A Generation of “Firsts” (Part One & Two)   by TIm Elmore


Your high school or college students are among a generation who’s the first to experience a number of realities. In fact, because they’re initiating these realities, they may present a challenge to your parents and teachers. Adults are grappling with how to raise this population of kids who grew up on-line, with a screen in their hands. The pixels and format of those screens have re-wired their brains: they think differently, react differently, communicate differently, and process information differently than adults. Some call them “screenagers.” Consider the following “firsts” they represent.

This is the First Generation of Youth Who: Continue reading


I’m Struggling With Same Sex Attraction   by Aaron Crumbey


I had a lot of great conversations around my last post. If you didn’t get to read it, here it is. I had a few conversations about the fact that a lot of the struggle is at the one-on-one level. And the question “What should I do if a student comes and says they are struggling with same sex attraction?” So I thought I’d share a few thoughts in this area. Definitely can’t share everything in one post, but here are some of the main points.

There is no quick fix to their struggle and so we need to be ready to walk with them for the long haul–especially in this area. Secondly, I believe lasting change is from the inside out and not the other way around. I believe God wants us concerned with the condition of the heart. So no matter what they struggle with Proverbs 4:23 gives me a good reason to start with the condition of the heart.

I will also say no matter what the struggle is, this is my approach. So here are a few things I do intentionally in a one-on-one situation:

  1. I listen – I’ve learned meeting with hundreds of students that when I shut up and genuinely listen they speak from the heart. Meaning, you do not need to impress them with your words or what you know, the only thing I want them to know in that instant is that they are being genuinely heard. I need to set my mind to absorb and not fix. The fixer will draw conclusions with bits and pieces of information with the intent to fix. The absorber is just taking in the information. Drawing a conclusion based on part of the story is dangerous, because you could be completely wrong on the cause and the solution. So listen and absorb. You need to hear their story completely, and they need to share it with you.
  2. I ask questions – You can’t rely on the students to have all of their thoughts together and share everything in one sitting. They will share with you, but it may not all connect or make sense. Ask questions on incomplete thoughts or to go deeper on a subject or area they have opened up about. Don’t just let it slide. Ask the tough questions. Example: if a student opens up about their relationship with their parents, go deeper in that area by asking more questions.
  3. I’m careful with my language – If the student comes in saying they have been struggling, you can assume that they already beat themselves down and thought of every negative thing you can think of. So I want to be careful that my words are seasoned with grace and love. The last thing I want is for them to leave feeling worse then when they showed up. Sometimes we justify our negativity with not watering down the truth. Well, take a beat from the Bible, because it guides us in how we should deliver the truth. (Proverbs 25:11, Proverbs 15:23, Ephesians 4:15)
  4. Focus on their relationship with Christ - A lot times we think that we need to focus on the problem or the struggle, and that’s just not true. The only cure to our brokenness in any way is through an authentic relationship with Christ. Asking the question “How is your relationship with Christ?” is where we find the problem and the solution. Not the solution to how we stop them from doing what they are doing, but the solution to an even bigger problem that plagues all of us. That is not growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, nor allowing the power of what He did on the cross to overtake our lives. Again, our job isn’t to change people…because we can’t. Our job is to point them to the one who can. Our job is not to focus on the problem or struggle, but to focus on the one and only solution Jesus Christ.

I’ve learned that at times, when I’m walking with a student through a struggle, I find myself thinking about how I can get this student out of the mess and hurt they find themselves in. Sometimes I wish I could just snap my finger and everything becomes all better. And I often hear God reminding me that He loves them more then I will ever be able to. There is not a solution that I have that will come close to what He’s able to do for them. So point them to Him.



Troubled Teen Triggers   by Mark Gregston


Do your parents know everything that happened every minute of your childhood? Probably not. Neither do you know everything that has happened in your teenager’s life.

Events in our childhood can impact the way we relate and act in our teenage years and sometimes for the rest of our lives. Past happenings may lead us to feel that we are inadequate and we react by learning to schmooze, to be sauve, to snow people, to use humor to fit in, to be shy, or to avoid people or situations.

Think back on your own life. Are there early events that caused you to think and behave the way you do? I’m sure if you think about it for a day or two, you’ll remember hurtful things you haven’t thought about for years, yet they impact your everyday life and relationships today.

Bad behavior in the teenage years can be triggered by something as simple as a comment made by someone many years prior. The teen may not even remember what was said, just the feeling it created. Or, it could be rooted in the consistent lack of affirmation, or a traumatic event in your child’s life, like a split in your home, sexual abuse, emotional abuse by a parent, or a major loss in the teen’s life.

Continue reading


Teen ‘Sexting’ Ring Discovered on Instagram   by Keith Wagstaff


In what sounds like a parent’s worst nightmare, more than 100 teens were implicated in a “sexting” ring in Virginia involving images of nude and semi-nude minors shared on social media.

More than 1,000 photos and videos were discovered by law enforcement in Central Virginia, most of them of teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 17 years old and shared on Instagram.

No charges have been filed. It’s possible, although not likely, that teenage suspects could be charged with distributing child pornography, a felony that could land them on the sex offender registry for life.

“Our goal is not to go out and label 100-plus teenagers as sex offenders,” Maj. Donald Lowe of the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office told NBC News. “What we really want to do is bring this issue to parents’ attention.” Continue reading


8 apps parents should watch for, according to an investigator of crimes against children   by Theresa MarchettaPhil Tenser


Is it really a friend or is it a predator?

Unless you are actively monitoring your child’s smartphone and tablet apps, you are not getting a complete picture of who they’re talking to.

“If parents aren’t vigilant in checking apps, they are going to look at their kids texting and say, ‘Oh, there is no problem here,’” said Jefferson County (Colorado) District Attorney Investigator Mike Harris, a 35-year law enforcement veteran.

But Harris says eight apps are now among the top concerns in his search for predators — who children may call “creepers.”

“With anything in technology, we as parents need to parent, and just not let our kids do stuff because we have no idea what it exposes our kids to,” Harris said. “Sometimes we get busy and we forget and our kids add an app. Before long our kids have twenty apps that we don’t even know about.”

Harris provided this list of apps that parents should watch for: Continue reading


8 Ways to Empower Your Team   by Brad Lomenick


Here are a few thoughts on Empowering your Team:

1. Give them the opportunity to make decisions, and don’t second guess them. A lot of us as leaders are willing to allow our team members to make decisions, but want to step in as soon as we see something done differently than we would do. Don’t make that mistake. It is totally demoralizing to your team. Believe me, I know from experience!!

2. Assign them responsibility by them owning key projects from START to FINISH. So once we allow team members to make key decisions, now we have to allow them to own projects and feel the responsibility of completion.

3. Give them Freedom combined with Accountability. Freedom without accountability can lead to a great place to work with nothing getting done. Accountability without Flexibility can lead to a terrible place to work with things getting done but everyone hating their job. These have to work together.

4. Fight for them. Whether it’s standing up for them to your boss, or standing beside them and supporting them in a disagreement with a vendor, always take the stance of fighting for them and being willing to go to battle for them. Continue reading


Kids and Technology


How do you use technology in your youth ministry? 

We need to figure how to to work better with a digital native culture.  One thing that I know, is that we are not going back.  We not going back to a pre-digital era.  I have talked with a few youth workers who think that reading on a digital device hurts retention, and that they recommend students to only read paper Bibles.  Reading this infographic called, “Kid Tech”, should make us wonder how we will help students read the Bible, and how we can use their devices in their spiritual relationship with God.

Here are a few things that stand out from this infographic: 

1. 7 out of 10 kids are using tablets.  This past christmas a ton of the students in my youth ministry got iPads, and iPad mini’s.  I was amazed at how many students received these expensive devices, but it shows a new era of digital consumption.

Seeing students with iPads and iPad mini’s makes me think how we can help them use those devices to draw closer to God?  We have talked about setting up a texting service that would text out a verse for 30 days.  We have tried to use bible reading plans, and scripture videos, and anything else that might “stick”.  I feel like this is still an adventure, and we are quickly learning how to reach teens who are digital natives.

2. iPad students out perform non-iPad students.  This is really surprising.  The stats I have been reading say that kids who use digital devices don’t retain information as print.  I don’t believe this.  I agree with this infographic when it says it offers a deeper engagement.

Kids are quickly adapting to a digital world, and people who didn’t grow up in it are struggling…and will continue to struggle through a digital era.

I heard of a youth group recently who’s pastor keeps all the students phones while they are at the youth group.  I wondered why you would take away their device?  When I preach, I want my students on their phones.  I want them to have a Bible app, and know how to use it.  I want the students I lead to tweet out passages, and thoughts.  I want their faith to affect their whole life…including the digital life.

Those are two things that stood out to me.  What else stands out to you from this infographic?  Continue reading


Ten Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship With Your Teen   by Mark Gregston


Relationships thrive in settings where everyone agrees that nobody is perfect.

Unconditional love is fundamental for building healthy relationships with teenage children who will test their parents and their rules in every possible way. When they do, a busy, stressed-out parent can often react in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love.

If that sounds like you, maybe you need to work on mending your relationship before it is destroyed altogether.  Consider implementing some of these bridge-builders:

10 Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship Continue reading


What do you say when a student asks a tough question?                                                   Four words that can transform your conversations with teenagers?



You know the one.

The question that catches you off guard in the hallway just as you’re stepping into youth group. The one that comes by text around 11PM just as you’re shutting down your phone to collapse in bed. Or the question right at the end of Bible study when you really don’t have time or energy to entertain it.

The good news is that these questions are actually voiced. In our Sticky Faith research, we learned that about seventy percent of students in ministries like yours have big questions about God and faith. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of them say anything to anyone. That means a lot of big questions remain quiet.

And as it turns out, our data suggests it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith. It’s silence.

Continue reading


In the Aftermath of Suicide: Helping Communities Heal   by Mary Glenn


“Student committed suicide, please call ASAP”.

The text flashed across my phone while I was sitting in my Tuesday night Bible study. It’s the kind of text I have received countless times before, and it’s never easy to read. A 14-year-old boy killed himself after school. As the local senior police chaplain, I was called in to provide support, grief care, and help to school personnel who were dealing with this trauma.

When I arrived at the school the next morning, I was asked to meet in the vice-principal’s office with the student’s teachers and guidance counselors. These staff members were in shock, wrestling with grief and guilt. They asked the “What if” questions; What if I missed something? What if I could have stopped him from doing this? What if I would have known the pain he was in?

One of the student’s teachers stated, “There is nothing you can say that will convince me that it isn’t my fault. I missed the signs. I could have stopped it.” What someone feels in that moment is real—as real as it can get. I can’t talk someone out of feeling guilt, but what I can do is listen with care, offer compassion, and help people understand some of the dynamics of suicide.

As youth leaders, mentors, and those invested in young people, suicide rates should concern us. Why are so many kids killing themselves, and how can we begin to understand the complexities of this issue? When kids commit suicide, the community is left with questions, grief, and anger. What can we do to help communities heal from this trauma? Continue reading