My husband and I were youth pastors for quite a number of years before taking the leap into Pastoring. When you think about all the influences a young person will have in his or her lifetime it’s not a wonder that kids are often searching for their moral center.
It’s hard to find it in some of the places and situations they find themselves in. Our youth pastor years were some of the most challenging and rewarding years. We had kiddos who broke our hearts. Those who rose above difficult circumstances and who are now leading productive lives with God’s help. Regardless, each and every one of those kid have a permanent place in our hearts.
The truth is that we all have a free will. You and I as parents, teachers and mentors can only attempt to equip them with tools to help them make good choices.
We Choose Virtues is a company that provides materials that help build positive character traits in children. One of their products is The Youth Virtue Journal. It was originally designed for use in the Idaho Court System, but now it is available to the public at large. Josiah and I recently got to review the Youth Virtue Journal along with a variety of downloadable tools.
What I Received
I received the 100 page Youth Virtue Journal in addition to the following downloadable tools:
Mentor Handbook (PDF download)
Mentor Meeting Report Form (PDF Download)
Youth Character Assessments (PDF Download)
Youth List of Memory Verses and Bible Heroes (PDF Download)
This fun and full colored Journal is intended for young people ages 12-18.
The cost is $17. I am including the information I received in an email from the author, Heather McMillian, about coupon codes for the summer months.
MAY-JUNE: *Promo Code BIG50 for 50% off our amazing set of 12 11x17 Kids of VirtueVille Posters! This is the first time we have ever offered these posters at this price. They are great for school classrooms, Kids Church, or your homeschool room. Kids love them for their bedrooms, bathrooms and kids’ hallways.
JUNE-AUGUST: *Promo Code BTS20 for 20% off anything in our WCV Store. This includes any kit. Let’s start School with Virtues this year!
*Only one promo code per order
How It Works and How We Used It
Upon reading up on Heather, I found that she and I had a lot in common. She and her husband are family pastors. She herself has been a preschool teacher and a Children’s pastor. And just recently experienced a miraculous healing.
As my regular readers might know, I have also been a preschool teacher (before I taught Kindergarten), my husband and I were Children’s Pastors (before Youth and Senior Pastoring) and I, myself, have faced a life threatening event (or three).
The life threatening event notwithstanding, I can understand her desire to create materials that teach character. There is such a lack of it in our culture.
The Youth Virtue Journal includes nine positive traits.
I am Attentive
I am Content
I am Forgiving
I am Gentle
I am Helpful
I am Honest
I am Obedient
I am Perseverant
I am Respectful
What is unique about this product is it is something that the child works through it with a mentor (or parent). I absolutely love that aspect of it. You can’t pour into someone’s life if you leave them to their devices.
The Mentor Handbook helps provide reinforcement and walks the parent through the process. I realize that not everyone will have years of experience interacting with young people on this level. Even if you are a parent you might not know how to come across without being preachy or naggy.
Now as a parent, The Mentor Handbook wasn’t as helpful to me. Much of the information is specifically for mentors (not parents). A tool I didn’t use as all was the Mentor Meeting Report Form, but I can see how if you are doing this regularly with a group of kids this form would be helpful.
The Character Assessment download is to help in evaluating. There is a suggestion to fill it out before starting the program and then revisit it after you have completed the journal.
I did use the Bible Verses download with every meeting. These aren’t used in the Journal itself because of its use in the court system.
Here are how “meetings” happened at our house.
Before starting, Josiah and I read the suggested Bible verses together as well as the Bible story text. During the course of the lesson, I found it easy to refer to what we had read in the Bible and to apply it to a point or particular question.
At the beginning of each session, the student is encouraged to go the Dream Journal section of the book (which is in the back) and write down any goals or dreams they might have. They are to reflect upon any obstacles they might face and the character virtues that might help them overcome their obstacles.
This was a bit more difficult for Josiah. He is 121/2 and really hasn’t contemplated life and what he might want from it yet. He does know that he might want to be a meteorologist, but beyond beating a mission in his favorite Star Wars game….His life isn’t as complicated right now.
This, however, gave us a perfect opportunity to talk about dreams and goals. He finally decided that maybe, for now, he would like to be a really good guitar player. We also talked about the fact that he needs to have some goals for Swim Team. You can see that some of the obstacles he decides he is facing. I was surprised to see him admit that "playing too much Xbox" is a problem. I also was happy he used the appropriate form of "too." It's the little things.
I will have to say that when we first started working through the Dream Journal section I was skeptical. See, I know my son. He is still fairly immature. I also was worried about having to do it every time we got out our Youth Virtues Journal. It turned out that the consistency (every session) was good for Josiah. He is the kind of kid who needs to meld things over in his mind. He likes to think on things.
After completing the Dream Journal section the student will go back to the chapter. The Journal does a good job with explaining what each specific Virtue entails and what it might look like, as well as what it doesn’t look like.
The student is encouraged to look at those around them. Do others they know exemplify that virtue? How is it lived out in their lives?
There are quotes included in every session. These come from a variety of sources.
A commitment to work on that virtue is also included in the session along with an opportunity for response.
I was pleasantly surprised. Not in the product. I can see just by thumbing through it how the product could be a wonderful tool for so many mentors and parents. I was surprised about how thoughtfully Josiah worked through the Journal.
He is 12 going on 13 and has suddenly gotten smarter than me. You know how that is. I don’t know how I have made it this far. He just “knows.” You realize I’m being snarky.
I also recognized through the course of this study that the best teacher is example. We can talk about all of these wonderful character qualities, but if he doesn’t see it modeled in front of him…
Ouch! Does this mean I have to be forgiving? Obedient? Gentle?
Being able to go through the Journal with Josiah was a good experience for me as well. We shared stories, talked about real life struggles and made goals together. I have decided that this is something we are going to do again.
Now my next thought might be controversial. I have a hard time separating the teaching of Virtue and the Scripture. After all, the Sermon on the Mount is pretty much the ultimate in character training. However, I believe that Heather has planted a seed. I believe that the teachings of Jesus to empty unless we have a personal relationship with Jesus himself, but who is to say what kind of impact this will make beyond this life.
In any event, I believe it is a wonderful tool for those of you who work with youth to have in your arsenal. If you use this product as a parent, you will have to make a few tweaks to make it applicable to your situation. I think it is worth the investment.
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