Countdown-4Think back when you were a Jr. High or High School student. What would’ve been the equivalent to sexting?

I’m guessing it would probably be flashing. The only difference between the two (besides the obvious) is that a quick flash would only be talked about after it has happened. Sexting pics are forever, therefore, people have visuals to add to the conversations for years to come.

If you think sexting is about students just getting a quick fix of sexual gratification you are mistaken. There is a lot more going on. Guardchild.com did a very detailed survey on sexting, and the results were interesting.

  • One in five teens have engaged in sexting – sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text messages. And over a third knows someone who has either sent or received messages like this.
  • 38% of teens confessed to someone sharing with them what was sent to them.
  • 34% of the girls that have participated in sexting say they did it to feel sexy.
  • 23% of girls and 24% of boys say they were pressured by a friend to send the inappropriate pictures.
  • Most participants say they engage in sexting because their boyfriend/girlfriend ask them to or to have fun.
  • 52% of girls said they did it as a present.
  • 29% of teens believe those exchanging sexually suggestive content are “expected” to hookup or date.

These statistics say a few things that we in youth ministry need to pay attention to.

  • These statistics change the face of the person who’s sexting. It’s like when you think of a flasher you think of an old pervert who walks around in a trenchcoat all day. Well, when you think of sexting you may think of an older, porn-exposed student who’s been a trouble maker for most of their life. These statistics suggest that’s not the case. These statistics normalizes the profile of a sexter to look a lot more like your everyday teen in Jr. High or High School, who may or may have not viewed porn before.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming normalized within boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming more normal and culturally acceptable in the world of teens.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is a gateway to getting into more sexual activity.
  • These statistics suggest that it’s impossible to shield your child from sexting.
  • These statistics suggest that there is a deceptive identity/power piece that sexting gives to girls and guys.

So what should be our response?

Sexting is a complete lie embedded in the mind set that it’s innocent or that it’s not worse than me having sex. Here are 4 ways I feel we should respond:

  1. Prayer - We should be interceding for our students and for the students at our local schools. Prayer in our ministries need to be proactive not reactive. Keep your ministry connected to the power source.
  2. Educate parents on trends and technology -About 2 out of every 5 teens say their parents have no idea what they are doing online. So we must take the initiative and help parents become more knowledgeable with trends and technology. Let’s be the support they don’t know they need.
  3. Talk about it in youth group – I wrote a post on this (click here). Add Sexting to the list because it’s becoming the norm. And right now students don’t get a choice whether they are exposed to it or not.
  4. Challenge your students – I think sometimes we may feel like a good talk is enough, but actually talk is only half the battle. You need to challenge your students to take action, and stand against cultural norms that are slowly destroying their generation. Give them action steps that will give them confidence in the stance they take. Teach them how to move in righteous anger. Be creative in what you give them the opportunity to do. I would grab a few students and let them help you shape the challenge. I love getting students involved in stuff like this, because it gives them ownership.

I would love for the #ymnation to weigh in. What are some other ways we should respond to sexting?

hope it helps

ac

Lock-Ins and Movies

Tony Myles —  December 9, 2013 — 15 Comments

We have a lock-in coming up this weekend, and I’d love your input on something.

To Save A LifeEver seen the movie “To Save A Life” with your youth group? I know this was a popular trend when it came out a few years ago, but I’m wondering about a few pieces of the movie and its effects.

  • Early on in the film, the main character is shown taking his shirt off to have sex with his girlfriend and diving into bed with her. It’s certainly one step further than an implied closing of the door.
  • At one point in the movie, the main character critiques the youth group for a game where they drink soda out of someone’s sock. His stance is they should be about something more meaningful than that.
  • A pastor’s kid is portrayed as a drug-selling cynic who takes up space in the back row.

I know we live in a culture where all of that isn’t a big deal to kids who regularly watch everything from The Walking Dead to Glee. However, I wonder if even “not a big deal” scenes mean something more when a youth group puts something up on the screen.  Could a Christian movie like this (with its great message) set up kids in a negative way?

I’ve pondered that while considering if we let our high school students watch this movie:

  • Would church parents have trouble with a movie where the boy and his girlfriend are shown making out and taking the steps that lead into sex?
  • Would students become forever critical of anything goofy game we do in the future that actually has a point?
  • Would the stereotype that pastor’s kids live under only be amplified?

To top it off, the movie centers around the theme of how a teen’s suicide affects another student.

Sure, our youth groups can always watch Napoleon Dynamite, the Princess Bride or any other old standby flick. I’m wondering if those are “safer” than a Christian movie with some edge.

Is “safe” even the goal? Likewise, are we so geared up to “be real” that we don’t think about how unnecessarily raw we’re being?

Thoughts?



How to Make Teenagers Cry

Tony Myles —  November 6, 2013 — 3 Comments

youtubeTalk-show host Jimmy Kimmel has dared parents to frustrate their kids just after Halloween and capture it on video.

It’s an annual prank Kimmel has featured for the past few years as mom/dad tells their son/daughter how all the Halloween candy is gone… because the parent(s) ate it. The kid usually erupts with some sort of understandable tantrum, and the audience enjoys the gag.

Here’s one of the compilations:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOlpdd7y8MI

Of course, this seems absurd. Why would anyone who loves their kids put them through it? It could arguably erode trust and create suspicion of anything in the future.

Then again, we do this in ministry all the time, don’t we?

  • “Hey everyone, I know we’ve always gone to _________ every year, but this year I thought we’d mix things up and do __________ instead.”
  • “Hi! I’m your new youth worker. I thought since I’m new, it was a good time to change the name of the youth group… and what we do here… and when we meet… and what you call me… and the age groups… and…”
  • “I’m kind of tired of us always singing these songs. I just got back from a conference, and we’re now going to do some different worship music…”

Ever seen this?

Ever done this?

I’m raising my hand with a tinge of guilt.

Then again… sometimes change was needed, like pruning before the fruit could bloom.

What do you think –

when is it appropriate to rock a teenager’s world over something they’ll cry about…

and when is it equal to pulling an unnecessary prank?

Hooray
Youth workers, for the most part, are creatures of habit. We have a hard time admitting that, though, because we see ourselves as innovators, creatives and the ones leading the charge for change in the church. Those things may be true…but we are still, for the most part, creatures of habit. When we find something that “works”, we have a hard time letting go.

One case in point for our junior high and high school ministries: Outreach Events.

Our primary tool for evangelism and outreach has never been events; it’s been students being salt and light and eventually inviting their friends to church. But to assist that process we have always hosted one or two big outreach events each year, on Friday night. And we’ve done it this way for a long, long time because it has worked. Of course, “worked” depends on your definition. The big Friday night events worked in so much as they attracted tons of students, but very few of those students ever came back to church the following weekend (we have our primary youth meetings on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings). And by very few, I mean VERY few!

So this year we are trying something different (I wish I could say it was my idea): We are attaching all of our big outreach events to the Saturday night service instead of putting them on a separate night. The idea is that our students will invite a friend to church, then they will stick around for the activity. Pretty basic stuff, folks!

We’ve done this once or twice now, and here is what we’ve already discovered:
* Less first-time students show up to the event.
* But WAY more first-time students attend church as a result (actually, they attend church as a PREsult because church happens first).
* Families and students appreciate that it’s not another night out.
* The event can be “smaller” because it’s not a stand alone thing….expectations are less.
* We can do a few more of them a year because they are smaller and less elaborate.
* It makes for a really easy church invite. “Wanna come to church with me? And afterwards there’s gonna be a massive dodge-ball tournament!”

Revolutionary? no. Cutting Edge? Not even close. Worthy of a blog post? Barely. Effective for us? Totally!

So here’s a question that I’d love the readers to share with the rest of us: What is an “Easy Button” moment you’ve recently had…a simple change in some aspect of your ministry that yielded significant results?



mendler--difficult-parentsThis is a topic that freaked me out my first year in youth ministry. As a young parent myself, it’s not easy telling grown ups how to deal with their children. So it took me a while to really get to a place where I was comfortable with talking to parents. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. I thought I’d list some principles that I’m learning along the way that has helped me navigate dealing with parents.

Know your role to parents. - We are support to parents first and formost. Let them take the lead. My value is in being another voice for the student to hear the same message that their parents give. It may sound different and even be presented differently, but it should be the same message. Unless, of course, the message is contrary to Gods word.

Parents are Primary. – Keep parents in their place as primary. Let them make the final decisions because they will have to be the primary enforcer, encourager and disciplinarian. We make suggestions not decisions.

Parents aren’t perfect. – Children do not come with manuals and so parents have no other choice but to parent out of their brokenness. So don’t be shocked if the parents don’t have it all together. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

Parents don’t have all the answers. - A parent may ask a question and you’re thinking “shouldn’t they know this already?!” That should never be your response but you should talk it out with them. Help them think things through and sort things out. Your perspective has an immeasurable amount of value to parents, so share it.

Parents need your prayers. – We have a great advantage of being able to pray for parents specifically and strategically. We know the needs and the struggles students have. We also know the struggles parents have. So we definitely should be praying for our parents because they need it.

Parents need your encouragement. – I understand this more now then I did when I didn’t have children. Parenting is not easy and most of the time there is no instant reward. You won’t fully see the rewards of your parenting until your children are on their own. Therefore, parents need to be encouraged that all the work they are doing now is not in vain. They need to know that making their kid come to youth group is not in vain. So be your parents biggest fan.

Keep parents leading spiritually. – Now, this doesn’t mean you get to put parents in check when you think they’re not. What it does mean is you must work with the parents and keep them the primary spiritual leader in their child’s life. For example, this year with my small group guys that I lead I’m going to send the lesson home a week early before it is taught. Then they can discuss it with their parents if they choose. This does two things:

  1. It keeps the parents in the loop on what’s being taught.
  2. Also, it challenges the parents to engage with their children spiritually. We will discuss what was discussed with their parents before we start the lesson each week. This will give me the opportunity to agree and reinforce some of the truths that the parents share with them from the lesson.

I only listed a few and I know there are many more. This post is really about partnering with parents better. I would love to hear your thoughts on the post. What did I leave out?

hope it helps

ac

Kicking It Off!

Kurt Johnston —  August 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

Today, Scott Rubin (that’s his picture above), the Junior High Pastor at Willow Creek and one of the best all around guys on the planet, is dropping by with a guest post. Do me a favor and say a few nice things in the comments so he’ll do more of this!  Several years ago we wrote a little book together that I actually thought was fantastic, apparently nobody else did which is why you can go to Amazon and get your own copy for as little as $0.01 yep, one penny. At that price you may as well stretch your junior high budget and buy two or three.

From Scott:

The School Year is kicking off, the NFL & College football seasons are getting ready to kick off… and the new ministry year is about to kick off, too, right?   (I’ll be honest – ministry “kickoffs” are a little confusing to me, because I’m pretty sure there’s no “off-season” in ministry!)

Even still, at least in the U.S., as Fall approaches, it’s a great time to re-launch our ministries.   I’m super-excited about our middle-school-ministry-kickoff this Saturday night – and this gathering is special because it’s just our volunteers… no students!   Here are a few simple elements that we use to help re-envision & re-engage volunteers for a great school year of ministry together!

1- Just have a gathering!   If your adult leadership is just 2 or 3 people, you can do this around a table at Denny’s.  If you have more leaders, you’ll obviously need a bit more room.   But the key is to get leaders together!  If your summer season has a different rhythm than the school year, this is a chance to help volunteers recalibrate to how your ministry will look different.  In the ministry I lead, our “regular” volunteers are less involved during the summer months… so having a kickoff like this reminds them that things are about to ramp up, and their weekend schedule is about to get busier!

2- Have something to say!   This is important whether you have an exciting new vision about how this ministry year will look different, or if you simply want to remind volunteers why their engagement with students is so crucial.  As my senior pastor likes to say “Vision Leaks” … so it’s up to us to help volunteers remember why they do what they do.  There are a whole lot of other things begging for people’s time; make sure that they have a clear picture of how God can truly use them to impact the life of a student!

3- Have a blast!  One of the reasons that volunteers stay engaged in ministry is when they really enjoy being together.   Plan something that will help them laugh, joke, smile, and anticipate a year of fun together!



Question-300x300As summer is quickly coming to an end and fall is quickly approaching, I like to think about how the events or programs I oversee can be better. I also like to brainstorm new ones. My goal is to learn from my failures with summer events, so I don’t repeat them in the fall. Through failure I’ve grown to love the planning process a lot more. Here are 7 questions I ask myself based off of events/programs that I didn’t think all the way through.

  1. What’s the purpose of the event/program? – Knowing the purpose of the event I’m planning helps me gauge my target audience. Not every student will want to come to a worship event or discipleship event. Knowing the purpose allows me to go all out on promotion that is specifically created with the purpose of the event in mind.  My goal is to reach those I’ve identified as my potential taget.
  2. Will students want to come? –  I have to be careful that I don’t plan something based on my own preference but I plan something that will be great and fun for students. I’ve pulled core students in on the planning just to get their perspective on an event or program.
  3. Is there opportunity for building relationships? – I think of this question in terms of student to student or leader to student. Of course there will be both going on but being intentional about which one best fits the event takes the event to the next level.  A lot of times I push students to our events so they can get connected, so I have to think about that during the planning process.
  4. Is there follow-up or next steps needed? – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to challenge students to take the next step or follow-up with them because I didn’t think it through beforehand. I’ve been thinking about helping students follow-up with friends that they bring to events. This is definitely a question you want to ask yourself.
  5. Should it cost and is it the right amount? - I’m always thinking is there a way not to charge. Sometimes it’s doable, like the park day we do where we provide lunch, but this is not always the case. Some events or programs have no budget and students have to pay, which is ok, as long as it’s the right price point which has been thought through. Parents will definitely appreciate this step.
  6. Where can we cut cost? – Again I’m thinking about budget and parents. Budget money is coming from people who believe in the God given mission of the church. I definitely want to care about where their money is going. So where can we save money is the question.
  7. How can we help students invite their friends? – Students are connected non-stop with their friends through social media and text. We’ve had great success using these mediums to help them invite their friends.  The goal is to be as creative as you can be.  If you’re not that creative get some of your students to help you.  They will love it and you will have potentially started a new ministry.

Now, I know there are more than just seven questions, so what else can we think about in the planning process to make it the best event/program ever?  Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

hope it helps

ac

The Bionic Teenager?

Tony Myles —  August 1, 2013 — 6 Comments

I sat in a planning meeting today with several caring local professionals. They hope to host a youth summit in our area, and our conversation eventually centered on the desired outcomes of the conference. We began brainstorming  what we want to see happen in the students involved. In other words, “Who will they ultimately be when they leave this event because they were a part of it?”

After several minutes on that line of thinking, I raised my hand and offered an observation:

“It feels like we’re trying to create a bionic teenager. I don’t know if everyone remembers that old TV show the Six Million Dollar Man, but there was this concept in its opening theme that it feels like we’re sharing here – that we have the means to make students better than they were before… ‘better, stronger, faster.’

I think everything we’ve talked about are great values for kids to grow into, but if I were to force this on my own son he’d feel immense pressure because he can’t get there overnight (let alone consistently). Maybe we need to include the values of ‘rest’ and ‘journey’ somehow? Students can take steps this way, but they may need to intentionally pause along the way and take stock of their progress so they don’t crash because they feel they’re not yet perfect.”

My thoughts were met with enthusiasm, not to mention a lot of affirmation. I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the discussion.

Only…

praiseI wondered how often I’ve not had that thought in ministry. Maybe you can identify:

  • “Once kids go on this trip, their hearts will be forever transformed for Jesus.”
  • “If I can only get that student baptized, then he/she will become a role model to the others.”
  • “The more often students are consistent with youth group attendance, the more consistent they’ll be with Jesus.”
  • “They have to start (reading the Bible/praying/fasting/tithing/singing) more if they hope to have a real breakthrough.”

Even just writing those made me realize how absurd they all are.

And yet… don’t thoughts like that creep into your head and planning, too?

The thing about bionics is that something unnatural was added to appear natural.

Hmm. Is that the end?

What do you think is reasonable and unreasonable to expect in these matters?