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    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    You've Got Questions week 1

      The New talk series we're running through is titled: "You've Got Questions" and I am super stoked for it!

       What we did was we asked the Middle School teens to ask any question they wanted to about faith, love, God, Jesus...basically anything they had doubts about when it came to religion and church!  What we got was heaps and heaps of questions.

      We worked through all the questions and are going to take 5 weeks to answer (or admit we have no idea) to many of their questions.  This was week one and here were the questions:

    Why does God let bad stuff happen if he is Perfect and Good?
    What color/race was Jesus?
    Is God prideful when He asks us to worship him?
    If God created the universe, did he put life on other planets?
    Men wrote the Bible…How can it be written by the Holy Spirit?
    How do we know the Bible wasn’t altered of changed?
    Who do you Love? Do you love certain people?
    What does it feel like to be dead?

    We sought to answer these questions.  Below you'll find a link to the Word document with the written manuscript of the answers given as well as a link to the talk itself.  It was a good night and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!!

    Questions Week 1 Talk

    Questions Week 1 Manuscript


    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Working with Inner City Youth

    I am an inner-city Student Ministries Pastor. I work predominantly with Middle School students. This past week has been tough.
    My heart is to see these students (churched and non-churched) to grasp the depth of Christ's love for them, know Him and then in turn make Him known.

    Working in an inner-city context is rough. You hear about friends dying, drugs being sold and pregnancies happening. My heart breaks for these kids. I love them and care for them deeply. I desire to see kids who would normally be hopped up on drugs, hopped up on Christ.

    It is hard. Satan loves to stir the city. Satan loves to attack the city. The enemy wants to destroy the lives of these kids and they are letting him do it.

    I am under no delusion that I am Jesus and that I can in fact save them from the sin they are in, save them from the pain they face or even save them from themselves. That's God's job. It is however my job to be a tool and a willing vessel for Jesus to do those things through me.

    There are few books written about Inner-city Youth Ministry, fewer still about Inner-City Middle Schoolers.

    There seems to be a disconnect with authority with these teens. There seems to be a lack of respect for adults and a hatred for rules. This becomes hard when you are trying to create a safe, loving environment. Students buck the system, rebel against the rules, push the authority and their goal seems to be to so ruin the authority that they can then do whatever they want.

    With God's empowering grace, I will not budge, I will not break. I will continue to love, continue to care for and continue to preach His message to these hurting teens.

    I've been lied to, cussed at, laughed at and disrespected but man do I still love these kids. I don't let them walk over me, they know the boundaries...yet they continue to push, continue to pull and continue to disregard.

    I'm writing because its freeing for me. I'm writing because if I don't I may not let these things out.

    I'm sad for these kids. I hurt for them. I want them to know Jesus...but I am not Jesus. I can not force them to come take a drink of His eternal waters. I can simply be a voice, a life and a guide to lead them to the well. They must decide to take the plunge.

    I've only been in Urban Youth Ministry as a pastor (not including my intern days) for 7.5 months. I am not naive though in thinking this is the most pain I will feel. I know someday I will hear: "_____was shot and killed" or "______is in jail". This is not resignation to the bad things of the city, it's a reality. I will know a student who makes a bad choice that lands them in one of those places. My prayer it is jail, not death.

    I love my job, but ministry takes a toll on your heart. Anyone who says that ministry is a breeze and won't cause pain either: hasn't been in ministry longer than a millisecond or they are in denial.

    There is so much to say about inner-city youth ministry and I'm sure I will continue to write about it since it is my context now. I am lucky to have a 22 year veteran as my boss. A man who has heard both: "___has been shot" and "____is in jail". He knows the pain; he's lived it, felt it and probably even dreamt about it.

    I am lucky to have his wisdom, his shoulder and his leadership, it helps.

    Pray for the inner-city youth and pray for those of us who work with them. Satan wants to rip them away from Jesus and he wants to slay us for attempting to bring them to Christ.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Identity Week 4

    This is a long time coming, since this series has been over for about a month now...but I finally got around to posting this finale up here!  This series was a great series in which to get the kids realigned with what their true identity is.

      The world that swirls around todays teen is a world that desires to strip them of God's stamp on their lives and stamp them with many different types of Identities.

    After we've seen what Christ has set us free from (Ephesians 2:1-9) we can then accept who we are (Ephesians 2:10). 
      Once we accept Christ in our lives, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we can now live for Righteousness and die to our sins (1 Peter 2:24).

    Week 4 of the Identity series was all about being an Alien in this world.  Being different from the culture and world around us and allowing Christ to shine through our lives rather than conforming to the Identity the world desires us to conform to.

      I didn't speak for week 4 of this series, I handed the microphone over to my boss: Scott Wakeley and he spoke about living as an alien in this world.  Below is a link to the talk he gave as well as the link for the lesson handout for the entire series.  I loved talking to teens about who they really are!  I hope this helps.

    Scott's Talk

    Identity Series PDF

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Teens and Sex

    Sex has been a hot button topic in youth ministry from the inception of youth ministry. The two are pretty much inseparable, because if you are dealing with teenagers, you are also dealing with their sexuality.




    The sad truth is that this year is the first year in 10 that teen sex, abortion and pregnancy rates have swung up. From 1999-2009 they were slowly on a decline, however now they are inclining again.



    Teens are re-defining what sex is to them and in so doing are engaging in sexual acts that to them seem trivial while in reality those issues are quite serious and really big.


    One such issue is that of oral sex. Stats show that 54% of teenage girls from the ages of 15-19 have had oral sex. This number is conservative statisticians say because teenagers for the most part no longer define oral sex as sex.


    One Canadian film maker decided to embark on a documentary studying teens and their sexuality. She dedicated years to research and relationship building in order to get an authentic view as to what’s going on with teens today in the area of sex. What she found has shocked many. She was recently interviewed by Good Morning America and here's a bit of what she said: "After four years researching for the documentary, Azam told "Good Morning America" that oral sex is as common as kissing for teens and that casual prostitution -- being paid at parties to strip, give sexual favors or have sex -- is far more commonplace than once believed. " (taken from website: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/story?id=7693121&page=1)


    This is pretty shocking news: oral sex is as common as kissing among teens. The other shocking thing that Azam tells Good Morning America is that the most at risk teens for this type of behavior are the prettiest girls from the most successful homes. This is a far cry from what one may expect. Most people think that the most at risk teens for this type of behavior would be inner-city girls and boys, not the suburban "wealthier kids".


    We've been talking about relationships: love, sex and dating in youth group this whole month and the things I've been studying (like this article above) have really opened my eyes to the sad reality of slipping morality among teens. The fact that oral sex is no longer considered sex is a dangerous road to travel down. Just 3 years ago, we had the inception of "sexting" which is the texting of either explicit pictures or explicit dialogue. Sexting has skyrocketed in popularity and has in my mind allowed for this new debased ideology of sexuality.

    One of the things that ticks me off the most about this whole conversation is the new "teaching" that has been going around about teenagers and sex. One such new teaching is that teens are going to have sex anyways because they are so animalistic and can't overrule the urges within them. Let's teach kids how to have sex, offer free demos and then tell them freely to have sex, but be safe. They say to the kids: "you have urges and you must meet them, but do so with safety".


    Now hear me, I agree that some students will choose to have sex despite anything told to them on the contrary and they must know how to be "safe". But to tell them to give in to the urges and have sex freely is just ridiculous! As a co-worker of mine said: "that's like saying I have an urge to have sex with 12 year olds and the government telling me to go ahead and "give into my urges" because I can't help myself.


    I have been thinking about the implications of all this craziness about teens and sex and while thinking about it, I put up on my facebook status a question to what others think are prevailing issues when it comes to sex and teens. Here's what people said, with some thoughts from me in blue:


    Tony Cosentino "How far can I go before it's considered sex. Basically what can I get away with before God calls it sin instead of how can I live so that I please God."

    I think this issue undergirds the new explosion of oral sex. Teens Christian and non are re-defining what is and isn't "sex". If they say oral sex isn't sex, they aren't "losing their virginity" and are doing nothing outside of God's will. The boundaries are being pushed and pulled to fit a mold they like. Sadly, the world around them is trivializing such actions, and in some cases encouraging them.


    Matt Salvesen "the pervasive sexuality of culture and the entire lack of almost any commitment tied to sexual acts."

    I fully agree with Matt here! Americans spend more on porn then on Football, Baseball and the opera combined! (stat found in Driscoll's Vintage Jesus). American culture is steeped in sexuality. Also, Matt's second point is also true. Casual sex, friends with benefits are all pervasive in our world. Simply watch a show like Scrubs and you see two grown adults who don't want to even date let alone get married having sex and calling it casual. They just hook up and shack up until their real "love" comes along.



    James Peterhoff Marvin, I think there are so many issues with this. I feel, first and foremost, that we have lost our regard for the beautiful thing that sex is meant to be. Instead, we have perverted it into merely another form of entertainment. Agreed


    It's also another revelation of where idolatry sets in. People make an idol out of sex, out of acceptance (which means in order to be accepted they give into peer pressure), out of their other halves (the simple idol of the one you love), and out of power (it makes people feel strong when they have conquered so many sexually). We look at sex to fill our desires in a way that is selfish and meaningless to God when in fact we should fulfill them in regard to how God wants us to (creating in fact worship). The true meaning of sex and sexual intimacy has been perverted and lost in our current culture, I full heartedly agree.


    I also think we have created a society where kids can no longer be kids. It is true that things such as this have been issues for teens forever, however; I feel that there is a pressure for kids to grow up way too soon. All the elements work against them remaining young and as such, we see these issues becoming more and more apparent in younger aged people as generations move on.


    I agree here, but not fully. Kids do in fact have to grow up faster and this is largely because both parents are working and there isn't a stable home situation with either divorce or disengaged parents. This then makes the teen more responsible for themselves and independent. Also, on this note the educational system tells teens they need to be active in extra-curricular stuff as well as in all AP classes in order to have a chance in college. This pushes kids out into a competition they aren't really ready for. However, where I disagree is that even though they may feel "more mature" and "more responsible" it is in all reality a harsh mist blinding them from the inner workings of their own psychology. They may have adapted really well at young ages, but inside, to their core, they are still teenagers. They will think and act upon this reality, so when and if a teen pregnancy occurs, they are just as helpless as they would've been without these pressures. They have a fa├žade of maturity, yet they lack the life skills able to handle such things such as sex.


    Jillian McCaffrey I think one of the issues specifically concerning Christian teens and sex is that the church often creates a hierarchy of sins and sex is usually at the top as being the worst of the worst. This is not right. I think sometimes there is so much so much shame and condemnation put upon teenagers for having sex that they just try to deal with their ... See Moreissues on their own and keep them hidden when they should have a safe place to be open and honest about it. Instead of having to swallow their pain and pretend like everything is okay, teens should have a safe place to be vulnerable and open. The church should be one of these places. The church should be walking with them in their brokenness and pointing them toward the Father instead of ranking their sin.
    I would say inside the church, this is the BIGGEST issue! This is such a big issue because when sex comes up in the church, there is usually a simple: no, don't do this because its bad, or because you may get AIDS or because I said so. Yet, these are NOT tangible reasons to keep teens out of having sex. They must know what the implications are physically, emotionally and spiritually. It must also be iterated that God doesn't say: "no sex outside of marriage" simply to hinder their fun, but because God created them and knows how they work best. They also as Jillian said need the freedom to talk about sex. If they are curious, they need a safe place where questions can be asked. Also, they (if they fail) need a place to be loved, encouraged and helped through sexual issues. The last place a person wants to go when they messed up is to the person who will say: "you are so dirty, you ugly sinner". They need a place to say: "yea, it hurts, you messed up, but God is a forgiving God and he can heal you from your pain".


    Chloe Bovier (High School Student) I agree God intended sex too be a good thing as long as Teenagers are leaning it from the right people and not off the streets the topic is simple.
    Today most teens view sex as a bad thing because they abuse it (not me) but if we look at sex for what it really is then I think that our generation will be a more equipped too face the world.
    Not just for "church kids" but for everyone


    This is the other side of the coin: people are afraid of sex. Sex inside marriage is wonderful! God created sex to be a beautiful dance between a husband and a wife. yet, when we debase sex to always "the naughty thing people do" it confuses the sexuality of teens and makes them look upon sex as a vile thing. This in my opinion is why a lot of Christian marriages are rocky in the beginning. The guy is all gung ho about sex and the girl is all scared to have sex because for 15 years she was told how bad it was.



    There is so much more to be said about teens and sex. The stark reality is that with oral sex, casual prostitution (as mentioned in the above article), and sexting in high places of teen popularity we as a culture are in a dangerous place. I sadly predict that the teen sex rate, pregnancy rate and abortion rate will continue to climb unless we as a church, and society can again re-define sex for our teens.




    Lastly, on my facebook a teen parent shared these articles and thoughts:
     
    Rebecca Wimer For the physical reasons... if you haven't read/heard of the book HOOKED, you probably should read up on this aspect:
    Radio show (listen online)
    http://www.familylife.com/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=dnJHKLNnFoG&b=3832113&ct=8023789...
    Short article with some basics:
    HOOKED: The Bonding Power of Sex
    http://www.familylife.com/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=dnJHKLNnFoG&b=3576499&ct=8061439
    There is also a book called "HOOKED"

    Makes me think of this provocative (true) article. Relates it to the culture in the church of "NO. It's bad."
    SCARING THE SEX OUT OF YOU
    John Seel turns a discerning eye on increasingly popular abstinence education programs...
    Wisdom is the knowledge of God's world and conformity to it. Wisdom involves realism about nature and human nature. Discernment follows from this. Discernment is the ability to sort through the way we do things in a fallen world, evaluate it according to God's original design, and adjust our lives accordingly.
    Thus there is a close connection between metaphysics and morality -- between how God made the world and how we are to live in it. Without biblical realism and cultural discernment -- we play the fool.
    Take the well-intentioned movement advocating
    abstinence in public schools. The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that sexuality education focusing on abstinence has grown from 2% in 1988 to nearly 25% in 1999.
    READ THE REST HERE:
    http://www.ransomfellowship.org/pdf_critiquearchives/Critique_2001_08.pdf

    Thanks Rebecca!



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