Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The culture of unending youth

Today I was reading an article called, "The Perpetual Adolescent" In which the author, Joseph Epstein describes a younger attitude amongst our western culture. He maliciously outlined some culture trends and celebrity profiles in which he notes that there is a younger feel to today's world than there ever has been before.  He then indicates that when describing youth it is no longer a label of a transitional state of ones life.  It seems that we have found the fountain of youth after all. Or is it just a refusal to grow up?

As a youth worker I have sought to become more of a professional in my field by research the history of youth culture in our society.  I would say worldwide but in area outside what we would consider "western" there really is no youth culture.  People move from child to adult.  To be old and to bear gray hair is a sign of wisdom and respect that is absent in our culture today.  So in western history I think that starting at the end of world war 2 there was a segment of young soldiers that wanted to prevent the world from entering into another period of strife and global violence.  So they targeted what they saw as the "next generation" of society and so organizations such as the one I work for(Youth For Christ) was born. Never before had this particular age range been isolated before.  And while their were some tremendous advantages to helping stir the hearts and souls of this passionate age group.  Segmenting them from the rest of culture caused a divide that has increased throughout the decades.

I'm not trying to say that these events were unimportant.  They were important.  However the divide grew and soon youth needed regular contact that the rallies could not support and so soon youth workers were working within the high school environmental.  They basically set up clubs for kids to get support in their trials and faith issues.  In the 80's and 90's the trend became to open youth centers that would address only the needs of those in the transitional state.  Now we are in a decade into the 21 century and youth are not making the transition into adulthood.  Maybe because their parents never did as well.  A lot of the youth I work with have parents that seem less mature than they are.  I wish I was kidding, but sometimes I have felt like I'm counseling the parents more than the youth. Our organization has recently expanded our official age range from 13-18 to 10-24 because the kids we make connections with cant seem to move into other areas of faith and find belonging.

So I suppose that I agree that the age of youth is expanding into the unforeseeable future.  However I still think of it as a transitional state, however the problem is that there seems to be nothing to transition into.  So every few years we have a new generation that is incompatible with all the previous ones and no one knows what it means to be an adult.  Other than at a certain age they can buy smokes, pornography, booze and be charged as an adult. 

That is why I think the answer is not more things that cater to the youth, but actually help them reconnect with culture in a way that is meaningful and memorable.  A way of showing eachother that we are all quite similar and that there is a rite of passage for those that seek to become adults.  Problem is that seeing as many of us even as youth workers have grown up in this system so it is like a one eyed man leading the blind.  Maybe we can help people find their destination after all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pain in the offering

Some things should not be....
Some things are not okay with me...

I wish I could I wish I might
I wish I could erase this plight

But their are no words that I can say
That can take this pain away

I find it hard to find encourage hope
I understand when they can't cope

Some wounds will never heal
And that is a very big deal

I can help to make things "right"
but those are only the things in sight

The pain extends much deeper down
And drags the soul along the ground

The only one I know that can
bless the souls that cannot stand

Is the one that most reject or scoff
They are content to remain lost.

I'm praying for you all who are
at this moment feeling far

from life
from truth
from Jesus

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Teen culture resource site

I found a site today that I thought was a great resource for those of you interested in youth culture trends and news.  Check it out: http://teen-culture.suite101.com/

As recommended by my friend Tom I also am using StumbleUpon to keep a list of sites that I think are relevant to youth workers and parents...as well as teens themselves. Find my lists here http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/proyouthworker/

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What teens would do to change the world.

Around the table of my home last Thursday night I asked the question to the group of youth that were gathered there for dinner: What would you do to change the world?

I realized that to ask such a question is to invite ridicule along the lines of "Make the world a better place, punch Danny in the face." So I said they were allowed one goof answer and one serious one.  Here is the list of things that they said.

-I would do something about polution
-I would fill cars with beans
-I would extend the skytrain around the world
-I would figure out how to feed the world
-I would want whirlled peas (or was that world peace?)
-I would get people to be better at recycling
-I would get rid of Josh (Josh was giving sarcastic comments at the time - the group decided that putting him on the skytrain trip around the world would sub vice.)
-I would love everyone that crossed my path
-I would give everyone pogo sticks
-I would disband the illuminaty
-I would "pay it forward"
-I would rid the world of guns and artillary
-I would make great tasting no calorie food
-I would make sure there was electricity accessible everywhere
-I would get rid of cell phones so that people would have more face-to-face contact again
-I would work at clothing the world (by working at Value Village in particular)
-I would become a cross between spiderman and boba fett
-I would encourage people to be more random and unordinary
-I would always smile
-I would find a way to rid the world of HIV/AIDS
-I would get rid of ignorance
-I would build a city under the ocean
-I would make sure everyone had a job
-I would ensure everyone would have shelter
-I would make it easier to travel
-I would give everyone superpowers
-I would rid the world of hate, disgust, and anger
-I would make the skytrain free to use
-I would change people's attitudes to take things lighter and have more fun
-I would have everyone wear cups on their ears
-I would have the world laugh at least three times a day (even if it was a fake laugh)
-I would have the freedom not to answer questions when I don't have anything to say.

What do you think?  How would you change the world?  How can we make some of these changes into realities?

Monday, March 22, 2010

An encouraging chat with a young person.

I often get young people chatting with me on my cell phone.  Some of these message are disheartening others are encouraging.  This particular weekend I had both from the same person.  I wanted to share the chat with you.  I've changed some of the names and details but the gist is still the same and it show how sometimes that prayer is the most effective youth work tool of all.

Danny  , Jesse

Saturday Morning
Jesse:         What wrong with me
Danny  :       Rough night?
Jesse:         Ya and rough morning
Danny  :       Sorry Jesse. What happened?
Jesse:         I hate what I am
Danny  :       Don't say such things about my friend.
Jesse:         I just need to fall apart I don't wanna have to be me
Danny  :       I have bad days too Jesse.
Jesse:         Ugh I wana just escape and cry
Danny  :       I think that's a better alternative

Sunday Morning
Jesse:         God just did the most amazing thing to me this morning like I
               just need to share it to you dude cause it’s so amazing
Danny  :       Ok
Jesse:         God appeared to me while I was driving and so I asked him why
things are hurting so much and he said he was sorry it hurt but he had to use it bring me closer to him      He also told me that he's so proud and that he loves me so much he's never letting go and the light in my car was so bright it was like day time :)
Danny  :       That is amazing!
Jesse:         God also told me tell all the youth workers that he's so proud
of you all and he just loves you guys so much and you guys are so amazing and just very special and loves doing his work through you guys :)
Danny  :       Wow. That's really cool.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Who are the SCUM of the earth?

we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. 1 Cor 4:13

One of my young friends wrote into the local newspaper addressing an issue surrounding a new homeless shelter being opened in Langley. She cited the fact that people complain a lot about the homeless and are quick to point fingers at them and call them scum but few look in their eyes and treat them like fellow human beings. She is right. She is passionate because one of her friends ended up on the streets doing unimaginable things to stay alive. It is a sad story but it has shaped the outlook of this young lady to try to make a difference for the voiceless people we call scum.

Her term reminded me of a visit I took to my cousins church called "scum of the earth" in Seattle. If you were to walk into their building you wouldn't know that it is a place a church meets but it isn't the building that makes it unique it is the people. This church is made of street people, college students and young families trying to live out Jesus' ways of uniting people of vast differences.

According to my cousin the people in the streets many times teach him more about Jesus than he feels he teaches them. It also makes the issue of shelter and feeding of the people on the streets more urgent as it is not just nameless faces but friends. He Has even eaten food rescued from dumpsters with them. And he mentioned how hard it is to watch people leave their Sunday night meal and discussion to sleep on the street outside.

In reaching out and treating these people as equals they have themselves become SCUM. A name they wear proudly. I see so much of who Jesus is in my cousin's eyes that I wish we lived in the same city. We could be scum together.
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jesus where are you?

one of my friends often plays this "game" in which he prays a simple prayer of: "Jesus where are you?". I call it a game because we often compare it to looking through a where's Waldo book.

Over this weekend I found myself asking the question of where Jesus was but I couldn't see him anywhere. I felt such a void of his presence in my surroundings. At church they talked about Jesus a lot but it felt like a celebrity fan club meeting full of people that know all about someone but don't actually know them. The pastor talked about the philosophy of who Jesus claimed to be and invited people to pray a prayer of invitation (whatever that means) and I walked away wondering what the point of the meeting was if Jesus wasn't evident there.

It is very possible that he was evident and I just didn't have the eyes to see. Either way it bothered me. Today I was still feeling down about it and i found myself in a christian bookstore. I typically try to avoid such places. I think it is because every time I step into them I picture Jesus storming in with his homemade whip tossing the tables of cheaply made plastic trinkets with his name on them. But today I found a book that said my year of living like Jesus where the author tried to figure out what it would mean to literally follow in Jesus' footsteps. Look like him and talk like him etc. what he found out was Jesus was Jewish and living like an ancient Jew affects every aspect of life...what you eat what you wear and how you work are all affected by a strict law.

I've spent years separating myself from religiosity as I don't just want to go through the motions of a holy life. I genuinely want to be more like Jesus. But I couldn't help but think about the fact that following Jesus should impact how i eat, what i dress myself with and what my days look like.

Every day I research youth culture news and I am often overwhelmed with the desperate feeling of hopelessness. Death, gangs, abuse, hatred, violence, crime, gossip, pressure, disconnection, sexual attitudes, self injury, suicide, health, to name a FEW. What these kids need is a revolution not more answers. They know its not right to the things they do but it simply is.

I don't want to go anywhere without Jesus and I certainly don't want to take others with me. But I would like to follow him so closely that it impacts what I do in all those mundane areas of my life and starts a revolution in me and in the teens I work with.

Jesus where are you? Jesus WHO are you?

Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Friday, March 12, 2010

School cancels prom. WWJD?

Prom.  An event perceived by many young people as the most important event of their lives.  It is a night that is more about pranks, drinking and sexuality than it is about the dancing.  Evidenced in the recent news that a school in Mississippi canceled the school prom on April 2 reportedly to prevent a young girl who identifies herself as a homosexual from showing up with her same sex date. 

Now everybody is upset and the event is moving into the courts.  What a mess. 

I not only recognize the tension but I can feel it.  It is the place that I live everyday.  The traditional side of our culture balks at the idea of such a clear violation of morality while the emerging idealists are attempting to force a place of acceptance in society.  This is not a new battle.  It has been happening for years.  It happens on TV when Focus on the Family produces a superbowl ad about celebrating family and celebrating life.  It happens when the gay pride parades participants march down the streets of cities around North America.

The problem is that everyone thinks that their way of doing things is the right way.  I think that it is referred to as Narcissism. Everyone looking to themselves more highly than anyone else.  With that mindset we are only comfortable with those that look and think exactly like us.  We are selfish beings. It doesn't really matter what side of the debate we're on.  We are all wrong.

I think that if Jesus were here that some hyper religious person may have given him this situation as a means of testing him.  What would he do?  I can't put words into the mouth of God, but if I were to venture a guess I bet that it wouldn't be what we expected.  He would probably tell a story that everyone would hear but few would understand.  It would be enough to unarm all parties and see the judgementalism towards each other stop.  Then some would look at him amazed and other would probably seek to kill him.  Thats what being a revolutionary is all about.

 Isn't it?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Facebook and Internet protection for youth

Facebook and other social media sites are dangerous ground and few of us use these tools safely enough.  Even something that is said in jest or a quote from someone else can be used against you in court.  Check out this article from the New Zealand Herald for what may be a startling reality check for you.  

It is sad that the world needs tools like this but it is the reality.  This is a great way for parents to stay better informed of what their kids are up to online and how others are interacting with them.  It may be a bit expensive but what is your child's safety worth to you anyway?

Check out Reputation Defender's MyChild tool

Monday, March 8, 2010

Youth Worker Resource Guide

I recently read an article on teen suicide that I found to be a good resource.  I started thinking more about my blog and what I would like to to be.  As a youth worker I often get frustrated by the lack of resources that there are available.  It seems that most youth workers fly off the seat of their pants so to speak.  There are some sites that resource parents of teens.  Those that may be of interest to youth pastors working in a church setting, but for those of us that are knee deep in the mud of the modern youth culture there really isn't much.  I felt as though I could use this blog to help equip those that are interested in developing themselves as better youth workers but listing resources that can be used to better educate and train themselves for what they may encounter in the field.

The primary way that I give out this info is via twitter so if you don't follow me already please do so now.  You can find me at http://www.twitter.com/proyouthworker

I will also be posting more articles on this blog that I think are relevant.  There are a lot of things out there that can help me do my job better.  If better youth workers can help save the lives of more youth than why wouldn't I share it.

I have asked for people's reactions and opinions before and had no response.  But I would love to know if this would be something you as a reader are interested in.  Please comment and let me know.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Questions teens ask

 These are actual questions that I have been asked by youth.  Some are fun, some are serious - all are real.  My question to you is how would you answer?

- Who is your favorite superhero?
- As of right now what is your biggest struggle?
- Whats the point of trusting God when every time you get broken? You're broken anyways, you'd think he would help.  Why doesn't he?
- What question would you ask god if you could for sure get an answer?
- How are you similar to a carrot?
- Octopuses or octopie?
- What brings you peace?
- What is one thing you love about yourself?
- What is the meaning of life?
- Who put the caramel in the caramilk bar?
- Are you afraid of death?
- Do you have a special dance when you are alone?
- Is it right or wrong to wish and or want to be someone else sometimes?
- Why do we always end up fighting uphill for the things that matter? When does the rest come in?
- Why does love never feel like enough?
- Pie or cake?
- Who is Joe?
- Star Wars or Star Trek?
- Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our home: Their family

Tonight we had a group of youth over for dinner.  It was such great weather that w
e had a bbq and enjoyed some hotdogs and hamburgers.  Then after the meal I asked everyone to share why it is that they come out to these events at our house. 

I originally had a dream that we should invite teens over to our house for dinner.  I pictured a place where stories could be told, where food could be shared, where people could be safe to be themselves.  That is exactly what has happened.  To hear it straight from their mouths encouraged me do the depths of my being.

"When I am here I feel closest to God"
"I come here because I have nothing better to do...and of the intimate environment"
"Because it is a safe place"
"I am not afraid to be myself here"
"I come because it is not my house."
"I come because I need a break. And this is family."
"This is my family.  My real family isn't my family."
"My family is dysfunctional.  Here I can see a functional family."
"I come to meet new people and because I'm accepted here"
"This place is the cloesest thing to family that I have."

I wish I would have recorded these things down.  This is a fulfillment of the dreams God has given me.  Literally.  I couldn't help but shed a tear.  My wife and I dedicate our house to God a long time ago.  Anything that he has blessed us with is for him to use.  It is our house but it is his home. 


My phone rang. The voice on the other side communicated a tragedy that had happened to them. I was angered by the injustice of the situation and my heart felt heavy. I dropped what I was doing and just went and sat with them while they cried.

I got a message on Facebook. It was written in a confessional tone. "Danny I need help." The message went onto describe some deep personal sins and a desire to get back on track with God. I wasn't sure how to help but I walked to meet with this individual. I sat and listened cried at the hurts and looked for hope in the darkness.

I got a text message proclaiming that demons were torturing them. From the graphic images that they shared with me, i believe them. We came together and prayed against the lies and fear. It was overwhelming.

I passed this sign on my way to meet each of these people. I had to stop for a moment and pray. I was on my way toward disaster. My response was to travel toward them. To meet them in the midst of the accident scene and to perform some spiritual triage to help them survive the trip to the hospital.
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Monday, March 1, 2010

100th Post

To all of those have been reading my blog: 
  Thank you for taking part in my journey as a youth worker.  I feel as though this blog is a way that I can communicate what I know but also the many areas that I still have questions.  Now after 100 posts I would love the opportunity to get feedback from you on what would make this blog even better for you as you access it and read it.

  Also as I give away my best kept youth work experiences and information to you, and if it has been of any assistance to you would you please consider a donation towards my continued work with youth.  You can do so at www.youthunlimited.com/dannyferguson

  God bless,