Media Use by Tweens and Teens

Surprise! TV and Music Still Dominate Daily Media Diet


This new study just came out today. Guess what? That “7.5″ message we’ve been talking about – that 7.5 hours that teenagers spend on Music and Media every day? Well, it’s now up to NINE hours daily!

This is why we do what we do, and why being a member of Youth Leaders Only is so important!



Adele Can Relate


We probably should have been ready for it. Whenever Adele releases a new song, suddenly almost every girl in our youth groups will be listening to it non-stop! Youth leaders can become a hero to the girls in their groups by understanding who Adele is, what she sings about, and why she is so popular.

Who She Is

Adele Adkins knew that she loved music from a very early age but she didn’t plan to pursue singing as a career. She went to the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, to learn how to launch other people’s careers. But, she had been singing all her life. Inspired by artists ranging from Etta James to the Spice Girls to Pink, she recorded a demo that a friend posted on MySpace. British record label, XL Recordings, signed her to a record deal. In the United States, Columbia Records liked what they saw and heard enough to sign her and begin promoting her debut album, 19, named after the age she was when she wrote and recorded it. It was a big hit in the UK but it was a performance on Saturday Night Live that truly launched her US career. From there, she has never looked back. Her next album, 21, became the kind of record that is not supposed to exist in the twenty-first century. As of 2015, it has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. What made this even more extraordinary is that she was unable to tour to support the record, due to vocal issues. It sold simply on the strength of her universally relatable lyrics and that hurricane of a voice. Her third album, 25, releases in November.

Check out Adele’s Artist Page and re:Tuned Discussion Guide

What Her Messages Are

What makes Adele’s success so astounding is that she eschews almost every notion of what is supposed to make a modern pop star. In an age of constant over-sharing on social media, she chooses to retain an air of mystique. In an era where many singers are more reliant on what they wear (or don’t wear) and any other number of gimmicks, she lets her music speak for her. Her lyrics almost always relate to love, heartbreak and loss, but are never crass or tawdry. Take some of her biggest hits as examples. “Rolling In The Deep” is filled with scorn for an ex who blew their relationship apart but she remains triumphant, knowing she will survive this loss. In the heartbreaking “Someone Like You”, she laments losing the love of her life but reminds herself, through her tears, that she will eventually find someone who will treat her better. “Hello” finds her on the other side of a failed relationship, explaining how she tried to make things right and mend the brokenness of a relationship, even though the song’s subject is uninterested in such closure. Sure, she has a flair for the dramatic, but that’s part of what makes every song so relatable.

What Youthworkers Need2Know

Youth leaders, especially guys, can learn a thing or two from Adele about relating to girls. Relationships, whether romantic or not, are often the most important things in a teenaged girl’s world. When they shift or are in peril, teenagers often feel that those relationships are the only thing that matters. Adele understands that and puts those feelings to music. Her songs are like journal entries, set to music. Girls sense that they are listening to a friend sing to them, instead of a global superstar.

YLO Members get discussion guides for mainstream artists. Join YLO and you can have them too!

Adele is the rare artist who transcends age and taste. When she releases new music, it’s an event. If youth leaders treat it as such too, you will have an incredible opportunity to open up discussion with your students about loss, heartbreak, and the intricacies of relationships. There are few better modern artists to use as a springboard for these topics, especially because Adele seems to grow, both personally and musically, with each new album.

“Chewie, we’re home!”

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 11.26.23 AMStar Wars. It broke Fandango. The Twitter/Instagram/Facebook worlds were filled with photos and posts about it. Even my 25-year-old houseguest proudly sleeps in Star Wars pajamas! No bout adoubt it, Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon.

Yes, I’m old enough to have been there when the first movie (which is actually the third movie, right? I could be wrong about that.) was in theaters. I was enthralled when I first saw it. And when I saw it again. And again.

Those of us lucky enough to hang around teenagers a lot MUST be aware of cultural phenomenon like this. We can’t afford to be seen as hopelessly out of touch with what is happening. If we don’t at least acknowledge they’re happening, we lose cred with the kids.

The youth leaders who know how to use these kinds of things to further their ministry with teenagers are the savvy ones.

Some youth leaders try too hard. For instance, one guy used a television show he loved as the basis for a series of messages. Problem was, the kids weren’t really all that into the show, so a lot of the tie-ins fell flat.

This Star Wars thing is big, and yet I’m not going to make a huge deal out of it right away. I need to find out how much of the mania is caused by Baby Boomers (who are thrilled with the prospect of seeing Chewie and Hans Solo on the screen again), and how much is from my teenaged friends. I also need to see if it’s a couple-of-days thing, or something with a bit more staying power.

For SURE I’ll make mention of it, and use it to initiate some discussion with the young people I’m around.

How will YOU take advantage of this opportunity? Leave a comment below!

Taylor Swift: Pop Star or Preacher?

3-Ways-to-Keep-Your-Brand-Relevant-in-a-Crowded-MarketA few days ago, I joined 15,000 people at the first of two sold-out Taylor Swift concerts in Nashville. Her 1989 World Tour is a spectacle, to say the least. As most everyone knows, Taylor began her music career in Nashville. Almost ten years ago, she came here as a wide-eyed but deceptively together 15 year old with a guitar. On Friday, she was an authoritative pop star, in complete command of a sold out arena. Country newcomer Kelsea Ballerini, Rock legend Steven Tyler and the most Grammy Award winning female artist of all time, Alison Krauss, all joined Taylor throughout the evening to sing their most well known hits. It was clear that no expense was spared in the production and execution of this show.

But what was most interesting was that the lights, videos, dancers and intricate staging, though remarkable, were not the main reason that most of the attendees were there. Most of these people (largely young females) were there because they truly believe that Taylor Swift can relate to them. She has forged a monolithic career out of crafting songs that speak to every day experiences. Some people balk at a woman this wealthy and well-known being able to relate to an awkward girl in Junior High. But the truth is, Taylor was that awkward girl at one point in her life and she wisely mines those experiences to create songs that become a part of her fans’ lives. Her best songs pinpoint exact moments in her life and pair those with exact feelings, specific to her, but relatable to almost anybody.

I honestly believe that we in youth ministry can learn a lot from Taylor Swift. At one point, we all went through the life-shaping experiences that come as a teenager. It is easy to forget them because many of us want to forget them! After all, who wants to remember being picked on or being shot down when asking someone to a dance? Who wants to relive acne or puberty or our first heartbreak? But if we would be willing to revisit those experiences, there are students all around us, practically begging for someone to find them and say, “I’ve been there. I know it is tough. But you will get through it. And here are some ways to start.” As teenagers, most everything feels like a world-encompassing event and Taylor Swift treats those emotions as such, without cynicism or condescension. In the haze of bills, family, world events and second jobs, it can become easy to dismiss being teased in the locker room as not being a huge deal. But to that student, it might truly feel life-altering. Judging by the reactions to the songs performed on Friday night, there are literally thousands of young people looking for someone to relate to them right where they are.

During one of her many speaking breaks, Taylor took on the role of benevolent big sister, addressing her audience with genuine care and concern. She coached us through heartbreak and encouraged us that though it’s easier to be cynical, it is more rewarding to open ourselves up to optimism and love. Sure, she wasn’t preaching the gospel but she was doing her very best, if only for one night, to encourage the people there who were hanging on her every word. And with the piano softly playing in the background, it honestly almost felt like a worship service.

Your students are likely more excited by Taylor Swift than by you, but trust us; they look up to you and care about what you have to say. What if we treated every youth group meeting as a chance to impart the love of God into our students’ lives, as it relates to their everyday experiences? What would happen if we treated the things that are most meaningful in our students’ lives as such and applied the Word of God to said situations? The Bible is chock full of wisdom and guidance relating to handling rejection, guarding our hearts and finding our worth and identity in Christ. Why are we leaving the life-coaching to our pop stars instead of the Bible? It can be very tempting to show young people, often unintentionally, that the problems they regularly face are nothing compared to what’s coming in adulthood. But instead of being dismissive, let’s listen to our students’ life events with fresh ears, doing our best to relate and understand their individual importance.

The truth is, your students are listening to Taylor. And Katy Perry. And Rihanna. And Selena Gomez. They are soaking in their every song, relationship change and Instagram post. We have to engage them where they are, using those artists’ music and life choices as a springboard to navigate this world through the lens of the Word of God, which will truly shape and define lives. We have the resources to help you do that. Check out our Mainstream Artists section to educate yourself on current music and join Youth Leaders Only today to find discussion starters for various songs to help walk your students through the minefield of current mainstream music.

Check out this video (and the comment section) for an example of one of Taylor’s many inspirational speaking moments to the crowd and get an idea of the impact she is having on her audience members. Young people are starving for encouragement and validation. Let’s be the conduits through which God can give it to them.

Check out Taylor Swift’s Re:Tuned Youth Ministry Artist Page!

Ministry With “Screenagers“

This Cambridge University study on “screenagers” caught my eye – probably because I can relate to it in my own ADHD online life. I find myself following the online path from one interesting post or article to another and then after 15-20 minutes asking myself, “Was that time spent productively? Did it help achieve my objectives for today?” Almost always the answer is, “No”.  So, it is easy to understand the macro impact on a student’s grades. Check it out.

Boy using an Ipad© So many screens, so little time!


Parenting, Teenagers, and Technology

This Huffington Post UK article caught our eye this week.

As the parent of an elementary schooler, I’m thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve quickly learned that things I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with for a few more years … like online safety and cyberbullying … are a part of being in elementary school.

Here’s one of my biggest takeaways from this article:

So approach the internet talk like you would the sex talk and be clear, honest and non-hysterical. Tell them that there are things on the internet that might seem naughty or funny, but are in fact probably staged, made up, or might well have hurt someone (or several people) in the creation of them. 

For me, this means talking about it BEFORE it happens. My daughter just brought home her first “research” assignment this week, and she’s going to be looking up things online for her presentation to her class. I don’t want to wait until something “bad” appears in her Google search or on YouTube, so we’ve already started talking about the fact there are things online that are not good for her to watch (or for mommy and daddy to watch, for that matter).

This might be a great article to share and start some conversations with parents of your youth group students.

What We All Should Learn From Ashley Madison

Guest Blog from Ron Boehme of Youth With A Mission

Up until six weeks ago, I had never heard of Ashley Madison. I thought she might be the great-great-great granddaughter of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States.

Not by a long shot.

Ashley Madison is an adultery website that helps men and women cheat on their spouses. Their sickening slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Six weeks ago Ashley Madison ran into a huge problem that exposed the names and personal secrets of up to 29 million people. That’s bad for them.

But what should we ALL learn from the Ashley Madison expose?

It saddens me to think about a story like this, but the more I pondered it, the more I realized there was a huge lesson to be learned. I’ll get to that shortly, but first let’s tell the tale of Ashley Madison.

It’s a popular web-site started by Noel Biderman in 2001 whose purpose is to link married men and women together who want to cheat on their spouses. Prospective adulterers fill out a profile, say what they are looking for, and pay a fee to be linked to someone as sordid as them.

As CEO of Ashley Madison, Biderman lauded his cheating business in a 2014 interview with the Washington Post where he explained that the goal of the company was global outreach because infidelity is universal.

“You get married, and after a period of time, your sexual attraction to your partner seems to wane,” he said. “Both genders do it, even where it is prohibited by law.” Biderman, who is married, even said that cheating can be good for society — as long as the trysts stay under wraps.

How he came to that conclusion I’ll never understand.

Ashley Madison is a sin site. Building on the universal reality of human lust, Biderman decided to make a lot of money condoning and promoting adultery. He is a Web-based adultery pimp who got wealthy encouraging people to cheat on their marital promises.

All was going well is this lurid, satanically-inspired world until some hackers came along.

In July 2015, a group called “The Impact Team” stole the user data of Ashley Madison and threatened to release users’ names and personal identifying information if its parent company, Avid Life Media, did not immediately shut down both Ashley Madison and its sister site, “Established Men.”

When Ashley Madison’s leaders didn’t respond to the threat, the group leaked more than 25 gigabytes of company data, including user details on August 18 and 20.

In its message to Ashley Madison’s leaders and the world, “The Impact Team” blamed Avid Life Media, accusing the company of deceptive practices: “We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data … Too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn’t deliver.”

That brought a world-wide gasp to millions of men and women cheaters. They had been exposed as liars and creeps.

What the hackers did was illegal. They should be tracked down and prosecuted for stealing personal property. But I’m not writing to debate that point. Their theft of information, and the exposure that it brought to millions of people around the world can be very instructive to all of us.

To put it in a nut-shell: Your sin will find you out.

Those are famous words in the Bible that Moses spoke to the nation of Israel in Numbers 32:23. In the story, Moses asked two of the Israelite tribes who had land east of the Jordan River to go across and fight for the other ten tribes whose inheritances were to the west. He said if they refused to go to battle with their brothers, their cowardice would become known.

Their sin would find them out.

Plenty of sermons have been preached on that verse over the past two thousand years. It’s the basic moral premise that you reap what you sow;  You won’t get away with your sin;  Cheaters don’t prosper–and other similar proverbs.

In this life, that’s not perfectly true–but it often is. In the case of Ashley Madison’s customers, 29 million men and womens’ chickens come home to roost. That included some people currently in the news, and even the founder of the website–Noel Biderman–who had publicly stated that he’d never cheated on this wife.

His personal data said otherwise–indicating at least two trysts with other liars in Toronto hotels. Biderman has since been dismissed as CEO of the company and who knows the state of his union with his wife, Amanda.

Lying and cheating don’t help a marriage.

How Mr. Biderman could passionately promote and receive a big salary for an adultery web-site, and swear that his marriage was pure, is beyond me. I guess once Satan traps you in his web of lies you end up getting lost in the propaganda.

Your sin will find you out.

But let’s be honest. Our sins are not always exposed in this lifetime. The Bible rightly tells us in 1 Timothy 5:24, “ Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.”

What’s that referring to?

The eternal judgment of God.

Here’s where the Ashley Madison revelations are very important to every human being–not just those who cheat on their husbands or wives.

First, I want to point out a very important word clarification in the Bible. In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the root terms used for judge, just, justice and righteousness are essentially the same.  In past time periods, it was common to talk about God’s judgment on human character and activity.

In the 21st century, the word judgment has fallen out of vogue. Some think it conjures up images of an ogre-like Deity who hates human beings. The Millennial Generation prefers the word justice and are actively involved in many justice issues including human slavery and trafficking.

Millennials like the word justice.  Other generations are more familiar with the word judgment.

But they mean the same thing. The righteous and just God hates all sin while loving (dying for) all people. Judgment and justice are the righteous part of his Character. There’s no difference between the God of Judgment and the God of Justice. They are one and the same.

Now to the real point.

Many things on earth, whether man-made or God-created are pictures of eternal realities. For example, the family structure is a small snap-shot of the eternal relationship that redeemed people will share with God and others in heaven.  Human prisons are “types” of the eternal abode for the rebellious–hell. Even airplanes are primitive symbols of how angels and human beings will be able to soar one day.

So what do the Ashley Madison revelations picture in the future?

The day of eternal judgment/justice when every human being will be exposed before God.

There are at least 68 verses in the Bible that describe this awesome reality. Revelation 20:11-15 says that our actions or deeds will be revealed:

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”

Matthew 12:36-37 says that our words will be revealed: “”But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

1 Corinthians 4:5 goes even further and says that even our thoughts will be exposed. “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the thoughts of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

And finally, Romans 2:16 says that all secrets will be known, “on that day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

Gulp. This is no little computer hack. It’s the Righteous Judge exposing our words, thoughts, motives and deeds. Nothing will be hidden about any of us.

Makes the Ashley Madison leak seem like a harmless prank.

All of this should motivate us to live in the fear of God on earth, be humble about our many sins and failures, and cry out now for God’s mercy and grace–before we face the inevitable day of reckoning.

We’ll all be fully exposed. Get ready. Be saved through Jesus Christ.

That’s what we all should learn from Ashley Madison.

The VMA’s: What’s a Youth Leader To Do?

083115_vma_blog_500Every year, for the last 32 years, MTV has broadcast the Video Music Awards into millions of living rooms. Each time it seems they try and top the prior airing with a show that’s even more outrageous than the last (good luck with that next year, guys).

Also every year, many youth leaders express horror and outrage at the latest pop star antics and scantily clad performances. It’s as much a part of the season as back-to-school and football season countdowns. We wonder when the world got so dark and strange. But, in all honesty, the world has been like this since Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden. I think it takes something like the VMA’s to shock us out of our comfort zone and truly confront the reality that not only is this world not our home, but it’s actually a pretty hostile environment that rewards things that are the complete opposite of what we believe.

YLO Members get our exclusive re:Tuned Discussion Starters: talking points for the mainstream music students are listening to. 

Yes, last night’s show glorified everything it possibly could about drug culture, sexuality and freedom to do whatever makes you feel good. But honestly, this should not be news. These are the things our students face head-on every single day. Is it possible that we’ve become numb or willfully unaware of this sometimes? Is it possible that after we visit a student at school for lunch, we go back to our office at the church and continue planning our lessons for Sunday and we forget just how dark their everyday environment is? Many posts you’ll read today will hold up the VMA’s as an annual wakeup call to the depravity of youth culture. But as youth leaders, we should already know that “people love the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil” (John 3:19). Instead of a big, shocking, annual wake-up call, this should be one of dozens of heart-tugging reminders for us to pray without ceasing for our students to be light in an ever-darkening world. Let’s not be so insulated in church culture that we forget the daily battle our students are fighting … a battle to keep from getting  sucked into darkness and depravity. Instead, let’s engage with them often, asking how we can best serve and equip them to stand strong.

Also, on an encouraging note, the single most Shazammed and tweeted about performance last night came from a young artist named Tori Kelly. In the midst of all of the salaciousness, a young lady performed – fully clothed – playing an instrument and singing a song that she wrote. There was no choreography or jaw-dropping spectacle. Just a girl with a guitar and an anointed voice (Tori is a believer) and that was the moment that the most people responded to on social media. This should tell us something. Maybe it isn’t all hopeless out there. There are young people who are interested in things that are real and wholesome.

You can introduce your students to amazing music that reinforces the messages you’re working so hard to instill.

Let’s continue to pray for and with them and lift up the young people in Hollywood who are willing to be lights in a dark, dark world. And let’s continue to equip our students more than ever before, and encourage them that it’s ok to stand out and stand up for what they believe in.

Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton

Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use. Starring Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aldis Hodge, Corey Hawkins, R. Marcucs Taylor and Paul Giamatti. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen and The Italian Job).

Straight Outta ComptonIn the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war.

Over the years I’ve discovered that some reviews are easier to write than others. For example excellent films and terrible movies are the easiest reviews to write. Movies that are just ok can be tough but the most difficult reviews are for films that are of the highest quality but the lowest virtue.

Needless to say Straight Outta Compton is one of those films. It is filled with disturbing images and inappropriate language … a lot of inappropriate language. The messages of disrespecting authorities, sexual immorality and solving conflict with violence are not things we would or should celebrate. On the other hand, there are some very positive things about this film. There are strong messages about passionately following your dreams, working hard, perseverance, friendship and loyalty.

So how does one reconcile those two extremes?

Well let’s look at a few of the technical elements of them film. The true story about the rise of N.W.A. is insightful and entertaining. Gray keeps things moving at a steady pace and uses a clever trick to introduce the characters as well as inform us of the timeline.

The cast is superb. Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Corey Hawkins look so much like Easy E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre respectfully, that at times I forgot I was watching a movie and not a documentary … although to be fair O’Shea Jackson Jr. is Ice Cube’s son. And Marcc Rose looks exactly like Tupac Shakur. Paul Giamatti, as always, delivers a very strong performance.

I have no musical talent, but I love music. I love the power of music and how it can amplify or even change your mood. For the men in NWA, it was a vehicle to express their frustration at a broken system and it affected millions of people. That is amazingly powerful.

So how should we as Christ followers respond to a film like Straight Outta Compton? Well hopefully we can recognize the talent, passion and work ethic of the members of N.W.A. Hopefully we can acknowledge the power and influence of music and make wise decisions about what we are listening to. And hopefully we can engage in intelligent conversation about the subject matter.

Things you need to know about the movie

There are several scenes where women are seen fully nude and engaging is sexual activity. The language is extremely graphic and strong. There are over 330 F-words, almost 100 N-words, 180 S-words and a lot more.

There are also a couple of scenes of violence – mostly fighting and recreational drug use is seen throughout, mostly marijuana. Characters smoke marijuana throughout the film. Cocaine is also seen in the opening scene of the movie.

How to talk to students about the movie

Most people view the members of N.W.A. as either heroes or villains. Either way, there is no denying their influence. In one scene, Ice Cube says, “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds”.

  1. What do you think of that quote?
  2. How did they speak the truth?

Read Ephesians 4:15. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

  1. How does Paul tell us to speak the truth?
  2. What does that mean?
  3. How can you speak the truth in a love this week?

Robbie Maddison’s “Pipe Dream”

You won’t believe this until you see it! And even then, we had to watch it twice. Robbie Maddison made history by surfing his motorbike (!!!) Read the interview on