For about three years of my pastoral life, youth ministry was not the primary ministry hat I wore because I was serving in a Sr. Pastor role but soon after I returned into a youth ministry dominant role I was challenged by how so many things had changed in youth culture.

If you want to get a quick glance at this shifting culture, compare the covers from any 40-year-old Seventeen magazine to the cover of anyone from this year. That is exactly what Walt named is happening all the time in our world. And in the midst of that reality, he offered that we need to learn the culture because that’s what missionaries do.

Walt said that the two main tasks of adolescence are:
1. To figure out “who I am” which is identity formation
2. To figure out “what do I believe” which is worldview formation

The following is a series of lists I made based off of the concepts Walt talked on.


Why do kids love social media?

– everyone else is doing it
– it’s a way to stay connected
– it enriches close friendships
– it’s a personal assistant
– to gossip
– to flirt
– for extreme makeovers
– to be cool
– to express and extend one’s self – they fish for affirmation
– no parents on many sites
– it’s an emotional outlet


The following is a list of descriptives that Walt used to describe Narcissism

– ego-centered universe
– self as supreme authority
– sees himself as superior, smarter and more beautiful – lack of empathy
– focus on self over others
– above the rules
– accumulates imaginary audience
– self-centered sexuality
– me-centered faith


The following is a list of things Walt described as strategies for working with teens and their culture.
– relationships trump everything
– reorient your teaching to get your priorities right

– teach a biblical view of humility and trust the work of the spirit – Proverbs 8:13, 16:5, 16:18, Isaiah 66:2, Matthew 16:24
– teach on our brokenness
– point out and call out the lies wherever you encounter them
– call crap “crap”
– teach the importance of history including God’s story
– teach decision-making skills
– tell your kids your story without giving permission to let them make similar decisions
– we have too much information in our lives. We are on overload. We all need to slow down. We need to teach rest
– speak into the crisis moments with the gospel
– help me find their identity in Christ
– combat the ‘living in the moment’ mentality
– remember and value students for who they are
– give the answers
– Walt pointed to research that says that we need to get kids back into the paper pages of books.
– Walt said to research “Marshall McCluhan.” He is responsible for some great insights to understand medium instead of the message
– students need help to not over share
– help students to not use social media to fabricate themselves
– challenge students to have someone monitor them from over sharing and excessive selfies
– challenge students and parents to lessen the desire to compare ourselves and to market ourselves. Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.”
– be aware of the lack of sleep happening because of smart phones while having a fear of being alone.
– be aware of multi-tasking distractions
– know that our words and actions speak loudly. See Romans 12:1-2


Personal guidelines

– we need to realize that our default setting is to do the wrong thing – limit tech time
– consider deeply how you live on the digital frontier
– seek accountability
– realize the whole world is watching
– stop and think before sending, posting and replying
– ask yourself when posting, does this matter? Is it useful for others? Does it promote the kingdom? Does it glorify God or self? Why am I doing this?


Walt’s Six Social Media Rules

– don’t use smart phone while with real people
– don’t bring to family table
– don’t sleep with phone
– make family room a no smart phone zone
– don’t use phone while driving
– take a social media Sabbath


The following is a list of things Walt said that relate to marketing.

– all media exists to deliver a captive audience to have people something to sell
– children and teens are the most marketed population group
– kids have spending influence and brand loyalty


The following are Walt’s thoughts on the battle of the brain

– what will this get me now?
– emotions versus rationality
– immediate gratification versus delayed gratification – i.e., setting and texting while driving, supplement abuse


Tackling the Tough Stuff: Pornography

– The church has at times not spoken to sex and because of that there are lots of misbeliefs
– any discussion has to begin at Genesis with creation to get a view of God’s plan for man and woman
– Instill in our kids, “sex is a beautiful gift to humanity from God meant to be indulged within the context of a heterosexual monogamous life long covenental marriage between one man and one woman”
– the gift of sex is for consummating a marriage
– The gift is for fostering intimacy
– mutual pleasure and procreation
– we live in a world saturated ambient sexuality
– book recommendation: Closing the Window, Tim Chester
– pornography has become an accepted past time
– children and teens are sexually curious
– the fallout is a long drop off much like a time bomb that is waiting to go off
– fosters objectification
– it hijacks the brain
– repeated exposure rewires the brain’s chemical make-up

Final thoughts and random questions

– Check out “God’s Story” which is a painting by David Arms. It does a great job of showing the salvation story from Genesis to revelation

– Why have so many parents shifted from having a good desire to raise their children well, to turning them into idols?

– Why do we have to tell the whole world about our kids?

– “If I have the need to tell you everything about my day, I have a problem. If you need to know about every detail of my day, you have a problem.” – Walt paraphrased


Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.

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