youth ministry

Sleep deprivation and the American teenager

To meet all of these demands, surveys show, high schoolers usually stay up close to midnight on school nights. And then they have to get up early the next morning, typically around 6 or 6:30 a.m., to get to school on time, as most high schools start classes around 7:30 a.m.

“Most studies show a fairly consistent 9 1/4 hours sleep requirement,” says Emsellem. “So there’s a huge gap between what they’re getting on an average school night and what they require.”

An adolescent’s biology bears some of the blame for this sleep problem. As teens progress through puberty, unprecedented growth occurs in body and brain that requires a lot of sleep.

Read the rest

In youth ministry we joke about all-nighters. I’m quick to point out that when hosting an all-nighter that I take tactical advantage over my students. First, I play with chemical warfare by loading my students full of sugar and caffeine early in the night while I load up on water and fruit, followed by a lot of physical activity. Second, as an adult I actually need less sleep. Third, I sleep well regularly so I’m not tired going into an all-nighter.

Yet sleep deprivation is a serious ailment for our students. Missing out on 33% of sleep each night (on average) has loads of consequences.

Here’s a quick list of problems with chronic sleep deprivation that I’ve seen:

  1. Struggling in school academically. Some schools are compensating by starting high school later. A nice step, but doesn’t solve the problem if they just stay up later.
  2. Compensating for tiredness with caffeine & sugar might help them stay alert but leads to weight gain, doesn’t help acne, excessive odor, etc.
  3. Inexperienced drivers + sleep deprivation = recipe for disaster.
  4. Overly dramatic/depressive mood swings. Teenage girls have a unique ability to make a mountain out of a molehill. Staying up late thinking about it isn’t helping.
  5. Laptops in their bedroom and unlimited, unsupervised, broadband internet doesn’t help them make wise decisions.

With all that a teenager is doing in the areas of social, physical, sexual, and cognitive development the brain is working overdrive. Not giving their brains the time to rest, recover, and work while they are sleeping is just going to lead to being developmentally delayed.

Discussion questions:

Parents: What can you do to make sure your kids get the sleep they need?

Schools: Short of nap time or delaying the start of school, how can you help in this area?

Youth workers: How can your ministry be “good news” to sleep deprived teenagers in your community?

All: What do you think this has to do with the elongation of adolescence?

haiti hmm... thoughts Social Action

Ephesians 5:14 and You

A young man prays in Carrefour, the epicenter of the January 12th earthquake

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:14

I first memorized Ephesians 5 with Kristen in 1995. We were dating and we had discovered that memorizing Scripture together was a way to channel our, um, energy for one another. It worked!

This passage of Scripture has been illuminated to me in new ways since I returned from Haiti a few days ago.

On the one hand– I need to shake the trip, to focus on the action items ahead of me, to move on with being a leader, husband, and father here in San Diego. I am needed here and there is no denying it. That much is clear.

On the other hand– everywhere I go I encounter something I cannot reconcile with what I have seen. Yesterday, I spent most of my day in a coffee shop sipping mochas and working on a freelance project for some friends. I am proud of the work I did yesterday. It turned out great. I love the opportunity it provides both for my family and the organization this work will benefit. But as I walked through my neighborhood I couldn’t help but think of the contrast to what I was doing just a week prior. Last Saturday, sounds of thousands praising Jesus and shouting prayers filled every neighborhood in Port-au-Prince and Carrefour. Even as night fell and we rested in our mission station we could hear the loud speakers in the distance… people singing and praising well into the humid darkness. Yesterday, back home in my neighborhood– nearly silence. The only sounds heard were children playing soccer in the park.

One place was awake. The other asleep.

Paul doesn’t leave me there, he continues, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Ephesians 5:15-17

My prayer while in Haiti were verses 15-17. I overlooked verse 14. My teammates kind of poked fun at me because I barely slept the whole week. I’d go to bed after they were asleep and they’d wake up and I’d already be up. It’s was this verse… I was doing what I could to make the most of every opportunity. I could sleep on the plane.

But it is verse 14 which stirs me now. Now I have to sort out how I can be awake to both realities.

Christmas Recap

This morning we are vowing to leave the house at some point. Yesterday, as is our habit, we hunkered down for a day of pure family. It turned out to be a really nice Christmas.

Christmas technically kicked off on Thursday night with a fun little trip to Orange County. A couple from our community group invited us to their family’s traditional Christmas Eve party. That was a lot of fun! Apparently, this group of people have been hanging out on Christmas Eve together for more than 20 years. So the house was filled with a mixture of joy and shared known. It was really cool to see the generational aspect of the whole thing, the embracing of some traditions, and it really just got our family in the mood for Christmas.

Christmas morning, the kids got up early, as decreed in the New Testament. At about 5:30 they woke us up with, “It’s Christmas! Can we open presents NOW????” We made them wait until 7:00 before we opened presents so mom and dad could at least see straight… and we had to listen to them count down every minute!

Ah, the anticipation of children and the power of parents to torture by saying “be patient.

Best Present

  • Paul: Nintendo DS
  • Megan: Sweet digital camera and a photo blog to share
  • Dad: Membership to J.R. Organics CSA
  • Mom: A new wedding ring (she had lost hers a few years ago)
  • Stoney: A new collar
  • Lovely: A cat bed

From about 8:00 AM on we all just laid around. The kids played with their toys. Mom and dad watched some movies. I think that was about it until lunch.


Since Kristen isn’t feeling great I was in charge of Christmas dinner. With just four of us… we kept it simple. Ham, cranberry, rolls, mashed potatos. Oops, I forgot vegitables! (No one complained)

After dinner, we all kind of scattered and just rested. Paul fell asleep about 2:30 PM and didn’t wake up until 3:30 AM! Megan watched TV with me. Kristen took naps off and on all day. We were basically bums!

Later, I watched the Chargers dismantle the Titans intersperced with endless episodes of Mythbusters. And that was Christmas.

hmm... thoughts

Find Rest, Oh My Soul

My sleep patterns have been seriously jacked up since coming back from Cincinnati. Last night I was up super late– 7:15 PM. Yesterday, while in church listening to Stephen preach one of his best messages ever, an emotion came over me. I realized something and it sent chills down my spine. It’s not just me that is struggling to find rest right now. It’s everyone I know.

We are all off-kilter on rest. Even when some of us rest, we are still working or thinking about work or dreaming up things that result in work. Even in our rest, we are chasing after kids. On and on. In our rest, we are not really resting at all.

That’s why this week I am praying this Psalm as a prayer for myself, my family, and my friends. I pray that we find rest:

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God ;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8

hmm... thoughts

Can’t Sleep


Dedicated to Kristen, who always struggles to fall asleep.