The Video Music Awards scream SEX SEX SEX!

Is this MTV's attempt to rebuild their audience?

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The MTV VMAs scream SEX SEX SEX! This night is clearly more about how many times you can twerk and how little you can wear and less about artistry of music and entertainment. Years ago we all screamed “I want my MTV”…today I’m screaming “just put some clothes on”.

I know this isn’t new, but (and maybe I’m getting older) it is getting worse. And the more we celebrate this hyper sexualization the more sexual these shows will become.

Why did DJ Khaled have a two different sneakers wrapped around his neck all night? Please tell me that’s not going to be a thing.

Finally Key and Peel were so not funny. I think I’ll tweet that.

Maybe they know, maybe they don’t, but MTV and so many of these artists make it very difficult for us to do our job. As youth pastors we try to teach our students to be an example in their speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. And then I watch this and wonder if that message is being heard and how to be even more effective.

Three Reasons You Should Embrace The Pokémon GO Phenomenon

Youth Leaders Should Have Fun Too!

By Ken McCoy / JumpStart Ministries / Charlotte, NC / kennymac@mac.com

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Unless you don’t know any teenagers, you’re aware of the Pokémon GO craze that’s hit North America this past weekend. People everywhere are using their phones to play an augmented-reality game that turns their city into a Pokémon-infested world where art sculptures are Pokéstops, coffee shops are Pokémon Gyms, and town squares are ripe with virtual critters.

Without getting into the “how to play” info – full disclosure, I haven’t really played it much, there don’t seem to be any Pokémon creatures in my neighborhood yet – I’ve thought of at least three reasons I need to embrace this phenomenon.

The Game Is Fun!
A whole generation of kids grew up with “Nintendo Thumb” from playing Pokémon on a handheld gaming console, and imagining how cool their world would be if Pokémon characters inhabited it. Now, they’re even closer to experiencing that reality. Using the camera on their phones, those kids (who are now old enough to be youth leaders) can now be in that world. How cool is that?

You Can Play With Friends
While there is no multiplayer functionality in the game yet, you can still go hunting with friends. I saw a dozen people gathered at a Pokéstop in my little town over the weekend. They were laughing, looking at their phones, and generally seemed to be having a great time even in the summer heat and humidity of North Carolina.

Players Get Exercise
Finding the fantasy creatures requires you to get out and get walking – or running – at all times of day and night. The more ground you can cover, the more creatures you will find. After decades of watching kids veg for hours in front of a computer or television, I’m all for getting outside and exploring – especially if I’m doing it with some of my young friends from church!

I recognize that I’m a geek – not a nerd, a geek – and an early adopter. Still, I’m pretty sure that Pokémon GO will be one activity that works its way into my schedule this week. How about you?

Hurting Kids: I Wish I Would Have Known

I’ve learned a few things that I wish I would have known

By Mark Hall / Lead Singer, Casting Crowns; Youth Pastor, Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church / McDonough, Georgia

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Even after many years as a youth leader, ministering to hurting, troubled, and needy kids remains a challenge. When I started in youth ministry, I came in as a music major who didn’t really have much training, just a lot of love for young people. However, along the way I’ve learned a few things that I wish I would have known in the beginning.

First, a ministry will never outgrow its leader. As a youthworker, your walk with Jesus is the glass ceiling of your ministry. Your kids are going to learn from you and your lifestyle. You’re going to do more “ministry” by letting your kids see what a Christian looks like while dealing with bad traffic than by any talk you give on a Wednesday night. Ministry is always going to be the overflow of our own relationship with God. One of the first changes that God makes is our eyes—the way we see the world. All kids will face crisis, all kids are needy, and all kids can be a challenge. If you’re not careful, you can feel like you want to strangle a middle schooler before it’s all over! I need to see my students the way God sees them. I need to be able to see that the guy-crazy girl is making poor decisions because she doesn’t have a strong father figure at home and she’s desperate for affection. If I’m not walking closely with Jesus, I’m not going to see her the way He does.

Beyond seeing with Christ’s eyes, we have to earn the right to speak into teens’ lives. This generation will not respect…

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Hurting Kids: Systemic Abandonment

By Dr. Chap Clark / Fuller Seminary / Pasadena, California

Systemic Abandonment

I spend a good deal of time in the academic realm where scholars discuss the latest research. I also spend time with parents and other adults, who share with me their concerns and questions about kids. I have been privileged to see the world from the eyes of the kids themselves, and I want to help adults do a better job of caring for the kids in their lives.

This is wake-up call designed to challenge every adult to recognize and struggle with what our choices as adults have done to the children of our society. The major consequence of adult inattention has been a profound sense of abandonment among today’s teens. The only solution to this problem is for adults to roll up our sleeves and invest ourselves in the lives of the individual young people we know.

Abandoned and All Alone

All of us have felt abandoned at times. But as I learned during my journey into the world of today’s teens, abandonment is a normal and accepted part of their lives.

Abandonment is the fundamental cultural reality of kids today. This makes perfect sense to some readers, but others aren’t so sure. They see kids in large groups at school or at church events, and they say, “This doesn’t look like abandonment to me.”

But let’s look more closely at the lives of kids and see if signs of systemic abandonment become clearer. As we look more closely, may we be inspired by the words of my middle son, a high school junior, who gave me this warning when I started this journey: “I know you think you know a lot about kids, Dad, but you had better be ready for a shock. I don’t think you really get it! I don’t think any adult gets it!”

Better or Worse

Experts disagree about whether contemporary youth face brave new challenges that kids have never faced before or whether today’s kids are basically dealing with the same kinds of problems kids have always dealt with. This disagreement carries over into our discussion of abandonment.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers made his perspective clear with the title of his controversial 2002 article in Atlantic magazine, “The Apocalypse of Adolescence.” Powers also discussed the article on TV’s 60 Minutes. Powers argued that “the inconvenience of children, the downright menace of children—has become a dominant theme of life” for many adults. And his article explored a culture of disenfranchisement that is increasingly troubling many kids, resulting in violence and other ills.

On the other side of the debate is University of California, Santa Cruz, sociologist Mike Males, who says adolescents are in far better shape today than they have been in years. Today’s young “are doing better than ever,” he says in his 2002 Los Angeles Times article, “The New Demons: Ordinary Teens.” Males says our fears about troubled teens are misplaced and overstated, leading to a dangerous condition he calls “Ephebiphobia” or “extreme fear of youth,” an ailment that is propelled by a “full-blown media panic.”

The debate continues. And while some people may wonder how two smart people could come to such opposed opinions, I look for the ways in which their views connect and overlap with each other. After listening to the debate by these and other experts, here’s my conclusion: as adolescents attempt to…

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Hurting Kids: Symptoms and Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide

By Steve Gerali

This is an excerpt from What Do I Do When Teenagers are Depressed & Contemplate Suicide, which a part of the “What Do I Do…” series from Youth Specialties. To get the entire book or series, go to youthspecialties.com or wherever books are sold. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Suicide

Teenagers who commit suicide usually believe that their present lives are hopelessly painful and filled with the darkest despair, and that their futures won’t bring any relief, being equally dark. Death becomes the only means of escape. Suicide is among the leading causes of death among adolescents in the United States and worldwide.

Symptoms of depression. These are often the primary and most prevalent signs. About 90 percent of all teenage suicides are accompanied by depression or grow out of prolonged depression. Depressed teens need to be monitored closely. Sometimes when teens appear to come out of depression, it may be that they’ve resolved to attempt suicide—in other words, the opportunity to escape the pain of depression may be a relief to them and paradoxically elevate their moods. Such a decision can feel empowering and can give them more energy. So if depressed teens’ moods begin elevating, they need to be monitored more closely.

 Verbal Cues. Teens contemplating suicide may speak about or ask questions about death and funerals. They may ask questions such as, “Does the Bible talk about suicide?” or “Do people who commit suicide go to hell?” They may make comments about being better off dead, wishing they’d never been born, or speak in terms of not having a future (“I may not be here for that”), or exclude themselves from life milestones they’d typically want to experience with their peers (“My friends will graduate this year”).

Verbal cues will also accompany and explain some behavioral cues. They may talk about not needing their things anymore or ask people to take care of their pets. Verbal cues can also include teens coming right out and talking about feelings and thoughts of suicide.

 Behavioral Cues. Some of these cues have already been mentioned but are worth repeating. Teens who are suicidal may engage in…

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Hurting Kids: Mercy For Self-Harm

By Nancy Alcorn / Mercy Ministries of America / Nashville, Tennessee / mercyministries.org

Self-Harm

 I couldn’t stop myself. I had to cut. Not cutting meant everything was okay, and everything was anything but okay. So dead inside, I picked up a blade and glided it across my thigh. – Lindsay

Lindsay couldn’t take the silent suffering any longer. She had no way to express the pain she felt or the sense of being a prisoner to it, except through self-harm. If she could not feel anything on the inside, she had to prove to herself she could at least feel something on the outside.

Just like Lindsay, millions of people of all ages wrestle with the seemingly inescapable problem of self-harm on a daily basis. Out-of-control emotions or the inability to feel at all may result in self-harming behaviors, such as cuts, burns, bruises, or worse.

Does this scenario describe someone you know who is struggling with self-harm on a regular basis? Are you desperate for answers? There are many girls wanting a way out. Many have found it. Since 1983, Mercy Ministries has served more than two thousand young women from across the country and from varied cultural and economic backgrounds, facing a combination of difficult circumstances.

Julia’s Story

It started out as an accident, really. I was eight years old and dealing with so much hurt and anger. While doing the dishes, I cut myself on some broken glass. For the first time, I felt a moment of freedom from the pain inside, and at the same time it kind of broke through the numbness. I felt alive, almost normal.

Gradually it escalated from “accidents” to very intentional actions. For me it was important, and a bit obsessive, to see…

Use this link to read the rest of the article.

Excerpts taken from “Cut: Mercy for Self-Harm” by Nancy Alcorn
The Mercy For book series addresses the life-controlling issues that threaten thousands of young women every day such as eating disorders, self-harm, addictions, and sexual abuse. In fact, Mercy Ministries has received several testimonies from young women who have gained practical advice and scriptural insight from these resources and found freedom! Visit mercyministries.org for more information.

Hurting Kids: Where To Turn

Since you’re a youth leader, you WILL encounter crisis situations. When they happen, you’ll need to know where to turn. Here are some websites and information that could prove invaluable to you.

Where To Turn

GET HELP NOW

  • If you are in crisis, need immediate help, or facing a potentially life-threatening emergency, call 911
  • Critical Incident Response – This coalition of crisis responders coordinates specialized training and resources to help prepare youth workers and local Networks to meet needs when crises strike, such as a teenage suicide, fatal car accident, school shooting, or other trauma. Four levels of involvement and training can be found at youthworkers.net.

Suicide

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline – If you or someone you know is considering suicide, do not wait to get help. Take the concern seriously and call 800-273-TALK to talk to someone who cares. Go to http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
  • The HopeLine– Longtime youth minister and well-known youth communicator Dawson McAllister offers help to teens struggling with critical life issues and who may be considering self-harm or suicide. Call 1-800-394-HOPE (4673) to talk with a Hope Coach, or communicate by chat or text. Point your web browser to https://www.thehopeline.com.
  • Groundwire – Need to talk? Chat now with a spiritual coach. Coaches are available to listen and offer spiritual advice, encouragement, resources, and prayer. Get online with them at http://www.groundwire.net/#home.

Self-Injury

  • To Write Love On Her Arms – TWLOHA is a movement dedicated to hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Find help online at https://twloha.com.
  • A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES – This is a nationally recognized treatment approach, professional network and educational resource base committed to helping you and others end to self-abusive behavior. Link to selfinjury.com.

Substance Abuse

  • Teen Challenge – Faith-based help and healing for those facing drug addiction and life-controlling problems. Teen Challenge has centers located in 70 different countries. Their online presence is at https://www.teenchallengeusa.com.

Rend Collective: The Campfire

Why The Campfire Is Important

NOTE: This is one of four articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO

We’ve created a playlist that really goes along with this blog – Rend Collective‘s hard-to-find “Campfire” album! You can listen to it here.

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This is an excerpt from the Campfire Resource Pack by the modern worship band Rend Collective – this article and the album were included in YLO95.

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” – CS Lewis


HOW TO LIGHT A CAMPFIRE

Clear the area of debris, avoid overhanging branches and make sure your fire is a safe distance from tents and other flammable materials.

The Right Material
The three types of natural fuel are tinder (material that burns easily such as dry grass or shavings whittled from a stick), kindling (slightly larger material such as twigs that will burn with a little encouragement) and firewood (dry branches that will be the main fuel of the fire). No shortcuts allowed—never use flammable liquids.

The Right Shape
Two ways to build your fire are the tepee, in which you arrange the kindling in the shape of a tepee over the tinder, and the lean-to, in which you push a small stick in the ground at a 45-degree angle with the upper end pointing into the wind. Place the tinder beneath the stick and lean the kindling against it. Light the tinder and add kindling as needed. Add the larger branched last. Never leave a fire unattended.

Put It Out!
Pour water on the fire, stir the ashes with a stick, and pour some more. It’s not out until you can run your bare hands through the coals.

One of our favorite stories of the Celtic saint revolves around him lighting a massive bonfire on the Hill of Slane in County Meath, as part of keeping his Easter vigil in celebration of Christ. His fire rose in direct defiance of the High King of Tara, and the ancient rulers of Ireland, who had chosen the night for their own festival, prohibiting the lighting of rival fires throughout the country. Only two sources of light broke the night: one in honor of the High King of Tara and the other in the honor of the “High King of Heaven.” Conflict inevitably arose and despite the best efforts of the druidic priests, St. Patrick’s fire, miraculously, could not be extinguished. The High King surrendered to Christ and the druidic priests are said to have prophesied,

“This fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.” – St. Patrick

We praise God that the fire blazes on in Ireland! Isn’t this an amazing picture of how a celebrating, counter-cultural community can transform nations?

When Jesus speaks of the “city on a hill” that can’t be hidden in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s not talking about a glaring, neon, festival of fluorescence like Las Vegas. There is no electricity in the New Testament: He’s imagining a skyline illuminated by hundreds of simple campfires, each surrounded by their own conversations and celebrations, hopes, dreams, hurts, and healings.

Our simple campfire gatherings can be powerfully missional.

People are drawn to the light, heat and safety of Jesus and His church. Our best efforts of evangelism are our best efforts in the area of loving one another – see John 13:35. It is so much more attractive than any sermon ever could be. Our love is luminous in the darkness of a Darwinian, “survival of the fittest” world. But it doesn’t stop with loving our family in Christ: we have to be recklessly indiscriminate in spreading that love to the rest of humanity, after the pattern of our extravagantly gracious Father.

There are no outsiders in the Kingdom of God. All are invited into this mystery of God’s love. Don’t even waste your time sorting people into such categories as “in” or “out.” Rather, spend your time learning how to love better! Your fireside gatherings need to be as welcoming as the Father of the prodigal son. Surrender your social life to the service of those with whom others won’t socialize.

Be like Jesus and be held in the suspicion of the religious because you are the “friend[s] of sinners”, all the while maintaining a purity of heart that outshines the most zealous Pharisee.

There is no point developing a cozy sense of family and community in Jesus’ name if we are to ignore his great commission to invite the lost into the kingdom!

There is no point in inviting the lost into a so-called Christian community of backbiting, malice, ego and selfish agendas!

Let us love with a white-hot intensity, both within our gatherings, and when reaching out of them.

 

Creating MONSTERS

Finding Fame In Jesus’ Name

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By Keith Stancil / Artist Garden Entertainment / Nashville, Tennessee / keithstancil.com

The monster lurks within pretending to be one with our human soul. It hides in the shadows hoping to go unnoticed until the opportune time to launch its attack. Posing as the answer to the perfect life, the monster lures us in to feed it. Our decision “to feed” or “not to feed” determines the fate or survival of the monster.

Working in the entertainment industry has given me a front row seat to witness the monster’s cunning work. Struggling with the monster in my own life has given me a keen sense of its presence and its ability to quickly move into a position of control over one’s life. God has placed a strong desire in my heart to equip others with the ability to recognize early signs of the monster and to point them toward the resistance resource only He provides.

The Creating Monsters e-Book is a great resource for your youth ministry band. The entire 130 page e-Book is included in YLO103. YLO Members, go here to download it.

God places some on large platforms for the purpose of making Jesus famous. Artists, musicians, actors, professional athletes, authors, speakers and corporate ladder climbers can easily lose sight of God’s intended purpose for their lives. My hope is that this book will bring an awareness of the monster’s presence and equip those pursuing careers on platforms with the necessary tools to navigate potential fame with biblical excellence.

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required. (Luke 12:48, ESV)

Chapter One: Opening Scene

Winding through the Tennessee hills, I found myself lost in dreamy conversation. Similar drives over the years have served as the perfect backdrop for birthing new ideas, and this particular drive was no exception. The drive was bursting with excitement over new frontiers my wife, Diana, and I were embarking on. Our recent launch of an artist management company filled a desire that had been brewing in my soul for years. As we made our way over Monteagle and descended toward Nickajack Lake and the Tennessee/ Georgia border, I dreamed while Diana mostly listened. Diana had previously visited this unchartered territory of artist management that I was so eager to explore. Her wisdom-filled experience was full of caution, but her love for me transcended any reservations, causing her to nurture the desires of my heart. Diana silenced any hesitancy she may have been feeling and trusted that God had planted that desire in me for a purpose. And so the great adventure began.

An invitation to see a new artist perform at a youth event was the catalyst for this day trip. Driving up to the venue, my curiosity for what this young band would sound like was elevated. As a new management company, we were eager to find the “next big artist.” The band had grabbed our attention through some recent media coverage, but their online performances weren’t really enough to make an accurate analysis. The band members were cute and photogenic, but did they have what it takes to launch a substantial career in music? Unfortunately, the show was disappointing. With an audience of maybe twenty people, it was obvious the band was still learning how to master their instruments and would need quite a bit of help with stage presence and songwriting. After the show, I wanted so badly to pull an Elvis exit by jumping in the car and driving away before anyone noticed we were gone. Even though running would have been much easier, Diana talked me into saying a few words before we left. She often compares me to “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell due to my brutal honesty. Diana, on the other hand, has an incredibly compassionate heart and pleaded with me to be nice and talk to the young band before leaving.

Somehow, we were talked into managing the band and set out on the arduous journey of developing their talent. Developing the young band proved to be a terribly painstaking process. Not because they were so far off as musicians, but because they argued with us every step of the way. The band members were convinced they knew everything about the music business and challenged most of the advice we offered. While I’m not normally one for waving my own accomplishment flag, I had to remind the band often of the fourteen million records I personally sold during my twenty-five-year career.

In addition to the argumentative band members, there were pushy parents involved, which made our task even more difficult. From day one, I spent hours listening to the parents of each of the band members complain about why the music industry would be overlooking their children who were already incredible stars in the parents’ minds. The parents would relentlessly argue against most advice we offered, which made our journey miserable at times.

Moreover, another group that was also pursuing a music career appeared in a high-profile battle of the bands contest with the young band and created an unhealthy competitiveness in the minds of the band members and their parents. Many of our conversations were laced with their envy toward what was going on with the other band. I would regularly remind them how the Bible instructs us to not allow envy to enter our hearts.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:25-26, ESV)

The young musicians and their parents had, somewhere along the way, confused striving for excellence with a dangerous amount of jealousy. They masked envy under the guise of healthy competitiveness. Unfortunately, mis-managed jealousy eats at one’s soul, creating an insatiable appetite for more and making it impossible to find peace. Jealousy is labeled as unspiritual and demonic in the Bible.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16, ESV)

The inability to find peace and contentment has robbed personal joy from countless musicians, so we continued the task of helping them learn to abate their jealousy. Even though their arguing and jealousy caused disorder and became extremely tiresome, I continued pushing through to complete the task.

Never desiring to work with rock stars, I attempted to mentor the young band in a way that would hopefully prevent them from becoming another casualty of fame. I certainly didn’t want to help turn them into “Disney kid stars” who would one day regret chasing someone else’s dream, so we spent hours with the band talking through the direction they desired to take. Their parents were pushing them toward chasing mainstream success, but we wanted to know the band members’ hearts. Diana and I spent time praying that God would use us to help tame any monsters that might be lurking within the hearts of the band members. After much soul searching, the band determined that they wanted to be a Christian band. While that was music to my ears, only time would tell if their desire and calling to do Christian music was genuine or if they really wanted to be rock stars.

 

The Creating Monsters e-Book is a great resource for your youth ministry band. The entire 130 page e-Book is included in YLO103. YLO Members, go here to download it.

Payday!

I can trace my lifelong career back to a week at summer camp

By Ken McCoy / JumpStart Ministries / Charlotte, North Carolina / kennymac@mac.com

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NOTE: This is one of four articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO!

I decided to become a youth minister when I was a camper at summer camp. The camp was a small, under-funded, very-little-to-do-there place high in the Sierras that my church’s youth group attended each year. Our cabin’s counselor that week was the camp speaker—a theology professor from a Baptist Bible College, of all things—who didn’t spend much time with the dozen rowdy boys in our semi-permanent tent/cabin thingy.

I don’t know why, but in the absence of our theology professor adult figure, I became the default “Counselor” of my cabin. The other guys in the cabin with me were from a different church—and boy were they, umm, “carnal”! I had my hands full all week trying to encourage those guys to keep out of trouble, let alone follow Jesus.

I remember praying a lot that week.

At the end of the week, eight of those guys approached me as a group. I thought maybe they were gonna pound me, but they wanted to give me their drugs, booze, cigarettes, and, uhh, birth control devices so that I could dispose of those items. And, they wanted to give Jesus their hearts and lives.

“Ken, we’ve always thought that Christians had to be boring and lame. This week, you’ve shown us something different. We want what you have.”

Whoa! I had NO idea that living for God could be such a rush! I was more than thrilled!

The last night of that camp, around the campfire, all the students were giving their testimonies and generally working themselves into an emotional state. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) I, on the other hand, couldn’t shake the thought that I wanted to experience again and again the joy I had felt in seeing my new friends come to Christ. And so, I stood in front of that fire and verbally committed myself to a lifetime of youth ministry. (I didn’t realize then what that commitment would mean—to my parents, my future wife and kids, and now, my grandkids. Something about “Be careful what you ask for” comes to mind.)

That fireside comment was made to a group of friends a LONG time ago, and I’m still living out that commitment.

Summer camp is like that. Someone once told me that summer camp is a youth minister’s payday. We work hard, day in and day out, for months and months—and then, we are rewarded at camp. That idea makes sense to me. I don’t get a paycheck every day; it comes only after a couple of weeks of labor. Summer camp IS a youth leader’s payday!