Did you see this?

Creating The Future


I just finished watching Apple’s “Spring Forward” event. If you know me, you know that I’ve been an Apple fanboi since the very first Mac’s came out in 1984. So, of course I’d spend ninety minutes of a workday watching an Apple event! While I miss Steve Jobs’ ability to sway an audience with his “Reality Distortion Field”, I enjoy getting a glimpse of what the folks in Cupertino have created for us mere mortals.

Today’s event featured the Apple Watch, a groundbreaking device that, if my family pays attention to my birthday present hints (read, “pleas and downright begging”) will reside on my wrist soon. That’s because I love watches. Always have. I’d have a different watch for each day of the month if I could. And, I love impressive new gadgets. Always have. After all, I owned an original Apple Newton (and endured scorn and ridicule because of it.)

There was, however, about a three-year period that I didn’t wear a watch. I noticed that none of the teenagers I was around were wearing watches. They always had their phone with them, and would pull their phone out of their pocket or purse to check the time. That seemed kind of cumbersome for just checking the time, but then I realized they were also checking to see if there were any new texts. That’s when I quit wearing a watch—I didn’t want to be seen as clinging to an old technology or mannerism. (Thankfully, kids began wearing watches again a couple of years ago. Big, honking things. I went back to wearing my pilot and hiker watches.)

So, I’ll be wearing an Apple Watch, for more reasons than just being a geeky gadget-and-watch-loving youth leader. Here are a few of my other reasons, and why I think that youth leaders need to stay on top of emerging technologies.

1. It’s Forward Thinking

This new gadget doesn’t merely replace my old watches with a new wiz-bang version of telling time. It opens a myriad of doors to new areas that can benefit from tech. Health tracking; even more timely and intimate texting than is available by phone; productivity and schedule help; Apple Pay; and more to come as developers figure out more cool things that a wearable device can help with.

2. It’s Cool

Youth leaders cannot afford to be dorks. I know, it’s a sad truth. While I can’t (and don’t) try to be “hip and with it” by adopting teenage styles and lingo, I do need to be someone that a teenager thinks is a cool old codger. Adopting new tech is one way I can remain up to speed with the fast changing youth culture.

3. It’s Functional

I can hardly wait to control the music playback or Keynote slideshow in a youth room from my Apple Watch. Or, use it to schedule an after-school “Fries and Coke” meetup with a couple of kids. Or, track my hikes, heart rate, and calorie burn with it. Or even freak out some parents with the “Fart” app!

The event concluded with this statement: “And that’s what we are focused on – pushing forward and creating the future.” That’s could also be said of us in youth ministry. Pushing forward and creating the future is one reason I’ve stayed in youth ministry so long. We live in the future!

The Dress

dressYesterday, a picture of a dress went viral because of fundamental disagreement. Some people saw a blue and black dress. Others saw a white and gold dress. Both were completely convinced that the way they saw the dress was correct and that everyone else was wrong (or that something was wrong with them). For the record, our office is divided on what color The Dress is (although it’s obviously blue and black).

Here are a couple of things we can all learn from this strange social experience:

  • We all see thing differently. Jesus calls us to see things in this world differently than the world sees them. (Romans 12:2)
  • If we are to effectively serve God and the world, we MUST walk in unity, regardless of differing opinions. We cannot afford to be so divided on issues that we cannot serve alongside one another. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

If this topic is still trending with your kids this weekend, here are a couple of ideas of how to use it on Sunday morning with your young friends:

  • Divide Into Teams – Have the kids stand in the middle of the room. Show the photo of the dress, and have those who see white/gold go to one side of the room, and those who see blue/brown go to the other side of the room. Now you have two teams!
  • Use It As An Illustration – This is a good example of subjectivity versus truth. People “see” the photo differently, but does that mean there’s not a “true” interpretation of the photo? Does all “truth” depend on a person’s opinion?

Here is a picture of the infamous thing in case you haven’t yet seen it.

Made You Laugh

“Classically trained beat-boxer” Jimmy Fallon and Tonight Show guest Will Smith prove the truth of “There’s an app for that”. HT USA Today.

Ice. Ice. Baby.

The Nashville area woke up today to ice, sleet, rain, snow, and below freezing temperatures. And the forecast is that we’ll be in the deep freeze all week. Which means everything that’s falling is going to stick around for a while.

So of course, I have this stuck in my head. You’re welcome.

While we’re iced out of the office, we don’t want you to be left out in the cold. Join YLO online and use coupon code ICE25 to save $25 on a Select, Original, or Works Membership.

re:Tuned Discussion Starters from Grammy Winners


Our re:Tuned Discussion Starters take mainstream songs and help you use them as a jumping off point for a conversation with students. Here are 3 recent re:Tuned guides featuring Grammy winners from Sunday night’s show:

  • Sam Smith: Stay With Me (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist)
  • Pharrell Williams: Happy (Best Pop Solo Performance)
  • Paramore: Ain’t It Fun (Best Rock Song)

What An Amazing 10 Days for KING & COUNTRY Has Had!

Imagine for a moment that you were in a band (and what youth leader hasn’t imagined that?). Now, imagine that over the course of ten days, your band would play events for YouTube and Sirius XM, rock multiple sold-out arena shows, perform on The TODAY Show and cap everything off by winning two Grammy Awards. Pretty intense, right?

Well, our Team interlinc Members for KING & COUNTRY did exactly that over the last ten days and we are so excited for them.

And how about this for a commitment to student ministry? In the midst of this insane whirlwind of a schedule, Luke and Joel took time out to Skype with the youth group at Wildwood Baptist Church in Acworth, GA. The Wildwood youth group won our “No Shave November” contest and a for KING & COUNTRY “virtual-visit” to their Wednesday night meeting. Here’s what Youth Pastor Terry Huey said after their call:

The guys had a really great spirit with the students. They answered every question that was asked, encouraged the students and the leaders, sang with us, and prayed over the students and our ministry. They are the real deal!

Now, that’s the focus on the things that are important!

Get a free for KING & COUNTRY Bible study here

They are walking out Matthew 6:33 that promises that if we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to us.”  These guys’ commitment to serving the church, and specifically young people, is a big deal and part of their DNA as a band. We are honored to be partners in youth ministry with them.

If you want to know more about for KING & COUNTRY, please visit their interlinc artist page. Plus for a limited time everyone (not just YLO Members) can get the complete youth group session built around their song “Fix My Eyes” and see how you can get  Bible studies, chord charts and tons more youth ministry resources for your youth group!

Join Youth Leaders Only and get access to all of our for KING & COUNTRY resources, plus studies for songs from hundreds of other artists

Made You Laugh

It’s the most universal of lyrics. The best of the fillers. The one part of the song everyone knows and sings along to.

It’s the “Whoa” … or is it “Woo”? Or “Ohhh”? Or “Ooo” … ???

HT @Relevant for pointing out this supercut mashup of “Whoa-Ooo-Oh”

Heart of the Artist: Tobymac

020215_tobymac_600w_blogEditor’s Note: Over the years we’ve done hundreds of “talkback” sessions with Toby and youthworkers. Every time it seems the Lord does something very special. This interview is part of one of those sessions. The entire ”talkback” was recorded and is available at interlinc-online.com on the YLO Members page.

This Heart of the Artist interview is included in the YLO98 Resource Book

Thank you for working with students. That is my heart too, and always will be. My son is 15 and I’m walking through some stuff with him. My manager and I were talking about whether he would send his son to a public or Christian school. The manager said he’d interviewed a bunch of parents with grown kids that were doing well, and they all said the consistent thing in those kid’s lives were youth groups — not Christian or public school — those kids all had solid Christian youth groups and friends.

That was convicting to me because I go to a small church that doesn’t have enough people to have a youth group. I’m doing my son a disservice by not having him in a great youth group. So I’m feeling convicted, and appreciate even more what you guys do.

Note: Toby’s been able to get his son involved in a youth ministry in the weeks since he talked about this. Got to love a guy who doesn’t just say things, but does them too!

My mom would drag us to church every Sunday. I didn’t like it much. We never went to youth group, just big church. My dad wouldn’t go — he’d just sleep. When I was 13 years old the youth pastor asked me to go to a summer camp. He described it as a basketball camp because he knew my friends and I liked basketball. Some friends and I signed up. We headed out in a van with that youth pastor to go to that camp. Got out of the van, grabbed my bag, started walking to the cabins. They stopped us at an outdoor pavilion, and this dude preached for two hours straight. My boys I’d invited were like, “Yo, this is the strangest basketball camp I’ve ever been to in my life!”

Each night, the youth pastor would read the Bible to us. He was willing to get down on the floor and hang out with us. He wasn’t behind a pulpit. He just read the Bible and talked with us – and God used that to just grab my heart.

On that Friday night we got up off the floor and my heart was just racing away because I wanted to do something about what I felt, but instead I got in my sleeping bag and zipped it up. After about 20 minutes, I finally got the courage to walk into the next room and wake up that youth pastor. I said, “Hey man, I’ve got to do something about what is going on inside me.” He asked whether I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. We got on our knees, and he led me to the Lord.

That experience changed my life and family. My mom told me to ask my dad to go to church. I was scared of that. My dad eventually went, and got saved. It changed our life — all because of a youth pastor. So again, I just thank you for what you do. You guys are in the trenches with those kids. We pop into town, do our concert that we’ve prayed over, hoping God will use the concert to turn your students’ eyes to Jesus. But, we know you are in the trenches. I understand and am thankful for what you do. God is smiling for the effort and time you take with students.

Preview “Eye’m All Mixed Up” – the new remix album from Tobymac

Let me give you a little insight about how I write songs. I’m not confident in myself; I know how much I need God to make a great record. I could probably make a decent record, but for great I desperately need God to do something beyond me. So, when I sit down to write, I ask for God to breathe something in me that I could never do on my own. I’m just plugging along here not knowing what will relate and what won’t, but God is faithful. I think “Steal My Show” is a clear message. “Me Without You” is light but the message is strong – “I’m thankful of how much I’m aware I need you, God.”

“Speak Life” is something that has been powerful for me. I want to use words powerfully. A mainstream film picked up that song. The quote Ryan Stevenson and I cowrote is from Brennan Manning, “We either give life or drain it; there’s no neutral exchange.” I thought most of my exchanges throughout the day were neutral. I have chance to make somebody feel recognized or not, feel loved or unloved, encouraged or discouraged just by the way I look at him or her. That deeply affected me; I can overlook stuff sometimes and I just wanted that song to be a wake up call to us all, especially students – they are ripping each other apart with words, texts, tweets. To me, it’s not the coolest song on the album, but I thought the message is so important that God wanted that delivered in that form and I just trusted Him.

 Join Youth Leaders Only and get music and media resources you can use in your student ministry


The S-Word

Editor’s Note: This appears as the “Letter From The Editor” in the Music Resource Book for the new YLO98

“No! Not THAT again! We hear about that all the time! We’re sick of it!”

That wasn’t the response I was expecting when I told a bunch of kids I was working on the theme of “sex” for this magazine. I was expecting enthusiasm, interest, and some questions. “Oh, that’s cool, Ken! You’re the hippest youth leader ever” would have been nice. Or, “Can I see it when it’s done?” Or even, “Can youth leaders talk about sex without getting into trouble?”

What I got was immediate revulsion. And that got me thinking. Why would a bunch of church kids not want to deal with this vital issue? What would have made them respond so emotionally to the subject? I think I might have some answers.

My first thought is that those kids don’t want to hear something that might go against their current beliefs as seen through their actions. They know that they’re disobeying God when they engage in sexual activity, and they don’t want to be reminded of it.

And then, I wonder if students have heard us cry, “Wolf!” once too often. We tell them about the racking pain of guilt that they’ll feel. We talk about the risk of disease. We carry on about the value of purity. But, the kids don’t know anyone who experiences painful guilt nor do they know anyone who has a sex disease, and the “pure” kids they know could just as easily be called “nerds” – where’s the value in that?

Finally, I’m thinking about the “hear about that all the time” phrase. “Hear about it” is probably correct. We perhaps use way too much one-way communication concerning the issues of sexuality. I long ago figured out that kids learn by doing, not by hearing. But, the “all the time” part is probably not accurate. My guess is that this topic comes up once or twice a year at their church. The topic of sex is so charged with energy that talking about it even twice a year may feel like “all the time” to a teenager.

So, despite what my young friends said, I’ll continue to find ways to engage them in learning the value of godliness, discovering the benefits of purity, and building the kinds of safeguards that will enable them to thrive in a sex-saturated society. These Youth Leader Only materials will help me. The Bare Facts DVD will be put to good use in living rooms, youth rooms, and even bedrooms. The articles in this magazine will get into the hands of parents and volunteer youth leaders. The music in the box will spread out into the cars, computers, and home stereos of my young friends.

I hope you do the same