December 31st, 2006 09:30 EST
Using Media to Positively Impact the Future Leaders of America
You hear it time and time again. Be IN the world but not OF it. Today’s world is filled with an entertainment industry that is promoting life-threatening behaviors non stop without showing the consequences. According to George Barna, only 4% of today’s youth (including Christian teens) believe in Christ! It’s not surprising to me that the next generation of leaders are growing up believing that anything goes and you can do what you want, when you want. These are the same future leaders who constantly tell me they want boundaries and they want parents who teach them right vs. wrong, be examples of what they preach, and be the comforting, yet authoritative role models God has called them to be. Which leads us back to the original statement. Be IN the world but not OF it.
When I travel throughout the U.S. speaking to teens and parents of teens about the lies of the media and how to decipher what is good for the mind and soul and what is poison, I encourage them to not just hibernate in their rooms and seclude themselves from the rest of the world, but to be pro-active. I believe these negative influences are Satan’s way to completely distract us from the power and talent God gave us in the first place. Talents that should have a positive impact in our world and save lost souls. Talents that should fulfill our destiny God had in store for us before we were even conceived (Jeremiah 1:5). We can’t take our Ipod or our X-Box with us when we die. It’s amazing to see the teens eyes widen as I ask them what will happen when you try to get a job 5 years down the line and the employee looks at your resume and sees your name, address and phone number along with your 18, 956 hours of Grand Theft Auto video game experience. You will mostly likely NOT get the job. I then read a quote from one of the top video game makers that exemplifies the fact that they are IN IT for the cash and do not care about the harmful, violent images and ideas they are filling our future leaders’ minds with on average of 18 hours a week!!!
Telling our youth to steer clear from all entertainment is NOT an option and obviously not going to work. So how can we utilize the media in a way that is honoring God and sharing the truth to millions of teens? Staying up to date with our culture’s media is important. If we can’t relate to them or know who their Role Models are, then we won’t be able to understand them and offer advice they can apply to their lives. I personally don’t listen to Eminem, Britney Spears or Madonna to know what they talk about. I do a TON of research every week by checking out websites like pluggedinonline.com and within minutes I can read the lyrics and know what message they are promoting. In the presentations I deliver I show pictures of some of the top artists and ask the crowd what they think the singer is promoting – just by looking at their album cover. Having the teens look at the so-called “harmless entertainment” in this manner makes them stop and think about what they are actually exposing their minds to. For example, feeding our bodies Cheetos for the next 5 years will cause our valves to collapse and our hearts to stop beating. The same goes with feeding our minds and souls with negative entertainment. Many teens tell me they can’t seem to have a close relationship with God. They feel so lost and so distant to the Lord. After asking them what they fill their minds with, we both realize why God seems so distant. He is trying to work through us but the Holy Spirit is being choked out by all the harmful media we are feeding it.
I believe if we are knowledgeable about the secular media, but not engaging in it ourselves, we will be the BEST examples and teachers for our next generation to learn from and emulate. Here are the top 7 things that will help your ministry flourish.
1. Knowledge is power. The more you know about pop-culture, the better. Read articles in the Rolling Stone magazine or online. I also get the Entertainment Weekly magazine and focus on the top albums, movies, TV shows and DVD sales of the week. This will give me a good idea as to what most teens are reading, listening to and watching. I also read books and articles that deal with how negative media impacts the youth. You can Google search this topic or other related topics of your interest and buy books from Amazon.com (great deal) on the subjects you would like to focus on. (add more sites, books, etc.) I also have a website TinaMarieLive.com with a HELPFUL LINKS section that lists hundreds of top websites with detailed information on subjects from the lyrics of the top songs on the charts, to tips on warning signs from someone who is suicidal or involved in self-mutilation. Books for parents and youth pastors on how to communicate to their teens in a non-confronting manner can also be found in the STORE section of the website. (add more info on how I do my media research) Hosea 4:6 – My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge because you have you rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for me.
2. Only play positive entertainment at your church. It amazes me that some churches bring me in to speak and they have violent video games like Grand Theft Auto or some shoot-em-up game in the activity room. When the service starts I then talk about violence in video games and how a teen’s brain doesn’t fully develop until mid 20’s and how these images can literally be burned into your mind. Teens have a puzzled look on their face. Some church youth groups are also playing Eminem music in the background not even realizing what is being promoted in the lyrics. When I ask them why they choose to play secular music, their response is that they want to RELATE to the teens who don’t know Christ and by playing worldly music it will make the teens attend the youth group. I want to encourage leaders to remember Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Teens need to see a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. I need to point out that I have been to many amazing churches that play only Christian/positive music and have games that do not promote any violence and these are the MOST thriving youth groups in the country. Many teens come, Bibles are open, pens in hand, tears are shed…they see a difference and realize what life is REALLY all about. They want to experience Jesus. I highly encourage all churches to promote ONLY positive, Christian entertainment. (add list to website or add websites that have positive music or comparisons from good vs. bad) – add something about tithing to God’s ministry…
3. Be an example. I’m constantly reminding myself of this everyday. Teens tell me they don’t want to attend churches because of the bad experience they had in the past or the youth pastor is having an affair with one of the teens, etc. They want to see us actually live out what we preach. We hear it time and time again and no one is perfect, but many teens choose Hollywood entertainment instead of attending their local youth group, because they can relate to the people they listen to or watch. I do remind them that they are not getting any positive, life-changing solutions or getting any hope from the entertainment they’re submerged in, even if they can temporarily relate to it. Solutions are key. Jesus is the solution and we are called to live out his life within us. I’m finding it’s a very challenging, yet very rewarding job. Teens are drawn towards people who practice what they preach. I commend those youth pastors who have an Eagle’s eye over what their teens are exposed to on every aspect of their youth ministry. It’s not about numbers, but about souls being saved through truth. We are responsible for the lives God has entrusted to us. Romans 14:12 – “So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” This also includes the teenagers. We need to make sure all teens realize their potential in Christ and they are responsible for their own actions. They can’t let pop-culture influence where they will spend eternity. “Build it and they will come,” is one of my favorite phrases. If youth pastors build a place built on God’s foundation – the Bible – and only promoted what would honor him, it is a guarantee that he will bring the teens for harvest time.
4. Use images to get your point across. In today’s age, because our teens are so used to doing major multitasking, they need to see not just hear what you are talking about. If you have a great message on Dating, for example, put together a power-point show that incorporates a good short dating message from a positive movie clip, or from a Christian news source. Present some tips of great Godly Dating along with a couple of pure images of young men and women respecting each other’s boundaries. Your message will have a lot more impact and will be remembered and implemented into your audience’s mind if you show visual and not just audio.
5. Get feedback from the teens. Ask your youth group what they would like to see more of or less of in your weekly service. This can be anything from the types of media sources they would like to see to what topics they’d like discussed. Finding out more about the needs of your teens and what they are actually dealing with will make your message more relatable to them and GIVE THEM THE HOPE they are looking for and not getting from pop-culture. They will ditch their Ipod and head over to church. You can have anonymous feedback forms passed out in your youth group, so the teens will give their honest opinion as to how they feel and what they need.
6. Take time off! I need to follow my own advice J I have many friends who are youth pastors and are burned out – BIG TIME! Make sure you take time out for yourself and your relationship with God. Make time for your family and keep your priorities in order. God, family and ministry. You can’t give if you don’t have. I have teens calling me with issues daily. I have realized over the years that I can’t be available and help everyone 24 *7. Therefore, I make sure I have had my time with the Lord before I find myself scattered and stressed over tackling a pile of messages and things to do on my list. The more refreshed and balanced you are, the better you will be mentoring the youth. I heard a guest speaker at my church mention his 7*7*7 rule. That was 6 years ago and I will never for get it. He goes on a date with his wife every 7 days, a family fun day every 7 weeks and a family get away trip for a couple of days every 7 months. I will implement this one day when I am married! Sounds like a plan to me!
7. Be prayed up! It’s very important to read the Bible and pray every day, so you can ask for God’s guidance in what you will be facing throughout the day. It will help keep you stable in knowing how to decipher the truth from the lies and be a Godly example for your peers.
Every day it’s a challenge to live a Godly life in an unGodly world…but it’s definitely possible and an amazing journey at that! I solute you as youth pastors and pastors because you have one of the hardest jobs in our world today. You are training and teaching our next generation of leaders on how to be bold and impact the world for Christ! There really is no other higher calling than this. I would rather live OUT LOUD for the Lord and face persecution, than to blend in with the culture around me and lead others astray because of my lack in speaking up for the truth. After being submerged in the word, I believe it’s not only a sin to lie, do drugs, or have premarital sex, but to know the TRUTH and do nothing to protect it. James 4:17 – Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. To all you youth pastors, pastors and leaders out there - Never grow weary! Go make a difference!
Tina Marie is a media analyst and speaker/author whose main purpose in life is to expose the lies of pop-culture and help teens realize their full potential in Christ. For more information check out www.tinamarielive.com.