Talking Faith with Mike Gordon

by Chris Tompkins | October 12, 2022

Mike Gordon, an ordained pastor, has travelled the globe over the years speaking to young people about faith. His unique approach to theology — with a comedic twist — has made him an incredibly in-demand speaker. To date, he has nearly 3,000 speaking engagements under his belt, having been invited to speak at churches, camps, corporate training events, bible colleges and music festivals. In addition to helping young people navigate their faith through his talks, Mike has helped churches start more than 30 different initiatives with that same goal.

Finding an other-centred community at church

Despite the perception that youth are completely absorbed by screens and social media, Mike has found that there is a real desire among young people for community and belonging, with churches being a great source for both. Mike says that churches come with the added benefit of offering a counter narrative to our culture today, by shifting the focus away from individualism and self to others — a main tenet of Christianity. He explains that learning to put others first is something that is lacking in our word right now.

“To be really other-centred, I think, is a huge benefit for young people today that…you can’t get in other places,” Mike says.

The big questions

In coming up with the topics for his talks, Mike tries to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with youth and the issues they are wrestling with. Lately, he has dealt with the question, “Why did this happen to me?” Often people direct this type of questioning to God after going through a hard season of life, like the pandemic. Another question he is often asked is whether God is real and whether Christianity is the way. Instead of answering those questions directly, he instead encourages people to read the bible and then put God’s directives to the test. Loving your enemy, for instance, can be life-giving, he explains. It can foster a feeling of peace in place of anger and resentment and when changes like that start taking place, Mike believes that’s when people discover that there might be some truth to Christianity.

Answering kids’ faith-based questions

Mike stresses the importance of parents being open to all conversations broached by their children. When it comes to answering their kids’ big questions about faith specifically, he encourages parents to keep an open-mind despite their own feelings. Interestingly, when it comes to Christian faith among Canadians, there’s a good chance that many people who are parenting young people today would have had exposure to Christianity growing up — some with positive experiences and others not so much. In case of the latter, Mike stresses the importance of parents separating their own experiences from those of their kids. Likewise, some parents will have had no exposure to Christianity, and might feel intimidated by the curiosity their kids are demonstrating and the questions they’re asking. In both scenarios, he recommends exploring their questions and curiosity with them by finding a podcast or YouTube video that covers the topic and listening together.

For more on what Mike has to say about faith and young people, listen to the full episode at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.

Transcript

[00:00:12.090] – Speaker 1
Well. Hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth today. Today we have Mike Gordon on the show. Over the years, Mike has spoken over 2500 times around the world, putting him in front of thousands of young people. As a speaker, he’s found a way to combine theology and comedy, which has made Mike one of the most unique communicators around. He’s often labeled as one of the friendliest people in the industry while he’s on the road with bands like Skillet and for King and Country, whose management group represents Mike as a speaker. He’s an ordained pastor with eight years of postsecondary education. In addition to his speaking, Mike has helped churches and organizations develop over 30 different initiatives, which he continues to do on the side today. It’s nice to have you with us today, Mike.

[00:01:19.720] – Speaker 2
Hey, thanks for having me. It’s an honour to be here.

[00:01:22.710] – Speaker 1
Yeah, it’s great. Looking forward to this conversation. So we always kind of kick off our conversations talking about what is shaping and has shaping our world. So I’m curious, what shaped your world when you were a kid or a teen? What’s some of the biggest influences, the things that shaped you?

[00:01:39.960] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I can think of a negative and a positive. The negative thing that shaped my world more than anything as a teenager was my parents getting a divorce, and I was 13 at that point. And that just threw me into a world of not really caring about anything and just going with the flow of the culture. And I just got involved with the wrong people and just lived the next few years just mindlessly and doing whatever I thought was right or normal or acceptable, and in hindsight realized that many of those things weren’t. So that literally shaped my world for about four or five years, more than I ever expected. On a positive note, though, during that time, what shaped my world was a basketball outreach program, run by a man who just wanted to invest into the community. He was a director, a youth director at a church, but he was just going into the community to just run a program so he can speak life into people and be a positive influence. And that shaped my world more than anything. To have someone in my life who cairns someone in my life that did not just go with the flow of culture, but showed me maybe a different way to live, a different way to think, a different way to do life.

[00:03:18.700] – Speaker 2
So during my teen years, I can go back and forth on the negative that shaped the world, but the positive that really changed everything.

[00:03:29.050] – Speaker 1
Yeah, it’s fascinating I’ve done a lot of interviews now, and when we ask this question, it’s crazy to me to think back to how many people talk about an older adult that really shaped their life. And that’s what I love about even this conversation. We’ve got adults who are listening to it, wanting to be that for other people. So it’s even encouraging to know. And probably like me. Mike, for you, that probably had a lot to do with why you do what you do today too. So, yeah, it’s encouraging to hear. So what’s shaping your world today? Tell us a little bit about you.

[00:04:06.720] – Speaker 2
Yeah, what’s shaping my world right now, literally right now, is football season, American football season. I love fantasy football, and here we are in the fall that is shaping our world. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am crazy about football, and I’m actually entering a season of slowing down a little bit as well. So I’m able to get back to some of my hobbies, which is watching sports and playing sports and going on walks and whatnot. So I try to be somewhat active, but I’m a huge sports guy that’s shaping my world right now.

[00:04:47.810] – Speaker 1
So at the risk of alienating some people, mike, you have a favorite NFL team.

[00:04:54.560] – Speaker 2
I’m a huge Baltimore Ravens fan. People can judge me. They have for a long time. Baltimore Ravens?

[00:05:03.670] – Speaker 1
Yeah. It’s interesting. We could do a whole side podcast on how you became a Ravens fan as a kid in Kanata, but we won’t digress. So you mentioned slowing down, and that kind of leads into, you know, I know this because of our history and what I know of you and stuff like that, but part of that slowing down is tension that you’re balancing between how busy your life often is, speaking and traveling and doing what you do. So can you tell us, what are you doing? What do you continue to do to shape the world of teens and young people? Tell us about your work that you do.

[00:05:43.910] – Speaker 2
Yes, so my work, first of all, I have the best life in the world, so what I do is I travel and speak, and I speak to young people, whether it’s in camp settings, conference settings, festivals, church settings. That is what I do for my quote, unquote, nine to five. And I’ve been doing this for ten years, full time now, and a typical year might be 250 to 260 speaking engagements a year.

[00:06:17.940] – Speaker 1
Wow.

[00:06:18.940] – Speaker 2
Yeah. All over the world, all different ages. But I will say young people, youth, young adults is probably my main focus. So when it comes to slowing down, I’m about to hit six or seven weeks of maybe almost two or three speaking engagements, which is very intentional. I try to take it slow in September and in October, even November a little bit, but speaking is what I do, and for whatever reason, a door opened to do that a decade ago. And here I am loving it more than ever and maybe seeing the value in it more than ever, seeing the impact and seeing the need for just maybe a different message or a positive message or for young people to learn about truth or hear about maybe a different way that’s different than the culture they are living in.

[00:07:15.120] – Speaker 1
Well, that’s why I was going to ask maybe like an executive summary level. I’m sure people are intrigued that’s a lot of speaking you do. And in your bio we talked a little bit about who you are as an ordained pastor and you bring some humor and study of God and religion and stuff like that into your talks. But generally speaking, what are your talks about when you talk to young people particularly?

[00:07:43.240] – Speaker 2
Yeah, so what I talk about is obviously it changes all the time. I do my best to keep my finger on the pulse of culture and try to understand what these young people are wrestling with. I would hate to be a speaker that in my own little world I just come up with a really nice talk and realizing, oh, no one’s asking that question or no one cares about that topic.

[00:08:08.670] – Speaker 1
Right.

[00:08:09.160] – Speaker 2
The most recent talk I have been communicating this year and asking a big question, god, why did this happen? So when we look at hard times, when we look at maybe going through a difficult season or something blows up in your life and it doesn’t make sense, it’s interesting. Whether you are a Christina or maybe an atheist, there is a deeper thought where we still somehow direct some attention to God and go, why did this happen? And what I’ve been sharing with people is you may never get an answer. And if you never get any answer, why did this happen? Are you content with that? Is that okay? I find for some people they are okay not knowing why their parents got divorced at 13, while other people, they’re not content, they want to know. And that’s almost like a stumbling block for some of them in regards to even entertaining the idea of faith or Christianity or maybe a different way that’s different than the culture they live in.

[00:09:19.840] – Speaker 1
Yeah, we’re going to get into some of this stuff in a little bit, but I appreciated how you said you kind of keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on and are listening to the questions kids are asking and wanting to come along and support and help through using some of your own gifting and experience and exposure and all that kind of stuff. But you do spend a lot of time around this next generation. And so I just love from your perspective to hear when you look at today’s youth culture, what gives you, Mike, a whole bunch of hope for the future and then what are a couple of things that maybe give you cause for concern.

[00:10:02.740] – Speaker 2
Yeah. So one thing that gives me hope is, despite what we see with research, for the research with young people will say they are alone, they feel lonely, and all the research will show that they feel at peace in front of a screen, on social media and away from people. What gives me hope is, although those are true statements, that does not mean they don’t want people in that they don’t want community and they don’t want some formal structure around them when it comes to people and outings and gatherings. So what gives me hope is although the research would suggest possibly most kids would rather stay in their room on their computer, well, the loneliness really has some going. This is not what I want. But they believe this is the only thing available.

[00:10:59.140] – Speaker 1
Right.

[00:10:59.640] – Speaker 2
I think when you start realizing they are open to community wells I do think in some cases church can do a good job with that. And not just church. I think organized sports do a great job with that. I think music and drama, I think there’s lots of clubs at Schott that do that. So one thing that gives me hope is young people are not turning away from community. They might not know where to find it, or they might feel a little anxious or have some social anxiety in regards to maybe putting themselves in it. But they’re not against it, if that makes sense. The challenge is what community are they putting themselves into and who are they surrounding themselves with? Because as we all know, whatever group you are with, you wells grow with them, you might adopt some of their ideas and thoughts and decision making. And some groups of people are obviously maybe a little more positive in life giving than others. And I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but it’s just the culture and just how, you know, life works. So for me, when I see the hope that young people still want to belong and have community and good people around them, it’s the fear of where do they find those people and are they finding the right group?

[00:12:32.700] – Speaker 1
That’s great listening to what you do and the kind of perspective you have. I want to give a bit of a segue for our listeners because in relationships, in life with family, you often try to stay away from the topics that seem a little dicey religion, sex, politics, those sort of things. And today we want to talk a little bit about religion and faith because of how it intersects with where young people are at. We’ve talked a lot on the show about how some of the big developmental questions in life, particularly in adolescence, are who am I? Where do I belong? And what kind of contribution can I make in the world? And for so many people around the world, religion is an integral part of that. And one of the things that I learned doing my master’s degree in youth development is just how significant religion is in positive youth development and providing things like you’ve mentioned of community and hope for something into the future and maybe a bit of a different guideline on moral compass and decision making. And it’s actually in the research out there. And so we’re going to talk a little bit more than we would in other shows on the topic of religion and faith and how that fits into young people’s lives.

[00:14:03.030] – Speaker 1
And so I just wanted to track our listeners with where we’re heading. And again, that’s kind of why we have you on the show because you spend a lot of time as a pastor and communicator talking with kids around that. So I’d love to hear from you. What kind of faith related questions are young people asking today? Because as you spend time with kids, that’s the probably a majority of the things that are at least an underpinning to what you’re hearing. So what kind of faith questions do kids ask?

[00:14:34.840] – Speaker 2
It’s interesting because sometimes when I travel somewhere and speak, I’m always amazed that they are asking questions to begin with. And to me it shows something that’s going on in their mind and wrestling with truth or wrestling with maybe whatever they see in the culture, whatever they are hearing. And so I always find it a good thing that they ask any question regardless of what it is. Now, when I do travel and speak, yes, sometimes I’m in a very predominant Christian setting, but other times I’m doing concerts and festivals with bands that are in the Christian world and secular world. And I get a lot of people who come up and I find they ask the big questions. And the big questions might be getting in between them and God. And so sometimes a big question could be why does God hate? And then they might ascribe a certain group of people, whatever their background is, whatever they were taught growing up by someone, maybe a friend in the culture, it always feels like God hates so and so or this group of people or people who live this way and that can be a broad range of different groups.

[00:16:00.150] – Speaker 2
And they go Why? And I just go, Wells, where did you come up with that idea? It’s always when someone told me or this is maybe what I read on social media. And of course what they see on social media is maybe the most extreme example ever. But it’s like, hey, this Christian said this. I’m like, no, that doesn’t necessarily mean God says that, right? So I find that’s a big question. Does God hate? And I’ve got to look at them, I’m in the eye and said, no, God is love, whether they believe that or not. And then I try to maybe separate God versus maybe people who don’t represent God very well, being honest with you another big question. More so coming out of COVID is they might hear me do a talk and afterwards I might have four or five people lined up asking the same question why does bad things happen to good people?

[00:17:03.910] – Speaker 1
Right?

[00:17:04.560] – Speaker 2
And I know if you’re ever in a faith religious environment, that question sometimes feels cliche. But if you’re not in that faith religious environment, that’s a very good, honest question to ask. They look at their lives and maybe some of the trauma they’ve gone through and some of the hard times and whether they know of God or not. Again, it’s funny how hard time point us to God in one way or another and whether we find ourselves frustrated how the world operates or whatever it is. And I try to just work through that the best I can. That’s obviously a very complicated question when you really start breaking it down. Another question I hear all the time is how do I know God is real? Or how do I know this way of Christianity is the way? How do I know it’s true? How do I know it’s not just like any other faith religion, you know, claiming this is a way to live? And I just tell people on that one, I say, well, do your homework. Don’t let me tell you that it’s true, that it’s real. And read a Bible or do some podcast or read a few books and do your own homework and do your own research.

[00:18:37.690] – Speaker 2
And then I tell people, try to put it to the test. For example, if you’re reading the Bible and you come across a part in the Bible where Jesus says love your enemies, well, put that to the test. How about you try to love your enemy? That you might discover that actually become very life giving and it might give you peace rather than bitterness and resentment and anger. And I tell people, maybe put little things like that to the test, which I think we all should do that I think loving people is something every person should do. But I find when I start putting some of these things into action, they start realizing, oh, maybe there is some truth to this other way or some of these religious rules, what they might call them. But I think it opens them up to a bigger understanding that maybe there is something here. Maybe there is some truth in this whole Christian realm of Jesus and the big conversations we have around that. So sometimes I think the question I’m asked seem again, I hate to use the word cliche, but in a Christian culture it seems cliche.

[00:19:48.100] – Speaker 2
But we’re not really in a Christian culture anymore here in Canada. So I don’t think these are cliche questions to the average person anymore. So the best I can do to answer, I will. But there’s also other times where I literally look a young person in the eye and say, I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t try to just make something up to sound profound or to feel like I need to give them any response. I have full confidence in myself to say, listen, I don’t know. Hey, here’s my social media contact. Hey listen, message me in three days and I’ll try to find an answer for you or whatever. Yeah, but just saying I don’t know. It also can be powerful when they ask those big faith related questions.

[00:20:36.260] – Speaker 1
Well, yeah and for so many of us, like you said in our culture today, these aren’t just questions that young kids are asking and they’re questions that a lot of us are asking and trying to explore. So yeah, I appreciate how you approach those questions and I think it’s just interesting to know that these things are timeless too. Right. Part of the developmental process and figuring out who we are and where we fit in this world is going to always involve some questions about some of the bigger feels like weightier things that are happening around beyond just the everyday stuff. So we talked about how important community is and for young people, you know, the relationship side of it and a lot of religious expressions have programming and opportunities for young people to kind of explore and to be part of communities. What are you seeing? How do kids get involved in religious experiences and how do even from your perspective, how have you seen this make a difference for young people? Why as parents, would we even consider the positive sides of our kids being part of a religious expression that’s kind of catered to them and where they’re at in life?

[00:21:58.910] – Speaker 2
It’s a great question. Again, I think we have to look at maybe the culture that we are in first. And not to be critical or judgmental, but I think the morals and values of our culture has changed over the last couple of decades. I think research will show the negative consequences of the lack of moral and values does have a negative impact on young people, has a negative impact on anyone. But with young people, I think the research is showing, yes, this whole way of do whatever you want if it feels good postmodern way of thinking where there’s no truth or truth is subjective. I mean, that’s attractive, that’s easy. But I think the research is showing these decisions that we make without any moral compass doesn’t always fulfill us the way we think it does and that could cause some bigger challenges. Right? So I think when it comes to a religious setting or community, regardless of where you are with God, I understand most people might not go to a church or a youth group because of God. First off, you know, not from the beginning. And I know that’s my story. I did not go to the youth group because I wanted to believe God.

[00:23:28.840] – Speaker 2
I went to the youth group because there was community, because someone invited me out. And through that I started seeing maybe the morals and values of these other people look different than the people I was hanging out with outside of a church setting. And I’ve seen some of the negative sides of life living without morals or values or a compass that’s a little off. So when I was hanging out with these young people when I was a teenager, it would just seem that their moral compass was different. But then they had joy and they had peace and they didn’t seem empty like I was in that time. And ultimately that opened me up to the bigger idea of is God real? And that took me down that road. But when it comes to community, I don’t think you need to go to a church just because you’re trying to figure out if God is real. I do think church offers more than just that. How do you get in there? My hope will be any church will open their arms for anyone. But, you know, people are people. And sometimes you can show up to a church Christian faith community and they have their established friendships already.

[00:24:44.010] – Speaker 2
And you show up and you go, I don’t feel like I belong here, or These people might be a little different. And I’ll say every youth group is a little different, their DNA is a little bit different. But I think the big thing is what I see is when I’m speaking and whether it’s a church or a camp or some Christian concert, when I am having a conversation with someone who is new to it all, it seems like almost every person said, hey, my friend invited me out, my friend brought me, my friend from school picked me up and brought me here. And I think the easiest situation is obviously if you are invited, you’re going in with someone, you’re with someone who trusted you, have an idea of what you’re stepping into. If anyone who’s listening is a part of any faith community, invite your friends and invite people. And I’m not saying you need to all of a sudden share every Bible verse. I’m just saying literally say, hey, 07:00 on Friday night, my youth group is going bowling. You want to come? That’s what I’m talking about. That could be life changing for people.

[00:26:02.950] – Speaker 2
Now, I’m obviously assuming someone will get an invite. Now, maybe if you’re wrestling with wanting to join a faith community and you’re looking around going, actually, I don’t have any friends who are in one wells. I think at that point we need to make our own decision to say, you know what? I can go on the Internet. I can Google, I can see what’s around. Almost every youth group has some social media page which shows you what they’re doing or who’s there and what not. Don’t be afraid to do your own research. To see what’s in your area. And I think for young people, you know, don’t be scared. If you want community, it’s available if you’re willing to maybe step into it. So obviously, ideally it would make sense, it would be great for someone to invite them out. But if not, don’t just sit on the sideline, be bold and go check out a few groups and maybe you might find that you really fit into one of them, which could really shaping our world.

[00:27:13.440] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s really good and helpful, I think just even to add to that. I think one of the things that a faith community adds for young people is kind of a counter narrative to our culture today, which has a lot to do with individualism and self and some of that’s really good and helpful. But a lot of the tenants to Faith and we’re talking about Christianity today are about others. The Christian religion is built on service to others. And like you said, not everybody does it well. You can’t always judge the roots and core of something by every participant or person who claims to be part of it. But I think at the core, simply by being part of a Christian faith community, you are working against the narrative of coming together and forming community and not becoming selfmade, but learning to serve and put others ahead, which I think is a huge piece of what our world really needs and what young people need as they discover who they are and make choices for their life. To be really other centered I think is a huge benefit for young people today that again, you can get in other places.

[00:28:33.870] – Speaker 1
But when you’re sitting in, being part of teaching that tells you to lead others is actually to serve them I think is a pretty powerful thing as a specific example. So Mike, I’d love for you, Mike, even to transition now. So as parents or youth leaders or teachers who are involved in young kids lives, when kids start asking questions around Faith, what advice would you give parents? How do we discuss these big issues with kids and have productive, helpful conversations on some of the big topics in life?

[00:29:08.060] – Speaker 2
I would think with any parent we need to be open for any conversation, whether it’s Faith conversation, whether it’s about anything else in the culture. But I do find sometimes it really depends on the parent and the upbringing. I think when you look in Canada, Mike research would show if you are a millennial or if you are Generation X or maybe older than that, maybe even a baby Boomer, there’s a good chance you probably had some exposure to Christianity growing up now, was that exposure positive or negative? I think that’s a big thing. And I find sometimes if a parent has maybe a negative experience growing up, then they don’t want to talk about this. When their kid asking big questions about maybe faith, they typically shut it down or say, we’re not going to talk about that, or we don’t believe that, or they share their experience or that thing that made them leave the church if they grew up in that culture, or the thing that made them shut down faith altogether. And one thing I tell parents is, yeah, maybe you have a legitimate reason. Maybe you were in a difficult situation or maybe something happened in your upbringing when it comes to a faith community that caused you to completely disconnect.

[00:30:38.510] – Speaker 2
And I’m not a parent when I say this, but if we’re able to separate our own personal experiences to maybe helping our kids navigate this conversation, that could help a little bit and not just try to persuade them because we had a bad experience doesn’t mean they might have a bad experience as well. So I think parents just need to be very open and just honest about that. And maybe they don’t have all the answers, and maybe they don’t have any answers because maybe they’re on the other side and did not have any quote unquote, church exposure growing up. And this could be a very scary conversation for them. And maybe it’s because they have a negative stereotype of the Christian culture and Sarah Wells, I don’t want my kid a part of that. Wells if you go down to the fundamentals of Christianity, Mike, it is about serving others and loving others and being kind of fundamental. I think that’s something we want everyone to have the foundational piece of just who they are, because I think there’s lots of positives to that. But I find sometimes maybe parents that don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience in this area, they can feel quite intimidated as well.

[00:31:57.610] – Speaker 2
And I think every parent wants their kids to know that they have all the answers. They think they have all the answers. So I think this is a scary conversation because it could reveal, hey, I don’t know everything about this. So I tell parents, don’t be shy to have those conversations or to be at the very least, be open to them. And there is a conversation or question that you might not have an answer to. What your child, your kid, your teenager, your young adult is asking why? Maybe look into it together. Maybe it’s simply going, let’s find a podcast that might speak on this topic and we can navigate it together.

[00:32:41.860] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s great.

[00:32:43.240] – Speaker 2
Maybe there’s a book or a YouTube video or whatever it is. I think doing that together could actually be of value on both sides and then they can have some real conversations about that. But I find a challenge that I’ve seen with some young people is when they again, whether they message me on social media or come and pull me aside after I do a talk, the challenge they have is they might say, hey, everything made sense during this week. At camp or I really feel like I want to look into faith a little bit more but I can’t share this with my family. They won’t understand, they won’t accept it, they won’t want to engage in this conversation. And I understand that’s a reality for a lot of young people. So maybe your kid is not sharing that to you, but that could be how they feel. Mike, there’s something here in my life I want to explore but I don’t feel comfortable bringing that to my parents because they might not respond in a positive way or they might not be open to the conversation. As a parent, if you are listening, I really encourage you at the very least be open to a conversation for your kids sake.

[00:34:04.690] – Speaker 1
Yeah, and I would also add to that Mike too. One of the things we talk about here on the show often I think there’s some nervousness and apprehension when things are unfamiliar or we’re not used to as parents and maybe we have perceptions of what we’ve heard church stuff or youth group is like. And one of the things, a principle we try to apply to a lot of stuff is in most things in life you can find some sort of virtue in it and there’s also a vulnerability and so we talk about affirming the virtue and discerning the vulnerability. So rather than just brushing it off to say hey. How might this these questions or this involvement might be positive in my kids life and what are the things that I need to be careful of and cautious as I navigate this even just from a starting point kind of discerning those things I think is really helpful and like you said. Being open to the journey but also maybe getting involved in finding out some information. What are some places parents can go to? If as we’re listening to this, maybe our kids are starting to be involved in faith and we aren’t?

[00:35:13.600] – Speaker 1
Or we’ve got these big questions what are some resources and places that we can as parents go to if we don’t have any faith background or don’t consistently practice faith and we’re starting to like if we’re going like all those questions you said I got the same ones, how do we kind of journey as parents with that?

[00:35:38.810] – Speaker 2
My answer to that question might sound obvious or weird, I don’t know.

[00:35:44.910] – Speaker 1
It depends on who’s listening maybe.

[00:35:46.600] – Speaker 2
Yeah, it depends on who’s listening. What I wells say is I think one of the biggest resources we have is the actual church. So if you’re you’re young adults coming home and having some interest in a Christian faith community and maybe they even list off a church in the neighborhood that their friend invited them to help the parent. Why don’t you go to the church Mike? Why don’t you check it out with your kid on a Sunday? Why don’t you go see what it’s all about and maybe through that maybe message the youth director or the youth pastor or maybe they can help navigate these big questions that you have as well. Maybe you might find there’s other parents your age who are also at that church who are in the same boat as you, while you’re maybe not completely into the whole faith thing, but your teenager is, and you’re trying to navigate that, maybe some of the best resources you might find is actually in that church community yourself. So I know it might be a little bit weird or whatever, but as a parent, I encourage them if your kid is going to church.

[00:37:03.420] – Speaker 2
But regardless of where you are with faith, go check it out. Go explore that with them. And don’t be afraid to set up a meeting with one of the staff members there to get some more information and more understanding. But you might find if you start plugging in to this might be one of the greatest resources you might be able to have to help you navigate not only this for your kids life, but also maybe for your own as well. Obviously, there’s the obvious stuff when it comes to many great resources out there when it comes to a podcast and books and some YouTube channels and whatnot, and to help you maybe try to equip yourself. But I think it takes some work. I think there’s opportunities, I think there are great resources, but I think the parent needs to figure out how to tap into that. And again, when I say that, I also recognize most of you might be working eight hour days and then taking your kid to soccer and then doing the laundry and then, you know, making lunches and you realize you don’t have a moment in the day to read.

[00:38:13.590] – Speaker 2
But that’s one of the values with podcasts. Maybe there’s a podcast you can put on while you are doing the laundry or while you are driving your kid to school. But I think there’s a lot out there if we’re willing to look. But I tell people maybe church itself might be one of the best resources you have in your community with real people to help explore this and examine what this is about and, you know, what does this mean for your child?

[00:38:42.700] – Speaker 1
That’s good. That’s a really good piece of advice. We’re just kind of wrapping up our conversation, Mike, maybe broadly, just zooming out any other resources or things that you might suggest to parents who are wanting to help their kids engage more in the world around them. And, you know, whether it’s faith stuff or just in general, like as parents who are going, man, I don’t even particularly understand this world my kids are in, where would you point them?

[00:39:08.910] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I mean, one of my go to and maybe I’m biased, but a friend of mine I have been traveling with for many years, Brett Alman, he writes a lot about the culture that we are in here in Canada, and that goes beyond Canada, too. But he writes about the culture we are in and what that means as a parent. And I know he has some very great resources to help us navigate the world that they are in. Maybe how faith comes in there in some way, shape or form. But he is someone we trusted when it comes to parents and the culture. And that’s a resource that I think is valuable for many people. But again, he’s typically my go to with that as a resource for parenting and culture.

[00:40:01.810] – Speaker 1
We had him on the show a long time ago, but that’s a great resource and a reminder. Well, Mike, I really appreciate your insight and your time as we’re kind of wrapping up what kind of final thoughts, words or encouragement you would have for parents who are working through difficult stuff with their kids at home or who are navigating the complications of faith and life and all that stuff. What would you say just as an encouragement as we wrap up our time?

[00:40:29.010] – Speaker 2
Yeah, as some encouragement. I think if your kids are wrestling with this, that’s a good thing. If you’re asking the big questions, I do think that’s a good thing. It just shows that maybe something is stirring up in them. Maybe there’s something that they are seeing in the culture that says this doesn’t make sense, or I don’t see how this kind of leads to a positive, fulfilled life. We’re taking away our moral compass. I think we embrace it. One thing I tell parents, and I’m telling myself this, the culture is way different now than what it was when we were in high school. And I know high school feels like it was just yesterday for us. It wasn’t. Not to be rude. We’re probably a little older than we.

[00:41:21.070] – Speaker 1
Speak for yourself, Mike. Speak for yourself.

[00:41:22.680] – Speaker 2
Yeah, speaking to myself, yeah. But I really feel like I still remember walking out of high school on my last day and it literally feels like yesterday. And now I go, man, that was 18 years ago.

[00:41:34.930] – Speaker 1
Yeah.

[00:41:35.530] – Speaker 2
However, with that mindset, you know, we tend to think high school is the exact same today as it was when we graduated many years ago, and it’s not. And I really encourage young people to let their parents know in the most loving way possible. Like it is hard, you know, it’s not always black and white and your social status does matter. And we are beliefs and values can isolate you in some ways. And I think that is a scary situation more than ever. And so if you are a parent, I encourage you just understand it is different and your kid is in a whole new world, a whole new post Christina environment. A postmodern environment. I think the more you recognize it’s not the same as yesterday, maybe that opens you up to wanting to understand their world and wanting to understand this culture and wanting to understand what high school life is like today. And I think if parents are open to that conversation, too, they might learn how different it is and the challenges their kid is really actually facing. And that might help a parent be able to navigate that conversation or learn how to support them a little bit more.

[00:42:55.950] – Speaker 2
Understand, if a kid comes home from a bad day, don’t just give advice that you received 18 years ago when you were a high school student. Maybe how you even encourage your kid in that situation looks much different now. But I encourage young parents to do your best to understand culture of change. Do your best to understand the culture and the environment they are in. And through that, maybe that can help you navigate their next steps. Because you are still their parents. That is your job to help guide them, to help lead them, to help support them. So I really encourage every parent to do that. But understand, it might look different today than it did 18 years ago.

[00:43:41.470] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s great. I appreciate that. And, Mike, I appreciate what you do and the time you’ve given us today and your insight. Really helpful for parents and other adults who care about the kids in their lives to navigate some of these sensitive and complicated issues. I love your hope for kids, and it thanks for being on the show.

[00:44:05.430] – Speaker 2
Hey, thank you so much. I really appreciate this.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins leads the senior leadership team in bringing the Muskoka Woods vision to life. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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