Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 2.36.42 PMI’m not a huge user of social media. I do have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account and I post occasionally on them – usually things that pertain to my family and sometimes ministry items. But I rarely look on these apps or websites to see what other people are doing. This has caused some of my friends to accuse me of being a selfish social media user. That may be true in ways, but I just don’t spend time browsing around these sites.

But, I have recently been doing so on Yik Yak and, oh my, is this interesting. In fact I have been doing a little social experiment with it. Before I explain that let me just say this: if you work with college age people and are NOT on Yik Yak…you gotta wake up and create an account. If you want to see how the people you are trying to reach think, gain insight into what they are actually talking about and thinking through or struggling with…you need to create an account right now.

The app is unique in that nobody knows who ANYONE is. It’s also based on geography…so you only see posts that are around you – and it’s derived from college campuses. So, in other words, you get the real deal from those students around you…and people throw out questions or thoughts that are unbelievably intriguing. Granted, this is not a Christian app…so you will read things that can be a bit, well, unlike Jesus. But it does give you an amazing glimpse into the minds of people.

All that said, here is how I have approached this little experiment I’ve been doing. I have been posting (because nobody knows who I am) a variety of different types of posts to see what sort of things get responses. The interesting thing about this is that your posts can also be voted off. So, you can up-vote or down-vote what people are saying and after a certain number of down-votes (I think it’s 5) your post is deleted.Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 2.34.48 PM So, here is what is interesting:

Every single thing I’ve posted about the Christian faith has been deleted. Every one with no exceptions.

I have experimented with this in both the Portland and Los Angeles areas. I have even tried posting ambiguous things and they were still voted off. For instance, at one point I made up something and posted this, “Rethinking Christians. Just met a guy that was actually pretty cool. This is a first for me.” That post was voted-down and was deleted.

The other interesting thing was every post about relationships has been voted-up and even had replies. For instance, while at Disneyland last week I made up a post and said, “That moment when your girlfriend from high school is in line behind you. Say hi or no?” This post had many up-votes and even replies. All relationally focused ones have remained on. It’s been an interesting little experiment. I also found this post to the right interesting…notice the one reply at the moment of taking this pic.

 

Thoughts?

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

We said it about a year ago

Surveys of this type are, of course, a dime a dozen, and teen whims are as volatile as Twitter’s trending hashtags. That said, Piper Jaffray’s research is pretty thorough: It surveyed a national group of 7,200 students and accounted for variables like gender and household income.

This is an interesting chart, still impressive numbers but rapid decline (these are MySpace numbers). Check out the full story over at the Washington Post.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 8.39.14 PM

- Brandon / @iamBRANDONEARLY

Here are two great resources that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer:

SocialMediaGuide

 

Social Media Guide For Ministry

By Nils Smith, $7.99

 

ParentsSocialMedia

 

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media

By Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane, $6.99

 

 



hellotagIn what it becoming a popular trend these days, another “live-coming-out” video has been posted on Youtube.

These stories will temporarily trend in social media feeds, including one in particular that Facebook highlighted this week: It features a teenager who hid a camera with just the right line of sight to capture his mom’s reaction to his announcement that he is gay.

There’s a lot to digest here, from the content of the post to why it’s even a trend to begin with. I asked Shawn Harrison, noted author of “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” to give his perspective on the video concept itself. I also had a few thoughts to offer, not as an antagonist to his point but to supplement it from the ministry side of things. Here are two sides to gay teens coming out:

In terms of the content…

(via Shawn Harrison)

In terms of the takeaways…

(via Tony Myles)

For those that don’t know about these videos, check out Youtube and you’ll quickly see. Instead of writing letters, teens now hide a video camera in a room and film their parent’s (or family’s) response to them coming out as gay. A lot of these videos are hard to watch – some are deeply emotional and deeply troubling in how the parent’s reactions are brutally honest and some times come with the words, “Leave my house now.”

As youth workers, we need to familiarize ourselves with these videos, because they definitely give us insight into the personal lives of gay students – students who could at any time come through our doors.

As I’ve been watching these videos, I’m reminded of the time I came to my parents. I stayed home that day because the thought of coming out to my parents knotted my stomach up like never before. Not only was I physically sick, but emotionally and mentally “sick,” too. It is not easy to tell your parents you are attracted to the same-sex, let alone you have no idea why you experience these attractions, and you cannot seem to change the attractions you have. The stress and fear of becoming an embarrassment and a failure to your parents overwhelms your entire being. The fear of becoming homeless because of your “attractions” is a constant nightmare.

For a gay teen that either has come out or is about to come out, losing friends is one thing, but being rejected by family is on a totally different level.

Friends come and go, while family is supposed to be there no matter what. However, many of the teens in these coming out videos, and many who never make a video, face the unthinkable: parents rejection, homelessness, ridicule, and abuse that is physically and mental. I was fortunate in that though my parents and I never talked about my sexuality, they never stopped loving me.

Regardless of what personal stance you may have on this topic:

  • What did you learn by watching and listening to the kid?
  • What did you learn by watching and listening to the mom?
  • What can we learn about youth ministry from a kid who secretly video tapes his mom’s reaction to something?

Once upon a time, kids wrote something in a secret diary or journal so the rest of the world couldn’t see it. We’re now on the exact opposite extreme where students look for validation and affirmation in the global community, not realizing the bias that in itself creates. They may see how many “likes” or “views” their post gets on the internet and assume that’s what they’ll encounter locally among people they will actually interact with.

Maybe that’s not the end goal in their minds, though. Perhaps if they can just get one more “thumbs up” or “retweet” online, they’ll come up with the courage they need to talk to their family.

It’s why my favorite part in the video is when the mom fires back with her own disclosure… not because of what she says or how she tries to identify with her son, but because for those 10 to 15 seconds the teenager is absolutely out of whatever role he prescribed for himself in this conversation.

This “ad lib” is where real ministry happens… but what if instead of his world getting a little bigger that way there was something more Christ-centered in that moment?

Maybe that’s the message we need to remind students of in this moment. Life is larger than what they’re processing today. While culture is ready to rapid-fire validation or criticism to the latest feelings a teenager expresses, it isn’t dispensing context and wisdom.

What if a student isn’t gay in orientation, but is curious about the same sex? Will culture help them sift through that difference? Will you, with Jesus as your guide?

One way or another, this is a topic that must be explored honestly and unedited, even when we want it to feel one-sided and controlled. We all don’t have the means to package things the way we want to… but over time, context does form. For that reason, I’d like to give Shawn the last word on this – here’s some great wisdom:

shawnharrisonAnother thought occurred to me while watching these videos: Youth workers, what if a student filmed your reaction to them coming out, or what if a gay teen secretly filmed you talking about homosexuality during youth group? What would they record?

And before you determine, “this would never happen,” let me remind you that these parents being filmed most likely said the same thing. We cannot wait to decide what we would say or do concerning homosexuality and our students. We need to decide now how we would respond, how we would teach the subject, and how we would help families through the journey. This conversation is too important to put aside and wait for another day. For too long the church has practiced this approach, and the result is what we see today: we are “anti-gay,” gay teens are leaving Christianity, families sit alone in silence, and the church continues to miss the point about homosexuality.

I am not the “know-all” of this subject. I’m just a guy who personally lives out this journey, and I’m trying to help youth workers, families, and gay individuals navigate through their journey, too. For some practical help, let me suggest my book, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers.” I truly believe in this book, and by God’s grace, thousands of people have learned how to navigate this journey, unafraid and in community with others.

Anonymous Depression

 —  September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Ladies… gentlemen…

this Twitter account exists.

twitter

Because that student exists.

Not just online… but likely right under our noses.

twitteraccountIt’s not always anonymous depression. There is probably someone in your contact list who when they call you know it’s going to be a long conversation. You may even find yourself wondering if you can do any good about it… or if  you want to do any good about it.

Relevant Magazine recently published an article called “4 Myths Christians Need to Stop Believing about Depression.” In summary:

  • Myth: Depression is a faith issue -Depression has nothing to do with a lack of faith. In fact, for me, it has been the catalyst for even deeper faith. Because some days, in the hardest moments, faith was the only thing I had.”
  • Myth: Depression can be prayed away - “I believe in prayer, and I believe in a God who can heal all things—in fact, I genuinely believe it was His hand that lifted my depression. But freedom from depression requires prayer and treatment.”
  • Myth: Depression isn’t physical - “There are many causes to depression, and whether it’s rooted in trauma, hormones or stress, it almost always affects our body.”
  • Myth: Depression shouldn’t be talked about - “Scripture is filled with passages of men and women who have struggled through the pit of depression and their response was to cry out!”

twitteraccount2Some youth workers know this pain. Shawn Harrison nailed it a few weeks ago in his article “Confessions of a Depressed Youth Worker.” Maybe the hurdle is we feel so stuck in our own stuff that we don’t know how to help students with their stuff.

Or… maybe we’re in over our heads… even though there are resources that we can tap into to help students “journey to freedom.”

Maybe it’s easier for us to plan the next big event for the masses than it is to “leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep” until we find it.

(Perhaps we’d like to do that, but it would go against what constitutes as success in our churches.)

What next?

That Twitter account exists.

Because that student exists.

teen-depressionThis is youth ministry.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Mark 25:42-45)



toolsI have often been asked that question paired with, “I just don’t know what I don’t know. How do I mine for issues that should be covered in guidelines for social media use by our staff?” It is hard to know what to add without having a 500 page document that covers everything. Justin Wise from justinwise.net has a pretty great post called, “THE ULTIMATE LIST OF SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES FOR CHURCHES & MINISTRIES.” Sift through all the resources he found and see how his post can help you!

Here are a couple other links that might come in handy too.

- Brandon / @iamBRANDONEARLY

P.S. -

Here are two great resources that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer:

SocialMediaGuide

 

Social Media Guide For Ministry

By Nils Smith, $7.99

 

ParentsSocialMedia

 

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media

By Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane, $6.99

 

 

For the record, I know this isn’t the first “ice bucket challenge” post on the internet.

(Check out Brandon Early’s great coverage here and here, and Rick Lawrence getting drenched here)

The spotlight all of it has provided for ALS has been outstanding. You can hear one man’s personal comments on it here (warning: some raw content).

Mark Zuckerberg took on the ice bucket challenge, calling out three others in his network to do the same.

Mark Zuckerberg took on the ice bucket challenge, calling out three others in his network to do the same.

I more want to bounce around some of your and my insights on this as it relates to how people view Christianity and church in general.

As Brandon explained:

The Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head and then challenging three other people to take the challenge within 24 hours. If those people you challenge do not want to accept, they are suppose to donate $100 to the ALS Association. These donations help the ALS Association fight Lou Gehrig’s disease.

According to an article at the Huffington Post, the ice bucket challenge itself involves “one part challenge, one part charity, sprinkle in some celebrity and cook on high with Facebook.” Many people are doing it because someone else tagged them to do so, most of whom aren’t actually donating money to ALS.

So what is the takeaway? Why is this so popular?

Please share your thoughts. Here are three of mine:

  • lewis-stacy-icebucket-640x360It’s quick. No one is being asked to go out and become “polar bear” swimmers. You won’t be under the cold water for more than a few seconds at most. People are more willing to try new things if it’s either a one-time thing or they have a quick out. To quote the Huffington article, “You can do something from your computer — or from your yard — that makes you feel good, but doesn’t actually do anything.”
  • It’s random. This activity asks and gives you the chance to answer the unconscious questions you ponder while seeing others do it. For example, “What would *I* look like under cold water?” or “Is this something ‘new’ I can try that is relatively safe?” If you’re tired of your daily routine of work/homework/housework, why not throw a bucket of ice cold water on your head?
  • It’s communal. Anyone can do it – young or old – and become locally (and possibly globally) famous if they post a video doing it. You can likewise tag others in an attempt to connect with people you actually know or form a connection with others you want to know (even if you don’t actually know them).

waterHere’s also one thought… on what it isn’t:

  • Legalistic. Want to only stand under a sprinkling can versus a downfall of ice water? Or how about involve beer and a shotgun? You decide. Don’t want to donate to the ALS fund, but want to make a funny video getting wet? There’s no law that says otherwise. While others may give you a hard time for your choices, you get to choose your experience… because it’s America, dang it.

So… that said…

it’s all fun, but…

(and please add your own insights)

How does or doesn’t this describe the average person’s faith?

Does this encompass what people seem to want from church?

i.e. “I have no problem doing this one-time thing because it’s fun… but if it involves a real commitment or actual financial sacrifice, I’m no so sure about that if I’m not ‘feeling it.’”

If a church doesn’t offer something that feels quick/random/communal, how does that affect its viral popularity? Could you build a church/student ministry “faster” if you did those things? Should you?

Do people really just want to stay at an “ice, ice baby” level of faith and commitment?

Is it all just fun… or is there any parallel to 2 Timothy 4:3?

 



social-media-imageI am always looking for ways to connect with students, but in my ministry context it is hard to connect over the summer. Here are 5 “Summer Connecting” ideas to help you get touchpoints with your students during these sporadic few months.

• Social Media Contest:
Send out a tweet, Instagram pic, status update, or mass text message telling students you will be at a specific location (ex. Starbucks, McDonalds, or Good Burger: Home of the Good Burger). If you have margin in your budget offer to buy for everyone, or just the first 5 to show up.

• Mail a Gift Card:
Just a send letter to a few students you want to connect with and add a gift card. No agenda other than to connect and encourage, this is something that will be remembered.

• Mass Text Message:
I use Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS to text blast my staff and students. Pray for every student by name one morning and send a text blast letting them know you prayed for them. Or break your list down to a more personal, manageable size and text a few a day. If you decide to narrow down your group, you can text pre-prayer and ask for requests.

• Postagram:
Grab a selfie with a student and send it to them with the Postagram app.

Are you connecting with your students in a techy way? Please share how in the comments below.

Sermon Series Ideas

 —  July 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

It is time for me to start planning our 2014-2015 calendar; events, sermon series ideas, retreats, etc. I have posted a list of my favorite resources that help in the area of sermon series ideas and graphic design elements but these three pages never made the list. Not because they are not great, but because I just discovered 2 of them. I have been visiting churchstagedesignideas.com for a few years and recently found seriesideas.com and worshipsetideas.com.

Click on and check out these three sites, they are easy to navigate and spark great ideas.  The URLs are what they say they are…

Other than from your regular Bible reading, where are you growing your series ideas?

- Brandon Early
@iambrandonearly

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