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New Study Reveals That Teenage Boys Masturbate More Often Than Girls

A new nationwide look at data on masturbation among U.S. adolescents finds that boys do it much more often than girls, and they also tend to start earlier.

With parental permission, the NSSHB survey asked both male and female adolescents (as well as their adult guardians) to recall how often they had masturbated over the prior three months, over the past year, and over the course of their lifetime. Those polled were also asked how often they masturbated alone versus with a sexual partner. Condom use was also noted.

The results: boys were found to masturbate more often than girls, both overall and across all measured time frames. 

U.S. News & World Report, August 1st 2011

Of all the important questions facing adolescents today our federal government approved a research grant to discover that?

That’s a poll I’d expect to see in Teen People and not in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

What other “important research questions” might we tackle next?

  • What percentage of middle school boys want to dance with middle school girls at the school dance but are too afraid to make the first move?
  • Do 15 year old high school students want to see the driving age raised to 18 years old?
  • Do students like dress codes?

All joking aside, the trivial nature of these studies only acts as a reinforcement of the overarching stereotype. While there is plenty of wonderful research taking place around the country these headlines unintentionally communicate a message that adolescents aren’t important in our society, that they aren’t worthy of serious research, that they aren’t to be taken seriously, and that the people who invest their lives into educating, mentoring, and ministering to them aren’t to be taken seriously either.

Question: If you had the opportunity to sit on a grant approving board what would be some research questions in the field of adolescence that you’d fund?

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Real Youth Workers are Better Than Perfect Youth Workers

Youth workers who pretend that they have the Christian life all figured out are boring! Let’s face it, none of us want to follow someone who thinks they have anything all figured out – we want to learn from people who are on the same journey we’re on, a journey of messiness and incompleteness, of bumps and turns and twists and surprises. In short, we want to learn from people who live with veracity – people who live out the truth of their own journey in front of us.

For you to be a youth worker who lives with veracity, and for me to be a youth worker who lives with veracity, we have to live, speak and act boldly – whether that means a boldness of knowing or a boldness of unknowing. See, veracity and passion are closely linked. And when I live in truth (the truth of my real story with God), I live a passionate life, and veracity naturally leaks out in my interactions with students. When I do this, I become more “attractive” to real students (unfortunately, not more physically attractive!) The truth of Jesus alive in my life is attractive.

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What to do with a teen pregnancy in your youth group

It’s a tough one this week, the question of the week. Last week I got into contact with a British youth worker who was wondering how to approach the situation of a teen in her youth group being pregnant. I figured it was a good topic to write a bit about, since unfortunately it’s something we can all encounter. What do you need do when a teen in our youth group is pregnant?

There are a few practical things to consider and then there’s the more emotional and pastoral stuff. Let’s start with a few practical guidelines you’ll need to remember when dealing with a teenage pregnancy in your youth group. Continue reading What to do with a teen pregnancy in your youth group

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How to prepare your sermon

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. When I started preaching regularly, I had to find a good way of doing sermon preparation. I must admit it took me a while to find a method that suited me. My biggest challenge was to let go of what I felt I was supposed to do, what others were doing and instead allow myself to do it my own way.

You see, there are lots of ways to prepare your sermon and there is no one right way. You’ll have to try different things until you come up with a method of sermon preparation that fits you. What works for you will depend on whether you’re a topical preacher or an expository one, whether you’re a last minute person or more of a planner and quite honestly how much time you can spend on sermon preparation. All I can do is tell you how I prepare my messages:

Continue reading How to prepare your sermon

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Dealing with the email overload

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. Our overflowing email inboxes can become a real source of frustration. If you are constantly battling your email inbox but it just keeps getting bigger despite your efforts, it can frustrate you to no end. It makes you wonder how other people do it. Is it even possible to keep your inbox empty, to stay on top of your email?

My email inbox rarely exceeds 10 emails at the end of a day and I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time answering emails either. So my answer would be yes, it is possible to keep your email inbox empty and still get some ‘real work’ done. Here’s what I do to keep my inbox empty:

Continue reading Dealing with the email overload

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Why Joshua Left the Church

Illustration by Gianluca Costantini via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I wrote a post on Wednesday called, Christian Refugees, which compared the refugee population in my community to the refugee population of Christians who have given up on the local church.

A new commenter to my blog, Joshua, left this comment which took my breath away. I asked him for permission to post it here and he graciously allowed it.

Here it is in its entirety:

First, Great thoughts. Now, rant alert: 

What gets me is that in our case, the church (the country we left) keeps guilt tripping us for leaving. “well you really need to be in church” “you’re not goin to grow”.

There’s a reason why we’re not there: cause you were dicks to us. And you’re still dicks to us. What refugee returns to their country while warlords are still lopping off people’s heads?! Of course they wouldn’t. 

But you’re masters of guilt trips Somehow you still have the power. We may have fled years ago and it’s still a guilt trip every time we interact. And the really funny thing? We’re worse than the people who have never been in the church at all. They’re in need of Jesus, they’re a potential target, worthy of love. We’re apostates. Look, I love God. I serve the community. I exhibit His character. I just can’t deal with the crap. Somehow us being in the same building for a couple hours every week makes things right? And if we’re not sitting in this same place every week, I’m worth less than you?

And you’re really surprised I left?

Our relationship was NEVER based on anything real. If it was, our friendship would continue. The proximity of our chairs for two hours every Sunday was the only thing that brought us together, and when I wasn’t in that chair anymore, you assumed the worst of me.

I still like you. At least, I try. I really wish I could go back to the homeland. Have a cup of our native drink, cheap Sunday morning coffee, and sing a couple of our folk songs. But then that dude is going to stand up and say a bunch of stuff that makes me feel awkward because, while some of it’s good, some of it is just way off. And there’s nothing I can do or say under our totalitarian government. If I speak up, you’ll ether marginalize me or throw me back out. Once the speech is done, we’ll all go our separate ways, not to see each other again for another week, unless it’s to get together and discuss how we all agree with what the dude said.

So here’s where I’m at: I have a community of folks who love me because they love me. It’s not conditional on agreeing on all the same things. And we’re ok with that. 

So until you can get over it and stop the warlords, stay away. I’ve found a new kinfolk. And if you can’t have a conversation that doesn’t include some jab at me for leaving, then I don’t need you.

(sorry, recent situations lead me to dump that)

I read Joshua’s comment through tears. Having made the transition from church staff to church attendee, much of what he said deeply resonated with me. He shares such simple, deep truth, which cuts to the heart of a problem. We need to face the reality that a reason only 2%-5% of the population actively attends a church in the United States has little to do with our programs, it’s much deeper than what we’re offering. It has to do with how we approach people, love them, and ultimately minister alongside them.

I asked Joshua to share a little of his backstory, both so I could have more context for his comment and so that you too may discuss both Joshua’s case and the cases of thousands of Christian refugees in your community.

So here’s the story:
I grew up in a reformed tradition. I was employed for several years at a church in a lay-role, and planted a church after leaving there. And eventually, felt that the neither the church or me were providing each other with what we needed. So I became a part of a small community who meet in a house. We don’t define ourselves by a doctrinal statement, by our relationship to one another. It’s the most authentic situation I’ve been a part of, but this has lead to problems with extended family and friends who don’t consider this to be a “church” and don’t understand the changes I’ve had in my faith, which have caused my love for others to grow. While I love them, and I don’t really care if they understand or not, these relationships are often wrought with pain for my family and myself because of the divisions created by these people. My words were a lament for these situations. 
I pray we can come to love one another as Christ loved us, and live in peace.

Questions: If you were having coffee with Joshua what would you say?

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Embrace Your Oddity!

I can’t stand it when I see youth workers trying to be hip, trying to be cool, so students will like them. And part of why this bugs me so much is that I used to be like that! I tried so hard to be the kind of cool adult I thought students wanted.

But somewhere along the road of youth ministry, I discovered that my uniquenesses – the things about me that make me different than you – are a massive strength in my ability to connect with teenagers. And I saw this in other effective youth workers as well.

One of the best youth workers I ever worked with was a total geek. He was studying for a doctorate in theoretical chemistry, wore horribly geeky clothes and awful glasses, and was a world-class nerd. But students loved him! And it wasn’t only the future geeky chemists who loved him; the students loved that he was real and authentic, and not ashamed of who he was.

These days, i’m just not cool. I’m the same age as the parents of the guys and girls in my youth group. Even if I’m cool in the slightest, it’s a qualified cool — “cool for a middle-aged dad.” Instead of masking that, or trying to be someone I’m not, I find my strength in connecting with real teenagers is to be the real me.

Embrace your oddity!

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The role of prayer in sermon preparation

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. I always consider preaching to be an awesome privilege, but also a considerable responsibility. When we have 40, 60, maybe even more students in a room to listen to what we will say, it’s an opportunity we cannot afford to let go to waste. Every time I preach, I long for students to be inspired to take the next step in their spiritual journey, to walk out of that room changed and closer to God. I want to make a difference, I want to have impact. So how do I deal with this pressure?

The key is this: it’s not about me. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the years and I still have to remind myself of this. It’s not about me. With preaching more than with anything else I know I’m just a vessel, a tool in God’s hands. None of my human talents, words, or messages could ever make a difference without God’s inspiration, blessing and presence. If I don’t preach what He wants me to, I am nowhere.

In sermon preparation, prayer is key. If I don't preach God's words, I am useless.

Continue reading The role of prayer in sermon preparation

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Actual Leadership

There’s a wide gulf today between the type of church leadership that is celebrated and the type of church leadership that is actually working.

On the one hand an authoritative form of leadership is popular. To succeed, according to legend, you need a super strong pastor and a super strong elder board and a super strong pastoral team who makes all of the decisions so that people in the pews can just come to church and know that the people they trust have everything under control.

Ideally, it operates like The Donald. What Mr. Pastor says goes and his lieutenants act on his direction.

Go ahead, put on your best Seth Meyers or Amy Poehler, and say REALLY. I mean… really?

Isn’t it odd that we would never accept that type of leadership outside of the church?

I dare you to try that with your spouse. Or your kids. Or a soccer team. Or anything that isn’t leading people out of a burning building.

Fear is a short term motivator. And when you try to power play or hoodwink people to get what you want done you simply erode trust.

Authoritarian leadership in the church is a fable. That’s not how people are lead today. And it certainly isn’t how you lead a revolution which will change people’s hearts.

Actual leadership comes when you surrender your power over people and ask them to come alongside you. 

  • It’s collaborative.
  • It’s simple, based on mutual love and respect.
  • It’s agenda lacks manipulation.
  • It’s freeing.
  • It inspires dreams that are big and audacious.

That’s actual leadership. Leadership which moves people and changes things.

And there are lots of examples of this in the church today. So let’s celebrate and recognize THAT.

Welcome to The Youth Cartel. Where we will celebrate that.

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How to keep your day off from getting interrupted by work

As is customary on Fridays, we do a Question of the week. Today I’m going to go into the issue of keeping your day off, your Sabbath. The actual question was asked in a tweet by British youth worker Dan Crouch a few weeks back and here’s what he tweeted:

I’ve written before on the importance of taking a day off, of keeping a Sabbath. Note that I’m saying a Sabbath, because Sundays are often workdays for youth workers so if that’s the case for you as well, you can pick another day. The key thing is that you have a day a week to not work, to relax and enjoy God’s presence, your family and some down time.

How do you make sure your day off doesn't get interrupted with work, but truly is a day to relax?

Continue reading How to keep your day off from getting interrupted by work