Suicide Symptoms and Signs

By Steve Gerali, Sanctuary Coffee, Claremont, California

This is an excerpt from What Do I Do When Teenagers are Depressed & Contemplate Suicide? – 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.

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 reliefto 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 wantto 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:

  • Risky behaviors, because they believe they have nothing to live for and therefore nothing to lose. These behaviors can also include acts of recklessness that could be interpreted on the surface as acts of heroism, such as standing up to gang members at school.
  • Self-harm. This may be a slow attempt at desensitizing oneself to pain and purging oneself of the fear of taking one’s own life.
  • Morbid obsession with death, including writing about it and artistically centering on death and dying, visiting funeral homes and cemeteries, attending wakes and funerals of people they don’t know (i.e., funeral crashing).
  • Drug and alcohol use and abuse. Some depressed teens plunge right into dangerous substance abuse. The mindset behind this is similar to the mindset that governs their ventures into risky behaviors— they’ll do anything to eliminate the pain of depression.
  • Past suicide attempts or “practice runs.” This behavior is evidenced in their conversations. They may tell their friends they took five aspirins the night before “just to see what would happen.” These “trial runs” are considered suicide attempts and may leave the teen disabled or permanently damaged.

Get all the Troubled Kids/Crisis Special Edition Articles in YLO115

Getting their affairs in order. These are also behavioral and verbal cues but they center more in the realm of death and dying. Teens who’ve determined to attempt suicide instinctually begin to tie up loose ends in life. Often these things are done secretly or with a low profile, so parents and adults must keep vigilant watch. Some of these cues include:

  • Finishing projects, schoolwork, or favors they were asked to complete. They don’t want to leave with anyone thinking badly of them or disliking them.
  • Giving away their possessions. Friends and younger family members become the recipients. Teens need to understand that receiving gifts that are meaningful possessions of depressed friends is cause to contact adults.
  • Canceling appointments. This is often noticed when the teen fails to make any plans past a certain date. It can also be discovered if there’s an obsession with a particular date. Many times teens will pick anniversary days for their suicide days. These dates often correspond to some memorable date—e.g., the day school’s out for the summer, or the day a certain hero or pop idol died. This is done out of self- protection (e.g., they may believe they’ll get in trouble for not finishing school) or the desire to attach their suicide dates with already-memorable dates so their suicides themselves become unforgettable.
  • Writing wills and planning funerals. Some teens will go to elaborate lengths to write their last wills and testaments or plan the things they want said and done at their funerals. This grows out of the fantasy of idealizing death. In the recesses of their minds they “can’t wait to see all this happen,” so they go to great lengths to plan their suicide aftermaths.
  • Finalizing affairs often involves acts of vengeance. This may happen moments before the suicide. Girls tend to enact vengeance with hateful phone calls before they swallow a bottle of pills. Guys on the other hand are more violent, often resulting in murder-suicides. The warning signs are elaborate plans to carry out the vengeful acts (e.g., she may tell her friends when and how she plans to get revenge, or he may start to acquire weapons or materials to build a weapon).

Get all the Troubled Kids/Crisis Special Edition Articles in YLO115

Descriptive Cues. Informed, personal assessments that grow out of your relationship with suicidal teens. How well you know them will determine how accurately you can judge their cues. Descriptive cues include:

  • Teens’ lack of problem-solving and coping skills. If teens are deficient, then they may reach a last resort sooner than other teens.
  • Impulsive behaviors. If teens have proven patterns of acting impulsively or are prone to lose control, then they may be at a higher risk of suicide.
  • Attention seeking. All suicide talk should be taken seriously. Some teens are attention seekers by nature, and depression will accentuate their dramatic natures. (Keep in mind a related disorder, Munchausen syndrome, in which teens pretend to be sick or injured or intentionally harm themselves to get attention. More common in guys than in girls, this kind of harm can include breaking bones or ingesting poisons or chemicals, etc. Teens with Munchausen syndrome thrive on the sympathetic, nurturing, and compassionate attention they’ll likely receive when ill or injured. Teens with this disorder sometimes accidentally commit suicide while doing self-harm.)
  • Strong-willed and withdrawn behavior. While this normally may be an admirable quality, it can be deadly if teens are determined to die. Add to this a propensity to withdraw, not seeking the help and support of others, and the isolation brought on by depression, and the combination can be lethal.

Situational Cues. Youth workers and parents need to be aware of
the life events that shape teenagers’ outlooks. Life situations that leave teens feeling helpless, trapped, or hopeless strongly factor into teenage depression and suicide. Situational cues might include loss, divorce and family dysfunction, chronic diseases, trauma, unplanned pregnancy or abortion, criminal conviction and/or incarceration, homelessness, committing immoral acts they believe are irreconcilable, etc.

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Crisis: I’m In One Right Now

One of our key YLO members volunteered to share the current crisis situation. We’ve kept this anonymous for obvious reasons.  

When was the last time you or your ministry was in a crisis?

I’m in one right now.

Last Sunday, our pastor announced to the church that he would be transitioning into a full-time counseling ministry within a few months. So what is the crisis? Well, I have experienced this before – a new senior pastor, a new philosophy, and unfortunately a new staff. One May I had just come home from our biggest and best weekend retreat. So when I got an email from the new senior pastor asking to meet with me that morning I expected nothing but praise—well, maybe praise and a raise! Instead, I was told that the Deacons had met on the Thursday before the retreat and decided to ask for my resignation – effective immediately. I was not allowed to say goodbye to my students or to the church, and told I was not allowed to even speak with my students. The reason? I was “too contemporary” and that I “didn’t fit in here.”

The actual truth came to light when the new pastor’s best friend’s son was hired as the youth pastor.

Gotta love church politics.

Within a matter of days I was jobless, homeless, and completely desperate. For the next year my family (wife and two children) lived in a one-bedroom apartment, worked odd jobs, and struggled to put food on the table.  I’m not looking for a pity party. Trust me I know I’m not the only youth pastor to experience this. Unfortunately, this story is far too common within the church. Quite frankly, it sucks! (If that is too strong, go with “stinks.”) It was almost a year to the day later that we moved to a different state and joined the staff of an amazing church. Early on we knew this church was different. Grace was not just a theology, it was a reality. People lived in it and through it. We were home. Jeans? Yep! Cool music? Yep! Supportive pastor and board? Yep! FINALLY, a church where I “fit in”!

Get all the Troubled Kids/Crisis Special Edition Articles in YLO115

So when I heard the pastor announce his resignation last Sunday, I immediately started to relive the crisis from just a few years ago. I’m not just worried about my future, but for the future of this church I love. The church is less than ten years old and just built a $1.5 million building. It was formed as the result of an ugly church split when my pastor resigned in the midst of turmoil. Five hundred people followed him, and they started over. 

Just like last time, board members are telling me, “Don’t worry, your job is safe.” But I am worried. I don’t know what the future will bring. The thought of moving again –with a daughter in her sophomore year of high school, a son in sixth grade, and a newborn –scares me to death.

So I’m wondering, will this time be different? Will my family and I survive the transition, or will I be searching those youth ministry job sites? Will my kids graduate from the schools they love, or will they have to make new friends – again?

I know the answer for living through a crisis: be still, don’t worry, pray, and seek His face. (Psalm 46:10Philippians 4:6-7Matthew 6:33) I’ve shared those verses with others in crisis. I’ve walked alongside broken and desperate people. I know the “answers.”

But I’m struggling. I want to trust God. I want to believe our church leadership. I want to be here for years to come. I want to be faithful no matter what happens.

But I’m struggling.

Even as I write this someone just posted this verse on Facebook. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34 MSG)

Get all the Troubled Kids/Crisis Special Edition Articles in YLO115

I know. I know. I’m trying. I’m trying to be still. I’m trying not to worry. I’m trying to pray. I’m trying to seek His face.

So if you have been through it, going through it, or it’s coming – please know you are not alone. As much as I may not “want to hear it” myself, I know God’s Word is true. So, as best as possible – be still, don’t worry, pray, and seek His face.

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Avengers: Endgame – A Youthworker’s Review

By Todd Pearage • New Hanover UMC • Gilbertsville, PA

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language. Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, and  Tom Holland

Well, it’s been a while since I have reviewed a film and I think it’s only fitting that the most entertaining movie I have seen in a long time is what brought us back together.

In full disclosure, I classify myself as a pseudo-comic book nerd. I can’t tell you who drew issue number 57 of the Amazing Spiderman, but I do know most of the characters and enjoy reading about their backstories. I have read a few comic books over the years and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I can remember walking out of the theater after seeing Iron Manand knew Marvel was onto something special. Now, ten years and 21 films later, it truly has been an amazing adventure.

So let’s talk a little bit about Endgame… without any spoilers! 

The first thing I’d love to talk about is the story. It’s smart, well-written, and very engaging. There are more than a handful of memorable scenes that caused the audience to erupt in cheers. Even with a runtime of over three hours, the pace and story keep moving from beginning to end. 

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Another strong feature of Endgameis the humor. I can’t even tell you how many times I laughed out loud. There are great sight gags and slapstick, but it’s the quick wit and perfect timing that makes the laughs flow freely.

There’s more than just humor in this film – there is an emotional element to it that surprised me. I wasn’t surprised that it was in there – it surprised me on how much it affected me. But that is the mark of a great story, right? 

Then there are the characters. And there are a LOT of characters. The MCU has flawlessly developed the characters over the last ten years so it is not surprising that many of them grab a hold of our hearts stronger than expected. Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself caring about them in an almost irrational way – but without regret. 

If you’re a fan of the Marvel films I’m willing to guarantee you’ll love Endgame. Like I said in the beginning, it was the most entertaining film I’ve seen in a long time.

WHAT YOUTH WORKERS/PARENTS SHOULD KNOW

There are no sex scenes or nudity in the film. 

There are a lot of “fighting scenes” but very little gore or blood. There is one scene where a character is beheaded and another when a few scenes where a character makes the ultimate sacrifice for others. 

There is some profanity in Endgame.  

The themes of family and sacrifice are woven throughout the film and here are a few questions to ask your student/child after the film:

  1. What can Endgame teach us about sacrifice?
  2. When was the last time you sacrificed something you wanted for someone else?
  3. Read Hebrews 13:16– Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. What are some ways you can live out this verse?
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3 Reasons I Am Grateful For The Marvel Films

By Sean McDowell • SeanMcDowell.org

My family went to see Endgame on opening night. Although it was not my favorite Marvel film, it was truly an epic ending to (arguably) the greatest movie franchise of all time. While people have been expressing their thanks through the Twitter hashtag #ThankYouAvengers, I wanted to write three specific reasons I am grateful for the Marvel films.

Reason #1: Memories with My Family.
My extended family has enjoyed the last decade of Marvel movies immensely. We watched all of them (and some many times), discussed them, debated them, and bought the merchandise. We eagerly waited for the next installment and regularly made predictions about how we thought it would go. My oldest son could barely sleep the night before Endgame! The Marvel films provided the same kind of joy for my kids that Star Wars did for my generation. The movies had some violence and mild language but were largely family friendly. Thanks for making family-friendly movies I could enjoy with with my kids!

Youth Leaders Only Members get tons of movie resources including clips and teaching sessions!

Reason #2: Making Movies That Are (largely) Non-Political.
Everything seems to be political today. Buying a chicken sandwich is considered a political action. Sporting events and commentary are intermixed with politics. While there were some political ideas woven into the Marvel films (such as immigration with Thor Ragnarok), the films are largely apolitical. It doesn’t feel like there is some hidden political or moral agenda, such as in the Supergirl TV series, which my atheist friend and I both stopped watching. Thank you Marvel for telling good stories without having an overt political agenda.

Reason #3: Offering A Grand Cultural Experience.
Our culture seems more fragmented than ever. What grand experiences, besides the Super Bowl, bonds people together? With smartphones and the Internet, people can live in their own isolated “worlds.” There used to be many more cultural experiences that bonded people across race, age, socioeconomic status, background, religion, and so on. Going to see Endgame felt like a rare experience in our time because it focused more on what we have in common than what divides us. Thanks for the conversations and common ground with strangers!

Much more could be said about why I appreciate the films. For instance, while the films had sympathetic villains, such as Thanos and Killmonger, the Marvel films largely recognized that there is genuine good and evil. I appreciate that Marvel told stories reflecting the moral nature of reality. 

Nevertheless, my main point is to personally express thanks to the actors, writers, producers, and thousands of others who helped make these films possible.

I have no idea where the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) will go from here. But my hope is that they will at least be family-friendly, largely non-political, and aim to provide a broad culture experience that transcends our differences. If Marvel follows this simple script, I am confident the movies can have as much, or possibly even more, success going forward. 

This article first appeared here.

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Middle School Ministry: Are You Up For The Challenge?

By Mike Calhoun • 3rd Cord Ministries • Durham, NC • MikeCalhoun.org

Okay, let’s just say it…teaching Middle School students can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. They are not intentionally trying to be difficult, there is just a lot going on in their world. Consider a few or the battles they face:

  • Fluctuating hormones 
  • Living in a constant state of “partial attention”
  • Being wired for fun and activity 
  • Vacillating between childhood and adulthood
  • Tiddering on the edge of being capable yet inexperienced

As if that were not enough, our society has actually told them and us they cannot understand difficult concepts. As a result, we often feel the need to oversimplify or water down Biblical content so they can “get it.” If we fall into this trap, we do them a grave disservice. 

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Middle School students are learning chemistry, grasping mathematical concepts and running their own YouTube businesses. This generation responds to a challenge and if they don’t find it at church, they will find it somewhere else.  

Middle School students do get it, are interested in and will listen to the Bible if we will put into practice a few appropriate insights. We can make the Word of God come alive for them if we:

  • Teach them from a platform of maturity. Remember, if you speak to them like children they will respond like children so speak to them appropriately. (Yes keep age appropriateness in mind)
  • Never water down the Message. Be creative with your presentation and use innovative methods. Keep in mind that students know if you are prepared. 
  • Remember their attention spans and keep the lesson to an appropriate length for the content being covered. It is always better to finish talking before your audience is done listening. 
  • Realize their propensity for loosing attention and therefore use media or group dynamics at appropriate times. 
  • Meet their need for a challenge by thinking through appropriate opportunities for applying what they learn.

So how have you met the challenge of communicating the Word to Middle School students in your ministry?

This article first appeared here.

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It’s GRAD Time! Tobymac, Lecrae, For KING & COUNTRY, NF, Lauren Daigle Have Music & Messages For The Class of 2019!

ConGRADulations! is the grad gift of choice of 25,000 youthworkers with 1.3 million grads receiving it over the past 2 decades. Tobymac, For KING & COUNTRY, Lecrae, NF, Lauren Daigle offer their songs and messages to help your grads make the biggest transition of their life. Here is an excerpt from the ConGRADulations! Class of 2019 Youthworker Guide.

It is the end of another beginning. Depending on whom you talk to, it is known as either “graduation”or “commencement.”The “graduation” crowd is mostly made up of the graduating Senior Class. They see this as the time that they finally come of age and bring to a close their childhood. At graduation, they tend to want to look back, to remember the fun things they did as children together.

Those who see this event as “commencement” tend to be parents, school officials, and youth leaders. We can see very clearly the future that looms just over the horizon for the Senior Class of 2019. We want our Grads to look ahead and make the wisest choices they can; choices that we adults know shape a person’s entire lifetime.

The surest way to see if a Senior is concentrating on “graduation” or “commencement” is to ask them a simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Upon hearing that question, some students will look a little sheepish, smile self-consciously, and innocently shrug their shoulders. Others will stammer out something that makes little sense, but sounds suspiciously like something their parents would like them to say.

No matter how much your Grads want to focus on the past, their minds unwillingly sneak past graduation and look into the misty fog of the future. They wonder if they are doing the right things with their life. They question the directions they are headed. They hope everything will fall into place and work out well. That’s the reason behind the ConGRADulations! Youthworker Guide resource.

The GRAD Youthworker Guide
Use this material to plan an event or series for your graduating Seniors that will encourage them to celebrate their past, to reinforce the core values of a Christian, and to provide them with some skills they will need in their near future. Through the three sessions and the Grads-only experiences you provide, your graduating Seniors will reaffirm their unique position, and resolutely determine to pursue the dream that God has for them.

Using the music and interactive elements of ConGRADulations to reinforce the Biblical message makes sense. Most youth leaders are aware that teenagers listen to a lot of music. From the time they wake up in the morning until they fall asleep at night, music is the soundtrack of their lives. Its impact is undeniable. By making use of this ConGRADulations resource you will be tying into the power of music in the lifestyles of your grads. By getting the ConGRADulations playlist onto their phones, you’ll be achieving the much-sought-after double-whammyeffect: they discover the truth during your sessions, and then that truth is reinforced every time they listen to the playlist.

Get The ConGRADulations! Resources. Give ConGRADulations! To Your Seniors!

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Disciples Worship and Worship Disciples

By Elias Dummer • Worship Leader/Artist • The City Harmonic • Nashville, Tennessee

There I was at the age of 19, on the phone with a mentor of mine, and he had a fantastic problem. I had worked with him as an intern through InterVarsity, helping to run Christian groups in local high schools. One of those schools was my own high school.

The group that I had started with two friends five years earlier was now meeting on the street corner.

According to a new school principal, the group was no longer allowed to pray together inside the school. So, they gathered to pray and worship together outside the school, in the cold Canadian winter.

The principal’s attempt to quietly shut down the group backfired. Only a dozen or so strong before, the group had exploded. Suddenly, at our high school, being a Christian was kind of punk rock, and kids flocked to the corner to learn about this love that was worth freezing for.

“I get it,” he said. “When faith is little more than some quaint ideas about the afterlife, it isn’t a problem to anyone. But when faith bleeds into other areas of our lives, when it impacts the way we live – that sort of love challenges the status quo.”

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As those kids gathered to worship on the street corner, they experienced genuine discipleship. They saw that their newfound love for God was more important than their comfort. God stopped being a set of abstract ideas, and became the object of their desire. Many of those kids would go on to pastor and plant churches. After all, the Great Commission is to make disciples. We’re called to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, right?

But, does it ever seem to you that conversations around discipleship focus mostly on believing things about God? Here’s the problem: that can be accomplished without love. Discipleship has to be about more than knowing things about God. Instead, we must recognize that worship is learning to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That’s why I’ve come to believe that disciples worship and worship disciples.

Throughout Scripture, people who see God respond in worship. If we’re seeing Jesus, and He is who He says He is, then worship is the only thing that makes sense! So, if we intend to be a disciple of Jesus, we’d sure better seek to see and know Him for who He is.

What’s more, the rhythms of worship – prayer, song, table, Scripture – offer an incredibly powerful way for us to grow in love. Worship is like a gym for the heart that trains us to love and desire God above all else.

Get Elias’ new album, music video, chord charts and complete youth group session!

In fact, studies show that singing together increases trust, goodwill, and altruism in participants. It is also said that “they that sing, pray twice.” At its best, corporate worship has the potential to engage and transform our whole selves, teaching us not to just know about, but love God.

Worship and discipleship are a beautifully reciprocal thing. If we’re serious about discipleship we must be serious about worship, and vice versa. One can’t exist without the other. As you prepare to lead worship, know that you’re not just singing songs. You’re living out the Great Commission as you help your people learn to love God with everything they’ve got – heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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The Evolution Of The Youth Room

Does the experience shape the room, or does the room shape the experience?

041416_Youth-Rooms

By Mandy Kyes / RPM Youth / Galt, California

(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 114 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

It was an open room with a boom box, a podium, and metal folding chairs that would always sting a little if you wore shorts. There wasn’t a projector, or pool table – but somehow, we were always able to have a great time.

What was this magical space that seemed to have very little but everything at the same time? It was my youth room growing up.

That was years ago when MTV actually played music videos. But times have changed, and so have our youth rooms. What makes a youth room “click” with students? Does the room shape the experience, or does the experience shape the room? Perhaps it’s both.

One of the biggest lessons I like to share with youth is that we don’t have to “get better” before we meet Jesus. The thing about Jesus is that we don’t have to meet Him “half way.” Rather, He meets us where we are, faults and all. Taking that concept to heart, it seems as if many of our youth rooms are made to do the same. Today’s youth are driven by technology. To meet students where they are, we oftentimes tweak little things over the years that add up over time. We fill youth rooms with video games systems, Apex Legends posters, loud music, and televisions.

Youth rooms have shifted to become more of a place of physical comfort as well as emotional comfort. Couches have replaced the metal folding chairs, bean bags have replaced the benches, and even a comfy rug is an acceptable place of seating (or laying). The question many youth workers and even church members ask is, “Does it really matter?” Does providing Super Smash Brothers, the latest FIFA game, or plush seating area equate to an improvement – or are we feeding into this illusion that the more you have, the better?

That’s not a question one can simply answer in general. The more important question is, “Does our youth room invite people in, and is the message of Christ being delivered?” Being able to answer, “Yes” to both parts of that question is the biggest thing. Youth rooms will always be changing, but the part that should never change is that Jesus is always at the heart of it all. It may seem like a “Switzerland” answer, but it’s true. Is the room facilitating authentic relationships among youth, or is it hindering them from interacting? Do they feel safe? Are they comfortable physically, yet challenged spiritually? These are all individualized questions that will be different for each group.

What I do know is that some youth rooms still have those metal chairs, and students still meet in small rooms without projectors and/or sound systems, but guess what—they still feel that they have it all. Some of my most treasured memories of my spiritual walk were made in that small southern church where I learned it’s not what you have but who you have that matters.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

So, which is it? Does the experience shape the room, or does the room shape the experience? It’s both and neither at the same time. Just make sure the walls of the room don’t replace the walls of the heart.

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The Evil Social Media

…Or Is It?

By Doug Ranck • Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, California

“Nobody talks face-to-face anymore. It’s easier just to comment on Instagram.”

“I don’t do social media. It takes too much time and it is relationally worthless.”

“Give me the good ole’ phone any day. And, by the way, I still have a
flip phone.”

Full disclosure: I am a 60-year-old youth pastor who started in ministry before there were answering machines. I actually hand wrote letters to kids or their parents. I used a Dict-a-Phone (yeah, go “Google” it) for my secretary to type the letters. I called a student’s house and hoped somebody would eventually answer. I wasn’t afraid to use tin cans with strings — okay, not really. 

Now some of my peers are those who sip coffee and complain about the destructive forces of social media and smart phones. They choose to see all that is wrong in the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. world. If one wants to find the downside of these mediums, it can readily be found and one would expect my generation to be looking for it. 

Interestingly enough I am connecting with younger youth leaders who also subscribe to the same philosophy. They call out the evils of the social media world and are proud of their “permanent fast” from it.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Much of what is wrong with the social media neighborhood I can appreciate. There are some broken pieces, limitations, and challenges. I freely acknowledge them. Youth and adults get obsessed with their smartphones buzzing with notifications about media updates. Trying to lock eyes with an entire group for an engaging discussion is almost always impacted by someone checking a device. Many are infected by the dreaded condition of FOMO (fear of missing out).

However, I declare my love for social media and all the advantages it gives me in pastoring – yes I said, “pastoring” – youth and their families. Taking one step further, it seems those who completely opt out of these formats are actually isolating themselves and cutting off additional connections they could be having. 

Here are a few advantages I have identified and a “game plan” toward developing your social media ministry.

Advantages

Entering the social media world strategically gives me a little peek into the life of a teenager and even their parents. There are times I find out more things than I want to know, and there are times I see great things I never would have known. It’s only a peek, but a helpful one. 

We gain a few more access points of communication for encouragement and affirmation. I still write post cards, I text, I email, I even call – but social media gives me another way to connect and more talking points for deeper conversation.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Youth and parents can easily communicate with me. A good shepherd knows his or her flock. I have worked hard to learn the best connecting points for youth and their parents. The spectrum of these points is vast – everything from voice-to-voice calls to Facebook messaging to Twitter DM’ing to… you get it. 

Youth and parents can know more about my life. While I post a lot of ministry stuff, I also occasionally add appropriate posts about my personal life so youth and parents can take a peek into my life, without overly self-promoting (that’s a whole other discussion!). People like to know we are human too. 

Game Plan

Choose a few strategic media platforms. According to studies, youth seem to be leaving Facebook. So what? I still have some on there and their parents/grandparents are all over it. I’m not leaving. I also like Twitter and Instagram. Some leaders are on Snapchat or Vine. 

Affirm birthdays, accomplishments, etc. When you see something good, acknowledge it both on media and in person. Youth and parents love it that you are taking note. 

Don’t be “one of those people.” You know what I’m talking about: the ones who over-post, constantly invite you to something, want to engage you in games, or write the “I-want-to-see-who-reading-this-post” post. Ugh!

Post above reproach. You have opinions about hot topics or politics. Keep them to conversations with real people where you can see each other and understand. Your rants and radical political posts may get a lot of comments but they are also alienating those to whom God has called you to care. Be a listener first and one who loves all of God’s people, unconditionally. 

Balance media and face. I ran into one lady, even older than me, who said her high school reunion had the highest attendance ever. Why? Many had connected on social media. Your presence on the media makes the face-to-face connections even more meaningful.

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Okay, You Have An iPad. Now What?

By Tom Hammel • SoCal Network Assemblies of God • Irvine, California

If you are anything like me, you love technology! But, figuring out how to make it work beyond watching Netflix and playing Candy Crush can sometimes be a bit perplexing. So, my mission is to figure out how to make technology serve me! Here are just a few of the ways I use my iPad to help streamline and hopefully be more effective in youth ministry.

Keep Your Student Database Up To The Minute

I have found an amazing tool called MinHub Youth App. There are so many cool features that are useful, but a few of my favorites are:

Cost – Unless you want to sync your MinHub database across several devices (like your leaders’ phones), there are no ongoing subscription fees, (which is important for the youth ministry budget!) 

Fun – While it takes a bit of time for the initial set up, I love the “selfie” check-in process they have set up for students. The moment something is fun for kids to do they will be more consistent in doing it. 

Messaging – You can send something out to your whole database, or just to your leaders, or however you want to group your people. 

I know that there are other tools out there, but this is a simple and economical one that syncs to Dropbox so you can have multiple devices running the same database.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Write And Deliver Your Talk From Your iPad, Complete With Slideshow

This is a huge part of what we do as youth pastors, and there are lots of options for displaying your presentations with Keynote, PowerPoint, or ProPresenter.

Using JUST your iPad and the built-in Pages app, you can build an efficient and simple collection of sermon notes. Start with the page formatting. I like to set the margins to 0.12” on both sides and 0.49” for the top and bottom – which fills the entire page with the notes. Then, use a large font size (I use 23) and build your sermon with color coding for Scriptures, quotes, comments, announcements, and what your audience will see on the screens. Then export that document as a PDF into iBooks so that when you are presenting, you have a simple page-by-page view. Finally, iBooks keeps an archive on my bookshelf in case I need to, um… be ready in season and out! 

Stay on Time

Some time ago I found a simple but powerful tool to help me stay within my time targets, an application called Presentation Clock. It gives you the capabilities of setting whatever time length you want and the countdown timer changes colors at intervals of your choosing, which I have used for transitions or as ques to remind me where I should be in my talk/message to keep me on pace. 

And Finally, Social Media

Even in a world full of communication and connection, announcements still can’t seem to make it home! Social Media, with all of its trappings, can be a very powerful tool. You can connect with parents, leaders, students, and the list goes on and on. I recommend finding some apps that will help you consolidate all of the Social Media options that are out there. I love the app Hootsuite. They have different paid versions to accommodate your needs and budget. They support all of the major feeds right in one spot –which is invaluable when you need to remind parents to send their students with that camp deposit, or those forms are due, or those moments when band practice is canceled.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and article

These are just a couple of simple ways that I have used this amazing tool to be more effective at what I do. There are so many other things you could do – like, devotionals, study tools, worship set list, and many more!

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