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I hadn’t been online all day on Thursday. Then around 10:00  p.m., I pull out my phone and hit “The Facebook” for some down time. At first I was confused as a friend’s post read, “I think it’s white and gold but my kids insist it’s blue and black.” I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I started to scroll through and literally every post was debating this issue. It took me about four posts to realize that we were all discussing an ugly dress (no matter the color). People thought it was an illusion or mind trick. The same dress looked like two sets of colors at the same time to different people. There were articles. There were hashtags like #teamwhitegold. By Friday articles began to creep up about the “science” behind the phenomena. The manufacturer confirmed the dress only came in blue and black. Photographers started to talk about the bad lighting and photo manipulation. I kept thinking, “Why do I care about this?” (I know *gasp*) Honestly, I didn’t. However, when I brought it up from main stage at a camp I was speaking at the crowd erupted. It was still at the center of our world on Saturday as I overheard the young adult aged worship team have an hour debate about it after lunch. By Sunday the trend was waning. Yesterday, I awoke to the usual onslaught of weight loss, Floridians and Californians making fun of your winter, people’s children being funny, Time Hop and of course the invitation to play Candy Crush (will that ever go away?). The dress had come and gone, so fast that I almost missed being able to blog about it.

Youth leaders and parents live among a sea of Digital Natives. We on the other hand are Digital Immigrants. This means you and I remember a time when we were not tethered to our devices and certainly not social media. We recall a moment in history where everything we thought was not a PSA. Our youth however, do not remember these days. All they have ever known is a time when you share everything to everyone. The methods might change (My Space is always a running joke around group) however, the need to be seen and heard publicly is only growing. If this is true we need to intentionally teach our students three things. These may seem like “no brainers” to you, but I literally have conversations about these topics weekly:

What Are Real Relationships?

Sociologists share that there are three types of ways we are tied to others:

  • Weak Ties: These are “acquaintances.” People we interact with but are not emotionally attached to. These are people who we don’t truly know in real life. These are public Instagram, Twitter or Google Plus followers. We have never actually interacted with them in any “true” way beyond online.
  • Strong Ties: Those people most important to us. These are friends and family that we actually come in contact with beyond the online world. These are the people we share our true selves with. They are the ones who celebrate our birthdays WITH us not just by posting a “Happy Day” on a timeline somewhere.
  • Intermediate Ties: Those that fall in between the two. There are some online relationships that can turn into true friendships. You might really interact with people and get to know them. However, these are people that at some point in time we actually met in the “real” world.

Teach your students online safety on who they interact with. YET! Also teach them the difference in actual relationships. Famous people they interact with online, even Taylor Swift who sends presents from time to time, are not real friends just because they “liked” their picture.

 Just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to share it.

Someone told me this once, “Before you post a thought or picture think to yourself would you share this with a pastor and your grandma?” The point is teach your students to wait before they post things that are hurtful, embarrassing, controversial, demeaning or bitter. Curt Schilling retired Red Sox player celebrated his daughter’s athletic achievements publicly the other day. What crawled out of holes were creatures who thought that making disgusting, rude and even vile comments about sexual acts with a girl they had never met were alright. In what world did anyone think it was ok to be this degrading? Well, we live in a world where if you think it, you share it. Teach your students the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Remind them of this often.

There is “Fake” Online

This summer the phenom was the ice bucket challenge, this weekend it was the dress, and tomorrow we will get caught up in something else entirely. We move on to the latest and greatest with barely a hiccup. Our students SAY they know the difference between real and fake. Yet, the next time someone doesn’t like an Instagram picture they are having a deep discussion with us about, “What did I do wrong, my friend doesn’t like me anymore.” We can’t possible just not have seen said picture. I think the downside to the Digital Native is that they have never learned naturally how to separate out that we present ourselves online in a different light (and literally a filter) than our everyday lives. They get caught up in the latest craze and don’t even realize it’s insignificance. We need to teach them to understand what matters and what’s fluff. A debate about a dress may have been a silly pastime but if we get over invested in it then something is off.

There are times when the digital world can be used for truth. Curt Schilling used his blog to call out the guys who were attacking his daughter. Some of them have been suspended from college and have been held accountable to their actions. A Dad whose daughter was being bullied used YouTube to get noticed, and the school finally stepped up taking it seriously after it went public. Injustice can be exposed and dealt with swiftly and this is good. Technology we must remember is not good or bad, it’s how we use it. Team blue/black is silly until you start taking it to heart and losing friendships over it. (Stranger things have happened.) The KEY is teaching our students WHEN and HOW to post and HOW to be ourselves ALL of the time. Apparently some gut tattooed a picture of the “dress” on his leg.  Really, did no one tell him “Dressgate” is already done?  Let’s teach students to navigate the world ahead before the next proverbial dress appears.

What are you doing to teach your students?

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Facebook is taking a leap into suicide prevention by introducing some new tools in its ecosystem. While you can report what you think is suicidal content here, this week Facebook will be rolling out an option inside of our post that lets viewers click “Report Post” on any post that seems dangerous or self harming.  When the person who was “reported” logs in, Facebook will provide ways to contact the person who is concerned about their post or help them connect with suicide prevention specialists.

Engadget reported that…

The social network has teamed up with mental health organizations Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org to make it easier for users to show their concern. The feature will be available initially to those in the US and Facebook says it will complete the rollout within the next couple of months. It’s also vowed to improve its tools for users in other parts of the world.

Here is a walkthrough of the process from cnet.com. Take a few minutes and click through their gallery. While many of my students have left Facebook, there are still enough using it that need to know this exists. I will be mentioning this feature in the near future…even if it is just a side comment in a message it is worth sharing.
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YOUR STUDENTS CAN LEAVE A LASTING IMPACT

Sometimes the unexpected can happen. It can be hard to know how you’ll respond to a tragedy.

At a Workcamp last summer, a crew of teenagers and adults were two hours into building a wheelchair ramp for a West Virginian resident when the unimaginable happened. The resident of the home collapsed; emergency personnel were called; and not too long after, they found out that their hours-old friend would not be returning home. With renewed purpose, the teenagers embraced a new mission: finish the wheelchair ramp; love the resident’s family in every way possible.

We’ll let the late resident’s daughter, Heather, tell you the rest of the story and how Workcampers made a difference for her family in their time of need.

“My father was walking to his building in the back of his yard to look for some supplies he had stored for this project. As my father returned to the job site, he fell hitting his head on the concrete and stopped breathing…Ultimately the doctor informed my family and I that he was probably dead before his head hit the ground…I packed my bags and drove home as fast as I could arriving the next morning . . .

“As I pulled in the driveway, the crew pulled in and started their work for the day. I could not believe these kind souls returned the next day. I cried as they asked if they could complete the task they had been given. I responded with a ‘yes please’ as tears rolled down my face.

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“You see, this ramp was not just for my dad. It was also so that my dad could try to take my mother outside. My mother had just come home from the hospital after being there almost 7 months and being on a ventilator for 3 plus months. She ultimately began to live, breathe, eat and talk again. My father was her caregiver. He was looking forward to taking my mom for a walk in her wheelchair. But this was not in God’s plan.

“I was very impressed that day. The children and their leaders had bought and signed a beautiful card and given it to my mother. Everyday they prayed for our family and would play with my sister’s kids and my son. They brought gifts of love for the grandchildren to help ease their pain and grief…

“As the family and friends came in and out, the mission group was very kind and respectful. They soon felt like part of our family…I look at these beautiful young adults and pray that my 9-year-old son, Ian, turns out just like them. I want him to be a kind Christian with a heart filled with love for Jesus and respect for others.

You see … these people are not just ordinary people. They are angels here on Earth that God sent our family. My family cannot express how thankful we are … Thank you and God bless you all.” – Heather and the entire Valentine Family

God can call us to love others in unexpected ways that can change us, as well as those we encounter.

Will you join us for life change? Let’s create moments of #LIFECHANGE this summer.

Call an advisor today, at 1.888.966.8982 ext 2, or visit GroupMissionTrips.com to get started.

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Infinite Jukebox makes your favorite song last forever, literally. When I find a song I like, I can be guilty of hitting repeat on my office stereo and letting it play in the background all day. With Infinite Jukebox I can hear one song with zero pauses for as long as I want. If you thought The Allman Brothers Band’s “Mountain Jam” was long, just wait until you hear Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off for the entire day.

Infinite-JukeboxInfinite Jukebox parses any songs (search their site or upload your own mp3) into beats and matches patterns so it can jump around the track, making it sound like one continuous song. Click play and Infinite Jukebox jumps around with near perfection, you can even see what part of the song is played most and lines to where the song will possibly jump.

If listening to a song on infinite repeat would drive you nuts, think of some other possibilities. This site would be great to pull up on your smartphone or youth room computer and play background music for discussions. games, and opening and closing ambiance music.

Worship Band from Start to Finish
Whether from our computer for ambience or from our worship team, music is a key element in our gatherings. Step up the music everywhere and check out “Worship Band from Start to Finish.” It is a great resource for you to use for your worship team or to hand to a volunteer who is building your youth worship team.

– Brandon / @iamBRANDONEARLY



“So what do I do now? Seriously – what are my actual next steps? I just left the pastor’s office. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I didn’t see this coming. I know I should have seen the signs…but I didn’t. Now what?”

NEXT 5 STEPS:

1) Don’t sign anything. No resignation letters or transition agreements, etc. Even if you feel pressured to agree to “we’ll say you resigned instead of got fired.” It’s not the optimal time for you to think clearly.

2) Skip the pack-up production and take only the 2-3 most cherished items with you. Leave quietly and within 15 minutes of exiting your boss’s office. No boxes, books, furniture – nothing that looks like the big, emotional goodbye. You’ll get the rest of your stuff eventually, but believe me, people will be watching what you take and don’t. The littlest thing will cause a rumble.

3) Don’t call anyone but your spouse or your mom. I mean it. The first few conversations after “the talk” could make or break years to come of what follows your professional reputation.

4) Go home. Don’t stop at the store or a friend’s or another youth worker’s place or the bar or the ice cream parlor. Go home where you can process in a complete zone of safety.

5) Set aside messages for the rest of the day. The texts, emails, phone calls, visits, etc., will start to come in but you and your family need time to cry, scream, swear, get mad, throw stuff – and no one needs to see it. If need be, have a relative come over to answer the door. In your “away” message, let people know you’ll get back to them the next day. Every single thing you say is painfully fresh and won’t be filtered like you’d like it to be…and will be repeated numerous times by others. Why give anyone any bullets to shoot you with?

Let me know if you want to read steps 6-10.

Stephanie

PS-Just got interviewed about this very thing for a podcast. Thanks, Terrace! Here’s the info: the episode will air next week, Thursday, March 5th, at  www.ThisWeekinYM.com or you can listen and download the podcast on iTunes.com.

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For as long as I can remember I have been the poster child for relationally driven ministry. Perhaps it’s because I came out  of the roller skating party era of youth group where it was more about programs than going deep. Maybe, it’s because all I wanted was a place to wrestle with hard questions about the way bad stuff happened to the ones I loved, and what did God think about that. I formed small groups before they were a “thing” and far before I read any books on being purposeful in my approach. This is the flag I wave. Go deeper. Model your ministry after Jesus who spent a good portion of his time with a hand full of people here on earth.

You can imagine the lump in my throat when my own three teens admitted to me they don’t really like small groups. (They attend another youth group in addition to ours.) As a matter of fact since their youth pastor is a great preacher they say they would rather sit in a large group setting taking notes.

What on earth could they be talking about?  These were supposed to be the moments when you get to share your heart, and go deep, wrestling with your faith.  Their reasons for hating small group time fascinated me.

Here are their thoughts:

I Don’t Learn Anything

Small group ministry means lots of volunteers stepping in.  Volunteering means you have a life with responsibilities other than running a small group.  It is easy to pick up the packet of curriculum and read it as you are teaching.  The trouble is students can feel a million miles away and that you weren’t totally engaged in being there.  It’s difficult to lead when you haven’t really gotten ready for what could come along. It creates a scenario where the leader can care more about the information they are teaching than what the group is learning.  We call it “running the curriculum,” in our house. The trouble here is that students don’t know when to ask questions and if feels like a mini-sermon, with some rambling on whatever comes to mind.  We need to prepare for who is in our group (the personalities and learning styles) and learn the best way to engage them.  We need to pre-read the lesson and see where it is going and why it is going there.  In short take five minutes and prepare.

My Leader Just Hangs Out

It’s easy to try to be friends with our students.  Small groups are a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our students and who they are.  We can get tired of trying to get the silly student settled and just use this time to “talk.”  On one or two occasions this is fine and perhaps even necessary.  However,  this is a generation that looks for the meaning and purpose in places they are involved.  In youth group this means large groups are for preaching and singing, special events are for fun and fellowship and small groups are a place to understand their faith.  There is a time to hang out.  There is a time to let students be silly and out of control.  My kids would say small group is not the place for this.

There’s No Depth

The challenge of the church at large today is that everyone is at a different place on their journey with Christ.  This is magnified at youth group.  There are students there because their parents make them, others don’t know Jesus at all, some are there for friends and others because they like the leaders. These are all the ones we tend to set our programming up for.  Yet, there are ALSO teens who WANT to learn more and truly know what belonging to Christ means. Yes, it is difficult to teach to both sides of this coin: the shallow and deep.  Yet, in a simple way just keep order in your group.  It might be a rabbit trail that has nothing to do with the lesson or drama that someone else creates, but at some point one of the students hijacks the small group.  You can stop this.  Keep order, stay on topic and answer questions that are meaningful (not when does the next Maze Runner movie get released.)   I think if we went deeper more often than not the students who are goofing off will be engaged.  At least this is my personal experience.

The Introduction Is Too Long

This one was really interesting.  It made me think of the time we had no place (due to building usage) to meet together for an opening.  Instead, when students arrived, they were greeted by small group leaders and spent the whole youth group there.  There was no large group and our students loved it.  Those who came early actually had that extra time to talk to their leader and get to know them. My son calls large group before small group he “mini-sermon set up.”  These are well done, but then by the time they get to small groups and the leader can take control, there is no actual time to get to anything meaningful.  Maybe you need to rethink that time before small groups or make sure small group time is longer?

Sometimes the trouble is that we don’t take the time to really teach our leaders how to run a small group.  How do you handle the student who takes over?  What about the one that’s really hurting? They need our attention and taking them aside before or after group is entirely appropriate and helpful. Instead recognize that during small groups our students have more than often come with bated breath hoping to have some confusions in their Christian walk cleared up.  Create a space where they are engaged, involved, and where we expect them to grow in the Lord.  My problem is that too often I don’t expect most of my students will actually grow.  Maybe the issue is really just one of expectations.

Thanks for loving students,99 thoughts for sg

– Leneita

 

 

P.S. – Check out 99 Thoughts For Small Group Leaders for you and your volunteers (great for rookies and veterans)! 



Did Rob Bell Really Say…?

 —  February 19, 2015 — 20 Comments

“Rob Bell is in the news again.”

My wife mentioned this to me the other day. I wasn’t aware of all the details in that moment, so I simply sighed.

robbellBell made headlines this week via an interview he and his wife took part in with Oprah Winfrey. The Bells promoted their new book on marriage, while poking at its definition and Christianity in general. Their book includes a chapter for gay couples.

Rob said, “One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness. Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

Charisma Magazine responded:

God made us to be relational beings, but in a very specific way. He formed Eve as the fit companion and helper for Adam, the two of them uniquely designed to complement each other in the journey and mission of life.

And Paul’s solution to loneliness (and, even more so, to temptation) was specific as well: “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Cor. 7:2).

He didn’t say, “Each person should have his or her own companion,” because that was never God’s intent for His creation… according to Bell, human feelings trump God’s Word, which can easily be dismissed as outdated—2,000 years outdated, it appears.

didGodLet’s talk about what we’re talking about… whether it’s the next thing Rob Bell says, or the next “Rob Bell.”

The first question in the Bible begins with “Did God really say…”

The first question a human asked in the Bible asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

I see a theme there.

Rob is great at asking questions. It’s what made him largely popular among many Christians early on in his ministry. I sat under him as my pastor for a season when he was theologically sound. I realize that sounds like a summary statement, and it absolutely is. It’s the kind of statement that Rob himself might say, “Who’s to say what theologically sound even means? Is it because someone agrees with you?”

Notice, that would be simply asking another question. Still, Jesus said to evaluate people and teachers to make sure the fruit they were producing was healthy because it was in agreement with God.

Unfortunately, I’ve watched Rob build a career and new theological platform on asking questions…

which is like saying, “I’m going to jump up in the air. About midway up, I’ll jump again simply in my own power… and then, midway up from there… I’ll jump again, again in my own power.”

doublejumpThe first jump is sound… any jumps after that are just resisting what is actual law.

(Maybe a little much Mario has influenced this thinking.)

You’d have to construct something artificial – a platform, perhaps –  to make any subsequent jumps.You might become so used to using your platform and seeing others use it that you’d actually begin to feel like you redefined what it means to jump.

You haven’t.

You’ve merely gotten a number of people to buy into your platform to allegedly reach new heights.

Which perhaps is why when speaking on the attempt to redefine marriage to accommodate gay couples, Bell added, “…the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense. When you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other, and they just want to go through life with someone.”

Hang on… “Did Rob Bell really say…?” And because he did, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Here’s the irony – and this is what I’d really like to point out.

Bell is kicking at biblical values using biblical values. You see that, right?

I noticed this pattern in a review I wrote for his book Love Wins. Bell talks about the beauty of marital love from a perspective that God blessed us to have… while at the same time he’s questioning the very Source material by which he even knows that to begin with.

dictionaryAgain, it’s like saying, “The Dictionary is an outdated concept. Words no longer have meaning.” To state that, you just used words.

Tracking so far?

If there are any takeaways you can offer to people you know who are processing this, help them to understand this point.

There will always be someone in our midst on this side of heaven who perhaps with good intention is attempting to make sure we’re not missing something. Such individuals can either be helpful accountability to Christianity, or become so focused on potential errors that they create new ones in the process.

Thankfully, there will always be a God in our midst, too – both on this side of heaven and on the other side of it. He’s not threatened by Rob Bell’s comments… nor should we.

What we do need to do is remove the stumbling blocks it puts into the paths of others.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

Thoughts?

A TEENAGER TRANSFORMED HAS THE POTENTIAL TO IMPACT EVERYONE AROUND THEM—INCLUDING THEIR FAMILIES.

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When students serve on a Group Mission Trips, their lives are changed as their eyes are opened to the needs of others and their own need for Jesus. A teenager transformed has the potential to impact everyone around them—including their families. Paul Roell, a father of two teenagers, is proof. Check out his story!

“It all began over 5 years ago when my daughter asked me to go on a Group Mission Trip to Buffalo, NY. I got to experience the craze that inspired my daughter and many of her friends to devote a week of their summer vacation and to serve God by serving others.

I witnessed first hand the love the residents have for just the small effort that our crew gave to paint their house at Workcamp. I took a year off the following year, but was back in when my daughter wanted to go back on another mission trip. That year, I became more involved and heard the call from God. He had me, hook line and sinker. I heard loud and clear that God wanted me to step up and be an adult leader. The passion burns deep inside me to do this all for the love of God and for our youth.

WorkingDespite some changes at our church, a group of other leaders formed a new youth group to allow all teens and adults to attend the mission trip. It has been exhausting at times trying to keep up with the youth mission team while working full time. No one said that following Jesus was going to be easy. With the support of my wife, family and friends, it works. Our team has been expanding and we are getting ready to launch into a new endeavor to involve more youth in our community to partake in a mission trip.

I know first hand the incredible impact the mission team has on our youth. My daughter and son are testimonials to that. For the past two years my daughter has been involved with medical mission trips to Ecuador and my son has been recruiting his friends to join us on Group Mission Trips. As quoted from Brandon Heath’s popular song, “God’s not finished with me yet.” – Paul Roell, Batesville, IN

Will you join us for life change? Call an advisor today, at 1.888.824.3965 ext 2, or visit GroupMissionTrips.com/lifechange to get started. Let’s create moments of #LIFECHANGE this summer!

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