What We Did This Week

Acts Social MediaWe had another great week in our student ministries. I really enjoyed teaching on Stephen from Acts 6 and 7 both nights and was loving the energy students brought into the room this week. Below are the details of what we did this week.

What We Did at Porch (High School)
Worship Set List: Relentless (Hillsong United), This I Believe [The Creed] (Hillsong), Always (Kristian Stanfill), Take the World But Give Me Jesus (Ascend the Hill), and Sweetness of Freedom (Citizens & Saints).
Teaching: We continued our Acts series by talking about Stephen from Acts 6 and 7. We looked at who Stephen was, his defense before the council, and his attitude as he was put to death. As we looked at Stephen, we challenged ourselves to be followers of Jesus who are courageous in the face of persecution and to allow God to use our persecution to be a witness for the Gospel. We didn’t do a game or anything this week so we jumped right into the talk after the band did one song and then after the talk we finished the night with more worship than normal.
Highlight: Teaching on Stephen. I have read the story of Stephen many times but have never taught on it. God used my time of study and prep to challenge me personally so I was fired up to teach it to my students.

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Video:
Dog Pushes Cat Into Bathtub
Upfront Game: Snapchallenge. This is a great game I got from Download Youth Ministry. Basically you show a Snapchat picture that has been doodled for five second. Then the contestants (we had a boy and a girl go head to head) must answer a question about that picture. It was fun game and our students loved it.
Group Game: Poop Deck. A classic youth group game that we pull out a few times a year. Our students love it and it’s a great game to get everyone moving. You split the room into three sections: low deck, mid deck, and poop deck. When the person leading the game says “poop deck” everyone must run to the poop deck. Last person in is out. Same rules apply when the leader yells “mid deck” or “low deck.” We eliminated three students each round until we got down to just a few students to help the game go a little faster. We had around 90 students plays so if your group is smaller just having one person get out at a time should be fine. The leader can also yell “man overboard,” which for our group means you must run to the nearest wall. If the leader yells “hit the deck” everyone must drop and lay flat on their stomach. Click here to download the graphic we used for this game.
Teaching: Same as what I did the night before with our high school students. I cut the talk down so it was a littler shorter but we still covered the same main content.
Highlight: Leading Snapchallenge was really fun. I love leading upfront games and this one was one of my favorites. We also picked two students that did really well on stage and made the game even better by their remarks and such.

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What Parents Need to Know About Their Teen and Sexting

teen-using-cell-phoneOne of the popular trends among teenagers today that parents need to be aware of is sexting. In this post I want to share a few thoughts on sexting that I believe will both inform and help parents have conversations with their teen about sexting.

What is sexting? The first thing we need to do is establish what sexting is. Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via text messaging or some other form of social media messaging. In the past the idea of sexting has been referred to as phone sex or cybersex. Research from Pew Research found that last year 78% of teenagers had their own cell phone. They also found that half of them not only had a cell phone, but had a smartphone. We can assume the percent of teens with cell phones has risen above 78% since last year and with the popularity of smartphones more teens are not just getting a cell phone but a smartphone. The majority of sexting happens via text messaging. However, sexting, as we see in the definition above, can be done also through social media networks. So sexting can happen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram since these networks all have private messaging features. Other apps like Snapchat are extremely popular for sexting.

Why is sexting popular with teens? There are a few reasons why I think sexting is popular with teens that I think are important for parents to know about. First, sexting seems to be popular with teens because “everyone is doing it.” Many teens who may not feel comfortable sexting will eventually do it because their friends are. Which leads to the second reason I think sexting popular with teens, which is peer pressure. Teens feel pressured to sext because “everyone is doing it” or maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into it. For example, one girl said she was pressured into sexting when she was only 12 years old by the boy she was “going out with.” Usually it’s the guy that pressures the girl into sexting. One article says that 51% of girls said they felt pressured by guys to sext while only 18% of guys said they felt pressured from a girl. The third reason sexting seems to be popular with teens is the false sense of safety that comes with. Many teens that will not engage sexual activity in person will sext because they feel “safe” or “comfortable” behind the screen on their phone. Also, the app Snapchat has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on how long someone can view your picture. However, all this is a false sense of safety and comfort. An article I already linked to mentions two great points on this – photos and videos sent privately can be easily shared publicly and once digital images or videos are out there they leave a digital footprint cannot be “taken back.” When a teen sends a semi-nude or fully nude photo to someone within a private message the person that receives that message can easily save the image to their phone and share it however they want. Even though apps like Snapchat give the user the ability to set a time limit, the person receiving the picture can easily take a screenshot before the time limit expires. There are many more reasons why sexting is popular with teens, but these are a few important ones for parents to know about.

Why is sexting is a bad idea? For starters, sexting is a bad idea because it can lead to teens being publicly humiliated if their private photo or video goes public. Not only that, but in many states sexting is actually illegal and is considered a major crime (click here to sexting-related laws based on your state). What I am about to say next may not sit well with you if you do not believe in the Bible and view it as God’s standard of absolute truth. However, since I am a Christian and believe in the Bible I want to point out what God has revealed about sexual activity, which is what sexting is. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:3 tells us to flee, abstain, and to not even have a hint of sexual immorality. What does sexually immorality mean? Sexual immorality, when used in the Bible (Greek word – porneia), refers to any form of sexual activity outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. God’s design is for a man and a woman to enjoy sexual activity within the context of their marriage. Any form of sexual activity outside of that, like sexting, is considered sin and is wrong.

What can parents do about their teen and sexting? The best thing parents can do is to have an open conversation with their teen about sexting. Talk to them about the pressures and dangers that come with sexting. Talk to them about how they should use text messaging and social media. Also, do some research and learn about the sexting trend among teens so you be informed and be intentional about helping your teen in this area. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your teen when it comes to their phone. Keep an eye on their social media accounts (get their username and password so you can check them from time to time) and other things they may be doing on their phone.

There is much more we could say on this topic, but this should inform you as a parent and help you understand your teen and sexting.

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know

Sobrr-Life-in-the-moment-598x326Parents need to know what apps their teens are using on their smartphones. One of the apps that I have been telling parents about is Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps out there right now for teens and parents need to know how it works and what some of the dangers are with it (click here to read about Snapchat). By the way, the whole idea behind Snapchat is not good. If you don’t believe me, click here and read this helpful article.

But that’s enough about Snapchat. There is a new app that just came out called Sobrr, which may gain popularity with teens shortly. It’s an interesting app that to teenagers will sound fun and exciting, but in the long run is not very healthy.

Sobrr is an app that is built on the whole idea of “living in the moment.” Sobrr basically does three major things. First, Sobrr users “vibe in the moment.” Vibes are basically things you and others post (what they call “moments”). Then you scroll through the current vibes to see what others are posting and can either “cheer” (same idea as a “like” on Facebook) or “pass.” The catch though is everything expires in 24 hours. So what you post and what others are posting will be gone in 24 hours. Completely gone. Second, Sobrr users can have “24 hour friendships.” Yep, you read it right, temporary friendships that last for 24 hours. However, if both people enjoyed their “24 hour friendship” they can choose to stay friends, but only if they both choose to do so. Third, Sobrr users can have “ephermal conversations.” Sobrr chatting is a one-time chat experience. You must read it before it expires. What’s the point of this? Sobrr says it “keeps the conversations free and in the moment.” You can click here to check out the Sobrr website and read more about it as well as watch a short video about it.

Why do parents need to be aware of Sobrr? It seems fun and not harmful. However, when you really step back and think about what this app is all about it’s not really that healthy for teenagers. A few things stand out to me about this app parents need to think about. First, Sobrr (much like Snaptchat) opens the door for teens to get involved in sexting. Sexting has gained a lot of popularity among teens because of apps like Snapchat (and of course because of texting) and Sobrr will do the same thing in making sexting easier and more accessible for teens. Because of the one-time chat feature and the fact things you say will expire, teens will be more likely to say things they wouldn’t in person or even in a normal online chatting session. Second, Sobrr cheapens real community. We are designed to be in relationships with other people. Community is necessary for us in how we have been designed. Sobrr redefines what friendships look like by making them just a 24 hour experience. Third, Sobrr will give teens a false sense of no accountability. In their minds, things they say and do on Sobrr will disappear in 24 hours so why would they think about using discernment or even hold back in what they do. However, parents, especially Christian parents, should realize this is not true. Even though what they do may disappear in 24 hours they will still give an account for it before God one day. In Romans 14:12, Paul reminds us, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV).

Parents, check out Sobrr. Don’t just take my word for it. Research the app yourself and talk to your teen about it if it comes up. Don’t just let your teen use apps like Sobrr without knowing about it first or having a conversation with them. You may even decide to not let them use this app at all.

Negative Impact of Social Media on Teens

the_blogger-4eb9744-introA few weeks ago I taught a parent seminar called “Social Media 101.” In that seminar I talked about the impact of social media on teens. Most teenagers in the world today don’t remember a time when there wasn’t some form of social media. One article says, “Teens today, also known as the Facebook Generation or ‘digital natives,’ are part of the first U.S. generation to be so closely identified with technology.” Social media is becoming more than just a part of their world, it’s becoming their world. Teens are spending more and more time online, usually on a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, and their online life is not just staying on their computer at home. Most teens now have smart phones where they are on social media networks all throughout the day. They are constantly texting, tweeting, and posting pictures via Snapchat and Instagram.

What impact does this hyper-connected social media life have on teenagers? The impact is both negative and positive. There are some good things that come out of social media for our teens, but that is a topic for a later discussion. For now, I want to focus more on the negative effects of social media on teens.

Always connected. Today teens don’t know how to disconnect. Social media has allowed them to take their life online and instead of saying goodbye to friends at school and waiting to see them the next day, they just go home and jump on their favorite social media network and interact with them for the rest of the day. With the rise of smart phones, such as the popular iPhone, teens don’t even have to wait to get home. They can now interact through social media on their way home with the help of their smart phone. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and all the other popular social media platforms are right there on their phones. One reason this “always connected” activity is harmful is because of the alarming trend of cyberbullying. Parents remember when bullying only happened at school or on the bus. Once you got home with your family you were safe. However, bullying has now moved from not only being in the school and on the bus, but online. What does this mean? If a teen is getting bullied, they cannot get away from it! The people bullying them simply continue their bullying via social media (Click here to download a great free resource on cyberbullying).

More comfortable, less sensitive. Another impact social media has had on teens is teens being more comfortable online doing things that they should be more sensitive to doing. Sexting is a perfect example of how comfortable teens are online. Many teens today are not comfortable enough to engage in physical sexual activity in person with someone, but are more than comfortable to participate in sexual activity online with someone. Social media apps like Snapchat make this extremely easy for teens. Teens feel “safe” behind their computer screen or phone so they will post nude or semi-nude pictures. Or they will engage in sexual conversation through Facebook messaging/chat or texting, but would not be comfortable to have those conversations in person. Are all teens using social media for sexting and stuff like that? Certainly not, but many are. No matter what it is, sexting or bullying, teens are more comfortable doing stuff behind their screens than they are in person. Social media has made this easier for them to embrace stuff they would not otherwise embrace because they can do it “safely” behind a screen.

Identity crisis. The section above makes it extrememly clear that teens today who are highly engaged in social media are having an identity crisis. Not all of them are, but many teens are someone else on social media than they are when they are with their family or possibly church if they are involved there. Social media has made it easy for teens to not be consist and have a “double life.” Everyday I see students who tweet and post things on Facebook that totally contradict what their parents, or others that know them personally, think of them.

Has social media ruined teenagers? I don’t think so. However, there has been some negative effects on teens because of social media. It’s important to remember these things when raising or ministering to a teenager. Social media has and is changing the way they life. It is effecting who they are, what they do, and how interact. The things above are just a few of the negative effects I see social media having on teens. In the comment section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you see social media having a negative impact on teens.

6 Things to Remember When Teaching Students About Sex

word-sexOne topic I think we should continually address in student ministry is sex. Sex is an amazing gift that the enemy has taken and used for evil. Our students live in a culture that is saturated with sex and the pressure to engage in sex before marriage is huge. Our culture sees sex as a recreational activity and our students are buying into that lie. Our students need to understand what sex is and how God has design sex to take place between a man and a woman.

Both our middle and high school ministries did a series on sex and relationships this past month. It was a great series and I believe we communicated God’s truth about sex and relationships well. I hope every student pastor does at least one series a year on the topic of sex. It’s extremely important and our students need it. Here are a few things I believe are important to remember when teaching students about sex.

1. Be bold. Talking to students about sex can be awkward. It’s not only awkward for you, but at times it’s awkward for the students (especially if your teaching middle school students). Break through the awkwardness by being bold. Don’t be afraid to use the word “sex” or other words that come up in a conversation about it. Students have heard all the terms about sex and associated words, you’re not going to say anything they probably have not heard.

2. Keep the Gospel central. When teaching students about sex make sure the Gospel is clear. There are a few reasons this is extremely important. First, you don’t want to teach students that just being a moral person in regards to sex is ok. Many students believe that staying a virgin until marriage is the ultimate Christian teens goal. So instead of striving after Jesus they strive to reach the standard of being a virgin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is not just to be a virgin. A student can still be a technical virgin, but still commit sexual immorality according to the Bible (more on that in a minute). Second, many students in your group will have already lost their virginity or have messed up sexually in some other way. These students need to hear the Gospel! They need to hear Jesus still loves them and He wants to forgive them. They may feel dirty, used, and broken, but God restores and wants to redeem their failure. One last thing, please be careful with the “dirty rose” illustration. Watch this video for more on that from Matt Chandler.

3. Define sex Biblically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people define sex as just intercourse. According to Scripture sex is more than just intercourse. In Ephesians 5:3 the Greek word for sexual immorality is pornea, which covers all sexual activity outside of marriage. This includes heavy making out, oral sex, friends with benefits, and masturbation. Those are things that most students don’t consider sex. So if they do all of those things, but stay a virgin they think they are fine, but that’s a lie! God says sex is any form of sexual activity outside of marriage. Define sex Biblically when teaching students about it.

4. Have a time for genders to be both together and separate. Don’t be afraid to teach about sex in a mixed group. In fact, it may be a healthy thing to address sex with a mixed group of students. However, it’s also good to have a time where guys get with guys and girls get with girls to talk in more detail about sex. Have a balance and try and do both.

5. Address current trends. Make sure you relate the topic of sex to current trends in students culture. Help students see what God says about sex relates to how they use their bodies, social media, and other things. Hit things like sexting and Snapchat. Talk about how sex relates to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Take the truth of Scripture and help students apply it to their current culture.

6. Lastly, equip the parents. As good as it is for us to talk about sex with our students, the parents talking about it to them is more important. Encourage parents to have conversations with their student about sex. Help them do this by giving them whatever resources you can. Tap into things like CPYU and Focus on the Family for great resources on this topic. One of the things we did was offer a parent seminar for our parents about technology and how it’s being used by our students (click here to listen to the audio of that seminar).

Again, teaching students about sex is important. I hope these simple reminders will help you next time you address this issue with your students. If you have more additional thoughts, feel free to leave them in a comment below.