The First Lesson I Learned In Youth Ministry

I was at a Youth Specialties NYWC and I was sitting in a Doug Field’s breakout session  and he said, “You don’t have to be original, beg, borrow and steal.”

Wait, I didn’t have to come up with all this stuff myself? It was ok to steal ideas from other youth pastor and youth ministries? This was pre-internet so stealing wasn’t as easy as it is today. I had to wait for the pony express to arrive to get the latest youth ministry ideas via magazine. I actually had to go to other churches and actually talk to other youth workers about stuff they were doing. Barbaric, right?

The internet has made it much easer to steal ideas from others. In Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve , he says

The starving artist strives to be original,                                                          the thriving  artist steals from his influences.

In the first post of this series, I tired to convince you you were an artist and not just a youth pastor. I hope you’ve since added the word artist to your vocabulary and your resume. What we do requires prayer, wisdom, and a whole lot of creativity. That last one is where we can get stuck.

I have heard many people, even youth workers, say they are not creative. What? Youth Pastors, above al things are creative. I mean, youth ministry is creativity gone wild.

We have to be creative with our budgets, our games, our themes, our messages, and our programming. We ooze creativity. Creativity is almost mandatory if for no other reason than survival.

The God we serve is creative and by His Spirit in us we have access to al the creativity we need to make our youth ministries work. We don’t have to be original, we just have to steal creatively.

I would never suggest that we steal someone’s message, especially verbatim. I would never suggest we not give credit where credit is due when we use someone’s idea. There must be honesty in our thievery.

We should steal from other youth ministries, but only if it serves our kids. We shouldn’t try to steal an idea and then cram that round peg into our square hole. We can, and should,  adapt it , change it, and refine it to fit our ministry uniquely.

We should steal from culture. God is not absent from our culture. He certainly has bee maligned and obscured but if the scripture says that His glory fills the whole earth, that means God is present in our culture and we have the opportunity to bring him to the front.

I “steal ideas all the time. I “stole” from The Hunger Games when I created my best selling Hunger and Thirst Games outreach/curriculum

I “stole” from Star Wars when I created a similar outreach called Soul Wars: Winning The War Within 

I “stole” from the TV show Top Shot when I created a series of small group lessons for guys called The Apostle Paul’s Guide To Living A Top Shot Faith

I “stole” from Playstation when created a message series called Greatness Awaits

I did not “steal” creative license or content from any of the notable  intellectual properties that I mentioned. I as influenced by them and turned them into useful things for my youth ministry. You probably do the same.

As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the son.” All  good ideas and inspirations come from God. You have access to the same God I do, so you can take the influences around you and put them to work in your youth ministry just like I did mine.

Jeff Goins says,

If we want to become artists, we are going to have to break some rules. We cannot do just what is expected of us. At some point, we must break away from the status quo and forge a new path. As it turns out, this is how creativity works best.

Stop killing yourself, as I did, in an effort to be original. To be the first kid on the block with a new toy. It will never happen. “Steal” from those around you, give credit where credit is due, and put your your own spin on things.

Creativity works best not when we are trying to be original but when we are “stealing” from others. Break a few rules, do something unexpected, and you may find that creativity comes more quickly.

BTW, feel free to steal as many games and ideas from my Youtube channel. That’s why I put them there.

I hope you’ll grab Jeff’s book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, and dig a little deeper Into your creative and artistic nature.

Check out the third post in the series:  3 Tips For Apprenticeship While You Looking For A Master


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Real Youth Pastors Don’t Starve

About a week ago I was asked by author Jeff Goins if I wanted to be on his book launch team ; I said sure. I was familiar with Jeff through some videos and his book The Art of Work so I was excited to jump on board, and I am glad I did,

Jeff’s new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, has hit me where I Iive. God knew what he as doing when he connected me with this book.

I can’t just read a book, though. I read a book like a butcher cuts meat. I trim the fat and cut the book into chunks for easy digestion. Here are my goals

    Let every youth worker know they’re an artist (who happens to play dodgeball).
    Share some thoughts from each chapter of the book to help you become a thriving artist in your ministry.

Let’s start with the fact that you, the youth pastor, are an artist. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.  Many of you, weekly

    craft messages
    design slides
    take photos
    edit video
    There’s an art to all this. I know the care you put into all of these things, so why sell yourself short? Say it with me, “I am an artist”.
    I take my messages and post them up in my store at fair prices. You could do the same.  Anyway, you’re an artist and you shouldn’t be starving, you should be thriving . Let’s get into where we start doing that.
     Back in the day, youth ministry had it’s now version of the starving  artist. The youth pastor had to have a crap car, we had to share our room with the kids church, all the furniture in the youth room was donated crap, and our offices were the old  janitorial closet. I am familiar with all of these and at some point I thought I was super holy to live this crappy. That is until I changed my mindset.
    Many of you chose to go into youth ministry young and have grown in it. Some of you have entered youth ministry later in life and I salute you. All of us brought skills into the ministry and some of us learned them along the way.  Some of us are musical, some of us are graphic designers, and others us are amateur carpenters. Don’t you dare say you are not an artist.
    In the book, Jeff says,

Thanks to the power of this myth, many of us take the safe route in life. We become lawyers instead of actresses, bankers instead of poets, and doctors instead of painters. We hedge our bets and hide from our true calling, choosing less risky careers, because it seems easier. Nobody wants to struggle, after all, so we keep our passion a hobby and follow a predictable path toward mediocrity.

You became a youth worker because you love teens. Many of your teens are blooming artists, we owe it to them to hold our profession in high regard even if no one else does. We should model to our kids what it means to boldly display our art and give them a peek behind the scenes of how we do what we do.

If you are just getting started, take Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and document your journey in front of your kids. Share your message prep on Instagram and show them the slides you’re creating (and ask for their advice) on Snapchat. Show yourself setting up for the outreach on FB Live.

The first step to changing your mindset from “I’m just a slob who works with teens because no one else will” to “I am a youth ministry artist, creating the atmosphere for kids to know God every week.  No one can do what I do like I do it.” is Jeff’s first point

The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you must become one.

No one is born a good youth pastor. No one gets a special kiss from God to be one. We all work at it. If you don’t think you’re an artist now, stay in youth ministry long enough and you’ll become one, if you want to be.

I hope you’ll purchase the book for yourself and get the full context and all the great stories Jeff uses to deliver his points.

Check out the second post in the series: The First Lesson I Learned In Youth Ministry


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5 Tips For Talking With Teens

I guess I never real thought about it, I’m not a shy person. As a youth worker I saw other youth workers who were outgoing and up front people. This style of youth work seem to fit my personality and I thought it as the way all youth workers were. I soon discovered that not all youth worker were the same.

Some youth workers have to force themselves to be outgoing when they would rather just work behind the scenes. Teens can be a loud and scary bunch sometimes, so, if this is you, I don’t blame you for being shy or even intimidated by them sometimes.

What can we do to break the ice with teens and get those relationships rolling? Let me offer a few ideas

Invite them to a game

One way I’ve found to break the ice with teen is through play. Maybe I’ starting a game of Ninja or showing kids how to play Munchkin. Either way, when teens are active, engage, and laughing, they tend to open up and allow us to ask questions and be more personable.

Become the student

If kids are doing something interesting, like playing a game on their phone or   taking about something you’ve never heard about, show interest and ask them to teach you something new.

Look for cultural clues

I always have my eyes open for cultural clues like band shirts, tattoos, shoe styles, etc. and if those subjects are in my wheelhouse, I share my love for X with them and show that we’re not that far apart.

Grab My 7 Secrets For A Successful Youth Ministry 


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Invite them to do a task with you

If it’s a Wednesday night, I usually leave a few tasks  undone so I can ask kids for help. I have not problem asking a new kid to help because they show up and wonder what we are about. Well, if they’re helping me get ready for service, the find out real quick what we awe about. They made their first meeting happen and I can thank them for their help.


Simple, if teens and grown-ups don’t have anything else in common, we both eat. We have a cafe in our youth room and I always reserve food for guests. If it’s a teens first time with us, their food is on us and I try to eat with them if I can. Whether it’s sharing a meal or a piece of gum, sharing is a great way to start

Got a favorite tip? Leave a comment below.

Here are my go-to books to get kids talking in small groups.

Would You Rather 

Have You Ever

What If 

The Complete Book of Questions 



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3 Ways to Spice Up The Boring Grad Gift

You Still Have Time 

To make your grad gifts shine! Whether you are a youth pastor prepping for Grad Sunday or a parent just want to make graduation a little extra special, here are three ways to spice up the boring grad gift.

I just finished the video that shows my completed grad gift boxes (or suitcases) and I hope it will give you some last minute inspiration.

Let me offer three ways you can still make your grad gifts excellent and memorable.

1. Change the experience

You may have no control over what you are giving to your grads, but maybe you can change how they receive them. I made suitcase but you could create a different kind of experience.

Lock up each gift with a combination lock and give each grad one or two numbers (depending on how many grads). After service they have to trade numbers to get the right combo to open their gift.

Hide one gift and, after service, give them a clue sheet to go and find it.

2. Change how many senses are involved 

Use all your grads senses, not just sight and touch.

Connect a smell and/or taste to a place you have all been. Put some coconut or fruit with your gift to remind kids of that mission trip the Caribbean everyone went on.

Put together a Spotify playlist of all the worship songs, retreat songs, etc. for their last ride out of High School and that also reflects their time in the group.

Record individual audio or video messages to each student and text it to them after the grad service.

3. Change the packaging 

What did you get your kids for Grad Sunday? How can you change the packaging to make it more special or fun? How about wrapping them in fast food bags to represent all the times you went out to eat? Or put their gifts in a their favorite pizza boxes.

I hope these last few ideas stirs up some inspiration and will make your Grad Sunday or Wednesday the best it can be,

You can also check out my Graduation Playlist on Youtube for some extra ideas.

Have an awesome Graduation Sunday Service!

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11 Worship Resources To Help Teens Embrace The Quiet

If I took away your band (if you have one), how would you invite your students to worship God?

Can you worship God without a band? Blasphemy to think such a thing, but many of our students don’t think so because youth workers, like us, say, “Its time to worship” and then the band comes up.

I had a talk with a youth worker the other day and, both being Pentecostal, bemoaned the fact that our kids want (sometimes demand) an experience with God and if they did not have an experience with God, then worship or the service was null and void. We’ve conditioned our kids to believe that worshipping God is a  little one note (pun intended). How do we undo this?

First, we must help kids understand the object of our worship is God not our worship experience.. Worship by definition is

show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.

Worship is about the heart not about the mouth. Singing is one way, albeit the most popular way, of worshipping God. but it’s certainly not the only way. There must be other ways to show reverence and adoration to God without singing, right?

Although I am Pentecostal, and Pentecostal’s love loud, the exuberant, and sometimes the wild, I also have had the benefit of growing up Catholic and understand the need and joy of silence and reflection.

Teaching Pentecostal students the joys of practices that run counter clockwise to their ideas of worship is a challenge but a challenge worth taking as I have seen the Spirit of God do tremendous things in the silence as well as the loud.

Here are  a few books that helped me introduce different practices of worship to students as well as inspired me to write some of my own resources.


Sacred Space: A Hands On Guide To Creating Multi-Sensory Worship

The Book of UnCommon Prayer 

The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2

Worship Feast: 100 Reading, Rituals, Prayers, and Guided Meditations

Praise Habit: Finding God In Sunsets and Sushi – David Crowder

Worship Feast Ideas: 100 Worship Ideas For Postmodern Youth 

Prayer Stations

Easter Prayer Stations 

Three Cups 

Humility Prayer Stations 


The Lord’s Prayer: An Interactive Guide 

I love a good, Pentecostal experience with God. But a Pentecostal experience, as I understand it, is one where the Holy Sprit is present and active, and it does not always need to be loud. Loud and exciting is not a doctrine, it’s a preference.

Don’t be afraid to slow things down and challenge kids to reflect on the goodness of God in their lives. These ideas and practices may sound foreign to you, but feel free to add your own ideas to them to make them work for your groups.

If you happen to be Pentecostal, like me, let me encourage you to slow things down a bit. Let’s teach our students, as God taught Elijah, “I am not only in the loud, I am also in the whisper”.  Let’s make sure our band isn’t louder than His voice.


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7 Concepts I Want My Graduates To Grasp

In my very first post on this blog,  I share about graduating seniors and wondering what kind of questions we should be asking to make sure kids were spiritually ready of the world.

The article was not meant to encourage some kind of spiritual purity test for graduates but rather an encouragement for youth workers to  create a way to judge their own effectiveness as they launched kids into this thing called life.

Example:  By the time a student graduates, what should they know about the Bible, God etc. and can they explain the plan of salvation, the timeline of the end times and quote Numbers with poetic flair.

If you think these subjects are important for graduating seniors to know, you should start teaching it to your freshmen or middle school students now.

No matter what the questions are, our students may not (read asmore than likely will not)  be able to answer all your questions (or even one) due to the fact that they may not find the material relevant ( now) or they’ve just forgotten.

Teens want to know, “Is it on the test?” because if it’s not, they need the space for…well… anything else.

Most of my students will not quote chapter and verse upon graduation, so where does that leave me? Ultimately, my hope is that my example and, more importantly, the example of their parents,  will lead to their understanding of often hard and complex spiritual truths.

This thought brings me to the seven things I want my students to understand before they graduate, but in asking the questions, it’s led me to examine my own life and ministry. It’s not just about what I am teaching  but how and if I am living what I am teaching.

Do you understand that God loves you, no matter what? 

“Did I loved you no matter what? Did I love you when you snuck out of the cabin to launch all the canoes into the water? Did I show grace and mercy when you blew it big time and I did’t cast you  away? Did I affirm God’s long suffering and patience? Did I forgive and ask for forgiveness? Did I

Do you understand the Bible is where you find truth? 

Did I show you that I loved God’s word? Did I show you it was my go to book for wisdom? Did I treat the scripture with care when I spoke? Was scripture integrated and foundational to the counsel I gave you? Did you see me read the Bible when I wasn’t preaching?

Do you understand that Church is about community and connection?

Did I bad-mouth our church to score points or did I do my best to explain that we’re not a perfect group of people and we’re all on this journey together? Did I participate in service rather than spectate? Was I engaged or aloof? Did I integrate you with the adult congregation enough so that some of that ancient wisdom rubbed off on you?

Do you understand that prayer is a conversation?

Did I demonstrate that you ought to listen more and talk less? Did I show you how to pray for and through hard things? Did I pray with you as well as pray for you? Did I show prayer as a joy or as drudgery? Was prayer just something we did before we ate pizza or went on the mission trip? Did I show that  our Heavenly Father desires to hear from, and to fellowship with, us?

Do you understand the difference between believing in God and following Jesus?

Did I show you what a disciple looks like? Did I show you that when I got it wrong I didn’t quit but pushed on? Did you see that you can mess up and continue to follow Jesus? Did I show you what sacrifice looked like? Did I live like God was real, Jesus was my only hope and not just a nice idea? Did I show you that their was more to the Christian life than coming to youth group, church, reading your Bible, and giving in the offering?

Do you understand that you are called to influence others for good?

Did I tell you over and over again that God can use your talents and gifts to make an impact on the world around you? Did show you how to us influence to glorify God rather than yourself? Did I give you every opportunity to use your gifts and talents? Did I crest space for you to rap, draw, paint, and create for God?

Do you understand how to come back to God, should you wander off?

Was I grace filled? Did I make it easy or hard to come back from the brink? Did I reveal a pattern of how God gladly receives us when we are repentant and contrite? Did I show you that humility goes a long way and that pride is a killer?

And how does a student understand? Was it because of my great talks or the epic game nights? Probably not. Their understanding of a big concept came through the examples of the people around them.

Graduation is not about just about the things they know or learned, but it’s about the things they have been shown and experienced, the examples they’ve been given. What did they see and remember versus what they read or heard and forgot.

This is why Jesus not only taught in parables, but was a living parable. The disciples only “got it” when they saw it, was a part of it, and experienced it.

My graduates may not recall my messages and lessons but  they will remember my example.

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What Is The Perfect Gift For High School Graduates?

Every parent and youth worker are asking this question. If you are youth worker, we’ve all been down that path where we are looking for that something special and wind up giving out graduating seniors a bible and card. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think you have way more to offer your seniors.

Each of us have our own gifts, talents and abilities. Why don’t we use them to bless our kids?

If you write music, compose and record a song for each of them.

If you’re good at graphic design make each one of them their own super hero logo.

If you’re good at sowing, make them a special stole for grad day.

In my latest video, I share our unique gift and how you can create the same for your students.

Check out the video below and get inspired.

Here are the links to the supplies you need

Antique Map of Africa

Antique World Map

Espresso Spray Paint

Travel Stickers

Check out the finished product!

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Are SMART Goals A Dumb Idea For Youth Pastors?

We all have goals, but we don’t all reach them the same way.  I should have titled this Are SMART Goals A Dumb Idea For Certain Kinds of Youth Pastors, but that was too long . Certainly, the SMART Goals system will benefit some youth pastor but maybe not all.

Youth Pastors on the whole, tend to be outgoing, gregarious, big picture kind of people, not so concerned with the details of…well, anything. That’s not to say we cannot or should not change, because details are important.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.  John Wooden

SMART goals are just one we we can put emphasis on and flesh out the details of our biggest goals.

If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, SMART goals is a system to improve your performance and productivity.

SMART goals stands for (with additional options in parenthesis)

Specific (simple, sensible, significant)

Measurable (meaningful, motivating)

Achievable (agreed, attainable)

Realistic (relevant, reasonable, )

Time Bound (time based, time/cost effectiveness, time limit)

Now, why would I think that SMART goals were a dumb idea for youth workers? Well, as I said earlier, youth workers tend to lean to big picture kid of people and some youth workers may say, “This would only slow me down”. Although this might be true, slowing down, making sure you have your bases covered and your goals fleshed out  is not a terrible idea.

I’ve tried SMART goals and it is a valuable tool, but  I was hit and miss on them due to that, “slowing me down thing” and my somewhat ADD personality.

I have been creating events and programs for a long time now, but when I started, I had plenty of events go to crap because I forgot a detail like

  • getting the check to pay the band
  • getting the flyer proofread
  • building a team to promote
  • follow up material for new converts

and the list goes on and on.

I’m an outgoing person. My gifts are in speaking, motivating, etc. On the Briggs Myer personality scale I am a ESFP (Extravert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceptive) the near opposite of this is ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). This is the personality that is geared toward details. Details is no where to be found in my ESFB.

So, what are you to do if you are the fun loving, big picture, extrovert? Well you can’t just ditch the details just because it’s not in in your personality profile. By the way, Lead/Sr Pastors do not favor the “that’s just not personality” excuse.

Using  SMART goals to dig deeper, to bring out what you really want to accomplish in your youth ministry, is a discipline, a habit we make. No matter what personality you are, you can learn to do something  that is not natural to you, it just takes work.  No excuses.

To start, you can download this SMART GOALS Message Template  I created just for youth pastors. There is a blank version for you to use and one I filled out as a sample.

More templates will be made available and the good people of the Fresh Impact newsletter will be hearing about the first so don’t forget to sign up. in doing so, you’ll also receive my 7 Secrets To A Successful Youth Ministry ebook.

Recommended Resources

SMART Goals Made Simple 

Wired That Way Personality Profile: An Easy-to-Use Questionnaire for Helping People Discover Their God-Given Personality Type


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13 Take Aways From The Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why

In my last post I talked about what I hated about 13 Reasons Why.  The series was not devoid of meaning or purpose, the message was loud and clear: kids are killing themselves and it’s preventable.

There are no new revelations as far as youth culture goes. Stereotypes, acting out, drinking, smoking, sex, have all been a part of growing up in some form or another. Her are my 13 take aways from the show and why they’re important to me as a youth worker.

Attention: Possible spoilers ahead

Gossip is as deadly as anything

It’s easy to look at the drinking and drugs and think. “This is what’s killing our kids.” It’s actually not. The drinking and drugs are simply methods of dealing with  or staving off other kids from talking about them. But talkers are gonna ‘ talk.

Proverbs says

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. Proverbs 20:19

And Solomon lists it as one of God’s top six hates

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19

We should all address the symptoms, but we need to get to the root.

Teenagers are complicated

Duh Paul ! I know, but the show reminded me of the politics of teens and the  manuvering each of them  has to do to avoid unwanted attention and to stay atop the food chain.

The show also reminded me that what I am saying to teens is not as clear as I think it is. I have to get better at communicating the gospel and what hope looks like.

I also understand that no matter how well I communicate, what I say could have no relevance or meaning to a kid. I have to let the Holy Spirit do his job of touching and changing hearts.

Pay Attention

Teachers are busy running their classrooms. Administrators are busy running a school. Parents are busy running their families, I get busy running a youth program. These are the excuses we use for not paying attention.

I have to pay attention to the signs, but beyond the signs I have to listen to my heart and the Spirt. After Hannah was done talking with the guidance counselor she waited outside, hoping he would come after her. He did not. We have to pay attention to our gut not matter how stupid or weak it may make us look.


These kids weren’t just mean, they were cruel. They acted out of their own insecurities and did everything they could to protect themselves. I have to remember that the kids who enter our youth meeting have been chipped away at by many hammers by the time they enter my room.

Cruel words can crush you. I know. I had a substitute teacher tell me one time that I would not about to anything. Silence is equally as deadly. I had a Pastor one time refuse to answer me when I asked, “Do you think I am the best person for this job.” Crushing.

Words can be like hammers pounding at our souls  until it break or words can be the balm of healing that covers the wounds.

It’s Still Far Worse For Girls

I can’t imagine being a girl in today’s society. It must suck. As a youth worker, I cannot completely identity with all the struggles of the girls of my youth group but I can be like Jesus to them.

Jesus defended the woman who was to be stoned

Jesus talked to the woman at the well

Jesus defended the woman who washed his feet with her tears

There are times I  have to stand up for the girls in my youth group because no one else will. I have to be a ‘dad” of sorts when their real dads are not being the father they should be.

I have a daughter. She’s the greatest thing to me. I have always tried to be careful with my words but I know I have failed. My words have had an impact on her both for good and bad. She is married now and  still text her I love you and do my best to affirm her in every way I can.

Work Harder, Talk Less, Observe More, Pray Always.

    These are simple phrases that I have to practice if they are to have any impact.  Platitudes are useless for handling the serious matters of teenagers.

Pain is compounded

I have to remember that pains is multiplied. Pain at school, pain at home, pain online leaves a kid no where that is pain free.

I have to remember that the life of a teen is attacked from all sides and I have a chance, every week, to not only create a pain free environment, but a healing place to put that pain.

Life is demanding. Friends demand us to be like them. Parents demand that we get our crap together. School demands we get good grades. What does God demand? If we keep is simple it should be


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31


He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

If a kids is already feeling like he is failing everyone, the last thing I want to do is make him feel like he is failing God.

I Was A Jerk

I was sadly reminded of what a jerk I was in High School. I was very much like Clay from the show. I was way awkward and both, as he put it, “The bully and the bullied.”

When someone dumped on me I had sure to pass it along. I was not like this all the time,  but I can remember a few key moments.

I wish I could back and apologize to all the girls I dated and say, “I’m sorry, I had no clue.”

Remembering who I was is helping me more empathetic and less self-righteous.

Good Parents Are Not Enough 

Of the families featured on the show there were five families that had two parents in the mix. They were not enough. Hannah, the girl who committed suicided, had a great mom and dad who had normal struggles. They loved their daughter and did anything they could for her, but it was not enough .

Kids need all kinds of people in the life to make it. Teens need good parents, good teachers, good coaches, and yes, good youth workers to help them through, what is for many (it was for me ) a miserable stretch of life.

I have a FB group for our parents and I do my best to not only put event stuff but links to culture and parenting  articles. I cannot afford to only be a youth pastor, I have to be a family pastor whether I am any good at #adulting or not.

The Soundtrack 

I did not know many of the songs from the series but I did know two: The Call and The Alarm. Two of my favorite bands growing up. You can check out the full list of songs here 

Don’t Hype The Show 

If I’ve learned anything from almost 30 years of work with teenagers, is not to hype the culture. Yes, many teens have watched this show, by many or even most of the teens in my youth ministry have not.

I don’t want them t watch it. It’s horribly graphic and it, in some ways, romanticizes the notion of suicide as being a noble deed.

The 22 year old me would be tempted to do a 13 week series on the show or suicide or to over blow the use of show quotes or clips for street cred with the kids. This is not good. To glorify the show could do more damage than good. I’ll stick with overhyping Guardians of the Galaxy instead.

Moral Relavatism Still Does Not Work 

    In the show there is a character named Tony, In discussing the tapes, he refers to the as “her truth” . The truth, the absolute truth, of God’s love for and her worth and value were never shard with her. She had only her own thoughts and the thoughts of others to form and opinion.
    God’s word is Truth. All the small “truths” are only revenant as to how they connect with the absolute truth of God’s word and character.
    1. If any of these character had the absolute truth spoken to them, the story changes drastically. Clay and the guidance counselor talk towards the end of the series. Clay says, “We have to do a better job of loving each other.” The guidance counselor responds of our (his)  inability to be be perfect (since he was one of the reasons), and he is right, we are flawed. But Clay comes back, “But can’t we try harder?”


    Yes Clay, we can. When we get grip on what real, absolute love is, we can.
    It Will Never End
    Sadly, for every day a kid watches 13 Reasons, another teenager commits suicide or attempts suicide. You can get more facts on suicide


    If you are a youth worker/minster I recommend these resources
    • The Youth Workers Guide To Helping Teenagers In Crisis.

What Do I Do When Teenagers Are Depressed and Contemplate Suicide

I do not recommend kids watch 13 Reasons Why.

I do recommend parents watch 13 Reasons Why if their kids have watched it so they may have a context for conversation. 

Did you have any take aways from the show? What were they?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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13 Reasons Why I Hated The Netflix Series 13 Reasons Why

Five minutes into the Netflix series 13 Reasons, I was hating it. If you’re not familiar with the show, 13 Reasons is based on the book of the same title, written by Jay Asher. 

The 13 episodic series tells the story of Hannah Baker’s suicide, why it happened, and who she thought was responsible. Hannah recorded 13 tapes and were given to one of the people she blamed for her death. Once they were done with the tapes they were to pass the tapes on to the next person.

Hate is a strong word, but, what I hated about 13 Reasons is based on my 26 years of working with teens and parents as well as being an ardent observer of teenagers and their culture. There are some things the  series got right and some they got wrong. I will be posting another article on my take-aways from the series, but for now,  these are the things I hated.

Warning: Potential Spoilers

Absentee Adults 

Every teenage movie has dumb or absentee  parents because the movie needs a foil for the jokes. I hate the way many of these parents are portrayed. Th only thing words than parents who are portrayed is buffoons (think almost every sitcom) are parents who are absentees.

Of the families featured, three of them that had a nuclear style families with mom and dad being present including Hannah Baker’s family. One family had two dads who were responsible and caring. If the series shows anything, ti shows that no matter if you have a nuclear, blended, or alternative, family, no one is exempt from the distress of adolescence.

The rest of the families feared, or not, were helmed by a tiger mom, drug addicts,  or were, in many cases, non existent in the show at all.

For all those absentee parents there’s an army of caring parents doing their best to care for their kids. These parents are engaged,, have late night talks with their kids, talk about culture and it’s effects on their kids, and yes, talk about suicide and depression no matter how uncomfortable with their kids. These parents pick up on signals and signs of disturbing behavior and act on it, which Clay’s mom eventually did.

 Snappy West Wing Style Dialogue

Kids do not talk like this. The content is real but the delivery is not. I understand that this is a scripted show meant to deliver a certain cadence and pace to audiences. I am not saying that students are not articulate or snappy, but when it come to real life, communication is more awkward than awesome.

Devoid of God

Let’s face it, if Hollywood had put a Christian in this movie, the believing student would have been represented by a stereo type rather an empathetic student of  faith. In fact, my guess is there would have been an angle about some Christian kid preaching about suicide and hell (not that this doesn’t happen…) rather than a caring believer trying to make an impact.

It’s my belief that if you put one caring, Christian teen in this series, we may have a very short series with Hannah Baker finding hope instead of death.

Romanticizing/Revenge Aspect Of  Suicide

I didn’t read the book so I was shocked at the tapes being used as a plot device. When I first heard Hannah speaking, is when I started to hate this show.

On the tapes, Hannah is heard to be calm, cool, and collected. It’s also where I heard the tinge of revenge in her voice. I started to feel like I was watching the movie The Ring. where if you watched (or in their case, listened) to the tapes, your death (or something really bad) would be imminent.

I get it. She wanted the lives of others to be destroyed the way her life was destroyed. Mission accomplished but he best revenge would have been to graduate, become successful in life, married Clay, ultimately to say, “You didn’t beat me” .

The Plot Mechanism of Tapes 

Hearing Hanna’s voice was like listening to a sick version of The Wonder Years. In today’s world of social media, there are more than enough ways for a teen to communicate their pain and suffering, and they often do behind selfies and smiles.

I would hate to think that some kid right now is making YouTube videos and scheduling them to post every day after his or her death so they can make their point to those who’ve harmed them.

Suicide Wrapped in Narrative

Watching Hannah suffer day after day, knowing the outcome, was just heartbreaking. I would have rather watched a documentary with facts and stats than the gut wrenching downturn of a young soul.

No kid really wants to die. Hannah didn’t want to die, but every suicide has a story. Maybe I just hated the fact the story had to be told at all.


By episode 3 I knew that nothing good was going to happen to  Hannah, or anyone else, in any episode. I just waited to see what terrible thing happened next.  It  felt, almost, sadomasochistic. You knew the bad thing was coming and you just couldn’t look away and you couldn’t stop it.

If the goal of 13 Reasons Why was to show that high school life is pure crap. they succeeded, but don’t kids already know that?


The types of kids, in 13 Reasons Why,  existed in my high school universe. None of them were as extreme as the ones shown in the series. The producers, and writers  are much like the caricature artist at the fair.

The artists job is to offer a

a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

I have had several students tell me, “These kid are not real” and this is true. In actuality, these characters are not true, or meant to be true, but their cruelty, their apathy, their insecurities, are all true.

I hated 13 Reasons Why because, although the characters were not real, their conversations, motives, and fears were real and nothing as gong to stop them from acting on them.

In real life, we have to look past the stereo types and look a the heart of a person. Sadly, the script only showed the malevolence of the teenage heart instead of it’s capacity for mercy.

Too Graphic 

I hated this series, not because the moments were real, but because they were too real. Nothing is left to the imagination. It was raw the way Passion of the Christ was raw.

The rapes, the sexual assault, the bullying, all too real. I had to fast forward though much of it and I’m glad I did. I hated that the directors and producers had to be that graphic to get a point across. Some may need the wake up call, but most don’t; especially students.

A Map For Middle Schoolers? 

Another point  I had not considered, was brought to the front by the CPYU podcast. This movie acts like a distorted map for middle schoolers. If I were a middle school kid, this series would scare the hell out of me.

“Is this what life is really like? ” and  “Am I going to commit suicide because I can’t handle the pressure?” would be just a few of the questions I might be asking if I were a middle school student.

The Ending

At the end of the series there is a suicide attempt. One of the main characters is seen being rushed the hospital.

Were we supposed to see this coming? Was this the shows way of showing that another attempt was right in front of our eyes, that we had somehow missed the Easter eggs they planted?

I hated that it was this character. There was, to me, no reasoning behind why it should have been this character or that there should have been any attempt at all.

Why didn’t the show take a positive take at the end? Because life just sucks? I think they did a good job of showing that for 12 episodes. Why not show a kid making a difference? Why not draw a map for those middle school kids that leads them to taking  positive action?

 Season 2?

Yep, there’s enough loose threads to lead us to believe there will be a second season. 13 Reasons Why is the most watched show in Netflix history. If they plan in cashing in on a second season, I think they will have devalued what they tried to say in this series.

Magnified the Negative  

I listened to a podcast by CPYU (Center for Parenting and Youth Understanding), and they brought out why I felt terrible with every episode, no one was having any positive happen to them in High School.

I can relate. I hated High Schoo. I don’t go back to any reunions because I felt my four years there were a compete waste from both social, as well as, academic reasons.

Maybe I hated 13 Reasons because it was too close to my real high school days. I had several flashbacks to the days I was bullied or left out of life. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that suicide crossed my mind as an opt out, but I think I respected my opportunity at life more than I hated it.

Let me break it down 

Should parents watch 13 Reasons Why? 

Yes, if they want to (and they should want to ) have a discussion with their kids about the subject matter of the series.

Should students watch 13 Reasons Why? 

Many have already watched it but for the few that haven’t, real life is hard enough with our watching others be destroyed episode to episode.

What do you think?



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