Youth Group Information

Summer at the Movies


The Heroes, Hilarity, and Harshness of 2016’s Blockbusters

An article from David R. Smith at The Source for Youth Ministry

A break up in the Avengers? A house full of scantily-clad sorority girls? Another alien invasion? Some ninja turtles, a lost blue tang fish, and a fat Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?

Yep, that’s how the summer movies are going to start this year.

Every spring, The Source for Youth Ministry compiles a list of the films that are expected to make the biggest impact at the summer box office. This year’s films include comedies, superhero flicks, sequels, and even a decades-old reboot. But all of them have one thing in common: they’re targeting teenagers.

But sadly, not all of them are appropriate for young viewers.

movie1In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll look at the films that are set to be released in May and June of this year. Of course, this won’t include every movie being released – just the ones that promise to be the most popular with young people. We’ll include a link to the film’s trailer(s), the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating (where available), as well as a few thoughts about how the flick might impact families. In Part 2, which will be released later, we’ll do the same thing for the films hitting the box office in July and August of this summer.

We’ve got several blockbusters to discuss, so grab a soda and some popcorn. Here are the movies you’ll need to know about this summer.

May 6 – Captain America: Civil War
movies2Based on the world premier trailer, it looks as if the loyalty Captain America (Chris Evans) has for his old World War 2 buddy, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has landed him in hot water with the entire planet…and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), as well.

For the last few years, Marvel Studios has thrown the first punch of summer and 2016 will be no different. The third installment in the Captain America franchise is aptly named; it appears a “civil war” is being waged between Avengers teammates Captain America and Iron Man over…with Iron Man taking the brunt of the punishment.

But the second trailer shows that Iron Man will get a little help – from none other than Spider Man, himself! In fact, this follow up teaser shows exactly who’s involved in the mayhem: Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Ant Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Spider Man (Tom Holland), and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents we’ve grown to love.

Captain America: Civil War will not only be first of the summer, it might just be the biggest, too. Right now, it’s unrated, but will probably carry the usual PG-13 classification. It looks like it’s going to address some really powerful themes such as friendship, loyalty, freedom, and forgiveness. This film will probably produce a couple of MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS for youth leaders and parents to use to launch biblical discussions.

The next film on our list won’t produce anything usable at all.

May 20 – Bad Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
movies3The official trailer for the sequel to 2014’s raunchy original will bring back Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) in yet another fight against young, sexy, neighbors who have a craving for controlled-substances and wild parties. But this time, instead of Frat Boys, the enemy is a sorority of girls. The middle-aged couple only has one option: calling in reinforcements, aka Teddy (Zac Efron).

Yep, Neighbors 2 will actually put Efron and Rogen on the same team against Kappa Nu, the sorority that’s moved in next door. This movie will use some of the same plotlines – like air bag pranks – that made the first flick such a success with young people. Of course, since it’s about an out-of-control sorority, you can also expect plenty of butt shots, wet T-shirts, and shirtless Zac Efron scenes as well. (The red band trailer, which we won’t link here, shows lots and lots of drug and alcohol use…along with two scenes built completely off of sex toys.)

This film is has not yet been rated by the MPAA, but will probably get stuck with an “R” assessment. Sadly, this movie will appeal to teenagers because it will show them all the irresponsible pieces in the next chapter of life: college.

It’s best to just skip this one.

May 27 – X-Men: Apocalypse
movies4With the release of Apocalypse this summer, Marvel’s X-Men series will hit their ninth (9th) installment in the film’s franchise! Yep, a lot of mutants have saved the world a lot of times since X-Men was released back in 2000.

According to the original trailer, Apocalypse is going to have some spiritual overtones to it. In fact, the second trailer adds to those themes, even mentioning Yahweh and the Bible, specifically. The plotline revolves around an incredibly powerful mutant known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) who’s woken from hibernation to destroy this world so he can build a new one to his liking. Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) must lead the full cast of returning heroes in battle against the god-like enemy for the sake of mankind.

Bryan Singer, who directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will also be at the helm for Apocalypse which serves as a sequel to his 2014 blockbuster. The film is unrated as of this writing, but is expected to draw a PG-13 label for sequences of intense sci-fi violence, action, and destruction, with some suggestive material, partial nudity, and brief strong language. In spite of those elements, millions of young people will pour into theaters to see these heroes return to the big screen.

Speaking of heroes returning to the big screen….

June 3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
movies6#Cowabunga, the Turtles are back (again)!

TMNT: Out of the Shadows is the sequel to 2014’s reboot of the hugely popular cartoon series from the 80s that focused on four mutated turtles with wicked cool ninja abilities trying to save New York City from all sorts of villains. According to the official trailer, Out of the Shadows is going to pick up right where the 2014 film left off.

But this new fight will be ratcheted up several notches…. Not only will the green guys face down the Foot Clan and Shredder again, they’ll also go toe to toe with BeBop and Rocksteady, two evil mutants created by T.C.R.I. scientist, Baxter Stockman. Oh, and alien overlord Krang from Dimension X will be dropping in, too. Fortunately, the Turtles will have a little help from news lady April O’Neil (Megan Fox), vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell), cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), and of course, their vermin master, Splinter (voiced by Tony Shalhoub).

While this movie is also currently unrated, it will probably carry the PG-13 label that the original film received from the MPAA. Besides some corny humor and a few scenes of Megan Fox serving up her (obligatory) eye candy, this film should be fairly harmless. It might serve as a great opportunity for a group outing. Grab some dinner – pizza, of course! – and then head down to the theater for some action in the sewer.

June 17 – Central Intelligence
movies5Very rarely do I actually laugh out loud while watching a movie…but this trailer had me rolling!

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is introduced to us as Bob, an overweight and ridiculed nobody from high school who becomes a chiseled bruiser for the CIA later in life. When the encryption keys operating the entire US spy satellite program are stolen, Bob turns to an excitement-free accountant, Calvin (played by Kevin Hart), the only guy from high school who ever cared for him. Plenty of jokes fly as the complete opposites fight the bad guys together.

Central Intelligence is unrated as of this writing…and that’s a little worrisome. While “The Rock” has a history of doing (mostly) family friendly films like Tooth Fairy, The Mummy Returns, Get Smart, Race to Witch Mountain, and many more, Kevin Hart can be unnecessarily edgy and vulgar in his comedic presentation. The in-trailer tagline that reads, “Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson,” provides a hint as to what kind of content this film might include. You’ll probably want to check out our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Qs page on opening weekend to get last-minute insights on this film so you’re not walking into the theater blind with your family in tow.

June 17 – Finding Dory
movies7The forgetful-but-unforgettable blue tang fish from Finding Nemo is swimming into theaters this summer as the headliner in her own movie, Finding Dory. The sequel will bring back Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence), and the “Tank Gang” from the original underwater family film, but will also add the likes of Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ed O’Neill, Willem Dafoe, and Bill Hader to the cast.

The official trailer for the movie reveals the main plotline: Dory has somehow remembered that she has a family and is determined to find them. Her ocean-wide adventure will put her – and her friends – in occasional danger, but it will also help her discover what’s important in life.

Like the others on this list, this film hasn’t been rated by the MPAA, but if it’s consistent with the original, it will carry a G rating. This film will touch on themes like home, family, and the search for meaning, which means a few clips from this film will probably land on our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page.

This long-awaited sequel will offer moviegoers warm-fuzzies. The next long-awaited sequel will leave them terrified.

June 24 – Independence Day: Resurgence
movies8We always knew they would come back….

This colossal battle of revenge has been 20 years in the making! In spite of Earth’s efforts to capitalize on the alien technology we captured after our victory in 1996, leading scientists knew we’d be outmatched if the aliens ever returned. And by the looks of the movie’s official trailer, they’ve returned with a vengeance.

Fortunately, we’ve still got a lot of the same good guys on our side. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Jasmine Dubrow (Vivica Fox), Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), and former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) will return to their beloved roles in this sequel. Noticeably absent is Capt. Steve Hiller (Will Smith), but fans of the first film will be introduced to his son, Dylan Dubrow, (played by Jessie Usher), a pilot in the Earth Space Defense (ESD). Moviegoers will also meet Jake Morrison (Liam Hensworth), a pilot in the US military.

And, of course, Roland Emmerich will be directing the sequel. He’s really the only choice we have for end-of-the-world-movie-directors. This dude has been more of a threat to our planet than global warming, nuclear holocaust, and the zombie apocalypse, combined!

Don’t plan anything for this film’s opening weekend. Millions have watched the trailers on YouTube and now two generations of fans are waiting to get their seats for this sci-fi reunion. It’s not rated as of now, but will probably be PG-13 like the original.

We’re only halfway through the list of 2016’s summer blockbusters. As you can see, May and June are going to be huge! In our next article, we’ll cover the biggest films to be released in July and August. We’ll also include a few viewing tips for parents and youth workers as they set their schedules for the summer.

David Smith
David Smith

David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.


The Surprising News About LGBT Teens and Church

Source: Link
Author: Marko

my latest column for Youthwork Magazine (in the UK) has been released into the wild. i felt this one had an extra dose of importance, and hope youth workers will both read it carefully and think deeply about implications.

I don’t believe there’s an increase in gay teenagers, or those wrestling with same sex attraction (SSA), in the average church. But there’s no question that youth workers all over the globe—whatever their church’s theology, or their own—are facing an exponential increase in questions from all fronts.

In every one of my youth worker coaching groups, participants of all theological stripes want to talk bout how they should respond to teenagers with SSA questions (and transgender questions). Almost every youth worker is asking (or should be asking!) pragmatic questions, and being expected to give answers to teenagers, parents, and oversight committees.

I’ve found that most of us don’t know how to talk about these issues. One of the results is an interesting one: we almost always default to theological camps (even the large quantity of youth workers who aren’t sure of their theological camp). Conversations quickly become debates.

There’s a place for debates, to be sure. Biblical and theological understanding is critical. But at the end of the day, I’m finding that most youth workers are wrestling with questions and situations that are more pastoral than theological. And I’m not seeing enough of those conversations. To paraphrase pastor and author Andy Stanley: With Jesus, we see that theology is never allowed to trump ministry.

us verses usI was recently reading the manuscript of a wonderful book being released later this year by Andrew Marin, called Us Verses Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community (NavPress, 2016). The book reveals the findings (and practical implications) of a massive research study of the faith of LGBT people. And there are some very surprising findings, one of which should result in direct action from youth workers everywhere.

(It should be noted that while Marin currently lives in Scotland, studying at St. Andrews, the research study was conducted on a US population. That said, I believe the implications still have something to say to youth workers outside of the US.)

In short, one surprising finding of the study was that LGBT people score more than 10% higher than the general population when it comes to having a background in the Christian church. That fact itself is fascinating, and worthy of reflection. The research team dug deep into the data, cross-referencing reams of data from other questions and digging into the responses from open-ended prompts.

They discovered that a large portion of young teens experiencing SSA look for ways to rid themselves of the attraction they don’t desire to have. Prior to their young teen years, survey respondents may have been aware of their SSA; but the questions (and often pain and fear) surrounding these issues become particularly urgent to young teens stepping into the developmentally normative work of identity formation.

Here’s the news for youth workers (and churches in general): a statistically significant percentage of young teens experiencing SSA, but without prior church experience turn to the church, as a means of turning to God. Did you catch that? Young teens without prior church experience start attending church and/or youth programs specifically because of their SSA. They are looking, primarily, for answers and help (and often, hoping that God will remove their SSA).

Sadly, the statistics also show that the vast majority of teens experiencing SSA do not find help in the church (all too often experiencing condemnation and rejection): The majority of LGBT adults report leaving the church (but not their faith) during their later teen years.

Teenagers are in our midst, looking for help; and we have been—for a very, very long time—failing them.

This is one of the reasons I am so firmly in agreement with Andy Stanley’s insistence that “the church should be the safest place to talk about anything, including SSA.”

This column is not the place for a deep dive into all the ways we youth workers should be living out this ‘safest place to talk about anything’ mandate. But let’s at least start here: love, and dialogue, and create safety, and prayerfully work out your pastoral response (more urgently than your theological posture) to the teenagers in your very midst who are wrestling with same sex attraction.



My Little Angel (the Porn Addict)

Source: Chris McKenna at Youth Ministry Collective

By some estimates, there are around 1 billion websites (and the number is constantly growing). Others estimate that somewhere between 4-14% of all websites are pornographic. This means that there are somewhere between 38-140 million inappropriate places for our kids to stumble into. On October 2, 2015, I received this Facebook message from a local parent, who gave me permission to share this:

“Hi, I’m guessing I’m not the first parent to send an email like this. Last night we found out our 15 year old son has been looking at porn on his phone for the last nine months. My initial fury and horror quickly led me to shame that we hadn’t protected him and that I was too arrogant and naive to believe my son would do this. He’s a good kid, kids like him would never do this….Please feel free to share some of my story as an illustration of it CAN be your child. If I didn’t worry about protecting his reputation I would be shouting out to everyone I know to set up the blocks on EVERYTHING! Don’t be fooled into thinking your child could never do it.

During over 10 years working with tweens and teens, I’d say that most of the kids I’ve counseled are “good kids.” They just made a bad choice. And the Internet allows them to make bad choices with blazing speed and ease. Yes, even your kids. 

Every child deserves protection from the dangers lurking on portable, internet-ready devices. A balance between filtering, monitoring and conversation is the goal. For kids in the 4-14 age-range, I highly recommend Mobicip, which has been thoroughly tested as a filtered browser and monitoring tool. I also work with a group that has created age-specific, downloadable internet safety sheets for parents that are based on hundreds of hours of research on what we think works well whether they are in elementary, middle or high school.

If I can help you protect the young eyes in your own home and those of the families you serve, please let me know.  You can contact me at



Dear Parents of Teenagers, Here are 5 reasons you should keep your teens involved in youth group…

Dear Parents of Teenagers, Here are 5 reasons you should keep your teens involved in youth group…

Posted by Greg Stier

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5 Reasons You Should Keep Your Teens Involved in Youth Group

Dear Parents of Teenagers,

Thanks for all you do to invest in the life of your teenager(s). You probably feel like an uber driver (ready to pick them up/drop them off when they call), coach (helping them perfect their sport), tutor (working with them on homework), guidance counsellor (preparing them for the future) and, sometimes, a jockey (pushing them to cross the finish line…without a whip of course!)…all wrapped up in one!

That’s why, with all the insane busyness of parenting a teen, it’s easy to let youth group attendance slide off the grid. It’s tempting to think, “My kid’s just too busy for a night of hanging out with other teenagers, playing some goofy games and hearing another Bible lesson.”

Believe me when I say, I understand the temptation. As a parent of a teenager (who has tons of homework, plays football and is not yet old enough to drive) my wife and I are constantly under pressure to measure every event through the lenses of what matters most. And we have decided that youth group attendance must be a priority. Although we view ourselves as the primary spiritual influence of our kids, we also believe that a strong youth ministry plays a vital role in his overall spiritual development.

With this as a backdrop here are 5 short, yet powerful, reasons you should encourage (make?) your teenager(s) go to youth group:

1.  Teenagers need models and mentors.

“O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. “  Psalm 71:17,18

In the Jewish culture it wasn’t just parents that poured into the younger folks. Older men poured into younger men and older women poured into younger women (Titus 2:1-8.)

Of course you as a parent are called to be the primary spiriutal mentor of your own teenager but he/she also needs other godly adults! It’s important for your son or daughter to see that this whole “Christianity thing” is more than just mom’s and dad’s belief system. They need to have models and mentors that reinforce all of the spiritual truth they are learning from you.

2.  Teenagers need community.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24,25

In an age of bullying, gossip, slander and hatefulness (which can destroy a teenager’s self-identity), young people need other young people who can lift them up, encourage them and challenge them in all the right ways.

Youth group is also a place where teenagers can discover their spiritual gifting and begin to use it to serve others. This will help them have a heart to selflessly serve others for the rest of their lives!

3.  Teenagers need mission.

When Jesus challenged his most-likely teenaged disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations”, he was tapping into the activist wiring of these young men. In the same way your teenager needs challenged with the mission to reach their peers with the good news of Jesus in a loving and contagious way.

Youth group is a place where your teenager can invite their unbelieving friends to hear the gospel. But it’s also a place where they can be equipped to share the good news of Jesus with their own peers (which will help them grow in their faith!) As your youth leader continues to build a Gospel Advancing ministry the message of Jesus will advance in them and through them. This process will accelerate the disicpleship process in the life of your teen in ways you could never imagine!

4.  Teenagers need theology.

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”  Ephesians 4:14,15

Youth group is a place where teenagers can wrestle through the theology you’ve been teaching them (you’ve been teaching them right?) and have it reinforced in a powerful and personal way under the guidance of a youth leader who knows how to ask great questions and point teens to sound truth.

This should result in your teenagers knowing and owning their faith on a deeper level. Youth groups and small groups should be a place where teenagers can ask tough questions and even share doubts and struggles with their beliefs without fear of rebuke. Skilled youth leaders can take questioning teens back to God’s Word as the source of authority and help them process through all of the Biblical truth you are praying they grasp, believe and live out.

Great youth groups build on the foundation that godly moms and dads have laid. And, for those teenagers who don’t have believing parents, an effective youth ministry helps lay a solid foundation of Biblical truth for the rest of a teenager’s life.

5.  Teenagers need a safe place to confess and confide.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16

Often teenagers who struggle with sin and temptation have nowhere to confess and confide. They feel trapped by their sins. But a healthy youth ministry can create a safe space for teenagers to open up and talk honestly about their struggles. Of course this doesn’t mean they should confess every sin to everyone. But it does mean that they should have a handful of others who know their struggles and can pray for and encourage them to walk in victory over those sins.

When my son came back from a youth retreat last year he had this opportunity. He opened up with a handful of others about some of his struggles and then he came back and opened up to me. After he confessed his struggles he told me that he felt a thousand pound weight had dropped off his back.

Here’s the thing, my son and I have a very strong and very open relationship. But there was something about his band of brother friends, under the leadership of a caring adult in a youth retreat type setting, that gave him the freedom to confess and confide.

Skilled youth leaders know how to create a context of open and honest dialogue. Teenagers who push their struggles down and never open up often struggle later on in life with addictive and destructive behavior. An effective youth ministry can help teenagers deal with these challenges now and prepare them to be victorious both now and later.

Yes, I know that teen life is busy. But it would be a shame if our teenagers graduated from high school and were catapulted into “the real world” without every opportunity to know, live, share and own their faith.

At the end of the day, our teenagers embracing and embodying the Christian faith is more important than sports and more important than academics. Getting them involved in a healthy, vibrant youth ministry is worth fitting into a crazy, busy schedule. And if it’s not quite as healthy as you think it should be then why don’t you volunteer and make it better?

There’s too much at stake for us to get this wrong. So let’s get it right!

To Reach a Generation,

Greg Stier (a fellow parent of a teenager and Founder of Dare 2 Share)

(Original Source)