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

An Honest Facebook Movie

 —  February 8, 2014 — 2 Comments
facebookFacebook celebrated 10 years of being Facebook this past week…

a fact you’re well aware from the gazillion one-minute user-made videos that showed up in your feed.

Perhaps the best is a parody put together by Tripp and Tyler. Check it out:

So on the heels of that honest movie, how about an observation?

If you know me, you know that I try to keep the door open in any relationship. I’m often looking for a chance to help rebuild a bridge from the past, whether they were the ones holding the original matches that burned it or if I was.

Call me foolish. Still, that’s me.

That’s the interesting thing about social media. Sometimes you hope that by staying friends with someone online you might find yourself friends again in face-to-face connections one day. Maybe it will happen progressively, over time. Or maybe they’ll get this weird urge out of the blue one day to look you up and say, “Dang it, that was dumb. Let’s go get Chipotle.”

Then one day… it goes the other way and you find yourself “unfriended.”

Facebook is such a funny little monster.

Some days it uses its strength to bring you food off the mountain top. Other times it leaves teeth marks in you, that for some reason other people “like.”

You think you can tame it, and even believe it to be your friend.

Then one day… something happens in the virtual world and a weird sort of sting happens to you in the real world.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re a strong and silent lurker… or try to appear to be.

As Facebook has celebrated being ten years old, how have you navigated what it’s been and become?

Some honest questions…

  • How has Facebook helped your life?

  • How has Facebook complicated your life?

  • How easy/difficult is to be “real” through social media?


I have never been one for celebrity gossip. I sort of “keep up” with it by looking over the racks as I check out of the grocery store. Truthfully, if I wasn’t in youth ministry or the parent of teens I don’t know if I would care.

In the last year it has appeared that Justin Bieber has been a train wreck. He had some crazy antics with a monkey in public. A friend of mine told me he had been “spotted in a church, breaking down as He rededicated his life to the Lord.” I never followed up on the truthfulness of the story and thought briefly, “I hope it’s true.” Then all of a sudden the announcement was made that he was “retiring” at 19, egging his neighbors house, and of course, his smiling mug shot made the news this past Thursday. Truthfully, it made me sad.

Justin Bieber

My husband and I got into a discussion today about whether or not it’s fair to ask children and teens to bear the weight of the spotlight. We are a country fascinated with voyeurism. Reality television, entertainment news, social media and the Internet give us the illusion we know people we will never actually meet. Young teens are put out in the public eye and expected to be able to handle it. I am almost middle-aged and don’t know if I could.

Then earlier today a friend of mine posted this article from NPR:

“We are well aware that news outlets, websites and social media seem to be obsessed with the news that pop star Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami Beach early Thursday morning.

According to the Miami Herald, he’s been charged with “DUI, resisting arrest and drag-racing.” The Herald adds that:

“When stopped by police in his yellow Lamborghini, Bieber barraged officers with a string of F-bombs, babbled incoherently, refused to get out of his car and, when he finally stepped out, declined to take his hands out of his pockets, according to the police report.”

We’re not going to join in the piling on or joking about the 19-year-old Bieber’s increasingly notorious behavior.

Instead, we suggest you watch this video from 2007 when The Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson talked about why he was not going to joke about another young pop star’s much-publicized problems. Ferguson, an alcoholic, spoke from the heart about how he was feeling “uncomfortable about making fun of these people” — troubled stars such as Britney Spears.

“We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people,” Ferguson said. As he pointed out, celebrity Anna Nicole Smith died of a drug overdose. So did pop superstar Michael Jackson. Both had been the objects of endless fascination and jokes.

They need help, not ridicule, said Ferguson.”

 (Read the rest of the story and see the Craig Ferguson video HERE

In the 12-minute video, Craig Ferguson tells his story of alcoholism and admits at his lowest point he contemplated suicide. It’s so easy to point fingers or even shake our heads at the likes of the Miley Cyrus’ and Justin Bieber’s of the world. It’s a given that we shouldn’t poke fun at them, or is it?

Should we feel sorry for them?

Should we be praying?

Should we care at all?

When it comes to the teens in our lives. Do we use these lives as examples of choices NOT to make?

What do you think?



Sex When No One Is Watching

 —  November 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

times square

It all started with a recent visit to Times Square in NYC with my family. We didn’t notice the billboards until the sun went down and the light’s went on. There she was, several stories high towering over us, a naked woman barely covering her chest and selling men’s underwear of course.

Last weekend I was traveling for a speaking engagement. Turning on the television, the first “station” was one of those where you can, “Pay for the latest movie in the comfort of your room.”  Absent-mindedly, I left it there for a second.  That’s when an attractive woman, dressed pretty modestly began to speak. Her words caught me off guard. She said, “For just a small fee you can watch adult entertainment. No spyware. No malware. You can pay in a way that no one has to know.”  In other words,  “Go ahead an watch porn. No one is paying attention.”

This sexually charged culture is in our face all of the time. Media portrays sex as something to be used, discarded and played with. There is no talk of intimacy, or the soul’s involvement in this “physical act.”.  A ChristianNet Poll, Focus on the Family Poll, and research conducted by Christian Counseling today discovered these stats for THE CHURCH:

  • 5 out of every 10 men in the church are struggling with some issue concerning pornography
  • 34% of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites online.
  • 54% of pastors admitted to viewing Internet porn in the last year and 30% admitted viewing within the past month.
  • 50% of all Christian men are addicted to pornography.
  • 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography.
  • 60% of women admit to having significant struggles with lust.
  • 47% of families said pornography is a problem in their home.
  • 42% of surveyed adults indicated that their partner’s use of pornography made them feel insecure.
  • 41% of surveyed adults admitted they felt less attractive due to their partner’s pornography use.
  • 30% of surveyed adults said their partner’s use of pornography made them feel more like a sexual object.

It’s not just a set of statistics. I know people in full-time, paid ministry whose lives and marriages have been destroyed by porn. We have been told that we must be “perfect” so we close our hotel rooms, and turn on the television.

How do we deal?  If this is what is going on with adults then what do we say to youth?

  • It starts with an honest assessment of our own heart, mind and soul.  We need to be totally aware of the danger of falling into a sexual trap, at any moment.  What are we doing to protect our hearts, eyes and mind against the world that tells us, “If it feels good in the moment, go for it.”


  • The discussion in youth group goes FAR beyond purity.  It is talking about the way Satan is always seeking “who he will devour, “ and he will use whatever he can to accomplish this goal-  media, people, insecurity, everything. We have to be supporting the family.


  • We need to keep exposing the lies.  I was previewing a CW show about princesses for my teen daughter, because I had heard some things. Sure enough, the first 20 minutes included both a graphic sex and a masturbation scene. Yep, it took place in the 1800’s, and yep, my husband and I felt like we had just watched porn. Just because tradition or the culture says it’s alright, doesn’t make it God’s plan.

It’s time we all remembered that God wants more for us than this excuse for “Sex” that the world portrays. He wants us to be in wonder of the miracle he calls, “Becoming one flesh,” and the promises attached to that.

What are you doing to actively combat this sexually charged world?