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Conversations about modern youth ministry

Crisis Counseling part 2 December 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 8:02 am
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In our continuation of conversations about crisis counseling (lots of C words in that phrase), we’re going to take a look today about things NOT to do in a counseling situation.

  1. Don’t sit behind your desk. I have a desk in my office and it faces the door.  I hate it.  Nothing says “I’m better than you” than having a desk between you and the other person.  Put a sofa or comfy chair adjacent to your chair so there are no barriers between you.  Think of a desk like a wall.
  2. Don’t take a ton of notes. If you remember from the previous post, we have to do a good job in listening.  If we are taking a ton of notes it communicates we’re not listening to every word.  Take some notes…but don’t spend all your time writing stuff down.
  3. Don’t look at your watch, computer, clock, cell phone, etc…when you check the time you’re communicating a number of things.  First, that you are bored.  Second, they are not worth your time and third, the schedule is more important than the conversation.  Obviously if you’re limited on time, make sure that is communicated before you start talking together.
  4. Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. If you have to get together more than 4 times, you may want to consider referring your student to a professional counseling service.  If you’re dealing with a teenage break up, you probably won’t need to refer.  But if your student is dealing with eating disorders or deep depression, don’t hesitate to refer.  It’s responsible and extremely appropriate.
  5. Don’t counsel a member of the opposite sex alone. If I have a girl in my office, I keep the blinds on my window open.  I let someone know that I’m going to have a girl in my office.  You have to let other people know what’s going on in case, heaven forbid, something is said.  Be prepared.
  6. Never counsel a member of the opposite sex more than 3 times. This is hard, but so important.  Inappropriate relationships are formed by situations between an adult and a teenager where a significant amount of emotion is being expelled.  You may have the best of intentions, but these things have been known to work on even the best of youth workers in a very negative and damaging way.

There are many other things NOT to do when in a counseling situation, but I wanted to leave of these things up for discussion.  What things have you learned to never do?


Crisis Counseling Part 1 December 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 2:19 pm
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For the next couple of post I would like to take the time to look at some of the issues that teenagers and children are facing today and how to deal with them in a one on one basis.

For my first post, I just want to give a bit of an introduction and some small words of advice on counseling.  If you’re a youth worker, chances are you received limited training in the area of counseling/therapy.  I know I did, and most of what I have learned I’ve learned on the fly or by reading some really great books (more on those books later).

Adolescents today face so many issues that you are bound to have to deal with these at some point.  There are many that struggle with:

  • Suicide (attempted or suicidal thoughts)
  • Disruptive Families
  • Sexual abuse
  • Getting in trouble with the law
  • Eating disorders
  • Death of loved ones
  • Sexual Identity
  • Substance abuse
  • Relational problems
  • Violence
  • Many more…

We’ll look at some of those in depth in the upcoming posts.  But there are some key ingredients that you want to have whenever you’re talking to a young person about some of the above issues.

  1. Be Accepting. If they come to you to talk about something, that means they’re putting a LOT on the line with you.  For example, let’s say that Denise is struggling with her sexual identity.  She comes to you and pours all of this out to you and you instantly start to tell her she’s going to hell–then you’ve ruined your chance at making an impact. Allow teenagers like Denise to come to you and make them feel that no matter what-you love them!  We may not want them to continue suffering with their issues, but we’re going to love them regardless.
  2. Be Reassuring. Let them know that this isn’t the end of the world.  Things do get better.  Pains do heal over time.  They will eventually heal wounds.
  3. Listen. That’s a given!  But use those signs of active listening.  The “Hmm”s and the “uh huh”.  Ask questions to let them know you are listening intently.  Let them talk and refrain from dominating any of the conversation.  The best lessons are learned by self discovery.  You may have the answers-but they need to discover the answers themselves.  You are there to guide them-not to divulge all you know.
  4. Allow Time For Processing. You’re not going to solve everything in an hour’s time.  Let a week go by before you get together to talk about the issue again.  Also, don’t let silence be a bad thing.  Give them time to think things out.  If a long time of silence goes by, ask them what they’re thinking.  Putting it into words helps the processing.
  5. Focus on the Key Issue. Sometimes, key issues spill into other ‘symptoms’.  If Rick is having family problems, a symptom might be about being grounded for a month.  Don’t spend all your time dealing with the symptoms of the key issue.  Deal with the issue itself and often times the symptoms will disappear.
  6. Take Time To Plan.  This works when you have time before you’re going to talk to someone.  If you know Denise is coming in to talk about sexual identity, do some research.  See what others have been talking about with their students.  A little planning goes a long way.

Here’s a couple of books to pick up for further reading:

The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis by Van Pelt and Hancock

Helping the Struggling Adolescent by Dr. Les Parrot

Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth


What’s the big deal about Twilight? November 20, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 3:43 pm
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(Note: If you haven’t read it/seen it and are worried about spoilers, I will try my best to not ruin it for you)

Just in case you haven’t heard, there is a big movie releasing tonight at 12am across the U.S.:  Twilight.  The book, to sum up in a line, is about a 17 year old girl who falls in love with a vampire who has sworn off drinking human blood.

Fans are going absolutely crazy about this release, and chances are you have a few in your youth group that are just as crazy about the movie as the rest of the nation.  Which brings me to the point of this entry: What should be a youth worker’s stance on Twilight?

A mother approached me last night and asked me if I had talked to our kids about the movie yet, and I hadn’t (which would of been a good thing in this case), and she continued to talk about how she wasn’t allowing her 12 year old daughter to see the movie.  On my way home I thought about my conversation with this concerned mother and I came to 2 conclusions: 1) Parents are looking to youth workers for additional support when it comes to influencing their children and 2) We need to be careful how we toe the parental line when it comes to issues of entertainment.

I took the time and read Twilight because I wanted to see what the big deal was and I wanted to have some kind of a credible answer if someone asked me what I thought about the series.  I felt slightly awkward reading it because I’m  27 year old man reading a book written for 14 year old girls, but I found it an entertaining read none the less.

Here are my observations:

First, what I found positive about the book was that it was fairly clean for a young adult fiction book.  If you watch what’s on prime time tv for young adults, this is tame.  There is no sex.  There are no sexual references. There is some sexual tension between the two main characters but nothing that I would see as inappropriate (mainly kissing, holding, etc…).

Another positive is that are very few swear words.  I believe I counted 3 total (“damn” twice and one blasphemy).  As someone who has read the Harry Potter series and was surprised at the swearing in those, this book was a breath of fresh air for anyone who is sensitive to swearing.  Some may find one swear word unacceptable, but that’s up to each individual.

The story is compelling and interesting.  Even though there wasn’t “a lot of action” in the first two thirds of the book, I found myself being drawn to learn more and more about the characters.  Meyers (the author) has an incredible gift for making the characters come to life and easy to identify with.

At least in the first book, there is little violence.  There are no graphic depictions of vampires drinking blood or anything like that.  There is lots of talk about blood because it takes a major role in the book about Edward’s draw to Bella and her blood.  There is a bit of violence towards the end of the first book, but I don’t want to lead to any spoilers for any potential readers out there.

On the negative side…

Some view vampires occultic.  While the primary characters are “good” and do not participate in drinking human blood, there are still other vampires in the story that follow the traditional vampire thinking of drinking human blood.

My biggest negative is that the main characters put a potentially dangerous view and practice on love. Imagine for a moment that you have a teenage daughter that comes home to you, wanting to leave the family and run off with a boy who is “the one” that she met just a few weeks ago.  Bella swoons for Edward quickly and is willing to give up everything to be with him, even her own life and family.  That troubles me when the primary audience of this book are teenage girls who might be thinking of that boy who is ‘worth it’.  However, this does offer the opportunity to talk about these kinds of relationship issues between parents and their child.

Teachable points…

I don’t remember where I read about this, but someone made a great comparison between Edward’s desire for drinking Bella’s blood and the average teenager’s desire for sex.  Edward made the commitment to not drink human blood and even though Bella’s is nearly irresistible to him, he abstains despite his desire.  In my opinion, this point makes the great illustration of premarital sex.  Take it, run with it.

Bottom line: If you liked Harry Potter and had no problem with Harry Potter, you will like Twilight and have no problem with it.  If you had a problem with Harry Potter, you’re going to have a problem with Twilight.  There are worse books out there for young adults, but there are better ones too.  Below are 2 websites that I plan to forward to some of our parents who might be looking for some extra advice.  Feel free to check them out as well!

Here is a website review against the movie.

Here is a website review for the movie/books plus the bonus of some things you need to know.