Archive for category: Articles (Page 2)

Guilty! (my latest article)

06 Jun
June 6, 2012

The second in my three part series on ministering to students facing court and/or incarceration went live today over at YouthMinistry.com. It was by far the hardest of the three to write, mostly because of how personal it is. I hope it can be a benefit to others. You can read the whole thing here.

My brother agreed to plead guilty in exchange for lessening and dropping some of the charges. We were naively hopeful. What we thought would be a quick appearance before a federal judge, most likely some sort of suspended sentence and a celebration afterwards turned into something else as the prosecutor unexpectedly started ripping into my brother, demanding a harsher sentence than what they had alluded to. This hadn’t been part of the deal.

It was our worst nightmare. And my brother had already pled guilty.

Those moments will be seared into my memory for ever. The judge sentencing my baby brother to two years in federal prison. The gasps of shock from others present. My mother sobbing, my dad sitting there in helpless shock. My brother looking numb, choked up. He had been a top athlete, class president, school president, active in our state politics before things fell apart in college. The kid I used to wrestle with, play in our fort together, and babysit when our parents went out was going to be locked up with who knows what kind of criminals, the worst our society has to offer, in a prison that wouldn’t be disclosed to us until later.

Read the rest of the article here.

Order in the Court (my latest article)

16 May
May 16, 2012

My latest article just went live over at Simply Youth Ministry. It’s actually the first in a three part series that will trickle out over the next couple months. It’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while simply because of my own experiences with ministering to teens facing trials and convictions, as well as being on the other side of the issue with family members who have found themselves facing the judge. Anyway, here’s the intro … you can click through to read the rest and leave a comment so I know what you think!

It probably happens more often than you realize. A student you are connected to is arrested for some offense—or multiple offenses—and faces a court appearance. The odds are, they and their family are trying to keep it quiet.  Maybe you hear through the grapevine, maybe they actually tell you. Either way, it’s time to be assertive. Don’t wait to be asked, instead offer, repeatedly if needed, to be present, to come to the trial, to write a letter to the judge asking for leniency, to help in any way they need. If they weren’t the ones to tell you directly, let them know you heard about it and want to be available in any or all those ways.

For the student and their family, this is a months long process of fearful waiting interspersed with moments of terrifying court appearances. They will have meetings with lawyers who paint hopeful outcomes and worst possible scenarios. It literally consumes all their thoughts and will keep them awake at night. There is shame, embarrassment, anxiety, anger—a whole mix of emotions boiling throughout the entire family, not just the student being charged. And for the most part, during this time when they most desperately need others, they are probably going it alone. Read the rest here.

Video Game Spiritualities

06 Mar
March 6, 2012

My latest response article is live over on the Immerse Journal website! I really enjoyed writing it; Mark Hayse wrote a compelling piece for the latest issue of Immerse Journal on the topic of spirituality and video games. Very thought provoking and challenging stuff and I enjoyed putting together my thoughts and response to his points. Click on over, read it and let me know what you think!

And honestly, it’s given me some ideas to think about trying here at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church.

Junior High Survival Instincts

25 Jan
January 25, 2011

Kurt Johnston, the Jr. High pastor at Saddleback wrote a great (and short!) blog post on junior high kids’ behavior and survival instincts.  Definitely worth checking out.  Here’s a sample, find the rest here.

The junior high years are tough (remember yours?), and most young teens find themselves, consciously or subconsciously, in survival mode. They gossip because they think that helps them survive, they tease because it’s better to be the teaser than to be the teased. They are selfish because in order to survive middle school, they can’t afford to look out for anybody but themselves.

Here’s the rest of the article.

Live Different by Youth Ministry 360 Now Available

Creating a Hunger to Serve

27 Apr
April 27, 2010

My latest article went live on the Immerse website! Immerse is a great new journal for youth workers and youth volunteers – I’m excited to see where it goes.  Anyway, the article I wrote was on the subject of service, and communicating a hunger for service to teens.  Here’s the intro, click the link at the end to read the whole thing and let me know what you think!

Creating a Hunger to Serve

I’ll never forget the first service project I ever put together. I was so excited to create an opportunity for students to live out this part of the Christian walk. The church that hired me had about 20 students, and during my first few months, more and more students started showing up. Meetings were packed out and full of energy. However, the program lacked opportunities for the students to surrender themselves and step out in service. I was so pumped to complete the picture!

So I worked, planned and prepared. Then, on the day of the work project, I waited…alone. No teens showed up. As I stood out in front of the church by myself, half an hour after the project’s supposed start time, I had a mixture of emotions bubbling inside me—disappointment, embarrassment, failure, frustration, anger. And if I’m honest, I was hurt that the teens had let me down. I went home and complained to my wife about these ungrateful kids who were only interested in fun events but didn’t want to do anything serious for Christ.

Download the full article in pdf form here.

The Spirituality of Physical Health

01 Apr
April 1, 2010

I was excited to see today that my latest article is the featured article on the Youth Specialties website!  It’s something I wrote for their April article series on taking care of ourselves.  Anyway, here’s the first part, follow the link at the end to get the rest and let me know what you think!

The Spirituality of Physical Health

by Matthew McNutt

It’s strange to me to realize that one of the most intensely spiritual times of my life was the eight months I was competing for the big prize on season three of NBC’s the Biggest Loser. Honestly, I went into the experience with no connection in my mind between the spiritual and the physical. I thought taking care of myself as a pastor meant regular time in the Word, quiet times, keeping my spiritual walk on track, but I came out of those months with an entirely different outlook.

It turned out I had an inner Gnostic hiding in my belief system. Not quite in the same way as those the Apostle Paul railed against, but still, there was a definite separation of the spiritual and physical in my mind. I put my priority on the soul, that eternal part of me, and ignored the value of the physical, temporal side of my being. But I think the truth is something far different; that God has designed us to be healthy spiritually AND physically, and we experience a fullness with Him when those two are in alignment that just doesn’t compare to anything else.

Read the rest of the article here.


New Product - Live Curriculum - Doug Fields' 4-Yea

Parents’ Sex Talk with Kids: Too Little, Too Late

04 Feb
February 4, 2010

I saw this article over on the Time website and thought it had some pretty important stuff in it.  As a youth pastor, I’ve kind of become convinced so many parents don’t have a clue how early their kids start thinking about (and experimenting!) with sex.  The funniest part is, and the article touches on it, as awkward as it might feel, kids really do want to hear about it from their parents.  The reality is, they’re going to find answers to their questions, and they’re probably not going to search it out from their parents – so if parents don’t initiate, the answers will come from the internet, their peers, and media (music, movies, tv).  Personally, my opinion is that conversations need to begin happening before kids start sixth grade – regardless of whether or not we think they’re at that point or not.  There’s a value in having kids aware of the issues and making decisions about their values before they face the inevitable situations.  What are your thoughts?  Here are a few highlights from the article (you can find the whole thing here):

Parents’ Sex Talk with Kids: Too Little, Too Late

By Alice Park

The sex talk is never easy. It’s not comfortable for anyone involved — parents are afraid of it, children are mortified by it — which is probably why the talk so often comes after the fact. In the latest study on parent-child talks about sex and sexuality, researchers found that more than 40% of adolescents had had intercourse before talking to their parents about safe sex, birth control or sexually transmitted diseases.

That trend is troublesome, say experts, since teens who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual encounter and to practice safe sex when they do become sexually active. And, ironically, despite their apparent dread, kids really want to learn about sex from their parents, according to study after study on the topic.

The study involved 141 families enrolled in the Talking Parents, Healthy Teens program, organized by the University of California Los Angeles/Rand Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and overseen by Schuster. Parents and their children, aged 13 to 17, responded to questions about 24 issues regarding sex and sexuality, including how women become pregnant, body changes that occur during puberty, how to use condoms and birth control, as well as issues around homosexuality.

Researchers asked both parents and their children, separately, when they had first discussed each topic, and compared that information to teens’ self-reports about their engagement in three specific categories of sexual behavior — hand-holding or kissing; genital touching or oral sex; and intercourse. Families were surveyed four times, once at the beginning of the study, then again at three, six and 12 months.

By the end of the study, more than half of the parents reported that they had not discussed 14 of the 24 sex-related topics by the time their adolescents had begun genital touching or oral sex with partners. Forty-two percent of girls reported that they had not discussed the effectiveness of birth control and 40% admitted they had not talked with their parents about how to refuse sex before engaging in genital touching. Nearly 70% of boys said they had not discussed how to use a condom or other birth-control methods with their parents before having intercourse. Yet only half of the boys’ parents, by contrast, said they had not discussed condom use or birth control with their sons.

That difference highlights a primary problem in the parent-child dialogue about sex. “A lot of parents think they had a conversation, and the kids don’t remember it at all,” says Dr. Karen Soren, director of adolescent medicine at New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “Parents sometimes say things more vaguely because they are uncomfortable and they think they’ve addressed something, but the kids don’t hear the topic at all.”

What do you think?  One of the first reactions that many church families might have is that this is a secular article based on findings from non-religious families (an assumption, since none of that is discussed in the article), which wouldn’t reflect the kind of activity or pressure a ‘church kid’ might face.  On the other hand, everything I’ve ever read has seemed to indicate that ‘church kids’ are just as sexually active as the rest of the teens out there (with the only difference being that there is a bit of a delay in the ages when various activities start happening).  It’s a bigger issue than we sometimes realize.

Normal Weight Obesity?

26 Jan
January 26, 2010

I saw this article today (apparently this is ‘post articles day’ on my blog!) and thought it was great.  A lot of times we assume being thin means being healthy, but that’s not the case.  Feeding junk to a thin body is just as bad as feeding it to a big body.  Find the whole article here, here’s the intro:

The Scales Can Lie: Hidden Fat

New Study Argues Even Thin People Can Face Health Risks From Fat; It’s ‘Normal Weight Obesity’

By Ron Winslow

Can you be normal weight and fat at the same time?

That’s the implication of a provocative recent report from the Mayo Clinic, which suggests that fat in your body can get you and your heart into trouble even if you don’t look fat and if the scale tells you you’re healthy.

The Mayo researchers, led by cardiologist Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, have coined a term for the phenomenon: normal weight obesity. In a study that looked at data from 6,171 Americans with normal body size, as measured by body mass index, those with a high percentage of body fat were at significantly greater risk of future heart problems than those with low amounts of fat. Their bodies “behave like they are obese, but they are not,” Dr. Lopez-Jimenez says.

People don’t have to be overweight to have excess body fat. Instead, these people have a higher ratio of fat to muscle tissue than do people with low body fat. Indeed, even people of the same weight, or those with comparable body mass index, which factors together weight and height, can have different body-fat percentages.

Based on results of the nine-year study, as well as U.S. Census and obesity data, Dr. Lopez-Jimenez and his colleagues estimate that as many as 30 million Americans may fall into the normal-weight-obesity category, many of them unaware they may be at increased heart risk.

The study “drills down on a population where we’re making assumptions that everybody is healthy. It may well be that they’re not,” says Robert Eckel, an obesity and metabolic-syndrome expert at the University of Colorado, Denver, who wasn’t involved with the study.

Teen pregnancy rate up

26 Jan
January 26, 2010

I just saw this article on Yahoo! News and thought it was interesting in a sad kind of way.  It’s certainly informative for parents of teens and youth workers in our country.  It’s shocking to me to read that 7 out of every 100 teen girls get pregnant.  We need to be doing a better job informing and helping teens!  As a youth pastor, it’s sad to me that more families with pregnant teens don’t reach out to churches for help – is our reputation that terrifying?  Here’s the intro to the article, you can read the rest here:

Teen pregnancy rate up after 10-year decline

By JoAnne Allen Joanne Allen

The U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose in 2006 for the first time in more than a decade, reversing a long slide, a U.S. think tank reported on Tuesday.

The overall teen pregnancy rate was up 3 percent in 2006, with a 4 percent rise in the rate of births and a 1 percent rise in the rate of abortions, according to the report by the Guttmacher Institute.

The United States has higher rates of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion than in other Western industrialized countries.

There were 71 pregnancies per 1,000 U.S. girls aged 15-19. In 2006, 7 percent of all teenage girls got pregnant, according to the report.

One of the things that keeps coming to my mind are the studies I’ve read that show sexual activity is about the same for ‘church kids’ as the rest of the country; why is that?  Are we doing everything we can or does something need to change?

Youth now have more mental health issues

12 Jan
January 12, 2010

I saw this article and thought it was very interesting.  Of course, youth workers (volunteer and paid) have noticed for years that depression, anxiety, etc, have seemed to be happening more and more in the teens that we work with.  It’s sad that these things seem to be on the rise, especially given that we have more ability to detect and help than we have ever had before!  I thought it was particularly interesting that one of the factors they identified in this study was actually the amount of things that we have now and all of the external pressures that are contributing to kids’ emotional issues.  What do you think?  Have you noticed this trend or is this news to you?  Here’s the first part of the article (find the rest of it here):

Study: Youth now have more mental health issues

By MARTHA IRVINE, AP National Writer

A new study has found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who were studied in the Great Depression era.

The findings, culled from responses to a popular psychological questionnaire used as far back as 1938, confirm what counselors on campuses nationwide have long suspected as more students struggle with the stresses of school and life in general.

“It’s another piece of the puzzle — that yes, this does seem to be a problem, that there are more young people who report anxiety and depression,” says Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor and the study’s lead author. “The next question is: What do we do about it?”

Though the study, released Monday, does not provide a definitive correlation, Twenge and mental health professionals speculate that a popular culture increasingly focused on the external — from wealth to looks and status — has contributed to the uptick in mental health issues.