Youth Specialties Blog

Learning to Think Like an Adolescent

By YS on February 16 2009 | 2 Comments

Youth workers are typically viewed as the experts of adolescence in their local ministries. With good reason, too. Most adults do their best to forget how they thought and acted in middle and high school. Yet youth workers are special! While most adults flee from a group of teenagers youth workers enjoy being around them and want to know more. But how do you maintain that edge? When I first started in youth ministry it was easy. At 21 I was more adolescent than adult. But now that I'm in my 30s and identifying with students has become something I need to work at. In some areas, teachers are taking continuing education classes, which reminds them of the daily frustrations of writing papers and homework. That's a fun concept, I just wish they would take it a step further and spend a week as a student in their school every couple of years. Here are some strategies I've used to keep my mind wrapped around what it means to be an adolescent.
  • Get on campus. I've always been fortunate to have principals allow me on campus for lunch. Sitting with students at lunch is always an excellent way to observe what's going on in their minds. But if that's not possible, go to sporting events, plays, concerts, and other events. Remember that the good stuff at those events isn't the event, it's what happens afterward in the hallway.
  • Build soft time at youth group. I've learned to love that time before and after youth group where I can just engage in conversations with my students. I always learn about a band or a YouTube video or an episode of a TV show that I have to watch as homework!
  • Get on another campus. This has been a secret weapon of mine for a long time! I'll go to another high schools basketball or football game once per year purely to observe student behavior. By just watching, I always notice something I've never noticed before.
  • Read online. There is tons of research being done on adolescent culture, trends, and physical/mental development.
Tell us how you keep up. Here are a couple of early replies I got when I asked this on Twitter. jmgreenhill ask kids what's up....my current question...How can vampires be good? alatulippe I subscribe to rolling stone and alternative press. It really does help and that way I don't have to watch MTV :-] DougRanck Asking our youth lots of questions,living in the same house with teenagers (my own kids),keeping my eyes open for articles/studies. jon_mciver be in kids lives! Keeps you young and up to date!

By YS on February 16 2009 | 2 Comments


25 Random Things About God

By YS on February 13 2009 | 2 Comments

The 25 Things meme has completely taken over Facebook in the last 3 weeks. I've got a running theory about all of the fossil fuels used to make the servers at Facebook process all of the 25 things tagging will likely result in a $.50 spike in gas prices. In fact, our friends over at The Wittenburg Door just posted a humorous list of random things about God. Here are my favorites:
5. TODAY'S TO DO LIST: Start interfaith dialogue (always forgetting this), clean up environment, take out that terrorist training camp at 34 degrees 33'56.80 N 73 degrees 56'31.25 E. 9. My secret fear is that my solution to the problem of evil won't stand up to peer review. 11. Prosperity preachers may be surprised that I spend most of my time talking to chaiwalla slumdogs. 20. I'm tired of this. So I'm reversing the arrow of time, recalling all the world's "Random Things" postings, renaming them "20 Random Things" and chopping off the last five items to conform to what is now my new template. You'll never know the difference. (Most people don't realize it, but I do this sort of thing all the time).
Check out the list for yourself and let me know which are your favorites.

By YS on February 13 2009 | 2 Comments


Articles we’re reading for February 5th through February 6th

By YS on February 09 2009 | 12 Comments

Fresh research for February 5th through February 6th: to keep you informed on all the latest in youth culture.

By YS on February 09 2009 | 12 Comments


Jeremy Zach

By YS on February 09 2009 | 2 Comments

Name: Jeremy Zach
Current residence: Laguna Beach, California
On the web: http://www.smalltownyouthpastor.com" target="_blank">smalltownyouthpastor.com
Grew up in: Apple Valley, Minnesota
Where did you go to college? I attended the University of Arizona because of their academics……not parties. At the U of A, I was a USAF ROTC cadet. Every morning I would say: “Cadet Zach reports in as order, SIR.”  God unexpectedly spoke to me to leave Arizona.  I packed up my bags and head home. I finished up at the Uof MN-Twin Cities and studied Communications.  Go Gophers! Did you go to youth group as a teenager? Kind of. I first started going to youth group my sophomore year in high because the cute girls and popular people were there. Since both the cute girls and popular people didn’t want to talk to me, I started talking to God and then some crazy Godly things started happening in me.  Next thing I know… I am a church kid not because my parents made me, but because I desired to go. How long have you been in youth ministry? I have been addicted to professional youth ministry for about 5 years, now. How did you first get involved in youth ministry? By accident.  During college, I was attending a church for a while and I wanted to serve and get involved.  So I volunteered for the Usher team.  I loved it, but I wanted more.  So I checked out the youth ministry department and well…. let’s just say I believe in love at first sight.  Never in my life was I affirmed for my weirdness, randomness, craziness, and extremeness. Who do you look up to in ministry? I first look up to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  Second, I look up to Mike Yaconelli, Andy Stanley, NT Wright, Chap Clark, Kara Powell, my mom, Kendra Dean, Greg Boyd, and Ben Witherington.  I also have a life size poster of Adam McLane and Mark Oestreicher hanging in my bedroom.  My wife doesn’t like it in our bedroom, but it really accents our bedroom decorations and colors.  [Adam: We're going to need video evidence of that for the YS Podcast....] What is the last book you read? Ronald Reagan The Great Communicator, Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries, Tribes by Seth Godin, and I am finishing up NT Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. What has you excited about working with your group right now? My students are smart and willing to throw down all while being serious, silly, and sarcastic. Seriously, if my high school students showed up to youth group and I said okay we are going to look at the council of Carthage (in AD 397) conclusions’ about the New Testament canon.  Then, after our study we sat in silence for 25 minutes praying, my students would be somewhat amped. I am excited that my students are always asking hard questions and not believing and accepting everything I teach them.  It seems like almost every week I am getting questions that stump me.  Last week a jr high student asked me:  “Is there any evidence that animals participate in homosexuality and if there is, is it okay?”  By the way, if any of you have an answer to that question, I would love to hear your thoughts. My students are literally doing what 1 Thess 5.21 (NIV) states:  “Test everything.  Hold on to the good.” And that makes me smile because at some level my students are owning what they are believing and becoming an individual in the Kingdom of God. What are some challenges you face right now? First, I have a few students who are ratifying the teachings of Jesus with “other types” of spiritual teachings.  My students are picking and choosing what part’s of Jesus’ teachings to believe and what parts to dismiss.  For example, I have a few students who think following Jesus allows them to believe in reincarnation.  Others have really resonated with teachings of transcendentalism.  The problem is:  if you encourage them to take ownership of their Christian faith some land outside of the fundamental teachings of Christ. Second, my students are hurting, emotionally.  Life has beaten them up a bit and they don’t know how to handle the intense pain.  It seems the deeper you go, theologically and emotionally, the more students begin to open up and lean into their darkness; all while screaming to God to help, rescue, and to heal them.  I need to remember that I am not a professional psychologist.  I am a youth worker, which means I can only pray with them and lead them through the Scriptures. What's one thing you think you do well that other people could learn from? Well besides my hairstyle and retro Ray Ban sunglasses, I somehow know how to generate and disarm a heated youth group discussion.  I can create a pretty good controversial and interactive youth group discussion and I have the ability to direct and maneuver in and through the tension and awkwardness. What's a word or phrase your youth group would use to describe you? The three words I get a lot:  Unpredictable, random, and passionate.

By YS on February 09 2009 | 2 Comments


Valentines Sale

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments

We've Been Hit By Cupid's Arrow-- And it Kind of Hurt

We were walking down the street when out of nowhere some little dude in a diaper shoots us with an arrow - right in our backsides! That got us thinking. It's that time of year and teaching stuff about relationships can be, well, a pain in your backside.

So, from now until Feb. 12th take 30% OFF the retail price of the following relationship titles:

Guys

Girls

Wisdom On... Friends, Dating, & Relationships

Good Sex 2.0

What's Up with Boys?

When Young Men are Tempted

Teenage Girls

Oh, and if you see that little dude... Tuck and Roll

Please note: The coupon code will take off an additional 15%. All of these titles are already marked 15% off in the YS Store.

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments


Ryan Marcum

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments

Name: Ryan Marcum
Current Residence: Atlanta Area, Georgia
On the web: www.ryanmarcum.com
Grew up in: Shepherdsville, Kentucky
Where did you go to college? I attended Eastern Kentucky University for a few semesters, but realized there was nothing there for me as far as a career path. During my time at EKU, I met my beautiful wife, Robyn. We dated for three years, and have now been married for six years. We have a crazy awesome daughter named Emma, who is three years old.  In 2003, I began my studies at Boyce College of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. I graduated with a B.S. in Youth ministry (no joke). Did you go to youth group as a teenager? My family attended a church in Shepherdsville, KY called Cedar Grove Baptist Church. My parents and twin brother still attend and are very active in the church. My brother, Brian, and I were a part of the youth group throughout our middle and high school days. One of the things that has stuck with me is that God wants us to reach others with the Gospel message… no matter what the cost. I remember my Youth Pastor taking me with him on visitation nights and learning from his sharing Scripture with families that were hurting.It seemed like we were always taking week-long mission trips. I remember a trip to the mountains of Tennessee, where we led backyard Bible clubs and other missions activities. I remember youth group being a place to bring friends. The building we met in was the “old” church, but we made it our own. How long have you been in youth ministry? I have been in Youth Ministry, in some capacity, for ten years. It has flown by!  It has been challenging; it has been crazy at times, but I cannot see myself doing anything else. How did you first get involved in youth ministry? After High school, I served in the United States Army. As I served about the first two years, of a three year term, I was not involved in any type of church or activity. A friend stopped by one day and asked if I would like to attend a local church. I said, “Sure, why not?” Long story short, I was asked to help volunteer in the youth department, and that began the journey.  The Journey has led me to Salem Baptist Church, where I am serving as the High School and College Pastor. Who do you look up to in ministry? There are so many guys in Youth ministry that have paved the way for me and current youth workers… Duffy Robbins, Doug Fields, Tic more than Marko- just kidding.  I learned a lot while volunteering at First Baptist church in Richmond, KY.  The youth pastor at the time was Jeff Prosser. He is the associate pastor. Under his leadership, I was able to learn about speaking to teenagers. He poured a lot of his time into his leaders, taking us to trainings like “The CORE”. He is an awesome leader and friend. What is the last book you read? The last book I have read all the way through was Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus. I just got my copy of Youth Ministry 3.0; it is next on the list! What has you excited about working with your group right now? I have been at Salem Baptist Church for about eight months now, and we have begun implementing CORE groups (small groups). We have created daily devotional journals for each student, and the response has been overwhelming! Students actually like reading God’s Word! Seeing students update their Facebook status with things like, doing my devotion or reading today’s verse really makes me think that we’re on the right track.  Right now, during our Wednesday night service, we are going through the HABITS series by Doug Fields. Students and leaders alike have been challenged to form Godly habits that take us deeper in our relationship with God. What are some challenges you face right now? In talking to our students about developing habits that help us become who God formed us to be, I have realized that administration is not a habit that I have practiced in my youth. My wife has the gift of administration, but I do not. At the last church I served, I had a team of about four leaders and it worked. Arriving at Salem Baptist Church, I inherited about 20-25 leaders, where communicating and organizing on a consistent basis is more difficult for me. So, the challenge I face currently would be balancing the weight of being a minister and administrator. God is still working with me. What's one thing you think you do well that other people could learn from? Keep it simple. Life can be complicated, but God, through grace, has freed us from the “keeping up with the Jones” mentality. In ministry, we can easily get bogged down with everything else but our own relationship with God. The “to do list” can wait until after spending time with God. Jesus told the scribe what life was all about, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Simply put: Love God, Love People. What's a word or phrase your youth group would use to describe you? Spontaneous

By YS on February 06 2009 | 1 Comments


Brand New Research From the NSYR

By YS on February 05 2009 | 0 Comments

You are probably familiar with the monumental finds of of the National Study of Youth & Religion. In 2005, data from their study resulted in a great resource call Soul Searching. (New version coming out in April 2009) Christian Smith and his researchers are continuing to provide solid academic research for youth workers in the field. Here's a phrase I pulled from their announcement which I found very interesting:

The comparison of NSYR survey responses from the same adolescents in 2002 and 2005 reveals relatively small but consistent decreases in conventional religious beliefs and practices. Although the majority of adolescents in this study remained stable in their religious beliefs, practices, and spirituality, a significant minority did experience slight shifts away from standard religious beliefs and decreases in religious practice. Overall, the dynamics in religiosity and spirituality among this nationally representative sample of adolescents reflect subtle changes--rather than large or dramatic shifts. link

So, not a lot of changes overall. That doesn't mean the full report didn't reveal anything interesting. Check out the paper, Religion and Spirituality on the Path Through Adolescence. Very interesting findings.

By YS on February 05 2009 | 0 Comments


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