Just Friends, No Benefits

Kind of reminds me of the movie When Harry Met Sally.

It seems some things in college life never change, right?

Culture youth ministry

Understanding & Reaching Wireless Students

Whether you are a high school teacher, a high school pastor, or the parent of a high schooler we all have the same problem. How do we understand and reach the teenagers in front of us with messages that matter? 

I’ve found that this lead in question is often the problem.

  1. We are a generation of adults who likes to talk and pretend to be experts on things we don’t understand, we over-assume.
  2. What matters to you isn’t necessarily something that matters to the students in your life.

That said, there is plenty of research available which will help you better understand what’s important and how to reach those in high school right now. Why is there so much research done on this age group? Because bagillions of dollars in spending are influenced by them! (What? You thought researchers just liked them? Maybe so?)

Here’s what’s on the menu for understanding those who just graduated high school:

  • Soup of the day – The Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2015. We start things off by recognizing the world they have grown up with. They’ve never had a home phone, they’ve never dialed up the internet, they’ve never known a world without terrorist plots or going to the gate to pick up a friend at the airport. This list provides context.
  • Chef’s salad – The cost of college is on the forefront of their minds. Most high school students live with the adult assumption that they need to attend college. They are marketing savvy enough to ponder, “Do I need to go to college or do adults depend on me going to college?” They are asking good questions to count the cost like, “Is college right for me? Why do I want to go to college and spend all of that money if I don’t know what I want to do? Am I going to make enough money in the long run to afford the debt it will take to graduate?” This is why the gap year is so intriguing to them. (This is a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs)
  • Featured entree`5 Ways to Friend the Class of 2015. Research start-up Mr. Youth has published a powerful marketing whitepaper which dove deep into the forces that move them. The five ingredients of this dish include: Help them express their personal brand, Integrate organically into their world, Get in good with their friends, Become an on-demand brand, Get to know them before assuming what they want.
  • DessertMillennial Donors 2011 Executive Summary. Today’s students are motivated to change things. According to the second year study called Millennial Donors, 93% of those surveyed gave money to charity. 79% actively volunteered their time. But 90% of those surveyed said they would stop donating (time & money) if they didn’t trust the leadership.

What does this have to do with my role in students lives? 

  • To reach students we have to understand what makes them tick instead of trying to get them to understand our point-of-view.
  • The world they have grown up in is vastly different from the one you grew up in. They already have a million adults in their lives that lecture to them, your best opportunity for reaching them is through listening.
  • Instead of asking students to get on your team you’ll need to help them see how your team and their team can collaborate. The concept of personal brand isn’t narcissism, it’s an opportunity.
  • Understand that a recommendation is their most powerful motivator. They simply won’t go somewhere or do something that’s not recommended to them.
  • They are hard-wired to give back, volunteer, and contribute their fair share. But the key component is trust. If you aren’t transparent and honest they will just move on.
Do you work with high school students? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve pointed out? What are areas you’d like to explore more? How could this research impact your day-to-day interactions with high schoolers? 

Place your bet

Photo by @ Alex via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A few months ago I went to Las Vegas with my father-in-law for 24 hours. There are at least 4 things hilarious with that statement, right?

He was running a marathon and needed someone to drive with him from San Diego to Las Vegas and back. I went since it’d be nice to catch-up along the way as well as have lunch with my mom, who lives a mile from the Strip.

Since my mom lives there… I have been to Vegas at least 10 times. Normally, I like to people watch late at night. The joke has always been that I’m down $11 in slots lifetime and I’m mad about it. I’ve never really been into the games.

What I learned from 6 hours on the Strip

Unlike my normal late-night-people-watching, this trip had me up very early, checked out of my hotel, and walking the Strip by breakfast. With more than 6 hours to kill I wandered through a few casinos filled with old people playing slots and a bunch of dealers standing at empty tables.

Along the way I stopped at a Starbucks. As I sipped my mocha I entertained myself by watching a few scattered games here and there. In truth, like a lot of Christians, I feel really out of place on a casino floor. More because I don’t know what to do than that I don’t feel like I could enjoy it.

At one casino there was a small crowd around the crap table. It was a morning clinic explaining how the game worked. Perfect… I could kill an hour, learn something, and its free.

Here’s an observation from that clinic: There is a time to place bets. But once the time has passed it is too late for placing bets. You are either in the game or you are out. The shooter rolls 7 or 11 on his first roll, everyone with a bet on the line instantly doubles their money. If you think about it, every form of gambling has that same timeline. A time to place bets. A time when betting is closed. And a moment when a winner is declared. Cards, slots, horses, lottery, etc.

When you are playing in the game you have a claim at the table. You can win or you can lose. Your heart beats faster and adreneline pumps. The dealers chatter with you. And the cocktail waitress is happy to bring you a bottle of water or whatever you’d like on the house.

When you aren’t in the game you have no claim to the table. You can’t lose but you can’t win either. You’re on the sidelines as an observer. No pitter-patter of your heart. The dealers might not acknowledge you. And fat chance in getting a free drink from the waitress if you aren’t in the game. You’re just another tourist.

Gambling in Vegas is a lot like life outside of Vegas

It feels like people are so afraid of losing that they just refuse to place a bet at all.

  • College – Where do I want to go? What do I want to study?
  • Marriage and family– Is this the right person? What if it’s the wrong person? Should we have kids? If so, when?
  • Vocation – What do I want to do when I grow up? What if I don’t like it?
  • Location – Where do I want to live?

People aren’t shy about their shock with Kristen and I because we placed bets on all four of those categories early in life and have continued to “improve our hand” over the years.

The flip side, experience has taught: In order to win you have to place a bet in the game. And the window for placing a bet is limited. When the time comes to place a bet I already know I want to be in the game because sitting on the sidelines is too boring for me. There are risks and rewards… but I always know I want to be in the game.

Life’s winners and losers are in the game. But those who hold on, never placing a bet, will never know what winning feels like because they are too afraid to accept the risk of losing. And that, my friends, is losing every time.