Top Posts from 2014

2014_updated_health_reform_timelineEvery December I like to share my top posts from that year. These are posts that I wrote during the year and had the highest views. Below are my top four posts from this year.

What Bruno Mars is Teaching Teens. Bruno Mars had a good year in music. He had some hits come out this year and also performed at the Super Bowl. In this post I talk about what one of popular songs Locked Out of Heaven teaches teens. It’s a catchy song but packs a distorted message of sex.

Using Instagram in Student Ministry. Because students are surrounded by and use social media constantly it is a wise thing for student pastors and youth workers to use social media in their ministries. In this post I share a few ways to use Instagram in a student ministry context.

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know. Sobrr was an app that came out this year that gained some popularity. It’s far from competing with other social media app but it’s still an app parents need to be aware of. In this post I explain how Sobrr works and what parents need to be aware of.

What “Hot or Not” is Teaching Teens. Hot or Not is a pretty popular app among teens. However the whole idea of the app teaches teens that their worth and value is determined by what others think of them, especially their looks when it comes to this app. I explain more of that in this post.

I’ve enjoyed writing these posts this past year. I look forward to writing more posts this coming year.

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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.

Parents, Bookmark These Sites!

51af94d1a351c27119Parents, want to know more about the music, movies, and apps your teens talking about? Below are three sites you should visit often to get more information on things like music, movies, and apps. Check them out and then bookmark them so you know what your teen is listening to, watching, or using on their smartphone.

Common Sense Media. This is one of the best sites to get information on things like movies, music, apps, and other things. In particular, their movie reviews are extremely helpful and insightful. They are written for the purpose of parents so they tell you everything you need to know from positive and negative messages, violence, sexual content, and language. Another thing I like about their movie reviews is they always have a “Families can talk about…” section that offers questions and discussion starters parents can use with their children about the movie. Click here to see their movie review of the popular movie “The Fault in Our Stars” for an example of all these things. They also offers these same kind of things for their music reviews. Click here to see their music review of the popular song “Fancy” Iggy Azalea. You can also check out reviews on books, apps, and video games.

Plugged In. Plugged In is a ministry of Focus on the Family and is pretty much offers the same thing as Common Sense Media does. In addition to movies, music, and game reviews they also offer some other helpful stuff on their site. One of them is what they call the “Family Room.” In the “Family Room” parents will find tons of articles and conversations starters for parents.

iTunes Charts. Most teenagers have iPhones and on those iPhones they are downloading tons of apps and hundreds of songs. iTunes charts let you see what the top songs and apps are. This is extremely helpful because your teenagers are probably listening to the top songs and using the most popular apps. Once you see an app or a song you know your teen has said something about, jump on over to Common Sense Media or Plugged In to get a review of it.

There are many more helpful sites out there for parents, but these are three that I am always pointing parents to. Parents, inform yourself with what’s going on and what is popular in teen culture.

Using Instagram in Student Ministry

instagram-logo-whiteOver the past few months I have been using Instagram more and more in our student ministry. For a long time Facebook was the best place to be for promoting events and connecting with students online. However, students are leaving Facebook and spending more time on Twitter and Instagram (click here to see how you can use Twitter in your student ministry). Even though I still use Facebook and Twitter in our student ministry, I am spending more time and putting more energy into using Instagram. I want to share with you a few thoughts on using Instagram in student ministry.

Create an Instagram profile for your student ministry. Everything I share from this point forward will be pointless if you don’t already have an Instagram profile. You may have a personal profile for yourself, but I would encourage you to make one for your student ministry. We have a Instagram profile for both our middle school ministry and high school ministry.

Promotion. The main way you can use Instagram in your ministry is for promoting upcoming events, series, and your student ministry in general. Whenever we start a new a series I will post the series graphic on our Instagram and invite students to join us for the start of that series. Also, when events are coming up I will use Instagram to promote it weeks leading up to the event. Not only series and events, but we use Instagram to simply get the word out about our ministry and when we meet. Every Tuesday morning, I post something on high school ministry Instagram inviting students to join us that night for our weekly gathering. I do the same every Wednesday morning for our middle school ministry. The best way to create a quality graphic for promoting things on Instagram is to use the app Over. It’s simple and easy to use.

Connect with students. I know connecting with students in person is way better than online, but let’s face it, we would be foolish to totally ignore the fact that we can effectively connect with students online as well. Instagram is a great place to do just that. This may be best done with your personal Instagram account instead of the student ministry account, but either way, connect with your students. “Like” their pics and even comment when it’s appropriate.

Post pictures and videos instantly from an event or during your weekly program. Whenever your in the middle of an event, retreat, mission trip, or weekly program, post a picture or video so others can see what’s going on. This is a great way for other students to see what your ministry is like. They may see a picture and want to come and check out your ministry! Also, this is a great way for parents to see pictures of their children and the ministry they are in. Plus, students will see pictures of themselves later on and generate some traffic as they “like” it and maybe comment on it.

Live pictures. There is this awesome program called Instafeed Live you can use to have Instagram photos be posted live on the screen at your event or weekly program. You simply create a hashtag for your ministry or an event then when students post a picture on Instagram with that hashtag in the caption it comes up on the screen. It will then live stream all the pictures that have posted with that hashtag. We used this at one of our events this past Fall and the students loved it!

You may be doing some of these things already, but if not, consider leveraging Instagram in your student ministry. Students are there and it’s a great place to get the word out about your ministry.

Social Media Slang Parents Need to Know About

Teen-with-Cell-phoneIf you are a parent and have teenagers you know that texting and social media are the main ways teenagers communicate these days. What you may not know is what those weird acronyms your teen uses actually means. Youth Leader Stash has provided a few acronyms that I believe you need to know about.

NOOB – Newbie
FRAPE – Hacking someone’s social profile without permission
LMIRL – Let’s meet in real life
ASL – Age, Sex, Location
GNOC – Get naked on camera
FWB – Friends with benefits
PAW – Parents are watching
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
TDTM – Talk dirty to me
STR – Send to receive pictures
143 – I love you
CD9 – Code 9 My parents are around
FTF – Face to face
FYEO – For your eyes only

Most of the acronyms above have sexual meanings and motive behind them. Sexting, sending sexual explicit messages and pictures via text and social media, is huge in teen culture. Also, many of the acronyms above show that teens have ways to make sure you don’t catch a glimpse of something they may be sending or posting. Click here to see a complete list of acronyms your teens may be using.