Monday, February 14, 2011

Why Did You Become A Youth Worker?

What inspires someone to become a Youth Worker anyway? 

My coworker and I were recently asked to speak at a high school career day about youth work.  When we were putting together the presentation we thought it would be cool to survey some of fellow youth workers from across Canada as to why they decided to pursue youth work as a career.

It can be hard to get youth workers to be serious in front of a camera, but we were able to catch a few of them off guard and got some real and unscripted answers. 

If you are a youth worker - would you be so kind as to share your reasons for joining this crazy profession?  I would love to hear them.

Here is a short version of the clip (51 seconds:)

Here is the full meal deal (3:26)

Youth Culture Update: Stop Try to Fix Teens and Instead Just Show You Care

A young friend of my mine reads my blog on a regular basis.  The other day I got a message informing me of a problem with my site. It said:

You analyze teenagers too much

So this week instead of my opinion on the youth culture related news items.  I present to you a more direct youth culture  experience.  A message from this young person themselves to you!  I'd love to hear your feedback to this teen.  Please comment

As a teenager I'm sick of being treated as a science experiment. All the time I read "teen problem this, teens are doing that." Everyone has all these solutions and quite frankly it's starting to make me upset. Stop nit picking at everything we do.
So we don't email anymore. What's the big deal?
Yes. We play violent video games. Some of us don't have jobs and some of us cut a lot of class. In my opinion though it doesn't give anybody the right to put us under a microscope and examine us and find ways to make us "better." If the adult world really wants to reach us then get down to us on our level. Get personal. Stop giving us solutions to the problems you think we have and even worse, stop telling us that our problems are no big deal. They are to us.
I'm sick of people telling me that they have ways that I can perfect my life, ways that in their experience has worked for them. I mean that's dandy and all, but it might not necessarily work for me.
Stop trying to prevent mistakes and just let them happen, and when they do, don't dwell on them for hours and hours. Being a teenager is harder now then ever so they say and we don't need a bunch of scientists watching us run around a maze trying to find the cheese that is the answer we've been looking for. Give us a break, give us some space.
Honestly, some of the stuff I hear adults get on our cases about is ridiculous. Why don't you try tackling the drugs, or the prostitution or the gambling instead of worrying about how much time we spend on the internet?
And if you really are trying to help, try reaching ONE teen at a time. One. The problems that are major in teenager land lately are too big for anyone to handle by themselves. It's going to mean work, effort, time, and moving the mountain one rock at a time.
Sobering and convicting huh?  Respond if you dare.  I know this young person will be reading your replies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Youth Worker U

I read this week that a Scotland university is offering the countries first BA in Youth Work.  Read about it here:

What do you think are the necessary elements to a successful youth worker degree?

Your input builds this

Monday, February 7, 2011

Calling For Death Of Teen Suicide

I have stories that I simply can not share about the reality of suicide.  But as I write this, faces flash past my mind of people that I used to know.  Even just an attempt or a threat of ending ones life is a serious thing and something that I relate to well.  I remember a time when I didn't see that there was much life in life and being sick of the grey overcast existence I wanted to be done.  A friend pulled me back at just the right time and as a Youth Worker I feel that my job is to be than hand of grace to kids that have given up.  More than once I have bolted from my house in the middle of the night when thing looked bleak for some of my young friends.

Maybe that is why I was excited to be introduced to this week.  This is a real look at some trends in suicide.  It is quite graphic and so I wouldn't show this if there were young kids in the room, or if your squeamish about about death.  However, I think that it takes a good does of reality to shock the life back into todays teens. 

Sea Of Trees-Death2Suicide 15 minute version from Death to Suicide on Vimeo.

For more info goto

Friday, February 4, 2011

Youth Culture Update: Teens Ignore Advice

There are lots of articles that address the issue of teen pregnancy and birth rate every year, but few have come close to Richard Korman’s insights in Miller-Mcune.  When talking over youth culture issues such as teen pregnancy many will take a dehumanizing stance in reviewing it.  It is no wonder that the programs that have been constructed to address this issue seem to have failed – it doesn’t tap into real life.  The fact that this article highlights the economic concerns more so than the health aspects may speak louder to motivate people to help young people break the cycle of being under-equipped to take on life.  The article explains that, “For 40 years, teen pregnancy has troubled policymakers and scholars. Researchers have associated children born to teenage mothers with lower birth weights, lower educational achievement and lower earnings. Pregnancy and motherhood also often interrupt both the mom’s and the dad’s schooling and career plans and mires the child in poverty.” There are also some tremendous advantages to having a little person invade your life than can help you grow up faster than anything else.  Something that I have never heard mentioned in an article such as this before.  This is a much more holistic view of young people and how we can walk alongside them in life rather than give them all the answers which they will ignore anyway.   This is exactly what a youth workers are for. 

Youth Culture Update: Is Self-Esteem A Good Goal Teens?

You may think that the obvious answer is yes, but according to a new study the pursuit of self esteem may in fact be more dangerous to young people than the pursuit of sex or money, "The problem isn't with having high self-esteem; its how much people are driven to boost their self-esteem. When people highly value self-esteem, they may avoid doing things such as acknowledging a wrong they did."  There are a great many things that could be said in response to such a question, but I know that in my experience as a youth worker that it is definitely more important to focus on the heart of a matter than it is to look as the behavior of a young person.  I think that tapping into the findings of this study could draw us away from the typical adult responses that we have toward young people (i.e. because it is bad for you, because I said so, No daughter of mine is going out dressed like that).  Instead we can focus on questions that ask why they do the things they do and listen to the answers without waiting to spring judgment on them.  If they are pursuing self-esteem it is likely that they will make some bad decisions along the way, but if they are confident in who they are already then the long term benefits are endless.  The problem is how can we make the words, “just be yourself” make more sense.

Find out more about this study here:

Youth Culture Update: Why Sex Sells

Here was the question posed on this week “Do advertisers use sex to target our youth or are they merely interpreting modern ideals?”  I think this is a brilliant question that we should stop to ponder.  While some people are busy pointing the media, Hollywood or advertisers as being to blame for the culture shift, the truth of the matter is that if what we see in ads didn’t work to sell things – they wouldn’t use it.  The fact of the matter is that sexuality has come to represent fullness in life.  I think that Marlene Dietrich said it best with her witty comment suggesting that, “In America, sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it's a fact.”  As quoted on   It is interesting that while sexuality is portrayed to publicly it is something that is very rarely talked about in the most influential relationships such as parents to teens.  As children grow up they reflect the teachings that they are exposed to from the adults in their lives and, “Until a better understanding of sexuality enters the mature world and is properly presented in the media, the narrow minded, diluted versions of what is currently portrayed will continue to filter down to the children.” (suite 101) What do you think it will take to change this obsession into something more realistic and healthy?

Read more at Suite101: A Matter of Life and Sex

Can Teens Be Fixed By Youth Culture Experts?

Despite the plethora of information on the topic, youth culture is an immensely difficult thing to interpret or understand.  I remember a few years ago showing young people some of the opinions of “Youth Culture” experts and they rolled their eyes.  I was told by a teen this past week that I analyze youth too much.  I took that to heart this week as I looked over the youth issues from around the net.  My desire is to understand the trends and needs that are arising on a local and global scale, but to try and paint those over-top of the young people that I see on a weekly basis isn’t what should be done.  That was why I really liked this quote from a review of a book called “Sells Like Teen Spirit” by Ryan Moore, “youth cultures are easily misunderstood and the nexus of their organization and notions of identity vary so much that a generalized approach to such youth cultures would be lacking.”  Instead of looking at statistics and analyzing data Moore take a more artistic approach and looks at the feelings portrayed through the musical choices of the generations.  This goes well with one of my favorite youth worker tools: asking a young person to let you scroll through their iPod’s playlist.  It can start a conversation that show how much two generations have in common as opposed to what we adults can do to “fix” modern teenagers.

(If you are interested in reading the review of this book by Michael Pereria you can do so here)

To purchase the book from Amazon click here

Teaching Teens How To Deal With Trials

What you see here are a collection of some of the biggest concerns that the world has ever seen.  This picture contains hurt upon hurt, doubt and suffocation of life.  I know it is hard to believe.  But it is true.

At a recent event we talked about the trials that we face and how big they are.  Believe me, many of the things that modern teens are facing in western youth culture are astounding.  I've dealt with youth involved in murders, rape, sexual exploitation, abuse, isolation, suicide, etc. 

These issues will commonly send young people into various mental conditions that they don't know how to deal with other than to try and escape it through the use of drugs, alcohol and sexual escapades.  I can't say I blame them a lot of the time.  This is hard stuff to deal with. However some of the escape methods, over time compound the original problem and the trials get worse. 

I've found that the best solution to this is to have a genuine conversation about these topics with someone that can truly relate.  A friend of mine shared a bit of his life struggles with these young people.  These are life altering, nightmare giving incidents.  He then pulled out a post it note and wrote a few words that complied these problems into a simple phrase.  He then threw it on the ground and looked at it.

He didn't talk about escaping the problem, he talked about perspective.  In one way these things are huge, but if they can fit on a small post-it note then how big can they really be?  We can't ignore the problem but if we see it in a better way then we know we can deal with it.  There is more to this story but if you want to know - you have to ask.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Does this make sense to you? PART II


ILLUMINATING LIVES:  It is a dark time for teens, which is evidenced by the lowest employment rates ever on record.  Our team is using this issue to address what may be holding these young people back from what God want to do through them.  Essentially we want to illuminate their lives so they can light up the world around them.

RECLAIMING LIFE FROM DEATH: We will be celebrating alongside three young people as they have made the decision to get baptized as a symbol of putting to death their old lives to pursue a new life in Christ.

FEEDING THE WORLD: As we began to pray we sensed God wasn’t finished with the small group that meets in our home even though only 4-5 teens were attending the weekly events.  The following weeks  over 25 young people have come through the door and hungry for dinner and God’s word in their lives.

SETTING THE OPPRESSED FREE: We were approached to help address the issue of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation alongside political leaders, local law enforcement and service agencies as we have walked alongside several young people that have gotten trapped is these horrific modern-slavery issues.

THE LAME CAN WALK: While not all of my health issues have been resolved I have noticed a tremendous relief from pain.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  Please continue for God’s healing hand upon my life.

In Jesus’ words to John I see that he and I have very different expectations on how he should be using his time.  He hasn’t called me, or John, to be successful but merely to be faithful and fulfill our role.  He will take care of the rest. Like all the stuff he is doing that I can’t do.  Thanks for your time.

Does this make sense to you?

When John the Baptist was sitting in prison, he started feeling a bit anxious.  He wondered if this was all part of the plan or if he had gotten mixed up somewhere along the way.  He sent some friends to his cousin Jesus simply asking, “Are you the one or not?”  After all, John had proclaimed that the kingdom of God was coming, but all Jesus was doing was walking around touching dirty people (Hardly the massive revolution that would set Israel free).  Jesus’ answer was simply this:

 “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me”

But what does that answer even mean?  Here is what I got out of it.  This school year has been tough.  We have seen massive changes in our role at the school.  We have been struggling with a low number of teens attending our events.  I have been facing all sort of medical trials and tests – including a nuclear bone scan and an MRI.  Not to mention a difficult season in fundraising.  April and I began to wonder if this is what God wanted or if there was something else we just couldn’t see.  After all, this didn’t seem like God’s kingdom come.  Or maybe we were just looking in the wrong places. Jesus began showing us what he was up to.  Although you will have to read my other posts to find out how.

Here is what I figured out:
I am a YOUTH WORKER not a SUPERHERO & When it all boils down I'm just a guy that needs JESUS just as much as the TEENS I'm trying to reach.