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It could be shoddy workmanship or a graphic designer hopped up on Red Bull and no sleep.  However, in the last month three retailers have come under attack for their “photoshop fails.” Target took a  giant chunk out of a bathing suit’s backside. The Limited took so much “meat” off of the arms on a shirt model that her elbows appear broken. Old Navy created “thigh gap” in plus-sized jeans.  (You can read a great article summing it up Here)

In early February American Eagle Outfitter’s lingerie company “Aerie” announced they would not be photo-shopping or air-brushing models in many of their campaigns. They wanted to represent “real” bra sizes, shapes and sizes. (I am not posting pictures of young girls in panties and bikinis to show you, sorry.) On the one hand I am excited that the young women appear to actually have texture to their skin, on the other they are still ridiculously tanned, toned, and thin.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted an article on what “actresses look like without being touched up.”  Who knows if any of the pictures were real, but they sure did look like the famous. It was actually nice to see that indeed it is true: None of us look anything less than dazed and crazy when we stumble out of a swim in the ocean.

Mash these together and sprinkle in the attempt to teach our young people about modesty and body image, and it still feels like a mess. I think we have forgotten that real people look real…and what on earth that could even mean?

Here’s what we forget: We were created naked. In our nakedness there was no shame. Why?  There was innocence, and we understood we were created in the image of God. We make a really poor decision that we need to learn the difference between good and evil. In the moment innocence is lost,  what do we do before anything else? We cover ourselves. We put on clothes. We forget who we look like. Male and female, we are a reflection of the Living Lord. Before we hide from His presence,  we cover our skin. That is the day looking like God became less important than presenting our bodies to each other.

Try this exercise with your small group this week:

Ask them each to take a selfie without thinking. They are only allowed to take one.  Notice that they will flip their hair or position their head to take it an angle they think they will like. Have them look at the picture. What do they like about it?  What do they hate?  Do they want to retake it?  Would they post it or make you promise it will never see the light of day? Ask them if they took the picture in a certain way so they would like it?

We want to use these media examples to show our students what we are comparing our selves to. However, the reality is they will look at that selfie and compare it to the world, not to the image of God. We all do it. We are still attempting to cover ourselves with fig leaves, as they say.

So as you talk to your students about modesty and body image, remember this: Real people are created in the image of our Risen Savior- not on a computer screen. We are not objects to be seen, but a house for the Holy Spirit. I am not so sure that God sees our freckles and crooked teeth, and dimples and fluffy eyebrows as a bad thing. He isn’t sitting around saying,  “I wish I made that guy over there with a smaller nose.”  He’s laughing and saying, “That girl has my smile.”

Instead, teach them to take a look around. If we all carry the Lord’s DNA and not one of us looks alike, can you even fathom what God looks like???

Happy Friday :)

Leneita

 

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Recently I got a call from a former student who was struggling in their faith. Honestly, it was greater than that. They made the decision that the “cost of following Christ” was just too great. Life was not working out the way they had hoped. Trials had come and as Jesus himself predicted of some, the thorns had choked the life away. My heart broke as we spoke. This had been a student who was entirely “on fire for the Lord” not only through High School, but also through their first years of college. The student told me it was just “too hard” to live the way Jesus wanted them to, He continued to let them down anyway so they were walking away from Him.

In the same week I opened up the paper to see the mug shot of another former student. When he was in Junior High a family tragedy had forever changed his attitude about life. Two summers ago he came back to our programming for a short time, and I had been encouraged. Then once again he dropped out of sight, and we couldn’t find him. That is until he has been arrested for armed robbery.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I have had other students make life choices that have forever altered their path. Former students have been murdered, committed suicide, joined gangs, ended up in abusive relationships, and become addicts among other things. Each time there is something inside me that feels like I am the one who failed.

Before you tell me I’m not, I know all the right answers. I am the first person to remind others in ministry that we are never the Savior of anyone and Jesus is bigger than us or the students for that matter. However, I can’t help it. I feel like I could have “done” more. I couldn’t even tell you what the “more” is every time.

As these two events collided this week I started to wallow at my “lack” of success. This is when my husband reminded me of a vital truth, “These are their choices. This has nothing to do with your success or failure in life, and certainly not your failure or success with Jesus.” 

How easily I forget. I can so easily make their decision about me. I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, it has nothing to do with us at all. The beauty in God creating us with the ability to choose, is we are given the ability to be in relationship with Him. The ugly side, of course, is that we can also choose to do our own thing.

I think I need to remember how easy it would be for me to walk away from the Lord as well. As CS Lewis once said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had ever been done.” The problem in running from God is that we look over and He is running with us.

So what I can do is to pray. Pray and realize my success comes the moment I show up and choose to be with Jesus again today. Pray that my students would realize the same for themselves. Pray you would remember for yourself.  Pray I would choose to believe what I wrote.

How do you deal with the days you feel like a failure?

Leneita

@leneitafix



Fun collection of videos of youth ministry epic fails from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. So fun!

JG

Ever had that moment? A student walks up and tells you that they thought your talk last week was hilarious? Or the game was intense and really great?

And then you ask them what the point of the message was, and they have no clue?

I have.

I’ve learned that I need to spend just as much time thinking about how I’m going to drive my point home as I do trying to figure out what my point is. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Concrete Ideas: Give your students something to DO. As soon as the message is over if you can. Spell out very clearly for them what living out what you just spoke on looks like. Show them. Illustrate it. Tell them in five languages if you have to. Be very, very clear with your students about what they can DO with what you just told them.

2. Short and Sweet: Get the point of your message down to 120 characters. Why? Two reasons: so your students can remember it and so you can tweet it after the talk. In fact, tweet it multiple times throughout the week, just to make sure they remember it. Even better: put a picture with it. Visuals change lives (I just made that up and have no research to back it up with).

Live It : Whatever you just told your students to do, make sure you are doing it, have done it, and will do it too. You do damage to your message every time you act differently than what you just presented. Think your students will forget your message? You’re right. But think your students will forget your actions? Not a chance.


These things won’t guarantee that a student will remember your talk from last week. But boy they help out!

Ronald is the youth minister at FBC Lexington, TN. He’s married to Bekah and has two girls: Sophie and Penny. Find his blog here and Twitter here 



Disciples of Who?

 —  January 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

You thrive on life change.  That’s what makes you a youth minister.  When life is tough, all you need is that one story of a teen finding Christ.  Living out the Gospel and showing you that all the pain, hurt and junk you’ve been through is worth it.  As youth ministers it’s not always about the energy, the numbers or the accolades, it’s about connecting the teens to Christ.

But, is that what’s really happening in your ministry?  Are you seeing stories of life change for Christ or something else?  Stories of life change can happen for many reason.  As youth ministers your hope is that they happen because of a personal and public relationship with Christ.  That might be happening in your ministry, but then again you might be raising up the next generation of disciples of YOUR CHURCH or YOUR MINISTRY.

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make.  It’s a trick the evil one plays on us all.  He’ll make the ministry about you, about a program or even an activity.  With those things and people comes hype, comes excitement and again life change.  But, if the life change doesn’t point to Christ you are creating a group of disciples with shallow faith.  That means a higher chance that your teens will  walk away when they move away.

So, how do you know if you are pointing teens in the right direction?  You can start by:

  • Observing The Fruit: What path are former teens taking as they graduate high school?  Are you finding teens becoming more public and aggressive with their faith?  What you need to do is sit down with your team and determine what it looks like when a teen is truly living out his or her faith.  This comes from creating a vision for your teens and coming up with signs that indicate you are fulfilling it.
  • Getting Their Story: Have a teen write out their life story.  How is God a part of it?  Or is their life change due to people and programs?  Help them see that God is writing their story and encourage them to give Him credit.  Sometimes the reason you are creating disciples of your ministry is because of a misalignment, correct it before it goes bad.
  • Ask Them Who They Want To Be:  If you ask them “Who do you want to be?” you’ll see how their faith is influencing the vision they have for themselves.  Are they describing someone who has been shaped by the world or someone who is being shaped by their faith?  Again you can have a conversation with them that will help them see how God is shaping their future.
  • Get An Outside Perspective: Talk to parents, coaches or teachers about the life journey they’ve seen in their students.  Make sure you are connected in the community to determine the true impact your ministry is having on their growth.  Are they only “Christian” inside your ministry or are they displaying Christ everywhere they go?

In the end each of your student has a decision whether or not they are going to follow Christ.  You need to guide, influence and encourage them to focus on Christ.  While you may never have a perfect success rate, you can increase Christ’ influence by pointing them towards Him.

How do you determine who a student is following?  

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

This month we’re introducing a new series here on the Simply Youth Ministry Today newsletter. It is called Top 3 and we’re kicking off this week with our Top 3 epic youth ministry fails. Thought you would like that one!

1) Every so often we play a video clip as part of the message and in one particularly tragic service we played the video clip a team member had made for me (Josh). Like an idiot I hadn’t previewed the clip from Tommy Boy and the very last sentence of the excerpt involved a joke about the size of the guys…sailboat. Needless to say, it would go on to be one of my most epic fails of all time. I ended the message with, “It sure has been great being your pastor.” Hahahah!

2) I (Kurt) was a 22-year-old rookie junior high pastor on my way to a youth group New Year’s Eve party with a carload of kids. I happened to have surf racks on my car and one of the 8th grade boys happened to be highly adventurous…which turned out to be a bad combination. I pulled over, strapped the student into my surf racks, and proceeded to drive 5 miles through town to the party. Luckily it was before the days of cell phones, Instagram, and every move being instantaneously captured. Other than a fairly harsh tongue lashing from the high school pastor (why do they always think they’re so much more spiritual?), there was no damage done.

3) To make a long story short: I (Kurt) was on staff at Saddleback for one month when I accidentally left a student in the stadium after an Arena Football League game. I counted…just not accurately.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



I really like learning things, but NOT learning them the hard way and this is something that I have learned the hard way through my own actions and from the challenges it has brought up with some of our students. We have all been there, preaching to our students about something we are passionate about, something we know that many students are struggling with, you’re feeling it and take it off script and then…. It happens……

You throw down a absolute / blanket statement. You might not have noticed it happened, it might have been a throw away comment but the students heard it and they are thinking about it, reflecting on it and deciding if its true.

This is such a dangerous move; even if by accident, because when we say it, our students are going to assume its true and may act accordingly. A great example is a student named Mike that was in my small group for several years. He was solid, growing in his faith, making great choices, loving Jesus and didn’t struggle with much. We took our youth group to a local youth conference and the main session speaker came out with this uppercut:

“ I know that ALL of you guys are struggling with looking at pornography”

Fact: Mike had never been tempted by pornography in his life……. Until he heard that everyone was.

I have made absolute statements about guys and their intentions in dating that were hurtful, and I owned the comment, apologized the next week and wished I had never done it. But it was not fair to the guys and not fair to the girls who trusted that I was telling them the truth, the guys had ill intentions. I know of at least one student who has not come back since that night and that hurts

Absolute statements are rarely true, often hurtful and always dangerous and not worth it. Be careful, your flippant comment can have devastating consequences for the spiritual journey of a student who is trusting that the information you are bringing is true. Don’t learn the hard way like I have.

GS  (Twitter)

GUEST POST: Epic Fail

 —  February 4, 2012 — 1 Comment

Have you ever really messed up? I mean, completely blown it. I have and I thought there is no way to recover from this one. I have finally figured out that it is okay to mess up and fail! Congratulations, you didn’t do it!

The great thing about failing is that it is not the end result. It is part of the process. Another element in life. For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s resume: