Adult Content in Youth Ministry?

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Yup. I’m getting really old. I’m starting to talk about how different the world and culture was when I was in high school. I think it’s kind of funny to see me morph into my parents. But what’s not funny is the content I see and hear on the phones, iPods, iPads, and all sorts of other communication tools that students are using. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with what I believe is very unhealthy music, videos, and games and internet pages that are seen as acceptable by so many of our youth.

We’ve always insisted on content standards for your youth group events. I think that needs to be a given. I rarely get pushback on that from youth.  They understand limits and accept them. But those same students have music on their iPods that is sexually charged and profane. It might be accepted in our world, but I sure wish it wasn’t accepted by the students in our youth groups.

This topic makes for great youth lessons. It’s also a good topic to share with parents of your youth group.  When I’ve asked students to analyze the content of the material they watch and listen to, they are pretty quick to point out the aspects that are inappropriate.  But what often comes next is a somewhat confident response that the content, though nasty, doesn’t affect them. 

Some would argue that this is a topic for parents, and I suppose it it. But I love our youth group far too much not to think it's also a topic for me, for youth ministry, for the church, and for anyone else that can help sort this out.

I would love to hear from others who might feel my anxiety over the content that completely overwhelms our youth. How do we help them to understand the affect unhealthy lyrics, movies, and video games can have on them?

As technology explodes and new methods of communication continue to become available, this challenge isn’t going away.

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Participant

I remember the same issues when I was in your ministry way back when through my whole 14 year youth career.  It's always tough to deal with.  I always focused on what it means to be discerning and then let them engage discussion on the wiles of their social culture influence.  While it didn't always stop them from engaging in it many of them considered other options.

And of course, the content of these songs, and the things they watch and see, do affect them.   It may not seem to at first, but it does.   Just like the candy and cookies and alcohol and fatty diets affect their physical bodies;   first just a little bit, and then more and more.  The very fact that they deny it already demonstrates what it has done to them.   It has numbed them, anesthetized them.   They no longer worry about the immorality or about how God regards the songs and movies and books and conversation.   So it has already affected them. 

Talks about discernment are nice and good, but the 1-2 hours a week that you spend with your youth pale in comparison to the 6 or more hours a day that our students spend consuming media.  Perhaps before you try teaching your students better morality, you should ask yourself why your students consume "unhealthy" music, video games, movies and internet in the first place.

I think the answer is that most high school students feel empty and they are using music they like, entertaining movies and web pages totry to fill themselves up.  This is not an issue of morality, its an issue of what is fulfilling in life.  Talking about morality only works if your students feel guilty about consuming such media and they clearly do not.  In order to fill their emptiness, you need to show them who the person is who truly fills people up.  Once they feel more full in Christ, they will be less likely to turn to forms of media in order to seek fulfillment.  Showing them Christ means being graceful and understanding of who they are and it also means practicing the spiritual disciplines with your students.  Read "Almost Christian" by Kenda Dean and "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster for more information.

Participant

Well said.  They are seeking the most available source to fill who they are. It's time to realize kids today are nothing like 50 yrs. ago. If we don't meet them there are multitude of options that many of older generation have no idea. Applying traditional methods is like trying to light a match in a monsoon.