Helping youth thrive

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It’s not often that you encounter people with the passion for youth of Peter Benson. His whole TED Talk titled ‘How youth thrive’ shows his love for young people and it encouraged me.

Peter Benson is not a youth pastor however; he’s a psychologist who does research amongst young people on their ‘spark’. By ‘spark’ he means a skill, a cause or a quality that makes people thrive, that makes them happy and whole.

In his talk, he shares some interesting statistics. Right now, there are 80 million young people aged 8-18 in the US. But only 25% of these 80 million are on a pathway to human thriving (meaning being happy, connected, kind, contributing, etc.) and the rest has fallen behind. They are lost, confused, medicated and alone. Those statistics should give anyone involved in youth work food for thought. [Read more…]

Lady Gaga’s prayer

Lady-Gaga

This YouTube video of Lady Gaga praying is a fascinating study in contrasts. Here is this superstar, dressed in outrageous and sexy costumes and in the voice over she’s praying. Earnestly praying.

At first, I thought of making a Bible study using this video, but I’m not sure I’d actually want students to watch this. Aside from the fact that she’s in various stages of being barely dressed, the prayer itself is confusing to say the least. Lady Gaga is praying to God (‘Dear Lord’) and there’s gratefulness and a focus on others, but there are also puzzling requests.

[Read more…]

Bullying brings status: an anti-bullying policy for youth ministry

bullying

Bullying is gaining more and more attention from researchers, school, parents, lawmakers and others and rightly so. In the last few years, there have been several heartbreaking stories of the effects of bullying and it’s a serious problem we need to address as youth leaders as well.

We can’t pretend bullying doesn’t happen in youth ministry. I should know, I left the teen ministry of my own church as a teen because I was bullied and the leaders did little or nothing to stop it. I still attended my ‘home church’, but I was involved in another church’s youth ministry (one that was way less radical in its message I might add!) because I was accepted there and felt safe.

We need to stop any and all bullying in our youth ministries. But what does an affective anti-bullying policy look like?

[Read more…]

More on arousal addiction: the resurrection of guys

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More and more research is being done into the effects of heavy internet use and especially internet porn. And all that research is showing how devastating the effects of internet porn are on guys.

Last week I wrote a post about a TED video on ‘The demise of guys’, in which psychologist Pillip Zimbardo talked about the phenomenon of ‘arousal addiction’. Today I came across another TED talk called ‘The great porn experiment’ that offers more proof for what Zimbardo claimed. [Read more…]

A powerful story of pain overcome

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Jillian Jensen can sing, that’s for sure. The contestant in the X-factor’s audition has a lot of YouTube videos already in which she sings covers from all kinds of songs. But in her X-factor audition, she showed something that made each and every person in that room cry, including Simon Cowell and that’s saying something.

She showed her pain.

In the interview, Jillian connects with singer Demi Lovato and shares that she’s been bullied severely as well. When she talks about this, her pain is so real and so on the surface, that everyone becomes quiet. This is not show, this is real.

Real pain.

And then she sings her song and it’s so emotional, so full of that pain. “It’s okay not to be okay” she sings and you know she’s been there. She hasn’t been okay. [Read more…]

The demise of guys

guy gaming

I came across this challenging and very short TED-talk called ‘The demise of guys’. In it, psychologist Philip Zimbardo shares some concerning statistics on what he calls the demise of guys:

  • boys are 30% more likely to drop out of school than girls;
  • girls outperform boys on every level from elementary school to graduate school;
  • boys are less likely to get Bachelor (44% vs 56%) and graduate degrees (45% vs 55%)
  • boys make up 2/3 of all special eds students
  • boys are 5 times more likely to have ADHD

In short: guys are falling behind girls academically and socially and statistics prove it. Zimbardo made an interesting observation about the social skills of guys as well when he described their social awkwardness:

“They don’t know the language of face contact: the verbal and non verbal rules that enable you to talk comfortably to somebody else…” [Read more…]

Why is it so hard for parents to understand their teenagers?

teen girls

I think it’s one of the most heard complaints amongst teenagers: my parents don’t understand me. And in all fairness: quite a few teens do have a legitimate gripe here. It is very hard for parents these days to really understand their teens. But why is that? Let’s look at a few causes and at what you can do as a youth worker.

1. Parents have little time

There used to be a time when one parent was home (usually the mom) when teens came home from school, but in most western countries that time is long gone. Two working parents has become the norm and as a consequence, there’s not much time left for parents to spend with their teens.

The exact statistics differ, but I heard Marko quote that the average American dad spends 15 minutes a week with his teens, 5 minutes of which without the tv on. Walt Mueller in his book Youth Culture 101 quotes research which indicated that 46% of high school students wished to spend more time with their family.

[Read more…]

What you can do about the challenge of postmodernism

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This post is part of a series on the challenges of postmodern youth ministry. When we as Christians talk about postmodernism, most of the time it’s not positive. We rail against youth who won’t grow up, against changed standards of truth or individualistic morals. We complain about the sexual undertone of commercials, about the dangers of social media and about this generation of young people who seem lazy, self-centered and immature.

But what do we do about it? Do we just complain or do we stand up and do something about it? What specific actions do we take to counter the negative effects of postmodernism and to bolster the positive ones?

Let’s be real here. First of all, postmodernism is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon so it’s a reality we have to face. Second, it’s not all bad. Postmodernism offers some real openings for mission-oriented living (or incarnational living as some call it) for instance. Both are really good reasons to change our mindset and see postmodernism as a challenge, not something negative we need to stay away from. [Read more…]

Challenges of postmodern youth ministry: reaching the unchurched

Peer friendship evangelism, long the 'golden standard' in youth evangelism, is under pressure from the effects of postmodernism.

We’re doing a series on Postmodern Youth Ministry this week and the challenges it brings. After a brief discussion of what postmodernism is exactly we’ve examined the meaning of truth in postmodernism and how we can communicate the Truth to a generation that doesn’t believe in absolute truths. Today we want to study another challenge postmodernism brings us: the issue of reaching the unchurched.

Friendship evangelism under attack

Friendship evangelism by peers has been the  ‘golden standard’ in evangelism for the last decade or so, but it’s being challenged by the effects of postmodern culture:

  • Church attendance is declining, making the number of young Christians smaller and smaller. That’s an even bigger problem if you realize this generation of young people is the single biggest generation ever (1). That leaves us with very few Christian young people to reach a huge mass of unchurched youth.
  • Those young people that do still come to church don’t always adhere to ‘orthodox Christianity’ (for lack of a batter word), but often have a faith that isn’t exclusively Christian or exclusively focused on Christ (see the discussion on Moral Therapeutic Deism in the post What is postmodernism). That makes them less than suitable for spreading the good news, since they haven’t exactly found that good news themselves.
  • A third aspect is the effect of extended adolescence, which results in young people postponing becoming an adult with the accompanying responsibilities. Evangelism, reaching your peers, that sounds like a very adult and mature thing to do for many young people and often they see it as something they’ll ‘do later in life’. Also, they feel like they’re not ready to share their faith yet, like they’re too young.
  • The basis of friendship evangelism (namely spiritual conversations with your friends in which you slowly discussed Christianity) is threatened by how postmodernism views truth and religion and by the extreme tolerance it brings. Striking up a spiritual conversation won’t be a problem, but proposing Christianity as the single only ‘right’ religion, that’s not something that runs contrary to modern culture.
  • Another objective of friendship evangelism was often for young people to invite their friends to a youth group activity or event. That particular style may no longer fit this postmodern generation, who is far more focused on community, relationships, experiences and authenticity.

Peer friendship evangelism, long the 'golden standard' in youth evangelism, is under pressure from the effects of postmodernism.

[Read more…]

Challenges of postmodern youth ministry: what is the truth?

The view of truth as something personal and subjective has also impacted the morals of youth. They are hesitant to condemn certain behavior like underage drinking because they feelk they have no right to judge, that everyone should decide for themselves what is right.

We’re looking at effects of postmodern thinking in youth ministry this week and after an overview of what postmodernism is exactly, we’re discussing three challenges that we face in postmodern youth ministry. Today we’ll discuss the concept of truth.

Absolute truth vs subjective truth

One of the biggest challenges postmodernism brings us is the conviction that there are no objective, absolute truths. Postmodernism teaches that truth is personal and subjective, that what works for you is the truth. There is no direct relation anymore between truth and reality and as a consequence, truth has become very pragmatic and flexible.

This of course has big implications for how young people view God, Jesus, Christianity or religion in general. Religion is considered a personal preference, not an objective truth. Declaring religious statements as absolute truth (like stating that Jesus is the only way to God), is often seen as fundamentalist, intolerant and in many ways simply rude, because it doesn’t respect people who feel differently.

The view of truth as something personal and subjective has also impacted the morals of youth. They are hesitant to condemn certain behavior like underage drinking because they feel they have no right to judge, that everyone should decide for themselves what is right.

[Read more…]