voices unheard

An overweight boy called “lard-ass” daily.

A girl physically assaulted because she liked the wrong guy.

A crowd of kids taunting a kid with a prominent red birthmark on his face, “Hey Kool-Aid!”

An overweight girl named Carla heartlessly labeled Cowla, trying to simply navigate around campus without being mooed at day after day.

These are just some of the voices I’ve been hearing… and the common denominator I keep finding:

“No one did anything.”

I don’t want to be an alarmist, and I definitely don’t want to insinuate that parents, teachers and schools don’t care. Not true. As you read this today I’m actually at an on-campus anti-bullying program run by Campus Life (think school-assembly on steroids with small groups where kids actually open up). The fact is countless adults care deeply about this—I’ve interviewed many of them. But sadly, many of these kids’ voices are being drowned out in the crowd. And far too many adults simply don’t have a clue what’s going on.

Literally every story I’ve heard contains the same element:

“I told the adult on ‘yard duty,’ and they said to just ignore it.”

“I told my parents and they dismissed it.”

“I told the principal, and he called the boys in and warned them. Nothing changed.”

I don’t have any problem believing these stories… because I’ve experienced this all firsthand. So let me ask this: in a world full of caring adults, how is it that we keep missing the cries of hurting kids?

How can we miss crowds of kids at recess jeering “Hey Kool Aid” at a boy with a giant birthmark? How is it that in a high school locker room kids are constantly ridiculed, tormented, slapped on the back of the neck, even hung up by their underwear? Is there some hidden code that a locker room is a ‘no adult’ zone? How can an entire campus know that there is going to be a fight after school—and adults actually warned about it—and yet a kid gets chased by a mob and beat to the ground until literally hospitalized, while campus security toss a football back and forth?

Let me give you just one specific example that happened to the daughter of a friend of mine. Girl likes boy, but boy likes two girls. Boy finally chooses one girl, so she and her friends decide to humiliate and ostracize the other girl just to make a point, ganging up against her between classes, knocking her books out of her hands, even shoving her to the ground. One time this shunned girl was pushed and threatened so she fled to a nearby bathroom where she hid in a stall and texted her mom: “Mom, please come get me. I’m scared.” Her mom rushed to school and told the front office what happened. “My daughter was just threatened by a group of girls and is now hiding in the bathroom terrified. She just texted me from a stall.”

The response from the front office?

“She’s not supposed to be texting at school.”

These are the stories I keep hearing, and I know that some schools are not like this. But why does this keep happening? And did you notice I didn’t even mention one story of cyber bullying? (Something I devoted an entire chapter to in my previous book.) The online world has only magnified the problem.

So what can schools, teachers and parents do to prevent this kind of cruelty?

What is the cure?

I want your stories. Do you have stories of kids being bullied, teased or mocked? What actions do you see adults taking? What’s working… what’s not working?

I’d love to include your stories in the book I’m writing on this subject. Email me!

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Top 40 Youth Ministry Blogs

It’s always nice to be included in a list of great influencers… and I was humbled to be in the mix in this year’s Top 40 Youth Ministry Blogs list posted last week (even though they somehow think we only post 1 post per month… hahahaha).

Some great blogs on this list. A few of my favorites:

Greg Stier’s blog– because Greg is probably one of the best equippers in youth ministry, and he loves Jesus so much it’s freaking contagious!

The DYM blog– because the DYM resources rock… and let’s be honest… Doug and Josh are fun!

The CPYU blog– Walt’s always bringing youth culture insight that makes you think.

and some other good ones as well.

I’m just glad to be included with such amazing people in the Kingdom!

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Mom, Is Justin Bieber a Christian?

It’s a question kids are asking, and a question Moms don’t quite know how to answer.

Similar to the question, “Mom, is Chance the Rapper a Christian?” …you can’t help but wonder, who am I to even answer that question?

But it’s being asked.

Maybe we’re confused because we’ve read about Justin’s troubles with the law (from 2014 granted) or heard him singing and collaborating on some pretty worldly tracks (okay, maybe that’s a little more recent)… and then moments later we see him unashamedly dancing to worship music or posting a powerful Instagram post praising Jesus for “changing me from the inside out.”

Imagine our confusion.

Imagine God’s confusion when he looks at our lives at times.

So what if instead of ranting or judging about Justin’s imperfections, what if we answered our kids’ questions with questions that help them process what they’re seeing inciting them to go to God’s Word for guidance on how to respond? In fact, what if we celebrated some of the fruit we’re seeing recently and actually prayed for Justin’s walk?

Think of it like this. A kid asks, “Mom, Justin is singing worship music… is he a believer?”

QUESTIONS TO ASK OUR KIDS:

  • What makes someone a believer? (John 1:12, Romans 10:9-10, I John 5:11-12)
  • What should people see in our actions if we are a believer? (I Peter 3:13-16)
  • What are some of the positive things you have seen in Justin’s behavior lately?
  • Is there anything you’ve seen that has concerned you lately?
  • Is there anything your friends have seen in your actions, your Insta posts, your comments lately that might have them concerned?
  • What are some of the temptations or distractions that celebrities might have being in the limelight?
  • What ways can we specifically pray for Justin?
  • What ways can I specifically pray for you?

What are some other ways we can engage today’s young people to think about the importance of living out their faith authentically?

MORE FROM JONATHAN HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE THINK

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I just got a facelift

No… not my actual face…our websites!

I guess a New Year means a new look. We’ve been busy working behind the scenes to make free resources even easier for you to find. So enjoy the new look and new top bar navigation for both our PARENTS page and YOUTH MINISTRY page. If you are making a difference in the lives of kids… we want to make your job easier!

We want you to be able to get the free resources you need just a click away. So enjoy our…

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Most Popular Posts of 2017

I can’t always predict which of my articles will resonate with you all as readers—some of these caught me by surprise. But here are the top 10 trafficked blog posts you guys read this year. (Can you guess which one was No. 1?)

10. Here’s my sex talk
A complete script of my newest sex talk to young people

9. The rise of the non-believing Millennial
Pew Research provides a current breakdown of faith among today’s generations

8. Teen summer bucket list goes viral
A glimpse at a teens summer bucket list and what it reveals about our culture

7. Where kids actually adopt their values
In a world where kids are exposed to an increasing amount of lies, how can we teach truth?

6. Porn in plain sight
Dissecting Snapchat stories

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Over 4 hours a day

America loves their music… which is probably why the average person over 13-years-old now listens to over 4 hours of music per day. That’s an average of 47 minutes a day more than they did last year alone.

The question is… what kind of music?

Every December we wrap up the year with one final Youth Culture Window article unveiling every No. 1 song of the year. This year there were 12 songs that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100… and half of them were rap/hip-hop.

Any guess as to what the common theme was this year?

Take a peek in our newest Youth Culture Window article, The Biggest Hits of 2017.

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The Top 10 Apps of 2017

The year-end is almost here, and that always triggers our look back at the most popular songs, apps, books, posts… of the entire year.

We’ll start by looking at the top 10 free apps downloaded from the iTunes store in 2017… with Snap up at the top once again.

No, Snapchat wasn’t actually No. 1 like last year, but Bitmoji was, which is owned by Snap (nice purchase!), slipping Snapchat into No. 2 (I guess consumers missed the memo that Snapchat was having a rough year). And no… Pokemon Go didn’t make the list this year. (Pokemon who?)

Here’s the top 10!

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Fires a little too close to home

The fires are raging once again here in California, and it’s hitting where both my daughter’s live. Luckily, they both came home (up here in NorCal).

Here’s a quick satellite shot of the fire raging from Ventura toward Santa Barbara.

My oldest daughter is on mandatory evacuation

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Imposing our ideas of Jesus

A Northeastern village in Spain was the home of a magnificent fresco painting of Jesus on the church’s wall.

Time took its toll on the painting…

moisture on the wall caused it to fade.

In 2012 an elderly parishioner named Cecilia Gimenez acted on her own to restore the project… tragically failing in her attempt.

The results?

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Do you have mean girls or mean boys?

Every school has them, every church wishes they didn’t… mean girls, mean boys, using mean words to make themselves feel better. Sadly, there are a handful of young people who become perfect targets for these words… and I want to hear from them! I want to hear the voice of the bullied.

Can you introduce me to them?

I’m writing a book to parents about bullying… and how to help your kids who are bullied, bullies and even bystanders. I want to hear from as many young people as possible on this issue, asking them questions like

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