Parents of teens quickly discover that their children's attitudes become tied to the attitudes of the peers who surround those young people. So as your children enter the middle school years, it is not enough to set forth healthy goals and wonderful opportunities or to model a dynamic, God-centered lifestyle. You cannot raise teenagers in a vacuum. You must build a community of peers who enter into those attitudes and opportunities you want your children to embrace.
You will not find this in most church youth groups. You need a group that is less focused on entertaining youth in a generationally-segregated setting. You need a group that is more focused on training youth to harness the strength and freedom of their youth to tasks in the real world that are vital to building the Kingdom of Christ. You need to find ways to give them real opportunities, usable skills and a vertical network of mentors and proteges of their own in addition to the horizontal network of peers.
My newly released book, Coaching a Club: 7 Secrets of Coaching a Successful Speech & Debate Club, demonstrates how to build such a community. Although the second half of the book is devoted to forensics teaching and coaching techniques, the first half details the characteristics of this kind of extraordinary network of partnerships and how to craft one in any setting. It is crammed with real life examples from creative minds across the country in their combined experience over ten years of working together.
After reading Coaching a Club, you may decide that joining the Christian speech and debate network of clubs is for you. But you might just as easily create a community around Internet marketing, media production, science innovation, humanitarian aid, business, or political action. Really the horizon is limited only by your students' desires and your vision.
Excerpts from Coaching a Club
Commitment to Character
"We can readily see that studying speech and debate will improve intelligence in these more traditionally academic categories. But if that is all we see, we miss the most important possibilities in forensics training. Forensics offers young people the opportunity to exercise those academic skills in an emotionally-charged social setting very much like the real world. It offers coaches a nearly unparalleled opportunity to train students in interpersonal and intra-personal intelligence. Taken together, these two are called “emotional intelligence” or EQ, and they encompass the ability to understand one’s own and others’ feelings and to use that information to make fine distinctions and to guide actions. Maturity in emotional intelligence is characterized by altruism and empathy. In Biblical parlance, we are talking about developing wisdom and character."
Commitment to Community
"Collaboration is the concept of the moment. From Linux to “Wikinomics”, it is becoming ever clearer that the future belongs to those who successfully create communities of interest and influence by exploiting the networking opportunities at hand. So when you are trying to decide which of the many possible activities your teen will pursue during those swift, precious high school years, you’ll want to choose those that give your teen maximum connectivity for the long term. Homeschool forensics has to be among the top 3 choices. We are not just training young people; we are helping to establish the grassroots network that will energize and support the next generation of power brokers."
Commitment to Continuity
"Continuity. As we look ahead, we don’t actually have the continued existence of the particular club in view. We are considering instead the continuing relevance of the vision, the continuity of relationships and the long-range usefulness of the skills developed here and now. Sono Harris of Oregon’s Rainmakers admits that the longevity of the speech club was not a part of the planning. “We just jumped in and took it a year at a time.” The Harrises were looking for a challenge that would be a good fit for their children’s gifts and callings. Their passion as they built Rainmakers was to help the students “learn to use words well” (John Piper) for active service in the world. Competitive forensics in the NCFCA not only gave them skills with words, but many of the auxiliary resources they would need to launch out on their own as well: visionary peers, intergenerational networks, resume development and business connections, even scholarship opportunities. We may develop our skills inside the Christian homeschool bubble, but they are emphatically not meant to stay there!"