah GreshToday, it’s a great privilege to interview my good friend, Dannah Gresh. I’ve long admired Dannah’s life-changing ministry, Pure Freedom, to young girls both inside and outside the church. Dannah Gresh is known for the bestselling And the Bride Wore White and the Secret Keeper series. She is the founder of Pure Freedom ministries. Dannah is a frequent guest on national radio and television programs such as Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and Canada’s Huntley Street. She has also been a featured contributor to magazines including Today’s Christian Woman and Brio.

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