Current Affairs youth ministry

Lead by Enabling

Did you catch the Do Something Awards on VH1 last night? Wow. Wow! WOWowow! It was an explosion of fun, music, and celebration of teenagers who… are doing stuff in their communities.

I’m relatively new to discovering but the idea behind their organization is pretty simple. They help teenagers do stuff in their community. Here’s how they describe their mission:

We love teens. They are creative, active, wired…and frustrated that our world is so messed up. harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car. With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, is one of the largest organizations in the US for teens and social change.

As a youth worker and person who thinks about new ways of ministering to youth all the time, I deeply resonate with that.

They have made their job relatively simple. They encourage teenagers to do stuff without defining what “stuff” should be very much. This empowers their creativity and supports their capabilities. And they get out of the way. Then, for those who need a little more help, they set up national campaigns.

What’s the role of adults? They tee things up and get out of the way!

It’s power is clear. While not a religious organization or “youth ministry” in just a few short years, with a relatively small budget, they have activated millions of teenagers around the country… and their award show is broadcast nationally on VH1 packed full of celebrities celebrating the difference these teens are making. There’s power in their enabling methodology! 

I’m really intriged by this model. Which is part of the reason Marko & I invited Naomi Hirabayashi to come and speak at The Summit. We have a lot to learn about not only massive impact, but also a model of leadership that gets out of the way. It’s so foreign to youth ministry and yet all Gospel-y and youth ministry-y at the same time. It reminds me so much of Jesus sending out his disciples into the villages. (Luke 10)

As I watched their award show last night I loved that none of their “old people” appeared on stage. Their award show wasn’t a showcase of them, it was a showcase of their model of enabling and getting out of the way. They didn’t try to MC it, they didn’t accept any accolades. They just worked to put it on and got out of the way.

Questions: What would your ministry look like if your primary job was to tee things up and get out of the way? Could you lead a microphone-less/platform-less ministry? 

photo credit: Mark Davis/WireImage

Current Affairs

April Fools Pranks

NPR’s Instagram account goes to the cats.

HT to Mandy

ht to Mashable

ht to LL Cool J’s Goodbye Kitty petition (Rick Roll)

ht to ThinkGeek

ht to KargoKids (Lawyers kinda ruined this one with disclaimers)

ht to 9to5mac


Current Affairs

The reasonable middle

It’s been my experience that really, really wealthy people are a bit nutty. Most people know that even if they’ve never met really, really wealthy people. So we collectively and instinctively know there’s money in the extremes. 

And it’s these extremes you see people appealing to these days. Appealing to the extremes is always a sign of desperation!

The vast majority of the population lives in the reasonable middle. Resonate with the middle of the market and you’re as golden as Wal*Mart or as profitable as Apple or as popular as Adele. That’s the middle 70% of the market… the fat part of the bell curve.

But businesses and political leaders know that they can make a quick buck by appealing to an extreme, where someone with deep pockets will fund them. The logic is that even if their political position or business isn’t good enough to make it with the general population… if you go far enough to one of the crazy extrmemes some billionaire will fund you.

Dollar Per Person

It’s a dollar-per-person game. If you appeal to the middle 70% you can get $20 or $30 per person. But if you appeal to a nutty billionaire you can increase that to $5 million per person.


That’s why some Christian organizations can be so extreme and survive with so little support. And that’s why a couple of the Republican candidates are still in the race. They aren’t good enough to appeal to the middle, where actual viability is. But if they move far enough to the extremes where a sugar daddy will fund them.

Unfortunately for the extremes… the middle always wins in the long run. Getting popular always moves you to the middle. Why? Because that’s what most of us are.

The reasonable middle. 

Current Affairs

Sweet Home, Alabama?

Last August, I wrote a post “What’s Happening in Alabama?” In that post I drew attention to proposed legislation that would make every citizen and every police officer in Alabama an immigration official. In short, it would make it illegal to do business with someone who is undocumented. (Pay them, drive them somewhere, rent a house to them, sell them groceries, etc.)

I ended this post with this statement:

Please tell me I’m misunderstanding what this law is about? It seems to me that this is segregation all over again.

And I heard predictable pushback. I was educated that Alabama was not the state it was in the 1960s. And I was told that Alabama is a democracy and the people have a right to pass laws which the people support. And I was told that illegal immigrants were stealing jobs from Alabamans who were unemployed. And that there was an exploding population of illegals from Mexico and something had to be done.

Most importantly, I was told that I was blowing this out of proportion. Those things would never really happen.

My favorite comments were from people who told me– a guy who lives 10 miles from Mexico and in a neighborhood where 70% of my neighbors are of Hispanic origin– that more illegal Mexicans in Alabama are dangerous to the people of Alabama and Alabama needs to protect itself. (4% of Alabama residents are Hispanic, by the way.)

So the law passed and went into effect in October. (Alabama HB 56And the unintended consequences began. 

You need to listen to this week’s episode of This American Life, You Reap What You Sow. I actually think it should be mandated that every Alabama resident listen to the impact this law has had on their state in just a few months. Some examples:

  • Grocery stores asking for ID prior to serving people who “look Hispanic.”
  • Employers not paying employees for work completed.
  • Landlords indiscriminately changing lease agreements, because they can.
  • Law enforcement arresting Mercedes Benz executives from Germany.
  • Companies refusing to do business with Alabama, pulling contracts and going to other states.

How about this? Still proud of this law?

School kids told me they’re fighting off comments like, I’m glad you’re all moving, we don’t want you here, you take our jobs. At a pep rally, where Latinos were all sitting up front, kids started shouting, Mexicans move to the back. And most of them did.

The law is intended so that people who are illegal will leave the state. I get it. For people who don’t take the time to understand the issues it seems OK to make life a living hell for someone else, terrorizing them to the point where they flee.

After all, they aren’t here legally. They shouldn’t have any rights at all– except the right to leave. 

But this isn’t the America we can all be proud of. This really is creating an environment of us vs. them that is strikingly similar to the 1960’s in Alabama. A place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed for his protests. A place where people were murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A place where people of one color used one bathroom while people of another color used another one.

People are being discriminated against because they look like they might be illegal. 

We need to be reminded that “legal” doesn’t equal “moral.” And the majority might rule but they don’t always represent the will of the people.

Gabriella said that the new attitude has permeated every aspect of her life, every aspect.


Even in the church.

Jack Hitt



Yes, because even in the church, you find people that say, well, we are in God’s house. And then they don’t want to talk at you. And they don’t want to give the peace to you. That is so sad.

Jack Hitt

So in your church, you have the passing of the peace, that part of the service? And so in your church, when they do that, what normally happens? You turn and shake hands with people?


Yes. They shake hands and everything. But now I found some people that say, I don’t want to do peace with you.

Read the full transcript here.

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Current Affairs

The Unemployable Problem

Big news out of Washington D.C. recently. The unemployment rate fell to its lowest mark since February 2009, 8.5%. That’s good news if your a president in an election year.

But others would be quick to point out that 8.5% unemployment is still too high. Yet, I have to wonder. What percentage of Americans are unemployed because they are unemployable?

The other day, I took our kids to the local park for a picnic and to soak in some free vitamin D from the flaming ball which hangs in the January San Diego sky. It was a sunny, breezeless, quiet day at the park. With most kids back at school and parents back to work the park was fairly empty of the dozens of screaming toddlers on the slides and mom’s chatting on the sidelines experienced during the week before.

It was our family and a pile of random stragglers each there for their own reasons.

One man and his friend watched a little boy as they smoked weed and talked about how weed hasn’t hurt them a bit. In the same conversation they talked about their inability to find a job but apparently lacked the cognitive ability to recognize that smoking weed at a public park at 1 o’clock in the afternoon while a toddler plays under your care is as good a reason to not hire a person for a job as any other.

A young woman sat on a bench near me and talked on the phone while her daughter tumbled up and down the ladder of the slide alone. She cried, literally, to a friend about how her mom wouldn’t give her $100 to pay her cable bill. In the same conversation she lamented to her friend about not being able to find a job anywhere.

Moments later a nanny arrived with 3 toddlers. In San Diego it’s fairly normal to see a middle-aged Hispanic woman caring for 3 little white kids. I could be wrong in making that assumption, because they could have been her children I suppose, but they looked to be children she watched. She oversaw an orderly march to and from the park, the distribution of snacks and jackets, and she maintained order as they played in the sand and later helped them take turns on the swings.

So there I sat, basking in the sunlight of this irony. 4 adults at the park with very different American experiences. 3 unemployed and relatively unemployable young adults wasting every legal opportunity they have for the advancement of their life. And 1 employed, legally unemployable middle-aged woman, exhibiting professionalism and investing in the advancement of her life.

Mike Rowe is right, you know?

We have an educational system that has created a massive hole in the job market. It’s not just in my industry that there is a gap in qualified people. It’s in the trades, as well. (Read more: College isn’t for everyone)

Current Affairs

Redemption Song

Reminds me of this, captured in a field hospital near the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rudy was severely injured in the earthquake. But his true spirit was evident.

World change. It’s possible, right?

Church Leadership Current Affairs

3 Responses to a Broken Arm

Current Affairs illustrations youth ministry

Savior: The Adult Desire to Save Teenagers From Themselves

Photo by fengschwing via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Am I the only one who notices that adults seem to obsessed about teenage lives? More to the point, we seem obsessed with pointing out how we need to intervene before they destroy themselves and the human race.

Our culture takes a very negative view of people between the ages of 13-18. If you work with them, you are used to folks turning up their noses when you tell them you love working with that age group.

Here are some recent headlines to illustrate the point:

School: Little as they try, students can’t get a D here [New York Times] more articles…

Sleep: Lack of sleep linked to obesity for teen boys [Time Magazine] more articles…

Sex: Teenage girls rely on the rhythm method [What is the trend] more articles…

Crime: States rethink “adult time for adult crime” [CNN] more articles…

Forgive me if the links provided aren’t damning evidence. You are welcome to browse my entire body of hundreds of news articles on adolescence to get a better flavor. What I am talking about is not a hot pile of evidence. It is a slow burn of negative views on adolescents as well as adult desires to fix teenagers.

Another angle that demonstrates this is our wonderment over a teenager who does something good. Sail around the world? Shocking! Raise money for a worthy cause? News at 11! Start a successful business? Give her an award!

It seems that those news stories are of interest, in part, because we expect teenagers to only do negative/self-destructive things and when they do something amazing it must be newsworthy.

Three observations I want to point out on this topic

  1. Jesus is their savior, you aren’t.
  2. Have you ever wondered why sports are so popular with adolescents? Maybe it’s the easiest place for them to achieve and/or exceed expectations.
  3. Teenagers have about the same grades, sleep about the same, have the same amount of sex, and commit the same amount of crimes that they always have. Our obsessing over it only reveals something twisted in our lives and not theirs.
Current Affairs Funny Stuff

What Happens When BP Spills Coffee

Sadly, this about sums up the response so far.

Pretty happy about being a BP shareholder right now, lemme tell you. Great investment!

Current Affairs

A Widow’s Perspective on Memorial Day

For more, I believe President Obama captures the essence and heart of Memorial Day quite well in this piece.