I’ve often times thought that the titles of our CPYU parent seminars don’t really capture the full impact of what happens in the room. For example, I do a three-hour seminar on youth culture trends called “No Parent Left Behind.” It’s a seminar where I briefly unpack some of the main cultural trends affecting children and teens today. Fact is, some of that stuff isn’t very pretty, and the parents in the room let me know that. . . . which has led me to consider retitling the seminar to something like. . . “Birth Control.”

While youth culture has it’s more-than-fair-share of ugliness and difficult stuff, we can’t ignore it. It’s there. It’s real. And it shapes the values, attitudes, and behaviors of our kids. If we don’t endeavor to see it, understand, and address it, we’re not doing anybody any favors. If youth culture is the soup our kids swim in everyday, we need to be looking closely at what’s in the soup, sharing what we learn with parents, and then move on to address what we’ve found in our ministries to kids.

Josh asked me to share a couple of guest blogs on some of these main trends we’ve got to recognize, understand, and address. The first is “Amorality.” We all know  the terms “moral” and “immoral.” In a world where there’s a commonly held standard of right and wrong, behavior that conforms to that standard is called “moral,” while behavior that deviates from that standard is “immoral.” But life isn’t that simple anymore. We now live in a world where the commonly held standard is pretty much gone. Everyone decides for themselves what’s right for them and wrong for them based on how they feel or what “works for me” at any given time. . . and that can change from moment to moment. That’s why we’re living now living in an “amoral” world. . . the prefix “a” indicating and absence of commonly held standards. Now, right and wrong is up for grabs.

Here’s an example of how things have changed. When I was 12 I was exposed to pornography for the first time. . . that’s is, something other than National Geographic. It was a Playboy magazine my friend Todd had found on the side of the road. When Todd showed it to us, he showed it to us in a place where we wouldn’t get caught. Still, we spent half our time looking over Todd’s shoulder at the magazine, and the other half of our time looking over our own shoulders to see if anybody who might catch us in the act was coming our way. We lived in a world where there was a standard which told us that what we were doing was wrong. . . immoral. Think about our culture’s reaction to pornography today. See how things have changed?

A few weeks ago I was speaking to some youth workers when one of the volunteers – a sixty-something man who had been working with a small group of 9th grade boys for years – shared this frustration. “I recently asked my small group this question: ‘What is true? Name something that you know is true.’” He said they were dumbfounded. It took them three weeks to come up with an answer. You see, in an amoral world, what’s true for me might or might not be true for you. . . and that’s not a problem.

So. . . what do we do with this? I believe with every fiber of my being that our relationships with kids trump all this other stuff. Yes, it might take time to wade through it with them. They won’t be easily convinced. But over time, ministering to them in the context of vulnerable relationship is something God uses in their lives. So, in the context of relationships, here are three strategies (not at all exhaustive!) that offer a good starting point for pointing your students to the truth.

First, know the truth. You’ve got to be pursuing your own relationship with the Incarnate Word, Jesus. You’ve got to be growing in your knowledge of His written revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. Without a knowledge of the truth, you’ll be blown around just as much as your students.

Second, teach the truth. Talk about it in your comings and goings with your students. Look for every opportunity to contrast the truth with the cultural lies thrown at our kids over and over each and every day. Talk about the commercials and ads they see. Deconstruct and discuss the music they listen to. Let them know where Snooki and the Situation might have it all wrong. This is simply living out Deuteronomy 6 with 24/7 non-stop chatter about how the Word speaks to the world.

Finally, live the truth. Nothing is more convincing than seeing truth embodied. Your example is powerful. It’s like St. Francis once said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Walt Mueller is the President of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding which has tons of great information to equip parents and youth leaders about the culture we live in. He is a great friend and you can read his blog, a must read, right here.

Was reading Walt Mueller’s blog this morning and loved his most recent post about boundaries with students in your youth ministry. Here’s a clip of it and would encourage you to put his recommendations into place immediately:

Over the course of my years in youth ministry I’ve learned many things the hard way. . . either by watching myself or observing friends One of the lessons I’ve learned is just how important it is for a youth worker to set boundaries. The fact is, we’re in a spiritual battle where the hearts and minds of kids are at stake. Consequently, the enemy wants to take us down. Add to that the fact that we’re all broken and sinful people trying to lead and minister to other broken and sinful people. And wherever one or more broken and sinful people are gathered together, there’s a need for boundaries. I’ve learned to appreciate boundaries. They aren’t confining. They’re life-giving. Boundaries protect us from harm and they provide for our well-being. They keep us out of trouble. And in today’s world, boundaries are more important than ever. Here are some boundaries I believe every youth worker should pursue, set, embrace, and live within.

First, don’t do youth ministry unless you have and are using an accountability network. People who decide to do youth ministry on their own without the benefit of others are usually the first to get in trouble. Find a couple of trusted friends who will engage with you in vulnerable conversation, asking the hard questions about your ministry motivations, about where you’re spending your time, and about your relationships with kids. The great benefit of this boundary is that it helps you figure out just what your weaknesses are, which then helps you set and keep other much-needed boundaries.

JG



Excited to point you toward a new resource this week from Walt Mueller and the team over at the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding: Digital Kids Initiative. Last week they launched a new website for parents and youth workers to help their teenagers survive the world we live in. Check it out!

JG

Today only Simply Youth Ministry is having a sale on Walt Mueller’s great little book for parents – 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers. Normally it is $6.99, today until it sells out you can grab it for $2.99. Might be something you want to put in parent’s hands in the near future:


If you’re the parent of a teenager, you need all the help you can get. How do you help your children make wise choices? How do you give your teenagers freedom to make their own choices while still providing a guiding hand? How do you invest your time and energy in ways that make an eternal difference in your children’s lives?

JG



Andy Brazeltonisms

 —  October 19, 2011 — Leave a comment

“This many thoughts is making my head hurt!” – Andy Brazelton
ALL 10…99 thoughts books now in one super-duper amazing combat oriented dream bundle! When you and your volunteers are equipped with all of this knowledge who knows what can happen! Its like 990 gasoline barrels being poured on you and your team…all you have to do is light a match and let your team be empowered to engage your students on a daily basis. In other words, this is a simple way to encourage, build-up, thank, train your leaders as well as yourself!Retail Price: $54.90
Your Price: $34.99
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Was just randomly looking through books and tools that might help HSM in our next season and landed on a few that I’m interested in and/or look promising for some situations I’m facing that you may soon, too. Here’s a few items I’m excited about checking out:

If you’re stuck trying to figure out the work of youth ministrymaybe check out Duffy Robbin’s recently expanded and updated book Youth Ministry Nuts and Bolts.

Youth ministry veteran and bestselling author, Duffy Robbins, offers an updated and revised edition of his book about the important, behind-the-scenes mechaincs of youth ministry. The tasks of budgeting, decision-making, time management, team ministry, staff relationships, conflict resolution, working with parents, and a range of other issues, are the things that keep a ministry together and functioning well. Nobody gets into youth ministry because they want to think about these things; but a lot of people get out of youth ministry because they didn’t think about them. All youth workers– whether paid or volunteer, full-time or part-time– will find Youth Ministry Nuts and Bolts to be a thoughtful, fun, practical guide to youth ministry administration.

If you’re stuck on how to help parents get more engaged in raising their students I love Walt Mueller’s stuff and 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers looks like a cheap/simple resource to get into their hands quickly.

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you need all the help you can get. How do you help your children make wise choices? How do you give your teenagers freedom to make their own choices while still providing a guiding hand? How do you invest your time and energy in ways that make an eternal difference in your children’s lives? Walt Mueller delivers the goods in 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers, a no-holds-barred look at the good, bad, and ugly aspects of parenting teenagers. Drawing on his experience as a parent of four children who have passed through their teenage years, Walt shares wisdom, thoughts, insights, and suggestions for making the teenage years count.

If you’re stuck trying to communicate to students the same way … maybe you need to think about using some video curriculum for a while. What if you could bring in Doug Fields, Francis Chan and Max Lucado? I think this video teaching series from BlueFish looks awesome.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out teaching teenagers at all I can’t recommend Doug Fields’ and Duffy Robbins’ book Speaking to Teenagers. A gamer-changer in helping you learn to be a better communicator:

Get ready for a crash course in effective communication. More than just a book on how to “do talks,” Speaking to Teenagers combines the experience and wisdom of two veteran youth ministry speakers, along with insightful research and practical tools, to help you develop messages that engage students with the love of Christ and the power of his Word. Whether you’re crafting a five-minute devotional or a 30-minute sermon, Speaking to Teenagers is essential to understanding and preparing great messages. Together, Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins show you how they craft their own messages and give you the tools to do it yourself. They’ll guide you, step-by-step, through the process of preparing and delivering meaningful messages that effectively communicate to your students.

If you’re stuck in a creative rut … maybe Les Christie can help. The book Awaken Your Creativity shows a ton of promise for helping you get unstuck from doing the same old thing.

You know how tough it can be to come up with new and inventive student ministry ideas every school year. It can be infinitely more grueling to be that creative on a weekly basis! Whether you’re developing a new message, a unique way to get students talking and interacting, or something different for the weekend retreat, most of us find ourselves tapped for creative ideas after a little while. Take comfort: You’re not alone, and you’re not necessarily out of creative steam. Everyone hits a block at some point, but you can find a way to tap into the creativity God placed within you. Les Christie has been doing youth ministry for decades, and he’s not out of ideas yet! This practical book will help you explore the stumbling blocks, the tricks of the trade, and the catalysts to creativity.

JG