I See Naked People

This is an excerpt of a chapter from Rick Bundschuh’s very-cool book for rising Middle Schoolers – “Surviving Middle School.”

The young guys at the skatepark were laughing and giggling at the cellphone. I knew something weird was going on so I slowly wandered behind them to see what the commotion was about. Sure enough, one of the guys had downloaded a picture of a naked woman on his cellphone and was “sharing” his bit of art with his friends. His friends all seemed to want to become art collectors as well.

I bet this kid’s mom had no idea what was coming up on the screen every time he flipped open his cellphone. And I bet she would have smacked him back to electronic prehistoric ages if she found out.

If you use a computer or cellphone, go to the movies or have a TV, you will see naked people—whether you are looking for them or not. Most of the time what is being hurled at your eyeballs is pornography; pictures designed to show sex or to get your brain to think about sex. (As if most Middle School kids need assistance to think about that subject!)

a serious subject

In the last chapter we talked about love and romance. Now I wanna bring up something that’s related, but nowhere NEAR what real love and romance are. I want to be very honest with you about this subject and ask that you take what I tell you very seriously. You are being preyed upon—and you may not even know it. Somebody wants to put implants in your brain that will make handling modern technology in a way that is decent and honoring difficult—for the rest of your life.

Everyone knows that kids in Middle School—especially boys—have a natural curiosity and interest in sex. People also know that viewing pictures of naked people can become very addicting. Some rotten and perverted adults have decided that this is a good way for them to make a fortune in spite of what it does to their “customers.” These people know that if you can get a young boy in the habit of going to naked lady sites or looking for places to get another jolt of electronic sex, you may just create a steady customer for life.

Of course, they start you off with a bit of free “teaser” material to get you hooked; then as a boy grows along with his “habit” of chasing down pornography, sooner or later those who are laying the trap will be able to get money out of the young man—he will PAY to see more and more of what they are offering.

Once you get yourself in the habit of viewing porn, breaking the addiction is really hard to do. Some little collection of sick brain cells in the back of your mind demand to see more, and more, and more! They cry and pout. They scream for their own way. Many people find that quieting those screaming cells is very difficult—giving into the begging of those twisted brain cells is far easier to do.

You’ve probably realized that those who sell flesh have flooded every possible area with their images. Even if you have no interest in seeing pornography, escaping it is hard as it pops up on e-mail messages or blinks on a website that by its name has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. (This is done intentionally by porn distributors buying website domains with innocent or even religious sounding names to use as a front for their material. This way they can fool those acting as watchmen for kids surfing online.)

Website blockers and safeguarding software can help, but the slimeballs often figure out a way around those efforts. Plus, for every Middle School kid who is trying to avoid pornography there are three others who are diving into it and, like the kids at the skate park, trying to share it with others. You’ll find that some kids who use computers in your school have figured out ways to get around the defense systems and are pulling up porn when the teacher isn’t watching.

You’ll discover that, especially if you’re a guy, keeping from getting pulled into this whirlpool of smut will take real effort on your part. You will have to click off the website, avert your eyes, change the channel or walk away. And if you avoid visual porn, songs with lyrics that are just as sick and twisted may assault you from a friend’s iPod or stereo. You will need a lot of discipline and self-control not to indulge your curiosity and interest.

While God has created us so that the average guy finds the image of a woman with little or no clothes to be very, very attractive and interesting, His plan is for that crazy wild desire to be something special and private between two people with wedding rings on their fingers, not something to toss on a public website.

Don’t kick yourself for being tempted to want to see naked people. It is normal and natural. Kick yourself for giving in to the temptation.

Many guys who develop a porn viewing habit in Middle School will experience a lot of tears, flying vases and swinging rolling pins later in life. That’s when when he finds that even though he is married, his habit remains and that the nasty little habit is discovered by his wife. Or perhaps worse…

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”No White Rappers For Me” But Joshua Luke Smith Changed Everything

By Mary Wilson Peed • marybakerwilson@gmail.com • Fort Valley, GA

I have only one rule as a writer for interlinc-online.com—NO white rappers. I mean no disrespect. I gave birth to a son who loves rap music of every ilk. Seriously, he taught his daughter to beat box before she could speak. Rap is just not my genre of choice.

Enter Joshua Luke Smith. I broke my own rule. To be honest, I had no clue who he was until I googled him. And, as providence would have it, I came upon his Ted x Talk, The World Within: Healing Matters of the Heart. I listened. I was moved. I fell in love with his heart. Joshua speaks out and works against the modern day slavery of human trafficking. Slavery and objectification that exists because there is a demand for it. He makes the accurately haunting connection between the driving hunger in a man’s heart to the table that is laid on the back of slaves, admitting to the appetite in his own belly and the need to starve that appetite.

Having three sons, I immediately resonated with this truth and the courage to speak into the chaos so personally.

My middle son, Jonathan Joshua, works for Garmin – he is a lead engineer. His work is global. He has partners and true friends in Russia and Thailand. He is grieved by a world that paints entire people groups with derision, hate, and suspicion. Joshua Luke Smith, although British born, was raised in impoverished northern Pakistan, he understands ethnicity, bias, and diversity. He’s lived it. He speaks not to people groups or prejudice, but to the human condition and changing the world by changing the world in our own hearts.

The heart of the matter is truly a matter of the heart, and Joshua Luke Smith nails it in lyric after lyric.

What’s on my playlist next to “Grace Got You: Mercy Me,” “Water and Dust: Cory Asbury,” and “Known: Tauren Wells?” Joshua Luke Smith’s “All My Friends,” and “Headlights.” Regardless of how you feel about the genre, Joshua Luke Smith is an important voice for this generation. His music is as profound as his Ted X Talk, resonating with his millennial culture as well as the unsettling times we find ourselves in.

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7 Undeniable Characteristics Of (Most) Middle Schoolers

By Ashley Bohinc,  the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange (The reThink Group, Inc.), and USA Executive Director of Carry 117- Ethiopia.

I have worked with middle school students in educational, athletic, and ministry settings for more than 14 years now. Although each context was uniquely different, there were still a few basic things about (most) middle schoolers that remained the same no matter what.

  1. They will be intensely interested in you. Do you have a boyfriend? Where do you buy your makeup? What are you eating? Where did you get those shoes? What position did you play in soccer? They may not show it at first, but the moment you let them in (even just a little), they want to be in a lot. They are stacking up questions in their minds, and if they aren’t courageous enough to ask, they are waiting for just a hint of permission from you to let them know they can ask. Of course this only counts for some of the time with middle schoolers. Other times, you could walk into the room in a clown suit and they wouldn’t even notice. #middleschool
  2. They exaggerate (and sometimes lie). Something happens at the 8th grade dance, and you find the girls huddled in a circle crying in the bathroom. If it’s trending, they are talking about it… non-stop. Friend drama is basically an all out brawl (with words or rumors). It thunders outside, and they act like they’ve never been in a storm before in their lives. They see a snake outside, and it’s most certainly trying to eat them. Their teacher is obviously the most unfair person on the whole planet. Oh, and they didn’t copy that homework or cheat on that test; they were just scratching their head! You get the point. It’s a phase full of all out exaggeration.
  3. YouTube is Gucci. According to many research studies, 80%-95% of Generation Z seeks advice through YouTube channels and videos. The most searched videos are about real stories, day-in-the-life videos, behind-the-scenes videos, or how-to videos. They want to know about relationships and dating, teen trends, advice on how to do new skills, and more. If they don’t know how, they go to YouTube. If they don’t know what it is, they go to YouTube. If they want to become famous, they go to YouTube. So basically, you should be on YouTube, too.
  4. What their friends think matters more than anything else. This is difficult, because as puberty begins to change them from the inside out, middle schoolers are desperately trying to fit in. Peer approval will always trump advice from adults. They can’t be seen wearing those pants, hanging with those boys, or walking around in public without makeup. The point is, students at this phase care more about what their peers say than anyone else. That’s why finding an influential student to lead the charge on a new initiative or event you are having will give you more success. Because if Sadie thinks it’s cool, everyone will think it’s cool.
  5. They push their parents away. Middle schoolers want freedom. They aren’t kids anymore, and when they are treated that way, they revolt. They pushback on everything from bedtime to chores to going places by themselves to social media. They want to make their own choices. The tricky part about this as a student leader is balancing earning their trust while still being for the parent. It is an art. Youth leaders have the privilege of standing in the gap between the middle schooler and the parent. But no matter what, always remember to let it be known that you are on the parent’s team.
  6. They are incredibly insecure about what is happening to their bodies. They feel like they are the only ones going through this thing called middle school. Normalizing what’s happening to and around them is imperative. If you are trying to get a middle school student to do something in front of their peers and they resist, there is probably a physical explanation for it. Sweat stains. Period leakage. Wrong bra. Gas. Food in their braces. Acne. Though it’s all normal, it feels isolating to them. So don’t push them.
  7. They want to have fun, but they want to be taken seriously. You can’t be boring, or they won’t want to be with you. They don’t want you to just allow them to have fun; they want you to have fun with them. At the same time, they want you to be real with them. They want to be taken seriously. They don’t want surface answers. They want direct, real explanations. When they tell you something that seems silly to you but real to them, you can’t laugh. You can’t dismiss it. You have to engage it with a matched level of seriousness to show them you care.

No matter where you’re working with middle schoolers, I think these seven things will stay true. It’s who they are in this phase, and it’s why they need people like you cheering them on and loving them as they figure it out.

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What Makes a Cool Youth Ministry Game?

By Ken McCoy | JumpStart Ministries | Charlotte, NC

My iPhone buzzed and chimed – incoming text message. A friend sent a couple of videos of a youth group playing some games last night, and I immediately burst out laughing as soon as I started watching the first one. “Jeannie! You’ve gotta see this!” She laughed too. Just for you, I put the two videos together and uploaded the file to YouTube. You can watch it here. Go ahead, it’s only a minute long, so watch it now and then come back here to discover what the video inspired me to write.

That video has a lot of what makes for a cool youth ministry game. Here are some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts about this subject.

  • It’s unusual. How many times have YOU played a relay where you pass a live fish along? Me: never. But now I want to! A great youth group game is one that you haven’t played anywhere else. That’s why I coach youth leaders to get unusual with the games they play. If you’re playing Kickball, play it in such a way that is unique to your group – like have only one base, there are no force outs, and you can have as many players on the base as can touch it. BUT, if they’re making a mad dash for home and just ONE of them gets hit by the ball, they’re ALL out!
  • It has “Brag Factor.” When your young friends are saying to their friends the next morning, “Dude, you shoulda been there! You won’t believe what we did!” – that activity has “Brag Factor.” You can bet that plenty of kids were bragging to their friends this morning about the fish relays!

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  • It’s easy to set up. The best games are those that require minimal explanation. Form a single line as a team. Pass the fish down the line. The last person kisses the fish and passes it back. First team to get the fish back to the front, wins. Easy peasy! Complicated games CAN be fun, but sometimes the setup takes so long the kids lose enthusiasm before the game can start.
  • Anyone can play. The studly guys are just as good at playing the game as the tiniest girls. Coordinated kids aren’t any better at this game than uncoordinated ones. That means everyone can play – and you don’t wind up with some non-energetic kids sitting against the wall and watching.
  • Guys love it. When I’m planning the youth ministry activities, I have one person in mind: a 16-year-old guy who’s not sure he wants to be there. If we can reach that guy, get him engaged and having fun, then we can reach ALL the kids.

So, have a GREAT time with teenagers – can you imagine trying to play these relay races with a bunch of baby boomers?!

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KJ-52: The “Drake Phenomenon”

By Jonah Sorrentino – a.k.a.  kj52

Unless you’ve been living under a proverbial cultural rock, Aubrey “Drake” Graham is pretty much the hugest rap artist on the planet. Starting from child star on Degrassi and moving from the burgeoning internet indie scene to massive success as a solo artist with Cash Money records, it’s hard to ignore this singer/rapper/actor.

He’s weathered a few storms such as the accusations that he doesn’t write his hits (a huge no-no in the world of underground hip hop) to his beef w/ Meek Mill (which most declared him the winner) to his current tiff w/ the artist Pusha T (which hip hop declared him a loser). Yet through all this he just released his latest double album/playlist Scorpion to massive success.

I came up in an era of hip hop where authenticity was KING – you could get destroyed by a fake image/past/lyrics/etc. (see Vanilla Ice) but the truth is that this is out the window. Music is like cotton candy these days, we eat it, wipe our mouth, and move on. Drake has become a Teflon Don, nothing seems to stick and he continues to put up massive numbers.

The music industry has changed. You no longer have to sell units to win or lose – it’s just about how many streams you can generate. The industry is closer to WWF in many ways: there is no bad press anymore – even the most hated generate tons of streams online. The name of the game is that all press is good press.

With the negativity that hip hop pushes out, how does this effect youth ministry? The reality is that we all have access to the music – no longer is it limited to buying the album. Music is free, and we’re all being bombarded by what they are saying. We can’t shelter or sequester kids from the songs anymore, all we can do is equip them to deal with the messages that are sent and offer them alternatives.

CD burning parties (remember them?) are long gone. You can’t burn a Spotify account! Our efforts are better spent in countering what the world says and presenting students with God’s truth and hip hop alternatives (which are freely accessed also).

Alert! 23 of the 25 songs on Drake’s new album are EXPLICIT. There’s a good chance your kids have streamed it!

Negativity in our world is nothing new, we used to have to run from the lions just to survive (see the early church), but I have to believe that when the darkness comes in, the light shines brighter.

Don’t give up and don’t give in! Keep doing what you do day in and day out. GOD BLESSES FAITHFULNESS.

We hip hop artists with a different purpose appreciate you!

kj52

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My Thoughts On The Death Of Xxxtentacion

By Jonah Sorrentino – a.k.a.  KJ-52

We asked KJ-52, Team interlinc Artist and aficionado on all things Hip Hop, to give us his take on the recent death of rapper Xxxtentacion and the phenomenon it caused – the most streams of any song in a 24 hour period EVER on Spotify. That is huge… EVER means its 10.4 million streams supplanted the previous record holder Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” Here’s what he had to say:

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Mission Recipients Get Way More Than Those Who Serve

By Eric Iverson / Youth Leadership / Minneapolis, Minnesota

Let the Truth Be Told: I have been involved in U.S. Short-Term Missions (STM) all my life and been a part of every aspect of missions during that time. I grew up and currently live in a Host Community, have participated and led STM experiences as a Goer-Guest, and serve at a Sending Organization. The two most overheard statements coming from guests are, “They were so happy with so little” and “I got way more than I gave.” The truth is, hosts are the recipients of the majority of the benefits and positive impact that come from STM efforts within the North American context.

Because of the selfless service of thousands of short-term missionaries (Guests) in economically challenged communities each summer, the people in those communities (Hosts), especially the local churches, benefit most in four ways: through a tremendous amount of encouragement, a healthy portion of joy, a renewed sense of hope, and an increased amount of appreciation of the Cross-centered Gospel. Those outcomes would not be available to us, in the ways I describe, without the annual ministry of STM in our communities.

Encouragement

To teach others – As Hosts partner with Guests, they spend a lot of time teaching others about their cultural context, history, values, and how they live out their faith in their own community every day. Hosts use a voice they have not been allowed to use before, and it encourages them in developing and using their voice. I know of one community where a Host has taught so much that he has started an STM organization bringing students into his community each year to serve alongside him, learn from him, and live out the Gospel with his local church.

To be proud of their identity in Christ – There is satisfaction in being a part of a community where people come to build relationships, grow in their faith, and leave with a deeper and closer relationship with Christ than when they came.

To share the Gospel in their own Jerusalem – Each summer, as Host communities see hundreds of members of the “great cloud of witnesses” come into their community, they feel supported and encouraged to preach the Good News after the Guests have left.

Joy

When they see Guests impacted – Hosts receive joy in knowing they played a part in equipping Guests each year to live out the Gospel, not just talk about it. Hosts take joy in knowing that Guests gained a better understanding of how to live the Gospel so that they can live it out where it really matters; back at home.

 

In being “Christ” to Guests – Hosts in the “Church That Stays” love to express Christ’s love to the Guest from “The Church That Pays.” There is joy in helping a Guest discover that the same Jesus who is loved, worshiped, and glorified in the Guest’s community is living and transforming lives in the Host’s community as well.

Hope

That people can change – With more Guests returning to the same community, Hosts have the opportunity to see the same people each year and observe the changes in them. Some have learned to prepare for their trips by doing research about the community, or by committing to growing together as a group before they come. Hosts see people who were too focused on “doing” come back with a heart that has changed and is now focused on learning and on building relationships.

That the Hosts are considered as a part of the Body too – Hosts are gaining hope that Guests are reading the same verses in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 as they are. There is hope that Guests are beginning to see that “those parts of the Body that seem weaker are indispensable…” (v.22). This hope comes as spiritually thirsty Guests come back to a well far from home, are meeting Jesus there, and being satisfied.

Appreciation of the Cross-Centered Gospel

Host too often can view the harm, embarrassment, and shame that have been brought by a few self-righteous and prideful short-term missionaries to communities as an argument against salvation for some. These ideas set limits on God’s grace when it applies to those who do harm in Jesus’ name, and can be found just below the surface for many Hosts. This type of thinking takes the Cross out of the center of the Gospel and places it elsewhere, but not in the center of the good news of Christ’s atonement for all our sins on the Cross.

Short-Term Mission trips build relationships that allow Hosts to see the Guests as sisters and brothers who are washed clean by the same blood that Christ shed. Those relationships help Hosts to see Guests as included in the group of believers Paul describes in Romans 3:22 when he said, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

So, keep serving in the STM field of North America. We are giving a lot more than we think!

 

Youth Leaders Only members get a collection of these practical articles with their membership. You really should become a member!

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Inflatable Fun!

By Rick Bundschuh • Kauai Christian Fellowship • Kauai, Hawaii

Like most youth guys, my antenna is always up and searching for some new or different angle of an activity that will attract kids.

During the summer months, taking a load of kids to the beach, lakefront, or river usually draws a crowd – unless of course you actually live near the beach, lakefront, or river. In that case there’s nothing novel or attractional about that event – nothing, that is, unless you take what is normal and mutate it into weird fun.

One day I saw a tourist foolishly bring a large dolphin pool toy to the beach and watched as he was quickly washed up on the rocks. It was then that the light bulb went off in my head and the summer kickoff event in our sleepy beach town known as Inflatable Day was born.

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The idea was simple. Go to the store and buy a bunch of giant inflatable pool toys and a half dozen camping air mattresses, and then take over a local beach area with mobs of kids trying to ride these bizarre contraptions successfully to the beach. Oh, and for added fun, they also create havoc on the tourists who may find themselves in the way of a flotilla of whales, dolphins, turtles, and air mattresses.

It’s goofy fun, but it turns into a lot more fun if the surf comes up. Then the scene is a slapstick movie of tumbling bodies, mass wipeouts, and rider-less vehicles.

Naturally, we make sure to have cameras rolling and drones in the air so that everyone can relive the adventure.

The only thing that can get in the way of a goofy event like this are kids who think they are too cool to demean themselves by tumbling down the face of a wave on an inflatable turtle. To counter that, I initially made sure some of the best watermen we had joined the circus which help turn the event into “goofy/cool”.

Now, after a number of years doing this event, all we have to do is mention “Inflatable Day” and the crowd of regulars and their friends show up.

Of course, we schedule a showing of the videos shot and a hot dog feed shortly after the event that always results in a great turnout.

Join YLO and get Bethany Hamilton’s Soul Surfer Movie Guide with movie clips and studies!

Custom versions of this kind of goofy event can be done on lakes behind speedboats, down rivers, or any place where there is water.

Just make sure to inflate your zoo before you get to the beach!

 

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Yo-Yos And Youth Ministry

By Scott Lenning, Executive Festival Director/Crusade Ministries, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Today is National Yo-yo Day! I’m reminded how ministry has its ups and downs but you just have to remain patient, obedient and faithful to what you are doing.

A few years ago, when I had the opportunity to direct a major Christian Music Festival, we blended volunteers from the past and present into the same team. I gave Yo-yos to all 250 volunteers. I told them it would take some time to get to know each other and each of our responsibilities. I asked them when they had questions about or frustrations with the new procedures to pull out their Yo-yo and remember that the festival would have its ups and downs. I encouraged them to keep working and that together we would see the Lord bless our efforts… and He did!!

Learning new tricks takes someone to teach us and then lots of practice to get it right. In youth ministry we too need to have individuals in our lives who teach us new tricks and then work with us to make it happen. But it’s not for the tricks… it is to impact lives for Christ.  I think the Lord likes it when we work hard and play hard for Him.

Happy National Yo-yo Day!

 

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Imagine the Possibilities!

By Ken McCoy • JumpStart Ministries • Charlotte, North Carolina

I normally watch Apple’s Keynote presentations with great anticipation. But, ever since Steve Jobs left us, I haven’t had that “WOW!” sense when watching. However, I still watch them, because what Apple announces will have an impact on how I do youth ministry. Yesterday’s Keynote address got my mind going on some of the possibilities! I’ll pick three announcements that will influence my work with teenagers and youth leaders.

Foremost among the announcements is the multi-person FaceTime update. I’ve missed the 4-way videochat feature of the long-defunct iChat. What will I do with multi-person FaceTime? For starters, I can get several volunteers on FaceTime at the same time to have a pow-wow about an upcoming program or event, a problem that needs to be solved, or just a quick prayer together. The same holds true for small groups, parents, and others. I’ll also put it to use with my consulting/training of rookie youth pastors. I’ll be able to get a few of them together at the same time to cover some common material.

I have to admit, “Memoji” initially struck me as a gimmick – something I’d never really use. But then I started to think of all those SnapChat filters that the kids are using, and I began to see some possibilities. In case you haven’t seen it yet, think of “Bitmoji” on steroids – you create an animated emoji of your face, and can have as many “alter egos” as you want. Middle schoolers are going to be all over this!

Finally, straight out of Dick Tracy lore, is the “Walkie-Talkie” function coming to Apple Watch. It kind of reminds me of those old Nextel “Direct Connect” phones where you could push a button and immediately get through to someone who also had a Nextel – short burst communications. That functionality was lost when the original iPhone changed the personal communications landscape. Now’s it’s back – on your wrist!

Notice that these three features all have to do with communication. The more methods we have to get in touch with each other, the better off we will be. However, nothing yet can beat be WITH others, “in reals” instead through an electronic device.

I’ve already had three kids contact me, asking if I’d seen the Apple Keynote address and what I thought about it. Teenagers are totally tied to their technologies – they push the boundaries of what their devices can do, and eagerly eat up any new feature and function. I think, as youth leaders, we need to stay informed about those changes. Maybe this little article will encourage you to watch the Keynote too – and be able to talk with your enthusiastic young friends about what’s just around the corner.

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