Ever consider the importance of the past when it comes to how you serve students in the present and future?

Just heard about this new documentary called “Teenage” – check it out:


According to press on it, it’s “an inventively stylized documentary that blends archival footage with painstakingly recreated scenes which are so well done, it’s often impossible to differentiate the two. Based on Jon Savage’s book Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875-1945.

timthumbBefore the ‘Teenager’ was invented, there was no second stage of life. You were either a child or you went to work as an adult. At the turn of the century, child labor was ending, ‘adolescence’ was emerging, and a struggle erupted between adults and youth. Would the young be controlled and regimented, or could they be free? Inspired by punk author Jon Savage’s book, Teenage gives voice to young people from the first half of the 20th century in America, England, and Germany—from party-crazed Flappers and hip Swing Kids to zealous Nazi Youth and frenzied Sub-Debs. By the end of World War II, they were all ‘Teenagers’: a new idea of youth.

Four young voices (Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher) bring to life rare archival material and filmed portraits of emblematic teenagers from history: Brenda Dean Paul, a self-destructive Bright Young Thing; Melita Maschmann, an idealistic Hitler Youth; Tommie Scheel, a rebellious German Swing Kid; and Warren Wall, a black Boy Scout. This living collage is punctuated by a contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound). Teenageis a story that ends with a beginning: a prelude to today’s youth culture. In each generation, adults often mistake youthful unrest for an emotional right of passage. But history proves that rebelling teenagers aren’t just claiming their independence, they’re shaping the future.

Wild concept. Any thoughts, concerns or ideas on if/how we can apply it?

Teen-Culture-e1361902903989What was life like for teenagers in 2013?

The best way to figure that out is to ask them, of course.

In the meantime, here is an infographic from HelpYourTeenNow.com.



What’s up Insiders?

We have a guest post from Dave Ramsey’s daughter, Rachel Cruze!

Rachel Cruze By RACHEL CRUZE

As youth leaders and parents, we’re responsible for making sure our teenagers are ready for life. How cool is that opportunity?

In the few years we have with them, we can help them build a firm foundation in their faith. That way, when they’re out on their own, they can be confident and stand strong when culture gets in the way.

When we talk to our teenagers we usually focus on obvious topics like salvation, baptism, and plugging into a small group. We also hammer away at subjects like sex, dating, peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol. I used to be a Young Life leader, and I talked a lot about these issues in my ministry too.

By focusing on these hot-button topics, we hope to help teens avoid stupid mistakes they will end up regretting for the rest of their lives. But we often focus so much on these broader topics that we ignore many of the day-to-day trials our teenagers deal with.

Have you ever asked your teenagers what they want to talk about? Have you asked them about which topics they don’t understand? What questions come up at school, or with friends, about why they believe the way they do? Do they need help handling pressure from media and advertising, dealing with death, or understanding what God says about money and body image?

Sure, you can’t discuss these things every week, but you should ask students what they’re dealing with and get them thinking about how to work through these problems as Christians.

Don’t worry about a topic not being “spiritual” enough. If you or your students feel led to talk about an issue, then maybe it’s time to step outside your set curriculum.

Take a few weeks off and dive into a new topic. Only God knows what conversations might spark and who those discussions might bring in. If we tiptoe around these topics because they’re uncomfortable, we’re doing a disservice to the teenagers in our lives.

But what if you don’t feel like you’re enough of an “expert” to talk about a certain topic? Don’t worry. You can find plenty of tools and resources created for youth workers on those very topics. You might need to make some slight adjustments to fit your group because, after all, you know them best.

But no matter what, say something your teenagers need to hear this week. And don’t be afraid to do something different!

Thanks for reading,



Rachel Cruze is a part of the Dave Ramsey team. More info can be found at:


What I love about youth ministry is how you can get away with some things that you could never do in adult worship.  When you fail or mess up teens will be a little more forgiving especially if they see that you are trying.  While youth ministry has it’s uniqueness it has it’s dangers if it is totally isolated from the movement of the adult congregation.  If not connected to the flow and movement of adult ministry and worship it can be an obstacle to the entire church.  One of our responsibilities as youth ministers is to make sure that we are IN UNISON WITH “BIG CHURCH”.

The reason you need to build synergy between teens and adults is because it:

  • Encourages Conversation Between Parent’s and Kids
  • Enables Outside The Box Thinking
  • Equips a Vibrant Generation to Take Ownership

When the church is in unison it becomes a movement and it’s relevancy increases.  Unfortunately, there are road blocks that stand in the way that will cause friction.  To remove that friction and synergy between youth and adults you need to:

Make Your Relationship With Leadership A Priority: Not always the easiest thing to do; however, it has the biggest payoff.  When you can communicate to the pastor your needs and your situation he can serve as an advocate on your behalf.  If this is something that’s impossible you might need to reconsider where you are working. (Click here to learn more on leading up)

Preach On Similar Topics: If you can be ONE CHURCH ONE MESSAGE then you give families a common ground for their conversations.  While it’s not always appropriate to talk about the exact same topics as the adults you can pull from similar themes and readings.  If your church teaches in message series consider following along.  Fuel the conversation at home.

Encourage Teens To Serve Alongside Adults: Building intergenerational relationships are essential in building your capacity as a leader.  When you empower teens to serve alongside of adults you give them role models in faith.  It gives the teens an opportunity to be influenced and encouraged by an adult who sees the importance of serving the Lord.

While there is power and benefit to creating unique opportunities for teenagers, it’s important not to lose sight of how they are connected to the local church.  Work on the relationships you have with coworkers, invest yourself in what the adult ministry is doing and strive to be one church of many generations.

How do you work to be in unison with “Big Church”?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

The other week we had a senior girl share her testimony at our high school program.  It was powerful.  Afterwards her peers came up and showed her love.  What made the testimony even better was the fact that we recorded and placed the video on our student ministry Facebook page (With parent permission).  In return she received several compliments and words of love from peers, parents and adults in our church.  The next time I saw her you could tell there was an extra bounce in her step.

You are called to walk with students in their faith journey.  During that journey they will face hopeless moments where they will need encouragement to survive.  One of your roles as their youth minister is to cheer them on, affirm their choices and make sure they are being loved.  While there are many ways of doing this five that I would recommend are:

  • Bragging About Them Publicly: At first a teen might be slightly embarrassed but giving them praise in front of a crowd is huge.  It lets them know that they are so great that you don’t want to hide it.  By telling your audience why this person is awesome you affirm them as a role model (especially to their younger peers). 
  • Touch Base Before Something Big: Text them, write on their wall, send them a tweet or take them out for a bite to eat right before something big.  As a kid my mom used to write notes on my lunch bag before a big test.  It was a little embarrassing; however, it was reassuring to know someone was thinking of me.  The beauty of social media is you can let your teens know that you are thinking about them moments before they embark in the battles of teenage life.
  • Call Up Their Parents: One way to motivate teens is to do it through their parents.  When a parent feels supported in the job that they are doing they’ll pass along the extra encouragement to their teens.  And there is nothing better than boosting a teen’s morale through their family.
  • Thank Them For Being Them: They don’t have to do something impressive, unexpected or selfless, just let them know their appreciated.  It will especially means something if you can send a hand written note.  Many times teens are working to be someone they are not.  When you thank them for being simply themselves you show them God’s authentic love.
  • Utilize Physical Affirmation: Next time you see a student give them a hug, shake their hand and let them know you are proud of them.  This is intimidating because of the scandals and controversy out there.  If you are unsure just make sure you aren’t alone (Especially with the opposite sex).  Be consistent; but, don’t be afraid to give them positive contact.  It’s the intimacy they might be missing in their lives.

You can assume that your student’s know how you feel; however, with all the voices they face on a daily basis you need to make your’s louder.  When teens know they are loved, they will feel like they belong.  When they feel like they belong they’ll be more open to hearing the Good News.  Let them know how much they are truly loved.

How do you boost teen morale in your youth ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

I was going to start by qualifying myself by saying I’ve been in youth ministry in some capacity for nearly 20 years, but quite honestly you don’t even have to be in youth ministry for 20 minutes to relate to what I’m talking about here: Teenagers are very emotional beings. And it’s not uncommon for those emotions to get the best of them and their decision making.  I’m sure you’ve been there: it’s at the end of your weekend message, or a deep small group discussion, or the famous last night of some retreat when it happens.  The atmosphere becomes electric with emotions.  Tears start flowing, kids are embracing, it’s a seemingly supernatural event.  Our hearts want so desperately to pin it all on an Acts 2 replay of some type, but in the back of our minds we’re wondering what or who is really behind the tears, behind the decisions, behind the electricity we sense in the room.  We want so desperately to know that its 100% Spirit-driven, but we also know (because we’ve been around for 20 minutes) that emotions can play a big role in students’ decisions; whether those decisions are social, mental, academic, sexual, or even spiritual.

But before we call every “mountaintop” experience a fluke based on flimsy and fickle emotions, we need to realize that our emotions have been given to us by an emotional God who created us in His image.  Emotions aren’t bad.  Quite the opposite, really.  Emotions can be powerful and effective gauges that help us navigate spiritually.  When they’re submitted to God, emotions can help reveal our passions, our fears, and even our direction.  Rest assured, I’m certainly not vilifying emotions or their part in the spiritual lives of students we love, serve, and lead.

I simply think it’s important to keep in mind that all students (female AND male) are hardwired with emotions given to them by God.  One of our roles as youth leaders is to help them sort out what’s from God and what’s sheer emotion.  Involving our emotions in our decision-making process is so very natural, but allowing emotions to drive decisions is where we get into trouble.

Some things I’ve done to help student sort out what’s emotionalism and what’s God’s clear directive:

  • Don’t always default to the dim-lights, soft music, and eyes-closed response time at the end of a message.  It’s not that it’s a bad approach, but how hard can it be to take a stand when no one else sees it?
  • Speak clearly with students about what God’s Word is saying.  You can use sensitivity in your communication without adding fluffiness that dilutes God’s Word.
  • Give students questions to consider and/or clearly defined steps to take in the days/weeks after a spiritual decision is made.  Have these ready for students to take with them. This allows the “dust to settle” on the emotions that undoubtedly played an important role in their spiritual decision in the first place.

Let’s face it: working with students means working with people who are prone to allow emotions to rule the day.  And we don’t want to be making disciples who follow Jesus only when it “feels” right.

Jerry Varner serves as Student Discipleship Pastor in the Richmond, VA area and blogs at jerrythinks.com.  If you’re ever in the Richmond area and want to grab a burger, he’s buying.

Teenagers: Then Vs. Now

Josh Griffin —  March 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

Then vs Now: How Things Have Changed from 1982 to 2012
From: BestEducationDegrees.com

Thanks to Gerri for sending this awesome image that is making the rounds on Facebook. Great take on teenagers today. Enjoy!


Josh Riffle pointed me to an article on CNN that seems to be an important read for youth workers about students being shallow in their faith and what strong students of faith have in common. Seems to get a bit on the USA Today bandwagon from earlier this month, but some good insight nonetheless:

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.