Kari Kampakis’ mission is to reach young girls and their parents with a message about true worth. In today’s social media-saturated culture, many girls start early, seeking approval through how many “likes” they receive on their social media pages. Kari endeavors to show girls that God gives the only approval that really matters, and He loves them just as they are.
Teens and Social Media: Whose Approval Are You Living For? – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 25
Kari Kampakis: It’s very easy for us to care more about the opinions people have of us over the opinion God has of us, or what God knows about us. I really wanted to write a book that dove into that topic; force someone to think, whose approval are you living for? Are you living for the world’s approval, trying to impress people through social media or your friendships or whatever else you’re doing, or are you trying to make choices that make you proud of yourself; help you become the person that God created you to be regardless of whether that’s who other people think you should be.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with writer Kari Kampakis, who is also a wife and mom to four daughters. Kari began as a blogger who moved into writing about issues affecting families and their daughters. Kari reflects on her early years as a shy child and how that later influenced her to speak to girls about finding their worth and identity not from others, but from God.
Using the Gifts And Talents That God Gives Us
My name is Kari Kampakis, and I’m a mom of four girls in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m also a writer and a blogger and a speaker. I write for moms and also for teen and tween girls. I write for moms primarily through my blog at karikampakis.com and two newspaper columns locally, and then I write for teen and tween girls through two books that I’ve released through Thomas Nelson, Ten Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, and Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For.
I grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which is a college town, home to crimson tide – Roll Tide. I grew up in a family of five children which is as crazy as it sounds. I was number four, and I was the shy child in the family. I had a hard time figuring out my place because my brother and my sisters were all very outgoing, and I was the one that liked to just stand back and observe and not really get in the middle of the action. I see now that maybe that was some foreshadowing of me becoming a writer later on. That was the writer in me that likes to observe. Like I said I was very shy, and our house was very lively, and I can look at the roots of that as being trying to find my place in a big family, trying to figure out who I was and try to come out of my shell and make a name for myself when I didn’t have that extroverted personality that most people around me did.
I feel like one thing that really helped me come out of my shell and also connect with people was just using the talents that God gave me.
When people tell me that their child today, when they tell me that they have a shy child I can really relate to how that child might be feeling. We live in such an extroverted world. I remember wanting to be more like the extroverts around me and I just wasn’t.
I believe that God makes all of us a certain way for a reason and that we’re all wired a certain way for a reason. The children who are quiet, or the people who are quiet in this world, tend to be very deep thinkers, have a lot to offer, aren’t usually the impulsive type. A lot of times they make really good friends. They’re not the type of friend that’s going to just blurt something that hurts your feelings typically; and my advice for parents that have shy children, I feel like one thing that really helped me come out of my shell and also connect with people was just using the talents that God gave me. For one, that builds confidence when we do that and I think it also instantly opens the door to relationships, when we use these gifts and talents that God has given us, because none of us are good at everything and we all need different talents.
Basing Your Identity On All The Wrong Things
I went to college at the University of Alabama, which is a whopping 15 minutes away from my house. I wasn’t very brave on that front, but it was a good decision for me. I had a great experience in college. I studied really hard and I was actually just telling my girls the other day that’s the first time that I really discovered a love for school was in college and it was primarily through my psychology classes. I minored in psychology and majored in public relations.
I met my husband in college. We met when we were 18 years old. One of my sorority sisters was his next door neighbor growing up, and she was always trying to set us up in college. It’s funny; she would always say, “Harry was asking about you,” and then she’d see Harry and she’d tell him, “Kari was asking about you.”
I had been basing my identity on probably all the wrong things, just on accomplishments and doing well in my career and suddenly I had none of that.
We were really just friends through college and it wasn’t until a year after we graduated that we saw each other at a party one night and just started talking. We already knew each other so well because the friendship was in place. We started dating soon after that and I would say within a few weeks knew that we wanted to get married. It happened really fast and it was one of those things people would tell me that when you find the one you’ll know, and I never did believe that until that really happened with us. We ended up dating three years because he was in Huntsville and I was in Birmingham. I had everything I wanted in Birmingham except for him. I had this dream job. I had all my best friends. I had just my family here.
It was just a perfect situation except for him. It took me a while to come to terms with leaving all of that. and I loved my job; wanted to get those years in of experience in the corporate world, but finally we married about three years later. I moved to Huntsville. I was so happy being with him, but I hit a wall with my self-esteem just because suddenly I had a new name, I had no friends and I couldn’t find a job. That’s when I realized that I had been basing my identity on probably all the wrong things, just on accomplishments and doing well in my career and suddenly I had none of that. Nobody cared about this in the new world that I was in and it really got me started to find my identity in Christ, because I was stripped of all those old idols that I had in my life.
Finding Your Niche: Entering Into The World of Writing and Blogging
I really liked photography, but then as I added children to our family, as our family grew and my schedule grew tighter I realized that I was getting a little bit burned out on photography and that wasn’t my real love. I started feeling this urge to start writing.
I wrote fiction for about five years. Wrote three novels, sitting on my computer. I did that privately for five years, didn’t share it with anybody except for agents and nothing happened there. Then one day, I think I was pregnant with my fourth child, and I had a friend who told me about this new newspaper that was going to come out in our community.
She was going to be an editor and she asked me if I wanted to have a column in the paper. and I agreed to do it. Looking back, I realized it was the perfect way for me to start sharing my work because it was in my community, these were my friends, these were the people that knew us. They were very kind and supportive, and they really helped build my confidence in my writing. That’s when I started sharing the work and I started writing non-fiction articles rather than the fiction and doing the fiction on the side. Then, it was a few years after that I had heard about blogging, I had some friends who were bloggers, and I decided to try my hand at blogging to expand my audience beyond my community.
I guess this was 2013 and about six months into my blogging journey I wrote an article called “Ten Truths Young Women Should Know.” I guess for about two or three years now I’ve been writing for mothers and daughters. I feel like that’s kind of my niche and I don’t consider myself an expert. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a parenting expert. I consider myself a resource for mothers and for teenage girls. I love having conversations about raising daughters, especially daughters in the digital age and just think that we moms can learn so much from each other and that we’re the first generation raising kids in this digital age. We need each other. We need each other’s advice and support to figure out our own game plan and our strategy.
Navigating The New World Of Social Media
The concept for Liked came about as I started traveling for my first book, Ten Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. I started seeing trends everywhere I went and when I would speak to groups of girls at the end I’d open it up for Q&A. I feel like the moms were always asking me to talk about two things, social media, ‘Please talk to our girls about using technology wisely,’ because a lot of parents aren’t on social media. They didn’t know how to advise them in that area and they would also talk about ‘please talk to them about being kind.’ You know, being kind to your friends.
And from the girls, there were questions like, ‘what do you do when a friend betrays you? What you do when girls are mean to you; when your friends are mean to you?’ Between that and all the emails that I was getting from moms, I just realized that I think there’s a real breakdown in relationships in this day and age and also a misunderstanding of what friendship looks like; what a good friendship looks like. I knew that whatever I wrote next I wanted to dive deeply into the topics of social media and friendship.
My philosophy with social media is to definitely put limits on it, set healthy boundaries, but also teach our kids to use it for good. That is one thing that I have learned as a writer and a blogger is that there’s so much potential to do good with social media. One goal I had in my book Liked is to really help illustrate how you can do good through it and I compare being on social media for a teenager to being on stage at school assembly with a microphone. It’s your chance. Whatever you put there, you say it one time and it’s heard by hundreds or thousands of ears. I do think that if we look at it that way, to think of, okay–what kind of messages can we put out there that might actually help people?
I do believe it’s very important for parents to have those conversations and to also make it clear that the parent has the authority to delete that account or take that account away from the child if there’s ever any question. If they’re posting things that aren’t appropriate, if they aren’t using it in wise ways I think it’s important for the parent to be the parent, especially on something like this because it can have big ramifications down the road. One thing I really try to emphasize to kids when I’m speaking to them is that everything you put on social media or on the internet, it’s out there. It’s attached to your name and your name is so important. A picture you post at 13 that doesn’t seem like a big deal can come back to haunt you when you’re 18 or 20 or 25 and you’re trying to get into a college or get into a sorority or get a job. Somebody’s Googling your name and these things from your past are pulling up.
You can’t replace the value of interacting with your friends in person and laughing together and hugging and just having those conversations in person that you can’t have online. With parents, I believe that we just have to be brave sometimes in setting boundaries. Our kids might not necessarily set the boundaries themselves and so we’ve got to teach them how to do that. We’ve also got to know our child well enough to know that this is not helping them, if this is not having some kind of positive influence then they don’t need it. They’re so impressionable. Their identities are being formed. They are seeking the approval of the world. We’ve got to be really careful with what we let them be shaped by and like I say, if it’s causing more stress than it is joy, then it’s not worth having an account or even being online.
Making The Bible Applicable To Teens With Jesus Calling
Narrator: Kari endeavors not only to help parents and their daughters navigate today’s culture of social media, but she wants to help young girls find their true identity in Christ. In her writing, Kari introduces Scripture to young girls in hopes of helping them see themselves positively through God’s eyes. In Kari’s own personal studies, Jesus Calling is a book she uses along with Scripture to ground herself in God’s presence daily.
I think the best way to make the Bible applicable to teens is just to start by sharing simple relevant Bible verses that speak their language. I know I didn’t grow up reading it. One reason I didn’t is because it just looked like this big overwhelming book and it wasn’t until I was probably in my forties, until I turned 40 that my faith deepened a little bit and I decided it was time to really dive into the Bible. What drew me into the Bible were certain Bible verses. I would read Scripture and it would really speak to me, like, ‘wow, that verse gives me some advice that I can actually apply to my day.’ I’d go look up that verse and see what else was written around that verse. That’s my philosophy in writing for teens, is to take these verses that might speak to them on a very simple but profound level, and to also illustrate it with an example that’s relevant in their life today. Here’s the Bible verse and here’s how it might play out in your daily situation. I think the more that they hear these Bible verses, it might be just a few here and there, it gets them curious about the Bible and helps make the Bible a little bit less intimidating.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your faith journey, whether you are barely there or not even there or deep in your faith journey, Jesus Calling has a message that will speak to you on any given day.
My friend Julie Butler gave me my first copy of Jesus Calling. I had heard about it a lot at the time, but I had never gotten the book. She told me I would love it, and she was right. And the funny thing is, and I still do it to this day, I know this book is a devotional but I just read it all at once. I could not stop with one devotion, and I loved it. I think these books are so amazing, especially when people ask me, ‘what books do you recommend for a friend of mine who’s not a believer, who’s early in their faith?’
It doesn’t matter where you are in your faith journey, whether you are barely there or not even there or deep in your faith journey, Jesus Calling has a message that will speak to you on any given day. Even my children love it.
Find The Right Devotion To Get Through The Hard Times
I think that so many of us, even those of us who are believers and who think we have a good faith, we’re just so busy that it takes our eyes off God and we get caught up in these temporary everyday things that really don’t matter in the long run. It keeps up from using our time and our talents and our energies for things for God’s kingdom that really will matter 50 years from now. What I love about Jesus Calling is that no matter what you’re going through it pulls you out of these distractions.
It just shuts down those distractions and it just gives you this peace as you clear your head of all those things that don’t matter and just shut the door on those things and have that time with God. Just read and sit in the presence of God and just be with Him. I believe that’s why these books have done so well, because we just crave that serenity so much. We crave the peace that these books give us because we need it so much and the fact that we can get this peace even if we are going through a storm, even if someone’s going through a divorce or someone has lost a child, that they can still feel that supernatural peace from God. There’s no better gift you can give a person and I have a lot of friends who say that they just keep copies of these books, copies and copies on hand to give to people when they’re going through hard times.
We were reading Jesus Calling 365 Devotions for Kids. The Scripture is second Corinthians 1:3-4. “The Father is a merciful God who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.” And then here’s the devotional: “This world is tough. Some days your spirit can really take a beating. Some days you just need to be comforted. Because I’m always with you, it takes only the slightest glance in My direction, the softest whisper to connect you with Me and My comfort. I wrap you up in My arms so that you are protected from the kicks and punches of this world. I comfort you and then I bless you with the ability to comfort others. You see, I am the God who can bring good things out of all things. Out of your hurts I give you understanding and understanding of how others are hurting and ability to comfort them.”
It’s priceless. I just love that so much. If there was one devotion that I would want my daughters to cling to in life, it would be a devotion like that. Like every mom I fear and I worry about the hard things and the trials they’re going to face and I know they’re going to face them, and they’ve already had some challenges. But to know that no pain or no discomfort that we go through is going to be wasted because God will use our pain to help bless others. To help my kids and help others understand, that if we learn to repurpose our pain and instead of letting it destroy us, help let it strengthen us and help us to do things for God’s kingdom, then it’s not a waste. We can get through these hard times and grow closer to God in the process.
What I really want for my daughters is for them to be able to trust God in their lives especially when things are not going well and to cultivate a faith that allows them to be bold and brave for Jesus. What I pray for them every day is that they will just become the people God created them to be and that they will hear His voice and feel His peace and His presence. If that happens in their lives, I will be very, very happy.
Narrator: Join us next time on The Experience Jesus Calling podcast when we reconnect with Paul Shol, a young teacher who trekked across America on his bicycle in the summer of 2016 telling people about God and giving away several thousand copies of Jesus Calling. Listen as he shares about his journey and the people he met along the way, next time on the Experience Jesus Calling podcast.
Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.
To find out more about Kari Kampakis’ book “Liked; Whose Approval Are You Living For?” please visit KariKampakis.com