Habits To Help Teens In Their Next Steps

By | growing, ministry health, MINISTRY HEALTH, Systems and Structures, SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURES, teens, transitions
Courtesy of Karen_O’D/Creative Commons

Ran into a college student the other week.  She was back in town because her school was evacuating for the Superstorm Sandy.  It was good to see her considering the circumstances.  We caught up and she shared with me everything that she was learning in class.  She then told me about a church community she has joined.  It seemed like a place where she was engaged in her faith, and has continued to grow in Christ.  As a youth minister there is nothing better than listening to a former student share how he or she is working out their salvation on their own.

Every youth minister needs a picture of what a teen should look like when they graduate high school.  It’s the vision you cast for your ministry and it’s the reason why you exist.  It’s the type of disciple of Christ you want to mold them into.

Every week you instill in them the habits of prayer, fellowship, Bible study, ministry, mission among a few others.  While there are a few basic habits that every student in your ministry should know, there are a few that will help them with the transition of high school to college.  While prayer and scripture are ones they should embrace throughout all seasons; there are a few that are necessary as they go from adolescence to adulthood.  A few of them are:

  • Honoring God With Their Budgets – When a teenager goes to college they aren’t going to have parents over their shoulders telling them what to do and what not to do with their money.  They’ll have credit card companies bombarding them to sign up.  It’s important for youth ministries to teach basic budgeting skills paired with Biblical teaching so that they can discern between greed and generosity.  This might mean creating a workshop for teens and their parents.  It might mean sitting down with them in small group and writing out a budget.  A great resource that we’ve used is Dave Ramsey’s Generation Change.
  • Connecting With Their Elders For Wisdom – Again, teens won’t have their parents or you with them to give them advice.  Granted they could call you up; however, what you want to be teaching them is how to seek advice from other God honoring adults.  This will help them when they face a situation where they are too embarrassed or ashamed to tell their parents.  To do this you need to facilitate intergenerational ministry into your programs.  That can be small groups lead by adults; however, look to have teens serve with adults in your church.
  • Investing In A Local Church – You don’t want teens graduating their faith when they graduate high school.  That’s why it’s not only important to teach spiritual habits that build their personal relationship with Christ; but their public one as well.  In order for the church to grow we need teens to invest in the local church.  This means showing them what to look for when they graduate.  Have them serve inside the local church so that they can see how to be a part of one.  Take them on trips to visit other churches so that they can discover the uniqueness of the Body of Christ.

There are so many habits to teach this next generation and if you think of them all you could feel overwhelmed.  When it comes to choosing the best ones for your ministry you need to know which ones will have the greatest impact after they are no longer in your ministry.  While there are core habits like prayer, scripture study and serving, there are ones that will help them transition from adolescence into adulthood.

What other specific spiritual habits would you add to the list?

Beware Of Christians: Movie Review

By | Beware of Christians, movie review, preparation, Systems and Structures, SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURES, teens

How are the students who are no longer in your ministry doing?  I think about a few of them from time to time, but only a few of them.  It’s difficult to remember every teenager I’ve mentored, taught or interacted with and so it’s great when we cross paths.  It’s at those moments when I wonder, “Did I do everything I could to help their faith or hurt it?”

I recently saw the documentary ‘Beware of Christians’ the story of four college friends who travel to Europe to challenge what they’ve been taught when it comes to following Jesus Christ.  All four guys, Alex, Michael, Matt and Will, were raised in the church; however, as they grew older they saw the discrepancies between a Christ follower in the Bible and one in the United States.  After watching this film I found myself asking three questions:

I wonder because in the film we see these guys really challenge their perceptions of faith and the church.  In the end their faith grows strong and it’s because they display the knowledge and faith one needs when faced with adversity.  That’s why it’s important to teach your students spiritual habits.

A subject that was brought up towards the end of the film is whether or not we give the impression that once you are a Christian, life gets easy.  This goes back to the question of whether or not your ministry is entertainment or a place where teens can grow strong in their faith.  If you tell your teens to believe and life gets so much better, when they face a challenge that concept goes away.  If their faith is built on that, then what will they have left?

In this film the guys share their honest perspective and the confusion that’s come with seeing what the world and church says about the following subjects:

  1. Identity
  2. Materialism
  3. Sex/Relationships
  4. Church
  5. Wealth/Poverty
  6. Media/Entertainment
  7. Alcohol

On top of their opinions they share the views of people they meet in the street of different countries.  The results just show how the lack of conversation on these subjects have created so many misconceptions.  If your youth ministry isn’t discussing these areas of faith then you are allowing the world to fill in the gap of communication.  The more you talk about them and encourage the conversation, you can fill those gaps with God’s wisdom.

When I first heard about this film I was reluctant to watch it because I thought it would be another rant on how bad religion is; however, it brings about an honest conversation.  It isn’t a bash on religion, instead it’s a challenge for us to really look at what God’s word is saying.

My recommendation is that you show this to your seniors and teens who are sold out for Christ.  While it won’t convince all of them to go deeper in their faith it will bring up a lot of honest conversations that you need to have in your ministry.  One of the best things we can do to prepare our teens for the next stage of their faith is have them address and expose any questions or hangups.  If those go unresolved it could grow into a problem that pushes them away from their faith.

Have you seen this movie? What are your thoughts? Leave your comments.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Necessary Steps To Prepare Teens For The Future

By | family, future, habits, Systems and Structures, teens, vision
Courtesy of Sean MacEntee/Creative Commons License

Last week I sat down with the recent high school grads for a little breakfast and chat.  It’s an annual tradition that started a few years back.  It’s a chance for us to walk down memory lane, I’ll bestow on them a few words of wisdom and then they go off to college, ready to take on the world.  It’s a bittersweet experience because while I’m happy to see them take on the next chapter of their life, I know I’ll miss them.  And while I hope that they’ve enjoyed their time in my ministry, I pray that it won’t be the pinnacle of their spiritual journey.

As a youth minister you want your ministry to be memorable; yet, it should also be the catalyst to push them deeper into faith.  While ministry has many components, one of the biggest should be preparing teens for the next chapter of life.  In order to do that you need to be implementing steps for the future, such as:

  • Empowering The Family – Youth ministers need to be looking at resources like Think Orange and Sticky Faith.  This is a time where uniting with your children’s ministry to tackle families has never been so important. While you might not always be there for the teens, chances are family will.  Build your ministry around the question “How can I better serve the family for the long haul?”
  • Giving Them A Vision Plan – On top of giving them a general vision for their life we need to teach them to cultivate their own specific one (Here’s how).  By teaching teens how to cast vision you allow them to use graduation as a mile marker to something great.  The reason teens leave ministry is because they meet a mile marker, thinking it’s the end goal.  A good vision will take them beyond their college years.
  • Instilling Habits – Just as Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation on our own, we need to remind our teens the same.  High school flies by and many of them do not realize that one day they won’t have you or their parents reminding them to read the Bible, go to church and say their prayers.  Empower them by showing them the tools and resources they need to grow as Christians on their own.
  • Letting Them Lead – This is an area that I struggle in the most.  Give your teens opportunities to lead and serve on their own.  Do not micro manage them, give them the opportunity (like you do with your adults) to succeed and fail.  By creating these opportunities you allow them to see their potential and limitations.  When they understand the boundaries, they’ll have a better idea of the path ahead of them.

While a teen’s spiritual foundation does not solely fall on you, it’s important that you create a ministry that guides them in the right direction.  Utilize the other components and relationships (i.e. family) in their lives.  Help them see the bigger and broader picture.  And when they are ready to head off into the next chapter of life, let them go; however, remind them that they can always come back to you.

How do you prepare teens for the next chapter of life?

The Most Expensive Game In Town: Book Review

By | Book Review, culture, Mark Hyman, parents, sports, teens, The Most Expensive Game In Town

The highlight of my short lived sports career happened in 8th grade when my town recreational soccer team did the impossible and won the championships.  We weren’t supposed to win, we were not favored; however, with great coaching and amazing teamwork we pulled off the upset.  While winning the big game was memorable, the part I will always cherish were the practices and games that lead up to that moment.  I just enjoyed playing and being with my teammates.
Growing up it didn’t matter if the game was part of an organized league or just a thrown together scrimmage, I just wanted to play.  When I look at youth sports today I wonder, “Do kids feel the same way as I did?”
As a youth minister I love watching my teens play for their school or town teams; however, it’s also created a tension in my life.  As each year passes by it seems like the schedules get more dense and the travel gets farther.  As a result practices, games and tournaments conflict with church.  I’m finding more and more teens being forced to choose between ministry and sport.  Why is that?
In his book THE MOSE EXPENSIVE GAME IN TOWN: The rising cost of youth sports and the toll on today’s families author Mark Hyman reveals the ever increasing popularity of youth sports in this country.  The times of sandlot baseball games and backyard football challenges are slowly disappearing as more leagues, and tournaments enter into the scene.  The reason this is a must read is because it addresses topics and issues that parents, and youth workers need to face, such as:

  • FINANCES: The cost is going up, especially when it comes to travel teams for youth sports.  What this book will do is challenge parents to start counting the receipts and answer the question, “Am I spending too much?”  Basically, they need to know if the investment is worth it.
  • BOUNDARIES: Tournaments are gaining popularity; therefore, teams are hoping on buses and planes to participate.  This means less family time at home and more on the road.  Not that travel is bad; however, how much of a toll does riding in a car and sleeping in a hotel take on a family’s dynamics.
  • FALSE PROMISES:  Even corporations are getting in on the game, telling teens if you drink this or eat that you can be like your favorite sports star.  From equipment to accessories families are being pressured to invest in whatever it takes for them to reach the next level in sports.  With only a limited amount of openings at the highest level, the question becomes, “Am I buying the hype?”
  • IDOLATRY: Youth sports are great for the teens when it comes to socialization, exercise and team building skills.  As parents we enjoy seeing our children succeed; however, is it because it brings them joy or gives you value?  When the sport becomes more important than your relationships with others, especially God it becomes an idol.  Families should engage in recreational activities because of how it helps you grow and not only what it does for you.

While this book addresses many of the negative issues arising in youth sports it does end on a very positive note.  In the last chapter author Mark Hyman talks about the opportunities sports can provide for an individual.  On top of opening doors it can teach valuable lessons in team work, facing adversity and leaning in during high pressure moments.
As youth workers we need to make sure that the families we serve are aware of these issues.  Again, athletics are important for this next generation.  You and I need to make sure that when decisions are made, that it is with God in mind.

How do you perceive youth sports?  What type of impact does it have on your ministry?

Why You Will Scar Your Teens

By | relationships, scars, spiritual health, SPIRITUAL HEALTH, teens, wounds
Courtesy of cynthiacloskey/
Creative Commons License

Growing up I was a retreat junky.  Basically, if there was a retreat happening at my church or a friend’s church, I went on it.  And, if I was eligible I would apply (and most times) make the leadership team.  It was a rush, something I wanted, it was the way I experienced youth ministry.

Then in my senior I got what felt like a low blow.  I was told that I would not be on the leadership team of my church for the next retreat.  It was to be my last retreat in high school, so I was upset and needed to know why I wasn’t being chosen.  The youth minister told me, that because of my family situation that she felt that, “I was not emotionally stable to lead.”  Ouch, it hurt.  That decision hurt so much that I seriously considered leaving the church all together.

When I became a youth minister I told myself that I never wanted to do that to another teen.  But, as hard as I try I know that scarring a teen is inevitable.  One day I might say or do something that’s going to hurt them.  My hope is it’s not anything too deep, that they would question their faith.
No one in youth ministry wants to scar a teen; however, because of our human nature we are at risk of doing it all the time.  Why?  Because we are human and we are susceptible to pride, carelessness, and a lack of focus.  To avoid the deep wounds we nee to make sure we discipline with love, communicate clearly and show transparency, especially in these scar prone areas:

  • Canceling A One On One – Believe it or not that teen wants to meet with you, even if it was your idea.  If you have to cancel on a teen make sure you have a plan to follow up with them right away.  If it’s because of an emergency make sure the next time you see them that you have a clear and honest explanation of what happened.  Lastly, don’t make canceling on them a habit.
  • Firing Them From Ministry – A teen who is asked to step down from a leadership role will feel like they are being asked to leave the church.  To combat this feeling make sure their parent (Or small group leader) is there to affirm your caring love and knock down anything the teen might misinterpret.  Doesn’t matter the reason for why you are asking them to leave, just make sure it doesn’t come off you want them to stop following Christ.
  • Being Human – Whether you like it or not you are a role model in faith to these students.  You might be the primary link between them and Christ; therefore, seeing your sinful nature will cut them deep.  Don’t be afraid to share your humanity by being honest and authentic in your conversations.  Don’t feel like you have to always have the answer and embrace when you are wrong.  By being real with them, they’ll be more likely to give you grace when you need it.
  • Joking Around – If you are like me then you can go too far with the teasing and joking around.  Maybe you know some insider information about a student that if revealed, even in a joking manner, will cut them like a knife.  You want to be fun in their presence; however, at what costs will you go to make sure others are laughing?  If you hurt the teens with your jokes, then all you are to them is a bully.
Again, there are many ways (Intentionally and Unintentionally) we can scar a teen in our own ministry.  The goal is to make sure that you own up to your mistakes and pour into them with love and humility.  If you can do that then you are not only providing an environment that cares for them; but, a picture of how their Heavenly Father works in their life.
How else can a teen be scarred in youth ministry?  Is it possible to avoid this? 

What To Do With Controversial Questions

By | answers, conflict, Questions, teens, tension, What Would You Do
Courtesy of makelessnoise/
Creative Commons License

A few months ago one of my high school students asked me, “Chris, do I have to choose between science and Christianity?”  As soon as I heard that question a part of me groaned internally because the answer is so much longer than yes or no.  So, I did what I always do and answered her with my own question, “Do you have to choose?”
A little puzzled, she went on to explain that a teacher in her school said that you can’t believe in God and science at the same time because one disproves the other.  I could see that his comment didn’t sit well with her and that she was looking to relief from the tension.
I told her that you need God inorder to have science and that many men and women have used science to show His power, greatness and amazing attention to detail.  It’s a question 10 years ago I would have been surprised to hear; but, her concern is one many teenagers face today.  And it’s not just science that teens are being challenged to choose over faith, there is an unlimited list where teens are forced to choose between God and you fill in the blank.  It’s putting tension and even straining their relationship with God and they are looking to you on how to respond.  So how do you respond when a teen asks you how they should choose?  You respond by:

  1. Listening To Them: It’ll be tempting to jump into the situation and help them resolve their feelings immediately.  And while you might have the right answer, it could backfire if you come off too forthright; therefore, listen and ask questions.  Get them to explain how the situation arose and why they are feeling the way they are feeling.  By listening to them first you build trust.
  2. Checking Your Heart: Whether the subject is political or just plain old controversial it’s going to provoke some emotion.  When teens come to us with “hot topics” it’s important that we respond with love, patience, gentleness and other fruits of the Spirit.  A teen will want to know your passions; however, too many emotions might send the message that you are upset with them and not the subject.
  3. Encourage Them To Go To God:  You want to affirm them in their search for truth, not force it upon them.  Acknowledge the tension that they are facing; however, show them how God is there.  Many times we want to give them the answers; however, there is greater reward in showing them how to get there.  When you show them how to find the answers you are equipping them with the habits to seek truth on their own.
  4. Consult Your Peers:  You don’t know all the answers and that’s okay.  If a teen gives you a situation that stumps or troubles you consult your peers in ministry and faith.  Just because you are the point person doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers, if you don’t know don’t make it up, let the student know you will do your best to find the answer.  Above all else, follow up.

When teens ask the difficult questions it can be unnerving and even a little frustrating; however, you need to see it as a sign that they trust you.  They are looking to you for answers and guidance and that is a healthy sign of ministry.  Youth ministers need to see this situation as an opportunity to not only answer a question but to equip and empower a future disciple.

What hot topic questions have you faced in your ministry?  How have you responded?

Your Most Important Relationships: Part 3 The Teenagers

By | habits, Most Important Relationship Blog Series, spiritual health, SPIRITUAL HEALTH, teens
Courtesy of Vancouver Public Library/Creative Commons License

The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us.  Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time.  When it comes to teenagers it’s so important to see the time that you have with them as temporary.  Granted after graduation they could stay local, even minister in your church as adults; however, the relationship you have with them will drastically change.  As youth ministers the relationship you have with teenagers should be about preparing them for the next chapter of their life.  If you are middle school youth minister it’s about getting them ready for high school.  In high school it’s getting them ready for life after graduation whether that’s college or the working world.  Again, it’s all about getting them ready for the future.
So what does a relationship that works for the future look like?  It involves:

  • Mentorship – The best thing you can do for your teenagers is hooking them up with an adult who is going to pour into them while they are in your ministry.  Whether it’s a small group leader or someone to just meet one on one, you want an adult who is going to encourage them to develop spiritual habits that they can take on to the next chapter of life.  This is a relationship where the teen knows, “If I can’t go to mom or dad, I’ll always have…”  It’s giving them another affirming voice in their life.
  • Peer To Peer Accountability – On top of an adult who will pour into them you want to surround them with peers who will do the same.  Small groups should be the foundation of your ministry because it shows teens how they can find faith filled relationships with people their own age.  It shows that not all of their peers will judge them and how they can be a light to people their own age.
  • Consistent Opportunities Any relationships that you form with teens need to be consistent, that’s why youth ministry should all be about building steps and not events.  Events and retreats can have an impact; however, they don’t guarantee life long relationships.  The relationships we build with students need to be consistent.  That means consistently reaching out to them and letting them know when they can consistently find you.
  • Challenging Experiences – You want to make sure that your teens are engaging in relationships outside of the church that are challenging.  This can be found in service as well as in evangelization.  While hard to practice, even as adults, it’s necessary if you want your teens to “Go and make disciples”.  While you can preach on the subject, it might be best to give them experiences that will challenge them to live their faith outward.  Take them on service projects around the community or ask them about friends they have who don’t have a church home.  Get them to think outwardly so that they can see that Christianity isn’t a consumeristic club but a movement to grow God’s kingdom.  As they look to shape a future career, they’ll take this selfless attitude to mind.

The relationships you have with your teens are the most temporary ones you’ll have in ministry.  They’ll start out as impressionable minds, then they will develop opinions and mature before you can even blink. It’s a humbling and powerful experience, one that we should be learning from.  The more you guide them into healthy and accountable relationships the more you’ll examine your own.

What’s your largest obstacle to being relational with teens?

Your Most Important Relationships: Introduction

By | children's ministry, ministers, Most Important Relationship Blog Series, parents, pastor, relationships, spouse, teens, youth ministers
Courtesy of iMorpheus/Creative Commons License

The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us.  Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the people who have come in and out of my life.  The ones who I’ve known since I’ve started this journey and the ones I’ve met along the way.  People have either pushed me to be better or dragged me down; however, it’s all been a part of God’s plan to make me the disciple I am today.
As youth ministers our job is all about relationships.  Even if you are in a small town, in a small church you are surrounded by people who your serve, work alongside of you, challenge and help you to grow.  And as many as there are I want to look at 8 of them over the next 8 posts (I post Mon-Thurs).  My hope is that you can grab a deeper appreciation as to why God has put them in your life and how they can help you be the best youth minister possible.  This is who came to mind:

  • Pastor: Your pastor is your boss, your leader and possibly your mentor.  This relationship is the most important one you have inside the church building because if it isn’t healthy then you will be facing a nearly impossible journey.
  • Spouse: Not all of us are called to marriage; however, for those of us who are, we know this is our most important relationship outside the church.  Without the loving support, understanding and challenges of a spouse we’ll struggle to maintain balance.
  • Teenagers: This is who you feel God has called you to serve.  A relationship with them means a look at your past, and a search for their future.  A healthy relationship with them will always show you what the church can and will be.
  • Parents: This is one of the more difficult relationships because like you they are emotionally invested in their teens.  Even more than mentoring teens we are called to partner with parents, it’s just not always clear what that means.
  • Ministers: They are your ministry’s hands and feet.  They look to take your goals and plans and run with them.  They serve not only for their love of God but because they see you as a leader.  The struggle is to figure out what a professional volunteer team looks like.
  • Children’s Director:  One of the biggest investments you need to make in your job is in the children’s ministry.  If it isn’t healthy then you will always face an uphill battle.  Working side by side with this person will help you plan for your future.
  • The Youth Worker Down The Road: Networking is a key to your longevity.  I guarantee any problem you will ever face one of them has seen before.  By partnering with the guy/girl down the road you gain accountability and support in what you do.
  • God: This is the most important relationship overall.  Just because you do ministry doesn’t mean you are always connected to Jesus Christ.  Although He is last on this list He needs to be the relationship you put first because without Him you have nothing.  How do you separate worship and work to really go deeper in your relationship with God?  That’s something we all struggle with.

I could go on with the list, after all the relationship we have with the Maintenance Person/Building Superintendent, Financier, elders/parish council, etc. are right up there, but then there would be no end to this discussion.  So over the next two weeks, I hope to share with you how these relationships have impacted my ministry and how they can impact yours for the better.  Be sure to check back in.

What other relationships would you add to the list?

Give Them Tension

By | ministry health, teens, tension
Courtesy of Artnow314/Creative Commons License

It seems like everyday we are facing a new issue whether it’s bullying, sex trafficking, gay marriage or who won The Voice. It’s a little overwhelming, especially to see the emotional responses on Twitter and Facebook. I’m feeling the tension; however, I’m constantly reminded to lean on God in situations that might make me feel broken, uncomfortable, confused and even frustrated. When I know I can lean on Him I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. As an adult you have been given the wisdom to sort through the tension that life can bring. For some of our teens the tension can be too much. They feel like they have to pick a side. They choose one view because that’s what their friends do, or they’ll pick another view because they want to rebel against their parents. They decide they believe what they believe because of you, their teacher, some celebrity or because that’s what they want to believe. They switch from here to there searching for acceptance and understanding to their beliefs and emotions but in today’s world with so many flying around it’s hard for them to focus on simply allowing God to lead them.  To lead them to God through the tension, we need to teach them:


To sit in the tension means to process all the emotions that occur and allow God to sort them out. It means learning how to love the sinner and hate the sin. To sit in the tension means knowing how to love the worst of our enemies. It’s about embracing the hard, narrow and long road to salvation. To have the teens sit in the tension we need to:

  • Have Them Talk About It – Whether it’s a certain song everyones listening to or a topic that’s causing division amongst friends and peers, it’s important to address it with our students. Pretending and hoping that it will go away never works. By talking about a topic you teach them how to listen to the story beneath the story, the problem beneath the problem and the sin beneath the sin. Not everything is what it seems at first and we need to show our teens how to have that prudence and fortitude. 
  • Let Them Be Real With God – It’s easy to give our students the impression that when we accept Christ in our life that we have to be 100% joyfully in agreement with God. If we don’t give them the permission to question, doubt and get angry with God, we aren’t allowing them to have a real relationship with Him. If they can’t see the relationship as real, it will be easy for them to stop believing after a while. 
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Disagree – Don’t compromise your faith to make a teen happy. It’s not about sharing what they want to hear, it’s what they need to hear. We need to give our students credit that they will be able to handle hard truth. In fact with a lack of barriers, rules and guidelines in this world people are thirsty for it. Teens are looking for something to believe in that is rock solid. 
  • Remind Them Of His Love – In the end we have to remind teens that God will love them regardless of who they are, and what they’ve done. His love is always there and it’s up to us whether we want to live in that love. By reminding them of His love we also teach them how to love those who are and who live different from us. By reminding them of His love we empower them to make the right change that will bring this world closer together. 

When we force an issue down our teen’s throat we are at risk of pushing them away from God.  We need to be firm in our beliefs and clear with what the church teaches; however, we have to acknowledge that accepting the path He has laid out for us isn’t always easy.  Sitting in the tension is reminding them that their relationship with Him is a journey.

 How do you teach teens to live in the tension? Is there anything you disagree with?

Why Everyone Has To See “Bully”

By | bullys, injustice, ministers, movie review, parents, teens
Courtesy of the movie “Bully” and Weinstein Films

I got teased and picked on in high school.  Sometimes it was for my weight, sometimes it was because I did something stupid and then I was also picked on for just being me.  As bad as those memories are, they aren’t nearly as bad as the times I picked on others.  I’m ashamed to admit that there were times I egged  people’s cars or houses for no specific reason.  There were times I ignored, put down or even slandered people I considered “friends”.  Was I really a bully?
If you asked me a week ago, I would have said, “No, I just liked to goof around and at times I went a little too far.” However, after watching Lee Hirch’s new documentary Bully (For the movie website click here), I realized that I wasn’t just the victim; but, the cause of bullying in my school.
Not sure how much you face or deal with bullying in your community; but, I believe this movie is going to help all of us face and fight this overlooked problem.  In fact I strongly recommend that all of the parents, teenagers and ministers you know should go and see this movie.  Why?  Because:

  1. Over 13 Million Kids Have Been Bullied – My guess is that many of your teens have been bullied, the question might be who, where and when.  It’s an easy problem to overlook because bullying isn’t always physical.  In fact the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” is one big lie. (The source for 13 million can be found here on pg 5).  In fact bullying doesn’t just happen in the schools or online, chances are it could be in your ministry.
  2. It’s A Quiet Epidemic – Most times we don’t learn about bullying until it’s too late.  Alex, one of the movies subjects, has a hard time telling his parents what’s really going on.  His parents are somewhat aware that he is being picked on; however, because of his embarrassment and fear of getting in trouble he holds back the truth.  The movie shows that victims aren’t always believed or willing to share the pain that they are suffering.  It’s a problem that can cause isolation, which can be deadly.
  3. It’s Consequences Are Great – It’s almost easy to believe that the consequence of bullying is a bruised arm or a busted ego; unfortunately, it goes deeper.  According to the CDC 4,400 teenagers commit suicide each year, which makes it the third leading cause of death.  Bully victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide than non victims.  But, the pain doesn’t stop there, as the movie Bully shows, the consequences reach into the lives of the victims family, friends and community. (All stats are from this source)
  4. It’s A Wake Up Call – As I mentioned before this film helped me realize my wrong doings as a teen.  As much as I would like to call up the people I terrorized during my teenager years, I’ve lost track of many who are out there.  Maybe you weren’t a bully, but were a victim, this is your chance to help those who are affected.  No matter how you look at it, bullying is something that many of us have ignored for years.
  5. It’s An Issue We All Need To Work On Together It’s a problem that affects us all; therefore, we all need to be on board.  Parents need to know whether their child is being victimized or causing others pain.  Educators (that includes us) need to know the line between bullying and just being a teen.  And, teenagers need to know how to speak up and how to stop.  Together it’s a problem that can be solved.

I could go on about why you, your parents, teens and ministers need to see Bully; but, really do you need more than one.  As youth workers we are supposed to encourage teens to fight injustice and this is one that effects them all.  Chances are that the majority of your teens are either victims, bullies, or know someone who is affected.  It’s something I think we all have to acknowledge, something we all need to face, because whether or not you are willing to admit it, bullying is happening in the community in which you serve.

If you’ve seen Bully, please share your thoughts and comments about the movie.

Are you taking a proactive approach to bullying, if so what are you doing?