Quiz for the Super Bowl

super bowl quizIt’s almost Super Bowl time… and that means our annual BIG GAME Quiz!

For those of you have been following TheSource4YM.com for the past few years, you probably look forward to the fun little free resource we provide every year called the Super Bowl “BIG GAME Quiz!” (I just posted it HERE). This quiz is a fun little party game you can use at your Super Bowl party at your church or your home. People fill out the quiz as they enter your party, predicting scores, catches, runs, etc., then you fill out the results during the game and tally up the winner (and PLEASE… remember to tally up the answers during the game because that’s how the quiz works).

My friends over at Download Youth Ministry also have a really amazing package for sale called the BIG GAME EVENT KIT complete with a promo video, a pile of fun powerpoint games, and an 8-minute video message from Josh Griffin. Really good stuff (worth the price).

And if you haven’t already seen what I posted last year about “The Seahawks and Jesus“… take a peek. Awesome interview (although realize this was last year, so it was Mark Driscoll interviewing them).

Enjoy these resources.

Posted in TV, Youth Ministry Programming | 1 Comment

Content with My Sin

this is where I leave youI Just finished watching a movie on my flight, This is Where I Leave You. The film was extremely well written, with powerful performances and real-to-life characters. There was just one problem… I walked away content with my own sin.

Life sucks. So do what feels good at the moment.

Here lies the struggle: touching film… bleak perspective

One of the main reasons I enjoyed the movie was the authentic characters with genuine problems. They were blemished, just like me and just like the people sitting in the pews with me every week. But the reason I actually sit in the pew every week is because I desperately need Jesus, and he’s the only one who can solve my sin problem.

That’s Christianity in a nutshell: realize your own shortcomings, understand you can’t do anything about it on your own, and in faith, ask Jesus to do it for you. It’s not very macho. Quite the opposite really. It’s admitting we need help. The good news is, Jesus gives us a clean slate immediately (justification) and begins the slow process of cleaning up our lives part by part (sanctification).

But the world doesn’t like that message. Our dependence on Christ kicks us out of the driver’s seat and doesn’t allow us to do whatever we desire… and that’s really where the problem lies for most.

In This is Where I Leave You the blemished characters acted out in desperation, sleeping around on their spouses, drinking, smoking pot… sometimes to numb the pain, and sometimes exploring greener pastures, only to find out that the grass isn’t always greener. Then they wondered why their lives were so messed up. Jason Bateman’s character even asked, “Is it just our family, or is everyone miserable?” (Of the five lead characters, not one had a healthy marriage.)

Don’t get me wrong; I actually enjoyed much of this film, especially the elements where the family bonded together through the tough circumstances. I don’t mind movies showing the breakdown of the family and the pain that goes along with it. Some of my favorite films have done this, and done this well. It’s difficult to label a film like this all “good” or “bad.” The film was gritty. It was really touching at moments… and then really bleak.

But that’s where the movie “leaves you”, so to speak: life sucks, and just make the best of it, because… this is all there is.

Thankfully, that’s not true. There’s more. If you want to see it, go to the funeral of someone who put their hope in Jesus. My friend’s mom just died and I went to her funeral. Unlike the funeral in this movie, the funeral I attended was a celebration. Countless friends and relatives shared stories of happy moments, and a happy ending. And every last one of them mentioned how comforting it is to know we will see her once again.

In the movie Tina Fey asked, “Do we believe in God?”

Talk about your bleak funerals.

Yes, ironically, life does suck when you do whatever you desire. That’s a pretty accurate definition of sin—doing things our way, not God’s way. Life is so much more than the quick thrill. Point of fact, the quick thrill often costs long-term.

God wants to save us from all of that.

No, that doesn’t mean we’ll avoid all pain. But it does mean two things:

  1. God will help us stop bringing pain on ourselves
  2. He’ll help us endure through suffering, with the hope there’s something so much better, a hope that helps us here and now.

Frankly, the movie didn’t provide a happy ending because the filmmakers didn’t seem to believe in happy endings… only happy moments.

I love happy moments.

But faith in God provides happy moments and a happy ending.

Posted in Entertainment Media, Faith, Jonathan's Rant, Movies | 1 Comment

From SnapChat to Tappy

tappy appIt’s called Tappy. It’s the newest app acquired by Tinder, and the buzz is that it’s Instagram meets Snapchat.

The conversation begins with a photo, and then becomes chat. All messages disappear after 24 hours.

It’s everything young people want: pics, social media, anonymity and of course… it’s ephemeral. The first two elements aren’t bad, but the latter two are where young people frequently get into trouble.

Let me explain.

Parents should beware of any app promoting a lack of accountability. Anonymity only breeds irresponsibility. If you don’t believe me, look at the comment section of any YouTube video. People say the cruelest things under the guise of an avatar. You’ll see the same thing in chatrooms—people speaking and acting out in ways they would never act in person. (Think of the way kids act out when they have a substitute teacher who doesn’t know their name.)

Would you like even less responsibility? Promise that all content will all vanish in 24 hours. The ephemeral nature of apps like Tappy and Snapchat convince young people there are no consequences for their actions. They’ll just “disappear.” Who cares if you say something mean? It will disappear. Who cares if you post a revealing or inappropriate pic? It will “disappear.” Of course, with Snapchat, we’ve learned that is not the case. Do young people think no one will ever click a screenshot on their Tappy posts?

Parents might also want to consider that Tappy is now owned by Tinder. I’ve talked about Tinder in previous articles about some of the dangerous apps young people enjoy. It’s basically a visual e-harmony. You look at pics of people and if you like them, swipe right. If you don’t, then swipe left. If two people swipe each other to the right, they are matched and the conversation begins, a relationship based on sexy pics.

Sound appealing?

Tinder sees 1.5 billion swipes per day.

It’s another app where strangers begin conversations based on pics. This only increases the demand for young people to appear sexy when they post pictures of themselves. Yes, conversations could begin with a picture of your Schnauzer. I hope they do, in fact. But sadly, many will begin just like Tinder relationships—the proverbial high shot selfie showing plenty of cleavage.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think social media is evil. Parents need to look at each of these apps on a case-by-case basis. And any app encouraging chatting with strangers and “no accountability” aren’t going to help anyone.

As for social media in general? It’s a question I hear at every parent workshop I teach. “Do you think social media is a good thing?” My answer is always the same:

Social media a great supplement to existing relationships; it’s a lousy replacement for relationships.

In other words: Instagram is a great way to share pics with existing friends and keep up with them, but it’s a lousy substitute for face-to-face friends. Sadly, we’re seeing a lot of the latter. Social media is actually making kids less social. So parents need to be proactive in coaching their kids how to be smarter than their smartphone and teach them how to keep social media safe.

Are you having these conversations?

Do you know what apps your kids are using?Should-I-Smash-My-Kids-Phone


Posted in Internet, Jonathan's Rant, Parenting, Self Image, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture | 1 Comment

MORE No Prep Games

youth ministry gamesEarlier this week I shared a fun “no-prep” game, the kind that you can do on the fly to fill a void or liven up a party or event.

The nice thing about no-prep games is that you don’t  have to run to the store really quick and buy 100 balloons, cut 100 pieces of string and pass them out to everyone (although Ankle Balloon Pop is a great game).

Here’s another one I saw this weekend. Youth worker Bekah Miller ran this with her youth group- an old classic game with a fun twist:

Rock, Paper, Scissors Fan!
The game is a crowd game. Everyone plays. You tell everyone to grab a partner and play rock, paper, scissors– best two out of three. The winner moves on to battle someone else. The loser becomes their fan! The fan must cheer for their winner in the next battle.

Then, of course, after the next two battle, the winner will have three fans as he/she moves onto the next battle. Then seven fans… etc. Eventually half the room is cheering for one person, and half for the other (kind of like Ro Sham Bo Train).

A great quick game with literally no prep.

I love it. Other no prep games I love:

I need a shoelace (for any sized crowd)

The big squeeze (for big crowds)

Silent Animal Circle (for small groups of like a dozen or less)

In fact… here’s a list of my TOP 20 Game Ideas!

Posted in Youth Ministry Management | Leave a comment

No-Prep Games

heads or tailsAs a youth worker, I always like to have two games “in my pocket” at any given time. You never know when you need one. Even if you are NOT in youth ministry, you never know when you might need something fun to liven up a dying New Years Eve party (or Arbor Day party).

Last weekend I spoke at the Recharge event in the greater Twin Cities area of MN—a great event with 600 area youth leaders. My friend Tiger McLeun was at the helm and he ran a classic simple crowd game that was really fun. The game was called Heads or Tails.

It’s like this:

The MC pulls out a coin and instructs everyone to put their hand either on their head, or on their “tail.” Everyone in the crowd puts the hand on their head or on their butt. Then the MC flips the coin, announcing heads or tails.

If you were correct… stay standing. If you were wrong… sit down.

They kept repeating until only a few were standing. At the Recharge event, it came down to two people. They brought them on stage for the final showdown, and the winner got a prize.

Fun stuff. I love simple games like this.

I’ll do another one later this week!

In the meantime, check out this fun blog post from last July where people chimed in with some of their favorite games. Or check out our fun game page with literally over a thousand free game ideas!

Posted in Youth Ministry Programming | Leave a comment

What Teens Want to Read

best-teen-booksI always find it intriguing to see what forms of entertainment today’s young people are digesting in our culture. For most of us, that brings to mind the newest Vine video, social media app, or Nicki Minaj song in the Top 10. But what about books?

Every since Harry Potter, we’ve seen a surge in YA fiction (often followed by movie releases), like the Twilight series, the Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent, or the more recent The Fault in Our Stars. In a world with so many entertainment options, what is it young people are actually reaching for on the shelf today? And with steamy adult books like 50 Shades of Grey surging mainstream… will this trickle down to the teen market?

I asked YA author Jackie Lea Sommers these questions, not only as a new author, but as a college admission counselor and a youth ministry veteran who has her thumb on the pulse of current youth culture:

Jonathan: Tell me a little about your interaction with today’s teenagers and how you would describe today’s teens compared to a decade ago.

Jackie: I’ve been working in college recruitment for nearly a dozen years now. As an admission counselor, it’s my job to come alongside college-bound high school students and their families to help them with their college choices. I was involved in youth ministry for over a decade as well. In my own experience, teens are less and less insulated these days. They’ve seen it all, heard it all. They or their friends or someone they know have been touched by things like death, disease, and other tragedies, by hot-button issues like bullying, LGBT issues, sex, and addiction.

Jonathan: What do you think young people are looking for in their reading today?

Jackie: Trends in YA reading show that teens are looking for contemporary realism. There’s still definitely a place for fantasy and science fiction, but they’re really wanting to read stories about real teens facing real issues—things that they themselves could face.

Jonathan: What are some examples of books you see today’s teens enjoying the most?

Jackie: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has been a runaway bestseller, focusing on teen cancer and grief. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is a favorite this year; it approaches topics like death, family, and homosexuality masterfully. Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory is another one that deftly tackles hard issues, this time PTSD. To me, the connecting theme of all these books though is the incredible characters, fictional people that teens can relate to and champion.

Jonathan: In this CNN article, What Teens Will Be Reading Next, the author predicted, “The big trend near this age group continues to be New Adult, with much more sexy, adult story lines.” Have you noticed this trend?

Jackie: Most authors I know—and many booksellers—differentiate between YA and New Adult, with New Adult books generally have sexier scenes and an older cast of characters, usually college-aged. That said, I think even the YA market is demanding sexier storylines. There was a time when sex in books for young adults was considered more scandalous (I’m thinking of Judy Blume’s 1975 book Forever …, which was the target of censorship). For the most part, I believe that time is behind us.

Jonathan: As a YA author, how are you responding to this trend?

Jackie: Writing Truest, my debut novel, was an interesting experience. I come from a conservative Christian background and am still very much involved in the Evangelical culture. As a believer, I had to sort through a lot of my thoughts on profanity and sex and their place in a YA novel. I am struck by the gospel: it is a raw, savage story filled with the ugly sinfulness of man—and yet, it’s the most beautiful story I know. I hold that close to me as I write fiction.

Jonathan: That’s awesome. What’s next from Jackie Lea Sommers?

Jackie: My first novel Truest will be published by HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in September of this year. I’m hard at work on my second novel at this time. I blog regularly at www.jackieleasommers.com about faith and creativity, especially writing, and especially writing for young people.

Jonathan: Thanks Jackie. We really appreciate your insight!

Posted in Books, Entertainment Media, Youth Culture | Leave a comment

Three states this week

This week I hit three states, speaking to kids in WI, training youth leaders in TX and MN, speaking at a church in MN and teaching a parent workshop. Then later this month I’ll be in two more states… maybe even near you.

It would be fun to see you. Check out my calendar and see if I’m coming to a city near you!

January 2-4, 2015 (East Troy, WI)
Timberlee, WinterXtreme

January 5, 2015 (East Troy, WI)
Timberlee, Counselor Training Workshop

January 6-7, 2015 (Dallas, TX)
Teaching SuperSessions, National Conference on Youth Ministries

January 9-10, 2015 (Twin Cities, MN)
Youth Leadership Training, Recharge 2015

January 10-11, 2015 (Crystal, MN)
Preach Saturday/Sunday Services and Parent Workshop, Cornerstone Church

January 23-24, 2015 (Harrisburg, PA)
Youth Leadership Training, Royal Rangers Leaders Conference

January 30-1, 2015 (Columbia, SC)
Revolution, Keynote Speaker

February 3, 2015 (San Diego, CA)
Keynote Speaker, CIY Youth Ministry Summit

February 13-15, 2015 (Palestine, TX)
Lakeview Methodist Camp, Zombie Weekend, Keynote Speaker


Posted in Speaking/Training | Leave a comment

The Dark Undercurrents of Bullying

Nelson-Muntz-bullyI’ve been taking time off work for a few weeks during Christmas break to not only spend as much time as possible with my family, but also to finish writing my first fiction novel, a story about a school shooting on a high school campus—a sobering peek into the dark undercurrents of teen culture and bullying.

The book has been an interesting project, providing a porthole into the perspectives of various individuals: an athlete, a Christian girl, a bullied kid, a teacher, a cop… and countless other teens.

I admit, the book hits a little too close to home. As I dove into the internal psyche of the shy, teased, isolated kid who one day just explodes in a rampage (something we’ve seen far too often this year alone), I shanghaied many personal stories of being picked on, as well as the feelings that went along with that.

My most intriguing struggle has been my attempt to provide realism without necessarily highlighting the profane. In other words, how do you show a realistic glimpse of today’s secular high school campus without cuss words? How do you portray a school shooting without violence?

So far, I’ve allowed certain mild curse words (those you’d hear in a PG film), and eluded to others (using common textspeek acronyms like “FML” in their social media conversations, or ending a sentence with, “… and then he added a few choice words to get the point across.”)

The other struggle is to expose bullying for what it truly can be, show the effects it can have on a teen’s psyche… but not provide a “school shooting handbook” for teens. My answer to this dilemma has been showing actual consequences of behaviors. Showing fear, remorse, and pain. Death isn’t casual or funny… it’s tragic.

I faced some of this with my one other fiction book, my The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers, but that book was much shorter and set up with discussion questions at the end of each chapter like a devotional. So of the 15+ books I’ve written so far… I’m treading new ground.

My goal is to have the novel finished in the next few weeks.

And then… finding the right publisher.

Posted in Books, Personal, Youth Culture | Leave a comment

Pausing for an Infant

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m running off to finish a project at my dad and mom’s house (we’ve dug up 165 feet of drainage- ditches up to 2 feet deep, and dropped in 150 feet of 6 inch pipe, 60 of it a French drain, with over 6 yards of rock) to fix a drainage problem long ignored and feared. So it’s been 3 days of hard labor for me and a crew of friends and teenagers… a fun mental break.

I just wanted to take a moment and wish you all a Merry Christmas from my family. It’s been fun having 5 kids around the house for the last few days. As many of you know, Lori and I are almost empty nesters now. Ashley (my youngest) is in her senior year and the other two are out of the house (Alec working and Alyssa in her sophomore year at CBU in SoCal). We had everyone staying at the house the last few nights. Good times.

Today I finish up at my parents and we all head to a Christmas Eve service together. I’m looking forward to just pausing and absorbing the true meaning of Christmas, surrounded by family.

That’s my wish for you. I pray that you take a moment to “pause” and embrace the greatest gift this Christmas, nothing monetary or temporary, something far greater… a gift that can never be lost or snatched away. Embrace the love of our creator who gave us the gift of life in the person of Jesus who humbly came to us in the form of a poor infant.

That’s who I celebrate this season.

Celebrate with me.

Merry Christmas. Celebrating the gift of our Messiah, Jesus!

Posted in Faith, Personal | Leave a comment

You May be Addicted to Your Smartphone If…

Amy Williams just wrote a fascinating guest post about teen smartphone addiction for our Parenting Help column on TheSource4Parents.com this week.

For those of you who are a little more visual, here’s her infographic: You may be addicted to your smartphone if…

Addicted to Smartphone

Posted in Internet, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture | Leave a comment