Anonymous Depression

 —  September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Ladies… gentlemen…

this Twitter account exists.


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 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:



Social Media Guide For Ministry

By Nils Smith, $7.99




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 for a few years and recently found and

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 / @uthguy9

smdwideFinally, a holiday that Hallmark did not create.

Starting in 2010 by Mashable, a massive tech blog, Social Media Day is a way to recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes. Read more about #SMD at Mashable.

(My apologies to anyone named Nancy.)

I recently taught at a conference where another key note speaker was there to share about today’s teens and culture. What struck me is how negative the messages came across about teens’ use of social media. I began to wonder if the “negativity” was a ploy or platform to get participants’ heads to nod. I mean, could it be true that he had tapped into some youth pastors’ secret love of dirty laundry especially when its under the banner of “teaching teenagers for God.”

Do we do that in our ministries? Garner attention to ourselves by building a sensational platform on getting Christians to “tongue cluck” about what “those crazy teenagers today are up to?” (You know what “tongue clucking” is – that sound we make when somebody does something “bad.” Kind of a “tsk, tsk” noise accompanied by a slow shake of the head.

What was the speaker really trying say? IDK. What I heard was that any students all up into texting, Instwitbook, teen celebrity magazines are the narcissistic, hopeless future of our country. While I appreciated this person’s experience, the research shared and the freshness of the topics…come on. Really? Are our teenagers that dumb that Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber (two children also loved by God) will be their complete downfall? BTW: I totally support helping our children make good celebrity and social media choices. I also get the speaker’s point of possible addiction to all things “screen.” After all, I’ve also texted someone during church, kept my phone by my bed, and am posting this from an airplane into the literal and figurative blogosphere.

Maybe there’s a balance for teaching our kids. Maybe helping them create ways to use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as a relational tool is better than throwing out the whole “baby with the bath water.” Perhaps giving them a filter to look into the lives of teen celebrities will keep our students listening to us longer than if we give off the smell that we condemn all of teen culture.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. I’m still thinking this through…so don’t shoot the messenger so to speak. I guess for me it comes down to hoping we can find ways to joyfully share our God and our lives with our students, while sharpening our skills to be in the world but not of the world. For me that means not being negative on the parts of teen culture that aren’t the “hill worth dying on.” Guess I’d rather spend my limited youth relational time on things like hurting kids and sexting than if my teens check their phones 12x a day.

Back in the Dark Ages, this crazy new communication tool came along called the phone. In another time gone by decade, a teen celebrity came on the scene named Elvis. That’s probably where culture really went down the tube.


Reclaimed-WoodI am not on Pinterest much, but I do click over there when I need a little inspiration for a project, experience, or sermon series graphic.  Check out these 5 Pinterest boards and add some of your favorites in the comments below.

Simply Youth Ministry

Sermon graphics

Youth Room Ideas

Youth Ministry Games

Stage Design


Brandon / @uthguy9