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One of the most frequent concerns I hear from youth workers regarding the influence of today’s youth culture, are concerns related to the growing involvement of kids and families in youth sports. These days families are spending more time and more money on youth sports, sometimes pulling kids out of opportunities for spiritual growth. Even those of…
 
You might remember Kanye West’s 2007 chart-topping single, “Stronger.” In the song West quotes the famous line from Fredrich Nietzsche, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” According to the Bible, that’s true. But in today’s world, we are told that the emerging generations increasingly believe the opposite, that what doesn’t kill you ma…
 
On the day I became a father, everything changed. And then, on the day almost eight years ago when I became a grandfather, everything changed again. When I became a father, I earnestly prayed for my kids as I knew they were growing up in a world markedly different from the world that I grew up in. Now, as a grandfather, my prayers have increased as…
 
People have always had questions, doubts, and objections to the Christian faith. Kids growing up in today’s youth culture are no exception. As they marinate in a cultural soup that encourages them to rely on their own intuition rather than biblical authority, the challenges to embracing a lifetime of following Jesus are very real. And I fear that t…
 
I recently went back and read through the first book I wrote way back in 1988, Ministry To Families With Teenagers. I had written these words: “Moral and faith development are influenced first and foremost by the family. Inevitably, those clumsy 12-year-olds in the middle school youth group blossom into mature adults who are strikingly like their p…
 
The great theologian J.I. Packer once said, “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. How? Well, I would try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible?” As I read Packer’s words, I got to thinking about youth workers. Our primary calling is to lead kids to faithfully follow Jesu…
 
Artificial intelligence is everywhere. Its managing our social media feeds, the devices in our homes, our online shopping, the way we get our news. . . really, the way we live each and every day. It’s influencing all of us, including our children and teens, who are destined to live with more and more artificial intelligence as the years pass. In hi…
 
The sexual revolution of the 1960s was about anything and everything in opposition to a biblical sexual ethic. A response from the church was necessary, as the cultural narrative was undoing God’s order and design for his good gift of sex. Many of us responded with what’s known now as the purity movement as we ministered to kids in the 1980s and 90…
 
If you’ve ever studied or even just dabbled in the social sciences, you’ve probably heard the German word Zeitgeist. Translated into English, the term Zeitgeist means the spirit of the times. To know the zeitgeist is to know the widely-held beliefs that shape behaviors. As Christians, we want to stay in touch with the times as we seek to understand…
 
Yogi Berra is not only known for having one of the greatest baseball names ever, but for uttering some amazingly creative and funny things. After experiencing the cultural upheaval of the last twelve months, I was reminded of what Berra said after watching his teammates Micky Mantle and Roger Maris hit back to back home runs: It’s déjà vu all over …
 
Frederick Douglas once said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” And that famous philosopher, Dr. Suess once gave this directive for a flourishing life: “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” One of the greatest gifts God has given to us is the ability to read. But in today’s world, constraint…
 
For many if not most of us, Superheroes played a significant role in our childhood. It was Adam West’s TV portrayal of Batman that I remember from my elementary school years. Since then, Superheroes, comic books, and an almost endless stream of superhero films have played a significant role in pop culture, not just for kids, but for adults as well.…
 
One of main developmental tasks of the adolescent stage is the journey to forming one’s identity. In today’s world, some of the most compelling, dangerous, misdirected cultural messages are leading kids down wrong paths as they look for answers to the question, Who am I? Dr. Carl Trueman has written a great new book that helps us understand and add…
 
As Christian parents and youth workers, our greatest desire for our kids should be to see them come to know and serve Jesus Christ in every nook and cranny of their lives. For those of us committed to this path for our kids it is discouraging when kids grow up to serve the cultural script for life rather than going deeper in their faith. I’ve alway…
 
Abuse makes it’s ugly presence felt in all kinds of ways and places. Fortunately, the curtain if being pulled back to expose the secretive and destructive world of abuse in our culture. Alarmingly, there has been a secretive world of abuse in the church. And, it’s a good thing that this is being exposed as well. What forms does power take? How is p…
 
When I was engaged in full-time local church youth ministry, it was obvious to me that my greatest youth ministry asset was my volunteers. They were nothing short of awesome. One of the mistakes we make in today’s youth ministry world is believing that the best youth workers are those who do it full-time with large budgets and lots of kids. That’s …
 
On my shelf sits a Bible concordance that was given to me as a Christmas gift by my parents back when I was twenty years old and getting ready to embark on a lifetime of youth ministry. I recently opened it up and saw the words of Proverbs 19:20 that my mom had written inside the front cover. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may g…
 
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for his disciples in all times and all places, that we would be in, but not of the world. He knew that in our sinfulness, we would be prone to forsaking our duty to be a counter-cultural presence in the world, by allowing the culture to establish it’s presence in the church. In today’s world, the cu…
 
Recent research tells us that about half of our eleven to twenty-one year old girls regularly alter their photos to enhance their appearance online in order to find acceptance. Researchers also tell us that our girls are much more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their male peers. What are cultural forces that are shaping and even m…
 
I once heard someone say that judging from how Christians choose to live these days, the ten commandments God gave to Moses should be relabeled as the 10 suggestions. That’s certainly justified when it comes to the fourth commandment which tells us to remember and keep a Sabbath. Who does that anymore? Our kids have no idea what is means to Sabbath…
 
Have you seen the comical T-Shirt based on the 1985 movie Back To The Future? It depicts the absent-minded Doc instructing young Marty McFly, “Whatever you do Marty, don’t go to 2020!” This has been a very strange year. All of us have had multiple challenges to navigate. In the midst of it all, youth culture marches on as does our responsibility to…
 
Welcome to Youth Culture Matters, a podcast from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. We’re taking a short break from recording new episodes, so for the next few weeks of summer we’ll be highlighting episodes from our archive. Today's episode is a discussion about intergenerational prayer and the "Pray For Me" campaign. Listen in to a replay …
 
Welcome to Youth Culture Matters, a podcast from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. We’re taking a short break from recording new episodes, so for the next few weeks of summer we’ll be highlighting episodes from our archive. Today's episode is an encouraging conversation with Pastor Scotty Smith. Listen in to a replay of Episode 29: "Prayer…
 
Welcome to Youth Culture Matters, a podcast from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. We’re taking a short break from recording new episodes, so for the next few weeks of summer we’ll be highlighting episodes from our archive. Today's episode is a look back at a discussion with Dr. Virginia Ward on the topic of racial inequality and youth min…
 
Welcome to Youth Culture Matters, a podcast from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. We’re taking a short break from recording new episodes, so for the next few weeks of summer we’ll be highlighting episodes from our archive. Today’s episode begins with some fun banter about baseball, appropriate with the 2020 season about to get underway, a…
 
Earlier this week I read this short and gut-wrenching Facebook post from a friend: Today she would have turned 20. All that we wonder and all the ache that we feel melding into one vast teardrop. It’s saltiness stinging the souls and staining the pages of the lives of those she left behind. My friends teenage daughter took her own life a few years …
 
I wonder how history will remember the first half of 2020? We would all agree that so far, one of the biggest stories centers on the Coronavirus pandemic, and our culture’s efforts to reckon major changes to everyday life. One aspect of our retreat from physical presence has been a movement into engaging with others in digital space, for everything…
 
If all goes as planned, our nation should continue to open up over the coming weeks and months. We’ve been removed from being physically present at our jobs, our schools, our churches, and our familiar social settings. We all are longing to return to a more normal coronavirus-free life. One big question mark remains regarding schooling when the sum…
 
I’m guessing that for all of us, these last few weeks have been filled with the hopeful expectation that we will soon be coming out of our quarantines and getting back to life as normal. For those of us in youth ministry, we can’t wait to once again meet face to face with our kids. As we get ready to head back, we can’t forget the many lessons we’v…
 
We’re all looking forward to the day when the stay at home order is lifted and the country is opened again. The Coronavirus pandemic has changed everything in our lives, including the way that we do youth ministry. As the pandemic has unfolded, more and more youth workers are dialoguing on what youth ministry will look like when this is all over. W…
 
The Coronavirus quarantine has changed just about everything in our lives. That’s certainly true for our kids as well. While they have already been spending several hours a day engaged with their smartphones, the stay-at-home order and school shut-downs have given them more time to fill with their eyes on their screens. One of the dangers is that t…
 
Over the years I’ve learned that difficulty and suffering serve us in positive ways when they peel away the layers of distraction that keep us from thinking about the things that really matter. Suffering and difficulty are great teachers. Dr. Carl Trueman believes that our current pandemic is doing us a favor by offering us a window into realizing …
 
As we navigate the unfolding realities of the COVID-19 epidemic, many are raising legitimate concerns about how well our kids and their families are dealing with the associated fears and anxieties. Mental health experts are developing models regarding mental health curves once this crisis is over. Youth workers and parents are called and positioned…
 
All of us find ourselves navigating some difficult and trying times. The current global health crisis has led to lots of soul-searching as we think about an uncertain future. No doubt, our anxiety levels are high. For the Christian, understanding and handling anxiety has to happen from the perspective of the biblical narrative as opposed to the cul…
 
We would agree that the past few weeks have been like none we’ve ever experienced before. The Coronavirus pandemic is changing everything about how we live. And while the coronavirus is a problem, it has also created huge youth ministry opportunities that we can’t miss. The fact that our kids are living in fear, anxiety, and uncertainty means that …
 
As youth workers, it is our high calling and high privilege to teach, speak, and preach God’s word to our students. With the Psalmist, we know that God’s Word is a lamp for the feet of our students and a light on their path as they navigate a difficult and confusing world. As teachers, speakers, and preachers who share God’s word from up front, in …
 
Whether you find yourself out in public, or in the privacy of your own home, chances are that when you are in the presence of others, many of them have their eyes focused on their smartphone screens. Our lives are so focused on our phones that we are seeing the breakdown of relationships, attention spans, and critical thinking. What would happen if…
 
These days, I’m hearing fewer and fewer pastors, school-teachers, and youth workers praising parents for doing a great job with their kids. And more and more I’m reading research that laments the loss of absolutes, the lack of discipline, and increase in entitlement, and the decline in mental health among our children and teens. One of the clear ca…
 
Kids and adults alike have been hammered with the idea that we are to seize the day. Sadly, how we understand and live out carpe diem is that we live in the moment, with little regard for the past and not much thought at all about the future. Our homes and youth ministries should be places where this notion is challenged, as we endeavor to become a…
 
Because all of us have been created by God and given the good gift of our gender and sexuality, we all live out what can be called our personal sex story. How we choose to live out our gender and sexuality hinges on what larger narrative we choose for our lives. In today’s world, the culture tells us that we should live within a narrative focused o…
 
If there’s been a rising chorus of lament over young people in the church, it’s been the rate at which young people are graduating from high school and leaving the church. For several years now, research projects have identified this post high school exodus as a growing concern. But in their recently released book, David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock s…
 
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Christian parents and youth workers over the years, it’s that they want the best for their kids. One area where many of us have struggled to teach God’s best is in the area of God’s grand and glorious gift of sex and sexuality. That struggle has played out in the church in a variety of ways, including the fac…
 
Do you remember the old 1981 song from the band Loverboy? "Everybody’s working for the weekend" is how the familiar chorus goes. If you think about it, that chorus really captures how we’ve come to think about and engage in work. In today’s world, work is functionally seen as drudgery, or even as an unpleasant activity that’s necessary for no other…
 
If you’ve been watching NFL games this fall, you’ve no doubt noticed the amount of attention being paid to hits on defenseless players, helmet-to-helmet tackles, and dangerous blows to the head. It seems like a growing number of fines and suspensions are being dished out. This is all part of our growing knowledge regarding the dangers of sub-concus…
 
In recent weeks, the news cycle has been filled with conversations about forgiveness. These conversations were started when the 18 year old brother of Botham Jean forgave the woman who killed his brother, convicted policewoman Amber Guyger and embraced her in the courtroom. What is forgiveness? And how and when should we forgive? Here in our local …
 
If you attended church this week, you no doubt sang. If you are running a youth group, you most likely get your students singing. And maybe your time at home or in the car is time spent listening to what is called worship music. In recent years, there have been mounting debates about what music is the best worship music. Are the new songs too shall…
 
The summer of 2019 has come to an end. If you’re like most, you were able to take some time off and enjoy a vacation. But youth culture didn’t take a break over the summer. What are some of the summer youth culture trends we should be aware of, track , and respond to? Do any of these developments offer us insights into our kids, what they believe, …
 
When it comes to our calling to love God and love neighbor, one of the most heated discussions taking place in the culture at large and in the church these days is how to fulfill this calling in response to the LGBTQ issue. If you’re like me, you wonder about how to navigate these unfolding realities in our homes, our youth groups, and our relation…
 
Since the advent of YouTube, I’ve met several teenagers who are engaging in self-promotion in order to develop their celebrity-presence and build a growing following. In recent months, there’s been growing conversation about the potential pitfalls related to pastors and youth workers who self-promote and pursue celebrity status. What is self-promot…
 
When was the last time that you pondered, if ever, the architecture and layout of your church building or youth room? And, does architecture and layout even matter? Should our spaces be purely utilitarian in nature? Or, should they serve an even greater purpose? Winston Churchill once said, “First we shape our buildings, and then our buildings shap…
 
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