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Next Level Parent Blog

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11/16/17: Escape!!!

I love 007 movies! I love how James Bond always finds a way to save the world with the gadgets hidden in his Aston Martin. One of those gadgets is the ejector seat button that can either send himself or his passenger sky high to escape a dangerous situation. In an instant the car’s roof is blown off, Bond is shot hundreds of feet in the air, and a parachute deploys bringing him safely back to earth.

There are some times when I wish I had an ejector seat button. It’d be nice to escape awkward encounters, sticky situations, or even dangerous environments. But more than that, it’d be nice to have that gadget when temptation came around!

All this month at “Next Level” we’ve been discussing temptation and the way out given to us by Christ. We’ve defined temptation as a “deadly lure away from faithfulness to a faithful God” and the way out as “a life-preserving escape towards faithfulness to a faithful God.”

In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

What this means is that God always provides an ejector seat option when temptation comes around! Whenever we are tempted by the movie on the computer screen, the way out is the computer’s “off button”. When we are tempted to gossip, the way out is seeking another friend to encourage or talk to. When we are tempted to act disrespectfully, the way out is a walk around the neighborhood. There are a million and one ways we can hit that ejector seat button and escape a dangerous and sinful situation.

Try talking with your student about the temptations they face and the reality that God will always provide a way out. Discuss the potential escapes they can have ready in their back pocket whenever something comes up. Encourage them to keep a book handy, exercise, walk away, or even call you when they are asked to compromise their faithfulness to a faithful God.

Praying for you,


10/11/17: Is your student part of a Dynamic Duo? 

Throughout history there have been some dynamic duos; Robin and Batman, Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Dori and Marlin, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, and of course Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Whether in literature, comics, movies, or history, it’s clear that the mentor/protege relationship is key for the development of leaders. Even the Bible contains these types of relationships! Abraham prepared Isaac to take over his family. Samuel anointed David to take over Saul’s kingdom. Jesus empowered twelve men to take over his Church. And finally, Paul equipped young pastors like Timothy and Titus for ministry.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a dynamic leader that wasn’t discipled at some point by an older, wiser, or more experienced person. We weren’t born with all the knowledge and skills we need to be impactful people in the community. Similarly, we aren’t born as super Christians. We need men and women to train us, guide us, and teach us!

This is why we value “D-Groups” (Discipleship Groups) so much in our student ministry. These groups feature an adult and two or three students who actively seek to grow in their relationship with the Lord and each other. The adults, being a little further down the spiritual road, challenge the students to go deeper in bi-monthly meetings!

In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

We need to figure out who God has called us to be and what he is asking us to do. Once we know that, we need to find a Paul that will help us get there!

Our hope is that each and every student gets connected to a mentor from our ministry in a D-Group relationship. We feel that it will take their faith to the Next Level! Then, one day your student will be a Paul to a Timothy. If you want to see awesome growth in your student, encourage them to talk to Parker about D-Groups!

Praying for you,


9/28/17: Seeing Just Enough Light

In February of 1954, a US Navy pilot departed from a carrier off the coast of Japan for a night-training mission. Not long after takeoff he encountered an intense electrical storm. As a result, his directional finder and instrument panel failed causing him to drift off course. Complete and utter darkness surrounded his plane and filled the cabin. Unsure of what to do or how to get back to his aircraft carrier, the pilot looked down at the sea and noticed a faint trail of glowing water. It’s then that he remembered his training and a lesson about phosphorescent algae that glows after being stirred up by the engines of a ship. Following the glow of the algae from above he was able to find his way back to his carrier. This pilot, Jim Lovell, navigated himself home because a small light in the darkness. In a similar fashion, later in his career, he and his crew used the light of Earth to navigate themselves home after Apollo 13 encountered on-board malfunctions.

Why do I tell that story? – Because we all find ourselves lost and wandering at some point in our lives. In the blink of an eye things can change, tragedy can strike, darkness can descend, temptation can creep in, and worlds can crumble. So what do we do when this happens? – We cling to the only Light we have…our hope in Christ! Psalm 119:105-106 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.” This passage gives us confidence that even when things go south, we have a source of direction in the Word of God! The reality of God’s love and Jesus’ Resurrection give us the fuel to carry on! Nothing else on the planet has the power to get us out of bed the morning after the worst day of our life!

Spend some time with your student and ask them these questions about navigating in their own darkness:

  1. Where do you turn first when things go off the rails? Why?

  2. Have you ever felt like a pilot whose instruments fail him in the darkness? When?

  3. Why do you think the Psalmist mentions his oath to God in Psalm 119:106?

Hopefully Psalm 119:105-106 and these questions help your family establish it’s own luminescent trail back to Christ in difficult times.

Praying for you,


9/14/17: Pulling Teeth… Conversations at Home

What are your conversations like with your teenager at the dinner table? Is it like pulling teeth to get a response? Is it tough to get past the first layer of their thoughts? Is it a miracle to even get your teen to the table for a meal?

But have you stopped to think about why it’s so hard to have deep conversations with them? – Maybe it’s because they don’t know how to put into words the pressure, expectations, trials, disappointments, and insecurities they are feeling. In a confused culture, our teens are attacked from every angle.

Sometimes students doubt that their parents faced the same things they do, so they choose to confide in their friends instead. But they need to see that although the circumstances might be different, the struggles in their life and the struggles you faced as a teen are pretty similar.

Your student needs to know that you wrestled with some pretty heavy stuff too as a teen. When they can see that their 40-50 year old parent was indeed a teenager at some point, they may start to find some similarities worth discussing. They may not need to know every deep, dark secret from your adolescence, but it would help them to see some vulnerability on your part. Moreover, if they can see that God has grown you and your faith in spite of those struggles, they might start to see some light at the end of their own tunnel.

Then, the conversations become less of an interrogation and more of a dialogue. The most meaningful conversations I had with my parents during my teen years happened when they were willing to unpack their own story. They didn’t just expect me to air my junk, they were willing to air theirs as well.

When this kind of communication starts happening, you might be surprised at how much your student confides in you.

Praying for you,


9/6/17: What on Earth am I here for?

When I was in elementary school I remember my mom dragging me to the mall while she shopped. I was too young and mischievous to be left alone at home all afternoon, so I had to go along. There were rays of hope here and there when she’d take me to the food court or toy store but for the most part it was a very boring experience. I’d have to follow her from store to store all the while thinking about being home playing with my friends. Every now and then I’d get so distraught that I would ask myself, “What on Earth am I here for?”

What’s funny is that I never stopped asking myself that question; even as an adult. However, the older I got the more the context of the question began to change. As a kid I asked it because I couldn’t imagine why it was necessary to be in a department store for hours. But then, when I got into my teen years I asked the question because I wasn’t quite sure what my purpose was.

Fast forward to college, I remember a lecture given by one of my favorite professors about our calling. He told us about a crucial intersection between need and passion. Where a need meets a passion, that’s where a calling can be found. This all came into focus when I began noticing the need for positive mentors for teenagers. The more I noticed it, the more burdened I was. Over time, God grew my passion and skill set for ministering to teens and my calling came to life!

During the month of September we are going to encourage each student to ask the question: “What on Earth am I here for?” Our hope is that students will begin to see a clearer picture of their calling.

How amazing would it be if a teen girl recognized the need for prayer on her campus and decided to organize a team of prayer warriors? How crazy would it be for a teen guy to recognize the need for a godly leader in the locker room and stepped up?

Ask your student:

  • What’s your purpose?

  • Why do you think we’re here?

  • What needs in the world do you notice most?

  • What burdens or passions do you have when it comes to helping others?

Praying for you,


8/30/17: Five BIG QUESTIONS to ask before someone becomes our Best Friend…

We are three weeks into our series called “Friendship”. I will wrap up the series tonight with a lesson from the lives of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 19-20). Those guys were bros for life! We can definitely learn from their bond and model our current friendships after them.

But how do we get to that kind of friendship?

There are certain things we have to look for in a friend before moving them into the best friend circle. I have reviewed these things with our students but wanted to provide them to you as well.

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS your student needs to answer before someone becomes their best friend…

1. Can this person see what matters most?

2. Is this person loyal?

3. Does this person tell the truth?

4. Is this person selfish or selfless?

5. Is this person a follower of God?

But, why these five attributes? Did I pull them out of thin air? The reason is because they were first found in Jesus and He is the best friend we’ll ever have. Check out Philippians 2:1-8. Christ befriended sinners because he knew what mattered most, he was loyal to His plan, he personified truth, he was undeniably selfless, and he followed His Father.

Praying for positive, purposeful, and god-honoring friendships for your student,


8/23/17: Eclipse 2017…Did you miss it?

I was super excited to see my very first total eclipse of the Sun. I wasn’t around the last time America got a front row seat to this kind of phenomenon, so I wanted to seize the moment! I googled how to make my very own pinhole projector out of a cereal box and 10mins later I was ready to witness a miracle.

When it came time for the much anticipated event, a group of us from the church went outside to take it all in. However, when we looked up we saw nothing but clouds. We hoped (and prayed) that they would dissipate, but it wasn’t meant to be. Though we got to see a tiny part of the eclipse for a few seconds during a cloud-break, we missed most of it. It was quite disappointing!

What I’m wondering is, how many people missed it on August 21st as well? I’m not talking about missing the Sun and Moon due to cloud cover. I’m talking about missing God’s glory and creativity. How many people looked up into the sky, witnessed something truly remarkable, and walked away still doubting our Intelligent Creator? It’s events like these that should tug at the heart of the skeptics and pessimists.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Furthermore, Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world.”

This means that the majestic creation around us is meant to be a giant billboard for God’s glory, his handiwork, his power, and his nature. Our teens, our co-workers, our neighbors, and friends who doubt the existence of God need us to continue pointing them to these billboards. The more they see the Lord’s marvelous creativity, the more it will help them taste, see, and breathe in His glory!

Consider asking the skeptics around you some questions about what they witnessed on Monday. Ask them how they felt, what they experienced, and what came to mind. Ask them if they’ve ever seen anything like it and what that says about creation!

I’ll be praying for you as you continue pointing people to the billboards of God’s glory!


8/16/17 – Lies we Believe…

Recent events in Charlottesville, VA are the latest in a string of violent racial conflicts that have developed in our country over the last several years. It’s disgusting to see these stories of hate and intolerance spreading through America. It reminds us of a very dark reality; that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

Sin destroys two meaningful relationships: 1. Our relationship with God, and 2. Our relationship with others. God’s greatest command was to love Him and others unconditionally (Matthew 22:37-39). When we boil it down, anything that damages one of those two relationships is sinful. Therefore, no matter how much a person tries to justify it, racism is sinful and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

But how did we get to this point? Why are people at each other’s throats? Why can’t we pull together and move towards compassion and understanding?

My theory is that we believe lies sold to us by our enemy intended to drive us apart. The Bible says this about the devil: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). We have to realize when lies are being offered to us and reject them if we’re going to move towards love in our communities.

Here are three lies from Satan that we have to renounce:

“You’re better than them!” – Our enemy loves to pit us against each other by convincing us that we’re better or more worthy. The reason he loves to use this lie is because he knows that at our core we are actually more alike than we are different. Yes, God has made us unique and there’s no one on the planet like you, but humans share many similarities that should be celebrated. We all desire love, we all need hope, we all long for friendship, we all want to be a part of something greater, we all have the ability to learn, and we all are capable of communicating. Of most importance is the fact that we are all “made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). When we choose to believe that some are better than others, the “Us vs. Them” mentality infiltrates. We’ve got to see each other as God does if we’re ever going to come together.

“Violence is the only way!” – Satan helps us justify our violent attitudes. He convinces people that bloodshed is the most effective tool for proving a point. What we’ve seen though is that violence only breeds more violence. It is an infectious, terminal disease and it has to be stopped! The Bible says that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love is incredibly hard but it’s undeniably powerful. When the hatred ends and love begins, we thrive! We have to embrace 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“Things will always be this way!” – Unfortunately we are often pessimistic and choose to believe that things will never change. We label people as this or that based on quick judgements. Then, we write off entire groups of people and refuse to believe that change is possible. But there is another way! Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” If we are going to believe the best about each other we have to crucify our own attitudes. People and circumstances will change for the better when we begin to cast aside sinful misconceptions and judgements.

Would you join me in defeating these lies? Would you talk with your teen about how to recognize these lies before they develop further into action? Would you make it a point to choose love instead of division? We need each other if we are going to pursue a deeper relationship with God and others.

Praying for you,


8/9/17 – A Different Kind of School Year…

As a teenager I would always get a pit in my stomach around the first week of August. I knew that school was right around the corner and there was nothing I could do about it. I could hear the theme song from “Jaws” playing in my head as new teachers lined up ready to devour me.  

What I’ve realized now is just how hard teachers work. As a kid you never really see the hours, money, and time your teacher invests in you. Also, you never know what they’re dealing with at home and the issues going on in their life. It’s clear that they often don’t receive the appreciation and respect they deserve. 

So, what if this school year was different? What if you and your student took a greater interest in the lives of the teachers, staff, and administrators at school? What if every weekday your family lifted up a specific prayer for those who work so hard to educate our teenagers?

Here is a simple five day calendar you can put on the fridge to remind you and your teen pray for those in our school system. Ask God to give them clarity of mind, energy to serve, and renewed purpose. Lift up their family and friends and ask the Lord to bless the socks off them this school year!

    • Monday – Pray for your school principal and vice-principals

    • Tuesday – Pray for your student’s teachers

    • Wednesday – Pray for coaches and club sponsors

    • Thursday – Pray for the staff (office workers, custodians, assistants, security, etc.)

    • Friday – Pray for the parent leadership organizations

Above all, pray that followers of Christ on campus will rise up and be a light to those living in darkness. Pray for courage to share the Gospel and love of Christ. 

Praying for you,


8/2/17 – Teenagers want to matter!

You’ve probably noticed that fitting in, finding a niche, and being accepted are crucial to the fabric of teenage culture. In a school with hundreds of students, your teen doesn’t want to be just another face. Teens want to be noticed and have an identity.

Is it wrong for them to enjoy affirmation? Not at all! – But when they crave affirmation from others more than anything, it becomes a serious problem. If they start sacrificing their convictions, our red flags should go up!

So what do we do? What can be done? – At its core, this is a self-worth issue so we need to address it as such. If you can see that your student is seeking attention in all the wrong places, use these truths to help them see that they matter for all the right reasons…

They matter so much that Jesus willingly died for them! – Students need to be continually reminded of Christ’s sacrifice and unconditional love. The more they understand that they are precious in the eyes of God, the less they will try to find acceptance elsewhere. Reiterate to them that no one else could’ve paid their debt or done what Jesus did. He proved His love a million times over. The Cross is a testament to how much we matter to our Savior! John 15:13 says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NLT)

Their uniqueness is a huge part of why they matter! – Remind your teen that they were made in God’s image and that they’re one-in-a-million. By virtue of being a creation of the King, they matter! Help them see that being different is actually really cool! No one else on the planet has their abilities, their characteristics, or their personality. They can either go with the flow and do what everyone else does, or they can lead the charge and be a trailblazer! Show them Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV) God can’t help us find our way if we’re too busy pursuing someone else’s.

Their purpose matters! Why not tap into that desire to be a part of something bigger and encourage your student to be a part of the Great Commission? Something we talk about often at youth group is that teens don’t need to wait to impact the world for the Kingdom of God. There were plenty of people in Scripture that led bold lives for God at a young age (Samuel, Josiah, Jeremiah, Mari, Ruth, etc). Remind them that making disciples is the most important thing they’ll ever do. If they truly want to be a part of something that matters, they have to be a part of something that’s eternal! Read together Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV) They can pursue the team, the club, the trophy, and the clique all they want, but those things don’t go with them to Heaven!

Hopefully you can toss around these truths at the dinner table, in the car, or on the couch. In my opinion, you should remind your teen of these things as much as possible. When they finally start to grasp that they matter in the eyes of Christ, they will be more motivated to live for Him and not for others!

Praying for you,


7/26/17 – What is it that keeps students plugged in to church after High School?

Unfortunately we’ve heard the grim statistics concerning the absence of 18-24 year olds in our churches. We all know about or have students that left the church once they gained freedom from mom and dad. But why is this happening? I’m not sure we can pinpoint it exactly, but I did want to share a few things that I’ve observed in students who have sought the Body of Christ while away from home. So here we go…

  1. A Mission-Minded Home – Above all, the most important thing in a student’s life is the discipleship that happens in the home. Nothing we do in student ministry or the church has as much impact as family-led faith. Weekly youth meetings, retreats, and camps should only be supplemental. When students see their parents, aunts, uncles, and/or grandparents pursuing Christ passionately, they will be impacted. (Side note: They don’t need faith forced upon them, they simply need to observe it and make the decision to follow Christ on their own.) Also, if teenagers see that busyness rules and God is way down the food chain, their priorities will follow that trend as they get older. Parents can’t expect their kids to value a faith that they don’t value. (Check out Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

  2. A Mentor to Follow – We have awesome adult leaders ready to step in to your student’s life to love on them, strengthen them, push them, and encourage them. Teens need to hear another voice reiterating the spiritual conversations at home to see just how important their faith is. A mentor is a person of the same sex who is a few steps ahead of your student and can provide godly wisdom. In our youth ministry, this plays out with something called “D-Groups” (discipleship groups). Students can sign up to be in a D-Group that meets with one or two other students and an adult every couple weeks for Bible study and fellowship. (Check out 2 Timothy 2:1-2)

  3. A Ministry to Serve In – In my experience, when students get involved and serve in ministries they start to see that the church is theirs too. This will also help them see where God has gifted them and give them an opportunity to put it into practice. Furthermore, they get to pour into other people and not sit back as sponges on Sundays and Wednesdays. (Check out 1 Peter 4:8-10)

These things can’t guarantee that your student grows into a mature follower of Christ but they will definitely put them in a good place for growth! At the end of the day, the choice is theirs so at some point we have to let go and let God take over. Know that I’m praying for you as you seek to parent well!

If you have questions or comments, please email me at pdane@whillschurch.org.


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