Thursday, November 12, 2015

To Youth Ministers

I have been around various forms of youth ministry throughout the course of my seventeen-and-a-half years of life.

Being the daughter of two youth ministers, I spent my childhood immensely looking forward to being part of a youth ministry program. I saw the joy of people passionately pursuing Jesus and leading others to Him. Even as young as three, that was so attractive to me. I assumed that I would be a part of a youth ministry program as wonderful as the one my parents lead when I reached high school.

Unfortunately, my experience with youth ministry over the years has been frustrating and the source of much heartache. I've been let down by multiple Cristian adults...and it hurts. I'm not going to lie, I'm angry about it. Even though some of these situations happened years ago, I'm angry. I've forgiven those involved...but I still recognize that the things that happened were wrong.

So please, all of you who work with kids in the Church, learn from these mistakes of others.

My absolute favorite line that I've gotten from youth ministers (and I've gotten it from at least four) is the ol' "Well, you're way ahead of them all."  This statement has been said in response to suggestions given by myself or others. Usually, this line is in response to requests for greater depth in something or an expression of frustration at the lack of leadership.

When I've received that line, I've felt put in a box. It's like I'm different from everyone else, and almost ostracized. Growing deeper is up to me and the youth minister is not going to help me. Also, I think it puts the "them" in a box which prohibits their own growth. To me, that line is a cop out from putting more work into something.

Every single person alive longs for greater depth spiritually, regardless of whether or not they realize it. Our hearts were made for relationship with Jesus. Obviously, the leadership which leads to the relationship can take many different forms. So don't tell me that I'm the only one who wants that.

Please realize that you are never going to please everybody, so stop trying. You're not going to please every priest, every kid, every parent, every member of the church. So just strive to please one-- Jesus. Don't compromise Church teachings just because you don't want to offend somebody. Take a stand. Stand up for Jesus. And also, please do not give your opinions if  they are contrary to Church teaching. The church has been around for two-thousand years. She knows more than you.

It's not about you and your ministry. It's about leading people to relationship with Jesus. That's all that matters. I don't understand why, under this premise, so many youth ministers are unable to work together. Why do so many schedule their events on the same night, seemingly intentionally? I get really frustrated when I (and others) get crap about going to a different church's events. Youth groups are not sports teams competing for coolness or attendance. There was a youth minister I knew once who wouldn't even talk to a girl after she skipped a week of our church's youth group to go to another church. Well, that's mature!

Please do not mimic your kids when they offer suggestions or voice concerns. Often, it takes a lot of courage for a kid to speak up to an adult. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what is being suggested, please be respectful and listen.

Don't talk about kids to other kids. Youth ministry is a hard balance between relating to the kids while still maintaining a leadership persona. But please, please, please set an example and don't gossip. As one who has been gossiped to and gossiped about by a variety of youth ministers, it's not cool. If you're frustrated, talk to another youth minister or confront the kid yourself. If you're gossiping as the youth minister, how are you supposed to teach your kids not to gossip? Also, it puts the kid being gossiped to in a very uncomfortable position. And if you're being gossiped's heartbreaking.

How much do you know about the personal lives of your kids? I'm talking beyond sports and clubs How much do you know about their wants and dreams, their fears, their hurts? Are your kids comfortable sharing with you? Another hard balance of youth ministry is that of having a fun side as well as a deep side. Are your kids able to get real with you?

It's not about numbers...for the sake of numbers. But each number represents a soul. Your responsibility is to lead these souls to heaven. Do you realize how much power you have?! You have so many souls literally in your hands, and you have the truth that they long for! Are you doing everything in your power to reach as many as you possibly can?

Please be prepared for your events. Please don't fill youth events with a bunch of games because you think we can't handle depth. We crave depth because we our culture has starved us of it. Additionally, for goodness's sakes, write you talk ahead of time.

If you're going to enlist others to be on a leadership team (especially other teens), please train them. Meet with them, talk and pray with them, build relationship. Don't just throw them to the wolves.

If you're not going to pray openly with your team and kids, then you're not going to go anywhere. If you're not pursuing a relationship with Jesus to the best of your ability, then you're not going to be anything but noise.

Be real. Be fun. Be deep. Don't be afraid to give yourself wholly and completely, like Jesus does continuously for us. Youth ministry is so much more than a's a way of life.

I have been let down often in my life and this is partly my fault. But the worst, most heartbreaking let downs have come from youth ministers. When leaders don't lead, especially in the church, I get so upset. Wen I am told how I am "too far ahead of everybody", it hurts. I want to be fed, to be led closer to Jesus. I have problems just like everyone else. When I see youth ministers wo are so obsessed with "success" that they miss the souls in front of them, it hurts.

The most important thing you could ever do is love and lead a soul to Christ.

I'm praying for you! I know that youth ministry (and every kind of ministry) is difficult. But what God has called you to, He'll provide the grace sufficient for. Remember, more than anything, the sacrifice that Jesus has made for you and the love that He pours out continually on you. Cling to that, and let Him be your strength.

To all the kids who have been hurt by youth ministers...youth ministers are just people. People are human, and we fail. I know kids who have left the Church because of being let down by the leadership. Always remember, our Church is founded on Christ. He is our hope. Our Church is run by humans, which means we will fail. But the Church never will.

I'm praying for you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Porn in a Pub: You're Worth Over a Million Dollars

I am a very emotional person.

I feel things very deeply, probably over the top most times. Things swirl around inside me for much longer than they probably should. Which is probably why I'm up at 12:43am on this November 3rd. I was lying in lying in bed for at least an hour, wide awake, sick to my stomach because of what had happened this past evening.

So this past evening, family friends invited us out to eat with them. The name of the restaurant is McGuire's Pub, and it's apparently a pretty big deal.

Before we walked into the pub, I noticed dollar bills, signed with various names and phrases, taped to the insides of the windows. When we walked into the pub, I completely lost my breath. Dollar bills, everywhere. Literally hanging from the ceiling, covering every inch so that all you could see were the vertically hanging bills. The restaurant was huge, and the bills went on and on and on.

I didn't know what to think or what to say. I was so overwhelmed by the loud voices of the pub's patrons and the steady rambling of the waiters and waitresses, the musky scent, and the dim lighting. My head spun, my stomach sunk, and my legs automatically moved forward with the rest of my family, with my eyes unable to remove themselves from the vast sea of money.

Our waiter lead us to a little secluded area, a tiny circular room encompassing a circular table. The walls were lined with vintage pictures, mostly beer advertisements and such. In addition to these though, there was a drawn picture of a woman, mostly naked and showing her breasts, obviously meant to be seductive. Pornography.

The fact that people look at pictures of naked men and women for pleasure absolutely sickens me. So many people think that it's not a big deal, that it's only a picture, and maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this.

But the thing is, pornography reduces people down to things. I strongly believe that pornography is the biggest perpetrator of rape culture. Porn says it's okay to use without any responsibility or commitment or lasting effects. Porn reduces people to toys to be played with. Porn gives permission to use people. We were made for love, not to be lusted after and used. Lust says that I'm going to take you for what you can do for me...but love says that I am going to lay my life down for your good. Porn promotes lust and destroys love.

Like I said, porn sickens me. But the people involved...the photographers, the models, and the people who do not. You are worthy of love. My heart goes out to you if you're addicted to porn, whether it's something you're okay with or struggling with. You are made for more. I am praying for you, that you would come to see the truth of who you are and given the strength to give up living for something so much less than you deserve.

When I saw the picture in the pub, my spirit just felt so heavy and...yuck, honestly. Everything inside me felt out of order and chaotic. I felt like I had just forgotten something really important or that I was in the wrong place. I felt lost. The money-ceiling felt like it was getting closer and closer, and was about to crush me.

My dad asked the waiter if  we could remove the picture or cover it up or anything. The waiter said that we could move to the room over, so we did.

And then my mom came back and told us about the bathrooms.

Apparently, the door to the men's bathroom read "LADIES" in large print, followed by a small printed "do not use this bathroom". The ladies' bathroom said "MEN", followed by "do not use this bathroom". Again, disgust. How could that be okay? It's not funny. While we were there, a number of people accidentally went in the wrong bathroom.

Men and women, we are more than just bodies...we are bodies and souls. But our bodies are sacred and holy, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are not meant to be used as a joke or as an embarrassment. However, our bodies were designed to give glory to God. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to aid each other in recognizing our true, infinite worth.

How does tricking men into going into the ladies' bathroom promote an culture of respect for each other as persons, body and soul, worthy of love and respect?

Our waiter repeated the spiel about the bathrooms and added what he called an interesting tidbit. Apparently, all of the dollar bills all over the place added up to one and a half million and there was a certain spot in the pub where you could see the entire ceiling and all you'd see was millions of dollar bills. He called it cool.

This time, I couldn't control my tears.

One and a half million dollars used as DECORATION for a restaurant.

One and a half million. Decoration.


How many people die each day from starvation? How many people don't have a place to sleep? How many people can't receive the medical attention they need? All of this...due to lack of money.

Meanwhile, at McGuire's, you'll one and a half million dollars used as decoration and amusement.

Honestly, I don't care if it was one or two or ten or twenty dollars. The fact that it is any being completely wasted when there are so many underprivileged people...completely and utterly disgusting.

Apparently, someone told my brother that they do donate some money to some charity or another. That's great. Still not an excuse to waste one and a half million dollars.

Sometimes, I wish that I just didn't care. That I could see a picture like the one I saw and just look away. That I didn't have the kind of dad who had to make a big deal and ask if the picture could be removed. That I could laugh about the bathroom joke and just be careful. That I could "oooh and awww" at the money as I was clearly expected to do, perhaps even signing a dollar myself. That I wasn't up at now almost two in the morning and could peacefully sleep as though nothing happened.

But I am  not called to the comfort of conformity. I am called to greatness. And the reality is, by the grace of God, I care more about people than I do about my social status.

I care that men and women are being used for their bodies, that pornography is destroying marriages and relationships. I care that the porn industry is growing rapidly, and that money is being made off of the sacred bodies of men and women made in the image and likeness of the God of the universe. I care that a pornographic picture was put in a pub. I care that pornographic pictures exist, period. I care that my little brothers and sisters saw it.

I care that so many people don't have food. That so many are without moms and dads, that so many live without love. I care that so many die in the streets each day, due to various diseases. I care that so much money is wasted rather than given to help these people. I care that selfishness exists in this world, just as much as undernourishment or any kind of disease.

My experience at McGuire's challenged me. It challenged me to look at the ways that I use people. Do I see men as just an attractive thing without a personality? How much money do I spend needlessly, how much time do I waste? These are really hard questions that are so good to keep in mind.

The men and women in pornographic pictures are worth far, far, far more than one and a half million dollars. Guys, you all are worth so much more than that much money. We all are priceless. When we use people, whether physically, visually, or emotionally, it's sort of like hanging one and a half million dollars from a dirty old ceiling, not letting it live up to its full potential. It's telling a person that s/he is something that s/he is not, that s/he is worthless.

Let's stop wasting something that is worth so much more than any amount of money...someone. Each other. Let's stop using each other for our own pleasure, and instead...let's love. Let's sacrificially do what is better for each other, let's lay our lives down. It's hard not to use people, especially when you're in the habit! I know, believe me, I've been there. It's a daily struggle not to fall into the temptation of use. But living lives of love, rather than use, is always worth it. The very fact that it is so hard validates how worth it it is.

Let's make commitments not to use. Let's love. And let's pray for each other.

For more information on how pornography destroys, visit these awesome websites: