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.



Discovery ChannelOkay, first off – how did I not know the show “Amish Mafia” existed?

I ask because I stumbled onto it through a random web link. I later did some research and learned that the show  isn’t as accurate as it presents itself to be. A great article from Lancaster Online gives testimony to how the main personas and storylines of the show are more “between 1 and 10 percent truth.”

Still, after watching these clips, I found something “familiar” about it.

Maybe you can help me out here. I’m not Dutch, I don’t live in Pennsylvania and I’m a big fan of electricity.

So from this preview alone, what am I identifying with?

Are there any implications or comparisons for what does and doesn’t happen in youth group circles… and the role some youth workers take on?

For example, I feel there is this subculture within youth groups where some kids want to go wild but create the sense they’re staying true to their faith. Then within that subculture there’s another subculture who encourages it (i.e. the Amish mafia), and yet another subculture (i.e. parents/church legalists) who are quick to pounce.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

This past weekend actor Cory Monteith was found dead in a hotel room. According to authorities, he died of a “mixed drug toxicity” of heroin and alcohol – likely as an overdose from intended use.

Cory Monteith - GleePerhaps you’re shaking your head. It can be for any number of reasons:

  • Cory is “fameish.” Meaning, he’s excessively famous to those who watched his character Finn Hudson emerge on Glee, but not so famous to the average person who has no connection to that show. Maybe you’re not in the loop on who he is or the impact his death may have among students.
  • Cory had confessed to drug addiction in his past, and maybe you’re let down that he gave in.
  • Cory’s character was the “every man” character on Glee – his audience went with him on the emotional journey of pressures with popularity, dealing with gay friends, finding a voice, being betrayed and more. You already knew the impact it would have on students the moment you saw the headline.

Prediction: This will be *the* funeral/memorial service to be watching.

I don’t mean that as a joke… people will tune in expecting that the music alone will likely be off the chart. That’s a bit short-sighted if that’s someone’s motive, but then again – maybe it’s out of respect. I hope so.

That in itself raises an interesting tension:

Is it healthy to consciously immortalize someone for his or her talent while unconsciously ignoring the rest?

Again, 31-year old Cory Monteith died from a drug-induced catalyst. He was absolutely talented, but absolutely made the wrong decision.

The other matter is most know “Finn Hudson” more than they do “Cory Monteith.” For that reason, most will tune in to mourn for the fictional person’s character… versus the real-life person’s character. Cory struggled with an addiction. Many people do, and again… that’s not my point either. That alone should create brokenness in us for him and others – not judgment.

I’m simply offering that we’re on the verge of seeing many young people (and possibly many adults as well) elevate Cory into a status that he himself would likely squirm out of. It’s something we often do with any funeral.  The only difference is most funerals involve mourning someone we know. In this instance, most will mourn the fictional character versus the real individual. A Glee convention already became a makeshift memorial service.

I hope we can all speak into how real this will be for students, even if it’s a bit misguided. Glee has been successful for many reasons, among which is their realization that students no longer just claim ideals from non-fiction truth… they also claim ideals from fictional storylines and characters.

I like what Chris Schaffner pointed out on his blog:

Glee struck a chord with young people… it spoke of the things that no one else would speak about and they did it creatively and honestly.  Many in the camp of Christianity wrote off Glee as obviously secular with an agenda but many failed to hear the messages of our youth that were reflected in the show’s storytelling.  Weekly, the show masterfully addressed the deepest longing of our kids and one could hear it only they would listen.

What if our youth ministries, what if our churches, what if our faith communities had the magnetic pull that Glee had for so many?

Join me in praying for the family and friends of Cory Monteith… right now.

And then share your thoughts on how we can minister to students through this.

Youth Ministry Do’s

Josh Griffin —  February 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.20This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too. Here are some things we think are big time “Do’s”!

DO stay committed to the basics.
Youth ministry isn’t rocket science. In fact, some of the most important parts of a healthy youth ministry are actually quite simple: remembering names, following up with a newcomer, visiting a sick student at the hospital, sending a birthday card, remembering prayer requests, etc. Staying faithful to the basics is often what makes the biggest difference.

DO work to win the trust of parents.
I (Kurt) have a favorite saying: “If parents are for you, who can be against you?” And one of the best ways to get parents “for you” is to earn their trust. Here are three simple things that help build trust with parents.

  • Consistent and accurate communication
  • Treating their children well
  • Having a “transparent” ministry where parents questions, concerns, etc. are welcomed

DO empower your leaders.
Your ministry’s ability to grow, expand and advance the Kingdom is largely determined by your ability to empower your volunteer team and give them mass amounts of ownership and responsibility.

DO get out of the walls of the church and look around!
There is a big, wide world of youth culture out there that you need to understand! Read what your students read, watch what they watch, and listen to what they listen to…not because you like it, but because you care enough to be educated. Hang out at the movie theater on a Friday night and take mental notes. Volunteer to chaperone the winter formal. Good church work often requires getting away from the church!

DO take care of yourself.
We know you hear this one all the time, but you’re going to hear it again! Your ministry really is only as healthy as its leader.

Those are a few things we thing every youth worker needs to DO! What would you add to this list?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

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!


I’ve got a feeling this poll will be a little polarizing. Do you listen to secular music? Would love to know your thoughts about the type of music a youth pastor can listen to and vote in this week’s poll!


I’ve been a youth pastor or intern in about as many different settings as there are complaints about the first three episodes of Star Wars. I’ve served at KJV-only, seeker sensitive and “high” churches. All three were fascinating case studies on totally different approaches to youth ministry. Let me highlight a few of the most common mistakes we make in how we interact with the culture around us.

1.) Culture transplanting. I have a friend who has decided that their entire church needs to become “Family Based”, and has agreed, with his pastor, that the youth ministry will be…well, obliterated. It’s a nice way to work oneself out of the job, but more than that, I can already prophesy that this is not going to work out. Why? Because family based church models that work are churches that start that way. It’s interesting to me that nearly all of the youth pastors from big, brand name churches discourage other youth ministries from copying their programs. They do this because they recognize a simple fact: we all live in different cultures. Your church history is different, your head pastor is different (some of them more different than others), and your church size is likely much different. Your students have different tastes, values and knowledge of the gospel. Of course, we can learn some good universal principles from the big-shots, but we can’t be copycats. Besides, that’s cheating.

2.) Creating a subculture. Do you find yourself using words and phrases like “relevant”, “missional” or “postmodern-orientated-meta-narratively-focused” in youth group? If so, you’re probably not any of those things. I’ll be honest, in my context, we tend to create “Holier than thou” students. We love theology, high expectations and serious exposition of the Bible. At the same time, we often have bad music, lame videos and an unappealing room schema. This is great for our homeschool-based fan page, but it’s not helpful or hospitable to those on the outside. It gives us a little extra to be proud about, and has the backward effect of communicating to our conservative students: “This place is for you, not non-Christians. So, keep attending youth group the way you like it, and, by the way, did you want fries with that #5?” We need to feel comfortable with the tension of the great commission: “Make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

3.) Failing to use culture. Culture is a force, like gravity. It’s not always good or bad, but it’s always there. I’ll never forget the time in high school when a youth speaker read aloud the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, word by word. He used the word “nihilism”, and explained what the song was really about. I’ll never forget that moment, because I knew that speaker had incarnated himself into my culture, analyzed it, and saw it in a totally different light than I did. I did this same thing with the movie “Tangled” in youth group a few weeks ago. I purposefully chose “Tangled” because of how seemingly innocent it is, and, honestly, because it was going to be hilarious when I explained to my students that the thieving jerk was never going to get a job, the princess would eventually become frustrated that he sits around and eat Doritos, and that the only reason either of them fell in love was because she was desperate and he was horny. If we don’t teach students to think about the culture around them, they won’t. But they’ll accept it. How does technology affect their devotional life? What do advertisements tell girls about their self-worth? What does the latest film say about true success? We have to know student’s lives, in the same way Jesus knew ours.

4.) Mindlessly embracing culture. This, unfortunately, is probably the most common mistake I see in youth ministry. Have you ever thought twice about why you play that favorite game where someone is humiliated at the end? Have you ever considered the lyrics to the popular worship song you’re playing in youth group? Have you ever thought about what you’re saying about God when half of your message is a hilarious story about you, and the other half is bending over backwards to make that fit in with the Bible verse you thought might apply? Youth ministry is all about numbers, but it’s not about numbers in a room. It’s about how many of those in that room know Jesus Christ. Does everything you do communicate the truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, it’s time to take what culture handed you, and hand it over to God.

Nicholas McDonald is the Cornerstone EPC 180 Director and blogs at www.theradicaljourney.com.

I’ve ben watching the YouTube Trends website for a little while now – I think it might be helpful to you in youth ministry. I watched this terrible music video called “Friday” this past week, and the every next day I bumped into a whole group of students laughing around the very same video. Might be a helpful heads up for you as a youth worker, too!