An Honest Review of the Book: How To Stay A Christian in High School

HB03-lI just finished a book entitled How to Stay Christian in High School by Steven P Gerali a book written to encourage teens that they do not have to give into the pressures from the world. I kind of had mixed emotions about the book. But here is the good and bad of the book:

The Good

The book was a fresh look at teenagers in the Bible and their ability to overcome great obstacles. I never really thought about how many people in the Bible that we call “Men of God” were really teenagers when their testimony of trust in God was tested. This book really got me to think about other characters outside of the book that faced great testing as a young adult.

As a youth pastor I will adapt some things from this book to encourage my youth group. Two specific teens that the author looks at, Daniel and Joseph, were thrust into pagan societies as teenagers but by the grace of God were able to resist the temptations of the world around them. While they were able to be raised in the early part of their lives in “Christian” homes, as teenagers they were completely separated from the godly influences of their family, but were able to find the strength through God to face their difficult situations. These two were a specific encouragement to me because I know that teens so many times feel like it is impossible to live godly with the seemingly overwhelming ungodly influence around them. This isn’t just how a teen going to public school feels, it is the way teenagers in any type of schooling feels. Even though as I spent my entire teenage years either in a Christian school or homeschooled, I still felt overwhelmed at times with the amount of effort it took to keep a right relationship with God. So there are going to be some good lessons I can adapt from this book.

The Bad

There is a reason that I am going to adapt lessons from this book, rather than use this book as written to use as a Sunday School curriculum. I feel like while trying to make the book feel relevant today, that they over killed it, and at times seemed irreverent to the Scriptures. This isn’t to say that they did it on purpose, but it still struck me in a negative way at times.

I also feel like the author had to assume a lot with some of the points he made, or ways he brought a story together. If I did not already have a keen knowledge of the Bible and the characters that the author presented in the book, it could have possibly come across as more than just creative liberties, but could have made me think that it must really be what the Bible says.

Conclusion

Overall if I were to give this book a rating it would be a 2.5 out of 5 stars. Not a book that I would scream from the rooftops for people to read, but a good one to read like you eat a fish, eating the good parts and spitting out the bones. Looking forward to using some of the thoughts from this book, to teach and preach to my teens.

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Pieces from the Pickup Lines #6

I recently picked up a book called How to Stay Christian in High School by Steven P Gerali a book written to encourage teens that they do not have to give into the pressures from the world. He takes several “Teen” Bible characters to give examples of how they can stand for Christ. Here is our “Pieces from the Pickup Line”  from my reading on September 11, 2013.

Reblog: Koffee With Kelli

Excellent points on eliminating hurry and the ways to spend family time together.

Pritchard Ministries

ImageKoffee With Kelli

Hope you have time for a cup of coffee this morning to reflect on the whirlwind of another school year beginning…backpacks, new pens, agendas, mountains of paperwork and yes…homework for all of us again!! I tell my kids about 3 weeks before summer ends that the school mom is coming back so prepare for her arrival!! I try really hard all summer to not rush anything ie going to bed, getting up, getting our summer reading done, even at the park as they are playing and ask,” Is it time to go?’ I love saying,” Whenever you are ready!” but then, almost in the blink of an eye, we are right back into the rhythm of another school year. Some are so happy to have the routine back in place while others of us could go on and on living those summer days with our children!

I…

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Learning to adjust

Seven weeks ago my oldest child Aric started his first year of elementary school and I can say this has been a big time of adjustment for all of us. 4 weeks ago our third child, Alton, was born and added to the need to adjust. When change happens in life sometimes you can find it extremely hard to adjust and be just plain overwhelming. I know that eventually I will be adjusted to this new time of life, but here are a few things I have found a difficult time to adjust too.

1) Going to Bed Early

I consider myself to be more of a night owl than a morning person. Before Aric started school I normally was to bed between 12am-2am working on projects for my company, but since the start of the school year I have to adjust my schedule to getting up before 7am so going to bed so late isn’t a good ideal. I mentioned a little about this in the blog post from the first week of school.

2) Being Productive Between Drop-off and Pickup times

This has been the biggest adjustment for me. I already kept a busy schedule before Aric started school, but now that he has started school it seems like the 6 hours between dropping him off and picking him up is hardly every productive. I know that I really am being productive, but it is hard to grasp that it actually is. I work 2 (sometimes 3) jobs. I am an Assistant Pastor, a Freelance Graphic Designer, and a Substitute teacher.

Many times when I get home from dropping Aric off I get home and try to start working on graphics projects or getting things ready for church. Just about the time I finish with some of my projects it is lunch time.  Then by the time lunch is over, I only have an hour before I have to leave and pick Aric up from school (2:00pm). So even in just a little paragraph you can see it can be a heart thing to make sure I am productive. But over time I will figure it out I am sure.

3) Taking extra time to spend with my children

You might be thinking, “Well, Duh! It’s your responsibility to spend time with your children”. It isn’t that I didn’t spend time with my children before, but now that we aren’t all at home, all day together, it takes some adjustment. With a new-born baby in the house, it takes a time of adjustment to juggle things back around and make sure my children get the time with their father that they need. Sometimes this means taking my individual children out and just hanging out with them. But it still is a hard adjustment to make when so many new things are going on in my life.

What type of adjustments have you had to make in your life either when your children have first started school or when summer has ended and your children are headed back to school?

Pieces from the Pickup Line #5

I recently picked up a book called How to Stay Christian in High School by Steven P Gerali a book written to encourage teens that they do not have to give into the pressures from the world. He takes several “Teen” Bible characters to give examples of how they can stand for Christ. Here is our “Pieces from the Pickup Line”  from my reading today on September 10, 2013.

Book Fair Volunteer

This past week I had my first opportunity to volunteer to do something at my son’s school. They were in need of parents to volunteer to help with the book fair they would be holding in the Library of the school, so as I feel it was my responsibility to help I volunteered  for a few hours on Monday. I had hesitated to volunteer for a little bit, with having a new baby in the house, trying to figure out a new sleeping schedule, and needing to complete jobs that were already behind, it was easy to make excuses not to help. I began by rationalizing that there would be plenty of children who’s parents had volunteered to help and that they really wouldn’t need me, but since I had already said I would be there I needed to keep my commitment.

When we arrived at school I walked Aric into the school building, checked in, and headed to the library. I expected to find a library full of parents jumping in to help, but there were only 2 other parents ready to help. I stayed for the time that I had volunteered and asked if they would need my help again the next day. The librarian told me she would love to have my help anytime I wanted to be there as there weren’t very many who had jumped on the opportunity to help.

Tuesday was “Book and Breakfast” day, a day that they offer to let you come eat breakfast with your child and check out the book fair together. I arrived a little early and thought that there would be a bunch of parents excited about eating breakfast with their Pre-K – 2nd Grade students (approx. 260 students). But when I arrived there were only a handful of parents there to eat with their children, a few more arrived after Aric and I had ate our doughnuts. Once back in the Library there weren’t but maybe 8 parents who came through with their child to pick out books.

Before I left for the day the Librarian was telling some of the teachers how thankful she was that she had some new parents coming in to volunteer for helping as all the parents who had helped in times passed no longer had children in the school and had moved on with their children.

Three quick things I learned from being a “Book Fair Volunteer”:

1) Schools really do like parents to volunteer

2) Not many parents will take the time to volunteer

I do understand that not all parents are able to because of their jobs

3) Not many parents took advantage of spending quality time to get to know more about their child’s school.

It isn’t that I expected every child to have a parent there to eat breakfast with their child. I would say at least 3/4 of the students ride the bus, but still to only have 8-10 parents show up to have breakfast with their children just baffles my mind. Every morning when I go to drop off Aric at school there are at least another 16 cars there, and that is only the parents who get their early. As I have stressed before, I believe in order for a child to succeed in ANY school, parents need to be involved as much as possible, but it is obvious that many parents do not take the time to do so.

An Honest Review of the Book: Christian Teachers in Public Schools

9780834128644_p0_v1_s260x420Just this week I finished the book: Christian Teachers in Public Schools: 13 Essentials for the Classroom. While the focus of this book is for teachers, as a parent of a public school child, I appreciated the insight into what challenges a Christian Public School teacher faces and what opportunities there are to shine for Christ.

The author was very honest with the struggles that she faces as a teacher and finding way to witness for Christ. She doesn’t try to make you believe that being a Christian in a Public School is easy, but make you realize it isn’t as impossible as some people make it out to be. The author included a lot of personal material in there: letters from students, writing prompts from students, personally stories, and lessons learned from the classroom.

So just to highlight what I got from the book, here are some things that really stuck out to me.

1) Materials from students

If the author had tried to make it seem like an easy task to be a Christian teaching in the Public School then she would have included all the heart touching perfect stories that come from some of her students. Instead she wanted you to see the reality of why there needs to be Christians both teaching and learning in the public school by including letters and paper from some of her students. Some of the papers were written by students who came from homes filled with drug and violence and the influence that a Christian teacher had on their lives. One story that stuck out in my mind was about a student who had no desire to do any work whatsoever and what she was able to do to convince him to actually get engaged in doing his school work.

2) Personal stories and stuggles

While not everyone will always be interested in knowing someones personal stories or struggles, I believe the author did a good job connecting with the reader with her personal tidbits. At one point she gave a personal story about how she was ready to just give up and quit at one particular school, but God sent a student into her class who really didn’t even belong in her class to answer a writing prompt “The worst thing a teacher could do”. A lot of students gave answers like these: Give homework on the weekend, make us do school work, give to many assignments, ECT. But when this student raised his hand he said, “The worst thing a teacher could do is quit.” The author acknowledged that that one boys answer completely changed her attitude and she decided she could not quit.

3) Little short devotions in every chapter

A unique aspect of this book was the author included a little devotional from a fellow teacher at the end of each chapter that helped re-enforce the purpose of the chapter. Sometimes the devotions really hit home for me, making those chapters stand out above others in my mind.

This book was a blessing to me, I was actually kind of sad to see it end as I am sure there are probably more than 13 life lessons that she has learned from teaching, but the 13 essentials she gave were excellent and very insightful to the ministry of being a Christian Public School Teacher. No matter if you are a parent of public school children, a teacher, or even a substitute (like myself), this book would be a great read for you.

Guest Blog: God’s Leading Each Step Of The Way

“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Psalm 32:8

There are certain situations in my life that I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was in the right place at the right time . . . in public school.  Over the years, I questioned my parent’s decision because I heard pastors and teachers speak so strongly about the subject.  Then I looked back over my life.

I made lifelong friendships which affected me in a very positive way.  Contrary to popular, conservative Christian beliefs, these friends have taught me to be a better human being.  I have often found that my unchurched friends are more gracious, more forgiving, and generous than I have ever been or many Christians I have met. I would have never met them had I not gone to public school and been able to invite them to teen activities at my church.  Many times when I knew my friends were talking about something of which I would disapprove, they stopped as I walked up to the group without even having to say anything.  They never made fun of me for the way I dressed or my standards. In fact, many times they mentioned they respected me for living as I did.  

Witnessing to friends might be expected, but I also was able to share my faith with teachers.  A few teachers were atheists.  They actually wanted to know what I thought.  I even gave my science teacher tracts and she read them.  Had I not been there, who would have given the tracts to her?  They were about Creation. I was never given failing grades or graded more harshly because of my faith. 

One class that I did have the privilege to take was Latin. It was a privilege to take Latin for four years from one of my very favorite teachers, Mrs. Phillips.  She was one of the kindest, loveliest people you would ever meet and even years after I graduated she knew me by name when I saw her out in town.  She had hundreds of students over her entire teaching career, but she knew me.

Latin is also a window into my husband’s language, Romanian.  I rarely speak about my husband on my blog because he is a behind the scenes kind of guy.  Our plan when we married was and always will be is to return to Romanian to start churches.  When I went to Romania for my college internship, I immediately began recognizing words.  Some Romanian words are direct carry overs from Latin.  Romanian is the closest language which is spoken today and traceable to Latin.  How many Christian schools offer Latin?  My parents would have never been able to teach Latin to me if they homeschooled me.  I would have never imagined going to Romania when I was in 8th grade and signing up for 9th grade classes!

Public school also prepared me for my first real job after graduating college.  I became a sign language interpreter for a deaf student in a public school.  I was not shocked or uncomfortable by my surroundings.  Some might say, “You should never feel comfortable when you are among the Lost.”  In this situation, it was exactly what was needed.  I was not comfortable to sin.  I was comfortable with the public school system.  I jumped right into my role of interpreter without hesitation.  My student was failed by the system and fell through the cracks.  He was defensive towards my presence. I had to be firm and establish my roll.  He later asked questions about God.  I still pray for his salvation.

For a short time, I also worked in an elementary school as an aide to a hard of hearing student.  Many of the teachers both at the high school and the elementary school were Christians.  They asked after my health regularly and prayed for me.  I loved working with those ladies.

I also had the opportunity to observe the education system in action.  A few years later, I was given the opportunity to teach in a Christian school as a 6th grade teacher.  I loved both experiences of interpreting and teaching.  I miss all my students and rejoice when I hear of their successes.

 

 

Conversation with a Friend

Friendships are a special part of everyone’s life. At church recently we had a good friend, who is a missionary to Mongolia, visit and present his ministry to our church. He and I talk often on the phone, but this was the first time in about 2 years that he and I had gotten to see each other face to face.  While I wish that he and I could have had more time to talk, the time we did have was very refreshing.  I could babble on about everything that we talked about, but since I like to keep this blog as an encouragement to those of us who have children in public school I will only mention the encouragement that I had gotten from him concerning my children attending public school.

We first talked about how Christians have missed out on a great opportunity to reach people within the public school system. Back in the early 60’s there was a huge push for Christians to exit the public school system because of the removal of School Prayer (That was prayer over the intercom before the start of the school day). Their cry was that the public schools were a lost cause because of that removal and that the only way that America would be saved was the establishment of Christian Schools and homeschooling. Looking now at 51 years since this has happened we could honestly say to one another, that the establishment of freedoms to have Christian Schools and Homeschooling has done very little to win our country to Christ. We see America becoming less and less Christian every day. Am I saying to abandon Christian schools and homeschooling and put all Christian children back into the Public School? No, not every Christian is called into a public school setting. During the course of this discussion we came to realize a few things.

1) Public School Isn’t for Every Family

I appreciated this friends support for me and the direction the Lord had given us. While he himself said he wouldn’t feel comfortable sending his child to public school (and being a missionary on deputation anyways it wouldn’t be practical), he did not criticize me for the choice we had made as a family. In fact he praised the Lord to know that there would be yet another Christian influence in our public schools reaching out to people who may other wise never have a Christian to influence their lives.

2) No Schooling Choice is Perfect

He and I both were part of the same homeschooling group as teenagers. We had gone through much of our middle school and high school years together. My friend is 3 years younger than me, but we still had developed a friendship that has lasted for many years. But looking back at our homeschooling group, there were very few people that we could find that continued loving and serving God when they entered adulthood (that is not to puff us up or make us look like saintly figures, but to give reality that just because you’re homeschooled doesn’t give you a better chance to turn out for God). In fact a startling statistic I shared with him, is that in the last 6 years of  being a youth pastor I have seen very little no difference between the percentage of teenagers who go to Public School vs. Christian School/Homeschool that continue serving the Lord after they finish high school. In fact if anything the percentage would lean a little higher on the side of public school students.

3) The Problem Isn’t the Schools, It’s the Parents

In the end the responsibility of children falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Now this isn’t to say that the schools could have a possible influence on a child, but I strongly believe if parents would be more involved with their children’s lives and schools, that the possibility of that influence will diminish greatly.

I can remember my dad approaching me one time before the school year started, he warned me to stay away from certain people who went to the same school that I went to, he said “Aaron these people are people who I do not want to be your friends because they will hurt you spiritually. But Aaron here are some people who you really should try to have as friends”. When my dad told me that it was in an environment that was completely “Christian”, a Christian School, a school with only students from one church. My mom and dad stayed engaged with me as a student growing up, even in a Christian school.

The major reason many Christians will fail to continue serving God both while they are in school and after they graduate is because after they started school parents completely let go of their children and will not get  involved in the education of their children. Before you say, “well homeschooling fixes that problem because parents have to be involved then”, I can attest to the fact that many of those who homeschool their children, do just as little in the way of educating them in the ways of the Lord as parents who send their children to public schools and Christian schools. If you didn’t get it before, I will state it again, as a youth pastor I have seen that there is little to no difference between the percentage of teenagers who go to Public School vs. Christian School/Homeschool that continue serving the Lord after they finish high school. In fact if anything the percentage would lean a little higher on the side of public school students.