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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Dark Side of Teen Goths


A Study Shows This Social Group Is More at Risk for Self-Harm, Suicide

It's never easy being a teenager, but a study of teen social groups shows that it's perhaps most tough on kids who identify as "goths" — a group fascinated by the darker side of human nature.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland surveyed more than 1,258 young adults several times throughout their teen years. In the study, which was published in today's issue of the British Medical Journal, 53 percent of teens who said they were goths admitted to self-harm, and 47 percent said they had attempted suicide.

"Although only fairly small numbers of young people identify as belonging to the goth subculture, rates of self-harm and attempted suicide are very high among this group," said lead researcher Robert Young.

"Self-harm" was defined as deliberately cutting, burning, hitting or poisoning oneself.

However, Young pointed out that the study found that teens were more likely to have hurt themselves before developing an interest in the gothic subculture, suggesting that troubled kids may be attracted to the goths, not that goth subculture promotes self-injury.

"Mental health problems are common in young people, and there is evidence that they are on the increase. For some young people with mental health problems, a goth subculture may be attractive, as it may allow them to find a community within which it may be easier for their distress to be understood," said Dr. Michael van Beinum, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and adviser to the study.

On the other hand, kids who said they were into pop, hip-hop or indie culture had much lower rates of self-harm.

While adults who work with teens should recognize that goth teens may be more inclined to self-harm, van Beinum said that "further provision of mental health services for all young people is urgently required."


Perfect Parenting Or Big Brother?


Hmmm... you wonder why students and parents struggle with trust issues...

Most parents have to wait until dinnertime to find out what their children did at school all day. Even then, they don't get nearly as much information as they would like. But with modern technology changing so many other walks of life, it was only a matter of time before that changed, as well.

CBS news correspondent Cynthia Bowers reported for The Early Show on a special program that turns the school day into an open book. She visited a high school in Hartford, Wis., which has signed on for the system.

"This is a way to get connected," said Jeff Tortomasi, Hartford Union School administrator. Not only do parents know their children's attendance, "you know what their grades are, you know if they're missing an assignment. And you need to stay involved with your kids if you want to be successful."

Teachers use the computer system to input information on everything the students are doing. Parents just need a password to log on for the details. Denise Schlotthauer says she checks in regularly on her son, David. "Probably about once a week, where I go pretty thorough," she told Bowers. "If I know something is coming up that's important, I might check more often."

Even at lunch, parents can monitor all their children's choices. Students say the monitoring has made a difference in their lives. "I could get detention before and my dad wouldn't know. But now he'll know about it, so basically I've got to stop getting those," said student Ted Woydt.

"I get grounded quicker," admitted Pete Shea. "They don't even have to wait for the report card to come. So I just got grounded a week earlier."

The lack of privacy is creating some grass-roots protest at the school. Some students, like Becky Brunner, senior class officer, are campaigning against the system. "They say that it's for our safety and stuff, and I understand where they're coming from. But in some ways, I feel like they just want to spy on us," she said.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Physically Active Teens Stay Out of Trouble


Teenagers who stay active, participating in anything from football to skateboarding, are less likely than their sedentary peers to smoke, drink or take other health risks, new research shows.

Much has been made about the importance of exercise in fighting the swelling problem of childhood obesity. But just as important are the effects regular physical activity can have on kids’ behavior, according to Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, the lead author of the new study.

There are clearly benefits to exercise other than weight control, said Gordon-Larsen, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And kids who spend their free time in front of the TV are missing out on those benefits, she added.

"It’s clear that there can be adverse effects of watching TV." Gordon-Larsen said, pointing to research that has linked violent or sexual content in television shows to kids’ behavior.

But beyond whatever effects media may have, she said, children who spend their free time on the couch miss out on the socialization, team work and skill development that comes with being active.

Among the nearly 12,000 middle- and high-school students in her study, those who were physically active were less likely than their couch-potato peers to smoke, drink, use drugs or have sex. Also, they often had higher self-esteem and better grades.

"Across the board, children who engaged in any kind of activity were better off than kids who watched a lot of TV." said Gordon-Larsen.

The findings, which are published in Pediatrics, also show that activity does not simply mean traditional sports.

Kids who favored "alternative" activities, like skateboarding, had higher self-esteem and were less prone to taking health risks, Gordon-Larsen pointed out.

The bottom line for parents, according to the researcher, is that they should encourage their kids to pursue whatever physical activities they happen to enjoy.


Parents 'know little about drug's culture'


A third of parents say they don't know enough about illegal drugs that their children may be confronted with, making it difficult to talk to them about the dangers.
The Government poll revealed large gaps in parents knowledge about the growing youth drug culture in Britain.

A quarter did not know that 'skunk' is a potent form of cannabis or that 'Charlie' is a common nickname for cocaine.

The survey of 500 parents of 11 to 18-year-olds also found 27 per cent felt they knew too little about drugs and would ask someone else to speak to their child if they suspected them dabbling in illegal substances.

Unaware of drug abuse signs

Although half of the parents had spoken to their children about the dangers of drugs. Many were unaware of vital signs that their child could be taking drugs or illegal substances.

For example, half of parents were unaware that items such as clingfilm, small stickers or transfers were often associated with taking drugs such as cannabis or acid.

Spokesman for the Government's Frank campaign James Robinson-Morley said they had launched a Parents Drug quiz on their website.

"The test is a simple way for busy parents to assess their knowledge and to raise awareness of any areas where they might need to talk to Frank, whether they simply need the facts, or would like to talk to someone for advice and support," they said.

The Parents Drug Test is available on www.talktofrank.com and includes details on commonly-used drugs, their appearance, popular street names and signs of drug-taking.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ABC's Primetime Looks at Stepfamilies


April 21, 2006 — "The silence of being a stepfamily is deafening," one stepparent wrote in a letter to ABC News' "Primetime."

With so many marriages ending in divorce, the number of people living in a stepfamily situation is steadily increasing. Yet many stepfamilies say there is little information available to help with the myriad problems that can tear them apart.

For a glimpse into blended families, "Primetime" found two families on the brink of implosion that allowed cameras inside their homes to document the problems and let experts try to help.

Not Quite Like the 'Brady Bunch'

"The Brady Bunch" may be the ideal blended family — a single mom and dad with three kids each, all under one roof. The Brady family's little annoyances, however, were resolved by the end of the show with a hug and a smile.

Life's not quite like that for the Alsted family from Snohomish, Wash. Laurie has four children and has raised them alone for years. Tony has two kids from a previous marriage. When Laurie and Tony married, all of them moved into a new house.

Laurie and Tony thought they could handle it — they are both highly regarded professionals. Laurie is a corporate marketing executive and Tony, a corporate project specialist. They are "problem-solvers," as Laurie puts it.

As the months went by, the family began to notice a tug-of-war over parenting styles.

Laurie is something of a "sergeant mommy."

"My house is my house," she said. "Organization, dinner time, respect rules. … And for me being a single parent for seven years, you know, it's like, 'This is when we're eating. Your clothes will be laid out before school.' Everything was so structured."

That is in direct conflict with Tony's easygoing approach to parenting. "I don't have any desire to lay out the kids' clothes or my clothes, for that matter, or every day we have dinner because life is dynamic," he said.

Laurie thought it was her job to get Tony's kids to accept her firm control. "When we blended families, that was my expectation … that everybody would pitch in," she said.


YSMARKO.COM - One Year Anniversary



one year ago today i started blogging. i had resisted for over a year, worried that i would either alienate ys customers (if my
blog was really honest) or allow it to become a cheap marketing piece, disguised as a blog. but i chose to launch out.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Listening And Learning


When I graduated from Kentucky Christian College more than 30 years ago, I felt well prepared for the demands and vicissitudes of the preaching ministry. I had spent an intensive four years in the classroom discovering biblical truth and how to disseminate it to God’s people. I had also been well schooled in the pastoral responsibilities that are an integral part of the located minister’s work. When I received my degree, I was confident that the learning phase of ministry was basically completed and the future called only for the proper application of the lessons learned. How wrong I was!

I can almost hear the rejoining words of wise readers who are surprised at such naiveté. "Of course," you say, "the greatest lessons of any vocation or calling are learned in the laboratory of life, not in the classroom." True, but learning that lesson sometimes takes a lifetime.

Predictably, a number of pastoral faux pas those first few months made it apparent to me that my educational process was incomplete. Although I was learning much from my mistakes, the experience was far too painful to want to continue. It was then that the epiphany (for me!) came that I am convinced saved my ministry. Why not learn from older, more experienced workers in the kingdom?

So began the process of listening to and learning from my capable and seasoned colleagues in ministry. Anytime I had an opportunity to sit in on a seminar, go to a workshop, or spend a few minutes conversing with competent preachers in our brotherhood, I did. And I still do. Oh, the lessons I have learned! Here are the five most helpful ones:


Fewer teens realize dangers of 'huffing'


One in five admit getting high by inhaling household products, report finds

NEW YORK - About 20 percent of U.S. teenagers admit they have gotten high by inhaling common household products, and fewer understand the dangers of this practice compared with teenagers five years ago, according to a report released Monday.

The findings reflect a drop-off in educational efforts begun in the 1990s to combat the growth of inhalant abuse, says the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which is publishing the report.

Sniffing or “huffing” vapors from ordinary products like glue, spray paint, nail polish remover and gasoline was once a “fringe” activity, said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership.

But by the mid-1990s, the practice had “exploded nationwide,” he told Reuters Health, and even elementary school children were experimenting with the inhalants readily available under their kitchen sinks.

In 1995, the Partnership launched a large advertising campaign that was credited with boosting awareness of the dangers of inhalant abuse — which include damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, vision, hearing and even sudden death from suffocation or heart arrhythmias.

More importantly, surveys found an accompanying decline in the percentage of kids who’d ever tried huffing, from 23 percent in 1995 to 18 percent in 2001.

But the new findings, based on a national survey of more than 7,200 teenagers and 1,200 parents, suggest awareness has waned and abuse is on the rise.

Overall, the survey found, 64 percent of teens “strongly” agreed that huffing can be fatal, down 19 percent from 2001. And 77 percent strongly agreed that inhalants can cause brain damage, down 9 percent.

“It’s a lack of education,” Pasierb said, noting that parents and kids alike need more information.

Parents unaware
Only 5 percent of the parents in the survey thought their child had ever abused an inhalant, although 20 percent of teens said they had.

Some parents may simply be unaware of the practice, but many may believe that their child wouldn’t do it, Pasierb noted.

He said the Partnership is restarting its ad campaign warning against inhalant abuse, because today’s middle-schoolers weren’t exposed to the educational efforts of the 1990s.

“This is something we need to keep up,” Pasierb said.

The campaign includes advice on how parents can recognize signs of inhalant abuse, such as chemical odors on children’s hands or clothes, spray cans or soaked rags in their rooms, and physical and behavioral signs such as a dazed appearance, red and runny eyes or nose, irritability and problems at school.

A parents’ guide is published on the Partnership’s Web site


Monday, April 24, 2006

20 Questions to Develop Your Ministry


I saw an article that was called the same as the above except replace Ministry with Business. I thought to myself, "what would that look like for church?" This is the conclusion of that thought. I think, just like the original author, that the questions are more important than the answers and that there needs to be an answer, even though it doesn't always have to be absolutely correct. The answers tell what you are underutilizing, mis-communicating, mis-prioritizing, etc. Just asking the questions, digging in deep on some of these, and asking "why" after each answer will yield the most benefit in ministry.


1. What are your short term and long term goals (what time period are these goals)?

2. How do you measure success?

3. What do you think are the top three things keeping you from achieving success?

4. What are your ministry's exclusives? What do you have that others can't or wouldn't copy?


1. What is the average size and margin of your services? How has this trended?

2. How many people move each month from outside to inside groups? What is the mix of new vs. old members?

3. What is a service worth over a lifetime? Have you evaluated the effectiveness of services/programs?

4. What is needed to sustain a member? i.e. worship, small groups, discipleship/mentoring, service, etc.


1. How do you communicate to guests after visiting?

2. How does the mechanism of follow up compare with the effectiveness of retained guests? with regular members?

3. How do you measure your communications? What tests have you run? Results?

4. How do other ministries communicate differently than you?


1. What are the top 3 things guests and members are looking for when they come to a service/program? And how do you know this?

2. Where are most guests coming from or going to when they visit your ministry? And how do you know this?

3. If I were a guest, what would my 20 second word of mouth 'sound byte' be if I were to tell a friend about you? What would I say?

4. Who is your primary competition and how do you differentiate your service, experience, and outcomes from competition? (not other churches)


1. What are the roles/responsibilities of the top management in the ministry? How are these made clear to each of them?

2. What are your key performance indicators and how often do you review them?

3. How are staff compensated? Are there incentives?

4. What are the career paths? Are they clearly communicated to staff?


Reaching the MySpace Generation


If you were asked to use one word to describe this generation, what would it be?

When I ask youth workers that question, I often hear descriptions such as "searching, hurting, lost, curious, hurt, or skeptical." Some quickly add a more positive twist, "but they are also hopeful, energized, honest, authentic, passionate."

As the Network moves beyond its 25th birthday and tries to envision our next decade of ministry, we have concluded that our challenge and commission is to "Reach an Abandoned Generation of Teenagers."

We see teenagers as abandoned in many ways, often by one or both parents, as well as by other adults within their world. Many adults have missed their God-given responsibility and opportunity to personally involve themselves in a teenager’s life. We believe that this generation may be the least-parented generation of all time.

Is the word "abandoned" too strong? And what about all of the visible signs that kids are connected and socially vibrant, as evidenced by the MySpace phenomenon, where more than 40 million people (mostly teenagers and young adults) gossip, share stories and blog their thoughts and ideas?

Patricia Hersch, in her informative book A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescents, states: "The more we leave kids alone, don’t engage, the more they circle around on the same adolescent logic that has caused dangerous situations to escalate. Young people have not arrogantly turned their backs on the adult world. Rather, they have been forced by a personal sense of abandonment to band together and create their own world – separate, semi-secret, and vastly different from the world around them."

Also, in David Elkind’s A Sympathetic Understanding of the Child: Birth to Sixteen, he observes: "The culture itself is no longer as attentive to the needs of children and adolescents as it once was, and therefore, the young work hard at finding out how to make it on their own. Identity formation requires a kind of envelope of adult standards, values and beliefs that the adolescent can confront and challenge in order to construct and test out his or her own standards, values and beliefs…Today, however, adults have fewer standards, values and beliefs and hold on to them less firmly than was true in the past. The adolescent must therefore struggle to find an identity without the benefit of this supportive adult envelope."

In his book Hurt, Chap Clark points out: "On the surface, the adolescent world appears to be relatively stable and healthy. Yet beneath the calm waters presented by positive empirical data, there is turmoil that is difficult, painful, lonely, and even harmful to our young."

He continues, "Even among those who argue that adolescents are basically fine, virtually no one would question the need young people, and especially adolescents, have for adults who are available, caring, and coming to them without a hidden or self-centered agenda…when adults are not present and involved in their lives, they are forced to figure out how to survive life on their own."

More than ever, we need a mass movement of caring adults to positively reach out to and engage with teenagers in America. Through vibrant, welcoming local churches, healthy local Networks that aim to adopt every school in the area, and adults willing to mentor kids in every conceivable setting, the church – that community of devoted followers of Christ – is needed more than ever.

The mere presence of a youth worker in a student’s life can make a difference. It’s a salt and light issue. For instance, when we communicate with youth through their MySpace pages, we signal that we are "with them" there. Often, meaningful dialogue results. We need a generation of adults who lovingly invite themselves into students’ lives. To Turn the Tide of this generation, we need to initiate relationships with teenagers in all kinds of settings.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Police: MySpace foils school shooting


Five teenagers arrested; alleged targets were popular students

RIVERTON, Kansas (AP) -- Five teenage boys accused of plotting a shooting rampage at their high school on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre were arrested Thursday after a message authorities said warned of a gun attack appeared on the Web site MySpace.com.

Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect, Sheriff Steve Norman said. Authorities also found documents about firearms and references to Armageddon in two suspects' school lockers.

"What the resounding theme is: They were actually going to do this," Norman said.

Four suspects were arrested at their homes; the fifth was taken into custody at the school. None of the names of the teens, ages 16-18, were released.

Attorney General Phill Kline, whose office took over the prosecution at the request of the county attorney, said charges are likely to be announced Friday, when the suspects are expected to appear in court.

No decision has been made on whether to charge the four suspects younger than 18 as adults, he said.

Deputies' interviews with the suspects indicated they planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school's camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Norman said. The suspects apparently had been plotting since the beginning of the school year.

Officials at Riverton High School began investigating on Tuesday after learning that a threatening message had been posted on MySpace.com, he said.

The message discussed the significance of April 20, which is Adolf Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which two students wearing trench coats killed 13 people and committed suicide, the sheriff said.

"The message, it was brief, but it stated that there was going to be a shooting at the Riverton school and that people should wear bulletproof vests and flak jackets," Norman said.

School officials identified the student who posted the message and talked to several of his friends, Norman said.

But Riverton school district Superintendent David Walters said the significance of the threat didn't become clear until Wednesday night, after a woman in North Carolina who had chatted with one of the suspects on Myspace.com received more specific information that there would be about a dozen potential victims, at least one of whom was a staff member. She notified authorities in her state, who contacted the sheriff's department, Norman said.

Norman said that the potential victims were popular students and that the suspects may have been bullied.

"I think there was probably some bullying, name calling, chastising," he said. He also said investigators had learned the suspects were computer buffs who liked violent video games.

MySpace.com -- a social networking hub with more 72 million members -- released a statement declining to discuss the case because of the investigation, adding that it has provided users with mechanisms to report inappropriate content.

Kline said school would resume Friday. About 900 students in all grades attend the campus.

Riverton is an unincorporated area of about 600 people along what once was the famed Route 66 in southeast Kansas, near the Oklahoma and Missouri borders.


Helpful Hints for Getting Hired in Youth Ministry


Let's cut to the chase. You are reading this because you are looking for a job in youth ministry. I have some suggestions to help you go from looking to being happily employed.

1. Your resume is everything. Keep it short. Simple. An opening letter of interest of the position. The resume itself should have your contact info, philosophy of ministry, doctrinal statement, education, experience, honors, and references. Usually 1 page for an introductory letter, 1-2 page resume, and references. Make it professional. Check for spelling. Make them want to talk with you. Don't overdo it though. Be concise and honest.

2. Have it in writing. Get a description of the position. Is it just teens, children also? Pay range etc. If a church doesn't have any idea of what they are looking for, should you really be considering them?

3. Ask what the application process is. This is important. If you are looking for a position in the next few months and the church isn't in any hurry to hire, no need to send a resume. How soon before you can expect to hear back? Are they doing a beauty contest? Bringing in their Top 3? etc.

4. Demographics. Size of church, location. Region of the Country. Not everyone can be the Next Doug Fields in Southern Ca (I'm sure Doug doesn't even want you to be) but be who God called you to be. Know your own personality and gifts and where can minister. This doesn't rule God out, but also might clarify your Calling to a particular area. If you are passionate about Inner City ministry, don't apply to middle of Nowhere, Idaho. Get some info about the church, size, ages, area etc.

5. Be professional. Apply for the position. Review the pros and cons of the area. When conducting interviews try to be concise and be prepared. Nothing like off the wall questions. Be prepared for whatever may come. Be prepared to give a lesson. Show your philosophy of ministry. Dress appropriately for the occasion.

6. Ask Questions. Don't just answer them. Ask them. What is the history of the church? Program Budget? Leadership styles? Get to know much about the church as possible. This is a very much like a dating relationship - you want to know if you will be compatible.

7. Get References. Not only for yourself. But about the church you are applying to. Ask for them. What does the local Y say about the church I'm applying to. How is it seen in the community? Who else has worked or knows about the Senior Minister? etc.

8. Theology is a must. If you cannot agree theologically or methodology with a certain church - don't apply. Don't shape your theology to get a job but rather let your theology lead you. Too often what happens is misunderstandings not only over theology but over difference of opinion, and yet some of this could have been avoided if understood upfront where the congregation stood doctrinally and in its methods to approaching that doctrine.

9. Pool your resources. Network. Know your friends. Know what is out there. Get those connections to help find the right youth ministry position for you.

10. Pray. (Should have been #1) Seek God's will in this. Applying for a youth ministry isn't an easy task. You want it to be for the long haul. Too many apply and accept the first church that has accepted them only to be looking again shortly. If you do your homework, God has a place for you. It is definitely worth it. Youth Ministry is a good thing ... a job at which you can love God and love students.


High School Cheerleading: Pompoms and Pressure


Cheerleading is much more than a sideline sport, as the more than 3 million American cheerleaders can tell you.

Far more than cheering on the guys, competitive cheerleading requires serious physical stamina and mental discipline. It can also be a path to popularity, achievement, and even a full scholarship to college, which is why some parents — mostly mothers — push their cheerleading daughters so hard.

Ryan Martin, a sophomore at Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky., suffers from a double whammy: Her mother, Donna Martin, is her cheerleading coach.

"I feel like she's always watching me and critiquing me and going to get angry if I do something wrong," said Ryan, who has been cheering since she was 3 years old.

"Cheerleader Nation," a new reality TV show that is shown on Lifetime, follows Dunbar's cheerleading team from tryouts through the national competition. The show captured one mother promising her daughter a cell phone if she mastered a certain cheerleading move.

It also captured Martin pushing her daughter and the other cheerleaders quite hard. Martin, who was a high school cheerleader and has coached cheerleaders for 21 years, said she didn't push them too hard.

"I think there are coaches out there in every sport that probably push kids too hard," she said. "I think the good coach has to learn what each child is capable of, mentally and physically, and they have to learn what motivates those kids and what their limits are."

Knowing the students' physical limits is very important, as Kristi Yamaoka's high-profile injury proved. Yamaoka, a Southern Illinois cheerleader who fell 15 feet and landed on her head when a stunt went wrong during a women's basketball tournament this week, suffered a concussion and a cracked neck vertebra.

After Yamaoka's injury, the Missouri Valley Conference barred cheerleaders from being launched or tossed, or taking part in formations higher than two levels during the tournament.


Mark Oestreicher on "The Bible Experience"


wow. i’d heard about “the bible experience” from friends at zondervan — it’s a dramatic reading of the entire bible, with original music, read by an all african-american cast, including denzel washington, blair underwood and many others (releasing this fall). but i just went to the website, and watched the ‘behind the scenes’ video, and just found myself weeping. i hardly have words for how beautiful this is. really, you must watch this. i will count the days until i can listen to the whole thing — god’s story, our story, so gorgeously rendered.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jonathan Interviews Dan Kimball - April 18, 2006


Jonathan McKee posted his inteview with pastor and author Dan Kimball.

Who are those "Emerging" guys? We might have heard some of the hype about them... but do we really know what they believe? In our last interview Josh McDowell mentioned the "emergent guys" a few times, Dan Kimball by name, sharing some negative and positive. I thought we had better give Dan a chance to share his "two cents" with us so we could hear first hand.

Dan is one of the pastors at Vintage Faith Church, a new church in Santa Cruz, CA designed for the post-Christian culture. Dan is author of The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship. Dan also serves on the emergent YS board for Youth Specialties.


iPod generation risks permanent hearing loss, U.S. poll suggests


More than half of American high school students surveyed reported some signs of hearing loss, a finding audiologists blame on ubiquitous iPod, other MP3 players and portable DVD players.

A new poll commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association suggests more high school students in the U.S. show some form of hearing problem, to a level that surpasses that of the previous generation.

The unsettling thing is that noise-related hearing loss is permanent, according to Brenda Lonsbury-Martin the association's chief science and research officer.

Symptoms include:

* Turning up the TV or radio.
* Saying "what" or "huh" during regular conversation.
* Experiencing ringing in the ears.

It's clear that Apple's iPod and similar devices have revolutionized how people listen to music. Music fans can listen in many more places, for much longer and at loud settings.

It's not clear what is causing the hearing-loss symptoms.

"If you think of this exposure of being kind of a dose of noise then the longer you're exposed to it over a longer period of time probably increases your risk," said the association's president, Alex Johnson, in Washington.

"Our greatest concern, of course, is for students."

Earphone design matters

Nevertheless, the U.S. poll of 1,000 adults and 301 high school students found those over 18 tend to listen to their iPods for longer periods than students.

Over the last 10 years, audiologist M.J. DeSouza in Toronto has noticed a difference in her practice. She used to see mainly toddlers and seniors, but now people of all ages make appointments.

"Even people in their early thirties are coming in saying, 'I'm just not hearing the way I used to,'" said DeSouza. "When they come in and we do the test it turns out to be noise-related hearing loss."

Earbud-style headphones are part of the problem, according to audiologists. People tend to pump up the volume when there is a lot of background noise, such as on subway rides.

They recommend:

* Turning down the volume.
* Listening for shorter periods of times.
* Wearing headphones that fit over the ear.
* Seeing a certified audiologist for hearing loss symptoms.

The U.S. poll was conducted during the last two weeks of February. Results for high school students have a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points. For adults polled, the margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Combating Generalizations of Youth Workers


Youth workers have a bad reputation in church ministry. Recently, I was part of discussion on youth workers physical stereotypes. You've heard them, they must be male, play the guitar, and of course have a goatee.

I thought I’d take a few minutes to bring up the generalizations I often hear about youth workers character and work traits. Here are the expressions of angst and some reasons behind the generalizations I often hear for a dislike of youth workers:

1. They come off as knowing it all; they’ve been there and done that. Think tend to they can change the world overnight.

2. They are not patient. They are ignorant of how churches really get things done, yet they want their way right anyway.

3. They are unbalanced and lack personal management skills. Work, but take a day off. Spend time with your family; and yet do what you have do during your office hours.

4. They tend to be disrespectful. If most only knew the many times their senior pastor has put himself in the line of fire for them.

5. Youth group is unbiblical. Where is youth group in the Bible? Where are youth workers in the Bible? Worse yet, let's have a separate church rather than have teens be a part of the church body as a whole!

6. They tend to be program-centric. They focus on messages and capitalism. There is enough publishing houses; superconferences; music festivals, CCM music and that "ministering" to the youth culture in the name of the Lord. Some how I think I've had enough of the spam - of you'll like this speaker or band; or camp; or curriculum or this or that WWJD or Jabez or the latest trend. All of them operate in the name of the Lord? Seems to me, the Lord might be overthrowing some tables and say GET OUT of my Father's House and making it a Den of Thieves. Christian Music alone is a multi-billion dollar industry - let's not forget the Publishing books. Has creativity or coming up with one's own lessons gone out the window? I guess youth pastors are just like us pastors – free to plagiarize.

7. They ooze with pride and ego. I hear more comparing about numbers than I would expect at an IRS or a CPA convention. So what is the size of your group? Seems youth pastors' egos are based on the size of their group; church; salary; and so forth. Isn’t that sad? Whatever happened to - oh, Youth Ministry? Yeah; I work in a small church I oversee Nursery to College. Seems we want everyone to be more specialized; since when is bigger better or is it? I want a youth worker to say I have 2 students in my youth group; and I give them as much attention as any student at such and such mega church.

8. They spend too much time talking about youth ministry; but are they actually doing it? Oh, youth pastors like to talk; and get feathers in their cap; but what are they actually doing? Where is the discussion about that?

9. They exhibit a lack of long-term planning. Most youth pastors I’ve met don't plan. I noticed one topic on YMX regarding planning for the next year. I didn't see too many responses. Doesn’t a lack of planning and time management exhibit poor stewardship? What do you want your middle schoolers to learn and know by the time the are entering High School? What about your High Schoolers? What about after they leave your ministry? Do you have things in place during and now that they are incorporated into the larger body of Christ? Also lack of planning - gives room for no accountability with finances; counseling; time alone with the opposite sex? How do you address those hot buttons in your ministry?

10. They use poor conflict resolution skills. They would rather run and hide or quit or resign than admit failure or accept constructive criticism. But usually when conflict arises we either want to hit it head on or ignore it. Both are accidents waiting to happen. If we learn how to do this, it would help our ministry in the long run.

I hope this isn't read that I don't dislike youth workers. I am one! The reasons above are just a drop in the bucket of what are I have seen and heard. There are many great youth workers out there who have dealt with my list and their lives blow it out of the park. I really do love youth pastors but generalizations and situations like the above give the name of Youth Pastor a bad reputation.


Gen X parents sharing more with kids


GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) — Mike and Kameron Bednarz often head to the neighborhood skateboard park after school, doing ollies and other tricks well past dusk.

The father and son are best buddies. They share other hobbies — snowboarding, guitar playing and competing for hours at video games such as "The Legend of Zelda" for Nintendo GameCube — a game that father Mike Bednarz played on the original Nintendo when he was a kid. The new version is "much more detailed and interactive," Bednarz says.

Corporate consultants, marketers and generational experts say relationships like the Bednarz' is something they often observe: Youngish parents (Mike Bednarz is 32) share more interests with their children than they once did with their folks.

These are 30- and early 40-something moms and dads who are just as likely to be punk rock or hip-hop fans as their children. These are parents who can't wait for the next Harry Potter.

Yvette Obias of suburban Cleveland is teaching her 9-year-old daughter, Acelyn, how to surf, a sport she's been passionate about for years. Their common interests don't end there, said the 35-year-old single mom, who grew up as a punk-rock skater.

"We have the same type of music taste. Our clothes are the same. I'll find something cute and trendy and she'll want to buy it," Obias says. "Growing up with my parents, I never had that, music-wise or clothes-wise."

Kameron Bednarz's dad blends in fairly well with the young skate park denizens in this Cleveland suburb, with shoes the color of St. Patrick's Day and an Enjoi skateboard, an image of Kiss' Gene Simmons on the bottom worn out from countless rail slides. Only his receding hairline gives him away.

Eight-year-old Kameron says it's pretty cool to have a dad who can tear up a skate park.

"Pretty much, he's better than me," Kameron admits. "He started when he was 10, so I will be better than him soon."

Technology is another big bond between today's kids and their Generation X parents.

"The shared experiences between parent and child are shifting. Instead of fathers teaching their sons how to play sports or use tools, now they've got video games," said Chuck Underwood, founder of The Generational Imperative Inc., a Cincinnati-based consulting firm whose clients include Procter & Gamble Co. and Time Warner.

Alisa Clamen, 41, of Montreal, says she could never relate to her mother's music, artists like jazzman Benny Goodman. But the MTV culture that shaped her teen years isn't all that different from what her kids — ages 18, 11 and 9 — are into. And like them, she enjoys her iPod.

Clamen didn't watch television with her parents as a kid, and although her tastes may differ somewhat from her children, they have found common ground with American Idol. "I pulled them into it," she says. "It was a fun family thing to do."

People who study generational differences say many Gen Xers want a closer relationship with their kids than what they experienced — they're less interested in climbing to the top of the corporate ladder if it means giving up family time. Gen Xers matured at a time when the divorce rate was soaring and working parents were away from their children for more hours than any prior generation.

"On the whole, they're correcting for this. They're not going to allow their own children to be left alone," says Bill Strauss, a generational expert and co-author of Millennials and the Pop Culture.

Says Obias: "I don't want my relationship with my daughter to be the kind of relationship I had with my parents."

But even the Gen X parents who think they're hip could soon find themselves as out of touch as their parents were. Some Gen Xers don't get into text messaging, for instance, while it's second nature for a lot of young people. "It's a completely different language," says Kathleen Gasperini, senior vice president at Label Networks, a Los Angeles youth culture marketing research company, whose clients include Apple Computer, Vans shoes and Pepsi.

Musically, some parents might have grown up on punk, but won't be able to relate to the many derivatives it's spawning.

"There'll come a time when they look at their 14-year-old and say, 'I have no idea who you are,'" Gasperini said.

Bednarz is hoping that day doesn't come.

"I'll still probably be the hippest dad around because I skate and bike," Bednarz says. "I'm hoping when he gets older we'll still skate together."


Court refuses to block access to church counseling records


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere in a California prosecutor's efforts to obtain confidential counseling records kept by the Catholic Church on two priests under investigation for molesting children.

The justices, without comment, declined to hear a church appeal of a state court ruling permitting the Los Angeles district attorney to subpoena records -- including letters and details from confessions and treatment -- generated by Cardinal Roger Mahony and the priests in dealing with concerns about child sexual abuse.

The subpoenas are significant because similar records are being sought in hundreds of lawsuits filed by sexual abuse victims across the nation, including more than 500 in California.

The church had argued the subpoenas violate the First Amendment's protection of religion, saying ``state review of confidential, pastoral counseling . . . inherently entangles the state in the internal religious life of churches and intrudes into religious practice.''

Attorneys for the church also said the subpoenas will ``chill'' the relationship between Mahony and the priests. Already, instead of counseling, priests are hiring attorneys and refusing to undergo psychological evaluations, the attorneys said.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Luke 23:26-49 (New International Version)

The Crucifixion

26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' 30Then
" 'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"
and to the hills, "Cover us!" '[a] 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."[b] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

38There was a written notice above him, which read:|sc THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[c]"

43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Jesus' Death

44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
NIV at IBS International Bible Society NIV at Zondervan Zondervan

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Turn Your small groups upside-down


Do you have a sneaking feeling your small group ministry has somehow slipped out of gear—things seem okay, but the depth of impact you expected just isn’t there? Here are four high-octane ways to get that ministry engine roaring again.

What role do thriving small groups play in an effective youth ministry? A few years ago I asked Doug Fields—pastor to students at Saddleback Church, group columnist, and author of Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry—what it was like to work at the It Church of our generation. He smiled, shook his head, then told me that almost every week he had youth pastors from all over the country asking to come hang out with him to glean the secrets of his success. Bad idea, he said, because Saddleback’s “secret” to success—the engine for its growth and impact—is its small group ministry.

Idea-hungry visitors, he told me, would see a creative and engaging large group gathering, but they’d quickly get bored following him around to his Taco Bell appointments. His volunteer small group leaders were the rubber-meets-the-road ministry leaders at Saddleback.

And that makes perfect sense. Jesus chose 12 to change the world. He influenced the crowds (and in many cases infuriated them), but he used his small group to bring deep, life-altering impact. Saddleback’s example is just one more reminder that Jesus knew what he was doing.

But the small group environment is just that—an environment for ministry. Smallness alone doesn’t produce fruit. That’s why, several months ago, I recruited a team of youth ministry experts here at Group to offer a small group “makeover” to a youth ministry near our headquarters in Colorado.


The Right Kind of Kids


TO: Youth Director
FROM: Administrative Board
RE: The right kind of kids

I'm sure you'll agree that attracting the right kind of kid to the program will then attract the right kind of parent. Remember we're all about families here. The more familial-giving-units we can bring on board, the quicker we can move into the new family life center.

It's recently come to our attention that your youth program may not be attracting the right sort of kids to our church. Mildred Fleener, who has been at this church since 1809, graciously volunteered to create a sub-committee on youth activities and came up with the following list of suggestions on which kinds of kids may NOT be entirely appropriate for our church.

  • Kids who wear too much black. (This includes hair dye and lipstick.)
  • Kids who smoke. (Smell them when they come in.)
  • Kids who drink. (Pay attention to kids who pop a lot of Tic-Tacs. See Also: Smoking)
  • Kids who have their own cars. (Kids who drive themselves to church make parents uncomfortable.)
  • Kids who have more than one piercing. (One in each ear is plenty. Girls only!)
  • Kids who use the word "suck."
  • Kids who slouch during church.
  • Kids who pass notes during church.
  • Kids who don't know all the words to Our God Is an Awesome God.
  • Kids from broken homes.
  • Kids who have more than one mommy.
  • Kids who have jobs or sports activities that interfere with youth activities.
  • Kids who give "that look."
  • Kids who aren't familiar with even the most elementary Bible stories.
  • Kids who come to youth meetings but not to real church.
  • Kids who come to church but don't sing.
  • Kids who come to church but sing too loud.
  • Kids who ask too many questions.
  • Kids who don't participate in the youth fundraisers.
  • That one kid who keeps taking six of the good cookies from the "fellowship time" table and then going to the youth room to eat them.
  • That girl with the eye makeup and the perfume.
  • That boy with the eye makeup and the perfume.
  • "That" kid from "that" family.
  • Kids who wear T-shirts that feature bands that sing lyrics that make adults uncomfortable.
  • Kids who wear T-shirts depicting Jesus the Son of God as a "homeboy."
  • Kids who wear T-shirts that bare the midriff (See also: Piercing)
  • Kids who wear shorts with words on their backsides that may cause others to actually look there.
(NOTE: Shelly Smith frequently wears shorts and midriff-bearing shirts that say "Our God Is an Awesome God." This clothing is still unacceptable despite her attempts to call it evangelism.)

As we have new visitors every Sunday, it's important that they see a happy, close-knit group of well-adjusted, happy teenagers who enjoy church and enjoy sitting with their families.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when visiting the high schools or welcoming friends of current youth group members.

Yours in Christ,

The Administrative Board
Sub-Committee on Youth Activities


TO: Youth Director
FROM: Jesus
RE: The right kind of kids

Over here. I'll take 'em.

Yours In Me, Jesus

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Pornography Epidemic


The Battleground

We’re going to talk about sexual immorality. I apologize for the “battle” analogy, but honestly, I don’t see a more appropriate place to use it – this issue is nothing short of an epic war, where societies and souls rest in the balance.

As you consider this rampant problem, take in a few statistics to help you determine its seriousness:
  • At one Promise Keepers event, 50% of attendees admitted to checking out pornographic material within the past week (Setting Captives Free – PDF file)
  • In 2001, 5,656 males were polled: 95% admitted that they masturbate, 41% of all respondents do so at least once a day, and 1% do so 9 times a day!
  • In a Christianity Today poll, one third of Christian pastors surveyed said that they have visited sexually explicit websites.
  • 51% of pastors admit that looking at internet pornography is their biggest temptation (Christianity Today, December 2002).
  • 25 million Americans visit cybersex sites between 1-10 hours per week (MSNBC Survey, 2000).
(Last 3 facts taken from XXX Church: Porn Facts).

Even though stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, I think we can definitively say that, yes, sexual immorality, even/especially among the church, is a problem. And given increasing broadband availability, Internet usage, and cultural acceptance of sexual perversion, it’s a problem that promises to drastically increase.

To label this problem as anything less than epidemic is to plug your ears and cover your eyes to our culture. This problem is far-reaching and grave. But in all honesty, I’m not here to tell you that the misuse and misunderstanding of sex is a problem in our culture. My bet is that you already know it is, and chances are, it is one that you currently fight. You’ve seen the power of search engines, you’ve been spammed with plenty of pornographic e-mails, and you are fully aware of the steps to take to erase your browser history and remain anonymous on a faceless Internet. You’re convinced – porn is a problem.

The Battleplan

The purpose of this article is to help you fight the battle. I hope to give you some tools that will help you combat the lust of your heart and the lust of your eyes.

So if you are caught in that trap, or have friends or children who are (and statistically, you do), what can you do?!


Winning At Home: Married To The Wrong Person?


As a teenager, I came from a youth group where our youth pastor and his wife weren't happy and he ran off with the assistant secretary. I saw this and thought it was appropriate and applicable to student/youth ministers.

A few days ago, newlyweds Elizabeth and Jon sat down to do their taxes together. The experience was one of a long line of marriage "firsts" for them, and like so many others, it forced a moment of clarity.

When it was time to sort through their files and forms, Elizabeth carried her paperwork to the table in a nice, sturdy box. She had made sure she bought the fireproof model that locked with a key-she wasn't going to take any chances with her important documents.

Jon, on the other hand, was storing his financial records in a Tupperware container. No locks, no keys, no fire-resistant coating for him. "At least it wasn't one of those expandable plastic folders," says Elizabeth with a laugh. "But his stuff could still go up in flames."

When they first met, it was differences like these that attracted Elizabeth and Jon to each other. She was drawn to his laid-back nature, his adventurous spirit, and his rational approach. He was refreshingly unlike her.

In a similar way, Jon liked the ways that Elizabeth was different from himself. She was responsible and independent, yet she thrived on spending time with other people. Compared to what he was used to, those things were certainly a welcome change.

So over time, Jon and Elizabeth fell in love and decided to get married, differences and all. That's when (as she explains it) some of their differences became a little irritating.

"In the time leading up to the wedding," she says, "I began to wonder if it was really right." In many areas of life, she and her fiancé were polar opposites. He was an avid adventurer-caving, hang gliding, and bungee jumping; she was claustrophobic and afraid of heights.

He liked to sit and relax, often procrastinating his way through life. She was task-oriented and got antsy after being still for just a few minutes. He based decisions on logic; she ran on emotion.

They were so different in so many ways-how could they ever be right for each other? Were they making a mistake? Were they about to get married to the wrong person?

Well, no.

If differences are all it takes to make two spouses "wrong," then there's not a single marriage out there that's right. In any given marriage, differences abound.

Take your pick: the husband wants to golf, the wife would rather shop. The husband wants to go out, and the wife prefers to stay home. He's a spender, she's a saver. He's an early riser, she likes to sleep in.

On and on down the list they go-he's one way, she's another. He's in one category, she's not. He wants one thing, she wants the opposite. But that doesn't mean they're wrong for each other. Eliminating marital differences is not the key to marriage success. After all, it is a weak love that requires sameness all the time. Marriage success requires a strong love, a love that can survive what threatens to divide us.

When it comes down to it, much of what makes you and me different is precisely what can make us better. You'll teach me to stretch outside my own tried-and-true limits. I'll teach you to move beyond what you've always known.

Your strengths can compliment my weaknesses, and my strengths can make you stronger. I'll sacrifice some things, and you'll sacrifice some things, and we'll both be better for it. Besides, there's no use storing the tax papers in two different places anymore.

And speaking of IRS forms, that reminds me: Elizabeth and Jon are working to build a love that surpasses their storage preferences. In fact, they've talked about purchasing a lockable box that will accommodate all the important household paperwork from here on out.

Elizabeth's old box is full, you see, and although Tupperware worked for Jon in the past, it isn't exactly fireproof.

Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article in conjunction with Winning At Home's staff editor Lisa Velthouse. E-mail your questions or comments to hometeam@winningathome.com.


Monday, April 10, 2006

World Youth Day


Hundreds of Catholic teens gather in Harrisburg to celebrate World Youth Day. Yesterday, the teens participated in a mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral and then walked over to Strawberry Square for food, music, and a social hour.

This is the 21st year for the world-wide event.

The teens say it's a good reminder that the future of the Catholic church is in their hands.

Organizer Steve Horn:
“They're the future. If they're not here it's going to die out and they'll have nothing to believe in then.”

In 2008, Catholic kids, teens and twenty-somethings from around the world will gather in Sydney, Australia to celebrate World Youth Day at the international level.


Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Students Still Trying To Fit In


HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- The badge dangling from Sabrina Hernandez's neck identifies her as a Hastings High senior. The oversized button with the smiling picture of Sabrina in her black-and-gold uniform tells you she's a member of the Bears cheerleading squad.

As she glides down the crowded concrete halls, nothing about the bubbly 18-year-old in the pink Barbie T-shirt and silver-sequined tennis shoes says "evacuee" or "refugee" or "victim."

That's not how the Kenner, Louisiana, girl sees herself. And that's not how she wants others to see her, either.

"I'm just like them," Sabrina says in a soft, shy voice. "Some people have a problem with us, but I'm just like them."



In the more than half year since Hurricane Katrina turned the world upside down, thousands of students like Sabrina, and the schools that have taken them in, have had to walk a fine line. Between fitting in here and loyalty to friends back home.

Between celebrating differences and seeking common ground.

Between asking too many questions -- and not enough.

Between "us" and "them."

"For the most part they have pretty much settled in," says Bronwyn Lucas, support counselor at sprawling Elsik High School, which, along with Hastings, is part of the Alief Independent School District.

"For so many of them it's, 'I can't go back.' There isn't anything to go back to. This is it. You have to play the hand you've been given -- ugly hand that it is.

"And they're playing it."


Adults Spend More Time Gaming Than Teens


At a recent study by Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) shows that adults spend more time playing games than teens, which is startling (to some degree).
  • one-third of adult gamers spend 10 hours or more per week playing console or PC games compared to just 11 percent of teens
  • 11% of teen gamers play PC or console games 10 hours or more week
  • more and more 12-14 year olds spend more time gaming than 15-17 year olds
  • 58% of homes with consoles consider it their primary game platform
  • 25% of adults used handhelds in the last 6 months
  • 64% of adults play alone
  • 55% of adults play online
  • 5x more teens are playing mmogs than adults especially women
  • 77% of teens used handhelds in the last 6 months
  • 78% of teen males play online games
  • 58% of teen females play online games
  • Women outnumber men due to high rate of online games between the bracket of 25-34 years of age, which contains the largest concentration of female gamers, about 29% of the age bracket.
  • Furthermore, the CEA Study sees that adults will buy 19 million Next Generation consoles the first year, further fueling new business opportunities for installers and retailers.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Online gambling snagging children as young as 9


Addiction experts are blaming the explosion of online gambling for a dramatic rise in the number of young people getting hooked.

"Even kids as young as nine years are learning about gambling. They may not be gambling with money, but they're learning concepts of gambling. They see it," said Jon Kelly, CEO of Ontario's Responsible Gambling Council.

The disturbing trend will be one of the topics debated at an international gambling conference being hosted by the Responsible Gambling Council in Toronto next week.

Louise Smith, the director of the YMCA's Youth gambling program, said she knew of a case where one nine-year-old spent hours playing poker online with his dad.

"He really knew the rules and lingo, that kind of thing," said Smith.

She said her front-line workers are reporting an explosion in poker among younger kids.

"Over the past year, one of things we've heard about is poker playing in elementary schools. Teachers are calling," she said.

More often though, the players are older teens and young adults.

A CBC reporter interviewed Ryerson University students who readily admitted their poker pastime sometimes overtook their school work.

Vinthan Mahalingan, sitting with a group of fellow students, said they played poker everyday for at least three hours, or went to the casino several days a week.

"We're gamble-holics," he said, grinning. "We love it!"

Mahalingan said he and his gambling buddies picked up their poker skills online.

"You can learn the basics because it's free and people tell you what to do. There's a lot to do there," he said.

Addiction counsellers say online gambling is just part of a larger and growing poker culture. People can watch televised poker tournaments, read books, go to seminars. A whole league of newly minted poker celebrities are now revered like sports heroes.

Counsellors say stories of big wins have created unrealistic expectations among youngsters and teens.

As Mahalingan's buddy Anton Soorinyakumar says of the life of the professional poker player:

"You make money and all you do is play cards. And make millions of dollars."


Counseling Referral Checklist


William Miller* has put together an excellent format for pastors to ask questions of professional counselors.

1. Clients. What kinds of clients do you like to work with? With whom do you work best? Are there particular problems or age groups with whom you have special expertise?

2. Training. What degrees do you hold, and from where? What special training have you had for dealing with the kinds of clients and for problems you work with?

3. Approach. What is your general approach to therapy? What do you do with clients? (A favorite answer here is “eclectic,” which is very non-informative. It may mean that the person has no particular system for formulating and uses a collection of techniques or poorly specified methods. On the other hand, it may mean that the person is skilled in a range of alternative interventions and chooses an approach based on reasonable and valid criteria. Be sure you clearly understand and feel comfortable with where the person is coming from in their approach and goals for their counseling.)

4. Evidence. An interesting question to ask, particularly when a specific client or problem area is being discussed: What scientific evidence is there for the effectiveness of what you do? What proof is there that this approach actually helps? The individual may cite specific research or may dodge by referring vaguely to “many studies” or “my years of professional experience.”

5. Length of Treatment. How long do you usually see a client? What is the average number of sessions? (The answer ought to be different depending on the presenting problem. Some problems are relatively easy to treat while others require a somewhat longer course of treatment.)

6. Fees. How are fees determined? Is there a sliding scale? Is the person eligible for insurance payments? Does the person accept public assistance clients, whose fees are paid (usually on a more minimal scale) by the state or federal government? Is payment in advance, on monthly billing, or on time payments?

7. Credentials. Is this person certified or licensed in his or her field? By whom? If not, why not? If the person is currently working toward credentials under the supervision of another professional, clarify the extent of supervision and find out more about the supervisor.

8. Group. Is the individual part of a professional group, such as a group practice? What other professionals does he or she work with regularly?

9. Religious Views. Here we refer not to a personal statement of faith, but rather to the professional’s general views on religion and its relationship to mental health and treatment. How, in the person’s opinion, is religion involved in the processes of health and treatment? How comfortable does the person seem in talking about religious issues? How forthright are the answers?

10. Collaborations. How willing is the professional to collaborate with you? What about progress reports, consultations, and joint sessions as called for?

11. Recommendations. Finally, it can be very interesting to ask each professional to recommend other professionals in the same field or related fields with whom he or she has had good experience in making referrals.

*From William Miller's Practical Psychology for Pastors (Englewood Heights: Prentice Hall, 1985), p. 174. Used by permission.

Click here to download this checklist.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Media May Prompt Teen Sex


Teens Exposed To The Most Sexy Media Images More Likely to Have Sex

Teens who see and hear a lot about sex in the media may be more than twice as likely to have early sexual intercourse as those who are rarely exposed to sexual content.

A new study shows that 12- to 14-year-olds exposed to the most sexual content in movies, music, magazines, and on television were 2.2 times more likely to have had sexual intercourse when re-interviewed two years later then their peers who had a lighter sexual media diet.

However, the link between sexual content in the media and teen sex was not as significant for black teenagers, whose sexual activity seemed to be more influenced by their parents’ expectations and their friends’ sexual behavior.

Sexy TV, Sexy Teens?

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 public middle school students in North Carolina when they were 12 to 14 years old and again two years later when they were 14 to 16 years old.

Researchers measured each teen’s sexual media diet by weighting the frequency of exposure to sexual content in four major types of media: TV, movies, music, and magazines. The teens were divided into five equal-sized groups ranging from the lowest exposure to the highest exposure.

The results showed that exposure to sexual content at ages 12-14 increased the risk of early teen sex among white teenagers even after taking into account other factors known to reduce the likelihood of teen sex, such as parental disapproval of teen sex and getting good grades. In fact, each increase in grouping of sexual content media exposure increased the risk of teen sex by 30 percent.

Researchers found that white teens with the highest level of sexual content exposure were 120 percent or 2.2 times more likely to have initiated sexual intercourse than those with the lowest levels of exposure to sexual content in the media.

Among blacks, the relationship between sexual media diet and teen sex was not as clear after adjusting for other risk factors. The sexual activity of black teenagers was more significantly influenced by their parents’ attitudes about sex and their friends’ sexual behavior than what they saw or heard in the media.

Parents’ Attitudes Count

Although the study showed that one of the biggest risk factors for early teen sex was the perception that a teen's friends were having sex, researchers say one of the strongest protective factors was parental attitudes about sex.

Both black and white teenagers were less likely to have sexual intercourse by the time they were 16 if they reported that their parents did not approve of them having sex at this age.

Researchers say the results show that while sexual images in the media may influence teen sex, clear communication about sex between parents and their children can also have a major impact on teen sex.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Teens say: Science 'not for normal people'


Teenagers value the role of science in society but feel scientists are "brainy people not like them", research suggests.

The Science Learning Centre in London asked 11,000 pupils for their views on science and scientists.

Around 70% of the 11-15 year olds questioned said they did not picture scientists as "normal young and attractive men and women".

The research examined why numbers of science exam entries are declining.

'Big glasses'

Researchers Roni Malek and Fani Stylianidou are completing their research in April but have analysed around half the responses so far.

They found around 80% of pupils thought scientists did "very important work" and 70% thought they worked "creatively and imaginatively". Only 40% said they agreed that scientists did "boring and repetitive work".

Over three quarters of the respondents thought scientists were "really brainy people".

The research is being undertaken as part of Einstein Year.

Among those who said they would not like to be scientists, reasons included: "Because you would constantly be depressed and tired and not have time for family", and "because they all wear big glasses and white coats and I am female".

Keep positive

Dr Stylianadou said: "These results are worrying for UK science but also hold out hope. Young people see science as important and exciting. But they don't see themselves doing it.

"If we can keep young people positive about science but help them to see the full range of scientific careers, more of them may realise that a career in science can be satisfying - and for them."

Lord May of Oxford, president of The Royal Society, which promotes science, has said "proper targets" for the numbers of pupils opting to take science at GCSE and A-level are needed.

The number taking A-level physics dropped by 34% between 1991 and 2004, with 28,698 taking the subject in that year.

The decline in numbers taking chemistry over the same period was 16%, with 44,440 students sitting the subject in 1991, and 37,254 in 2004.

The number of students taking maths also dropped by 22%.


Religion: The Root of All Evil? (Part 1)


Episode 1: The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins is astounded that religious faith is gaining ground in the face of rational, scientific truth based on hard evidence. Julia Bard reports...

In this two-part Channel 4 series, Professor Richard Dawkins challenges what he describes as 'a process of non-thinking called faith'. Dawkins is well known for bringing to a wide audience the complex scientific concepts that underpin evolution. His first book, The Selfish Gene was an international bestseller.

Truth lies and faith

He describes his astonishment that, at the start of the 21st century, religious faith is gaining ground in the face of rational, scientific truth. Science, based on scepticism, investigation and evidence, must continuously test its own concepts and claims. Faith, by definition, defies evidence: it is untested and unshakeable, and is therefore in direct contradiction with science.

In addition, though religions preach morality, peace and hope, in fact, says Dawkins, they bring intolerance, violence and destruction. The growth of extreme fundamentalism in so many religions across the world not only endangers humanity but, he argues, is in conflict with the trend over thousands of years of history for humanity to progress – to become more enlightened and more tolerant.

At the extremes

He explores the state of the three Abrahamic religions in the world today, from the political influence of rich and powerful Christian fundamentalist institutions in America to the deadly clash of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Middle East. He describes the Holy Land as the least enlightened place in the world, a microcosm of the threat to rational values and civilisation posed by religion, whose irrational roots, he says, are nourishing intolerance and murder.

There are plenty of characters to illustrate his thesis. There are fanatics, like the former West Bank settler who has taken the small step of converting from Jewish fundamentalist to Muslim fundamentalist, transferring his hatred from one side of the looking glass to the other. And the frighteningly charismatic leader of America's National Association of Evangelicals, who believes he has been chosen by God to convert Americans through religious gatherings that resemble rock concerts – though to Dawkins they feel more reminiscent of Nuremberg rallies.

Then there are the desperate, like those carrying burdens of disability or disease, who are among the 80,000 people a year who make the pilgrimage to Lourdes. Dawkins does the maths: out of the millions who, over a century, have placed their faith in a miracle restoring them to good health, there have been only 66 authenticated cures. This is hardly a strong record, he says, arguing that it is better for us to embrace truth than false hope.

A sense of belonging

Drawing on such examples, it is not difficult to demolish the claims of religion as fairytales, and dangerous ones at that. But there is more to religion than ancient stories and articles of faith. Dawkins touches on the sense of belonging promised by religious groups but dismisses this as 'seductive group solidarity', which he describes as a 'shared delusion'. In doing so, he glances off the more subtle dilemmas of how religions and religious traditions are woven through people's notions of 'community', 'history' and 'identity'.

Having a sense of one's place in the world is important to everyone but has particular significance for minorities and peoples under political, economic or military pressure. Individuals may even accept Dawkins' atheistic and scientific deconstruction of the myths they have grown up with but still defend and nurture the matrix of institutions, practices and relationships which make them who they are.


How To Start A Youth Band - (Part Three) Playing As A Band - Listening

Click here for Part 1: Making Of The Band
Click here for Part 2: How To Run A Rehearsal

Many times I see worship teams that are made up of very talented musicians that just don’t understand the essence of playing together. Each individual is a great player apart from the band, but when they try to play as a group they just can’t make it happen. This can kill a worship experience and make it a loathsome experience for the musicians as well. In this article I will talk about some important factors for people learning to play as a group.

Who is leading?
I often ask this question of bands who have no clear direction. Often they will just scratch their heads and look at me as if I just asked an irrelevant question. Even worse is when they point to the guy playing bass in the corner.

Without a leader, bands will compete for control
A leader should drive where the song is heading. They should make decisions about style, phrasing, arrangement, dynamics, and flow. Other members of the band should depend on the leader to guide them together to where these decisions lead. Without an effective leader, there is no cohesion to the group and the worshippers are left with a very confused path to God.

Who is following?
I said earlier that you need an effective leader. A leader with no followers is not a leader at all. The purpose of the followers is to go where the leader is going. I say this, even though is seems like the most basic of ideas about leadership, but let me drive the point home. When I ask what the most important part of playing in a band is, I usually get many responses from learning your part to developing a spirit of worship. Let me be clear. When playing in a band, the most important thing you should do is listen. Each member of the group has to listen to the other members of the group to play together, else there is this nice cacophony that is referred to in the Bible as resounding brass. Followers have to listen to follow.

I once heard a band that hadn’t practiced listening to each other very much. This was a priceless moment. The guitarist and lead singer stylized the song into a swing feel (this is where two eighth notes sound like three tripolets with the first two tied together). The other member of the band were playing the song straight. None of the rhythms worked together. All of this happened because the leader was leading in a way that the others didn’t hear. Listening is the most important aspect of playing with others.

So how do you practice listening? It’s not easy, or at least as easy as you might think.

1. Talk about what you are going to do before playing, especially with young players.

2. Give listening examples of what you are thinking. Bring in a CD that sounds similar to what you are going for.

3. Play a game. This is a game I use for timing. Have each person sit in a circle and close their eyes. The leader will start by clapping four beats to establish the tempo, the next person and those following will then clap one beat each around the circle. This is easier with faster tempos, but try a really slow tempo and see what happens. If they can do it somewhat together, start using rhythms in the beats. This locks in your timing better than any other tools I have seen.

4. Get focused. I always try to start each rehearsal with a short devotion. This is a great time to get everyone focused on the same thing from the beginning and it helps everyone know why they are there.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jesus Walked on Ice, Study Says


Not student ministry related but this is too dumb not to post.

The New Testament story describes Jesus walking on water in the Sea of Galilee but according to a study led by Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Doron Nof, it's more likely that he walked on an isolated patch of floating ice.

The study points to a rare combination of optimal water and atmospheric conditions for development of a unique, localized freezing phenomenon that Nof and his co-authors call "springs ice."

In what is now northern Israel, such ice could have formed on the cold freshwater surface of the Sea of Galilee -- known as Lake Kinneret by modern-day Israelis -- when already chilly temperatures briefly plummeted during one of the two protracted cold periods between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago.

A frozen patch floating on the surface of the small lake would have been difficult to distinguish from the unfrozen water surrounding it. The unfrozen water was comprised of the plumes resulting from salty springs situated along the lake's western shore in Tabgha -- an area where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been documented.

"As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," Nof said. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."

It isn't the first time the FSU researcher has offered scientific explanations of watery miracles. As a recognized expert in the field of oceanography and limnology -- the study of freshwater, saline and brackish environments -- Nof made waves worldwide in 1992 with his oceanographic perspective on the parting of the Red Sea.


Teen girls' Bible talks of oral sex, lesbianism


I'm not passing judgement or saying Yea or Nay... just passing along the article/debate...

A Bible created especially for girls age 13-16 that includes profiles of fictional teenagers discussing oral sex, lesbianism and "dream" guys is drawing sharp criticism from some Christian parents who say such material should not appear alongside Scripture.

The "True Images" Bible, published by Zondervan, promises on its dustcover to "strengthen your relationship with God, family, friends and guys."

While the book includes the entire text of the New International Version of the Bible, it's the "over 1,000 relevant and compelling notes and articles" that have critics upset.

The "In Focus" profiles are peppered throughout the text of the Bible and deal with subjects like sex, pregnancy, alcoholism, dating, homosexuality, depression, pornography and flirting.

An introduction in the Bible explains its goal: to present to young girls "true images": "God's message about who you are in his eyes."

The "In Focus" article on sex appears amidst scriptural regulations on offerings in the book of Leviticus. It profiles the fictional girl "Ashley" and is entitled "Casual or Not?"

While the message of the profile is to save sex for marriage, critics aren't convinced the frank-talk approach is appropriate for young teens.


Moment of Silence in Texas Challenged


DALLAS — A couple has filed a complaint in federal court charging that the state's mandated moment of silence in public schools is unconstitutional.

David and Shannon Croft say a teacher told one of their children to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."

The complaint filed last week names Gov. Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in the Dallas suburbs.

David Croft, 37, said there is no secular reason for a moment of silence.

"This is just a ruse to get prayer in school without calling it prayer in school," he said.

The law, passed in 2003, allows children to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities" for one minute after the American and Texas pledges at the beginning of each school day.

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said children can use the minute as they wish.

"If the student wants to review mentally to get ready for a test or pray silently, they can," Walt said. "The law does not set it up specifically as a moment for prayer."

A school district spokeswoman declined comment because the district had not received a copy of the complaint.


Court upholds "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner


An Alaska high school violated a student's free speech rights by suspending him after he unfurled a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" across the street from the school, a federal court ruled on Friday.

Joseph Frederick, a student at Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska, displayed the banner -- which refers to smoking marijuana -- in January 2002 to try to get on television as the Olympic torch relay was passing the school.

Principal Deborah Morse seized the banner and suspended the 18-year-old for 10 days, saying he had undermined the school's educational mission and anti-drug stance.

Friday's ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a decision by a federal court in Alaska that backed Frederick's suspension and said his rights were not violated.

The appeals court said the banner was protected speech because it did not disrupt school activity and was displayed off school grounds during a non-curricular activity.

"Public schools are instrumentalities of government, and government is not entitled to suppress speech that undermines whatever missions it defines for itself," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote in the court's opinion.

The court also cleared the way for Frederick to seek damages, saying Morse was aware of relevant case law and should have known her actions violated his rights.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Jonathan McKee Interviews Josh McDowell on The DaVinci Code


Jonathan and Josh grabbed an hour together in Josh's RV after one of his teaching sessions. They discussed everything from Josh's Da Vinci Code resources to evangelism and the Emergent Church. Sit back and relax as we eavesdrop into their conversation.

JONATHAN: You've just written a resource about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code that we can put in the hands of our teenagers. The timing is perfect because Ron Howard's movie The Da Vinci Code is probably going to be fantastic and questions are going to surface... more than we've already seen from the book.

You've always been good at providing answers to tough questions. Name it: More than a Carpenter, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Answers to Tough Questions... Your research and your books have always been a valuable resource to youth workers, especially for people who have questions or doubts. What started you down the road of answering the questions of skeptics? That's kind of a unique ministry.

JOSH: I have always done that. I've always lived in the skeptic's world: universities, high schools... my whole life. That's where I got started.

JONATHAN: Did you have these doubts growing up or were you surrounded by people with doubts...?

JOSH: I wrote about this in More Than A Carpenter. I set out to write the book Evidence Demands a Verdict against Christianity, because I felt Christians had two brains. One was lost and one was out looking for it. I thought Christians were walking idiots.

I thought the Bible was written years after the time of Christ and full of myths, legend and fiction. I met these Christians whose lives were different and I said, "Why are you so different?" And they said, "Jesus Christ." I just laughed at them. But they challenged me to intellectually examine it. So I did it to refute them. And in the process I became a Christian.

Then I spent 13 years documenting why, which became Evidence Demands a Verdict... which was selected as one of the 100 most influential books of the last century. Out of that came then More Than A Carpenter. I did More Than A Carpenter in 48 hours. I just sat down with 12 legal pads, just like this (holding up a yellow legal pad) and just started writing. I never went to bed, never went to sleep or anything.

JONATHAN: Talk about your all-nighter!

JOSH: And more teenagers are reading it now than ever before. This just blows my mind. There are more teenagers seeking, quote "truth" right now than I've ever seen in 45 years of ministry.

I've always dealt with skeptics and I like to deal with cultural issues that potentially surface the truth. And this is why The Da Vinci Code is an ideal opportunity. I believe that The Da Vinci Code can be one of the most positive platforms that the church has had in 100 years to make truth known if we do it positively, winsomely and wholesomely. We don't dare to attack it, because that would be like attacking Ron Howard and Tom Hanks and it will backfire.