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?

Leneita

@leneitafix

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? 

Leneita

@leneitafix



Print your Instagrams!

 —  October 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

insta

I am a huge fan of Instagram! It is a way to connect with students in my ministry, a great outlet to express fun with my family, and keep distant family up to speed on life. Online is good, but I would like to do more with those square images than just look at them through the screen of an iPhone or web browser.

Here are 5 sites you might find useful and one you probably won’t that will help you take your Instagram pics from digital to tangible:

  1. Stickygram: Turn your images into magnets. We have a huge metal wall in our youth room, I am considering making some magnets to use for hanging; flyers, posters, calendars, and other images. $15 for 9 isn’t cheap but they look intersting and if they are quality prints and strong magnets it would be worth it.
  2. Artflakes: Giant sticker collection! Well, that is their tag line…4×4 is not giant, but it looks cool. You can do posters and cards too, check out their prices here.
  3. Postagram: This is one of 2 services that I have actually used. I gave some ideas on how this can be used in ministry here. Download the app, add a pic, write a note and send…done.  Postagram does the work of printing and mailing. Go send a card or two (sometimes they let you send a free test card), people love getting real mail.
  4. Origrami: I like the look of these cards and box they come in. You get 36, 4×5 prints for under $22.  This might be useful if you want to send a few pics to your volunteers for Christmas or to hang on a wall in your youth room.  Then again, with a little photo editing knowledge and 18 cent prints at WalMart maybe these are over priced…but super cool!
  5. Printstagram: This is the other service I have used. You can buy all types of printed out materials here: cards, mini prints, 365 day calendar ($40), and more.  I bought 2 of the sticker books. The stickers are tiny but you get over 200! I am thinking about buying a poster to hanging my office or our youth space. Students like looking at picture and they get excited when they find a pic they are in. (similar site printsgram.com).
  6. Stitchtagram: Need pillows for your office or youth room couches? If so, you might want to check out Stitchtagram.

Bonus: If you have a crazy huge budget, and you like burning through money check out Instaprint. This company lets you rent their machines for $5000 for half a day and $7500 for a whole day. The idea is that people at your party can post instagram pics to their account and when they post using one of your designated hashtags their onsite machines will print the images. This would make a great addition to any youth room but you cannot buy them, they are only for rent.

Do you use any sites that make use of your Instagram photos?

Twitter is full of parody accounts, including some that only those who serve in a church may fully appreciate.

For example, here’s “The Deacon.”

Committee meetings all weekend... wish I was the pastor. Then I could just preach and go home. #ifonlypeopleunderstood #hardwork

Or if you like your deacons a little more “surly,” try the “Surly Deacon.”

Don't start any trouble at my church. I'll be all over you like a worship pastor at a skinny jeans sale.

There are those who represent the grumbling we hear from the congregation, such as the “Church Curmudgeon.”

When we've been there ten thousand years, we may just get to sing Amazing Grace the normal way again.

Then again, it’s worth noting hard pastors can have it via “Unappreciated Pastor.”

Moses' staff split the Red Sea. Mine split the church.

The “Bad Church Secretary” fesses up a bit, too.

I reminded the youth pastor he's preaching tomorrow. He'll be to embarrassed to ask around and find out he isn't.

How about a “Mad Worship Leader?”

Sure we're taking requests for this Sunday morning service.... just a sec and let me put the Holy Spirit's leading on hold... we aim to please!

How about an “Uncensored Pastor“?

Thanks for telling me how unhappy you are at our church. I was just sitting here wondering if we were making you happy or not.

Another strong one is “Stuff Christians Say.”

Changed the Wifi network at church to 'Jesus is watching you'   Bet those teens think twice about where they go online now

 

Lots of fun, right?

Now…

how about those directed at the Youth Ministry nation?

There’s the “Mistreated Youth Guy

Met a lady today who says she goes to the church I work at but was surprised to hear I've been the Youth Minister there for a couple years.

Or the things a “Youth Pastor Says.”

You really need to cut a larger check for the youth designated fund...I looked

A “Hipster Youth Pastor” chimes in.

I lose followers when I make fun of church camp

As well as a “Bitter Youth Pastor.”

Hey Young Life! Heard your game last night involved twerking and eating Oreos out of each others' mouths. I'm sure Jesus was glorified!

There’s even a “Ghetto Youth Pastor.”

I HATE YOUTH - Every youth pastor immediately following all major events

Not to mention a “Smug Youth Pastor.”

Still looking for the ultimate.....full time pay w/part time effort.

How does this make you feel?

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about Christian Hipsters that had its share of support and criticism. I wonder if when we read about a niche group in the church we enjoy the laughter but feel even just a tad bit defensive when we’re the ones under the spotlight?

Got a thought on this? Know of another parody account worth taking a look at?

Chime in.



awesomeYou know that one thing you just did? Or that next thing you’ll do?

They’re the GREATEST things in the world, and you’re “incredibly humbled” to be do them.

Right?

Welcome to the “humblebrag.”

A Wall Street Journal article describes it this way

“Whether we like it or not, and especially on social media, we’re all self-promoters, broadcasting even our quasi-achievements to every friend and follower.”

The phrase was coined by Harris Wittels who explained that the “humblebrag” is when someone overtly boasts while covertly side-stepping coming across as bragging by wrapping it up in some type of humility

tweet

That’s something Christians can be culprits of just as easily as others.

And why not? Don’t we have the Greatest Message in the world to communicate? And aren’t we all “super excited” at the latest way we’ve found to share it?

  • “Hey, check out my YouTube video…”
  • “You should click on this link…”
  • “Read this post…”
  • “Could you retweet this…”

It’s what you say when someone asks how your last service or event was:

  • “Oh, it was incredible! You should have been there! God did something awesome! And, well… I was just thankful to be used by Him. I always am.”
  • “Well, the pastor was on vacation… and I don’t know if it’s okay to say this, but a few people told me they like my preaching a little better than his. I think a revival may break out soon.”

It’s how you describe the next thing that your name is attached to:

  • “Hey, you need to get your friends out to our next outreach thing. I’m going to bring my ‘A-Game’ and expect you to bring your school out to hear it… you know, so God can work through me.”
  • “I just wrote this blog post that I think just may change the future of how we do what we do. I’m super humbled to share this with you.”

It’s how you let everyone know your life is going well:

  • “Yay! We just became debt-free! It meant living off of croutons and Kool-Aid for six years, but we dropped a few pounds so it’s all good.”
  • “I’m soooooo grateful to have such a super-sexy, always-praying-on-the-knees-while-singing-worship-songs-and-writing-new-ones spouse who made me breakfast in bed today while writing out our tithe check.”

Granted, those are a little over the top and exaggerated. I’m guessing you saw yourself or someone else in them, though.

(In fact, it’s a whole lot easier to see this in others… isn’t it?)

tweet2

It’s worth a gut check:

  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about God and toss yourself in there?
  • How often do you look for a reason to talk about yourself and toss God in there?

I’d love to hear your observations or pet peeves on this.
Maybe even share a few creative youth worker “humble brags.”

Oh… and while you’re thinking of some, make sure you check out my new book Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side that came out this week. It was a labor of love to write it, but I’m “super excited” for how it turned out.

(Ahem… see what I did there? And you’re welcome.)

If you ever had trouble explaining why we use so many different forms of social media this infographic might come in handy.  It’s funny, so true, and might make a great opener at your next parent meeting.
infographic

**I want to give credit to whoever created this cool infographic but I have no idea.  If you know who, please give a link and the credit via link in the comments!



There is something remarkable about the connectivity afforded to us through social media. The ability to connect with people, to have conversations, to encourage and engage people makes it a tool that 10 years ago you could only dream of.

I have been reminded lately of just how important the “Social” part of social media is. As youth workers we spend a solid amount of time posting on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram among others, but if we are not careful or intentional they can become “Shouts” and not conversations. By that I mean we log in, type up a thoughtful tweet or status update and launch it into cyberspace for all to read and leave before it even lands.

The miss is when we don’t go back to engage in the conversation and to read what people have to say, or we don’t venture into their world and to engage in what they are saying or feeling. When we remove the Social from Social Media we miss out on some big opportunities to engage, encourage and learn. I have said it before and I will say it again, the best leaders I know are the best followers too. They engage in the lives of their students, they care about their victories and defeats and look for opportunities to lead and shepherd through online engagement.

Lets keep the Social in Social Media, have a few less shouts and a few more conversations.

Geoff – @geoffcstewart 

Our ministry once hosted a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser that required a lot of work. Our team had to audition bands, price out food, order speakers and recruit volunteers. We put so much work into this event; however, we forgot one key component:

TO INVITE PEOPLE

We had sent out an email, and made a few flyers; however, that was it. What was the response? Embarrassing. While a few people showed up, they were mostly friends and families of the band. It was a disaster.

Developing a communication strategy is a must in youth ministry and while it doesn’t seem like the most attractive responsibility, without it you can’t expect your ministry to grow. Developing a strategy for how you communicate means being intentional about what you say, how you say it and to whom. That means:

  1. Scheduling a Designated Time: Your communication efforts need your focus; therefore, give yourself allotted time to respond to emails and voicemails. Carve time to work on a message and schedule your social media posts ahead of time with software like Simply Youth Ministry Tools, Hootsuite and BufferDevelop a plan so you don’t rush and create a costly mistake.
  2. Understanding Your Mediums: Part of a communications strategy is understanding that people utilize different mediums. We are no longer in the days of emails and phone calls. Understanding the power of your platform by utilizing social media, texting and even your message is key to getting your point across. Pick a few resources that you feel most of your target audience uses and practice using them.
  3. Gaining Feedback: Get someone’s insight and feedback before you post something online, respond to an important email or deliver a message. The problem with electronic communication is that it can be difficult to read emotion and once it’s out there, IT’S OUT THERE. You never want to come off patronizing, sarcastic or offensive to your audience. So before you hit SEND, ask a friend to share their thoughts.
  4. Knowing Your Audience: Come off patronizing to parents and they won’t take you seriously. Speak over a teenager’s head and you’ll lose their engagement. Know your audience by spending time with them; however, do not try to be them. The best way to speak to any audience is to acknowledge when you are an expert and when you are not. People will appreciate your humility if they know it’s coming from sincerity.
  5. Repeat, Repeat and Repeating:You can’t say something only once and expect people to remember it. Repeat it, tweak it and then repeat it again. Utilize all the different mediums, and stagger it so that it doesn’t get lost in the noise.

If you communicate clearly and effectively you will be able to mobilize the next generation. Develop a strategy and make it a part of your daily responsibilities so that you are never wondering if you’ve been heard. To get one started takes a little bit of commitment; however, once you get going the possibilities are endless.

Which of these tips is the hardest one for you to embrace?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)