Celebrities and Religion

There is a new trend. Well, there are several new trends. Maybe the biggest right now is the app Tik Tok, but that’s not what we are talking about today. Today, let’s look at the trend with celebrities who are turning their lives to Jesus. Jordan Nations wrote an article titled, “Bieber. Chance. Kanye. Selena-and the movement Christians are missing”. I found the article interesting and a little thought provoking. The idea the maybe we have been a little too critical or ignored the fact that these performers, maybe because they are famous, are publicly talking about their faith.

My first thoughts always go to, “How are young people being affected by this?” (Listen to our podcast as we talk with a teenager about the article.) I hope that this isn’t just the next trend, but something that will be deep rooted. As the statics show (https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/) Christianity continues at a decline each year in this country. We all know that “influencers” are starting to impact our young people from the clothes they wear to the music they listen to. So, we can only hope that if Justin Bieber or Kanye bring the “cool factor” to Christianity maybe it will be enough to spark some curiosity in a teen to explore church? Check out this post from Justin back in September. https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2019/september/justin-bieber-opens-up-about-how-the-love-of-christ-led-him-through-heavy-drug-abuse-anxiety

It’s quite clear that now more than ever, young people may claim to be religious, but they are not all attending our churches. So, being conscience of what is trending, and what these celebrities are saying and doing is important if we want to reach young people. It’s a great discussion starter. And like Nations says in his article, don’t be so quick to criticize, but celebrate lives being changed! And may we all get to be a part of something similar, and be influencers in our own right with our non-famous friends!

p.s. If you listen to the podcast, we talk about Kanye’s $250 sweatshirt. This price does include a pre-sale ticket to an event! 😉

In the Beginning…

Many teens struggle with the creation story.  Once they start learning science and  history in school, things no longer add up. We are living in the information age and teenagers have that information at their fingertips. So, it is our job to help them know how to filter all that information to find truths. It is also VITAL for us, as people who live and work with young people, to give them space to explore their thoughts on faith and life. Providing a safe place for teens and young adults to see how faith, science, history and life in general collide. If we don’t clear away time for this, there is a high probability they will walk away from their faith.

So, why not start in the beginning. Below you will find some resources below to help you walk through a small group discussion. Remember to give space for questions and don’t feel you have to have ALL the answers!

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will understand that there are two creation stories in the Bible
  • Students will learn the value of both stories

Scripture Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:3; Genesis 2:4-25

Teaching Points

  • First, acknowledge that there are two creation narratives. They are completely different and demonstrate very different attributes of God. They cannot both have literally happened.
  • The first narrative is organize and poetic. On each successive day, God calls elements of the created world into order out of the existing chaos. It point us to a God who is organized, calculated, and in control. It is worth noting that this is a story about bringing order out of chaos, not a story about creating the world out of nothing. In this story, male and female are created at the same time, as the culmination of the creative process.
  • The second narrative is less organized and much less poetic. It jumps from subject to subject and from creative process to creative process. In it, the male human is the very first creative act.
  • There were many, many creation narratives being told at this time in history. Most of them involved a god (or gods) who created the earth or elements of the earth by slaughtering/conquering other gods. It is notable that in both of the narratives in the Bible, God is portrayed as peaceful, non-violent, and is perfectly capable of being creative without being destructive or threatened by other deities.

Discussion Questions:

  • What have you learned in school about creation/evolution?
  • Why did the biblical authors include two creation narratives? Why be confusion? Why not just pick one?
  • What is valuable and instructive about each of these creation myths?
  • Are there any dangers in over-literalizing these stories?
  • What might it mean for us to let go of the notion that these stories happened and start viewing these as stories that happen on an ongoing basis?
  • Is there anything helpful or empowering about considering that God might be persistent, creative in overcoming obstacles, adaptable, or some of the other qualities we see in these stories?

Resources:

 

 

 

 

Building Relationships with College Students

This week we are talking about now that college students are home, what do we do with them? You might think that since they grew up in your church, they should be comfortable coming back in the summer. But you would be surprised. They have grown, and developed and may not feel like they will be accepted into our congregations again. Even as parents, our own young adults come home and may not think the same way as we do anymore. So, what now? This Podcast addresses these things. It is important for us to start treating young adults as ADULTS, and allow them some brave space to ask hard questions and challenge our way of thinking. Be sure you ask more questions than lecturing them. Share why you believe/feel the way you do rather than demanding them to think the same way. Take them out for coffee, to lunch or on a hike. Engage them in conversation and ask them what they have learned, what questions they have, their passions and what fears they may face. It’s really simple actually. What are you going to do to reach out to a college student this summer? Don’t ignore them!

A Parent’s Perspective

Youth Pastors say the most difficult part of the job is managing ministry with the lives of busy families.  But we want nothing more than to support parents during the teen years.  On today’s podcast we talk with a mom of 4 young adults that grew up in church and youth group.  She shares why church was important to her family.  What are you doing to connect to parents and/or to help parents connect with one another?

Daring to Empower Teens with Compassionate Leadership Skills

The biggest impact we can have on young people in our communities is through teaching those in our fold leadership development skills.  If we spend our time teaching our young Christian friends how to influence others, our efforts to spread the Gospel will multiply.  As our country slowly lowers the expectations of our leaders, it is up to us to teach teens the importance of character and compassion in leadership.  Let’s be honest, no matter where you fall politically, or if we look at the business sector, or the sports and entertainment world, our young people have plenty examples of inadequate leaders.  I have found it easy to teach lessons on leadership through studying Jesus in the Gospels, but there is also plenty of curriculum available.  Tim Elmore is one of my favorite authors on the subject of Growing Leaders. Check out his website. He has done some interesting research and has great curriculum available.  You can also find some of his stuff in our conference Media Center.  I also like the resources from Group.  Don’t shy away from using the adult curriculum for teens.  I have also used Doug Field’s book, “Help, I’m a Student Leader” and The Leadership Lab from Discipleship Ministries.  All good stuff. Just find what works best for your personality as a leader and the personalities of your group.  As we work to walk beside teens and young adults through their faith journey, teaching them leadership skills, in particular SERVANT leadership skills is a MUST.  What has worked in your area to teach these important lessons?

Packing Day

 

 

Kavanaugh Hearing Sparks Critical Teaching Points for Teens

Decency~Respect~Dignity: Talking Points around the Supreme Juridical Confirmation Hearing

Introduction: This confirmation hearing has been just one more thing that separates our country.  In an effort to show our young people that even if we disagree on issues, we can find common ground somewhere and walk away from discussions agreeing to disagree, still respecting and speaking to one another.  This particular discussion is not political. No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself, the testimonies hit on topics that were relevant in 1982 and are still relevant for our teens today.  I implore you as parents, educators and spiritual leaders not to shy away from such topics as sex, under age alcohol consumption, and poor decisions.  Research shows that the teen brain is not fully developed and therefore, teens lack cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory, emotional expression, judgement and sexual behaviors.  It is our job as adults to help them work through cause and effect situations PRIOR to them having to make decisions.  So, it is important, no matter the subject, to present facts (this also means both sides of an argument) and allow teens to work through their own thought process to claim their own opinions, conclusions and convictions.  The more you force your beliefs on them, the more push back you will get.

Also keep in mind, no matter how well you know a teen, they may be hiding something, so precede with caution, assuming that there is someone in your youth group, or your teen’s friend group that has been a part of an unwanted advance or have made a mistake and is feeling shame.

Resources: Here is some information on sexual assault and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is also a good resource for information or to report an incident.  Please share this information with your students. Stats shared in Podcast can be found here.

Audience: We recommend this discussion for high school students.  If you are a parent, you may wish to discuss the topics with your mature middle school children.  For our youth leaders, be sure parents are aware that you are discussing sensitive subject matter ahead of time.

Biblical Context: John 4:1-26“The Woman at the Well.”  Click here  or here for background information and commentary on these verses.

Matthew 7:12  “The Golden Rule”

Title: Decency, Respect and Dignity

Begin with the following questions:

Are you paying attention to what is going one right now in current events?  How do you get your information? Do you talk to parents at home about current events?

We are going to talk about three specific words today: DECENCY  RESPECT DIGNITY

Who would like to look up the definitions of these words?

Let’s think of some examples, it could be someone famous, or a situation with a friend or family where actions show decency, respect or dignity.  (This could be as simple as helping someone pick up books they’ve dropped in the hall.)

Where or what are the areas of your life, where you perceived that decency, respect, and dignity is lacking?

What are areas in the larger culture where you notice a lack of decency, respect and dignity?

Let’s take a look at John 4.  Have students read aloud, and if there are different versions of the Bible, have students read the verses more than once. Help them understand the context and culture of the time.

Why is she an outcast? (Her multiple marriages) Do you think the community treats her ex-husbands the same way? Why or why not?

So, why would Jesus interact with her?

Have you ever been made fun of for interacting with an “outcast”?  Do you put yourself in the shoes of that person?

Is there a situation where we should excuse lack of decency or respect?

What behaviors do you excuse?

What are ways that you respect yourself? Respect your friends?

What is the Golden Rule?

How can you show “love” to your neighbor?  What if they have wronged you?  What if they don’t agree with you?  (Be sure that you help them understand that our love for one another comes from God’s love for us, we love because He loves us.)

What is a scenario at school where you have seen OR could be the example of The Golden Rule?

In the story of The Woman at the Well, how did Jesus’ actions support The Golden Rule?  

How does Decency, Respect and Dignity play into The Golden Rule?

Is there a difference in the way boys interact with one another?  What about girls? (When the other gender is not around.)

The incident that is under investigation with the Confirmation Hearing for Judge Kavanaugh happened in the early 1980’s when he was 17 and Dr. Ford was 15.  For her, the assault she is claiming has affected her all of her life.  In his case, the claim could ruin his career.  What situations do you see teens in, or what decisions that teens make, could affect them the rest of their lives? Be sure they see one big difference in teens today compared to 1980’s being social media, and the fact that posts do not go away.

Lying is another big topic in this situation.  Some people say she is lying others think he isn’t telling the truth.  Have you ever been accused of not telling the truth?  What did that feel like?  How does decency, respect and dignity play into truthfulness?

Do you have a trusted adult, someone you could turn to if you get into a situation where you need help?

Do you have “safe words” with this person if you have to call them in the middle of a situation? (i.e. I have a headache, can you pick me up?)

End with some like: No matter how this Confirmation Hearing ends, it has brought up some important topics for us.  It is important for all of us to treat one another and ourselves with the decency, respect and dignity that we, as children of God, deserve.  And when/if someone defies you, tell someone.  Never forget, that actions speak louder than words, and our actions, for good or ill, can have lifelong impact.